When to move up, or when not to...
Sandbaggers in Denial
by Stu Osborn #657
Last year I was told I’m a decent Novice rider and now that more battles have been fought and some have been won in the Amateur division, it’s starting to be clear to me that I’m not a beginner anymore. So when do you know when you’re ready to move up a class from Amateur to Intermediate or from Intermediate to Expert? I’d say it’s very hard to rate yourself, but you know deep-down when you’re improving from year to year and if you’re a good racing citizen you realize that you need to get out of the NOV class sooner or later or as an Intermediate, move into Experts eventually, but when?
So how about we explore the motivations and desires of some riders to move themselves up and the desire of some riders to just stay put until they’re moved up kicking and screaming? And how about those riders who just don’t know when to move up and so let’s maybe explore some categories of riders and come up with my kind of unofficial formula for moving up a division. Sounds like it might be useful, so here goes.
Remember this is just one racer’s opinion, but I’d probably rate novices in 4 categories and intermediates in maybe 3 categories. Up here in the Pacific Northwest we are blessed with racing that embraces families, including riders 12 years old and under in the XR75/80 class and the Schoolboy class for young riders age 15 and younger riding bikes smaller than 100cc and “hot rod” CR80’s. These little guys and girls are of course category 1 – BEGINNERS and if they get old enough, they enter the mainstream Amateur division on eligible machines. But you can have beginners in any class of racing, even the Open class so true beginners in my mind are those who have never raced, but may have been trail riding a few times. Obviously these riders are Amateurs and no one would argue that. Then what about the riders just starting out in the vintage sport BUT maybe they’ve raced a lot back in the day and have more skills because maybe they get on a bike more than once or twice a month and go trail riding in the summer. These riders can probably be rated category 2 – NOVICES and again, no one would argue they are not Amateurs and should definitely enter vintage racing at that level.
Now here’s where the gray areas meet the gray matter. The third category in my mind are racers who have ridden as Amateurs for more than one racing season, and are beginning to win a few motos or races and find themselves racing with INT’s more than Amateurs. These riders are starting to feel like they have enough stamina to race an entire 5-lap moto without getting too tired. For me, I felt like this during my last AHRMA race for the very first time. I almost had back-to-back motos, race 10 and race 12 and at the line for race 12 I wasn’t all tired and still felt motivated at the end of lap 4. (Lap 5 was a different story.. because I pushed myself hard at the end) Anyway, that’s a good indication I had entered category 3 – MOTIVATED. My veteran racing friend Charlie Branstetter emailed me the other day and this is what he said: “Granted, while you have struggled thru some injuries, and undoubtedly still are not
back to ‘full’ race conditioning, you really need to consider moving yourself up from AM. AM status really ought to be reserved for those with little to no racing experience OR little to no desire to be competitive. Your performance on the YZ100 seems to indicate that neither applies. In my opinion, AHRMA gets this part right, mostly, by requiring newbie’s to sign up as INT’s. We must all consider that the time to move up is not when you think you can be competitive in the class above but when you no longer fit in the current class. While the racing experience we gained back in the day may have been eons ago it still counts ... big time! Certainly our mind doesn't forget and the body quickly learns to react to what our mind tells us we can and cannot do. If the mind knows we can race, the body will and does support the effort ...the best that it can. The difference between each ability group is as much, if not more, mental than physical.”
Charlie made a lot of sense to me and so I’m moving myself up to INT next season because I respect his opinion as an expert and his comments about my riding skills. I also began to hear the same thing from other riders, some shouting, “MOVE ‘EM UP!!” at the awards after Washougal Hammer & Tongs. Even my brother Jeff told me I ought to move up. So I guess I will, in order to race with better riders, which will only serve to improve my skills even more and leave the Amateurs behind so that the BEGINNERS, NOVICES and MOTIVATEDS can have it, not to enter the group of Amateur riders I lump into category 4 – SANDBAGGERS. These are riders who may have Intermediate classifications and are true INT’s in AHRMA racing but for some reason hold on to their Amateur status for other non-AHRMA events. Or maybe they only ride for trophies or they want to brag to their co-workers about how many motos they’ve won but in my mind, they’re CHEATERS, taking the delight of collecting hardware from other true beginners and kids who are just starting out.
The trophies are NOT what I race for, but some kids and their fathers would really appreciate one here and there but the SANDBAGGERS steal them. My motivation is to 1) Keep the rubber side down, 2) HAVE FUN and 3) Win if I can, not 1) Win... 2) Win… 3) Win... What’s the fun in beating riders with inferior skills and you know it? None, in my mind... but there are those category 4 racers who just don’t know when to move up and I’d say to them, when you start getting hole shots, start thinking about it. When you start beating INT’s in your moto, seriously consider it and when you start hearing suggestions to move up from your EXPERT friends, just DO IT. You’ll be a better racing citizen and eventually a better racer with even MORE skills.
Next time: Moving up from INT to EXP.
Stu Osborn #657