Motocross Racing with REM at Glen Helen

March 12, 2010
Adam Waheed
By Adam Waheed
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His insatiable thirst for life is only surpassed by his monthly fuel bill. Whether rocketing on land, flying through the air, or jumping the seas, our Road Test Editor does it all and has the scars to prove it.

One of the most entertaining elements of motocross racing is getting the opportunity to push yourself as well as the bike to its limits during a race.
One of the most entertaining elements of motocross racing is getting the opportunity to push yourself as well as the bike to its limits during a race.

As part of our 2010 250 Motocross Shootout we hit Southern California’s Glen Helen Raceway for a day of racing with Racing Enterprises Motorsports (REM). After all, what better way to thoroughly evaluate each dirt bike than to race it?

REM holds races almost every Saturday on its own track adjacent to the national course. The track utilizes Mother Nature’s natural blueprint, complete with uphills, downhills, and a variety of turns—both fast and slow, some off-camber, and even a few simple jumps. The layout flows well and is about as safe as motocross tracks come. In fact, at REM rider safety is absolutely paramount. Accordingly they have a multitude of skilled and attentive corner workers and even an on-site ambulance in case of an emergency.

Each week racers are treated to a modified layout which helps keep things fresh and exciting. Typically the terrain is a mix of sand and hard pack, but after heavy rain the dirt transforms into nearly perfect consistency allowing for awesomely-deep ruts, loamy berms, and generally excellent conditions.

To participate you must first pay a $20 gate fee at the main entrance of Glen Helen. Head inside the track and climb up the dirt road and that’s where the pits are for REM competitors. Race day begins early with registration opening at 8:00 a.m. 

In between practice and the races  a riders meeting takes place at the registration tower. There they go over various rules and definitions of flags. The meeting is short and sweet and upon conclusions the first moto of the day begins.
Riders launch from a concrete starting gate which makes the art of launching your dirt bike more challenging due to the limited traction available from its surface.
Typically the soil at Glen Helen is mostly hard pack. But after a good dousing of rain the soil transforms into a wonderful mix of both hard pack and sand.

There are multiple classes for virtually any type of dirt bike, big or small. Classes are further divided by skill level, ranging from beginner all the way up to pro. REM runs a two-moto format, so every class you enter gets you a pair shots at glory. Pros run 20-minute motos, everyone else does 15-minute races. Cost is $40 for the first class and $20 for an additional entry. Membership is also available, netting you a $5 discount and eligibility for class points and prizes given away by sponsors such as LightSpeed and EKS X-Brand goggles throughout the year.

Practice starts at 9:00 a.m. and is separated by class. Each class gets one 10-minute practice. There is also an opening practice session that is slightly longer at 15 minutes and is open to all riders competing on bikes 125cc and up. After practice is over, riders gather at the registration building for a quick rider’s meeting. Here they go over the meaning of flags you might see waved by a track worker, point out any potential safety hazards, and let you know the day’s schedule. Meanwhile track workers re-prep the racetrack ensuring optimum conditions for the day’s races. Upon conclusion, Race 1 competitors head to the starting gate for the first moto of the day.

As opposed to a conventional dirt start, REM uses fixed concrete starting gates, which make the art of launching far more challenging. If you’ve never experienced the rush of a motocross start than you’re simply missing out on one of motorcycling’s best kept secrets! There’s just something about lining up wheel-to-wheel with a bunch of other riders all jockeying to get into Turn 1 before you. It’s an adrenaline rush that few things on two wheels can compare with.

Getting a good start is the most crucial element of a race. When you’re out in front you can ride your own pace and don’t have to worry about what the guy in front of you is going to do. It’s also much easier to ride when you aren’t being pummeled by roost. For the most part, everyone rides fairly cleanly. Sure there is some occasional bar-banging, but at the end of the day everyone’s got to report to work on Monday so getting hurt isn’t on anyone’s agenda.

One of the craziest things about motocross racing is the level of intensity. As opposed to just riding during an open practice day, when racing, you’re senses are at a heightened sense of awareness. You’re so focused it’s easy to forget some of the nuances of riding, including correct body position and scouting for alternate lines. Instead most amateurs, myself included sometimes, revert back to caveman-like instinct with all concentration channeled squarely on the rear fender of the bike ahead of you. Can you say Red Mist?!

Getting a good start is one of the most important elements of the race. That way youre not being blasted by roost or having to worry about the guy in front of you crashing in your path.
Getting a good start is one of the most important elements of the race. That way you’re not being blasted by roost or having to worry about the guy in front of you crashing in your path.

When you’re in the midst of a battle for position the initial rush of adrenaline that you felt at the start of the race continues on. On the contrary, if you’re solo (and not leading) it wears off and replaced with fatigue for all but the most experienced and physically fit. This makes it harder to hold onto the bike in the closing laps, but as soon as you see that last lap flag your body shoots its last shot of adrenaline which is good enough to push you to the checkered flag.

After each race the results are tabulated and posted on the window of the registration building. Though, it would be nice if REM recorded lap times with a transponder device in order for you to be able to analyze your performance. If you haven’t quite had your fill, in between motos you’re also free to go rip laps around Glen Helen’s main track, however if you’re smart, you’ll save up your energy for the second moto—trust me you’ll need it.

For a racing novice, one of the benefits of competing on 250F-style motocross bikes is how much friendlier they are to ride than bigger displacement bikes. Sure they don’t have that jaw dropping acceleration force that we love about 450s, but they are around 25 lbs lighter and way easier to dance with for the duration of the moto. For ultimate thrills, however, you simply can’t beat two 15-minute wrestling sessions with a 250 lbs 450 MX’er churning 45-plus horsepower at the rear tire—just pray you can hang on. 

The composition of the dirt during the winter months at Glen Helen is as good as it gets.
The composition of the dirt during the winter months at Glen Helen is as good as it gets.

Part of the allure of REM’s racing series is how efficiently they’re able to run through the races. Occasionally they’ll be an announcer that will keep you abreast of the day’s schedule, other times it’s your responsibility to know when it’s your turn at the starting gate. The swift pace at which all of the races run mean you’re done, loaded, and already heading home by 2:00 p.m.—a boon for those who have other things to do than just race motorcycles.

Racing dirt bikes with REM certainly isn’t for everyone. It’s a tad more expensive than a typical open practice day and you can’t just ride whenever you want (unless you take on the big track). However, if you’re looking to experience the thrill of competition within a safe track, yet exhilarating track, then there isn’t a better place than REM.

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