My sons race motocross. Those words seem to strike terror in the heart of other mothers almost as much as if I said “My son is a drug dealer.” It’s so strange to me and it’s not because it doesn’t scare me when they are out there on the track, as if I’m oblivious of the risks involved. If I said, my teenage son plays football or drives to work every day, no one would ask my why I let them do that. And those activities are just as risky, if not more so because people don’t see them as a risk. People take risks. They just do. Hopefully they are calculated risks that have the potential to bring them happiness but that isn’t always the case. Teenagers are more inclined to take risks, not because they enjoy being difficult but because it is part of the growing up process. If they didn’t take risks, they’d never fully mature into adults. As people mature (not always as they get older) they stop taking as many risks. It’s just life. Everyone has the thing that makes them happy. Finding it is the key. For my sons, it’s motocross and not just riding but racing. Lucky for us, both the boys love the same sport and there is no conflict of time, energy, and funds. I think I’ll describe a bit of what they do so that you may get the feeling of why they love it and why we support their efforts.
A few years ago, my Dad and Step-Mom got the boys a small mini-bike. It wasn’t a dirt bike. It was more like a bike built around a lawnmower engine. It had a pull start and wide tires. The boys rode it to death and within a few months were eager to get a “real” dirt bike. Living in the desert on five acres, there was no reason not to comply with that request. They began to scour the internet for a small bike they could ride around the neighborhood or out camping. And they found one right away. The man that sold it to us is still a friend today and hired the boys to do some work around his house so that they could afford to fix up another bike they bought.
So now we were the proud owners of two dirt bikes, then three, and then five. The boys were growing, in size and riding skill, so they were fixing up and outgrowing bikes pretty quickly. They learned a lot fixing up those bikes. Some of them were pretty big projects. One bike needed a “top-end rebuild” and a “resurfaced piston”. And one bike we bought wouldn’t start at all and the guy said he was riding it and it just stopped running. That engine needed to be completely rebuilt. The boys did all this work themselves with little oversight from Dad who works from home and was able to come out and lend a hand when things got tough. My husband is not a motorcycle mechanic but he does know a thing or two about engines. The internet is an amazing thing!
When they finally settled in on a couple of bikes, they really wanted to try out riding at a motocross track. How did they come across this information, I may never know! They found tracks, read about riding there, the rules, the gear they’d need, etc. They practiced riding around the house and the same guy that sold us our first bike came over with a tractor and dug them a track on our property to practice on! They are relentless when they want to do something, so eventually they wore me down with all their information about riding and I told them I’d take them when they could load and unload the truck without help. I’m not strong enough to push bikes up ramps! Of course, they went outside and did it the minute I said it and we began planning a ride day for the next week.
I took the boys on my own to the track during the week because we figured it would be much less crowded than a weekend. I’ve never been so nervous to go somewhere. I asked the guy at the gate what to expect, explaining that we had never ridden at a track before. He was the nicest person I’ve ever met in motocross! He gave us the run down, looked at the boys bikes and gear, and talked to them a bit. He said they’d be fine and to look forward to racing because everyone that tries a track wants to race. Great.
After that first day, we went to the track many times. I found a friend that used to race a bit and he met us there on a Saturday and gave the boys some pointers. That’s when the requests to race started to come up. The idea terrified me and not because I was afraid of them getting hurt. I was afraid for other riders! Most of these guys have been racing since they were four years old. They all work very hard to get on that track and mine had just started riding dirt bikes. What if they did something that got someone else very hurt? Don’t you need training to do this? Where do you even start? The boys knew, of course! Everything they read, watch, and talk about is about racing! We decided to start with hiring a trainer for a day to see if they even had the skills to give it a try. She said they were definitely ready. Sigh.
There was a race series starting in the next couple weeks, so we decided to go as a spectator and see how the whole thing worked. We arrived just after the sun came up and found a parking space. We walked around and talked to people. We watched the races and saw fast and slow riders, big and mini-bikes. The boys talked to the race people and they told them which class they should probably start in and we watched that race. It all seemed pretty do-able, much like Little League but on dirt bikes.
We signed up for the next series and have been going ever since. The boys rarely win but they have a blast every time. We’ve been soaked to the skin in rain and mud, stood there sweating in the 110 degree heat, listened to loud generators all night, and sat in Emergency rooms for hours. But they keep wanting to go back. We spend almost all our extra money on racing and it’s accouterments. The boys train every day. They ride mountain bikes for ten miles. The run a mile a day. They have changed their diet. They joined a crossfit gym and an indoor rock climbing gym. The pay for half of all their bike stuff and gas. They do all their own repairs. We eat, breathe, and sleep motocross.
And through all of it our family is stronger. We spend our weekends together at the track or in the garage. We spend our weekdays together training. They even got me up off the couch! We play cards and guitars after practice, camped out in a parking lot for the next days race. We grocery shop and cook together, trying to eat better and get stronger. They read articles and watch videos about how to ride better and faster. And they challenge themselves at the track. It’s not about winning to them. It’s about being there, a part of something exciting, and getting better every time. We’ve made friends along the way and really enjoy being at the track with them. I can’t imagine our lives without it.
What I wonder is where they will go with all of this? Will they become the next Chad Reed? It’s not likely. But they will be a part of a pretty fun community of people. And I’m sure they will share this love with their families when they are older. I know I’ll love going to the track and watching my grandkids race!
The risk, the pain, the injury’s, the sweat, the tears, the effort; it’s all worth it. It’s worth it to see my sons put their heart and soul into something that makes them so happy and fulfilled. It’s worth it to see the pride in their eyes when they clear that jump or pass that guy. It’s worth it to see their dirty hands in my kitchen sink after a days work of fixing something few 14 year olds even know exist. It’s worth it to see their independence and confidence grow and watch them mature into young men instead of just bored teenagers. My heart hurts for them when they are in pain from an injury, but it soars with them when they get back on that bike and sit in that gate, poised and ready for it to drop.
Why do I “let” my sons race motocross? That’s like asking me why I let them live, love, and breathe.