Get on track to learn the skills to ride safely… and fast
The bike was screaming on the approach; drifting out to the left and braking; gears clicked down and clutch smoothly out while shifting weight over with knee out; with head focussed on the exit, the right knee scraped the corner following the curve with a steady throttle… exit approaching, the throttle was starting to open and weight shifting back towards centre; at almost vertical the throttle was jammed open again at full charge for the short straight to the next corner….
… my mouth open. The pilot plainly had a firm grip on racing lines and corner speed – race craft if you will. What was truly wonderful to watch was the repetitiveness; for it was damn-near same approach, lean and exit, time after time… the pilot, I found out afterwards, wasn’t even in their teens – jaw dropping stuff! Truly awesome!
I was going to write a ‘standard’ piece about how accessible mini bike racing is;
about the inclusive ethos of the BMB; the many motorcycling ‘names’ that have been to see the BMB methodology and those that continue to race with them… Yes, I could do that… but I won’t. I see this Series as much more than oodles of cheap weekend motorcycling fun and journo jollies.
As our sister site – nextgenbiking.org.uk – points out, the UK motorcycle industry as a whole does not pay that much attention to anyone who can’t legally ride a bike on the road. With this loss of focus on bringing in ‘new blood”, it’s not surprising that the average age of a UK motorcyclist languishing somewhere in the mid-forties.
The key is to attract youngsters, and their parents, with a safe, cheap, exciting option that will engage them, give them a direction and something to aspire to.
The BMB is an ideal example of this. With riders starting from 6 years old, there are classes to suit everyone all the way up to the age of ‘they should know better’, and the beauty of it all is that it’s accessible. For a 6 year old, you can start on a brand-new, race-ready minibike for just £750. Older children (9-14) can get a new Junior Gearbox Pitbike for £1300. Of course, a little hunting around will find you a second-hand model for much less.
With these low (relatively speaking) starting costs, Minibikes are a perfect way to introduce children to the wonders and joys of biking in a safe, controlled environment. But it’s not just about the riding. By giving youngsters this kind of responsibility, they will respond in ways you could never have imagined.
I’ve been ‘chatting’ with one particular BMB rider on Twitter for a while now and we missed each other at the recent Prescott Hill Climb charity event but her leathers were an easy spot and so after briefly speaking with her parents I went to introduce myself. Now it has to be said, that I was feeling a little trepidation. After all, I’m a 50-year-old dishevelled bloke about to strike up a conversation with a 12-year-old girl I’ve never met, other than via social media Twittering’s.
Having caught her attention and explained who I was, she looked me right in the eye, thrust out her hand and with an easy grin, shook my hand. She was “delighted to meet me” and the ensuing chat made me really appreciate that being around motorcycles has taught her social skills beyond her years, calmly engaging and confident enough in herself and her surroundings to engage with anyone regardless. I know many children that don’t get that social skillset until much, much older. I walked away proud of her – and of her parents. Turns out she’s a demon rider with GP dreams as well (double smiley face!)!
There are distressingly few organisations in the UK that have acted upon this premise and have set themselves up to help and teach kids a trade, a skill set, a belief of self-worth and so I was delighted to hear that Matt Pierce (BMB’s PR Manager) is at present discussing an initiative with his the Northampton Police Service to start an education program whereby ‘troubled’ kids can learn about bikes in the BMB, and be shown that it is preferable to partake in such motorcycling ventures in a safe, controlled, environment, rather than illegally on the streets – keep ’em where you can see ’em approach – an innovative idea and I really hope it’s the start of something special…
The situation that the BMB has generated allows kids to learn about not just bikes and racing lines, but also mental focus, competition, confidence and all wrapped up in well-rounded social skills; we, as a Society and as interested parties in the motorcycling industry, should being applauding them.
I left the Whilton Mill round of the BMB series with a huge grin on my face. I wasn’t upset I didn’t ride. I spent a day soaking up the atmosphere and was free to focus on my other hobbies (bikes and photography). I enjoyed witnessing the riding skills of other riders old and young. but it was the kids that really impressed me. What a bunch of kids! Plenty of smiles and banter with their mates off track to be replaced by the steely focus when on the starting grid; they ride competitively for sure but not aggressively – they want to achieve their absolute best but not at the cost of footballesque ‘sportsmanship’.
ALL 281 BMB WHILTON MILL Gallery 🙂
So I sign off this essay with a plea to all parents. Even if you or your child have little interest in motorcycles consider the fact that the BMB can provide hire bikes for many ages on a tester day, all under expert (free) tuition and full safety protocols in place (they are fully insured) – I guarantee you that you, and they, will love it.
With heartfelt thanks to Alan Lord, Matt Pierce and all 300 riders in the BMB