Where kids catch air

6:26 a.m. Friday, Aug. 31, 2012 Recreation

Del Valle's ADVMX motocross park, off Pearce Lane in Southeastern Travis County, looks like piles of dirt during the workday. But in the evenings and on weekends, the dirt piles become ramps for motocross riders to launch their bikes off of and barriers for the bikers as they negotiate the hairpin turns of the track.

In Central Texas, tracks like this are hard to find.

Thursday evenings, the track is open to beginners for practice. More experienced riders follow slowly behind pint-sized riders on tiny motorcycles offering support and advice as they learn to ride the dirt track.

Cason Shoemaker brings his family out whenever they get a chance. Shoemaker, who rode when he was younger, was not crazy about his children riding motorcycles, though they begged him constantly. He knew the danger involved. One day, a client had a bike for sale that Shoemaker could not resist. He bought it for his older son, Cash, and within weeks, according to Shoemaker, he and his two other kids had bikes as well.

In the side parking area, parents unload the bikes as their children put on helmets, gloves and other protective gear. The gear is essential, not only because of the obvious wreck potential but to protect against rocks and dirt clumps kicked up by the knobby tires. Some kids are so small that parents need to start their bikes for them. Once these kids are on, though, look out!

There is no stopping them.

Families come from all over Central Texas to take advantage of beginner practice night. The more advanced beginner riders seem to ride together and do not intimidate the younger, less-experienced riders. Parents, mostly fathers, stand in the middle of track watching their kids learn to ride the jumps and hills, practicing shifting, braking and balance. On practice nights, signing a waiver gets spectators access to the track, and you can stand anywhere you like to watch the bikers. Spectators just need to be careful about crossing the track so they do not get hit or cause a beginner to wreck.

The track is constantly changing and evolving thanks to the keen eye and riding skill of Chris Ibey, track manager.

Jumps, curves or stretches of track might be modified by adding dirt, building new obstacles or changing the grade. The building of the F1 track nearby has been helpful to the motorcross track, which has been getting dirt from a wastewater treatment construction project. They have gotten enough new earth to be able to start work on a more advanced track, adjacent to the current one.

Changing the track improves the riding experience, explains Saul Arizpe, who maintains the track's website and rides with his son. He took up motorcross after he became bored with kite boarding. He started by renting a bike and trying out the track in Del Valle.

Soon, he had two bikes and was working with the owner of the track, Dennis Goering, to get the website up to date. The website features monthly question-and-answer pieces and video of local riders that Arizpe produces. To make the videos more interesting, he uses still shots, along with "go-pro" helmet cam, either on the rider's helmet or strapped to a "chaser" helmet.

Race nights can be found on the website. In the 2012 Evolution Championship Series, Round One was held Saturday, and rounds 2 and 3 are scheduled for Sept. 29 and Nov. 4. There are all kinds of classes, from beginner to advanced, and bike sizes.

Most of the riders agree that this is a great escape. The workout you get from keeping the cycle upright and under control is intense. The rush a rider gets from taking a corner and seeing the handle bars are inches from the ground is something you cannot get from other sports. Mostly, though, the time you spend riding, working on bikes and hanging out with family and friends makes this a sport worth spending money on.

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