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Home / Articles / News / Cover Story /  Motocross as Child's Play Page 2
Cover Story

Motocross as Child's Play Page 2

Young riders increasingly participate in the life-and-death jumps and crashes of the sport.

By Wren Abbott
Posted // August 26,2009 -

helmetWDad.jpgBrace Yourself

Judging from hundreds of comments posted by readers of The Salt Lake Tribune article describing Logan’s death, the incident catapulted kids’ motocross onto the mainstream radar and gave readers, some of whom had no direct knowledge of the sport, license to condemn the Emersons and other motocross parents as negligent or abusive.

Brad Frampton, who raced on the national circuit until 1999 and has two sons—ages 10 and 12—who race, is one of two people in the motocross community interviewed for this story who became so incensed by those comments criticizing motocross parents that he shut off the computer.

“One woman wrote, ‘I can’t believe that parents would strap their kids to a motorcycle and send them out there for a cheap thrill,’” Frampton fumes. “Somebody that doesn’t know anything about this sport doesn’t have any right to judge it.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that off-road motorcycling be restricted to children over age 16, citing “immature judgment and motor skills” in younger children. Under Utah state law, children over age 8 only may ride off-road motorcycles on public land; there is no such restriction for private land, such as motocross arenas.

According to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 245 Americans age 19 and under died in 2003 from offroad motorcycle injuries, and 56,870 were treated in emergency rooms for offroad motorcycling injuries. Twenty percent of the nonfatal injuries occurred on motocross tracks, with 8.9 percent caused by a jump and 5.3 percent from hitting another motorcycle or other vehicle. The injuries represent 32.6 people per 100,000 of the population in that age range, but no estimate is available of how many Americans in that age range use off-road motorcycles, according to the CDC.

A dislocated hip and punctured lung sustained in a motocross crash led Brad Frampton to quit racing on a national level, he said. Before that, he broke a leg, as his older son, Broc, did last year. Broc, a freckled kid with braces wearing a Logan Emerson memorial shirt, didn’t even care about walking after the injury—he just wanted to ride, his dad said.

Back at the Iversons’ trailer, where everyone is sitting on folding chairs under a tarp rigged up to provide shade, Austin’s friend, Evan Crawford, 14, peels down his racing pants to put on knee braces in preparation for his first moto. Knee braces, which can prevent a break by keeping the joint from moving laterally, aren’t part of the safety equipment required by the American Motorcycle Association and therefore by RMR—helmet, protective pants, long-sleeve jersey and boots. But last year, Evan was practicing at RMR when he landed a jump, did an “endo” or “digger”—a forward flip—and got run over by another rider. He broke his leg, and now he’s wearing the braces to protect himself in the event of another crash.

Demar Iverson usually races in the over-40 class, but this year he’s sidelined with a knee injury. During 27 years of racing, Demar has also dislocated his shoulder, torn his anterior cruciate ligament, broken his wrist and broken his collarbone. Ellie Murphy, 13, who took third in her ATV class on Pioneer Day, flipped off her ATV last year and landed on her hands, breaking both her wrists. She was back on the machine as soon as she got her casts off, though it took four or five races before she was back to her previous speed, her dad Mark says. As Ellie, Shayden, and a few other little riders horse around in a circle behind the adults, trying to spray each other with water, Mark remembers that the group of kids is one short.

“Logan would be out here playing,” Mark says.

Getting Your G.O.A.T.

HighJumper.jpgOne thing critics of kids’ motocross probably don’t realize is that most professional motocross and supercross (more technical wintertime dirt-bike racing, done in indoor arenas) riders began racing no later than age 4, according to RMR motocross manager Curt Stewart. “James Stewart, the reigning supercross champion, started when he was 4 years old,” Curt Stewart says. “It’s a young man’s sport— you have champions retiring when they’re 26, 27 years old.”

North Salt Lake’s SLMX motocross complex director Robin Williams says if riders don’t have a sponsor providing them with gear by the time they’re 11, the chances of them getting a national sponsor are nil.

Ricky Carmichael, dubbed the “all-time winningest racer in AMA history” by motocross.com, started racing at age 3 and retired at 27 after winning 15 national championships. Sports Illustrated estimated his 2005 income as between $8 million and $10 million, including his salary from Suzuki and championship bonuses. Carmichael, often called G.O.A.T. or “greatest of all time” is Austin Iverson and Broc Frampton’s idol—both boys would eventually like to turn pro.

“We hope for it, but don’t push it,” mom Dena Iverson says. “I think whatever they do, I’d like to see them go as far as they can. But we leave it up to them.”

The pro-motocross riders Peyton Smith idolizes dominate the décor on his bedroom walls—in the form of “fatheads” or life-size stickers. “You would die if you saw his room,” his mother, Robin Smith, says. Peyton, 7, got his first motorcycle when he was 3. The family lives on four acres in Syracuse, so Peyton has his own motocross practice track. “It’s a spendy sport, but we also have horses—whatever you’re into’s expensive,” Robin points out.

The Iversons estimate they spent about $15,000 in 2008 on motocross. A race-ready 50cc that a child outgrows in a few years costs between $3,500 and $4,000, according to Austin Boyd of Full Throttle Powersports in Centerville, which outfits many of the area’s little riders. Safety equipment like helmets and boots vary widely in price; the average parent spends between $400 and $500 on safety gear, Boyd said. Participating in a race at RMR costs $35 for the first moto and $25 for each additional moto, for a minimum cost of $60. A day of practice at RMR costs $15.

Most children are sponsored by Full Throttle or another dealer, but it’s a buy-in sponsorship that basically serves as an incentive to choose a particular store. At Full Throttle, parents get a package of free practice days at SLMX and reduced price on gear and mechanic service after buying a bike.

An additional cost some families take on is oneon-one coaching provided by a motocross trainer. On a Saturday morning at SLMX, a trainer is coaching Nicholas Garza, 10, trying to get him to go over a jump called a step-up. The 14-acre course, with a variety of doubles, triples, tabletops and step-ups is more technical—more like a supercross track—than the RMR track, according to complex director Robin Williams’ husband Ben, who does the track maintenance and grooming.

At SLMX, riders at all levels do the whole course, Robin Williams says. Riders approach the step-up going uphill and have to get over a lip before coming down the other side. It’s a little eerie, Nicholas Garza’s dad, Steve, says, because they can’t see what they’re going to go down.

Despite its family appeal, motocross is not for everyone. Nicholas is out in near-100 degree weather on a weekend working on that challenging jump, but Nicholas’ five siblings don’t race—one of his brothers attempted the sport but, when he fell into a puddle on a muddy track, he walked away from the bike. And that was it, his dad says.

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REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // February 8,2013 at 19:59

sorry raced. to many concussions lol 

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // February 8,2013 at 19:52

i racded with brad he is a born moto x champ. and a great man. none of our parents strapped us to our bikes it kept most of us out of trouble and if this drug infessed state had more for our kids to do than drugs and get into trouble we would not have to be witness hour by hour day by day kids dying of heroin over dosses because they have know father or has a part time one sits on his ass smoking weed. waching tv. so brad i love my brother. and im proud of you always have been 

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // September 23,2009 at 09:55

I am a 50 year old mother of two.I was raised on dirtbikes ,quads,and street bikes.I raised my sons to ride also,they both started at the age of three.if we don't allow them to do it in our presence,they may go out on their own not knowing all the safety precautions,rules,etc.

We can support them in what they wish to do,or they may die trying it behind our backs.As long as we participate in our childrens lives,we will be protecting them. Children die everyday just riding bicycles and skateboards.I believe it is best for us as parents to support our children in all they do.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // September 3,2009 at 20:36

Here is my two cents: Who the hell is this Jason guy? I mean I am all about Fathers spending time with their sons and all about outdoor recreation, especially on a motorcycle. My dad taught me to ride at the age of 5 and have ridden ever since. But my father did something first...he taught me how important it was to think safety first. He taught me that respect for the craft was more important than learning how to get around the rules.

And this issue goes WAY beyond a lesson in sportsmanship, a brake is there for a purpose. Knowing how to stop in a situation that may introduce injury to your son...or heaven forbid someone else's child is maybe the most important part of this type of sport. Teach your child how to cheat or even worse...NOT allowing him to have the option to save himself or another from harm is REDICULOUS!!!

I can't wait to see the article in a future issue that relays the details of the lawsuit naming Jason and the Track as defendants in the wrongful death of (your child's name here). I guess if they are going to allow morons like Jason to "loosen the brakes" and endanger the other riders, then they deserve what is almost a certain future in our court system.

Is this track certified? Are they insured? Has Jason signed a release of liability? Has any of the other parents? Or better yet...do any of them even know Jason is putting their children at risk? All for, as Jakesmom so elequently put it..."Jason's vacuous dream."

Well put Jakesmom! Good luck in the future, I hope I don't read about your Jake being the next victim of the stupidity of Jason's actions, or the actions of any of the other "Jason's" out there.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // September 3,2009 at 20:08

Here is my two cents: Who the hell is this Jason guy? I mean I am all about Fathers spending time with their sons and all about outdoor recreation, especially on a motorcycle. My dad taught me to ride at the age of 5 and have ridden ever since. But my father did something first...he taught me how important it was to think safety first. He taught me that respect for the craft was more important than learning how to get around the rules.

And this issue goes WAY beyond a lesson in sportsmanship, a brake is there for a purpose. Knowing how to stop in a situation that may introduce injury to your son...or heaven forbid someone else's child is maybe the most important part of this type of sport. Teaching your child how to cheat or even worse...NOT allowing him to have the option to save himself or another from harm is REDICULOUS!!!

I can't wait to see the article in a future issue that relays the details of the lawsuit naming Jason and the Track as defendants in the wrongful death of (your child's name here). I guess if they are going to allow morons like Jason to "loosen the brakes" and endanger the other riders, then they deserve what is almost a certain future in our court system.

Is this track certified? Are they insured? Has Jason signed a release of liability? Has any of the other parents? Or better yet...do any of them even know Jason is putting their children at risk? All for, as Jakesmom so elequently put it..."Jason's vacuous dream."

Well put Jakesmom! Good luck in the future, I hope I don't read about your Jake being the next victim of the stupidity of Jason's actions, or the actions of any of the other "Jason's" out there.