Little tykes on motorbikes in rural Tasmania
Rural Tasmania – a perfect playground for little tykes on motor bikes.
Pick any rural town in Tasmania, and you’re sure to hear or see someone riding around on a dirt bike. What’s more, chances are they’re still at school.
Motocross is a sport with huge worldwide participation. For many motocross enthusiasts, their first go on a motorbike is often on a rural property around the age of four or five under the watchful eye of parents, and a slightly curious cattle dog.
In Tasmania, there’s a number of motorcycle clubs where kids can learn the basics of riding a motorbike in a controlled environment with an instructor. After five or six hours of training, they can progress to participating in events run by a motorcycle club.
The five basics of riding a dirt bike
Generally speaking, there are five basics to riding a dirt bike – brakes, turning, clutch, speed and ride. The more these basics are practised, the more confident a young rider will be, even if it might be a little boring after awhile.
- Brakes: Before starting the engine on the bike, get your child to sit on the bike and roll down a gentle slope to practice front and rear braking so they know how to slow down and come to a smooth, complete stop.
- Turning: If your child is a four or five-year-old, training wheels can really make a difference. Get them to focus on controlling the throttle, riding back and forth in straight lines initially, and then encourage them to make big slow sweeping circles.
Once they become confident and want to balance the bike (and it won’t take long) then it’s time to ditch the trainers, and move to two wheels.
- Clutch: Clutches can be tricky to get used to, so get your child to practice slowly releasing the clutch as they gently open the throttle so they learn the relationship between the two. Finding the ‘sweet spot’ is the key to confidence while taking off. In the beginning, expect lots of lurching and stalling, but once clutch and throttle control becomes second nature, they’ll find it a lot easier to change gears while riding.
- Speed: This is where kids can get into trouble. (In fact, this is where adults can get into trouble). The smallest dirt bikes often feature adjustable speed limiters that allow you to set a top speed limit on the throttle. This is a great idea, at least until you’re confident they can control the bike going faster.
- Ride: This one is an oldie but a goodie. Kids love practising steering a bike while sitting in front of their mum or dad, and it’s an excellent way to help them understand how the throttle works.
Of course, if you don’t have time to teach your kids yourself, then there are plenty of licensed coaches around Tasmania who’ll teach your child the basics of riding a dirt bike.
Motorcross Clubs in Tasmania
On the Motorcycling Tasmania website, there’s eight motorcycle clubs across the state offering organised motocross and dirt bike activities. In most cases, the minimum age requirement stated for joining a club is just four.
Steph Breen is secretary of the East Coast Motocross Club, based at St Helens. The Club has around 35 to 40 Club members, and is one of the smaller clubs in the state.
“It’s a great sport for kids to get into”, she said. “We’ve got riders as young as 7 competing, and then we go right up to young men in their early 20s who have been with the club for years.”
Like all the clubs, there is a strong emphasis on safety.
“We’ve always got an ambulance on standby at our events”, she said. “You can’t do any racing until you’ve completed a minimum of five hours training with an instructor.”
The Club’s dirt track has been built on private land, and holds events once a month, on average. Family membership is around $50, and volunteers play a big part in keeping the club alive.
“I didn’t know anything about motocross in the beginning”.
We got invited along by neighbours a few years ago, and I just really liked it,” she said.
“We have about half a dozen people on our board, and the club has been going now for over 20 years”.
On the 2018 calendar of motorcycling events in Tasmania, motocross is by far the most popular discipline, and features in over 70 events organised throughout the year. The biggest event on the calendar is the Australian Junior Motocross Championships, starting September 28 – October 6 at Blackwood Park, in Penguin.
For details on upcoming motocross events across the state, visit the Motorcycling Tasmania website.