Readers and their Rides

The Clemons - Double Take on the Track

Written by  November 30, 2003

They are suited up, the engines revved up and the Clemons' family is on the go - with motocross racing. Is that Mark? No, it's Mike. Is that Mike? No, it's Mark. It's hard to tell since Mark and Mike are twin brothers; and their sons, Alex and Jordan also race. The similarities don't end there; they also live next door to each other on acreage in Kearney, Missouri. They do water sports together and sometimes even vacation together. Mike built a practice track and Mark has the trailer to haul the bikes, which seems to be a cool set up for everyone.

When we talk about all types of enthusiasts in motorcycling, racing is no exception. Mark is a Master Plumber and new homebuilder working out in the field, while Mike has an executive indoor position as Chief Financial Officer for a toy company in Kansas City. It's quite apparent the fun and bonding that goes on between brothers, father and son, and the cousins in this family.

Mike and Mark started racing motocross as kids. In those days, there was little league baseball, but no other organized sports leagues for football or basketball. Mike didn't like baseball so motocross seemed like a sport worth pursuing to pass the summer. His first race was in Butler, Missouri at the age of 9, riding a Honda SL-70. He said he wrecked after every jump he attempted and was crying somewhere out on the track waiting for someone to rescue him, not because he was hurt, but because he wanted to quit. Then they started racing on a flat track in Holt, Missouri and started winning. Their dad made some modifications to their bikes to make them more competitive, (new top end bored out to make it oversized and worked on the carburetor) and we started riding better.

CC: How did Jordan and Alex get into motocross racing?

Mike: Jordan started first, when he was 9 years old in 1999. He started riding motorcycles at the age of 8 and seemed like a natural on the bike. It seemed only obvious that he would be pushed into his father's footsteps and race. Jordan took a little longer to show skill at the sport, however, he's timid by nature and it took a while for him to develop a competitive spirit.

Mark: Alex waited until after baseball season and before summer boredom set in. I had already bought a bike and played around with it, then one thing led to another and we got into racing.

CC: On what type of track or road do you race?

Mike: So far, our racing has only been on fixed length motocross tracks, no riding or racing in the woods or off-road.

CC: Since both of you are over 40, are there other father/son teams?

Mike: There are many father/son riding teams. There is a 50+ age group at a lot of the tracks we go to. It's funny, but several of the riders Mark and I race against we remember from our early racing experience. So the sport does have retention value from the sense that kids can continue racing up through adulthood.

CC: How old are you, Alex & Jordan?

Alex: I am 11 and in the fifth grade at Summit Ridge.

Jordan: I am 13 and in the eighth grade at Kearney Junior High.

Mark: There are also some 4 year olds that race 50cc bikes.

CC: What size of bikes do you race?

Mark: I ride a 4-stroke 450 Honda.

Alex: I ride an 85 Honda SR.

Mike: I ride a 2-stroke YZ250 Yamaha.

Jordan: I ride a YZ80 Yamaha, but will be riding a 125cc bike in 2004.

CC: Do you race in age or skill categories?

Mike: At the mini-bike level there are only age category classes. So Jordan rides in his class with others his age. He also rides in a Super-Mini class which allows kids regardless of age to ride in the class on bikes up to 100CC. Mark and I ride in the 40+ money age group and in the 250cc Novice class.

CC: Why is it called the 'money' age group?

Mike: Money as prizes attracts better riders.

CC: How much can a rider typically win?

Mark: Up to $150 or about $75 per class. But you also have to pay your expenses for each race and that includes a gate fee of $7 to get in, then $25 entry fee per class you enter. So if you win, you come out a little ahead.

CC: Do you have any aspirations to race pro?

Mark: I'm too old.

Alex: When I grow up, I would like to, but it takes a lot of dedication and money.

Mike: Jordan and I participate in the sport because it's fun; not to make money, so we are happy riding as amateurs.

CC: What is the annual cost to get involved in racing?

Mike: Not including the bikes, somewhere in the $6,000-7,000 a year range. That includes gas, entry fees, repairs, service, clothes, hotels if we travel and meals.

CC: What have been the highlights of your racing?

Mark: The excitement of getting away, watching the pros race and it gets the adrenalin flowing.

Mike: Racing in Millville, Minnesota this year where the national pros race. We have traveled to Oklahoma a couple times to participate in the Oklahoma State Championship series.

Jordan: I won the fall track championship in St. Joseph, Missouri and got a big trophy!

CC: What is the downside to racing?

Mark: The drive to get to the tracks, and I was knocked unconscious this summer when another rider ran into me.

Mike: Injuries. Thankfully, Jordan and Alex have not experienced any injuries; however, I have encountered two broken legs, a separated shoulder and have been knocked unconscious.

CC: What type of emergency assistance do they have on the premises during a race?

Mark: An ambulance is required at AMA sanctioned events.

Mike: In fact, if the ambulance has to leave, the racing is stopped until another ambulance arrives.

CC: Is there required riding apparel?

Mike: Motocross racers generally wear special attire (shirts and pants) designed to protect the body and to allow the free flow of air to remain cool. We wear special motocross boots, knee & shin guards, gloves and a helmet. Jordan wears a chest protector as well.

CC: Do you race year-round or is it seasonal?

Mark: It is open all year, unless it's really cold.

Mike: Oklahoma racing begins in January and usually lasts all year. We do not typically race every weekend, but depending on how far a person wanted to drive, a hardcore racer could race every weekend starting in April.

CC: How often do you practice between races and where do you train?

Mike: I built a practice track at our house and there is another rider we know that has a track at his house in Liberty. We practice once or twice during the week in the summer.

CC: What do you practice?

Mark: I teach Alex jump and speed skills. They also learn a lot by watching other kids race, especially the fast ones.

CC: Who is one of the most locally accomplished riders in motocross?

Mike: In our age group, Roger VanMetr of the Northland area is probably the best rider around. In Jordan's age group, several kids in the area are ranked nationally. At the top of the list is a rider named Dennis Jonon of Spring Hill, Kansas.

CC: Who is the top pro?

Mark: Ricky Carmichael, from Florida. He's 23 years old and awesome to watch.

CC: Are there female motocross racers?

Mark: There is a women's motocross league. If there are not enough girls to race in a class, they can enter with the guys and race.

CC: How many bikes have you owned?

Mark: Three when I was a kid and two as an adult.

Alex: I have had two.

Mike: Two. I started racing a Kawasaki KX-250 and now the Yamaha.

Jordan: Three. I started on a Yamaha PW-80, then a Kawasaki KX-60 and presently the Yamaha.

CC: Are there certain tracks you like better than others?

Mike: We like Grain Valley, Merwin, St. Joseph, Hamilton, and Kahoka - all in Missouri.

CC: Who maintains the bikes?

Mark: Kearney Cycle does any major work or repairs; otherwise we do what we can to maintain them.

Mike: I do most of the maintenance; however, any suspension or major modification work is done by a professional.

CC: Do you do any strength training to help muscle the bikes around?

Alex: I play football and basketball.

Mark: I don't, but should!

CC: What advice can you offer beginner riders?

Mark: Put a lot of time and effort into it, and be prepared for the cost.

Mike: Stay with it and don't get discouraged. Motocross is a skill sport. It takes experience to get better. Also, don't take the competitive side of the sport too seriously, just have fun.

CC: When you are not riding or training, what do you do for fun?

Jordan: Video games and paintball guns.

Alex: Bike riding and jumping off my ramp at home, riding my scooter and building mini-dirt tracks for my toys to race on.

As I wrapped up the interview, the Clemons' family was heading out the door to the Kearney High School football game. They may meet each other coming and going, but look out for them on the road. Mike just bought a new 31' motor home that will pull the trailer for their bikes. They plan on doing a lot more traveling in the spring with this new addition.

If you are interested in learning more about motocross racing, they suggested you tune in to ESPN2 on Saturdays or Sundays at 11:00 a.m. to see how thrilling this sport can be. Or check out the following motocross racing websites: www.mostatemx.com and www.hadenmx.com

Story & Photos by Goldie Arnold