Intrigued By Off-Road Racing? Here’s How to Get Involved

For the unfamiliar, the world of two-wheel racing is a bit perplexing. Do people really willingly suit up, hop on a bike or ATV and hit a muddy trail with reckless abandon?

Except for the reckless part, yes, and it’s not just the usual adrenaline junkie suspects you’ll find out on the track. There are plenty of working stiffs who love nothing more than spending their free time with the wind in their hair and the mud at their back. Philadelphia attorney David DelCollo is one such working stiff, and he has plenty of friends and colleagues to ride with on any given Saturday.

“I won’t deny that some of my more traditional colleagues find my love for motorcycles and off-road racing odd,” says DelCollo, “but they’re far outnumbered by the folks who either passively support my hobby or actively embrace it.”

“I know more than a few people who are much more enthusiastic about off-roading than I am,” he adds. “And these are people with good jobs, folks you wouldn’t look at twice at the grocery store or soccer game.”

If you’re intrigued by the world of off-road motorsports, you’re not alone. Millions of people watch racing competitions; in fact, the segment is rapidly approaching the popularity of on-road racing spectacles like NASCAR and IndyCar.

DelCollo makes it his mission to educate motorsport novices about the thrills and risks of his passion. For those thinking of making a go in the off-road racing realm, here’s his condensed list of the what, how, why and where.

Off-Road Riding: Racing, Adventure or Both?

ATV Rider helpfully divides its ATV-related content into two core verticals: racing and adventure. But riders don’t have to stick to one or the other.

“Many would argue that racing is an adventure,” quips DelCollo. “For many ATV and motocross riders, racing is something that can be done in between pleasure rides.”

There are plenty of off-road racing events scattered about the country. If you’re committed to doing some traveling, you can easily find an appealing race every month of the year.

Some events are certifiably “big time.” Take the GNCC Racing Series, arguably America’s premier off-road ATV racing event. GNCC events occur across the country on a regular basis. It’s a great idea to get psyched up (and initiated) for racing by spectating at a few before taking the plunge and trying out yourself.

“Most people aren’t temperamentally suited for off-road racing, and that’s totally fine,” says DelCollo. “It’s like professional football. You’re probably not built to be a lineman or wide receiver, but someone else is — and they’re going to entertain you in the safety of your own home.”

Along for the Ride, at Your Own Pace

If you’re into the Zen side of ATV and off-road riding, that’s fine too. Check your local or state-level ATV association for information about trails in your area. Keep in mind that wide-track trails aren’t always open to ATVs and other off-road vehicles, so pay special attention to trails designated for motorsports. “Silent sports” trails, by contrast, are reserved for non-motorized activities: walking, mountain biking, Nordic skiing.

That being said, you’re likely to find plenty of ATV access in your backyard, metaphorically speaking. “I guarantee there’s an ATV-friendly trail within an hour’s drive of everyone reading this,” says DelCollo. “The sport is only gaining in popularity as riders and trail managers realize that it’s safer and less harmful for the environment than previously understood.”

DelCollo recommends taking stock of the trail resources and conditions in your area — and taking a hard look at how they might affect your safety, given your equipment. For instance, not all ATVs perform well in snowy or icy conditions, while others actually excel on slippery trails. Remember, there’s a big difference between ATVs and UTVs (utility task vehicles). Each has its own strengths and weaknesses on the trail.

Find Your Pack

Whether you’re biking or riding utility vehicles off-road, DelCollo recommends hooking up with a group of local enthusiasts. “It’s nice to have a network of reliable riders who are up for hitting the trail when you are,” he says. “Riding alone is certainly relaxing and restorative, but it’s not quite as exciting or fulfilling in many cases.”

“Plus, riding alone presents some safety risks for less experienced riders,” he adds.

Virtually every major metro area has more than one ATV and dirt bike enthusiast group. Some regions are positively thick with them, particularly in places with great off-road networks. A quick Google search or chat with a fellow enthusiast is sure to point you in the right direction.

Ready to Suit Up?

Off-road racing isn’t exactly pickup basketball — you don’t just walk onto the track one day and decide to make racing your new hobby. DelCollo certainly started slow; he’s the first to admit he didn’t feel comfortable on a bike until the fourth or fifth time he hit the track. For one thing, he wasn’t sure whether motocross and other off-road sports were really as safe as their proponents insisted.

There’s also no shame in admitting that off-roading isn’t right for you. If you’re terrified by the thought of racing up and down a rugged, rutted track at high speed, or find that you become terrified after trying it for the first time, maybe a different hobby is in order. Then again, you won’t know for sure until you try.