Generally, doing things you suck at is a bummer. As long as you don’t suck so bad that you get hurt or hurt other people, racing motorcycles is a blast. With events like hooligan racing, Hell on Wheels and the Rusty Butcher’s Trackercross, now’s the time to give it a shot in a fun-first environment. Trail riding, practice tracks and banging around an abandoned lot are all good times. Once the checkered flag is at stake though, even the most casual rider can’t stop the moto-boner. Here’s a couple reasons why you should consider it even if you have zero experience or an inappropriate motorcycle.
1. You’ll be a better rider on the street.
Even if you are stuck in the back of the pack, riding as fast as you can in the dirt teaches you to be a better rider on the street. Learning how to fight a tank slapper, scrub speed in loose dirt, power out of turns or keep your elbows out, it all contributes to your skill set and will be valuable muscle memory when you need it on the street.
2. Let it out!
Modern life is full of rules and restraints. On the track, there’s only a couple simple rules to abide by. Once you have those dialed, you can go right to the edge of your skills at full-on maximum performance. Even if you are dead last on a grumpy old bike, going as fast as you can is a rewarding experience.
3. Way safer than riding on the street.
OK, no data to back up this statement but I’ve never seen a single distracted Prius driver on the track. Sure, you are going balls out and there’s a chance you’ll get hurt but you won’t get t-boned by a drunk in a minivan during a race. At the very least, everyone heads in the same direction and a lot of times there is an ambulance and EMT’s at the track.
4. Bikes are cheap.
What’s a good late model Harley cost? $10k plus? F that. You can find an old TT500, Sportster, Triumph or other unwanted roach for a tenth of that cost. You don’t have to commute on it. On a typical track day, it’s run hard, but only for a cumulative hour or two. It’s way easier to prep a bike to last a hard weekend than it is to keep an old bike running for thousands of street miles. Not to mention, you don’t have to register or insure it. Stuff like fancy paint and silly accessories aren’t even part of the equation. Think you are getting faster and want to upgrade? There’s always a beginner ready to buy your race bike so you can step up to something faster.
5. The start.
Any sort of start; rubber band, flag girl, gate drop, it’s all awesome. Even if you are going to end up last, at the start you are in the same spot as the fast guys. The noise, the focus, the mayhem—it’s awesome—and feels like the motorcycle equivalent of punching someone in the face. You gotta go for it, but you can’t go so hard that you end up on your back and that feels fantastic. There is no reward for whiskey throttle. If you lag in the back you’ll have a much more difficult time getting past other riders later in the race. In short flat track races where riders are close in skills and bike performance, a lot gets decided at the start. Did I mention it’s super fun?
6. Nothing to lose.
Amateur racing like HOW and Trackercross are about fun and not much more. Bragging rights are awesome, but that and a cheap trophy is all you’re gonna get. Since the only real gain is fun, there isn’t much to lose. Also, try not to high-side. That hurts, but isn’t the end of the world.
It’s hard to suck but some of the biggest smiles I’ve seen at recent events have been on the filthy faces of first-timers. They’ll never make the podium unless everyone in front of them crashes, but they don’t care because it is fun as hell to get out on the track and give it all you got. Even if all you got doesn’t add up to much.
Westy (who doesn’t suck), Otto and I had a blast at the Rusty Butcher’s Trackercross a couple weekends ago. Mark busted his ass putting together a great weekend of racing and partying at the Milestone MX track in Riverside, CA. So you don’t think everyone who participates in these shenanigans is slow, here’s a bunch more pics from a great day of racing.
Photos: Jonathan Griffith
You can learn more here: Trackercross