OHV Primer: Riding for fun and competition

Finding places to ride

The off-road scene can be a little confusing to a family just getting into the sport, but it doesn't have to be that way.

Many Honda dealers sponsor organized local riding activities. Their events are typically posted on the dealer's bulletin board and Web site. Riding with an OHV club offers two key benefits: club members will have an intimate knowledge of the local riding areas and clubs frequently schedule riding weekends, providing an excellent opportunity to meet fellow off-road riders. There are hundreds of off-road motorcycle clubs across the country; virtually all are family friendly and based near OHV riding areas. Many riders and their clubs belong to the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA). To locate an AMA club, visit www.ama-cycle.org.

OHV recreation funding

When it comes to developing new riding areas, there is good news for OHV riders at the national level. The National Recreational Trails Program is the direct result of efforts by organizations like the AMA, the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC), the Blue Ribbon Coalition and others to fund the preservation, maintenance and creation of OHV trails throughout the country. To learn more, visit www.americantrails.org/nationalrecreationtrails.

Family involvement

As families become more involved with their local riding club, it is not uncommon for them to participate in trail maintenance days. Coordinated with local, state and national forest land managers, these volunteer efforts are crucially important to preserve OHV riding areas. These activities are also a great way to instruct youngsters about land stewardship and responsible riding practices. By teaching the younger generation how to protect off-road riding areas, we ensure that future generations will learn the same land-use ethics.

There are numerous opportunities for families to become involved in efforts to maintain and open new OHV areas. In addition to working with local land managers, those interested in working at a state or national level should contact the NOHVCC. NOHVCC is a publicly supported, education foundation organized for the sole purpose of promoting safe, responsible, family oriented off-road recreational experiences. To contact a state representative and learn more about their numerous programs and initiatives, visit www.nohvcc.org.

Getting involved in competition

It is not uncommon for families to become involved in off-road motorcycle competition. While it is an individual sport that develops young hearts and minds, it also fosters a strong sense of sacrifice and teamwork. Thankfully, there are many exciting forms of amateur racing from which to choose.


Perhaps the best known today is motocross, where competitors race on outdoor closed-course tracks that feature jumps, whoops and banked turns. Motocross tracks are common in most urban areas and are typically open throughout the week for practice. It is one of the most demanding forms of motorcycle racing; participants develop incredible cardiovascular fitness as well as keen hand/eye coordination. Professional motocross racing and its American offshoot Supercross have become the most successful form of two-wheel racing in the U.S.

Off-road racing

Dirt track, hare scrambles, enduro and desert racing are also very popular forms of outdoor competition. Dirt track is the oldest form of off-road motorcycle racing in the country. Dirt track races are staged on specially prepared flat or banked oval tracks and pit riders against one another in a predetermined number of laps. Hare scrambles (or cross-country) occur over any course, preferably trails, where a rider's ability is the determining factor and no time schedule is followed. The closed course features laps that can vary from 2.5 to 25 miles in length and may include little-used roads, trails, uphills and motocross tracks. Enduros take place on courses similar to hare scrambles, but speed is not the determining factor of victory. Instead, a time schedule must be maintained and riders can actually be penalized for going too fast in a given section. Desert racing occurs in vast, open areas where riders compete on a point-to-point or lap-type course; the first to finish is the winner. Average speeds are high and courses typically feature dry lake beds, rocky, rugged mountain terrain, sand washes, natural-occurring whoops and more.

A number of organizations sanction these various forms of racing. In addition to AMA, visit Grand National Cross Country at www.gnccracing.com and SCORE International at www.score-international.com to learn more.

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