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Motocross Practice Will Never Be The Same

This weekend, I was riding practice at a local motocross track when I noticed something unusual – something I had never noticed before. Usually, I am one of the slower riders on the track, and I have to worry more about the young pros and intermediates flying by me than I do about passing other riders. This day was different, however.

I was actually passing most of the riders with ease. I began to watch a number of them closely, and then it clicked in my mind. What I was observing was a growing phenomenon – the new riders interested only in jumps, i.e., “freestyle motocross”. In fact, it looked like many of them didn’t know the basic fundamentals of riding.

A while ago, I wrote about the growth of freestyle motocross, fueled primarily by television coverage such as ESPN’s X-Games. Later this year, the “Gravity Games” will be on prime-time national television, also featuring freestyle motocross (for those of you unfamiliar with this phrase, freestyle motocross means stunt jumping).

New motocross bike sales will increasingly be made to freestyle riders who have absolutely no interest in racing or honing their motocross riding skills. Where will these freestylers practice their sport? Some of them will practice on open lands, where they can build their own jumps. Many of them, however, will be practicing at your local motocross track during open practice days. In fact, we may see these riders become the majority before too long.

Many of us will react negatively to these riders for a couple of reasons. First of all, we probably think new riders should learn the fundamentals of riding before they concentrate on jumping. Second, many of us will simply resent having these extra riders on the track.

If freestyle motocross continues to grow in popularity, local motocross tracks will end up building freestyle jump areas, and this should solve the second problem. But one question remains – should these riders be learning fundamental riding skills before they take on huge jumps and try dangerous tricks?

Before ESPN’s X-Games and the Gravity Games there were videos like Crusty Demons of Dirt. These videos glorify riders who take huge risks on huge jumps, and even made a hero out of Seth Enslow (who was known more for spectacular crashes than successful landings – at least earlier in his career).

I, for one, think that all riders should learn the fundamentals before attempting dangerous jumps, and that they should work up to these jumps gradually. If you own a modern 125 or 250 motocross bike, you surely have enough horsepower to pin the throttle and clear a huge triple jump, but experience and training in the fundamentals will make this far safer (not only for the rider, but for those riding with or near him).

On the other hand, after thinking about it for a while, I accept the freestyle riders as practitioners of a new and legitimate sport. A sport which is not motocross. I just hope they practice this new sport responsibly and, eventually, on their own, purpose-built properties.