To the uninitiated, motocross is a dangerous sport best left to the daredevils of the world. The X-Games are fun to watch… from a distance.
This position is understandable, prudent, even. But it might not accurately capture motocross’ risk-reward ratio. As it turns out, motocross isn’t nearly as dangerous or extreme as the man or woman on the street thinks. Many — perhaps most — motocross riders aren’t tattooed “lifers” with little to live for and everything to prove. Most are regular Joes with good day jobs and happy lives. Just ask David DelCollo, a Philadelphia-area lawyer who hits the track every chance he gets.
“When you look at me, your first impression probably isn’t ‘biker dude,’” says DelCollo. “I certainly don’t fit the typical profile. But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the sport as much as anyone else.”
DelCollo is your classic motocross weekend warrior. He’s made it something of a mission to educate the general public about the joys — and manageable dangers — of the sport he loves. Here’s what he’s learned over the course of his motocross career.
The Sport Is Very Hierarchical
“When I first started biking, I was surprised by motocross’ fairly strict hierarchy,” says DelCollo.
He doesn’t mean that there’s some sort of complex social structure at work in the world of motocross. Rather, rider skill is the determining factor of one’s place in the “moto hierarchy.” Novice riders are at the bottom, weekend warriors like DelCollo are in the middle, and folks who literally ride for a living are at the top. (Of course, there are gradients, but these are the broad-brush lines of distinction.)
It’s very much frowned upon for novice riders to rub shoulders with expert riders outside of controlled settings in which the novices know their place. If that sounds harsh, it’s meant to be; separating novices and experts ensures the safety of both. During racing events, less experienced riders serve as spectators while the big boys and girls are on the track. Then they swap roles when it’s their turn to dust up.
Age Is a Big Deal
Bikes come in all shapes and sizes. Just as toddlers aren’t allowed to ride scary roller coasters and junior high school students aren’t allowed to drive street-legal cars unsupervised, kids aren’t welcome on larger, higher-powered bikes. Smaller, lower-powered bikes are the motorized equivalent of training wheels for youngsters who want to get into motocross but don’t have the physical strength or coordination to safely handle full-sized bikes. As time goes on, aspiring riders “graduate” to bigger bikes.
“Parents are very cognizant of their kids’ limits,” says DelCollo. “I rarely, if ever, see a child on an inappropriately large bike. That’s reassuring for everyone.”
Safety Equipment Is Affordable and Readily Available
Unlike some sports that require highly-specialized safety equipment, motocross is less picky — and its safety equipment less costly. Regardless of their budget, riders can suit up head to toe with the proper safety equipment without breaking the bank. Many retailers offer deep discounts on safety equipment, using helmets and pads as loss leaders to sell higher-margin items.
Tracks Take Safety Seriously
Well-run motocross tracks take a deadly serious approach to rider safety. Spectators are expected to serve as sentinels, identifying potentially unsafe situations (like a rider down in a dip) before other riders become aware. Like car racing, motocross has a host of safety regulations and “track rules” designed to keep riders on the straight and narrow, quite literally.
“I’m very impressed with the professionalism and care exercised by track staff and fellow riders, at least at the facilities I frequent,” says DelCollo.
“As a lawyer, I’m always on the lookout for things like that,” he adds, laughing.
Safety First, Second and Third
Motocross might not be as dangerous as laypeople believe, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely risk-free. It’s impossible to completely discount the risks associated with any sport that involves rough terrain, high speeds and heavy equipment. However, proper safety protocols and common sense can mitigate whatever risks do exist.
DelCollo is a stickler for safety; you’ll never see him out on the track without a helmet and full padding. For the uninitiated, he recommends a few simple safety tips:
- Make sure your safety equipment fits snugly and wears securely on the track.
- Inspect the track prior to riding.
- Inspect your bike before riding.
- Perform regular bike maintenance, even if everything appears to be in good working order.
- Keep your core in shape for better bike control.
Ready to ride? See you out on the trail or track!