There comes a point in every rider's career where we decide it's time to go racing - but where do you start? It can be overwhelming learning about where to race, what series, the cost, what class, - the list goes on. Let's break down what it takes to race your first race!
KNOW WHERE TO RACE
Depending on where you live, it can be overwhelming figuring out where to race. For example, growing up in Southern California meant there was a local race happening each weekend- so which series do you choose?! Hot Summer Nights at Perris Raceway was a staple event in our racing career where we earned our gate drops in the Fall, and California Gold Cup kept us in race shape during the Summer. Whether your local races are seasonal or regional, figuring out what tracks offer gate drops matters. Start by doing your research: if your local track is on a smaller scale, find them on Facebook or Instagram. Thanks to social media, small locally owned tracks can keep you up to date more frequently than maintaining a website. Additionally, small track owners and race promotors have taken to Facebook Groups to share and spread races happening near you. This is a great resource to take advantage of, including the potential to meet other first-time racers who may be in the same boat as you. IF you're one of the lucky ones to have many large-scale tracks in your area, it may be as simple as visiting their website for a racing schedule.
Keep in mind that although you might've found a local race schedule, you'll want to race a track you've ridden before for your first race. Since a gate drop is new, lessen the stress by racing a track you've frequented before. If you've checked this box, you're off to a great start!
Keep in mind: You'll want to race a track you've ridden before for your first race.
Pro-tip: using Facebook Groups to search for local races may increase your chances of meeting fellow racers who share the same riding experience as you!
KNOW WHAT TO BRING
You've scheduled your first race at your local track that you've ridden before, but now you need to know what to bring! Riding and racing are two different things- when you go for a day of riding you might bring a cooler with some water and Gatorade, a canopy for shade, and a speaker for music. But for race day, you'll need to consider a few things:
A mechanic and a pit board
Tear-offs and extra goggles
Light meal for in-between motos
A competitive attitude
It's important to separate a practice day and a race day: these 5 things are the most important differences, and require some prep.
A mechanic and pit board are one of the necessary pieces to a successful race day. Don't panic- you don't need to rush out and hire a professional - your dad, mom, sister, brother, friend, neighbor, cousin, aunt, and or dirt bike buddy will do. Their role is simply to lend a hand. This includes checking your spokes, bolts, tire pressure, and prepping your gate on the line (which we'll cover below). Their primary role is keeping you focused on your race craft, and less on the minute things, like bike prep. Additionally, they need to provide moral support! We've been lucky enough to have our dad, grandfather, and even mom act as our mechanic over the years before hitting the pro ranks, where we had professional wrenches take over. They're cheerleading skills need to take over once that gate has dropped, so pick out a mechanic with the most enthusiasm (very important!). The last key item all mechanics need is a pit board! This is where they can share important information with you while you're racing, but we'll cover this in more detail below.
They're cheerleading skills need to take over once that gate has dropped, so pick out a mechanic with the most enthusiasm
Tear-offs and extra goggles are also key on race day - something you usually wouldn't carry for a casual day of riding. You or your mechanic will make sure your first pair of goggles have an adequate number of tear-offs (I usually like 6-10 on my goggles, depending on the track conditions and weather). I prefer to put my own tear-offs on so I can prep my muscle memory for where the tip of the tear-off is on my goggles. Lastly, make sure you bring an extra set of goggles - your mechanic will carry your second set while you're racing, in case you get in a situation where your primary pair becomes unusable.
I prefer to put my own tear-offs on so I can prep my muscle memory for where the tip of the tear-off is on my goggles
Something that often gets overlooked on race day is your nutrition. Although you should be prepping your diet prior to racing, you need to be conscious of what you're putting in your body to replenish the calories and energy you've exerted. Something light and hearty you can consume in-between motos can be as simple as string cheese and deli turkey. Both are minimal and light enough to get you to the end of the second moto. Keep in mind you need to be hydrating throughout the day- don't wait until after your race to pound water, that's far too late! Your body may experience things like arm pump and fatigue if you aren't properly hydrated. Lastly, your breakfast and dinner can be fuller than what you eat during your racing hours - it's what you consume in-between motos that matters most!
don't wait until after your race to pound water, that's far too late! Your body may experience things like arm pump and fatigue if you aren't properly hydrated
Extra parts may be more difficult for a new racer but pays off in the long run. You've spent a lot of time and money just to get to the track that you'd hate not being able to finish moto two because of a pair of bent bars. Don't let a practice crash ruin your race potential! Bring what you have: an extra pair of handlebars, extra air filter, or an extra pair of wheels can go a long way, and even act as a placebo effect. Simply being prepared can mean the difference between an overall race score that puts you on the box, or a DNF.
Don't let a practice crash ruin your race potential!
Last, but not least, a strong competitive attitude is imperative to a successful day of racing. Something we would do driving to the track in the morning was watch "Revelation: 199" featuring Travis Pastrana. The entire DVD would get us pumped up to not only ride our dirt bike but race our dirt bike. Whatever your go-to pump up film or song is, blast it. Get race ready. You've put in the time and energy to get to this point in your riding career - don't let mentality hinder your race performance!
KNOW WHAT CLASS
An important feature of racing dirt bikes is what class to sign yourself up for. Standard classes at every race across the country include Beginners, Novice, and Intermediate (in most instances a Pro class is also available). There are other specialty classes like Schoolboy, 250A, 25+, Vet, and more. Keep this in mind when choosing what class to sign up for: you know your skill better than anyone else! A good indicator to use is if you feel you can ride the "pro" track at your local raceway comfortably, you can most likely enter the Novice class and above. If not, you more than likely belong in the Beginners class (and that's okay!). Remember: you want to give yourself the best experience possible by setting yourself up for success for your first race. Most of the best racers today started in the Beginners class and worked all the way up to winning championship titles. What we want to avoid is signing up for a class that is above your skill level, ultimately running the risk of hurting yourself or others.
Keep this in mind when choosing what class to sign up for: you know your skill better than anyone else!
Once you've decided what class to race, you're ready to start mentally preparing for the race itself. This can be as simple as focusing on the weakest part of the track, and how you'll tackle that section when the race starts OR sizing up your competition and mimicking their race lines during practice. Whichever way you start to mentally prep, remember the class you'll be racing in is the level of mindset as well. For example, if you're in the Novice class, start thinking like an Intermediate class rider to boost your confidence.
WHAT DOES IT COST?
Riding dirt bikes is already expensive, and racing comes with a lot of added expense - but don't let this intimidate you! Here's a few ways to keep costs down:
Keep your bike race ready all the time (this means taking care of your things- your bike, gear, truck, trailer, and even mindset - don't let a dirty air filter potentially cost you more in the long run by letting it go rotten!)
Sign up for 1 race class (it's easy to overextend ourselves and want to race 2-3 classes; don't break the bank for more seat time just yet! For your first race you'll need the breaks in between moto's to reset- and keep your wallet from disintegrating after one weekend)
Stick to one race series for your first season (just like we mentioned earlier, choosing what race to sign up for can be overwhelming, but be proactive by choosing a racing series- this can guarantee you multiple gate drops over a span of 2-3 months (like the Swap Moto Series in SoCal) which can ultimately save you money per weekend when paying for the entire series up front)
Some local tracks require an entry fee (ranging from $25-30) in addition to paying for the race itself (which can vary from $30-50 per class). There may be some other miscellaneous charges that pop up as well, so be ready to spend on average $150-200 for your first race.
Our final conclusion for your first race is this: HAVE FUN. There can be a lot of stress and anxiety around your first gate drop- whether your goal is to turn pro one day or be a weekend warrior, the key to being a successful racer is to keep it fun, always.
Get more insight on PREPARING FOR THE GATE DROP in this article!
References in this article:
Ride Perris MX Track - Perris Raceway - The Oldest Motocross Track in CA! (rideperris.com)
WMN Racing - WMN Racing Facebook Page
Swap Moto Live Racing Series - Race Series - Swap Moto Live!