816 Diversions

Sharing the love of motocross

Five-year-old Blake Mathis (in the front) of Lee’s Summit makes  a practice  run during motocross racing at Blue Springs BMX.
Five-year-old Blake Mathis (in the front) of Lee’s Summit makes a practice run during motocross racing at Blue Springs BMX. Special to The Star

It’s Friday night and several Lee’s Summit youngsters are pedaling madly around a dirt track, ripping through banked turns and trying to win points.

They’re working toward winning a No. 1 plate that says they’re the best in their district, state or nationally.

Riders, after lining up at a starting gate that flops down with a thunk, see who can best maneuver over humps and banks —and perhaps even go airborne — to reach the finish first.

The sport is BMX, or bicycle motocross.

Blue Springs BMX is in Pink Hill Park, but racers are from all over the area, and Lee’s Summit’s Chace family are key in making the races available for dozens of participants on race nights.

The track is celebrating its 30th year and they want to invite others to give the sport a try. The track offers a one-day free membership at the track for those who aren’t members of USA BMX. There will be a free day of racing June 24 without entry fees for races.

It has a stock of helmets and bicycles to lend to newbies who want to try out the track.

Troy Mathis of Lee’s Summit, takes his two boys, Griffin, 10, and Blake 5, who attend Pleasant Lea Elementary School, to race at the track.

“I like going fast, and I like to win,” Blake said.

Troy Mathis said there are quite a few local families active in the sport, using the two area tracks, in Blue Springs and Raytown. Lee’s Summit had a track in Harris Park years ago, before that park was renovated and the water park added.

Neal Banks, now a Raytown resident, grew up in Lee’s Summit racing on the Harris Park track and helped build the facility in Blue Springs.

Banks said it’s a good sport for boys or girls who find it hard to meet a schedule in an organized league or who aren’t interested in team sports. And it’s an accessible sport for beginners.

“Usually every kid’s got a bike,” Banks said. “Nobody sits on the bench.”

He said that as an individual sport, it gives youths who don’t always fit in to find a place to “bloom.” Participation isn’t as structured as a sports league. Families can race a lot or less frequently, as their schedules allow.

“You can come out as you please,” Banks said. “If you don’t show up, you’re not letting anyone down.”

While there are crashes, the group makes sure every rider is using appropriate helmets, Banks said. He said in his opinion, there are no more injuries than football.

There is division for girls, too.

Steve Chace of Lee’s Summit is president and track operator, whose volunteer job is to coordinate volunteers and fills in gaps. His son, Cole Chace, 9, has been riding for five years.

May 30, he collected entry fees and added racers to their divisions of the various “motos” or races.

“We borrowed a bike, borrowed a helmet,” Steve Chace said of his son’s first race. “He won his first event and five years later, here I am.”

Chace said that when asked to take over leading the track for the fully-volunteer operation, he took about a month to consider it.

“It’s such a big part of our lives for the last five years, it was a good fit,” he said.

He puts in at least 10 hours a week at the track. Pam Chace helps out when she can, with concessions or errands like picking up a load of trophies that are awarded each week.

On a typical Friday night during the season, the racing begins with practice runs, which go on while racers are finishing registration for point-sanctioned races. Then the real competition begins.

A rider can choose to take part in practice races if they wish.

There are three levels of competition, Novice, Intermediate and Expert, with participants advancing in levels based on the number of wins. Each racer also accumulates points that can contribute to their rankings at district, state or national levels.

The person with the highest number of points can display the rank on a plate placed on the front of his or her bike.

“They want that number one plate,” Chace said. At the end of each year rankings are set.

Cole is ranked No. 1 in the Kansas City district. He and other racers with high rankings must go to regional events when multiple-point races are offered to reach that goal.

“We traveled a lot to get that,” Steve Chace said. “We were in at least 10 different states, drove 10,000 miles last year running.”

He said many BMX dads also become bike mechanics with their sons.

“I enjoy it. It’s a great opportunity to teach him how to use a wrench,” Chace said.

Now that the neighborhood children have found out he works on bikes, he usually has a garage full to work on for them.

Garrett Banks, 9, Neal Banks’ son, said, “I just like BMX because your legs get really strong, it’s a great workout and I like winning.”

His formula for winning: “Just go faster and stay on your bike without wrecking.”

For more information go to http://www.bluespringsbmx.com/