Unfortunately, best-laid plans do not always work.
An unfortunate accident derailed plans for Martin Varrand to race in the pro ranks otherwise Cooper Webb might have had another European to contend with during the 2021 Supercross season.
Varrand grew up poor, living in Estonia a former Eastern bloc of the Soviet Union. His father a pro racer, Varrand, like many children before him and after him, learned the love and art of riding dirt bikes. It wasn’t long before his father’s skills showed naturally in Varrand and the race wins piled up.
It wasn’t a dirt bike accident but rather fun with friends that doomed his budding career. But no doubt like many riders before him and after him, Varrand really had only one choice. Learn from his mistakes and move forward.
Varrand never lost his love of dirt bikes or Motocross and though finances ultimately became the deciding factor in continuing his racing career, Varrand now makes a living helping riders on their craft and technique with his motocross advice website and a recently published e-book.
The 110 page The Complete Dirt Bike Handguide offers covers the very basics like "What is a dirt bike?" to a complete section on the various dirt bike brands to consider and finally growing your skills beyond that of a beginner rider.
Q&A with Martin Varrand
1. How did you get started riding dirt bikes?
My father was a professional rider during the Soviet era (I am from Estonia and before we got independent in 1991, we were part of the Soviet Union). When I was born and started walking, my father always took me to see the races. I was only three years old when I started begging for a dirt bike, I was obsessed. Finally, when I got 4 years old, I got a dirt bike for my birthday. As times were very hard and we were poor (beginning of independence years in Estonia), my father literally had put a 50cc together from different parts he collected from friends and different garages.
My first helmet did not have a chin guard, no goggles and my first ride I twisted the throttle, but could not let it off. That resulted in going into a jump and landing face first into the ground. Next day going to the kindergarten, I did not have a white spot in my face, all full of bruises - but I was hooked! PS! By that time I had not learned to ride a bicycle yet.
2. At what point did it turn from a passion to going pro?
I started making progress quite quickly. I joined Saku Moto Club (where most of the TOP riders were during that time) and my father managed to upgrade my dirt bike a bit (but it was still very old) and I started competing. As my father had all this behind him, he found passion in developing me and he saw opportunity that there could be something big. If I am not mistaken, I got my first Estonian National Championship title while 7 years old in 50cc class.
We started riding in abroad quite a lot. We travelled the Europe, trying to train with faster riders who were more on my level. We also took part of different races in different countries such as Czech Republic, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and so on.
When I was 8, we took part of the first Junior World Championships in Germany, 2001. These were unofficial World Championships, but FIM supported. The reason was that during this time they never held World Championships for such young classes and it was the first time they held it for 50cc-s ever. It was still the highest level you could ride in Europe, because all the pros were there.
For example, Ken Roczen was taking part of this as well, but he broke his hand during the practice session. He is one year younger than me and already then everyone talked that he is the new wonder kid who is doing magic on a dirt bike while so young. The next year I participated the same event with 65cc in Germany and Czech and managed to win there as well.
3. So, pretty successful to start. You were a two-time junior world champion and six time Estonia National Champion. But an accident more or less ended your pro career. What happened?
My father had went to USA to find new opportunities for my career in order to make the next step. We desperately needed money and proper dirt bikes to take my riding to the next level and it seemed like an only option. My father managed to find sponsor in USA and new KTM 85cc-s were waiting for me. Five days before my travel to USA we did BMX jumps with friends. We always did it and who made a longer jump was the master. I never had problems with fear and I always took myself further, but this time I took it too far. The cap between the jump and landing was about 7 meters and I landed my front wheel into the landing and crashed very hard. I broke my collarbone and that cancelled my plans to travel to USA.
It resulted in wasted summer and a wasted opportunity. Eventually my father came back and we tried our best to make the most from my career.
4. How long did it take you to get over knowing your career was over?
We did not have financial support needed and we desperately looked for sponsors, but we did not get sufficient budget. I rode with Kawasaki 85cc, it was stock and I only had one. Back then Kawasaki 85cc were not famous of producing powerful 85cc bikes and it was hard to compete against Suzuki's and KTM's.
We still took part of 85cc World Championships in Finland where also Eli Tomac, Blake Wharton, Ken Roczen and many other pro riders took part. I was not able to make a performance I wished. I could not train as much as the pro's because of financials and I had old stock dirt bike. After that we slowly understood that we do not have the financials needed in order to make it to the TOP (where Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen were at that time) in order for one day I could make a living with this sport.
5. But you didn’t leave the world of Motocross. You have a website offering riding advice and a brand new book The Complete Dirt Bike Handguide. How did this come together?
Yes, I focused on school, got higher education and worked myself quickly up in order to afford a dirt bike of my own. I have never had plans to leave the sport.
Five years ago I started my own website motocrossadvice.com where I do my best to give back to the sport. My goal is to share all the advice about correct riding techniques, best dirt bikes, best dirt bike gear and parts. In the beginning of 2020 when COVID started I decided to start writing a book for motocross riders. I had always had the idea in the back of my head, but the right time came (as we all know). Together with the book I launched my own online course for motocross riders which is the ultimate video course for taking the riding skills further.
6. Is it a how to ride book? Tips for racing? A breakdown of dirt bike parts? All of the above?
It is beginners handbook. It consists everything you listed above. It starts with the most basic topics to help new moto dads choosing the right dirt bike & gear for their kids and give helpful tips to get started for all types of riders.
It consists of dirt bike riding tips and techniques + different essential drills. One-half of the book is dedicated to riding techniques & growing skills. It also has a part for getting to know your dirt bike & maintenance where I break down the essential maintenance procedures that dirt bikes need. Post & pre-ride checks and so on.
7. Who will benefit the most from your book?
I have written this mainly to new beginners entering to the sport or moto dads buying the first dirt bike for their kids. During my research phase, I found that one compact resource like this was missing while new riders have so many questions and there is so many (different) answers everywhere in the internet. It is very easy to get confused especially as there are so many different opinions and "specialists.”
The book has been very popular and I receive a lot feedback also from intermediate riders who have found the book very useful, especially the riding technique chapters. I wanted to design it also beautifully so it is easy to consume and navigate - I get a lot of positive feedback about this as well.
8. Did you need much research when writing or were you able to glean from your experience and just sit down and write?
During my years in the industry and also working with my motocross website I had pretty good idea what was missing and what I wanted to put into the book. Also, some of the content was in some level already there which I needed to fit into the book. But, in general everything I write about has a fair share of research in it in order to craft the most valuable information into one helpful chapter.
9. For the average dirt bike rider who just want to get out and ride, why read your book?
Most of the beginner riders have never participated in any structured trainings lead by a professional trainer. Not to mention that they participated them regularly. And who could blame them - they tend to be expensive.
They watch different YouTube videos and hear some tips about techniques and at the local track some other beginners share some technique tips that they have heard somewhere. This results in a lot of unstructured noise that is hard to make sense out of. Riders are confused and they develop incorrect techniques that are hard to break. Mastering motocross riding can take over 10,000 hours of practice - wouldn't it make sense to start with the correct techniques?
I am sure that whatever level the rider, this book provides the proven foundation that is always good to come back to and memorize the basics.
10. Do you talk about what not to do like launching off ramps with your BMX bike?
I hope that my experience is a lesson to everyone!
I think that it is a good practice for young riders also to jump their BMX bikes in order to build confidence and feeling behind the bars, but they should always be able to comprehend the risks. In my book, I do not talk about what not to do, but in my online course of video lessons, I cover many incorrect techniques and how to break them.
11. Tell us - Where can a rider get The Complete Dirt Bike Handguide?
All motosport.com readers can download my book for free by visiting this link.