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Care and Feeding of a Motorcycling Prodigy

With all these rising young stars in the world of motorcycle racing — both roadracing and motocross — I began wondering about the experience these young kids have, and why they are so good. In particular, here in the United States we have the Bostrom brothers (Ben and Eric), the Hayden brothers (Tommy, Nicky and Roger Lee), the Roberts brothers (Kenny Jr. and Kurtis), Ricky Carmichael and Travis Pastrana, among others. Is there any common denominator besides starting early (some as early as three years old) and riding as often as possible? I think so.

First of all, all of these guys started on dirt bikes (Carmichael and Pastrana stayed there). More importantly, and here’s the insight (if you can call it that; actually, Kenny, Sr. has known this for years), each one of these guys got comfortable sliding their bikes sideways on the dirt. First, sliding the back tire, and, eventually sliding the back and the front tire. These guys got so comfortable with sliding their bikes that, eventually, the roadracers among them became very casual about sliding on the pavement. Tommy and Nicky Hayden look so relaxed while sliding their bikes at 100 mph just inches apart from one another that they might share a cup of coffee and a cigarette while they are doing it.

What’s the moral of this story? If you want your youngster to be a future champion, start him (or her) young, have them ride every day, and make sure they are on slippery stuff as often as possible. Maybe ice, mud or slime, but definitely not a surface with good traction. Oh yeah, make sure they are safe with all the correct gear, and save the slippery stuff until they know what they are doing. Then, before they turn sixteen, make sure you sign them to a long-term management contract – Mom and Dad get 15% of gross earnings from purses, endorsements and salary. Good luck.