Is it just me or are you glad the MotoGP season finale at Valencia is over? Finally we can stop talking about the Rossi/Marquez/Lorenzo drama (or can we?), congratulate Jorge on winning the championship (even if I do wish Valentino won the whole thing, personally), and start thinking about what 2016 has in store.
Funny enough, while many folks in the States woke up early to watch the race, I got up early to head to the track to seek redemption on our Honda Grom project bike (I had a feeling Lorenzo would win the title anyway…). Our friends at the United Mini Racing Association, or UMRA, held its inaugural season finale at Adams Motorsport Park in Riverside, California, and this would be my last chance this year to see if the changes we made to the bike since our 24-hour race paid off.
But you can read about that adventure in the coming weeks. This column is about mini bikes. Unlike paddocks at big bike races, where the atmosphere is usually serious, the smell of race gas wafts through the air, and adults rule the show, when you come to a mini bike race, there’s a good chance you’ll see kids dressed in leathers. This isn’t a halloween costume, either – they go out to race. And they’re pretty quick, too.
When I was little, I assumed motorcycles were for adults. You can see why, since all I saw were full-size bikes on the roads ridden by grown-ups (and Tom Cruise riding his Kawasaki in Top Gun, one of my favorite movies as a kid). Naturally, I thought motorcycles were something to aspire to when I got older (behind my parent’s backs) and moved on from my BMX bikes. Of course, I now know little motorcycles exist for tots, and I often wonder how different my life would have been if I were introduced to two wheels and an engine a lot sooner in life.
Yeah, I know there’s no point dwelling about it, but now that I’m going to have a little one of my own, I’m thinking of ways to introduce her to motorcycles in a way she – and her mother – might appreciate. Maybe pocket bike is the way? I mean, Rossi got his start on them and look where he is now. I could restrict the throttle so she learns proper application and doesn’t scare herself with speed (although if she’s really my kid she’ll want more straight away). Plus, if/when she does fall down, she won’t be going very fast, nor will she be falling very far.
From there, any number of machines can be put under her to advance her riding career. Although they’re getting harder to find, a Honda NSR50 is another great learning tool. And, despite the issues I’ve personally had with them, Honda’s Grom is another excellent choice. Best of all, since it’s street legal, I can use it to tool around town on when she’s not playing with it at the track.
Or maybe she’ll take to the dirt and learn on a Yamaha PW50, like so many little ones before her. She can learn all the basics of riding on a surface that’s a little softer to land on than asphalt, and if she gets proficient at it, we can get her on something bigger and teach her to slide like all the racing greats past and present. As an added bonus the fam can combine a camping trip in the process to make mom happy.
No matter what she chooses, I’m just glad mini bikes exist in the first place to give children the chance to experience the joys of two wheels. Personally, I’m looking forward to hopping on something and riding right beside my kid to teach her the ropes and be there when she falls. And, if she does wind up getting a knack for motorcycles, there will inevitably be some sort of hurdle she’ll have to get over. Whether it’s something as simple as operating a clutch, or something a little more complex like getting a knee down, I hope to be able to see the look in her eyes when she finally “gets it.” Who knows, the day might come where she leaves me in her dust. Talk about a proud papa moment.
Yeah, I know what some of you might be thinking. “How dare you force your child to get into motorcycles!” Of course, I wouldn’t force motorcycles onto my kid. But it’s inevitable she’s going to be exposed to them considering what I do. So, it’s only right, assuming she shows interest, that I introduce her correctly and give her the proper guidance. If it turns out motorcycles aren’t for her, that’s fine. At least dad will have a toy to tool around the go-kart track on. Win-win!