Some things — gas prices, number of participants in age groups — change.
Some things never change.
“Who doesn’t not like dirt bikes?” Soldotna’s Zac Aragon said. “I’ve never met anybody that doesn’t like dirt bikes.”
Aragon raced at Alaska State Motocross Races 3 and 4 on Saturday and Sunday at Twin City Raceway in Kenai.
Lacie Kelly, president of the Kenai Peninsula Racing Lions – Motocross Division, has been either the president or vice president of the organization for the past 11 years.
Locally, Kelly said numbers have been the steady in the Motocross Division, but she said the riders have gotten a lot younger.
In the past, Kelly said the Motocross Division has had big pro or expert classes.
“Right now, for our city level, the biggest class is the 85 novice class,” Kelly said. “Which is really cool, because those kids will build up and then eventually we’ll have a big expert class again.”
Kelly said that cycle is typical. She said a big group of riders will come in and advance with the sport until about 25.
“The older guys, they get good jobs and they can’t get hurt,” Kelly said.
As for the eight-race state series that takes place in Kenai, Anchorage and Fairbanks, Kelly said numbers were down for races 3 and 4 at Kenai. Saturday and Sunday, Kelly said there were 98 racers entered in 154 different categories.
Normally, she said 175 to 220 riders will be at the Kenai state weekend.
Kelly said the most obvious reason is gas prices. Before gas prices went up, Kelly and her husband, Jesse, would take a toy hauler and big truck to Fairbanks, with each trip costing $1,000.
“A lot of Fairbanks people didn’t come down because it’s just too much,” Kelly said.
At 35, Aragon bucks the trend of the local riders getting younger, but Aragon’s son, Cooper, along with Soldotna’s Karbon Lindley, are part of a crop of young, promising riders in the area.
Zac started riding when he was 15 years old and has been doing it for the last 20 years. Fortunately, Cory Davis got Zac into riding. Davis is now Zac’s boss at Davis Block and Concrete, so Zac has been able to keep riding.
“It’s so gnarly that it takes one little crash and you could be off for a year,” Zac said. “Some people, with their jobs and lifestyle, just can’t handle that.”
Zac said he is fortunate that his job has allowed him to keep racing bikes.
“It’s a close group and a family,” Zac said. “Everybody here is willing to help anybody and everybody.
“If you feel like you need help, and you don’t have help, there’s somebody here that’s gonna make it happen. I’m real big on the mental side of it. You’ve got to push yourself, you’ve got to keep yourself in shape, you’ve got to keep yourself healthy to perform as best as you can.”
Zac said motocross also is a great sport to share with his son. Zac has a 125 intermediate state title from his teenage years on the bike, and won a vet expert state title two years ago. Cooper, 8, already has a 50 intermediate state title and 65 novice state title.
“It’s cool to watch the cycle,” Zac said. “To watch little kids grow from not knowing how to ride a motorcycle to being one of the best in the state and leaving the state and being really competitive down south.”
Both the Aragons have two state titles. This year, Zac is taking aim at a vet expert state title, while Cooper has an 85 novice state title in his sights.
“It’s pretty cool being able to get a state title with your kid,” Zac said. “We’re both out here doing the same thing and achieving the same goal.”
That’s why the Aragons will be happy to pay the gas to race state in Fairbanks.
“We’re pretty committed to the state series,” Zac said.
Cooper, who will be a third grader at K-Beach Elementary, said motocross is a great opportunity to do something fun with his friends.
“I just like to have fun and do what my dad says,” said Cooper, who started riding when he was 2. “I just try to get good places and have fun.”
Lindley, the son of Kayla and Alec Lindley, got into motocross due to grandparents, John and Joyce Mullican.
Karbon, who will be a second grader at Soldotna Elementary, started riding when he was 4. Last year, he was already winning a state title in 50 intermediate before moving up to 50 expert this season.
The rapid improvement can be chalked up to Lindley practicing three or four times a week and racing in both the local and Anchorage city series.