Thrill-seekers and racing enthusiasts ranging from toddlers to adults gather at the Port Angeles BMX track twice a week to test the limits of their abilities and attempt to best their previous times.
“Anybody can race,” said Geri Thompson, track director. “If you can ride a bike, you can get out there and do it.”
Participants range in age from 3 years to over 60 years old, bearing nicknames such as Mariah “The Wind” Fortman, Seth “Airtime” Christian, “Tornado” Trey Hill and Lincoln “Iceman” Adams.
Thompson, who has been involved with the track since 1994, including the past three years in her current capacity, said the sport is one that people can enjoy as they grow up.
“I have kids that I helped out when they were 8 or 9 years old; now, they’re 21 years old and they are still racing,” said Thompson, who has won multiple state championships and is one of the older active racers in the United States.
The Port Angeles track is one of 10 in Washington and Thompson, 50, estimates that it has been open for more than 20 years.
All races are sanctioned by the American Bicycle Association (ABA).
Thompson said young riders can become discouraged when they don’t vault immediately to the top of the standings.
“It can’t be about the awards,” Thompson said.” You really have to love riding your bike, being on the track.”
One of the most common mistakes made by rookie riders is to out-do themselves on the track by trying to go too fast on their first races.
“It’s a matter of building up your skill level and it could take years,” Thompson said. “It’s an extreme sport and you just have to be able to ride and perfect your own skill.”
Participants race in one of six classes: novice, intermediate, expert, cruiser, girls and girls cruiser.
Races are held April-October on Tuesdays and Sundays. On Tuesdays, sign-ups begin at 5 p.m. and end at 6:45 p.m., with races starting shortly thereafter. On Sundays, sign-ups last from noon-1 p.m. and the first race starts soon after. Inexperienced riders are encouraged to go to the track on Thursdays from 4 p.m. until dusk for practice and tryouts.
Participation in the races requires a temporary or full-time ABA membership, BMX bicycle, helmet, long sleeves, long pants and secure shoes.
Full-time memberships cost $45. Admittance to the track, located near the southwest corner of Lincoln Park, is free for spectators.