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Race fever

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Earlier this month I took the boys to the BMX races in Raleigh. I'd grown up going to the BMX races on fall weekends and had fond memories of bicycle motorcross that I wanted to share with my boys.

Some of the best, longstanding friendships I forged growing up happened under the guise of BMX-ing. Sometimes I find it odd that the guys I still talk to on a (semi-)regular basis all can be traced back to some kind of BMX connection. I've lost touch with most of the guys I palled around with in parochial school and remain in contact with only a few college buddies, so it only seemed appropriate to open up this world to my sons.

My oldest son, Spencer, was, to say the least (and in old-school BMX terms), stoked. He's been riding a bike--albeit with training wheels--since his Gramps bought him one for his second birthday. Now at just over 4 1/2 years old, he's become quite accomplished at riding his Rhino Racer at the park or in the neighborhood. He's watched way too many episodes of Nickelodeon's cartoon series Rocket Power to fully understand the ramifications of doing tricks on a ramp or racing on a track. In his mind, he's already doing it.

So when we arrived at the home turf of Capital City BMX--a track nestled off Capital Boulevard in the behemoth that is Lions Park, Spencer unhinged himself from his car seat and dashed toward the track, the sound of the announcer blaring through a megaphone.

He sat quietly, patiently observing the series of motos: 36-40-year-old cruiser, 10-12 novice, 13-expert. But then he saw the glory--the 4-year-old novice moto. Little boys his age, decked out in full BMX regalia (padded jersey and pants, full face-cover helmet, gloves) riding tricked-out factory minis (BMX bikes that are a scaled-down version tailored for the mighty mites).

"I can do that, dad," he said to me.

"I'm sure you can," I replied. "But you have to lose the training wheels to race."

I explained to him that none of the boys he saw had training wheels.

"Well, let's take them off," he said.

"Okay, we'll take them off and try when we get back home," I said.

"I want to try it now. The bike's in the trunk," he said.

"You can't race today, son," I said before going on to make a feeble attempt at explaining the issue of race fees, mandatory gear and insurance liability release forms.

It was a relatively quiet ride home back to Durham. I fielded a few questions about how I rode (he holds on the mantle in his room one of my former BMX trophies), and with whom and where I rode.

We got home. I took his bike out back, got out a couple of wrenches and removed his training wheels before offering up a few simple techniques. The most obvious being: The faster you pedal, the easier it is. "I got it, dad," he said. And with that, I held his back seat, gave a small push and off we went. It got to the point where I had to feign pushing just for the sake of argument. Soon, he was riding around the back yard while I hooted and hollered, "Go boy, go!"

He came up after a good time, sweating, smiling, breathing hard, got off his bike and said, "Dad, now we need to get some wood and build a ramp."

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