Safety in motocross is a trending topic right now. This is something I have put a lot of thought into over the years, building tracks, buying gear. I’ve always wanted to make sure I had some of the best protective gear available and have always hoped motocross could become safer for all involved.
So why does it seem motocross is more dangerous than ever before?
To tell the truth it’s everything. It’s the tracks. It’s the bikes. It’s the riders. It’s the races. It’s the gear. Information travels much faster than ever before. Motocross always has been dangerous.
The Tracks are built so the jumps appear “safe”. Jumps aren’t intimidating anymore. The truth is a 90’ tabletop is just as dangerous as a 90’ double, but it doesn’t look as scary, so more people are likely to jump it. Think about it – if someone who shouldn’t be jumping a jump, jumps it, it doesn’t matter if it’s a table, double or a “safe” double, if they make a mistake or get sqirrelly they are going to crash either way. If you’re going to endo or high side off a double, making that double a table isn’t going to change the outcome. The difference is more lower skilled riders will be willing to hit a tabletop than a double.
Tracks are also so fast these days. Every corner is banked, obstacles are easy. No one wants a challenge, they just want to hold the throttle pinned. What happened to tricky off camber corners and other obstacles that break up a track’s flow and slow riders down?
Track owners, lets make technically challenging obstacles that take skill to navigate, not just balls. Lets slow tracks down so riders aren’t getting squirrely trying to scrub every jump wide open. Make corners that riders actually have to slow down for.
The Bikes are so much better than they ever have been. The suspension is good, the motors are good and it is way easier to go fast and jump big jumps. Carrying speed and jumping big jumps was hard on a 125 two stroke. It was a challenge to go fast. These days any old “C” rider can screw up a corner, grab a handful of throttle and make it over the biggest jump on the track. Unskilled riders going as fast as they do and hitting the big jumps that they now can is dangerous.
Let’s not make this a two stroke vs four stroke debate, but when everyone rode two strokes it took more skill to hit bigger jumps and there were jumps that only the fastest riders would hit. The move from a 165 lb, 20 hp 85cc bike to a larger, 200 lb, 32 hp 125cc bike was already a big one. Now kids are jumping from 85’s that haven’t changed much over the years to 220 lb, 40hp 250f’s that have power everywhere. That’s a huge change and a lot of bike to handle for young riders.
There needs to be a change with the bikes. I’m not saying to get rid of four strokes or 450’s, the bikes aren’t too powerful for everyone. Maybe create some age and skill restrictions – riders have to be 14 or 15 to ride a 250f, ride a 125 until then, allowing young riders to get used to the bigger bike without the weight and power of a 250f. Get rid of the 450 C/Beginner class. Make riders be 16 or 18 to ride 450’s.
The Riders are fearless. Between the easy to ride bikes and the unintimidating tracks I’m amazed by the things I see people do. It seems there are more riders than ever who are “going to be a pro” and hanging it out beyond their ability to go fast. When you go riding have fun and make better decisions.
The Races How about bringing back the rule that makes racers wait until their 18th birthday to turn pro? That rule wasn’t stuck with long enough. I felt Ronnie Stewart made a good point on the Pulp MX Show about young riders trying to go pro. They push harder than ever in a 5 lap sprint race on a track they haven’t been on in 8 hours trying to place well in order to get noticed by teams. What if there was less pressure on amateur riders? What if they had time to go to regular high school instead of chasing the amateur national circuit? What if they had more time to get up to speed, develop their skills and their race craft?
The Gear can’t keep up with the bikes. Lately there have been some notable advancements in MX gear, but the truth is there is no piece of gear or combination of pieces that will protect you from every crash. There never will be. It is also hard to get buy in from riders when the manufacturers of protective gear are unable or unwilling to show the proof that their products work. Pro’s will also need to start wearing more protective gear in order for amateurs to follow suit. How do we make this happen? The gear needs to be comfortable and proven to prevent potential injuries.
Information continues to travel faster and faster. In fact it’s instantaneous with things like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Forums. Before you may have heard about serious injuries or deaths in magazines once a month or in Cycle News weekly, but I feel typically bad news traveled by word of mouth. This limited some of the bad news to the region it happened in. Everything is global now, everyone hears about every serious accident.