By Tyler Shoberg
The West Fargo BMX dirt track consists of three banked turns and a handful of jumps.
From an outsider, it may not seem all that impressive; after all, getting from start to finish only takes about 45 seconds.
But the memories made in that short time span last a lifetime, West Fargo BMX Association President Wayne Larson said, and creating those experiences are what his organization is all about.
"The nice thing about BMX is it's structured for kids to succeed," Larson said.
Larson is in his first year as president of West Fargo BMX, but he's not new to the sport. Ten-year-old son Wyatt has been at it for three years, and 13-year-old daughter Miranda is in her second season.
"They love it," he said.
The draw of BMX isn't a tough one to grasp. Put any kid who can ride a bicycle on a twisting, turning, jumping track, and they're bound to want to do it again and again. But the riding isn't necessarily the only reason participants keep coming back.
"It's a real family sport," Larson said. "You have moms, dads and their kids all racing on the same day."
The West Fargo track, located at the very southern edge of Elmwood Park off of 13th Avenue, is one of the most popular in the region, and draws upwards of 75 riders during its weekly races. In fact, the state finals routinely are hosted by the track that draws the most participants - West Fargo will be hosting it for the third straight year.
For anyone wanting to get into BMX riding, Larson only has one thing to say: try it.
"We'll lend them a helmet and a bike, and the first day membership is free," he said. West Fargo BMX only requires riders to wear long-sleeve shirts, long pants and shoes. First-time riders even get a trophy just for their preliminary whirl around the track.
And racing BMX is all about what you put into it, Larson said. Simply visiting West Fargo is fine, but some riders travel all over the country to follow their passion, he said.
West Fargo BMX is sanctioned under the American Bicycle Association, which is based out of Arizona. The organization of ABA is a large reason BMX has become such a popular activity, Larson said.
"One of the big draws is the structure," he said. "Kids may get knocked down, but it builds them back up again."
Boys and girls who just start out with BMX get put into the Novice category. After eight main-event wins, however, they get the chance to advance to higher levels. This assures that riders always are competing in races designated for their skill level, Larson said.
Racers earn points for every even they participate. In order to qualify for the North Dakota State Finals, which run Aug. 13-14, participants must race at the West Fargo, Grand Forks and Bismarck tracks.
Larson said West Fargo BMX also instigated a Track Championship Series this year, sponsored by Petro Stopping Centers. The riders who get the most points by racing at West Fargo will wind up with the title, he said.
But starting a brand new sport, especially a fast-paced one like BMX, can be a bit intimidating. Larson admitted it also can be dangerous, "but no more so than baseball," he said.
The ABA lists the following tips for riders interested in getting started with BMX.
Make sure all bolts are tight, especially axle and stem bolts.
Remove any freestyle-type axle pegs.
All reflectors and brackets must be removed for safety purposes.
Bike kickstands must be removed.
Riders eventually need a number plate, however, a membership will provide a temporary one.
Equipment needed includes a long-sleeve shirt, long pants or jeans, a full-face helmet and any enclosed shoe is sufficient. Skateboard style shoes are suggested.
For more information on West Fargo BMX, visit westfargobmx.wordpress.com, or e-mail Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org.