How Old is Too Old to Ride Dirt Bikes?
Older people have asked me many times (emailed) if they are too old to ride Motocross. Obviously the people who ask this question are older and have never ridden dirt bikes before, or at best, have ridden for a short time years ago. There are a lot of "well, it depends" in my answers. I don't think the age number has too much to do with it. What really matters is their physical condition and mental attitude.
Of course, Motocross is very physically demanding. Obviously, the more physically fit they are the better. If they are out of shape, and think they can remain that way, even 30 is too old. Many years back, Fox Racing coined the phrase, "Attitude is Everything!" If a 60 year old person is in good shape and has the right attitude, they are not too old to ride. Of course, if they ever hope to be a decent rider and have fun, it would help to have some previous riding experience, especially at 60. So, what is the proper attitude? At any age, it's to be patient and stay within your limits. To always be in the right frame of mind and stay focused whenever they put that helmet on.
Obviously, staying safe at any age is a major concern. This concern multiplies as age becomes more and more of a factor. When I was younger I heard the phrase hundreds of times from older riders, "My bones don't heal like they used too," "I have to be at work Monday" or "I don't bounce well anymore." I heard it so many times that I just thought, yeah, yeah, that's just an excuse for being slow. Now, at 64, I know what they meant.
No one wants to get hurt at any age, but as you get older, you really, really don't want to take any soil samples. This makes the strategy of staying within your limits more important. When you're old, the problem is that you're already slow. Add being extra careful, and you're really slow. My point is that you may not be too old to ride as long as you can accept the fact that you are slow. Slow in the grand scheme of the sport. But you could be fast in your age bracket. That is if you have racing on your mind.
Racing or Just Riding?
Racing or just riding can be very different or similar for each individual rider. Some riders could have the same mindset for both racing and just riding. Other riders could have a competitive mindset for both. The people who have the same mindset for both - racing and riding - are in the mindset of having fun on their dirt bike, whether they are out riding for fun or at the races. They don't really care what place they get, they're going to have fun and stay off the ground. Just riding is fun for them and racing is even more fun because of the social atmosphere.
The mindset of competitive riders is geared more towards performance, whether they're at the practice track or at the races. They ride to win at the races, or at least place high. When they are not at the races, they practice to improve, or at least maintain their speed and consistency. They get satisfaction from putting in the work, riding well and good race results. I believe these differences come down to a person's personality. What type of personality are you? What's more important to you - having a good time or making improvements in your riding skills and race results? I have good news for both personality types. Both can have the best of both worlds: improvements and fun! It all starts in the MIND, the ATTITUDE and EXPECTATIONS!
Riding across generations: Gary Semics (second from right) and friends
The MIND, ATTITUDE and EXPECTATIONS!
Changing one's core personality, especially as one ages, is pretty much impossible. If you've never been a competitive type person, you're not going to become competitive later in life, and vice-versa. If you're not the competitive type, it's pretty simple, don't be concerned with how fast you are or not, just stay within your limits and stay focused on what you're doing whenever you buckle up that helmet.
In reality, I don't think hardly anyone who wants to ride a Motocross bike would be satisfied with that scenario. For anyone to have fun on a dirt bike, they would have to ride well enough to carry some momentum through the corners and get at least a little airtime over jumps! Riding smooth with the least amount of physical effort, are two of the most important aspects of having fun on a dirt bike. Surely you're heard the phrase "let the bike do the work." The other reality is that no one is completely non-competitive and no one is completely competitive. Some people are in the middle and some tip the scale more left or right. But everyone can benefit by having the right mindset, attitude and expectations.
The mind, a person's attitude, is more important than most people realize! I was just answering many Whats App messages from a friend this morning, who lives in Dubai. Basel couldn't understand why he was getting arm pump so badly while out riding with some friends. Basel said, he's been riding three or four days a week and doesn't get arm pump. He also said he hasn't done anything differently. After many messages back and forth, I realized his arm pump was caused by his mental attitude.
He was very excited about riding with his friends again and he expected to leave his buddies far behind. This extra excitement and high expectations took him out of experiencing each and every moment (staying in the present moment). It was a consent distraction that kept him out of his comfort zone. He said the more he tried the worse it got. I explained what I thought was going on, regarding his perception of what he wanted to happen. I advised him to stay more relaxed and stay in the moment. The next day he said, when he got to the track, he noticed that he was nervous. He warmed up for 15 minutes, and then rested. Afterwards he raced with his friends, the first lap he was tight. He relaxed and paced himself. Then he passed his completion and never looked back. He said the second Moto was even better.
The lesson here is that you can't expect a certain outcome, and then remove yourself from each moment on the way to that outcome. You have to be into each and every moment that will take you there. You have to live and feel, receive the feedback and make adjustments along the way. When Basel did this, he got back into his comfort zone and rode the best he is capable of riding! There is an old phrase in racing "The Mind is Everything." It all starts with the mindâ€¦ when the mind is right, the rest will follow!
It's Not a Number, You're Not Too Old
Whether you've never ridden before or are considering getting back into it at an older age, there are a lot of choices to make in order to get going on the right track, no pun intended. Three of the big choices (questions) are what bike, where are you going to ride and who are you going to ride with? Are you going to buy a 2 stroke or 4 stroke, what type of riding are you going to do, off-road or Motocross? Where are you going to ride? How far is the nearest place and how often will you be able to ride? It is not safe to ride a lone, so who are you going to ride with?
Anyone who has caught the fever (gotten hooked on riding Motocross) can attest to the fact that once it gets in your blood, it's like an addiction and you will be addicted for life. There is nothing even close to the excitement, adrenaline, and satisfaction that comes from riding well. When you feel the connection between your body, mind, the bike and the track and nothing else, it's called being in the ZONE! It's like magic!
Motocrossers share a common thread: a bond that unites them into one unique group of people who share something special that most people can't imagine what it's really like to be a Motocross racer! Here are some of the facts of riding in the ZONE. The only thing that exists is you, the bike and the track. It's like all three are one. All your mental focus is pinpointed into this Zone. Your heart rate will stay at just below your lactic threshold (almost maxed out) but you won't even notice the suffering that your body is going through!
Here's a short video of an old friend of mine George Singler. George was 78 during this video. I've known George for most of my life. He was promoting the first Motocross race that I raced and handed me my first trophy. George has raced just about every kind of dirt bike, from BSAs to KTMs!
So, if you're asking yourself, if you're too old, think of this article and George Singler!
Check out my Cornering and Jumping DVDs, specially produced for Vet riders.
Keeping an attitude of gratitude,
About Gary Semics:
Learn our GSMXS time tested and proven practice and training methods to improve your riding skills and race results. How? Through our hands on Motocross School Group and Private classes, with 10 GSMXS Certified Instructors located in six countries. Through our Techniques and Training DVDs (currently 28 titles).