When I was a nipper, motocross was my thing. Most weekends I’d be riding somewhere. And if I was lucky, I’d get to ride somewhere on a weekday after school, too. But it’s safe to say my motocross career never took off. So when my old mate Johnny persuaded me that entering a round of the British Amateur MX Championship would be a good idea, I ought to have known better.
But unfortunately, I’m very easily lead (just read any of my school reports) and quickly gave into peer pressure. Before I knew it I was in the workshop, prepping my trusty old Honda CR 250 R for its first competitive motocross outing in as long as I can remember. I say ‘old’, it’s not quite a classic yet, but being a 2003 model, it’s hardly at the cutting edge of off-road technology; not that that would make a big difference to me.
It’s a 250cc, single cylinder, two-stroke motocross bike with more power than anyone needs on dirt. I’m not sure if I’d be quicker on a modern four stroke, but I don’t really care. I really, really like the old smoker.
Anyway, the race meeting was at FatCat Motoparc which, as luck would have it, I’m reasonably familiar with. And it’s only an hour or so away from home, which is nice. It’s a very sandy track which has a reputation for getting fairly rough… and it lived up to expectations.
After the first 15 minute practice session, I immediately knew I was out of my depth. Not just with the track conditions, but with the level of competition too. The other boys were very, very fast. In fact they made me look a bit silly, if the truth’s known. I qualified dead last and not only finished last in both the races on Saturday, but got lapped by, it seemed, nearly everybody.
The problem wasn’t just that I was too slow. It was that I wasn’t nearly fit enough. Because, you see, on the first lap I almost had enough pace to stay with the stragglers at the back. Almost. But on the second lap I didn’t. By the third, my legs were destroyed and by the fourth, I couldn’t hold on any more. It was torture. My entire body was taking a pounding and there was no rest whatsoever. Trying to stand up over the bumps was nearly impossible after a few laps because my legs were shot, and chronic arm pump and bleeding blisters meant fighting serious pain just to hold onto the handlebars.
For Sundays races, I managed to blag a spot in the clubman class, rather than the British Championship race, so things were a bit better. But not a whole lot easier. Rather than being dead last and completely out of my depth, I managed to hold my own in the Clubman class. But that didn’t really make it any easier. Because when you’re in the mix, and you’re racing, you can’t give in. You’ve got to keep pushing as hard as you can. And I did keep pushing, and I had some big crashes; luckily, there were no injuries, but it could have easily been a different story. I came 26th and 24th in Sunday’s races, out of about 40, which was better than last but a long way from first.
But I should have known that was going to happen. I should have known that I wouldn’t be fast enough to race a motocross bike at that level. But sometimes, the only way to learn is the hard way. And by golly, I learnt the hard way. In fact I’d go as far as to say it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done on a bike. Yep, one little weekend of MX, up there with the Isle of Man TT, the Le Mans 24 Hours and all the other stupid things I’ve done. Largely, because I wasn’t prepared for it in any way, shape or form.
But although it was really tough, and my body remained destroyed for a few days after the event, I had an absolute blast. In fact I really want to go back. The next round is at Hawkstone Park and unfortunately I’ve got something in the diary for that weekend already. Let’s hope I can think of a reason to cancel it…