BMX, the adrenaline rush

Story and photos by Ben Rickaby, NewsNetNebraska

I hate gyms with every fiber of my being. I’m sure if I could get past my ingrained childhood loathing of the gym I might be able to go to a gym and find some way to exercise, but I can’t.

My doctor told me recently that I am pre-diabetic and need to exercise more, but even that still won’t drive me to go into a Gym. I need something different. I used to play Lacrosse in high school but don’t have the time to commit to playing in college. So to that end I have to look elsewhere to find ways to exercise.

BMX racing started in the early 70’s when kids were taking their Schwinn Stingray bikes and modifying them to race around in back lots on their own dirt tracks pretending to be on motorcycles. The first organized BMX races started in Southern California where tracks were popping up and were called pedal cross racing, which would later change to BMX or bicycle motor cross. After a few years the American Bicycle Association was formed to organize BMX racing across the nation and later around the world. BMX racing  is now an Olympic sport in the summer Olympics.

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I used to ride my bike every day with my friends. When doing research for alternate ways to exercise I stumbled on the website for the local BMX racing track, Star City BMX. I went to the track after class one day and found that I could cruise around the track as long as it wasn’t muddy.   I loaded my old BMX bike into the car and went out to the track.

As it turns out I showed up for a rather packed weekend of racing. I watched a bunch of riders taking practice laps and wasn’t all that convinced that I should unload my bike. All I wanted to do was ride around the track but there were quite a few people already there. After standing there feeling rather stupid I walked up to one of the little buildings that a bunch of people were clustering around to see what was going on.

The two friendly ladies sitting inside asked if I was registering for the race that night. I admitted I was way out of my depth and didn’t know what was going on. A few minutes later I somehow got myself into the race and people were bustling around trying to find me the gear I was lacking. Someone handed me some knee pads, another family lent me a jersey and the people from the track lent me a helmet for the race. All I had planned to do was just ride around the track a few times and go home and now I was in an actual race.

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I went out and did a few practice laps and found out just how hard it is for a guy who is out of shape to get around all those banked turns, hills and jumps.  There are 4 different criteria to fairly determine what class each racer is put into looking at age, gender, skill level and wheel size. I for example, was put into the guys’ cruiser class with the 20-40 year olds.

Before a race starts people are given the chance to do some practice laps and register for the night’s race. Once all racers are registered they are assigned a series of races called “motos” that they are going to participate in. Motto sheets are posted showing which moto racers are in and their starting positions at the starting gate. Racers are called to the staging area behind the starting gate and races go in order by moto. Races are fast so each moto goes pretty quick and by the end of the night each racer has done two to three races depending on how well he or she did.

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Being at the track felt more like hanging out at a Friday night softball game rather than a highly competitive sporting event. I was put into a race with two other older riders who were in the pro class when not racing cruiser. I was lined up on the hill waiting for my moto to start and psyching myself out before I got up to the start gate. All I wanted to do was finish my races without crashing or running out of steam half way through. Then I got up to the starting gate and I had this sense of calm come over me from the adrenaline starting to pump through me. The guy operating the gate gave us a warning and the gate dropped. I started pedaling as fast as I could down the hill and up the first ramp. It was a thrill going over each bump and around each turn, even if the other two guys had left me in the dust. I didn’t care that I was coming in last each time, I was having a blast and I felt great after each race.

I can say that this won’t be my only race this summer. If I just so happen to get myself into better shape than that’s just an added bonus.

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