If someone would have told me five years ago, or even a year ago, that Ricky Johnson would be teaching me how to ride my MX bike, I would have told them they were nuts! Ricky Johnson, a five-time AMA National Champion and two-time AMA Supercross Champion, teaching me, an overweight, old-school, BMX goon how to ride my MX bike? Or, how about nine-time Women’s National Champion, Mercedes Gonzalez, teaching mehow to seat-bounce out of a turn? No way? Way!
On June 20th, Mercedes Gonzalez invited me out to Saddleback MX Park to participate in the Rick Johnson School of Champions. I was like a kid waiting for Christmas in anticipation of riding with the two former champions.
I was a little nervous as I pulled up to the school. I had no idea what to expect. I had never met Ricky Johnson before today, so I had no idea what kind of guy he was. I immediately walked over to RJ and introduced myself. The legend greeted me with a handshake and a smile, and said, “Are you ready to get it on?” I answered, “You know it!” RJ said, “Suit up and we’ll get this party started.” Somehow I knew that this would be a day I would be talking about for a long time.
The first thing that Rick and Mercedes did was gather the group of students (which is never more than 20) together and ask everyone to introduce themselves, and to tell them what they thought was their weakest point in their riding skills. Skills? I am not sure I have any. The last four years, I have gotten by riding MX with instinct, and what little skill I have left from being an old pro BMX’er.
Ricky and Mercedes had the class warm up by doing a few laps on the main track. They then started us on our first drills. Ricky and Mercedes demonstrated the correct way of doing starts on their bikes, and then it was our turn. Each and every time I did the drill, RJ and Mercedes went over, in detail, what I was doing wrong and how to fix it. After eight starts, they really noticed an improvement. Most importantly, so did I! After the drills were over, I was graded on what I did right, and what I did wrong. Let’s just say that starts are not my strongest point. I did, however, take away several things that I will remember the next time I line up with Donn “Are you faster than me yet?” Maeda. Seriously though, Ricky and Mercedes have a great way of complementing one another’s teaching styles.
As we proceeded to tackle some of the other basics–like braking, turns and jumping–I really experienced an improvement in the fundamentals of riding a bike. I was actually taking my racing/riding to an entirely new level. I was personally graded by Ricky on each and every aspect of the fundamentals. Being a novice, I really appreciated the time and energy both champions took on every little detail of instructing me. One thing unique about the Rick Johnson School of Champions is their willingness and ability to teach everyone from the first-time rider, to the pro. Their style of teaching, combined with their experience and knowledge, make it fun and interesting to learn. Ricky and Mercedes are not wrapped up in themselves and in their accomplishments; it’s refreshing to see an attitude like that in teachers.
Somewhere around four o’clock, the class was drawing to a close and all of the students were called over to the School of Champions tent. Each of us were given discount coupons for deals with their sponsors, like Asterisk knee braces, Alpinestars boots and Oakley, just to name a few. A RJ School of Champions hat and an official graduation certificate from the school were also given out.
As the sun started to dip behind the old oak trees at Saddleback, I said good bye to my new friends RJ and Mercedes and thanked them for taking the time to invite a goon like me out to spend the day with them. I climbed into my truck with a big smile on my face. Today was a good day, I thought to myself. I learned from two of the greatest champions in motocross history. Chhristmas came early this year!
For more information you can reach the school at: firstname.lastname@example.org