Since I spent most of my late twenties riding alone, I required a lot of encouragement to get into racing. I can honestly say I’ve progressed more in two seasons of racing than I had in the ten years prior. This article is written based on off road and enduro type racing but I’m sure some elements can be applied to motocross, arenacross, flat track etc…
My goal here is to hopefully sway someone who’s currently on the fence about racing. I’m not saying it’s for everyone and I’m not advocating you drop everything and commit to a whole season. Even racing once a year will help keep you on your toes, thus keeping you out of that casual riding rut. So here are five reasons I believe you should give racing a shot if you haven’t done so already.
Meeting new people
Before I attempted my first race, I was usually out riding by myself. My friends I had grown up riding with had all moved on and I struggled to find the motivation to get out to the track or trials. When I did finally drag myself out there, I rode timid and never got any better. I’d ride the same loop in the woods or exact lines on the track every lap. After about 20 mins of actual riding, I’d be heading home.
Then I hit up a race. It’s literally like your mom setting up a play date for your adult lonely ass. You can walk right into a group of 200 + like-minded individuals and leave with multiple connections to other riders you may have never met otherwise. Now you can meet up for rides, share bike set up info and talk training. Even an introverted socially awkward person like myself can find common ground with pretty much anyone in the pits.
Instantly become a better rider
There’s no race I’ve entered in my short career that I haven’t left a better rider. Even the ones where I’ve crashed my brains out! But it’s easy to see progression when it shows up in the results. You’ll rarely see a rider move down classes after a season. That’s because you’re learning and bettering yourself each race. Even if you’re on the podium one weekend and DNF the next due to a mechanical or crash. In most cases your overall ability has still increased. You’ll be learning new skills not only by getting all important seat time but by watching other riders around you. Apply what you see happening and you’ll start becoming a better rider.
Being forced out of your comfort zone (this is a good thing)
Your mind is incredibly powerful but can also be limiting you in some situations. You are capable of much more when you’re feeling some kind of pressure. The intensity found in racing can’t be duplicated riding with your buddies and certainly not possible riding solo. Whether you’re new to riding dirt bikes or someone who has been riding for 20 years, you’ll be surprised the skills you’ll find when you inject yourself with a little bit of race adrenaline.
On a weekend pleasure cruise with your homies, you’re not worried about line selection and corner speed. You’re thinking about what’s for dinner or how much a new hot water tank will cost you. In a race setting, your brain is so hyper focused on everything that IS riding, those normal life thoughts don’t even get a chance to enter your mind. Turn on your race brain, battle for any position and see what’s hiding inside you!
Experience new riding spots
Another positive of racing is being able to experience different terrain and riding spots. Racing can provide you riding tracks and trails you’d have never made it to on your own. These course are professionally laid out and provide much more test of technique than the single track highway at your local spot. A lot of these events are held on private property that you wouldn’t get to ride otherwise so it’s important to take advantage of them when you can.
Don’t just stick to an enduro either, try a sprint enduro, XC or Hare scramble. It gives you strict woods riders a chance to ride some motocross tracks. Get those tires off the ground and broaden your horizons a little bit!
Sense of accomplishment
Here’s where it gets Cheezy…I didn’t get to do any racing in my younger days. I was too busy visiting Ontario’s finest emergency rooms chasing a career in freestyle. After a few years of telling myself not to bother with racing, I ended up entering my first race at the age of 30. I assumed I would finish well because of my lengthy riding history but… I was instantly humbled by every other rider on the track. 20 minutes into the 2.5 hour XC race, I was already getting lapped, my hands hurt, my arms were pumped and I feared I wouldn’t finish the first hour. After a mental pep talk, I managed to sack up, tough it out and finish the event. Crossing the line in second to last place (last place had a mechanical DNF) You’d think I’d just won the whole thing. I was overcome with the feeling of success. Regardless of my finishing position, I had pushed harder and longer than I ever had while riding. I can’t explain it any better, you just have to get out there and feel it yourself!
Bonus reason, reducing your mechanical sympathy
This only applies if you’re as much of a headcase as I am. I can thank racing for learning to have a little less mechanical sympathy and more confidence in my machine. I’ve worked hard for my bike and I babied it, perhaps too much. I’d debate riding places because of rain, mud, hills and dust. What was I thinking, this is a dirt bike! I remember limiting my rides to 20-30 minutes because I just didn’t want to put too much pressure on my bike, ugh. Even though my bike was in perfect working order, I couldn’t imagine it would survive 3 hours of racing let alone a full day of enduro riding! 150 kms! Are you mad!?
In the end, my bike survived each time. With each successful round, I worried less and less about the “beating” my bike took. Now, I don’t think twice about mud, rivers or rocks. These bikes are made to be abused. Unlike that night you spent in Amsterdam draped in latex and shouting your safe word, your bike likes the abuse…So abuse it.
Regardless of your experience, your bike or your anxiety. If you’ve even had the slightest thought about giving racing a shot, you definitely should.
If you’re a Ontario based rider, I’d encourage you to check out Off-road Ontario. This years schedule includes an enduro, Cross country (XC) and Sprint enduro series. Races are being held at some great facilities around Ontario and hope to see a lot of new faces this year.
If you’ve read the above and still have reservations about giving it a try, shoot me a comment or E-mail and we’ll discuss!