BMX Racing – Playing In The Dirt Has Never Been Such Fun!

What do a 3-year-old boy named Diesel and a 31-year-old woman named Erin have in common? They both spend a couple of evenings a week “playing in the dirt” at the Nor Cal Boomtown BMX track in Shasta Lake City. And they’re not alone. Boys and girls of all ages are spinning their wheels at BMX (Bicycle Motocross) tracks across the nation.

The American Bicycle Association (ABA) is the national sanctioning body for the sport recording over 70,000 members and hosting over 250 tracks in North America. Bicycle motocross was inspired in the early seventies by Southern California children racing their bicycles around vacant dirt lots mimicking the moves of motorcycle professionals.

A popular motorcycle documentary On Any Sunday is said to have helped spread the growing movement nationally. The vintage film recorded the children popping wheelies, swooping over mounds and creating dust storms as they pedaled at full speed to see who would cross the finish line first.

The Schwinn StingRay with its “chopper-like” handlebars, short wheelbase, and 20-inch wheels provided great mobility and handling making the bike a favorite for years–a classic, to be sure.

But just as the BMX bicycle evolved over the years, adding knobby tires, light frames and upright handlebars – meeting the needs of its rider – the sport evolved formulating a system to manage the increased number of competitions happening throughout the nation.

According to the ABA website ( “The American Bicycle Association… completely changed and continues to shape the future of the sport it serves. The first step was to create a system of qualifying participants that was not only fair, but one which enhanced the competitive nature of the very sport itself and still afforded each and every rider the chance to be a winner.”

It did that by creating a point system where riders earn points based on how they place in a race, how many riders are in the race, the level (Novice, Intermediate, Expert) and the type of race (District, National, Redline, State/Provincial). Participants are organized into boy and girl classes, and are then divided into age groups and skill levels. Racers work up in levels by winning races and change into a new group after each birthday. Participants can win trophies, ribbons or track coins that can be spent on food or drinks at the track.

The ABA keeps a record of all points earned by those participating in a sanctioned race. (To learn more about the point system, visit the ABA website and see the Rule Book.) They not only established the rules of racing, providing fair competition, but they also set out to create a fun family environment.

Jeni Borgman, of Chico, says her family has benefited from the ABA’s efforts. “This sport is very family oriented,” says Borgman. “Parents tend to cheer on other kids more than their own. And when someone falls, everyone stands and shouts for the rider to get up.”

Mickey Borgman. Photo by Mark Irons

Mickey Borgman. Photo by Mark Irons

Last year, when her then 12-old-year son Mickey cracked his helmet after a crash, everyone pitched in to buy him a new one. “It’s a little community of people willing to help each other,” she says.

Mickey began his BMX adventure after watching his two cousins race. He attended a weeklong summer camp to find out just how much he wanted to ride. It turns out that he liked it a lot. “I like the competition and the jumping,” he says. “I also like how everyone is nice to one another. I’ve made a lot of friends there.”

Brian Ensey Jr.

Brian Ensey Jr.

Brian Ensey Jr., age 13 of Redding, says that not only has he made a lot of friends but also likes how the sport challenges him. “You have to believe in yourself,” he says. “If you’re scared to go over a jump and crash, you have to believe you can do it and try.” It’s painful to crash he says, “but the thrill and fun makes you want to do it again.”

His perseverance has paid off. Ensey has qualified to enter the World Championship in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Mike Puckett, Track Operator at Red Rock BMX in Red Bluff says the sport has a lot to offer people of all ages. “It’s just a cool sport that is inexpensive in comparison to other racing sports and it goes all-year-round.” And if someone doesn’t have a bike, sometimes the Tehama County Police Activities League program donates unclaimed bikes (those that have been turned in to the police station as lost or stolen) to the program. “These loaner bikes might be available if someone doesn’t have one and they want to give it a shot,” says Puckett.

Each track allows those who are considering the sport to attend a free race night. That means interested parties receive a one-day membership at no cost and the first race is free. Long-sleeved shirts and pants, a helmet (preferably full-faced) and enclosed shoes are required.

The ABA states that any BMX type bike will work, but recommends starting out with a bicycle that has a wheel diameter no more than 20 inches. This is the allowable limit in the Novice class. If using a personal bike, reflectors, brackets and the kickstand must be removed. Bolts must be tightened, especially the axle and stem, and any freestyle-type axle pegs removed.

If the thrill of riding the track takes over, getting started is easy. Membership into the ABA is required and runs $45.00 a year. Race fees do apply. Contact your local BMX track for more details.

[sws_green_box box_size=”590″]Local BMX Tracks

Butte County
Silver Dollar BMX
2357 Fair St., Chico
Contact: (530) 966-1226

Shasta County
Nor Cal Boomtown BMX
Shasta Dam Blvd. at Margaret Polf Park, Shasta Lake
Contact: (530) 209-4198

Tehama County
Red Rock BMX
650 Antelope Blvd., Red Bluff
Contact: (530) 526-3836


Kimberly Shaw
About Kimberly Shaw

Kimberly Shaw is a local Northern California author.


  1. Scott Chamberlin says:

    Make sure to check out the tracks facebook pages to keep updated about schedules, race times, and events.

  2. Terri Ensey says:

    Thank you for the wonderful article on BMX, the kids and the Families. The photo’s are awsome…

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