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How to try motocross for the first time with WSBK legend Chris Walker

A racing legend meets a 30-something Stormtrooper
A racing legend meets a 30-something Stormtrooper
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Thursday, 05, Sep 2013 04:17

by Daniel Cartwright

Ever thought of trying your hand at motocross? If you're a biker it must have crossed your mind, but unless you know someone who is in to it then motocross seems out of reach, as you have to buy a bike, transport it to a track and then learn how to ride it motocross style, etc. etc.

Well that's not true, you can simply go along the Stalker MX track at Gonerby Moor in Lincolnshire, hire a top-spec motocross bike and be flying (literally) around the track there and then, and all for less than the price of a meal and a night out.

So here's how it's done, and if an unfit guy in his mid thirties can do it, then there's no excuse not to try it.

It all started when our editor came up to me and asked: "Have you ever done motocross?" to which I replied with a resounding "No".

"Brilliant," he said, "Go and do a feature about how our readers can try motocross and see if it is for them."

The first thoughts going through my head were this is going to be a logistical nightmare and I'm going to have to use every contact we have to do this.

How wrong I was - a simple Google search and a phone call and I had booked myself a motocross bike at one of the UK's leading tracks in two days time. Job done! Well kind of...

Why should you try Motocross?

Anyone who follows any track racing, weather its MotoGP, WSBK or BSB, will have heard an interview with a rider saying that when it comes to the ultimate training in bike control it's all about motocross.

Most top riders, like the legendary Chris 'The Stalker' Walker who owns the Stalker MX facility, have and still do participate in motocross.

Being able to control a bike around a motocross track teaches you so much about bike control; the feel of when you are losing the front, losing the back, and most importantly how deal with it.

So there is a safety aspect to it (particularly if that helps you justify giving it go) but also it was the most exhilarating fun I have had on two wheels in a long time.

What to expect

While researching motocross, the same pictures of dirt bikes tens of feet in the air kept cropping up, so the drive to the track was a bit daunting.

I knew that if my bike gets two wheels off the ground then it is either getting serviced or I'm going to hospital having had a very painful operation.

This anxiety was not helped on arrival when, having paid my track fees and bike rental (unbelievably less than £100 in total), I was met by The Stalker himself.

I realised I was going to make an idiot of myself in front of a racer that has won in both BSB, WSBK, and has competed in over 230 superbike events and still counting. No pressure there then.

Luckily Chris is not only one the fastest men I have met but one of the nicest, most down-to-earth and patient blokes I have met and he soon put me at ease.

"What you have learned on the road will mean nothing here but everything you learn here today will improve your road riding and bike handling," he explained to me.

Ten minutes later and I was all geared up, looking like a Stormtrooper that had been left in South London and tagged by every rival gang in a 20-mile radius.

Next I was shown to the bike (the bit I had been waiting for) and at Stalker MX the hire bikes are Kawasaki 450Fs.

These are no run-of-the-mill learner, underpowered cheapo clap-trap hire bikes, these are full, almost competition spec motocross bikes that have won awards for their ability and agility in the 450cc four-stroke category.

My first impression was it was big, as light as a BMX (113kg) and, something I never thought I would say, it had too much low-down torque for me to handle.

After a few laps around the training circuit and some crucial advice about standing up for obstacles, keeping your body upright and weight forward around corners, it was time to go to the main track.

The track itself is over a mile of chipped bark chaotic lunacy, rutted straights, tight banked hairpins leading straight into ten foot plus jumps, table tops and much more.

As with most tracks you go out in groups depending on your ability for a session that lasts about 20 mins and generally there are about three groups who just keep taking it in turn, so you get about five or six sessions in a day. That is if you can last that long...

Just before I was about to set off for my first session, Chris offered some words of wisdom: "Keep in third the whole way round and go at your own pace - don't try and go too fast."

I did and my pace was very, very slow, but do you know what? I loved every second of it, I was never harangued by the faster guys lapping me and always given space.

After less than 20 minutes I was covered in sweat and more exhilarated than I had ever been.

Over the next few sessions I practised what Chris said and things started to come together, not only was I getting faster and actually overtook someone but I was more confident on the jumps and was loving the cornering style with the back end drifting out.

It sounds like the opposite of track riding but if you go faster it is actually easier and my bike seemed not only happy to go fast but happy to take care of most things for me. Put simply, the bike was much better than me.

Motocross is certainly the most physically demanding motorsport I have ever done, this may be down to my lack of ability but you are always moving around the bike, standing, sitting and using your body as part of the suspension.

This meant that by the penultimate session I felt like I had done ten rounds with Mike Tyson.

So I headed out for final session, with mixed results:

And then right after that:

The fall was one of the most relaxing parts of the day and gave me ten seconds to get oxygen back to my depleted muscles.

Top speeds (at novice level motocross) are low, it is all about acceleration, braking and bike control.

Falling onto chipped bark in all the Stormtrooper gear doesn't hurt at all, you simply dust yourself off, pick up the bike, kick it back to life and get back on track. How many other motorsports can you keep doing after an off?

Early shower

It really is that is that simple, to use Chris's own words: "If you can ride a motorbike we can get you riding motocross.

"As you've seen if you drop it we will just fix it and get you back on track, if it can't be fixed then it is an early shower but there's no extra cost to you."

For me this was one of the most eye-opening, exciting and rewarding days on two wheels I have ever had.

I have ridden many bikes in many different situations on many tracks, and this is right up there with the best.

Next time you are stuck for something to do with a spare weekend, or you're thinking of risking your bike on the next expensive track-day then consider motocross, especially as it is apparently as good in winter and the wet as in the summer.

There are motocross tracks all over the country, but only few offer bike hire and prices can vary, so check with your local area.

Track fees at Stalker MX are £25 for the day and bike hire is £70 for the full day. If you are hiring a bike you have to pay for both, but it will still be the best £100 you will ever spend.

To get a taste of what it's like at Stalker MX, watch the video below, or head to the foot of the page for our photo slideshow of our day at Gonerby Moor.

Find more photos like this on MotorbikeTimes

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