As dads, we want our kids to feel safe and confident when we take them new places or let them try new things. We want our kids to feel that Dad knows best. Why, of course, we do. Dads know everything right? Well, this is a short story about how I have done anything but prove that I know best when it comes to racing.
Let’s start with an intro to my little man, Finn (#113). It’s not uncommon to find him in people’s trailer telling stories about the day, scheming a new prank to play on me or making new friends. You notice I did not mention riding his dirt bike. It’s because the social aspect of racing is what I believe has drawn him in so fast. So when you see him, give him a high five, tell him your name, and he’ll remember you forever. At least until the next bird flies over his head.
Finn has been riding around on a dirt bike since he was 5 and last summer he asked if he could race. I immediately said yes, before checking in with mom (getting the wife to buy in was a whole nother story). So we made many trips to the track and decided to sign up for the Kicker Arenacross. We were going racing, and I was about to show my son that I don’t know a thing about it other than you start, finish and ride a dirt bike. We were going to have to figure it out together, as a team. As we were being corralled into the starting line, both Finn and I were quietly processing everyone around us as if we had just landed on a new planet and didn’t quite yet speak the native tongue. Our anxiety was calmed a little by looking around at the other parents and kids who formed a bond over many starting line conversations. But our calm nerves did not last long. They called his number and I stood there like a deer in the headlights until Finn said “Hey, Let’s go!” Not only was I nervous for his first race, but I also had no clue where to go. This is when I learned what a gate pick was. We managed to find our way to a gate without cutting in front of others and were ready to start. Just as we get settled I look over, and the other dads were picking up the rear of the bikes while the kids were flogging the throttle. I had no clue why, but these guys looked like they knew what they were doing. So up went Finn’s bike. I told him to grab the throttle, so he did but I put him down too early and he shot forward into the gate. Sweet, we are off to a great start. He almost crashed and had not even made it off the starting line. As the first gate dropped and he successfully took off and made his way around the track I could not have been more proud to have seen this little human of mine be so brave. He got through the day and by my standards had a great first race. That night will forever be etched into our minds because neither one of us had a clue what was about to happen and together we just rolled with it, laughed when we screwed up and, of course, high-fived when we finished. He slept until almost 10 AM the next day and when he got up we both looked at each other and without words knew that we had just done something special together. We were making memories.
Fast forward through the rest of the winter, another Arenacross and many freezing rides trying to learn how to ride on a big track to get ready for the first RMXA race at IMI. It was a chilly morning with high winds but that did not hinder Finn’s spirits. As we unloaded, Finn dashed off to see people I had no clue he had met before: his social game is high. Around the time I get the bike unloaded, my wife calls to see what time we’ll be home: I estimated around 4 PM. We meander over to the riders’ meeting, get the schedule for the day and check our starting gates for both classes now that we know what they are. The morning goes off great, and we are feeling pro. Finn had a solid couple of motos for his first outdoor race, and we were done racing by noon. Bam. I am going to be home 4 hours early which has never happened in my 15 years of marriage. Stoked knowing that I have the afternoon open, I call my wife and tell her that we are done and we start to plan the afternoon’s activities. Just as I am loading up Finn’s bike, the dad next to me asks, “Are you guys done for the day?” and I respond, “Aren’t we all?” Another dad chimes in, “No, there is a break, and we do it all over again.” Doh, I had no clue about the full day race format. Finn was pumped he got to do more socializing and racing, but it was another chink in my dad armor.
Since IMI we have done several more races, met some really great people, and have created memories together that will last way beyond his racing “career”. In this time I wish I could say that I have it all dialed in, but each time we make our way to the track it seems like there is yet another thing I don’t know and that’s ok, I’ve accepted my status as a newbie dad.
Being new to a sport that is full of so much machismo is super intimidating so I’ve rounded up 5 tips that have made it much easier for me:
- Say hi to everyone, not only will you make new friends, but you will have people ready to help when in need.
- Find people to help teach your kid on the fundamentals to help them ride more safely and confidently.
- Don’t let what you don’t know keep you from letting your kid get out and try riding.
- Let your little person roam around and make new friends.
- Don’t forget to put the gas cap back on.
In our short time being a part of this community, I am personally grateful for the people who make time each week to train my little guy, all the older riders who have embraced his personality and all the other dads who have picked him up when he has fallen.
Hopefully, some of the things I have learned in my short time as a newbie mini-dad will remind you of when you first started with your little person or help nudge others to let their kids participate in what I am seeing as a fantastic sport for kids in today’s screen-based world. Cheers.