Kicking the MX Habit
Motocross addiction is not yet recognized by the American Medical Association (the other AMA); however, its effects can be just as serious as an addiction to alcohol or drugs. During the racing years, it shows itself as dedication which helps the person become a successful racer. But after retirement, it can cause erratic or self-defeating behavior. Being from the land of 10,000 treatment centers (Minnesota) as well as being a recovering motocross addict, I felt that I would be able to help others that are suffering from this affliction.

Riders quit racing for many reasons. They could be financial, physical or due to other commitments. Often, the addiction will remain. Once your racing days are over, it can become a disruptive force that leaves you feeling purposeless in life. It is important to learn to recognize the warning signs and take steps to readjust to a society made up of non-racers.

During your racing days, it's hard to distinguish between dedication to the sport and obsession. The best racers often have a narrow focus. It can go too far though. Were all your reading materials related to motorcycles? Did you only participate in other sports to keep in shape for racing? Were you almost 30 years old and still living with your parents so you could afford to race? These are some early warning signs.

Once you stop racing, the symptoms are easier to recognize. Here are a few of the more obvious ones:
* Racing Fantasies - Do you picture yourself holeshotting a national? Do you have daydreams about smoking a local race while your friends, relatives and coworkers in the crowd watch in admiration and amazement?
* Racing Paradigms - Another sign is constant analogies to racing. Do you need to think of everything in terms of racing situations? For example, if someone is talking about malnutrition, do you suggest that it is a lot like when your carburetor jetting is too lean?
* Physical Signs - Does your heart still race when you hear the familiar sounds of the one minute card being held up? Do you find yourself turning an imaginary throttle when you get in a hurry? Do you still wake up early Sunday morning? Although harmless, these could be your body's reaction to going cold turkey on racing.
* No New Interests - Have you not tried to get interested in any other activities? Do you still read and memorize every last technical detail of the latest race bike offerings despite the fact that you are supposedly not going to be buying one soon?
* Irrational Plans to Resume Racing - Have you considered living in a box instead of having to pay rent each month so that you could afford to race? Has your doctor told you that you don't have any cartilage in your right knee, but you feel a good brace will protect it?; Have you though about cutting your sleeping time down to two hours a night so that you'll have enough time to work that extra job and maintain the bike. Is your wife's ultimatum of "her or racing" becoming a close call?

If you found that you had two or more of the above symptoms, then you are addicted to motocross. The first step is to admit this condition. You can then take steps to deal with it, and begin to adjust to a society where most people are not even sure what motocross is. (Yes, people can really be that ignorant). Through personal experience and interviews with many ex-racers, I've compiled that following list of tips to help you through the adjustment period.

• Talk About Your Feelings - It is not healthy to hold your pain inside. Sharing it with others is beneficial. It is important to consider who it is you are talking to. It's tough to talk to people who still race. If they are still "using", your silly reasons for quitting, such as crushed vertebrae or impending house foreclosure, seem like the lame excuses of a has-been. Remember their perspective and don't let it sway you. Try to talk with other people who have quit racing. Realize that it is OK to feel an emptiness on what used to be your race day, or to look at old race photos every now and then. Knowing other people share your pain is helpful. Don't let it turn into a constant bench racing session, however. Try to focus on the positive aspects of your present life.

• Go Trail Riding - If you are physically able, try to continue riding. This is a good financial compromise as well. The monetary requirements are much more modest than they are for racing. This may call for an attitude adjustment. Many racers have a contemptuous view of weekend trail riders or for bikes with such frivolous features as lights or kick stands. Where's the adrenaline rush? How could that be fun? The thing to remember is what got you into dirt bike riding to begin with. Not too many people started racing. They did trail riding first. Think back to what got you started. You can also rationalize it by thinking about how much more riding you get to do. When racing (a single class), you get one crowded five minute practice and two 10-30 minute races. You can trail ride for hours if you want to. Plus, you don't have to train all week.

• Try Mountain Biking - If you can't find places to ride motorcycles or people to ride with, you might want to start mountain biking. Many former (and current) racers ride mountain bikes. It's a great way to stay in shape, and to retain some of your dirt bike handling skills. You might even want to hit a mountain bike race every once in a while. The uphills can be a real chore, but it sure is fun to show those wimpy ex-roadracer bikers the fast way down the hills. They tend to think motocrossers are somewhat kamikaze which can be a real boost for your self-esteem.

• Get New Hobbies and Goals - Try something completely unrelated to Motocross. I've found Judo to be a challenging and rewarding sport. It doesn't even have to be a sport. You could learn (or re-learn) to play a musical instrument, for example. The important thing is to expand your horizons. If MX is still a constant theme in your fantasies, you might want to reconsider your goals in life. Try to get passionate about ones that don't involve racing. It's OK to dream occasionally. Married men daydream about other women sometimes (of course, not me though dear), but if it becomes a constant obsession, there can be problems.

• Turn MX Spectating into a Positive Experience - One danger in dirt biking and mountain biking is that it can lead to thoughts of a comeback. You start thinking that you're still in good enough shape and fast enough to do well. Maybe you might go out to the races just to see how things are. With this in mind, I offer a few tips for spectating.
* If there is a national in your area, go to it. Said one former racer, "When I see that the guys getting lapped are going faster around the track then I ever did, I realize I made the right career choice." Try your hardest to bring non-riders with you. It might surprise you who ends up enjoying it. You'll also help promote the sport you love and possibly earn some extra respect.
 "Wow, you used to do this?"
 "Not quite this well, but yes."
* Amateur races are another story. For some, at least initially, it is too painful. It's like watching someone kiss your ex-girlfriend. You feel like an outsider; like those ex- racers you used to see at the track back when you raced. It always made you wonder why they were there. One thing you don't want to do is watch the class that you would be racing in if you started again and figure how well you would do. Remember back to when you first watched a race, particularly a novice class, and thought how slow they were. It was a different story when you were racing against them. Those hacks went pretty fast.
* Use trips to the races to reinforce your decision to quit. Look at the big double jumps and some of the other risks that are necessary to do well. Would you really still be willing to take those chances? Start pricing some of the bikes and gear. That will slap you back to reality as well. You might also want to talk with some of the racers about what they do during the week. Sunday is always the pinnacle of a motocrossers life, the glory day. The rest of the week is often spent training, working on the bike and giving up most social occasions. Remember the sacrifices, not just the fun parts.

• Put your Racing Days Behind You - A good first step is to display old trophies less prominently. Try to think back to those old men talking about their glory days in baseball or whatever and how pathetic they sounded. You don't have to forget that you ever raced, but don't dwell on it. Look ahead. If you think of your racing days as the peak of your life, then how can the rest be anything but downhill?

Fairly often, a racer will relapse and start racing again. This is not necessarily bad. The conditions that lead to quitting may have changed so that it makes sense again to race. Other times, the reasoning behind it is irrational. While there is certain amount of irrationality necessary to race, you need to try to see if you are getting out of it what you had envisioned or if you are ruining the rest of your life. Don't judge purely on the results. Ask yourself if you are having fun.

Many former motocrossers have gone on to live productive lives. They use the dedication, determination, and mental toughness learned from racing to be successful at other aspects of life. Compared to trying to hold the lead in a hotly contested race, doing well in school, running a successful business or whittling away at world hunger are comparatively easy. When someone asks you how you do it, tell them proudly, "I'm a motocrosser." They might not know what that means, but that'll be their problem.

This was originally written somewhere in the "Racing Dormant Period", about 1992, and revised for web around 1998

Editor's Note from about 2005 - Since this was written (2000), the author has fallen off the wagon and has started riding and racing again. Despite not riding dirt bikes for nine years and frequent health problems, he insists that his return to racing is rational.

Editor's Note from 2016 - The author last raced in 2009.