Madd-man on the track
When Brad Madden recollects childhood memories, he doesn’t reminisce about playing football in the street or shooting hoops on neighborhood driveways.
“Everybody in my neighborhood rode (dirt) bikes,” said Madden, who was born and raised in San Mateo. “There were dirt fields about a quarter-mile from my house. There were quite a few tracks a half hour or hour from my house.”
However, over the last 30 years, those dirt fields have become residential areas and some of Madden’s favorite boyhood tracks, like the Fremont Drag Strip, are gone – like Madden’s days of racing as a youngster. Madden started riding when he was 10 and competed until he was about 20, he said, against the wishes of his parents.
Eventually, the innocence of childhood turned into the seriousness of life, and Madden lost connection not only with his childhood friends, but also with his love for competing on a dirt bike.
“Everybody I knew just kind of phased out of it,” he said. “It wasn’t as much fun as it was when we were kids. People went off to college, got married, and had kids. All of the above.”
Madden, 47, moved to Truckee roughly 11 years ago to escape the city and settle down in a more rural area. Madden has four children with his wife, Diane, after 26 years of marriage. Only a few years ago, he was more concentrated on his career and raising a family than riding dirt bikes.
That was until an old friend influenced Madden to return to competitive racing about two and a half years ago.
The thrill of riding dirt bikes was not erased from Madden’s heart and soul. He never stopped riding as a hobby, and he still went to an occasional race or two; but he hadn’t competed for nearly 25 years. One of Madden’s friends from his early San Mateo days, John Larson, would not relent in his fight to get Madden back into competitive racing.
“(Larson) probably bugged me for two years,” Madden said. “He didn’t race when we were kids, but he really got into it all of a sudden. He probably called me once a week and said, ‘I know you’d be great. I know you’re fast.’ Finally, I gave in.”
Slowly but surely, Madden got back into racing on an old, rusty dirt bike that had been sitting in his garage collecting dust. But, it still ran well enough for Madden to place in the top three in his first race in more than two decades.
“I started putting more money into it, and all of a sudden, that little rust bucket turned into a $6,000 flat-tracker,” he said.
Madden has rediscovered his love for competing on a motorcycle in two disciplines – Flat Track and Supermotard. Through racing, Madden has also reunited with a few old friends from San Mateo.
“I probably hadn’t heard from John (Larson) for 10 years before he got a hold of me,” he said. “At the larger races, every once in a while, I see some of my old buddies.”
Not only has Madden revitalized a lost passion, he has excelled.
On Nov. 1, Madden won the 2003 Motowest California Gold Rush Series AMA District 36 Short Track in the XR100 Modified B class. Madden won by six points over his nearest competitor, Michael Sanchez, a 14-year-old rider from New Almaden, Calif. Madden said the younger, lightweight riders have a distinct advantage.
“Every seven to 10 pounds is one horsepower that you lose,” Madden said. “There’s a few of them that their parents actually have to hold them up at the line because they can’t touch their toes, in certain classes. The kids are the fastest. There’s no question about it, they’re the toughest to beat.”
Madden won the series as a B rider based on 10 races, but he was informed that he will start next season as an A rider, an expert ranking in flat track competition. The 2004 season starts in early March.
Madden said the riders are sometimes divided based on age depending on the particular track or the number of participants.
Most of the tracks Madden races on now are in Lodi, Stockton and Vallejo – California’s central valley provides the flat ground and dirt tracks that defines the majority of flat track racing. Short Track, in which Madden won his title, is one branch of Flat Track racing.
In contrast, Supermotard is a combination of asphalt and dirt, and was featured in Donner Ski Ranch’s annual Highway 40 Days (did not happen last year because of an embezzlement suit). Madden competed in the Supermotard division of Highway 40 Days the two previous years.
“It’s becoming a popular, new wave of racing because you get people from all disciplines,” he said. “It was popular back in the ’70s, but then it kind of faded out.”
Madden said he races once a month in Supermotard events in Stockton and will compete in a race at the end of February.
Madden’s main sponsor is Engines Only, headed by owner Frank Nye in Campbell, Calif. Thin Air Motor Sports in Truckee has also helped Madden with discounts on parts, as well as Little Truckee Supersports, which has helped Madden with mechanical support. Checkered Flag Photos has provided Madden with free race photos. (It is important to note that none of Madden’s sponsors are full sponsors.)
Because of Madden’s newfound love for racing, his youngest son and daughter have taken more of an interest in riding. Trevor, 11, and Julie, 14, have shown a glimpse of their father’s childhood passion that evolved in the dirt fields of San Mateo.
“Julie’s been bugging me to buy her a bike,” Madden said. Madden’s oldest son Jason, 22, and oldest daughter Valarie, 19, both attend Truckee Meadows Community College.
Most of all, Madden realizes the importance of racing in providing a new burst of life, noting his unselfish role of being a parent for the last 22 years.
“Once you’re a parent, your life kind of goes by the wayside, and you’re living through your kids lives,” he said. “Finally I’m back to having something for myself after all these years, and I’m enjoying the hell out of it.”
Madden was involved in horrible crash two years ago while trail riding on his KTM 520. He shattered his right shoulder, broke nine ribs, broke and dislocated his left collar bone and had to be airlifted to the nearest hospital. To this day, Madden maintains that he feels safer on the XR100.
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