To do anything these days, society gives us a test. If you want to live in Australia, you must pass a test. If you want a driver’s licence, you must pass a test. If you want to get through high school, you must pass several hundred tests and still have no direction in life.
It wasn’t that long ago that MA introduced a stricter method for coaching and allowing riders, especially juniors, on the track. At the moment, riders must do a minimum of five hours’ coaching each year and on each bike as they progress. To my way of thinking, this just doesn’t go far enough and we need to really get these guys into shape if they want to join our sport. I just don’t think we’re really weeding out the undesirables.
But, as always, I have answers and here are my solutions to attracting the right people to our sport.
1. Can they get a new sticker kit for their bike and resist putting it on instantly?
Now, when was the last time you saw a rider under the age of 20 get a new sticker kit and not apply it instantly. regardless if the race is next week or next year? Kids still love stickers. It wouldn’t matter if the entire bike was dirty and their next race was a month away — kids just have to put it on.
I reckon if you can keep a kid from putting that sticker kit on it may help him make smarter decisions on the track. It means he has a cool head, can deal with high levels of pressure (his mates would be desperate for him to slap that thing on) and will make better choices for racing. I can’t believe this isn’t already in place with the three million rider coaches we have here in Australia.
2. Can they text, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and tweet while riding?
Sure, it’s illegal on the road — so is jumping your car — but this is motocross and it’s different. Young riders need cat-like reflexes, lightning fine motor skills and to be alert at all times. Nothing keeps a rider, or driver for that matter, more alert than the chime of a text message coming through or a status update on Facebook.
If a rider can hold the phone, send and receive a text, add a smartarse comment in Instagram and stare at some young track groupie’s near-nude shots on Facebook, then that kid can ride.
3. Can they check and set their own ride height?
Now, this is where it gets hard. I have no doubt most of the young kids can slap on some stickers and use a smart phone in their sleep, but can they check and measure their own ride height on their bike without outside assistance? See, this one requires bike knowledge, Indian rubber man flexibility and some home handyman knowhow to read a tape measure. Not only that, they will need to know their maths and that’s a big question mark with today’s youth.
Still, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and if you want anything badly enough you have to make it happen. So, kids, you want to race, do yoga, get a tape measure and attend at least the first three years in school.
4. Can they open and shut a gate without getting off their bike?
Not all of us want to be the next Chad Reed; some of us might want to be the next Stefan Merriman or Shane Watts. So, if that’s your calling in life, you’re going to have to learn to open and shut gates. There’s nothing worse than having to park your bike, often without a stand, dismount, walk over to the gate, spend half an hour working out how the owner of the property has chained and locked it, open the gate, walk back to your bike, ride it a few metres to the other side of the gate because you’re too lazy to push it, find another place to park your bike but angry at no obvious parks you throw it on the ground, walk back to the gate, try to get the chain back around the gate and the fencepost, then decide you might as well make it difficult for the next guy so you wrap it around anything and tie it off in a knot that a boy scout would struggle with, walk back to your bike, pick it up, kick it 250 times and the bastard won’t start because it’s been lying on Its side and the carby has five litres of fuel spilling around inside of it. before finally push-starting it into life and an enormous flame of unburnt fuel shoots out the exhaust, causing thousands of acres to be burnt to the ground.
If you can do all that without having to get off your bike, it’s a win/ win for everyone. No anger, no environmental damage, less effort and no wearing out of boot soles having to walk and start bikes all the time.
5. Can they check fuel while riding SX?
But unlike the above, some of you may want to be the next Chad Reed and, as a result, you will have to ride supercross. The worst-case scenario in supercross is running out of fuel while out doing laps and without a fuel gauge. Then you either have to rely on your mechanic — and that’s usually your old man who can’t work out a video recorder – or you’ll have to check it yourself.
If you can continue to ride safely around a supercross track and make all the obstacles and check to ensure you have enough fuel to finish the moto, then in my books you’re safe to ride and you can have your licence stamped. You are officially in. But, if you wear thongs in the pits, then you’re out and have to do the entire five-step process again.