It's an age-old question and one the greatest of minds have tried answering.
How do you avoid getting hurt when riding a dirt bike?
Don't ride a dirt bike.
But that's no fun and despite what's happening on college campuses today most people prefer not living in a bubble while hiding in their safe spaces.
OK, perhaps the better question for those of us who ride is how to prevent injury. But even this sounds like a stretch. Therefore, let's take it down a notch to preventing significant injury. Because, anyone who rides knows it's not a matter of if you crash, but when you crash. Therefore, it's not a matter if you get hurt but when you get hurt. However, with proper preparation you can limit some types of injury to bruises and sprains rather than broken bones and torn ligaments.
Don't misunderstand, sometimes you hit just right (or wrong) and the wicked get-off that tosses you into rock hard soil has little competition with all the preparation in the world. Even the best of protection can only do so much. So, putting aside not riding, we talked with northwest fast guy Tommy Weeck who recently had a gnarly crash of his own while leading Round 1 of the MotoSport.com PacWest series.
Weeck suffered a break to his C6 vertebra among other injuries. In other words, he broke his neck. And despite the amount of damage to the bone, as he was told by doctors, he had limited damage to the surrounding tissue, something Weeck attributes to his holistic approach to riding.
Weeck's racing history includes overseas in the MX2 class of Motocross World Championship (MXGP), for Team Puerto Rico in the Motocross of Nations (2011) and of course in the United States in Supercross and Motocross. Today, he runs RiseMX, a Motocross training school that focuses on strength conditioning and nutrition. You ride a lot when under his tutelage but it's not all just riding as Weeck incorporates an all-encompassing style of instruction to develop a more rounded, safer and faster rider.
Weeck believes the human body is designed to tuck, roll, bend and rotate. But without appropriate training to take advantage of the body's ability, the resulting limitations can cause more injury than would otherwise happen.
Weeck, a holistic life coach, gave us these tips to avoiding injury while riding dirt bikes whether on the Motocross track or hitting the trails. But before we continue, understand none of this makes a bit of difference if you don't wear all the proper protection so get geared up before heading out:
Weeck said you have to prepare for the crash because crashes are inevitable. "We don't just train to win, we train to hit the ground," he said. So stretch. And, it's more than a warm up stretch. Weeck said stretching becomes a lifestyle. Then on race day, he spends up to two hours stretching. "I can loosen my muscles to contract and fire correctly. This allows them to flex and allows my body to move, relax and absorb the crash better."
"How many riders have ADD or ADHD and have trouble shutting their minds off? Racers will tell you their best race is when they were able to shut their mind off," Weeck said. This is where yoga helps because now you're combining stretching and the mental game. Yoga offers a huge ability for riders to help them stay present with what they are doing.
Additionally, Weeck said, yoga helps you breathe and stay focused through difficult situations so, for example, when your bike kicks sideways you stay upright rather than hitting the dirt.
3. Riding Time
Not just lap after lap. How versatile is your riding? Only endurance? Just sprints? Is your Motocross program fitting a wholesome style touching all ends of the appropriate fundamentals or are you mailing it in and only riding laps?
4. Training Conditions
If you know next week's race is in the sand then you need to train in the sand. If you live in Alaska but race in Tennessee you need to find a way to train in conditions that resembles dirt from the Midwest not the tundra in Yukon. Weeck said that requires some self-evaluation between the rider and his or her support group to make the necessary adjustments to train on the landscape appropriate to race day.
"Always be thinking ahead and plan for what you're working for," Weeck said. "Make time and plan for the expected conditions."
What do rest days look like? Hitting the couch for a few hours of downtime in front of the television is not what we're talking about. Weeck describes rest as "working in" days as opposed to working out days. Riders should evaluate what their body needs and focus on any deficiencies. Need additional meditation or stretch exercises? How about food? "What does my body need on my working in days?" Weeck said. "How do you rest but stay accomplished?" Training doesn't mean always working out for VO2 max but staying active and keeping your body moving without the speed in heart rate.