Standing behind a row of motocross bikes readying for the start of a race is a full-on sensory overload. With every twist of the throttle, a stiff puff of exhaust from the tailpipe of a motorcycle tousled hair or rustled clothes.
The whine from engines up to 450cc rose in unison to a wail that spewed a cloud of rich fuel fumes during the final seconds before the gate dropped, and up to 17 riders howled away. Deeply treaded tires sent dirt clods rocketing back in rapid succession, peppering anyone standing close.
Moments like those can come in many forms. Still, such points in time spread over a weekend of practice and racing in Inman, for a round of the Kanas Motocross Championship Series, provided remarkable substance to the coverage of another event in another country, this time Wabaunsee County. This was time well spent.
From the moment of arrival through final goodbyes, the sense of family and inclusion permeates the small city that arose in a field next to the motocross track. The setting is filled with life, from pickup trucks with motorcycles strapped in the back to sizeable race trailers and campers.
Parked next to me, with a truck from Arkansas, I discovered two men working on minibikes I mistakenly believed to be set up for their children.
“Nah, these are ours,” one said. “We didn’t have much to do today, so at the last minute, we decided to drive up from Fort Smith and race the short-track races.” That was a spur-of-the-moment five-hour and 20-minute drive to race some laps to end Saturday’s practice session.
From as far as San Antonio, Texas, racers arrived in the small-town of 1,400 set between McPherson and Hutchinson along K-61 highway. While Maize, Kansas, north of Wichita, lays claim to the best track in the state, Inman seemed to me to be the friendliest. Everyone knew everybody, all ready to lend a hand and honestly care for every rider’s safety.
To my other side, a young man in a small pickup truck arrived. Before he even began to unload his motorcycle, he introduced himself and asked whether I needed anything. Micah Specht informed me that he worked as a farmhand, which allowed him to do what he loves – race.
He proved to be quite good at what he loves while never failing to share his wisdom with me. He quickly found me on the track after his first practice runs to let me know the rains the day before helped make the circuit just sticky enough to be, “really fast.” Even with his face tucked into a fully enclosed helmet, his gleeful smile shined brightly.
What made me smile were the racers as young as four that seemed to have been riding motorcycles before they could even walk. These little daredevils whipped around the paddock area with glee and more bravado than most can achieve in a lifetime. On the track, their daring continued as supportive parents raced throughout the circuit to follow their children in what the announcer labeled “the great migration.” The daring on display showed, even at a young age, it is never too early to learn how to get “big air” off jumps or find the proper line through turns as they thrust their inside leg out to balance should they take the turn too hot.
Getting things wrong does lead to consequences. One rider, sporting a sling on his right arm, recited a litany of screws and plates needed to put his shoulder and upper arm together again. As I wished him well, he wanted me to know, “the injuries are nothing. I’ll be racing again soon. It’s the darn sling that is driving me crazy.”
As the rising sun cast long shadows Sunday morning, racers from young to old gathered for the competition meeting. With head bowed, the race organizer raised an informational prayer for a young rider injured in a crash the day before and now resting in a Wichita hospital. The crowd was assured, “he will be fine soon, and his brothers are still ready to race today,” as all racers do.
As the crowd dispersed, I noted the numbers of girls and women ready to go racing. With their helmets soon buckled in place, only some ponytails flowing out at speed gave any clue as they battled equally with the men and in one women-only showcase race.
The long day of racing proved to be exciting. However, it was the sense of family that was most enlightening. That knowledge gained is what I will carry with me and will lead me to pull up to another motocross track again during my journey through Kansas.
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