twins on Yamaha PW 50s at PIR

Start Em Young, it will be fun...

Start Em Young, it will be fun...

This one goes out to all the future moto 50cc Dads! 

Of course everyone wants their child to experience the thrill, the excitement, and unbridled joy that come along with ripping dirt bikes. It's just your fatherly duty to let him follow his passion. If that means taking him to the track on the evenings and weekends, then you should probably take your bike along as well. At least until he gets the hang of it. Before we start mixing gas for a KTM 50 SX (60:1), we need to take care of some housekeeping and get them race ready. I've been around organized and unorganized sports my entire life, I can tell you this, motocross parents are some of the most…intense you’ll find in any sport. If you have been kicking around the idea of getting your kid into moto then maybe you will find our story helpful. 

Our families entry into moto

I didn’t grow up riding dirt bikes. I guess my parents thought it would be safer to put a football helmet on me and let other kids intentionally hit me as hard as they could. Sounds logical and I loved every minute of it. I still broke bones and got concussed just without the pure joy of riding a dirt bike and feeling of bliss that comes along with hearing that 2-stroke scream. Fast forward to more current times, I have a family of my own raising three boys, ages 4-7 (Dash, Maverick, and Phoenix). Dirt bikes were never on our radar until my oldest (Dash) happened to catch a few seconds of motocross on the television. We have since gotten rid of the television, more on that later. After seeing those bikes on the screen he demanded that we watch more, he was probably 4 years old at the time. My philosophy on sports and parenthood was to expose him to everything and see what he liked. When Dash was young we took him to basketball, football and baseball games. He loved them all. So when he saw those dirt bikes racing around on tv, I thought, sure, let's watch it for a bit. That bit turned into a never ending request. Dash was so obsessed he became a student of the sport instantly.  I remember once while I was preparing dinner, I handed him the iPad and let him watch old Supercross videos. It became a routine of sorts that in the evening when we were getting dinner prepared we would let him watch youtube videos of races. He quickly memorized races and even to this day he will drop some obscure nugget from a race that happened well before he was born. So the passion was there from an early age. Around that same time our dear friends came over for a visit, they heard all about our son's new obsession and had just picked up a KTM SX E5 for their son and stopped by to show us the new bike. Watching racing on youtube is one thing, seeing that bike up close was next level for Dash. We had to buy one. Again, i never rode much as a kid and thought this electric bike thing is pretty cool, almost zero maintenance and quiet enough not to upset the neighbors. We picked up a Husqvarna EE5 shortly after our friend's visit. That was 3 years ago and just last week Dash won a race on it up at Washougal in the 50cc Jr class. In those three years I’ve only ever changed tires and a few chains. It's such a great bike we keep it around in case he has a mechanical issue with his KTM 50 sx factory edition. I’m not a great mechanic so we’ve had to resort to lining up with that ebike more than I would like to admit. 

husqvarna ee5 motocross jump

Now if only all kids were as into moto as Dash. Life would be pure bliss. However, getting my youngest boys (twins; Phoenix and Maverick) to ride and eventually race was one calamity after another.  I followed the same progression with the twins, in fact, they were better pedal bike riders than Dash was at that age. Their ability wasn’t the issue, it was all mental. I will save some of those stories for future blogs. I’m already running out of room. So through all the ups and downs, blood sweat and tears (lots of tears). Here is my approach to getting kids out on the track. 

First Things First. Be a student of the sport. 

I never pushed Dash to ride, in fact I just tried not to get in the way and give him opportunities when they presented themselves. For us covid provided that opportunity, back in those days the only place we could find people not masked up was at the dirt bike track. Since Dash was so into it we decided to find a race to go watch. Lucky for us where we live is home to the longest running motocross series in America, Thursday Night Motocross out at Portland International Raceway. I remember taking the family for the first time and we all had a blast. Dash was fixated, a few days after I asked him if he would like to race his bike. Without any hesitation he emphatically said, yes. In those first few races he spent more time on the ground than he did on the bike but he had the time of his life. My favorite thing about watching the kids race is the progress they make each week. 

Start Here. A good pedal bike. 

Ask yourself a few questions, can my child ride a pedal bike? Does my child follow simple instructions? Does my child have the ability to make simple risk assessments? These are the precursors to even thinking about throwing a leg over a dirt bike. Even still it doesn't guarantee they won't freeze up and run the other way the moment you start unloading the PW50 at the local race track. Or in my experience, the first time you take the restrictor plate off the PW50 and let your child ride straight into the house! Maverick was ok but the PW50 that had less than 1hr on it now had a bent frame. Bummer. 

Racing family behind the Sprinter Van

Here's a little secret, blow up your TV

A couple years ago we decided to move away from the city, one thing that didn’t make it into the moving truck was our tv. Best thing we ever did, and the hardest. Do we miss it, nope. We have a projector and if there is SX or MX on the weekends then we play it in the evening and make homemade pizzas. I didn’t realize it at the time but our kids were forced to find other ways of occupying their time. Unfortunately for them we have a really bad toy selection at our house. This leaves them with only one tried and true form of entertainment. A big back yard and a good ol’ fashion pedal bike.  If your kid isn't into riding his pedal bike it's probably because they have other means of entertaining themselves that require far less energy input relative to the dopamine output. One constant across the board for my boys is they are all proficient on a bicycle. Cutting out screen time might be a secret weapon. It’s a short term loss with long term gains (probably) we will have to wait and see. If I haven't lost you already then the next insight might send you off to other parts of the internet in search of something far less provocative. I'm not a fan of Stacyc's. Sure, it's got a throttle and that might help introduce some useful throttle control discipline but that singular aspect doesn't make up for its other shortcomings. A properly fitted peddle bike with good geometry builds superior bike handling skills. It goes back to the less energy, more dopamine. I think it's a shortcut that bypasses some fundamental body and spatial awareness skills that are foundational to piloting a dirt bike. 

yamaha PW50 standing moto racing


Riding and Racing 

Backyard speed isn't the same as racing speed. Every week I watch my boys fly around the back yard on their dirt bikes, charging and sending it with supreme confidence in their ability to pilot those tiny machines. Then when we get to the race track it's a whole other scene. Total Jekyll and Hyde scenario. Part of the fun as a parent is seeing them close the divide between the two with each racing experience. What I have realized is each child has his own set of fears to overcome. As a parent we are in unique positions to help them overcome those fears. With our oldest (Dash), no hesitation whatsoever. While the younger boys loved riding as much as big brother, they were not so sure about racing. They would talk a big game and tell me they wanted to go racing but once it was time to head to the starting line for pre race practice it was nothing but tears. There I was on the track with 2 crying four year olds. Thankfully the track had a snow cone vendor and I was able to properly incentify them. Sometimes all it takes is the promise of a snow cone after practice.

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