Cooksey- Dale Bohm is one of my mentors and someone I have a huge amount of respect for, he was a top professional from the state of Utah in the late 70s and early 80s. He is still riding and here are some tips to keep you riding too.
By Dale Bohm
Like many of you on this site, I started riding at an early age and grew up with the sport of motocross. As we got older, injuries started to pile up, people got married, and family obligations took over.
Now that we are older adults, the riding bug is still inside us and thoughts may turn to buying a bike and getting back into the sport. But how can you ride again safely and avoid injuries? DIrt bike riding is a dangerous sport that demands total respect and anyone who rides is at risk of injuries. There is no magic formula that will ensure that you won't get hurt however there are steps you can take to minimize risk and enjoy the sport. I have ridden motocross for 50 consecutive seasons and I would like to share some tips that have helped me over the years.
1) Respect the track: This is probably the single most important thing you can do to avoid injuries. Every track demands 100% respect regardless of the layout and soil composition. David Bailey was injured on a track that was simple compared to the tough national tracks he was used to riding. Always walk the track before practice or at least take the first couple of laps slow to learn the lines. One method I use to keep focused on the track is a breathing technique. When I inhale, I visualize the word "respect" and when I exhale, I visualize the word "balance". Those are the only two words I think about during the entire moto, respect and balance. This little technique does two things, it helps you focus 100% on the moment and it allows you to ride without negative thoughts like "will I clear the double" or "I'm a squid". When you enter a turn, exhale and think of the word "balance". When you approach a jump, exhale right before the take off and think of the word "balance". I have used this technique over and over and it has allowed me to ride balanced on the bike and respectful of the track.
2) Leave your ego at home: It really doesn't matter how good you were back in the day, you're old now and your reflexes are slower and your bones take longer to heal. Just because someone else clears a double, it doesn't mean you have to prove anything. No one cares if you take it easy and roll the double. Just have fun and don't ride over your head. A good slogan to remember is Glory is Temporary, Pain is Forever!3) Wear all of your protective clothing: Ever since I started riding, my Mom made sure that I wore all of my protective equipment or I was not allowed to ride. I look back now and I'm totally grateful she was so adamant about wearing protective gear. Over the years, I've hit the ground so many times that it's impossible to count and I've always been thankful that I had on protective gear. Most people wear a helmet, boots, googles, riding pants and gloves. However, take it a step further and wear shoulder/arm pads, a cup (if you're a guy), knee braces, neck brace and tape your ankles and wrists. By wearing all of this protective gear, you'll minimize the damage in the event of a fall. Broken bones are no fun and the cost of a hospital visit can be very expensive and end your riding career in a hurry.4) Maintain your bike: Whether you buy a brand-new bike or an old vintage sled, be sure to keep it maintained and tighten all of the bolts. There is nothing worse than riding along and your handle bars drop down or your throttle sticks wide open. Another important tip is to always have good tires on your bike, especially on the front. I broke 4 ribs in Boise due to a poor front tire and I learned the hard way. I was trying to save money and skimped on my tires and it cost me a trip to the hospital. A good chain and sprockets are also a must and don't forget to check the tire pressure every time you ride. I usually put 13 lbs in the front and 11 lbs in the rear for most tracks. 5) Attend a motocross school: Another requirement of my Mom back in the day was to enroll in MX schools. The first one I went to was the Suzuki School of Motocross in Carlsbad, CA back in 1980 and I learned a ton of things about training, riding and racing mentality. I ended up hosting a bunch of MX schools through my company (Triangle Training) including Gary Bailey, Russ Darnell, Donnie Hansen and Marty Smith. Each instructor would offer something new that we could put into our quiver of mx techniques. You're never too old to enroll in an mx school, especially at the start of the year or if you have been off of your bike for many years. Look for instructors on the internet that cater to older riders or even better attend a private lesson. I have a private track about an hour from my house that I can use anytime to coach riders. E-mail me at: email@example.com if you are coming to the Seattle area and would like some one-on-one instruction.
Final Thoughts: The main thing is to have fun and don't get hurt. Motocross is a beautiful sport with all of its thrills and rich history however it's also an extremely dangerous sport that demands respect and can be deadly. If you treat it with respect, balance with the moment and have love for the sport, it will treat you well with riding memories to cherish forever.