Reader Feedback: Mixing Big & Small Bikes During Practices

Wow.

Wow. When we relayed a story in our last edition of Kickstart about a full-sized rider on a 450cc bike tangling with a 50cc rider during a practice session and asked for feedback from our readers on what to do to prevent the situation from happening again, we were surprised at the amount of feedback we received. Apparently it’s also a problem that’s not isolated to So Cal, since we got e-mails from around the world, and from riders, parents, and track operators.

We’re not trying to throw anyone under the bus, cause undue panic among parents who are trying to decide whether to let their kids enjoy motocross, or throw up a highly visible red flag. But while of us would agree that there’s nothing sweeter than the smell of pre-mix and freshly prepped loam in the morning, there’s nothing worse than hearing the sound of an ambulance getting closer…and closer..and closer.

If nothing else, if you have a problem in your aread, maybe printing out copies of this and giving it to your local track operator (if there’s a problem) might help. If they see trend among their customers (you), they may be willing to make changes.

The questions we posed were these…

So what¿s the answer for controlling who¿s on the track, and when? How do we avoid problems like this in the future? It¿s a question that¿s going to have to get answered eventually. Do you have any suggestions?

Here’s some of the feedback that we got from our readers.


For about the last five years MAQ, our motorcycling governing body, has made it a rule that no senior rider can be on the track at the same time as a junior rider. They do this by allocating times on the track for the appropriate groups. For example, the seniors get the first 20 minutes of track time then the junior 50s and 60s get the next 20 minutes then junior 80 and 125s get the next, then you start all over again. When the rule first came along I wasn’t to pleased with it ’cause it cut your riding time down because you have to wait 40 minutes for your next ride, but in the long run it has definitely made things a lot safer for all. One more thing, this is the best moto web site on the net, keep up the good work.

Daniel Fowke
Brisbane, Australia


I heard about that little boy’s and his hand I hope he is okay now. Well anyway, I’m from Australia and we had problems like these happening here, so what we have done is stopped juniors from being on the track at same times with seniors. I realize that over there they are graded differently so another suggestion is that you split them up into groups for example, 50cc by themselves, then 65cc and 85cc then the bigger bike by themselves. This means waiting times between rides but that means the big bikes don’t have to worry about little bikes and vise versa. I hope this is a help.

Nick Hutchison
Australia


As you mentioned, it is a big problem that affects all tracks around. It appears to me that everybody’s safety should be number one issue while riding. Owners of tracks should be more proactive at establishing safety rules for ALL to comply while at the premises. Nevertheless, we have some tracks in our area with similar problems including some where owners are there to collect money and then leave the track unsupervised. Others allow all riders at one time to ride including all levels of experience. These are very poor and unsafe ways of managing tracks. Having two kids that ride, I am extremely cautious when they ride. My family practices the following rules:

  1. If everybody if going to ride together I ask the owners to instruct other riders slow down when encounting slower riders.
  2. If I am riding with them, I follow them not lead them.
  3. If they are riding by themselves, I instruct them to hold a line and not zig sag anywhere. normally stay on the slow lane.
  4. If there are bigger bikes/more experience riders on the track, I keep them out until they are done riding.
  5. We all wear all safety equipment (elbow pads, chest protectors, knee pads, helmets, goggles etc.)
  6. If I want to ride by myself (for faster lap time) my kids stay out. When I am done they come out and ride while I watch them.
  7. If an experienced rider is in the track with them I either pull my kids out or watch them for their safety.
  8. While I push them to do better, I don’t push them beyond their capabilities.
  9. When the track is muddy and slick we don’t ride, period.

Most importantly I always tell my kids three things before they crank their bikes – pray, be safe, and have fun. We have been riding for about three years and so far we had not have any major injuries to speak of. Hopefully this will encourage somebody to ride safer and better.

Regards,
HM


I am a slow old Vet motocrosser from Florida who raced for years as a kid (I wasn’t so slow back then, but taking 20 years off sure slowed me down) and got back into the sport about three years ago at age 37.  My 10-year-old daughter also rides/races now (she started just over a year ago), and it has been fantastic to share this sport with her.  I, like all motocrossers, hate to hear about someone getting hurt, but it is even worse when it is a child.

Most of the tracks here in Florida split up the practice sessions, some as simply as separating the small bikes from the big bikes.  Other tracks, Dade City Motocross for example, have practice broken down into numerous classes to ensure that this sort of thing does not happen.  Additionally, virtually all of the tracks here have Paramedics on staff during any practice or races.  We make sure to frequent the tracks that invest most heavily in ensuring safety.

The only solution is to separate the classes, there never should be little kids on 50’s on the track at the same time as big bikes.  It is the responsibility of the track owners to ensure this happens, and the responsibility of the parents to ensure that they only frequent “safe” tracks.  On the few tracks where they do not separate the sessions I would never dream of sending my little girl out with the big bikes without me following her around to “block”.

It really is a simple solution, although some will whine about not having as much track time as they used to.  Either we, as motocrossers, work together to prevent this type of tragedy or else others will find ways to shut down all of the tracks.

Sincerely,
Gifford Quast


We operate an outlaw (non-AMA sanctioned) stadium style motocross track here in NW Illinois. We break our practice up into three groups as follows… Big bikes, Little bikes/quads, and Quads. We switch them up every 15 minutes. This seems to work very well for us and we try to have two to three flaggers out on the track at all times.

Sincerely, Wade Cook
www.racethestorm.com


Over here in Southeastern Michigan, the MRA  (www.racemra.com) has an open practice every Wednesday for $20. They have the open practice sessions divided into big bikes and 60’s and 80’s. Then if enough people show up, the big bikes are divided into beginners, novices, and intermediates/experts, while the little bikes are all together. Also if a ton of little bikes show up, they divide that into “beginners” and “advanced.”

The short answer is that we need to expect more parental responsibility. Parents need to realize that having mini bikes on the same track as full sized bikes adds an unnecessary amount of risk to the sport. When a 200lb rider on a 200lb bike comes in contact with a 50lb rider on a 50lb bike the smaller rider is always going to lose. If it comes down to educating the parents of these riders about the dangers of mixing the bikes on the track then that’s what we need to do. We need to let parents know that full sized bike riders have a hard time seeing their children on the track, throw in the huge speed differential and it is a recipe for disaster.

One quick remedy is to have a parent follow their children around the track on a full-sized bike. The parents act as a warning to riders who otherwise may not have seen the smaller riders on the track. Parents can also correct any dangerous behavior that they see such as their child cutting lines or riding erratically.

Matthew D Kelly


Just read the story about the guy landing on the 50 rider. While it’s a tragedy (that fortunately turned out well for the kid), it’s entirely preventable. I wouldn’t let my kid out there on a 50. Hell, I’m barely comfortable on my 450!

I hold the parents responsible. We have drivers’ licenses and regulations for automobiles – we don’t allow kids on go-carts to travel the I-5 – and should follow suit for bikes. And there’s a reason: little kids don’t have the best judgment, e.g., the kid in the story moved drastically from his line.

If you allow your child on an open motocross track, on a pee-wee sized bike, you must be out there with him or her to run blocker and hopefully serve as a safety flag to other riders. Too often I’ve nearly landed on 50 riders myself, as they disappear over most obstacles – and you come up on them so fast.

If the facility has a pee-wee track, e.g., Gorman and Piru, there’s no reason for the kids to be on the “big” track – there are also many tracks that hold a special session just for mini kids.

The parent of the kid in the story was utterly irresponsible; that kid should not have been out on the track. Children are important, but don’t assume that the rest of us spend every waking hour considering yours; they’re your responsibility – and if you put them in harm’s way stupidly, like in the story, you as a parent are to blame.

Frank Masi
Valencia, CA


I wrote this more than two years ago (the design of the page isn’t even current), but unfortunately it is still relevant, as your “Tuesday Kickstart” column shows:

http://www.midwestmotocross.com/0402/ednote.html

I’m not itching for a plug, just wanted to pass those thoughts along, as requested at www.transworldmx.com.

Take care,
James


I read your Kickstart article – hopefully that kid recovers all right.

As far as safety goes, there are the obvious things like having tabletops instead of doubles, having separate tracks for different skill levels, but there is always the problem of blind landings.  One thing I have been thinking about off and on is using a transponder to track when someone stops suddenly aka crashes.  The idea would be to have a system that tracks all people passing a jump face and to detect that they left the landing area.  If the rider did not clear the landing area, the system could trigger an alarm to alert other riders..  This would at least help avoid the totally unnecessary chain reaction pile-ups.

A variant on this idea would be to use the much touted (but not quite here) RFID or radio frequency id tags that Wal-Mart and the like are trying to use to replace bar codes for inventory managementnswer is that we need to expect more parental responsibility. Parents need to realize that having mini bikes on the same track as full sized bikes adds an unnecessary amount of risk to the sport. When a 200lb rider on a 200lb bike comes in contact with a 50lb rider on a 50lb bike the smaller rider is always going to lose. If it comes down to educating the parents of these riders about the dangers of mixing the bikes on the track then that’s what we need to do. We need to let parents know that full sized bike riders have a hard time seeing their children on the track, throw in the huge speed differential and it is a recipe for disaster.

One quick remedy is to have a parent follow their children around the track on a full-sized bike. The parents act as a warning to riders who otherwise may not have seen the smaller riders on the track. Parents can also correct any dangerous behavior that they see such as their child cutting lines or riding erratically.

Matthew D Kelly


Just read the story about the guy landing on the 50 rider. While it’s a tragedy (that fortunately turned out well for the kid), it’s entirely preventable. I wouldn’t let my kid out there on a 50. Hell, I’m barely comfortable on my 450!

I hold the parents responsible. We have drivers’ licenses and regulations for automobiles – we don’t allow kids on go-carts to travel the I-5 – and should follow suit for bikes. And there’s a reason: little kids don’t have the best judgment, e.g., the kid in the story moved drastically from his line.

If you allow your child on an open motocross track, on a pee-wee sized bike, you must be out there with him or her to run blocker and hopefully serve as a safety flag to other riders. Too often I’ve nearly landed on 50 riders myself, as they disappear over most obstacles – and you come up on them so fast.

If the facility has a pee-wee track, e.g., Gorman and Piru, there’s no reason for the kids to be on the “big” track – there are also many tracks that hold a special session just for mini kids.

The parent of the kid in the story was utterly irresponsible; that kid should not have been out on the track. Children are important, but don’t assume that the rest of us spend every waking hour considering yours; they’re your responsibility – and if you put them in harm’s way stupidly, like in the story, you as a parent are to blame.

Frank Masi
Valencia, CA


I wrote this more than two years ago (the design of the page isn’t even current), but unfortunately it is still relevant, as your “Tuesday Kickstart” column shows:

http://www.midwestmotocross.com/0402/ednote.html

I’m not itching for a plug, just wanted to pass those thoughts along, as requested at www.transworldmx.com.

Take care,
James


I read your Kickstart article – hopefully that kid recovers all right.

As far as safety goes, there are the obvious things like having tabletops instead of doubles, having separate tracks for different skill levels, but there is always the problem of blind landings.  One thing I have been thinking about off and on is using a transponder to track when someone stops suddenly aka crashes.  The idea would be to have a system that tracks all people passing a jump face and to detect that they left the landing area.  If the rider did not clear the landing area, the system could trigger an alarm to alert other riders..  This would at least help avoid the totally unnecessary chain reaction pile-ups.

A variant on this idea would be to use the much touted (but not quite here) RFID or radio frequency id tags that Wal-Mart and the like are trying to use to replace bar codes for inventory management.  RFID tags are very cheap chips that reflect a unique signal from a transmitter.  Since they have been designed to replace bar codes and put on all sorts of merchandise, they should be pretty cheap.  Imagine that you go to a track, pay $10 deposit for a transponder type bracelet that would alert other riders if you crashed.  There could also be a value added service of getting your lap times and stuff like that.

Regards,
C


When I read the TransWorld article it brought back memories.  Not mine, but others.  I was knocked out and in a coma for three days.  Seems a kid on a KTM80 cut the track and t-boned me just before the 35 foot step down.  My bike stopped and I got pitched down the hill and landed on my head, breaking 12 ribs, shattering my left shoulder, separating my right shoulder, collapsing my right lung and breaking my left hand. Thank the good Lord I am all right. No side effects from the crash.  The kid’s dad swept him up real fast, loaded the bike and took off without so much as a, “How’s that guy doing?”

The track obviously not supervised well and had mixed practices (big bikes/little bikes).  The biggest problem is that there are not enough tracks for everyone to ride.  Track owners build them for the big bikes. Then the little guys want to go big but don’t have a track just for them.  When a track owner does build a small bike track, it is usually a beginner style track.  The fast little guys hate it and beg their parents and track owners to let them on the big tracks.  If they fall or get hurt, in their minds they miss school.  If a big guy falls or gets hurt he misses work. Plus the big guys are usually riding faster and have extremely heavier machines than the little guys.  The bigger object usually does more damage.

The only real answer is to have completely separate practices or completely separate tracks. Bottom line, it’s going to cost someone some money.  If the track lets just the 50s, 60s, 80s, and ladies on for 1/2 hour sessions, the rest of the big bikes won’t get as much practice and may start going somewhere else.  If the track owner builds another track just for the little guys, it will cost money to build and personnel costs to staff it.

So, if we really care about this issue we either give up riding time to the kids, or we give up more at the gate to provide a track just for them.

I wish there was another solution but there isn’t.  Be more careful? Won’t work. Have parents do a better job of preparing a kid for the big track?  Won’t happen cause dad thinks his kid is Ricky Carmichael. Just do a better job of watching while on the track? Sorry, but all us big guys are sure we are Ricky Carmichael. Separation is the only way.  But we have to want it bad enough to put up the cash to make it happen.  Otherwise, nice article, but no one really cares.  All we care about is our selves and our riding time.

Good luck.
Ken


Hello.

I have read the Monday Kickstart and would like to give a few ideas.

I’m from Denmark and it’s not more than a few years ago, we had the same problems when training/practicing. The practice is always split so that mini (up to 85cc) have like the first 25 minutes of the hour and then the maxi (125 and up) have the last 35 minutes of the hour. When there is many maxi drivers normally it is split mini 20 minutes, maxi C (beginners) 20 minutes, and then maxi B and A 20 minutes.

Of course when they first started to split the practice, a lot of people was complaining about to short time on the track, but when you get used to it, it’s ok and when you know that most of the other drivers on the track is at the same level that you, it’s more reassuring for all.

Beside the split practice on almost all tracks, there is a rule about where there is supposed to be yellow flag (and of course a man for the flag) not as many places as when there is a race, it’s mainly on the face of the large jumps, with a good overview of the track to follow, it can often be taken care of be 2 or 3 posts. On most tracks it is parents and friends of drivers