GTPulse: GTCBMX Opens for 21st Season

Entertainment options have changed for at least the summer. With recreational activities like movie theaters, concerts and larger sporting events off the table, how will our summer evenings be spent? For me personally, I’ll be spending more time outside with friends. For local BMX bikers, they’ll be spending a couple of evenings a week riding around the GTCBMX track with their friends, surrounded by family that makes up their community.

“I’m from Traverse, I actually grew up about a mile from here. My cousin is our track operator and he’s the one who actually got me out here. I don’t race and I haven’t raced. I’ve actually only set foot on the track a couple of times.”

Sam Magee is the secretary and treasurer of the bike track and though she’s never participated in the sport she’s passionate about it, and making the track a place anyone interested feels comfortable to come.

“If you want to practice and race you can participate for free the first time. After that’s there’s a membership that you have to pay that’s $60. It’s good for the whole year, so it’s reasonable.”

There are those that dip their toes, and also those that show up religiously.

“It takes around 34 seconds to complete the track. Obviously the younger, the slower, their legs aren’t quite as fast.”

For their summer schedule, practices are on Tuesday and races are on Thursday.

“So, this is a very atypical year for us because of coronavirus. We start racing at the end of April, beginning of May. This year we pushed back all the way until the end of May. Until TCAPS last day, we race on Friday nights. The kids can stay up a little later before going to bed, we don’t start racing until about 7:15. After their last day of school we move to a Thursday night race so people can go camping or to go on vacation.”

Although there are teams in the area, the GTCBMX track is not home to any specific one, and riders that enjoy using the track are of all different ages and abilities.

“There’s different teams around, and basically it’s a group of riders. Typically our age group here starts at two years old. They start on a balance bike. Our oldest rider that we have who races in 60.”

Riders are required to wear helmets, but also long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect their skin from falls. Elbow and knee pads protect them from getting too scraped up, but the track is also easier for falls because it’s made of clay and not gravel. Although easier for falls, a lot of maintenance is required.

“There’s a lot of work that goes into the track. Our track is made from clay. When it rains or, after the winter after the snow leaves, it gets really soft and all of the indentations come out. We have to smooth those out. It’s like raking. We have a riding lawn mower tractor and a metal piece that we drag to smooth it out.”

How much they have to groom the track for their racing season depends on how much rainfall there is. Every time there’s heavy rain, the track needs to be refreshed. But you won’t find any sour attitudes about upkeep at GTCBMX.

“People aren’t paid to work here. Everyone volunteers their time. Parents, family members, friends, we do this because we love it.”

The riders are grateful for the care and support put forth by the volunteers. There’s a strong sense of community between riders and their families.

“That’s another nice thing about our sport is it’s very family-oriented. We have several families that have multiple kids that race, that bring cousins out to race, then friends out to race. We have a lot of families that have mom, dad and kid racing. It’s not just a kids sport. It’s a family sport. You travel together, you race together.”

Watching BMX bikers is enthralling, and races are open to the public to watch. The GTCBMX family welcomes and encourages spectators.

“We have full concessions where we sell hot dogs and hamburgers, lots of snacks, lots of candy. Anyone who wants to come watch can do it for free.”

If you’re looking for ways to get out and active this summer, consider getting back on a bike in a new way. If you’re looking for ways to get out that feels a little less extreme, consider going to watch some young riders race against each other on a Thursday night, with Orange Crush and a hot dog. A weekend-long race starts this Thursday at 5 p.m. and runs through Sunday.

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Categories: GTPulse