When I was a kid, I wanted to be a world champion bike racer. I also wanted to be a commercial airline pilot, and I quite fancied giving professional wrestling a go, too. As I got older, I soon forgot about aeroplanes and wrestling rings, but I didn’t forget about motorbikes. Before long, though, it became clear I was never going to be a world champion. But did it really matter? Because you don’t have to be a bike racing world champion to have really made it in the sport, do you? Or do you?
There are a lot of people who you’d definitely say have ‘made it’ in bike racing, that haven’t necessarily won a world championship. There are people racing in international championships, all over the world, that are yet to be (and perhaps never will be) champions, but they might be able to win the odd race. And if they can, they’re probably coined up reasonably generously by a sponsor, a manufacturer or a team.
And surely these people have made it? Regardless of success, if you’re being paid to do something you love, earning money racing bikes, you’ve not just made it in bike racing; you’ve made it in life!
But there are some lads earning a wage racing bikes at national level, too. So have they ‘made it’? I think so, yes. In fact, I think every person that’s capable of racing a bike at national level has made it, whether they’re earning money from it or remortgaging their house to pay for it (although I wouldn’t recommend that).
It doesn’t matter whether you’re racing in the UK in BSB, the Spanish CEV, or the German IDM championship, in whatever class, you’re racing against the best in the country, and that’s a pretty big deal.
Some people will say you have only made it when you’ve reached a certain level, won a certain amount of races or, perhaps, become a world champion. Maybe you need to be MotoGP Champion to truly make it. But I think that’s bollocks.
Because I know how difficult it is just to start racing. To pluck the courage up to get yourself on the grid for the first time, is no mean feat. Not to mention finding the time and the money. So if you ask me, everyone that’s made it to the grid, watched the lights go out and done the first race start, has made it.
It’s not about winning races, winning championships, earing fortunes or getting on the telly. That stuff doesn’t matter. Nobody really starts racing for those reasons. I’ll accept that some people start racing for different reasons, but there’s one main reason. Fun, enjoyment and happiness )yes, that counts as one thing). And most of us do enjoy it (most of the time). Once you’ve started racing, not very many things will make you much happier.
So to me, that’s when you have really made it in bike racing. We do it to make us happy, so if you’re racing a bike, and you’ve got a smile on your face you’ve made it. If you’re racing a bike and you’re a miserable fucker, whatever level you’re competing at, you haven’t.
Having been involved with a BSB racer from his early days in Stock 600 and previous to that seen his progress in the national MX championships and Thundersport, I know how much sacrifice is involved and how much family, friends and supporters have to give to make it a reality. Even with talent, you rely on these people to keep you going in the sport, as paid rides aren’t that plentiful. Ironically, it was the death of tobacco advertising, which took money out of the sport and now racers are asked to risk their lives for the sheer joy of it, whilst giving the impression, they’re living the high life. For a select few in BSB, that is the case, but they really are the few.
Great article Boothy. Straight down the line. For me it’s all about the thrill of riding. Never entered a race. Or felt the need to. But I love riding. Road or track there is nothing quite like it..