by Robert Beaupre
The pleasure of riding is the primary perk of being a motocrosser. But it is not the only perk. Being a motocross racer is full of subtle joys that do not involve riding at all. From my list:
I like dressing for motocross. Motocross is one of the few forums in which a grown man can dress like a bird of paradise and not raise eyebrows. The vivid colors and unusual materials of motocross apparel are a cause for celebration in a world where khakis and dress shirts dominate the majority of men’s closets.
Every now and then I order the craziest-colored gear out of the catalog. Last year I got a set of bright orange, green and black stuff. I wondered what looks I might draw if I wore similarly colored clothes to my job. But it doesn’t matter at the track. As a racer it is OK to stand out and make outlandish fashion choices. It seems that ever since Broc Glover donned pink JT gear at the Rose Bowl in 1985, we’ve collectively decided that anything goes in motocross fashion.
I like getting brand-new motorcycles. This might seem redundant (who doesn’t like getting brand-new things?), but the beauty of a brand-new dirt bike is something to behold. A motorcycle that has just rolled off the showroom is a purpose-built work of art. It is a blank canvas for our tastes, and a marvel to examine closely.
I rarely ride a new bike the first day I get it. I prefer to let it sit in its state of purity for at least one night so I can gawk at it and think about how perfect it is. Of course, the first ride is always sweet too, but it comes with the knowledge that once any roost hits the underside of the fender, the perfection is gone. And it never comes back, no matter how much silicone detailer you spray on it afterward.
I like using motocross language in non-motocross situations. After riding for 20 years, all kinds of situations remind me of motocross and its happenings. Motocross language is colorful, and it can sometimes describe things much more vividly than normal language ever could.
When I want to describe a near-accident on the freeway, I might say, “I was just holding my line, but then this lady in a Caravan got whiskey-throttle and nearly cleaned us both out.” When I want to tell about how I fell asleep at a movie, I might say, “It was an OK plot, but I got tired in the middle and just DNFed.”
I like applying numbers and graphics on my bike. Sure, wrapping big, expensive pieces of sticky vinyl onto plastic isn’t easy, but, like late braking, it is something that serious racers have to learn. When one manages to apply a right-hand four-stroke sideplate background with no creases, it is cause for a celebratory drink.
Although I claim to like applying graphics, my wife won’t come near me when I am doing it. One time, when we were a new couple, she decided she would “help” as I applied some graphics to the shrouds of a KX250. But, according to her, I turned into a snarling beast whenever I saw a bubble or crease and was thus impossible to work with. Apparently, had she not walked out of the garage midway through the process, I might be single today.
I like meeting motocross people in non-motocross situations. It is always a relief when the guy seated across the table from me at a wedding turns out to have a YZ450F and knows enough to discuss the current supercross series. That way, I know we’ll be able to manage at least one interesting topic of conversation.
A strange but amusing variation of this is when you meet people who think they know a lot about motocross but in reality know less than nothing. I once met a guy at a wedding who informed me that every factory rider secretly races with an automatic transmission. “How else would they hit every shift perfect like that?” he asked in all seriousness. I almost shot white zinfandel out of my nose.
I like hanging out at motorcycle shops. Motorcycle people are an interesting lot, and their shared appreciation of a single topic gives shops the feeling of a neighborhood where everyone knows at least a little bit about everyone else.
I often go into a favorite shop of mine for a can of chain lube and end up spending half the day discussing the state of motocross with the staff and whoever else happens to be lingering around. It has come to the point where my wife knows she need not hold dinner when I go out at two in the afternoon to get a set of grips.
Finally, I like writing about motocross. Motocross is a rich topic complete with complex customs, outlandish norms and other sorts of odd behavior. For a writer who wants to explore the more peculiar manifestations of human life, motocross is a gold mine.
When I write about motocross, I am attempting to make sense of the experiences that I’ve had in my years at the track. I hope that by writing weekly about these experiences, I might understand half of them before I reach the 70+ class.