Ivan VanGoethem #50 of Chatham, Remi Gorry #515 of Courtright, Kody Gontarde #7 of Ruthven,
Darien Rice #219 of Sarnia. Photo by Tiffany Gorry
The citizens of Kingsville and the surrounding area are very lucky to have access to recreational centers, soccer fields, ice rinks, baseball diamonds, theaters and so on. Our community certainly has a wide range of sports, activities and entertainment to choose from. But in the age of “keeping up with the Joneses,” what does a parent do when none of the above are suited for their child? What if there is no interest in hockey, soccer or dance?
Well, many parents look back on their own childhood for inspiration. Simply playing outside and using your imagination is a great start. If you grew up in rural Essex county though, you may have had or know someone who had a dirt bike. I’m guessing it wasn’t fancy or any kind of race bike but it would be a fair assumption to say that you had fun!
Whether in the fields or on a farm, dirt bikes have been around rural areas for years. Oftentimes these bikes never leave those farms and are probably still sitting in grandpa’s barn, just waiting for the next generation to show some interest. And who knows? That next generation might just want to take that old pit bike and start practicing some jumps on a motocross track.
Kody Gontarde #7 of Ruthven and Garison Derbyshire #117 of Ruthven. Photo by S. Gontarde
What Is Motocross?
Merriam-Webster’s definition of motocross is “a closed-course motorcycle race over natural or simulated rough terrain (as with steep inclines, hairpin turns, and mud).”
Now that’s a very exact definition but if you’ve ever talked to a mom or dad of a kid who loves to race motocross, it is so much more.
In motocross racing some will say it’s not what you race but how you race it that makes the difference. But does the bike you choose matter? The jury is still out on that long-winded discussion. Motocross bikes, though, are different from what you’ll find weathering away in grandpa’s barn. They are made lighter, no mirrors or kickstands, and no speedometers. These are things that are not needed on the race track and will just weigh the bike down.
The sport itself is one of the most physically and mentally demanding sports there is. Riders need to have an increased level of strength, power and endurance. The upper body, including the shoulders, arms, hands and grips are in a constant state of muscular contraction. The inner thighs and legs are always gripping the tank, making motocross a complete physical workout.
The British Journal of Medicine published an article on November 23, 2005 that studied and analyzed the physiological characteristics between motocross racers, enduro and desert rally motorcyclists. The study ultimately concluded that motocross racers have more muscle mass, more strength and greater aerobic power.
The mental stability a rider needs is also crucial in achieving goals as well. Tracks can change from lap to lap, inexperienced riders and your own mental focus can have effects on the race and if a rider is not focused accidents can occur.
And on that note, let’s delve into some of the myths and misconceptions often heard from parents and skeptics regarding motocross.
(From front to back) Darien Rice #219 of Sarnia, Kody Gontarde #7 of Ruthven, Remi Gorry #515 of Courtright.
Photo by Tiffany Gorry
Myths and Misconceptions
There’s the obvious misconception — It’s Dangerous
Ok, yes kids on dirt bikes would be at a greater risk of accident and injury because of lack of experience while riding. Of course, older riders who believe they are invincible are also still susceptible to injury. Truth be told, no matter your age, proper gear each and every time will make the difference. The other very important advice that helps with kids is having an adult in their life that can teach them about the bike and emphasize the importance of safe and proper riding techniques.
Motocross Is Easy
I’m sorry … What? Whoever said this has never attempted to race a dirt bike. It takes many hours, days, months and years to perfect anything, and motocross is no different. Many who attempt will never climb the mountain of success that a pro racer can have. It takes an enormous amount of time, energy, commitment and money.
I guess my least favourite misconception is that if you’re into motocross you must just be a country kid with no morals or values, just out causing trouble. As the mother of our featured racer, Kody, I beg to differ.
The sport has taught my son life lessons about relationships, responsibility and the value of hard work. Motocross is a very expensive sport to get into and with that there must be a level of commitment by your child. He or she must have respect for the bike. There are rules to abide by when kids race, they must know the rules and also know the consequences if those rules are not followed.
Clubs, tracks, family and friends collectively remind and reinforce these rules if they see kids not being respectful of them. Kids just want to ride and have fun. It’s our job as parents to make sure they can in the right places, at the right times and always with permission.
There are a million more discussions we could have about what some people view as a dangerous, no-good sport but I would much rather focus on all the reasons children SHOULD get into motocross.
Father and Son Kody and Syl Gontarde of Ruthven. Photo by L. Gontarde
Positive Reasons to Get Your Child into Motocross
Motocross reinforces the importance of good health. As with any sport, MX riders must keep in shape to be competitive. This requires a healthy lifestyle including good eating habits, and an exercise regimen designed to keep the body in top shape. Kids learn this at a young age almost on their own, not only by example but by competing.
They understand quickly about energy and reserves and how to properly fuel the body to maintain their highest performance for the race. Kids will recognize that good posture and form play a great role in competitive motocross and that good health practices are key to keeping up with that form.
Value of Practice and Hard Work
This also comes almost instantly when a youngster tries to ride their first bike. It’s the kids themselves that come to realize that if they want to get better, they must continuously try and practice, practice, practice. A strong work ethic can be created by the passion a child has for wanting to race and achieve goals.
Most parents will also tell you that getting the kids involved with the maintenance and upkeep of their bike has to happen. Unless they are selling out arenas moms and dads are often the first sponsor and mechanic, so if the kid wants to continue to race, they must learn to help.
Kody Gontarde #7 of Ruthven, Ivan Van Goethem #50 of Chatham. Photo by L. Gontarde
To be great competing in any sport at any level requires a certain bit of humility. Motocross is one of those sports that teaches kids to be grateful and humble. The dirt bike itself is often the humbling part — kids have to respect the power of what their bike can do. When they are out on the track alone, they win by their own hard work and determination, but they also lose by their own accord as well. Motocross teaches kids they must lose gracefully and win humbly. It’s a tough lesson because obviously winning is fun.
The last reason I will touch on, and certainly the best reason, is the positive, lasting friendships that evolve. Motocross will provide your kids with the confidence to speak proudly when talking with friends and adults. The friendships that come out of motocross are unique. It’s a bond kids hold dear, to have friends that truly understand what it is like to win a race and to lose a race. They are there for each other in a truly irreplaceable way.
When there are not a lot of kids out there that share the same interest and passion of racing motocross, when you find someone that does, the relationship turns solid despite distance. Most of these kids only see each other on race days and are from different towns and townships. But they understand each other in a way most will not. So on race days these kids come together as if no time had passed.
Now that you all have a bit of a background on motocross, I’d like to be completely biased and introduce you to a local motocross race — my son, Kody Gontarde.
Kody Gontarde #7 Ruthven. Photo by S. Gontarde
Kody began riding dirt bikes at age four. He shares his love of motocross with his dad who has been an avid fan for many years. He began racing at just 7 years old on a KTM 50cc, but quickly advanced through the ranks after gaining much confidence race after race. Kody and his family reside in Ruthven and he is very excited to start racing with Amateur Motocross Ontario next season, setting him up for the provincial stage.
Kody credits motocross for many of his personal successes and his physical courage. Before motocross Kody attempted hockey, baseball and soccer and none of those great sports caught his attention the way motocross did. So, let’s hear a bit more from Kody:
How old are you and when did you begin racing motocross?
I am 10 years old and I started racing motocross at 7 years old. I got my first bike when I was four.
Q. What’s your favourite track?
My favourite track is Gopher Dunes because I love riding in the sand. It’s a challenge!
What is your most memorable accomplishment?
This year I only raced one time and out of 22 racers I ended up 11th overall. That was great. Because of COVID I couldn’t race all year. I was pretty proud of myself.
What is your goal for next season?
My goal for next year is to race with AMO and hopefully get top 7. Everything has to be a 7!!
Why do you love motocross?
Because it is so much fun, and it’s challenging, and I get to meet new friends all the time. I’m always trying to beat my records. I like the feeling of going fast!
Kody Gontarde of Ruthven. Photo by L. Gontarde
The debate of whether motocross is for your child or not is clearly never going to end. There will always be naysayers and that’s OK, it is not for everyone. What I wanted to do is shed some light on a sport that often gets ridiculed before people really get informed. In our local area there are currently no public tracks for people just to go out for the day and try.
It is a commitment by parents and kids to travel to tracks. But if this sport has taught me anything, it’s that if your child is committed the travel, the camping, and the effort is all worth it, and the friendships that are created last beyond motocross.
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