Posted by: silverback | 2018/04/09

moto dad

I could not even believe how nervous I was for him.

Lucas is thirteen now, and this year decided to consolidate all his Christmas and birthday loots into a season of racing motocross. No presents, no trips, no summer camp – just racing. We flipped his DRZ125 into a Honda CRF150R, which is much bigger and much more powerful – an honest-to-God motocross race bike. It’s a big jump. I got a deal I could not pass up on the Honda, but it’s a “big wheel” version, and Lucas is still small for his age. This means it’s a challenge for him to pick it up and sometimes to get it started without somebody helping just a little bit. And he’s sensitive to needing help when none of the other kids need it on their small-wheel two-stroke 85’s.

practice line.jpg

I was nervous because he just headed out for his first 85/150 combined practice, and suddenly he was in the middle of a giant pack of screaming, smoking, fast-moving mini bikes, on a big outdoor track where he’d often be far away from me, and occasionally completely out of sight. I had no idea it would affect me so profoundly. Instantly, it became clear that the number of things that could go wrong had increased exponentially. My heart rate jumped, and I was having to take full, deep breaths to keep from hyperventilating.

Those who know me will understand this is uncharacteristic. I am not risk-averse. I regularly put myself in harm’s way in pursuit of one adrenaline rush or another.

On this occasion, it wasn’t me in harm’s way, nor was it the adrenaline rush I was necessarily pursuing. Yet as I wiped the cold sweat from my brow, I recognized it for just that.

Lucas’ learning curve is in warp speed right now. We got the DRZ last spring for his 12th birthday – about the time I was putting together a basketcase YZ250F for myself. I got my first dirt bike for my 13th birthday, and have ridden one motorcycle or another pretty much constantly since then – over 35 years. I’ve had dirt bikes and street bikes and dual-sports and full-on roadrace bikes. Having the opportunity to share the same experience and joy with my own son has been indescribable. It has helped me understand what it means to be a father, and to be a man. I learned to ride my dirt bike on my own, my father wanting nothing to do with any two-wheeled vehicles at all, ever. Riding with Lucas has brought me more joy than I would ever have thought possible.

Last spring, he began with enthusiasm and an inkling of talent. We rode trails and a few practice tracks through the summer and fall, as I watched his comfort and confidence grow with every ride. It became evident that the DRZ was a perfect bike to learn on, but he was quickly outgrowing its capabilities.

On the new bike, his innate talent and growing skill has become a thing of wonder to me, as I see his understanding of how the thing works – how all the things work – grow with every single session. Part of me wishes we’d started sooner, but I tend to have faith in the way things happen organically rather than the way things might have been. As it is, his maturity is growing at the same rate as his skill.

My favorite part of this right now is that he is willing to listen to me, and to try to put into practice the things I tell him. I’m a good rider, but I think I might be a better coach, because I can tell you how the thing works, if you want to know.

None of the skill and confidence and talent matter in this moment, however. I anxiously watch him trying to work out some passes in the midst of a pack of a dozen brightly colored, speeding minibikes, as they fly over the upper tabletop and disappear into the woods.


After a few seconds, I realize I’ve been holding my breath. I silently remind myself to BREATHE – words I’ve said to Lucas many times.  When I see him come flying back into view, he’s worked his way nearly to the front of his little pack. As I watch, he works out how to carry just a little more speed through the downhill left-right, and he finally crushes the second-gear step-up off the tight uphill right, giving him enough speed for the middle step-down. He finishes the practice session with no incident.

As he rolls back to our pits, I can see him beaming beneath his helmet and goggles, “Oh MY GOD DAD!! That was soo much fun! Did you see me get the step-up?”

I sure did, kiddo. That was bad ass.


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