A case for competition for the non-competitive:

Discussion in 'Racing' started by neduro, Feb 9, 2011.

  1. neduro

    neduro Addict Super Moderator

    Jul 8, 2003
    Colorado Springs, CO
    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, it’s the best event of the year. I like it for an odd reason- it’s so long, and so arduous, that it does not favor merely the quick, but also the smart and the tough. It’s 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 it’s 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. I’m 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. Here’s why:

    1) It’s a hell of a good time: it’s a closed course, and you’re 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 I’m 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 you’re right or not. Finding out I’m 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 isn’t a bad thing: Our culture is very focused on winning, and it’s easy to fall prey to the “second place = first loser” 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 it’s 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 aren’t trying to win your first time out, so it’s 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. Don’t 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 didn’t try it, and you might just find something that changes how you view fellow shoppers at the grocery store.
  2. RichBeBe

    RichBeBe All Hail Seitan!!!

    Mar 13, 2004
    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.
  3. tehdutchie

    tehdutchie Long timer

    Jun 15, 2009
    Amsterdam or on Twitter @antal
    A nice writeup Neduro!

    Voices exactly what I think about the whole thing!
  4. M.A.G.

    M.A.G. I heart Penalties

    Jul 1, 2008
    As usual, Ned, The Bard of ADV nails it. Well said, sir.
  5. wrk2surf

    wrk2surf on the gas or brakes

    Dec 16, 2007
    THE exact center of California/Bass lake/Yosemite
    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...
  6. doyle

    doyle RallyRaidReview-ing

    Jan 14, 2004
    Off Piste
    Very nice Ned. Well done. :clap
  7. nobrakes

    nobrakes Long timer

    Jan 19, 2006
    North Carolina
    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. :deal 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. :D

    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.
  8. Tbone

    Tbone off-ramp slayer

    Dec 29, 2003
    Couldn't have explained it any better Neduro and Nobrakes. That's why I have my daughter hooked on the same thing!
  9. garfey

    garfey Scruffy Adventurer

    Sep 22, 2010
    Deep East Texas
    Old Southern saying: "Not even a mule can do more."
  10. CramerTV

    CramerTV Still eating dust

    May 11, 2010
    Irvine, CA
    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.)
  11. header

    header Chris

    Nov 7, 2007
    Another great write up Neduro, this one will surely help some riders make that gigantic plunge into their first race. :thumb
  12. barnyard

    barnyard Verbal tactician Super Moderator

    Sep 23, 2007
    central Mn
    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
  13. shrineclown

    shrineclown BoardButcher

    Jul 9, 2006
    Bruins Nation
    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.
  14. coppertop

    coppertop occasional meanderthal

    Sep 22, 2006
    Tulsa, OK
    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!
  15. Drif10

    Drif10 Accredited Jackass

    Jun 12, 2003
    Gates of Moscow
    Good write up, Ned. :thumb

    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. :dunno 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. :ricky


    good luck. :thumb
  16. kaosrider

    kaosrider Long timer

    Aug 17, 2007
    Jacksonville, Fl
    Great write up. All great points. I come from a different racing back ground. Raced sailboats/carbon fiber catamarans and such for 30 years. Decided to get into something else. Motorcycles, first the harley types, then got bored real fast. Moved into dualsport and dirt.
    Ned, spot on with regard to any type of racing. In racing cats, same thing balls to the wall. Had many friends crash out, break necks...the whole nine yards just like motorcycles. As I aged my desire to win was offset more by a desire to enjoy the event. Consistantly winning took an effort that I would describe as making it no fun. By that I mean the battle with one's self. Placing your own goals at such a point that you beat yourself with self imposed pressure to win. Once I backed off on the winning side of the equation, I found I actually performed better. I would win, the more I relaxed and went to just enter and enjoy the event. That for me was one of the great personal discoveries of racing. You are really battling yourself. First or last is nothing compared to the battle within yourself. Pushing yourself while keeping yourself in control. Emotions and adrenaline are powerful things, much more powerful than any drug. Taming your own dragons is what racing challenges you with, and what you must over come.
    So I tried this experiment with my dualsport bike. I entered a local MX event with my Dualsport bike a DRZ 400. Big heavy cluncker going around an MX course. What a blast. No, I had no intention of winning or even impressing anyone. Just wanted to beat my dragon. So in my mid 50's a new bike racer is born. My real target is to try the rallys. They look like so much fun and dynamic. Getting to the start line is the real victory in my book and that goes for type of racing. I encourage everyone to race as the experience is much, much more than just the competition.
  17. truckjunky87

    truckjunky87 n00b

    Nov 23, 2010
    I’d like to echo many of the same thoughts/experiences of others. Last year was my first race and it was a desert race in So. Utah. I had only been back on a bike for about 6 months after a 15 year break and was turning 35 later that year so I ran Novice and had mostly realistic goals of finishing and not getting hurt. I have to admit though that in the back of my head I saw myself running up front and people wondering who the new guy was. I read all the past race reports that I could find as I prepared for the race. I had read about the silent and eerie dead engine start, the insanity of the bomb run, the pounding of the whoops, the choking dust, the blistered hands, and the exhaustion felt at the end of the race. I thought it can't really be as bad or difficult as people make it out to be or no one in their right mind would do it. I WAS WRONG on all counts. Reality set in within a few miles and the rest of the 45 mile loop just laughed at me while it kicked my butt. I no longer have dreams of challenging for the lead but I do have a personal goal to improve and advance to amateur. That first race will always be special as I didn't realize how much I would enjoy the beating I took and motivation to get better that would result from it. Maybe I'm not in my right mind after all.
  18. HogWild

    HogWild Scott Whitney

    Nov 12, 2003
    SoCal USA
    One skill of an advanced racer is knowing how to play mind games. A sign of a real professional is when he can play mind games against his competition and they don't even know it. Ned, you've done a great job of convincing everyone you're not a racer, while quietly advancing your riding skills to a very high level. The moment one makes any effort at all to get ahead of someone, they become a racer. Ned, you are a racer of the highest order!
  19. nobrakes

    nobrakes Long timer

    Jan 19, 2006
    North Carolina
    That's a great synopsis.
  20. Wyobrew

    Wyobrew Missed it by that mu

    Sep 7, 2007
    Great words Ned. One of the reasons I chose to try racing was reading some of your posts from years ago. This write up confirms and in my opinion validates why many choose to race. I can enter a dozen races but will never be a racer. I am doing it to challenge myself and learn, not to beat the other riders. It is me against the course. The comments you make can only come from a great deal of experience. Thank you.