Ripping ’round rollers: Truckee BMX track hosts twice-weekly races
Riders take your mark … watch the lights … pffsssst!
With a green light and a loud rush of air the hydraulic starting gate plummeted to the dirt and the racers lurched forward ” the first heat of the Truckee BMX Tuesday night races at Riverview Park was on the track.
Now in its fourth season hosting American Bike Association-sanctioned events (ABA), the Truckee BMX program is rolling into another summer of hugging the berms and boosting the doubles at the Riverview Park BMX track. Though the sport was feared dead in year’s past, the local program has high hopes to ride an international wave of BMX enthusiasm swelled up from the sport’s 2008 Olympic debut in Beijing to an even stronger future in Truckee.
This summer, Truckee BMX is hosting twice-weekly races on Tuesday and Saturday and open practice sessions on Thursdays and before races.
Checking out the scene at the track Tuesday, there was a welcome vibe as families and spectators barbecued trackside while riders ages 4 to 50 took to the course for several heats of races. Abilities varied, but didn’t seem to matter. Everyone was pedaling hard and smiling big.
Volunteer program co-coordinator Stan Bennett is excited by the enthusiasm he has already seen at the events thus far this summer, as he feels the BMX opportunities in Truckee are a fabulous inroad to an incredible sport.
“BMX offers a cycling challenge that builds strength, tunes reaction time and fosters good competitive spirit, all in the name of fun,” said Bennett. “It’s not like soccer. Everybody rides. Nobody sits on the bench.”
In order to participate in the ABA-sanctioned races, a rider must become a member of the ABA, pay a $10 entry fee and wear a helmet, long pants and long sleeves. While some riders’ bikes were definitely tricked out at the Truckee track, most didn’t cost more than $500. Many cost less than $300. Getting involved in the BMX race scene looked to be a relatively low-overhead proposition.
Talking with Bennett between heats, he solidified my frugal feelings, mentioning that the cost of the Thursday practice session was only $1 and open to anyone with the required protective gear. Now that’s cheap entertainment.
Bennett stressed the benefit for families, too: “The track is a great supervised place for the kids to come spend the afternoon and get some challenging exercise.”
Watching the racers sprint into the terrain features and rocket out the corners, there was no doubt that the demands of the activity looked like perfect cross-training for other disciplines. I was not surprised to hear that top local skiers like pro skicross racer Errol Kerr and J2 dominator Bryce Bennett use the Truckee track as a fast-twitch summertime training ground. Bennett was in attendance that evening, tearing up the track and sending 30-foot jumps like it was just another day on the snow.
As an avid freeride mountain biker, I quickly noticed that negotiating the varied track features required deft balance and pedal strokes to smoothly hold a fast line. Pedaling at a lung-bursting pace while learning when to air it out and when not to looked like an amazing cycling skills progression to get in on.
Zach Zito, a 12-year-old ripper from Nevada, talked up this aspect of the Truckee track compared to other tracks he rides in Carson City and Reno.
“I like that the Truckee track is more technical than the other tracks in the area,” said Zito. “The jumps aren’t small so it makes you want to jump them more instead of sucking them up. But there are a lot of different ways to hit everything. Many features you can pick up manual, double-up or just pedal out. It isn’t a normal track.”
Nearing twilight, the last races were finished, and the grills and chairs were loaded into trucks as a few racers squirmed to get in a last lap or two.
Volunteer co-coordinators Bennett and Dean and Jennifer Pranin were all smiles despite another night’s hard work.
Though perhaps under-used compared to other Truckee recreation facilities, the BMX track on Tuesday showed absolute worth as an amazing and unique local amenity. The dirt-packed course had hosted yet another night of good clean fun ” exactly why Bennett and the other organizers dedicate so much time to keeping the sport alive locally.
“We have no sponsors, just sweat equity,” said Bennett. “We do it for the love of the sport.”