For Johnson brothers motocross racing is fun

This article submitted by Molly Connors on 9/3/96.

Jumping out of gates where youíre packed in ďhandlebar to handlebarĒ alongside 40 other racers.

Racing on top of hardpacked dirt, through mud or sand. Shifting fast enough to corner sharp turns without losing your balance.

Flying over the burms and jumps and remembering to hold the front end of your bike down so you donít fall when you land.

For brothers Clifford, Jared and Jacob Johnson, thatís a typical weekend. The Johnsonsí motocross racing season lasts from mid-April through mid-October.

Clifford, 18, has been racing for two years. Jared, 14, and Jacob, 10, started this year.

ďWeíve (ridden) bikes ever since weíve been able to ride,Ē Clifford said. He got his first bike when he was in third grade.

Before Clifford started racing in official races, he raced against his friends. Then, he was riding a four-stroke bike that weighed in at 400 pounds. His friends rode lighter, faster bikes, like the one that Clifford now uses to race.

Riding a slower, heavier bike, Clifford beat his friends. So, he figured he could win a race or two and he started racing. Jacob and Jared followed in his footsteps. Clifford, the oldest, also had someone to follow: his father, Oluf, also motocross raced when he was younger.

While Deb, his mother, doesnít race, she does ride a ďroad bike.Ē ďI tape them,Ē Deb said, video camera in hand.

Most weekends, the Johnsons travel to various tracks throughout the state. There is no regulation size for tracks. Generally, one lap is a little over a mile long. The terrain at each track also varies. At Staples, the track is hard-packed dirt, while Cambridgeís track is sandy.

Riding and racing is harder than it looks. Racers need to be in good shape. They need to possess incredible physical endurance. The racer looks for ďthe smoothest, fastest lineĒ and goes as fast as possible. The need for a smooth route comes from the human body, which just wonít stand too much of a rough ride, according to Clifford.

Clifford has done well this year. He brought home seventh and fourth place trophies two weekends ago. However, he has been held back because heís ďnot in shape.Ē He wishes he could ride more often and improve his skills, but he doesnít know where heíd find the time.

All experience aside, some racing success comes with luck. As with any other sport, there are good days and bad days. In Cliffordís first race ever, he ďhit everything, all the burmsĒ and had a great race. The second time, fell a few times and didnít fare so well. Clifford still falls in races; he said everybody does.

Two weekends ago, Jared fell on a corner. ďMy bike was on top of my leg. Two bikes were on top of my bike,Ē he said. ďI couldnít get out.Ē The Johnsons all wear protective equipment when they race. Their clothes are tight fitting and made from breathable fabric that keeps us cool,Ē Jacob said. They also wear knee-high boots made of hard plastic that protects their ankles. The boots are ďkind of like wearing ski boots,Ē Clifford said. The Johnson brothers also wear hard plastic chest protectors.

The Johnsons have built a small practice track in the front yard of their farm. Here, they practice for their weekend races whenever they have time

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