Swap: Back in the Saddle

I’m 32-and-a-half years old and well into my vet class eligibility, but this morning I felt like a rotund 16-year-old with a bad mullet on Christmas morning.

As I twisted the throttle on our CR250R test bike, flashbacks of pushing the thumb throttle on my 1985 Suzuki ALT125 three-wheeler came to me. Yeah, I know that horrid yellow trike (complete with reverse and a completely rigid chassis) was an embarrassing way to get into off-roading, but give me a break¿it was my big brother’s idea, not mine!

Outfitted with a hand-me-down Bell Moto 3 helmet and riding pants that were way too tight, I slid and bounced around the trails at Indian Dunes with a shit-eating grin on my face, completely delighted to be “doing it in the dirt.” So why then¿some 16 years later¿has that feeling of bliss come back to me? Today was the first time I rode a motocross bike in a full three months! Now, three months may not seem like a long time (especially to those of you in eastern states who put your bikes into cold storage for the winter), but for me it was an eternity. As a matter of fact, this was the longest layoff I’d had in over 10 years!

In December, a momentary loss of balance while trying to transport our family Christmas tree up the stairs left me with a ruptured disc in my lower back, and the pain grew unbearable in the weeks that followed. (I shot last issue’s Kevin Windham cover photo while heavily medicated and hunched over on one of his quads!) A minor surgery in early March remedied the problem, but I was forced to sit and heal for eight miserable weeks. Well, I can’t really say that they were miserable¿I did get to paint the inside of the house, re-plant the front yard planters, detail my wife’s Expedition and steam clean the carpets… Ain’t that a bitch? Too hurt to ride, but well enough for manual labor. As the days approaching my return to the track drew closer, I began to dream about riding. Oddly enough, the dreams weren’t very realistic. Instead, I was one of the computer-generated riders in the EA Sports Supercross game, catching unreal air and suffering few consequences when I crashed. At the track for real, I was surprised to find that everything was the same as it was when I last rode. I still remembered how to shift, slip the clutch, hit the brakes and¿most importantly¿how to roost past my pal Rob. (Sorry, Healy, I just couldn’t resist!) On my drive home from the track I found myself in an excellent mood. Though my life had gone on while I healed up, and I continued to enjoy working on TransWorld Motocross, something was different. In magazine lingo, TWMX is a special interest publication. In comparison to general titles like Maxim, Time or even Sports Illustrated, a magazine like TransWorld Motocross is more reader specific. Though there are some casual fans who probably enjoy reading through a moto magazine, it’s more likely that the dedicated reader actually participates, or did at one time.

In turn, being an effective editor of a special interest magazine would obviously require one to be a passionate participant. Something just didn’t seem right as I edited and proofread tests on bikes that I didn’t get to ride, and it was hard watching my cohorts race around the track while I sat in the pits with a Diet Coke in my hand. Now I don’t want to sound corny, but I had forgotten how important riding is to me. Well, perhaps “forgotten” is not the right word. Let’s just say that I had begun to take riding on a weekly basis for granted. In spite of the risks involved in our sport, there’s nothing that matches motocross when it comes to the excitement, speed, physical exertion or even emotional therapy. It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned pro or a kook beginner¿twisting that throttle has a way of making everything seem a little bit better. Now put down this magazine and go ride.