The student news site of LaPorte High School

Racing to the holeshot for a new beginning

Most teens revolve their lives around high school extra curricular activities and academics; however, there is a surprisingly large number of local students who have found their passions lie outside of the school doors. They find their purpose riding on the track, flying through the air, risking their lives and racing to the finish line to be the best. They are motocross riders.

When it comes to racing, every rider has his or her own techniques and secrets on how he or she can and will become the best rider possible. For most, it started out at a young age. As with anything, the earlier riders begins their journey, the more experience they will develop to becoming the best rider they can be.

That day, coming home to the first dirt bike as a kid, the adrenalin already starts to kick in. Taking one look and realizing that could be the, smallest, two-wheeled, key to the future. After throwing one leg over the bike, placing it on the peg, and keeping the other leg on the ground holding up the one thing that was once a dream.

“Motocross is my happy place. It is something I do to get away, kind of like a vacation. As soon as my butt hits that seat, nothing else matters. It’s just me and the bike,” Anthony Lesniak, motocross rider, said

The greatest feeling in the world to most young kids and teens is the first time placing one hand on the throttle, to the right of the handle bars, while allowing the other hand to be placed on the left part of the bars where one will find the brake lever. At that moment, the placing of both feet on the ground and wrapping those hands tightly around the grips feels unreal. Finally, they take one intense look up and realize it is life behind bars.

“Motocross is different from every sport in the aspect that it is almost like an addiction. Once you get that first bike or race that first race, it will always be a part of your life,” Mason Meiring, motocross rider, said.

When hard times strike, everyone has his or her own way of dealing with the situation. Finding that one thing or one place to go could make all the difference. For most motocross riders, the bike it their escape. The feelings they have after finding out some bad news instantly go away the minute they shift into first gear. Many outsiders would not understand how it would help, but after getting on that bike, everything just goes away.

“When I found out my mom died, I broke down. The only thing that could pick me back up and get me functioning again, was my bike. People have all sorts of ways to cope with hard times. Mine not only is a stress reliever, not only gets me away, but it is my passion and it is what I love to do,” Lesniak said

After receiving a dirt bike, it is time to start getting down to business. A dirt bike of any size comes with great challenges and can become awfully expensive. Whether the bike is a 55cc (the smallest type of bike for young kids and beginners), a 450cc (the biggest and most powerful bike for the older teens and adults) or all the ones in between, there will be a great deal of time and money invested in the everyday life of being a motocross rider.

“Money is what drives the sport. It gets the rebuilds for a broken bike, the proper gear and safety equipment, bike parts, hospital bills, race fees, food, gas, and a place to sleep in for the weekend. It takes a lot for families who travel every weekend, but it is the love for the sport that keeps them going,” Spencer Padgett, motocross rider, said.

Buying gear will be the one expense that begins to unknowingly take over. Spending hundreds of dollars on all the proper riding gear will become overwhelming to some. A simple set consisting of a jersey and pants, depending on the brand, could cost up to $250.

The most important gear is always the most expensive. Just like the clothing, depending on the brand, a helmet, boots, and neck/back braces could go anywhere from $100 all way to about $700 and sometimes more. The more money spent on these types of protection, the more durable and reliable they it be.

With the investment of all the gear, comes with purchasing the simplest but most important part; racing goggle. They are just like the other gear and can either be very cheap or decently expensive. Riders are able to ride without them depending the whereabouts of the track and requirements of certain gear.

Most riders use 100% Goggle because they are reliable and very durable. They are a popular brand used by tons of riders everywhere. They may protect the eyes but there is also product that protects the goggles from becoming damaged. This product is called tear-offs.

Tear-offs are a clear, plastic lense that a rider puts over the actual lense of the goggles. They protect the original lense from scratching with rocks and dirt being kicked up from the riders in front. That will could eventually ruin the goggles. Tear-offs are also used for muddy and nasty races that consists of the lenses of the goggles to become covered and the rider can not see. If a tear-off becomes covered they are able to grab the flap and rip it off to have a clear vision through another tear-off.

Once the gear is in place, broke in, and the feeling is set, it is time to continue with the journey.

The majority of beginners start their journey at camps, a local track, or their very own backyard. Most beginners spend more time in the dirt than on the bike. Even though finding places to learn and practice with the bikes is pretty difficult depending on location, but once the places have been discovered, it is time to get down to business.

Throughout the state of Michigan, tracks and properties can be found to help with training and learning everything one needs to know for that first race.

Michigan has almost 30 different motocross tracks where riders from all over the United States come to practice and better themselves for the next race. Most of all, many beginners loves these Michigan tracks because of the set ups and how much a rider can learn in just one visit, one ride.

The three Michigan tracks that are loved and respected world wide are Martin MX Park located in Martin, MI; Log Road MX, in Coldwater, MI; and the one track known by riders from all across America, Redbud MX, in Buchanan, MI. These tracks are highly recommended for any size bike and any age no matter the level of experience.

Throughout the beginning , many riders start riding around at private tracks or going to open rides at motocross tracks like the ones in Michigan. With riding around at a private track or even riding around the backyard, it will help riders get the feel for their bike and help with learning how to shift. Once the rider knows their bike and has a feel for everything, then it is time to sign up for open rides at real tracks.

The next big step in training would begin with open rides. Open rides are where tons of beginners start when they finally feel confident about the bike and themselves. Many first timers get a fear of going onto an actual race track where anything could happen. Although many who have never raced before or do not know much about how it works, there are certain classes for certain riders.

A rider with little to no experience on a track has the opportunity to race in the D class, which is the class for beginners. The classes go from D class up to A class with D being for the determined beginners and A being PRO or PRO AM meaning the best riders at your local track.

C class is the junior class. This class is for riders who typically ride smoothly and know their way around the bike. They are the riders who are either developing experience or just racing as a hobby. This class is also offered at tracks when D class is not an option. Most D class riders will fall behind, but it also gives them more of a competition and allows them to know what they have to look forward to. Everyone has to start somewhere.

B class riders are several notches above C class. These riders have the experience and knowledge it takes to get to that point. They have the gumption to bang bars and launch off jumps but still take on many obstacles. They have more aggression than the two lower classes and are doing what they have to to become an A rider.

No matter what class is chosen, without practice there would be no chance. Everyone knows that practice makes perfect, but what many people seem to forget is what else makes things perfect.

Being determined, knowing that no matter what happens today to always get back up, wipe the dirt off, make a million more mistakes, but know then one day all the mistakes will turn into something great. Sometimes that is the best practice a rider can get, especially being a motocross rider.

When it comes to riding and making mistakes, there will be some serious injuries throughout the years without a doubt. For riders trying to make it who can not bare a small cut or broken bone, get out now.

“Motocross is not easy or for the weak. You have to be strong, especially when hard times come and when bones break. You have to be strong enough to recover, walk out of that hospital, and jump right back on the bike and fix your mistakes,” Padgett said.

No matter who is on the bike or what class they are riding, every racer has come across some gruesome and unbarring injuries. Professionals who have won it all still suffer from injury no matter what. They do their time in recovery, so the second the doctors gives them the “okay” to ride again, the professionals are picking up right where they left off.

Some riders say falling or crashing makes them look bad, but the riders out there looking to make it have a different perspective.

“A lot of riders do not care about crashing because for some, if you didn’t wreck you are not doing it right. Wrecking only makes you feel better by showing yourself you are not afraid to hit the ground, get back up, and finish what they came for,” Hunter Robling, motocross rider, said.

Injury is a huge part of motocross, so it is the ones who bare through it and continue their journey, that will have the chance to say they made it one day. In this sport, injury is a risk every rider has to take. No matter how long they have been riding and no matter how good they have become, it can all be taken from you within seconds. Anything can happen.

“I had a mechanical failure with the bike on the face of a jump, as I was fully committed to hitting it, and the next thing I remember I am flying through the air thinking this was it. I’m about to lose my life as flashbacks from the past ran through my head. Next thing I remember was waking up in the hospital. I spent years coming back from this injury in 2007 after I was told I would never walk again. But I had so many people that believed in me and wanted to see me ride again that I couldn’t just give up. Although I am nowhere near what I used to be, I overcame my injury and am back riding dirt bikes with the same passion since I was three years old,” motocross rider, Scotty Lindsey, said.

With the inspiration of Lindsey’s tragic accident, family is the strongest and most important part of motocross. Family is always going to be the biggest supporter because they will make chances and sacrifices just to be there and see their child finish that race.

To be a successful motocross racer, it takes true commitment from not only the rider themself but from their family as well. It is going to take the sacrifice of time and money to make the long journey possible. With the love of the sport, many parents will give up things they have or work crazy hours during the week for those who do not have large amount of money, just to make sure their kid gets to follow their dream.

This sport is expensive, but parents have to look at the benefits. There are tons of terrible things out there that their child could be doing so parents need take in consideration and consider every moment an investment in their children’s lives because every penny will be worth it in the end.

Family is made on and off the tracks. Usually it is mom cleaning or making dinner in the motorhome, dad out there working on the bike making sure everything is perfect, and the siblings of the rider(s) cheering on their brothers or sisters. Being the parents, they will spend more time with their children than thought possible, but that is the one bond that will never be broken.

Off the track, meeting new riders and families everyday at the track can start to feel heartwarming. The bond is created over the love of the sport simply begins with a racer asking another if they had a wrench that would fix a loose bolt.

Without family, motocross would not be the same. There would be no laughing after the races, no late night talks around the campfire, and no support from anyone. Even the little things like that make this sport the greatest for countless people all over the world.

For a beginner to this sport or one who just wanted to get an idea of how it goes, just always remember that the things people love the most never come easy.

“For motocross is takes tons of passion, hard work, practice, money, but the most important thing, family and I can promise that every rider you ask will never tell you otherwise,” Padgett, said.

Racers with the passion of becoming something great not only allows them to feel confident but it gives them a purpose. Everyone in this world has a purpose, but the riders out there on that track have come a long way, knowing they will not stop until their purpose is served.

“I’ll let it kill me before I quit sliding that helmet over my head,” Lesniak said.

When it comes to racing dirt bikes, there are more life lessons that will be learned with every race and every practice. Most people in the world know that nothing that is worth having comes easy or without endless practice. For a beginner, they will soon realize this.

Although riders out there on the track who have been practicing their whole lives make it look easy, not one of them will tell another that it is easy. It is a completely new level of determination and one can not be scared of the risks.

When starting a new sport or activity many kids or teens get worried and feel they will not be good enough. No matter the person and no matter the sport, the rider will always have to have the ability to believe in him/herself. Without that in motocross, not one of these riders today would be where they are today.

Motocross is not easy nor will it ever be. There are people out there who have the same dream as professional racers once had. Now it is time to put both feet on the ground, wrap those hands around those grips, and look up one more time, this time look into the future.

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