It is safe to say that I have never really watched any motocross before a couple weeks ago. Possibly I have seen it on TV, but not enough to really pay attention. It wasn't a part of my upbringing aside from passing the Aztalan Motocross
course on the way to my Grandparents house in Lake Mills, WI. That's about it right there. Driving past the park, if it happened to be a day when there was some action going on there you might catch a glimpse of a rider temporarily suspended above one of the berms, as if he was always there, just hanging, waiting for you to see him. That was about the extent of it.
Then, a couple weeks ago Clint Culpepper convinced us that going out to Washougal, Washington to watch the National Championships was what we needed to do with our Saturday. He was not wrong.
Not only is Washougal one of the premiere race venues in the country, but it is damn close to Portland, so it made for the perfect day trip. Throw in the proximity to swimming holes along the Washougal river (I kind of just like typing that word) and you have yourself a full blown summer experience. Add Moi Medina and JK to the mix and things could not be better.
The thing to remember if you are going to venture out to one of these experiences is to take a tour guide with you. With Moi in tow and Clint already there hanging out, we were in more than capable hands. Clint being the one that taught me the phrase "straight is a lifestyle, not a direction
" which he picked up from his "biker" parents — and Moi growing up in and around his fathers motorcycle shop — I should not want for a lack of guidance.
Here's what I learned:
1) We need tearaways for our Giro Air Attack Shield
helmets. Sure, we don't spend the same amount of time in the air as MX racers (that's what real motocross fans say "mx") do, but it would still be totally awesome during the cyclocross season. Now, how to affix the shield to the helmet? This was, in all actuality one of the fun things for Kristin, Clint's wife, and I tried to see if we could catch a glimpse of — someone removing his tearaway midair.
2) I needed earplugs. You never really believe people when they tell you to bring earplugs. Like, if some older guy, say, you're dad, told you to take earplugs that time you were going to see Nirvana, would you have done it? Probably not. Now I'm deaf in one ear from listening to two-stroke engines rev up that hill.
3) What happens when one of the racers loses control of their bike and it flies into the crowd? Safety third. This occurred to me after the first time that I was pelted in the face by some of the dirt flying off their rear tires. The small child next to me raised his fist in triumph and I thought to myself "seriously, there is only an orange hurricane fence between that loud, heavy machine flying through the air and the small tender bones of this child. And then I raised my own fist in triumph in an attempt to push it from my mind.
4) The holeshot is much more important here than in cyclocross. With 40 - 50 racers all revving their bikes and then subsequently flying for that first corner it is loud, hectic and awesome to behold. Every bright color of the rainbow sending up a rooster tail of dirt as they fight their way around the first bend. And you thought bike racing was crazy. In the above photo there was a crash just behind the RedBull tent that allowed a few to escape.
Clint's Cliff Note: "Check out their mechanics stamping down the ground behind their rear tires. That's so that they can get better purchase on the start.
5) John Tomac breeds good bike racer. His son Eli did some riding and some winning. Turns out he pretty good at what he does, and I'm sure it has nothing to do with genetics.
So, that was a pretty good learning experience. I've never shot moto photo's before, but it was pretty damn fun. I think I was using some Fuji Neopan 100 and I had no idea how it would turn out. There were clouds, so I tried to use a flash with it. Pretty fucking stoked, all in all. It is way more different than shooting cycling, if you thought they were going fast, we'll you're right, but not all the way right. These dudes we're flying. Full Flickr set here » Washougal MX