With children racing on small 50cc bikes and swarming motocross tracks across B.C., the sport is developing a rich family dynamic, observes one local racer.
“At every event that we go to, the 50cc class (for ages 4-8) has been the biggest class of the whole weekend. There are more riders in that little class than any other class,” said Aaron Croot, Terrace dirt biker. Aaron and his family, with children JP, 8, and Izzie, 6, have been in the Terrace Motocross Association for 10 years and started competing in the north motocross racing series three years ago.
As the number of young racers grows, events are more and more packed with families and Aaron’s wife Jaimee Croot said the children are quick to make friends and then connect their parents.
Though the events draw some competitive racers, Aaron said that among the families people are quick to help each other out, sharing bike parts, helping with repairs, volunteering in races, and working together to keep an eye on the throngs of children.
That is what impressed Amber Armstrong, whose children Foster, 7, and Cooper, 5, have been involved in the club for three years.
“I really like the camaraderie amongst the families. They are absolutely amazing and they will step up and help you if something goes wrong,” she said. Earlier this year in Williams Lake, Armstrong said her son’s bike wouldn’t start in the wet and muddy conditions, but other families rallied to help.
“There were parents all around trying to fix the bike, and we needed a spark plug and the Croot’s were like ‘oh, we’ve got one in our trailer!’ It was really great,” Armstrong said. “Everybody is very supportive of one another and it’s just a really nice dynamic among the families.”
Jaimee said that young racers are also developing to be encouraging little leaders. “The 10-12 year olds… they start to turn into role models. They are the ones that are out there and giving the little kids pointers,” Jaimee said.
As the youngest racers line up at the starting line, the older children often come around and give the kids a fist pump and say ‘have a good ride,’ or ‘get that start’ or offer some advice about the track, she said.
Even though Armstrong has only been involved in the club for three years, she said she has noticed definite growth among the youngest race classes, both in Terrace and beyond. She said it’s partly because children tell their friends, such as her son Foster whose buddy came to watch him ride and wound up getting a dirt bike.
But the sport is not cheap. Little dirt bikes cost between $1,000 and $3,000 and safety gear costs upwards of $300 to start.
“It’s very expensive,” Armstrong said, adding that a lot of local businesses have really helped by sponsoring young racers. “It seems like the community has really rallied behind it,” she said.
Despite the cost, Aaron said he feels it is worth it, and he values the opportunities motocross gives his children to learn and achieve.
Jaimee said their son JP took a jump in his race last weekend, rather than riding up and down over two berms, and he came off the track pumped about his new achievement.
“That kind of stuff is really cool… They learn from it and they can excel and grow,” Jaimee said. “If they just hit this jump one time and are able to make it, then they know they can do it again.”
Aaron said the young racers learn problem solving as they think through how to pass opponents, cut time, and ride smarter and smoother. They also develop perseverance, dealing with bike break downs, muddy tracks and minor accidents.
“When your kids tip over and crash, ‘cause that does happen, they get up and they fight hard and they keep striving to get better. It’s nice to see that, rather than them just falling over and giving up,” Aaron said.
He said that he believes motocross is no more dangerous than other sports where children often injure joints or get concussions.
“It’s like anything. There is always a risk,” he said. “You are going to get bumps and bruises and scrapes.”
“It’s about controlling the risk,” he said, explaining that they train the little riders when to slow down and how to ride safely, and they learn quickly from experience.
Both moms Jaimee and Armstrong said children are decked out in full safety gear with helmets on, and that helps put them at ease.
“There is a risk associated with it, but it’s just like any other sport,” said Armstrong. “As long as kids ride within their capabilities and wear their equipment appropriately [it’s okay].
“I wouldn’t let them ride if I thought they were at any kind of undue risk,” she said.
She added that the children practice a lot and their little bikes are often tuned down while they learn.
“That’s what a lots of parents do when their kids are first starting out. They tune the bike to a slower speed and a slower acceleration while the kids are learning, and then slowly increase it,” she said.
“So you’re not just throwing them on these fast bikes and hoping they stay on. There is a lot of training and practice that goes into it.”
The Terrace club has 140 members and this year close to 15 families travelled to take part in the race series for the north, which included races in Williams Lake, Quesnel, Prince George, Terrace, and Kamloops.
The series wrapped up in Quesnel July 16-17, and several Terrace racers edged into the top ranks, even filling all three podium spots in both the open beginner class and 50cc age 4-6 class.
– Photo by Fox Girl Photography
The top Terrace standings in the northern race series are as follows:
In the 50cc age 4-6 class, Foster Armstrong finished first with three race wins and 132 points. Second was Colton Scott with 122 points, and third was Tyren Wall with 94 points.
In the 50 cc age 7-8 class, J P Croot got third with 125 points, including one win and two second place finishes at races this season.
Foster Armstrong got third in the 50cc open class, with 101 points.
In the junior MX2 class, Jesse Lanterman took first place, with 108 points and two first place finishes at races this season. He also won second in the schoolboy class with 130 points and two first place wins.
In new kid beginner, Cooper Armstrong took second place with 58 points.
Terrace dominated the open beginner class, with Mitch Armstrong first at 126 points, Clayton Karrer second with 70 points and Nikolas Downey third with 69 points.
Aaron Croot took second place in the vet junior class with 87 points this season.
In the young ladies class, Gracie-Lee Mowbray got second with 101 points and Tesla Laschenko got third with 71 points.