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Supercross Safety Concerns – The Responses . . .

Has Supercross become too dangerous? Have the tracks become too difficult, or does the difficulty separate the “men from the boys” in the sport? Do we as fans come to Supercross to watch skilled riders banging bars in a tight race where they are racing slick lines through a technical track? Or do we simply come as voyeurs, fascinated with the thrill of impending danger — watching as riders risk their necks (literally) as they fly through the air over triple and quadruple jumps at breakneck speeds? Could it simply be a little bit of both?

The response by our readers to the January 19, 2000 article regarding the dangers of Supercross was only surpassed by the response we received in connection with the “Bike of the Century” article.

Generally, readers felt the riders knew and accepted the risks associated with Supercross. It was widely held, however, that injuries do seem to be more common now than in years past. Most attributed it to the tracks today that require the racers to hang it all out and push the limits to keep up with the leaders.

The general consensus was that, while huge jumps are both entertaining and exciting, knowledgeable fans come to watch the racing — strategic lines to set up for the pass, bar-to-bar sprints through the whoop section, block passes through the corners, passing the lead back and forth until the final finish line jump. With men and machines pushing limits not known in years past, we are witnessing an exciting show. Young men living their dreams (and, perhaps, our fantasies).

Here is a sampling of your responses . . .

” . . . they’ve never held a gun to anyone’s head and told them to jump. Get my drift? It’s the racer’s decision if the tracks are too dangerous.”

“. . . I believe that more and more fans are attracted to these races not to see blood and flesh, but to watch a rider doing something that is almost unbelievable. It just amazes me to see these riders doing what they do on the difficult parts of the track because I know I CAN’T, and it scares the hell out of me to even think about trying!”

“. . . riders have the same choice, if they aren’t good enough to do it, then they shouldn’t be there. It does separate the riders into groups, I don’t know if it’s men from boys. I guess it just comes down to how much you are willing to risk to do it.”

“. . . As an old-timer, I enjoy the high flying you get with Supercross, Arenacross, and Free-Style competition, but I still say that nothing beats a true natural terrain mx course.”

“. . . The difficulty of the tracks will separate the “men from the boys”. This is how it should be. Supercross is an extreme sport and requires its athletes to be at the top of their game all of the time. This is why top level riders are paid so well . . .The injuries are unfortunate, but are part of the inherent risk of participating in a sport. I am sure that upon further research it would be discovered that there are more severe injuries per participant in pro football than supercross in a season. . .”

“There has always been danger in Supercross, along with serious injury. In fact some very famous riders from the past have been paralyzed from riding injuries on smaller less technical jumps. . .”

“. . . Supercross is exciting and can be dangerous. Every rider out there knows that, and has made the choice to be a part of it. I would have paid just to watch the top 5 guys race. . .”

“. . . At some point, however, there comes a time when the track will beat the skills of the majority of the riders. It’s like an elimination contest. Are we in a race to the finish or a race to see who can remain upright? The best racers will win whether it be an easy or difficult track. More injuries indicate a problem. Too high, too fast, too far. Even the best riders will make mistakes. Less often, but they happen. It will ultimately catch even the best. Watching old footage of SX in the 1980’s will show excellent racing without the massive jumps and whoops. This is not an argument against big jumps, but merely an observation that you don’t have to have them for good racing.”

“. . . Outdoor MX is the real thing – on natural terrain tracks – Unadilla, Southwick, Budds Creek, etc.”

“. . . SO, when is enough enough?”

“Having raced motocross for many years, I don’t believe that “Quad” jumps or the length of time in the air has anything at all to do with the technical nature of the sport. If that were the case, Mike Metzger and company would be winning the majority of Supercross races. I believe that the promoters and track designers should definitely take the safety of the riders into more consideration when designing tracks. Witness last year’s Daytona track. Granted, this particular race stands apart in its uniqueness, but this was definitely a difficult and technical track, and I don’t recall any out of the ordinary “Quad” jumps. Hopefully, designs that require skill in the turns (becoming a lost art) will be considered along with the high flying jumps that the average fan enjoys.”

“. . . It is possible, and even likely, that the prospect of completing lap after lap on such a challenging track is mentally more difficult than physically. Concentration in any endeavor is the hardest thing to maintain, as the body will not naturally fling itself over an 80-foot chasm without some input from the brain. I agree that most of the excitement happens far away from the big jumps, and having watched Supercross races since the first one in ’74 at the Coliseum, I can attest to the fact that big jumps are not necessary for excitement. It’s really up to the riders as a group to decide. What are their views? Those are the only ones that matter. The fans will support them no matter what.”

“Are y’all sure it’s not a lot of mothers e-mailing y’all? I think that people that don’t ride dirt bikes have a big problem with them, and if they rode, they wouldn’t say this kind of stuff.”

“I don’t think the tracks are too dangerous. All the riders have the option of riding the quad at Anaheim as two doubles, or even four separate jumps. I think McGrath has it right, there are talented athletes that can do what us mortals have to pay to see. I can ride motocross, and I can shoot hoops, but nobody is going to mistake me for Michael Jordan, or Jeremy. Making the tracks easier would be like lowering the basket, because not every player is like Michael Jordan.”

” . . . I believe that the bikes spend too much time going up and down and not enough going forward . . . The type of jumps that are used are spectacular but are not conducive to close racing and passing maneuvers . . .”

“Who likes these dangerous tracks? The riders? I doubt it, but a poll would be interesting . . . The factories and sponsors? No way, they like to keep their riders on the track and out of plaster. The spectators? Big doubles, tabletops and good racing ought to keep them coming back. The promoters? The finger seems to point at them, doesn’t it? . . .”

“. . . The tracks are getting pretty rough, but then so are the riders. If ya can’t clear the quad jump, don’t try it. . .”

“. . . the racing would be way better at the Supercross if they would put more emphasis on track design that kept racers on the ground racing and battling it out rather than in the air doing a nac-nac (BORING). I want to see racing NOT FMX.”

“I personally think that the tracks should be as hard as possible. These guys are pros and if they want to take the risk on the big jumps it’s ok, nobody is making them. It’s their choice.”

Well, there you have it. Thanks to everyone who took the time to e-mail us with your thoughts.