Open source software represents everything that is good about technology culture. The concept is simple and oh-so-democratic: Someone starts a thread of software code that will do something useful, like provide an alternate operating system, for example. Then they put their work out there in the public domain and invite like-minded folks to add on to it to increase its capabilities in new areas that contribute to the original utility.
Some amazing applications are emerging from this open source model.
So it got me to thinking… what about applying the same development concept to a motocross track?
Several years ago, my cousin stumbled across an abandoned MX track out in the sage brush in the small hamlet of Greenwich, Utah. It was clear that it had not been ridden in years, but there was a faded sign posted on the property that read “Go big or go home.” And, oddly enough, a very large and also very faded bra was hung from the sign.
He interpreted the sign to mean that anyone was welcome to ride so long as they actually RODE the track. What does that mean?
Well, the track has three large gap jumps that are no laughing matter for weekend warrior types, like me. The sign seemed to imply that others are welcome to ride so long as they don’t disrespect the track by simply rolling over the big jumps.
My cousin seemed to take the sign’s admonition to heart and harrassed me with exaggerated disapproving head shakes when he saw me slam on my brakes and roll over the big 40-footer.
“Third gear wide open! Just follow me,” he yelled in disgust.
I had all the small gaps figured out, but there is a huge mental aspect to hitting a big gap jump. It is the closest thing I’ve experienced to running a class V waterfall in that there is a point of no return that you must face without flinching.
If you flich and lose focus once you’ve crossed over the point of no return, really bad things can happen. Like coming up short on the jump landing or missing the must-make line on a waterfall. Here are two examples of what I’m talking about:
It wasn’t just the taunting from my cousin. I wanted to to hit that gap for the sheer thrill and because I don’t like leaving things undone. I knew I could clear it once I got into a flow on the rest of the track. So I put my mouthguard in (figuratively) and started putting in some hot laps, paying careful attention to my corner speed coming out of the turn right before the biggest gap.
The third time around I carried second gear through the final turn and flogged the throttle as I short-shifted up to third. Twenty feet out from the takeoff I was wide open and closing way too fast to do anything but embrace my leap into the void.
Welcome to the point of no return.
I made that gap, touching down softly 40 feet after taking off. But I digress. This is a post about open source track building.
We grew to love that abandoned track, big scary jumps and all. But we felt it could be improved in a few spots. My cousin put together a Visio drawing of where he wanted to add some value. Then we borrowed a tractor, formed a shovel brigade and went to work on adding to what was already a great track.
That was all two years ago.
This year we show up for our first session of the season and we find that someone else (no ideas who) has added an altogether new section–and it is hardcore! Big jumps and long whoops. Very nice, but it still needs polishing. Which is to say, it needs to be ridden–a lot.
So get your mouthguard out and blow the dust off your dirt bike and get on down to Greenwich, Utah. Old Schoolhouse Road to be exact. You’ll spot the 40-foot gap jump emerging out of the sage brush.
Oh, and bring a shovel.