BMX thrives in the Grand Valley
Looking for a sport for the whole family? One that combines fun, athletics, competition and thrills and can be pursued all year?
Look no farther than Orchard Mesa, where you can get hooked on BMX racing on almost any given Sunday.
“Some of the top riders in the country live right here in Grand Junction,” said Nick Adams, who’s been running the Grand Valley BMX track at the Mesa County Fairgrounds with his wife since 2006. Those top racers include Reid Austin, the top-ranked 11-year old in the country and Morgan Zimmerman, who ranks No. 8 in her age group.
The track is only used for races, which are held every Sunday beginning in February and running through mid-December. Races are also held on Friday nights during the school year and on Tuesday nights during the summer. Riders who want to practice their BMX style can brush up at the bike park at the Lunch Loops trail off Monument Road or at the new Fruita Bike Park off Highway 340.
“We have more riders doing BMX, per capita, than any city in the U.S.,” said Adams. “The track in Grand Junction happens to be one of the best in the United States.”
BMX riding and racing is open to anyone who can sit on a bike. Peddling isn’t necessary, as the strider race, in which riders use their feet to propel the bike, is open to anyone old enough to walk.
“They don’t race the full track,” Adams said. “Just the final stretch.”
There have been as many as 20 kids in the strider race alone on some race days. Usually, there are about 100 riders per race. Race groups are divided by age and proficiency, so expert 16-year olds aren’t racing novice 55-year olds. The largest classes of racers are between 5 and 12 years old, but young adults who left the sport as teenagers to pursue other sports, motorized vehicles or members of the opposite sex have a tendency to come back once they hit their 20s.
“On any given race day, you’ll see all shapes and sizes,” Adams said.
Riders have to be member of the American Bicycle Association to race. Membership costs $45 annually. They can pay their membership on race day, which gives them access to more than 370 BMX racetracks across the country. A monthly membership publication is part of package, as well. There is a small fee to race, which pays the bills at the track.
Some of the older racers at the track, like 57-year old Don Somers and 35-year old Jason Miles, began racing BMX because of their kids. Somers had raced motorcycles as a young man, but when his son wanted to try BMX in 1995, he decided he’d give it a try, too. Now, his son races occasionally, but Somers is still a diehard fan. He loves both the competition and the family atmosphere at the track.
Miles started racing BMX as a nine-year old and raced until he was 17. Then life got busy and he took a hiatus. When he had sons of his own, he decided it was time to come back to the sport. His oldest son, who’s not quite five, has been racing since he was two and a half. His youngest son, at two, is one of the strider bike racers.
Although it’s an individual sport, there’s a team atmosphere at the track. Most riders come out every Sunday, so their families get to know each other. Many of the riders race in other locations across the country, and the Grand Junction track has hosted races, drawing as many as 700 riders to one national event.
Adams sent out word on a Tuesday night that a reporter wanted to chat with racers and get some photographs on the following Wednesday. More than 30 riders and their families showed up to take advantage of the open track in spite of the chilly weather. That’s dedication, passion and love for their sport. That’s BMX in the Grand Valley.