Life Of A Race Rider
By Lowell Anderson
Over the years, I've attended a lot of motorcycle industry trade shows for work. These shows are great for seeing some of the new products available and they're also great for seeing old industry friends. While roaming around and looking at all the cool stuff, I ran into one of those old friends. After spending 10 years racing supercross, he decided it was time to quit and concentrate on his family and a new career. Now he finds himself working for one of the big parts distributors as a rep and spending the rest of his free time training some of the current crops of riders.
We spent a few minutes talking about family and friends and catching up on old times. He has two young kids and was telling me all the stories that come with being a father. Eventually, that led to a conversation about his kids learning to ride and what bikes they were on, which led to a conversation about the current race series and some of the riders. It’s funny how the conversation always leads to the passion for riding and racing.
When you get inside the industry it is pretty interesting to hear some of these stories. There is plenty to be told about the riders and some of the struggles they face. First, he told me about one of the top riders he was training. He recently injured his left leg and hasn’t been comfortable on the bike ever since, so he hired my buddy to come down and train with him to get things figured out. After a few hours of testing and watching him ride, the result was that the rider was favoring his good leg so much that he was riding lazily. Not shifting the bike when he needed to and trying to ride the whole track in two gears. He also was riding with poor form keeping his elbows down and riding out of position. All of these things resulted in poor lap times and a lack of confidence for the rider. The rider didn’t realize he was doing these things. It’s amazing that someone can be so good at something and do it so often that they don’t realize when they are doing it wrong. They only see the results and realize something is wrong. Another person's point of view can be helpful at times like this. A few quick adjustments, mixed with some practice, and his lap times fell by a full second, which in this game is a lot of time.
He also told me about another rider who has a health issue. His immune system isn’t functioning properly and it is causing him to have issues maintaining stamina during a race. He gets tired after about ten laps and starts to slow down. At this level that is something you can’t do, so they were trying different training techniques in combination with a change in his diet to try to even things out. It’s still to be determined if it will work.
The public doesn’t get to hear these stories because the riders tend to keep these things under wraps. That’s why I am not putting any names in this article. Any disadvantage is an advantage to the competing riders, so keeping these things quiet is really important. Another consideration is the factory teams talk to each other, so, if you have an injury, letting people know could be detrimental to your future career. Really puts the riders in a tough spot. Who do you talk to, and how do you get help?
People don’t realize all the struggles these guys go through to get to race day. Most people think the riders just show up, everything is ready for them, and they hop on the bike and go race.
That’s not the case at all. These guys spend countless hours training and getting ready for race day. There is a ton of testing and planning that goes into every race. It’s really not as glamorous as people think. It’s a lot of work, and most of it isn’t very enjoyable. The ones that are good at it do it for the same reason as the guys and girls that ride on the weekend. They love it, it’s a passion and they want to be the best. It always seems to come back to that.