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Old 02-09-2011, 05:35 AM   #1
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A case for competition for the non-competitive:

I wrote this a few weeks ago for Outrider Journal to use online, and got their permission to repost here, thinking we might get an interesting discussion started while many of us suffer from inhospitable weather.


The Dakar rally is here, and for me, itís the best event of the year. I like it for an odd reason- itís so long, and so arduous, that it does not favor merely the quick, but also the smart and the tough. Itís a full human experience, embodying both the highest highs and the lowest lows for everyone who chooses to participate. No one has an uneventful Dakar, it simply cannot be. In other words, I like it because itís not simply a race.

So, the people who participate in the Dakar transcend the word racer to me. In my mind, a racer is someone who thrives so much on competition that they would stuff an old lady in the grocery store if they could get their shopping cart on an inside line, who never smile except on the top step of a podium and who pump iron and eat spinach.

That description almost perfectly fails to match me, and I bet it fails to describe you too. Most people I know who are enthusiastic about riding adventure bikes, are not racers. Iím not a racer, but I do race from time to time, and I think everyone who cares deeply about riding should give it a try if they are able. Hereís why:

1) Itís a hell of a good time: itís a closed course, and youíre actually allowed, even encouraged, to go as fast as you want. This is magical, because no matter what anyone says, fast is better than slow and this is a fine way to prove it to yourself. Add to that the emotional cycle that starts with excitement, builds to nervous anticipation, and finally becomes euphoria out on the course, and you have a really fine way to break free from the shackles of the inane.

2) It helps you know your place: Often, when Iím on a particularly fun stretch, I imagine that I could be one of the fast guys. No one, I imagine, could possibly go any faster. Racing will tell you whether youíre right or not. Finding out Iím wrong, and seeing what fast really is, is one of the most enjoyable experiences I ever have, it seems like it should be depressing but instead it lets you realize what a wide and wonderful world we live in, and how much quicker someone else can get across it.

3) This leads to my third point: You will be a part of something with people who share your passion. If you wake up in the morning thinking about motorcycles, you need to go try a race, because the entire event will be filled with people just like you, and being among them will make you realize that the world is a pretty good place. And getting to share an experience with all those people, and especially the ones who are really good at what you share, is a wonderful experience.

4) Losing isnít a bad thing: Our culture is very focused on winning, and itís easy to fall prey to the ďsecond place = first loserĒ T-shirt slogans. These make sense to us because the public image of racing is the battle for first place, as it should be, and the guy who got second is often crushed. The guy who got second is also, most likely, a lot faster than either of us. The guy who got tenth was thrilled to achieve it, which leads to my rule of racing- satisfaction comes from exceeding expectations. As a non-racer, our expectations can afford to be set pretty low, so itís likely we can leave the event satisfied. After all, if it were about winning, only a few people would have any legitimate reason to show up.

There are a hundred reasons not to race, and in some cases they are pretty good ones. But many people overestimate the difficulty of taking part in an event- you arenít trying to win your first time out, so itís OK not to have the latest and greatest. If you have a small bike, try an Enduro. If you have a larger one, try a rallymoto. Donít worry about buying stuff to be competitive, just get to the start line and take a swing at it. You are guaranteed to place ahead of all the folks who didnít try it, and you might just find something that changes how you view fellow shoppers at the grocery store.
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Old 02-09-2011, 05:42 AM   #2
All Hail Seitan!!!
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Well said, I started riding enduros to challenge myself, and that was the point. I finished most, and worked my way up to the B class and will continue to do them. M goal is not to win, but to finish every one of them and try and keep within a set number of points of the high point overall.
I am glad I am not that good, so I am less competitive than if I had some skills.
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Old 02-09-2011, 06:59 AM   #3
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A nice writeup Neduro!

Voices exactly what I think about the whole thing!
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Old 02-09-2011, 07:06 AM   #4
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As usual, Ned, The Bard of ADV nails it. Well said, sir.
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Old 02-09-2011, 08:47 AM   #5
on the gas or brakes
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if that silver haired lady takes the inside line ... I'll put her in the wall

Great blurb..

ps I go to sleep AND wake up thinking of it...
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Old 02-09-2011, 09:30 AM   #6
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Very nice Ned. Well done.
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Old 02-09-2011, 09:49 AM   #7
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Thanks for posting that, Ned. Racing has been a really great experience for me. I've only been riding for a few years, starting with dual sport.

But two years later and looking for something a little more out of it, I rode my first race, and it left such a huge impression. It's very hard to put it into words really. As I pushed my bike to the start row of my first race at 40 years old and found a place, I never felt more alive, more nervous. It was a chilly crystal clear day in March and everything felt so surreal, the colors and sounds were so much more clear and vivid at that moment than I can ever remember. It was almost like I wasn't even there, but instead a passenger seeing the world through someone else's eyes. Being right in the middle of a sea of 200 dirt bikes in the clearing at the forests edge warming up their engines, rev limiters, the smell of two stroke exhaust mixing with the cool mountain air, clear blue sky above, green grass below, it was totally awesome and beautiful. Sensory overload. And then when the call came for everyone to kill their engines and the race was about to start, the sudden silence was just as imposing as all the revving bikes moments before. When the flagger starting calling off the rows my heart rate jumped to another level and as I waited back on row 8, one row every minute, my row getting closer and closer to launch, it felt like I was on a freight train with no way off now. And when the flag dropped for my row, I still had no idea what I was in for in that race.

I finished that race and it was one of the most grueling and exhilarating few hours of my life. Racing is *hard*! I thought maybe that race was just an anomaly, they can't all be that hard, but I never got to try it again until the next year when I did my 2nd race. After the 2nd race, I knew it was no anomaly after a similar experience. If anything, the 2nd race was harder than the first. Racing really is *hard*, that is confirmed. How could anyone be in good enough shape to finish one of these events with anything left in the tank. I did one more race that 2nd year and was finally feeling like I was maybe getting the hang of things, at least to the point of being able to manage the adrenaline on the start line.

Then last year I jumped in head first and did the full 16 round series, plus 2 races out of series, check my signature for the blow-by-blow. But I have to say that it was that very first race that got me hooked.

Racing is brutally honest. It's a reality check. It's a great way to challenge yourself. It's a great way to meet like minded people. Over the past year of racing, I've met a lot of great people I wouldn't have otherwise. I've even had close competitors in points help me swap parts on my bike moments before the start just so I could make the start of a race after a starting line mis-hap damaged my bike. That first race I did several years ago, everyone were strangers, but even that day I made some new friends. But now I go to the races and I feel like I'm going to an extended family reunion where we all catch up, BS a little, then embark on a spirited woods ride through the mountains of NC with 200 of my closest friends.

I still like other forms of riding, and dual sporting is still a lot of fun for me, maybe even more than it was before. But racing has added a whole new dimension to riding for me. I'm so glad I did that first race a few years ago, and I'm even more glad I was able to do a full season of it last year.

Thanks for starting this thread, Ned.
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Old 02-09-2011, 09:59 AM   #8
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Couldn't have explained it any better Neduro and Nobrakes. That's why I have my daughter hooked on the same thing!
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Old 02-09-2011, 12:48 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by geode View Post
... But I can do the best I can ...
Old Southern saying: "Not even a mule can do more."
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Old 02-09-2011, 03:38 PM   #10
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Outstanding insight! I am brand new to racing this year and each of your points resonated with me perfectly. Thanks for taking the time to write this.

Now when someone asks me about why I race I can point them somewhere (or just try to remember a few of your well phrased words.)

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Old 02-09-2011, 06:02 PM   #11
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A very thought out write up Ned

Another great write up Neduro, this one will surely help some riders make that gigantic plunge into their first race.

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Old 02-09-2011, 06:49 PM   #12
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I have been thinking quite a bit about this too, for a couple of months actually. People ask me why I race. Neduro and Nobrakes put it perfectly.

I race too, but am not really competitive.

Bonnie loves the prerace excitement. She says she can feel it in all the racers.

I love twisting the grip to the stop, banging into the next gear, locking the rear brake, skidding into a corner and wringing the grip to death again. Bumps in the trail, wheelie time.

Doing the above on a street bike on city streets, will more than likely get one a ticket. Done right while racing, it will get you a trophy.

How cool is that.

Pretty effin cool.

What is even cooler is that any adult can race for under $5,000. Used dirt bike, gear, AMA membership, other memberships and away you go.

Tom B
all around good guy
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Old 02-09-2011, 07:32 PM   #13
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Great article Ned.

Made me smile thinking of my runs in the Blackwater, oh so many years ago. After seeing the pictures and articles on it, I had to go try it. Thinking I was going to be pretty fast, the top riders were done with their second loop as I finished the first. But it was a blast to do it. In one section you crossed the river and there was a pretty good sized hill that was complete mud. There were hundreds of fans on the bridge and on the bank. If you gave it an honest attempt, you got help. You took it easy, they'd let you slide all the way back down to the bottom. Of course, the pro's just brrrrrpeeeed and were over it. I'll never forget all those guys just coated in mud helping us out. I know I thanked you then, but if you are reading this now, thanks again for the help. I might still be figuring that section out without it. Unfortunately, the event is no longer, but it was a fair challenge in the day.

It is fun, win, lose or draw.
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Old 02-10-2011, 05:48 AM   #14
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I'm too conservative of a rider to contest for the win, but it is great feeling to push it harder that you sensibly can on the streets, and if there is someone else at a similar level; well, it may not be for first place, but it for damn sure is a race!
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Old 02-10-2011, 06:12 AM   #15
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Good write up, Ned.

I raced for 18 years. MX, then enduros and hare scrambles, roadracing, then an enduro before I hung it up when we moved to Europe.

Now, I just don't feel the need. I needed to go warp factor 8 with my hair on fire. Now, I don't. I miss the camaraderie of the race fambly, no matter where, always a good bunch.

I had a bug, an itch. HAD to go stoopit fast. That disappeared. But the need to challenge myself is still there. So I single track a GS. Or tour on an RD350.

But I sure am tempted to go rallying, never did that before. Damn expensive, though.

All this to say: Anyone can go racing, just like Ned wrote. I'm proof. If you're thinking about it, then give it a go. Betcha cash one of your motorcycling acquaintances has connections to a local event/competitor. Give it a go.

I think it should be on everyone's bucket list: Compete in a race.

Just remember: You're doing this for fun. Don't forget to have some.


good luck.
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