Working at Cycle News is full of perks, bikes coming and going and opportunities for riding everywhere you look.
I’m a streetbike guy to the core, with my area of expertise surrounding knees and apexes (I’m not cool enough to go draggin’ elbows—probably never will be). But one area of riding that’s been staring me in the face for years that I haven’t taken full advantage of is motocross.
Motocross and I have never traditionally gone together. I’m much more comfortable with 180 mph than being 18 foot in the air on a 60 horsepower beast that could snap me in half if I didn’t give it the respect it deserved.
I think my fear of motocross stems from a childhood trauma I’ve buried deep within the dark reaches of my soul that I’ll share with you now and deal with the nightmares later.
A school friend of mine, Peter Benson, was given a 1985 Honda CR80 for Christmas back in 1993—a stellar piece of equipment considering the tackle I had at the time was a 1980 Honda XR250 (a big bike, I’ll grant you, for an 11-year-old).
Being snobby brats growing up on the North Shore of Sydney, you had to travel a good hour out of town to get to any areas where you could ride, so Benson (as I called him) and I would annoy one of our parents until they gave in and took us to Pacific Park in north-west Sydney. This would happen once or twice a month, depending on if we’d been good or not.
One Saturday morning, Benson rings me and says he’ll be at my house with his stepdad and the CR in 20 minutes and I better be ready for the 80’s first ride. Sure enough, we load up and head to Pacific Park, which had just finished grooming its rather sketchy motocross track.
I hated being outpaced or outdone at anything when I was a kid—running, swimming, cycling, and god forbid, motorcycle riding—I had to be the fastest and best at everything, or the shit would hit the fan. The problem was, I was rarely the fastest or best at anything, so you can imagine the pain I put my mom and dad through.
We arrived at Pacific Park and Benson took the 80 for his first ever two-stroke laps, scared himself stiff and promptly handed me the Honda. I didn’t tell him they too would be my first two-stroke laps, but I had to prove I was da man in our little two-person posse.
The track had one massive kicker on it, right in front of the parked cars. I wound the CR up on my first-ever lap, hit this ramp at full tilt in fourth knowing absolutely nothing about jumping, launched this screeching motorcycle a good 10 feet (probably more) into the air and I shat myself with a force that must have given me another two-foot.
There was more to come.
The landing was flat and after what felt like 30 seconds of realizing, contemplating and preparing for how much this was going to hurt, I came raining down on terra firma with enough force to dent the front wheel. The crossbrace went into my chest, and I somehow managed to nut myself either on the seat or the gas cap.
It. F**king. Hurt. It hurt so bad I was scared to death to jump a bike for the next 24 years, and thus my love of motocross was promptly and swiftly snap-kicked in the face.
That was then. And, as 6’1” block of flesh resembling somewhat a grown human man, I want to get over such evil memories and learn to ride motocross again like I did before that dreadful 1994 morning.
I’ve been dabbling by riding the vet track at Milestone, working my way up to the jumps to the point where I can now safely clear them, and last week I rode our 250 Shootout as the token slow guy in amongst stupidly fast guys like Derek Kelley and my Aussie compatriot and former AMA MX gun, Brett Metcalf.
Being back on the motocross bike and having a lot more sense in how I go about riding and jumping is making this amazing form of motorcycle sport more appealing by the day. It’s also great for road-race training for next year, as anyone who has raced on the tar knows it’s like throwing money into a gigantic black hole that you’ll never see again, making training/track days a rarity.
I feel I’m decent at getting in and out of ruts, but I struggle in angling the bike midair. I can clear a lot of the jumps that up until six months ago I’d have never even contemplated doing, but if something goes wrong while I’m in the air, I have no idea how to fix it, and it’ll be 1994 all over again.
That’s going to be my little riding project for next year—get better at motocross. When done correctly by the kind of riders who win in supercross and outdoor nationals, motocross is a beautifully graceful sport.
But, like learning to dance, the steps to get there can look goofy, silly and downright dangerous. I have no intention of racing motocross again. I never miss the sheer terror of blasting into turn one with 29 other guys that would sell their mom for the holeshot. I’m looking for a fitness outlet, picking up a skill I never mastered, and erasing some seriously long held demons. CN