Motorcycle racing, riding skills and technique, moto kids & parenting

Interview: Stoney Landers-Minimoto USA

Want to know more about getting your kids involved in motorcycle racing?  Founder of Minimoto USA, father, CSS coach and former AMA racer Stoney Landers answers all your questions.

 

Q: Could you give a brief history of your own riding/racing?  When did you start?

A: I loved motorcycles from the earliest I can remember which was literally not long after I was born.  I was always looking at motorcycles, dreaming about them, visualizing myself riding them.  I was just obsessed.  My Dad definitely did not want me to ride street bikes, let alone RACE them.  He would let me ride little dirt bikes on my Grandparent’s farm, but that was pretty much it.  My Mom, however, was a pretty big dreamer herself and was fully supportive and helped me get my first bike.  My Dad went out of town for work one weekend so I went out of town that weekend too and bought a Honda 600 Hurricane.  He didn’t like that so much, but I had had enough of not going after what I knew I wanted to do with my life.

 

Q: What bike did you start on?

A: My first street bike was an 87’ Honda Hurricane 600.  My first race bike was a 1993 Honda CBR 600 F2.

 

Q: How involved were your parents?

A: My Dad was completely against me having a motorcycle.  My Mom was fully supportive of me doing it.  She was into it a lot.

 

Q: What it was like to coach with CSS?

A: It was a ton of fun.  My favorite part was giving the seminars for Keith.  Watching the light bulbs go off in the student’s heads was fantastic.  The group of guys there are great and really understand riding technique.

 

Q: Why did you decide to start Minimoto USA?

A: Because I felt that I had something to contribute to the racing community especially at the start for a young rider.  I felt that I had made some good decisions and not so good decisions in my own racing career and I REALLY wanted to help others choose the correct path to achieve their goals no matter how large they were.  Another good byproduct was that I learned so much about the minimoto scene when I immersed myself in the sport.  That did not turn out so bad for my own kids!  They really dig being at the races, seeing all their friends, racing…. they truly love it and so do my wife and I.

 

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Q: What is the best bike for kids to learn on?

A: 1.  A bike that is the child’s size.  If they are young like 3 or 4, or if they are short for their age, then a very short bike is best.

2.  A bike with NOT a lot of horse power so they can focus on good entrance, mid/corner, and of course exit speed.  Their attention should be spent on HOW to corner correctly before they are given too much horsepower.

 

Q: What type of bike will yield the best results for kids at different stages of racing? Is there a progression that you suggest?

A: Absolutely, there are many different brands of minimotos or “pocket bikes” as people in North America call them.  Most of the minimoto machines can have different brands of engines installed in them.  So if a young kid gets a good quality minimoto machine, then they should start with a slower engine.  Then as the kid moves up in the ranks, they can be given more power.  But what is good about that plan is that the rider can have the same chassis and engine cases for years and just upgrade the engine cylinder or exhaust restrictor each time they move up in class.

 

Q: What is the ideal age to get started in motorcycle racing?

A: As soon as possible.  All of the top 5 or 6 best riders on the planet got their start in Minimoto.  So as soon as the kid can ride a bicycle under his/her own power, then get them going on the motorcycle.

 

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Q: How do parents tell if their kid is ready to move up, either to a bigger bike, different series etc?

A: 1.  I personally do not think that a kid should move up to a larger bike than they can easily handle.  I think they should stay on a bike that is their size and that fits them until their body grows.  For most it is easier to find the limits of a machine that is correctly sized for them than a bike that is too large for them.  A lot of parents try to rush this and get the child on a bike that is too large for them too soon.

 

2.  In regards to the subject of a kid moving from a Novice class to a more Expert class, I think it is better for the child to stay in the lower class until they are at the front in their races or of course dropping their opponents.  I think it is good for them to win some races to get that feeling of exhilaration that comes from winning.  However, it is important for the racer not to stay too long in a class that they have been winning so that the racer continually has a carrot in front of them in the way of faster riders.

 

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Q: What gear do you recommend kids wear? 

A: I always suggest full leathers with elbow, shoulder and kneepads.  They should wear a back protector, chest protector, good boots, a name brand/proven helmet and of course very good gloves.  I prefer the gloves with heavy armor on the knuckles and fingers because kids little knuckles are fragile!

 

Q: What support or advice can you offer parents that are wanting to get their kids into racing?

A: 1.  Borrow or rent a bike and gear to start with to make sure they like it before investing in it in case the kid isn’t so into it.

 

2.  Do your research and get the child good training from a professional teacher and coach on how to do the craft.  If someone is giving your child bad advice on how to ride don’t let them give your child advice any more.

 

3.  Once a rider has a good grasp of proper cornering and racing technique and has shown they can do it, I think it is important for them to be able to also think for themselves on the track.  In other words, make sure the rider isn’t getting “over coached”.  They have to be able to solve riding issues on their own on the fly as well as be able to receive help from a coach.

 

4.  Also along those lines I encourage the racer to go out and do what they know how to do and not to over think it.

 

5.  Take your child to practice A LOT.

 

6.  Support your child and let them go at their own pace.  DO NOT BE A SOCCER DAD OR MOM.  Sometimes parents forget that they have big and tall bodies and are not as intimidated by things that a young kid might be intimidated by.  So be very patient with them, let them learn at their own pace and back them up.  Not only do they need lots of encouragement but they seem to learn and progress faster when they have that kind of support.

 

7.  If the child wants to quit, take the time to find out what is happening.  There is always something that can likely be easily solved that is making the child want to back out of the game.  Letting them just quit could cause them a lot of regret later on, so be responsible as a parent and help them out.

 

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Q: What is it like to watch your OWN kids race motorcycles?

Fantastic!  They are having SO much fun and learning a lot when they are doing it, which puts a huge smile on my face.

 

Q: What do you worry about most?

I don’t worry about them riding or racing.  I make sure the bike is prepped well.  I make sure they have had enough sleep and food.  I make sure they are educated on what they are doing and instead of telling them to “be careful”; I let them know to “stay alert and have fun” while out on the track!

 

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Q: What are the most important skills for young kids to work on when riding/racing?

A: I would say things such as entrance speed, lines, throttle control, proper control of the bike under braking, body position… the list goes on.  Keith Code’s Twist of the Wrist books have a lot to say about those techniques.  Drilling and practicing the correct technique over and over at a speed that the child can handle is important before trying to go as fast as they can.  Anybody can try and go fast, but very few can go fast and ride perfect (or at least close to it).

 

Q: How is motorcycle racing (for kids/youth) different in North America compared to the rest of the world?

A: It is not even close to the same level.  The kids in Europe are professional level racers in small bodies.  The kids in North America are behind quite a bit as of right now but are getting better and better.  Motorcycles as a generality are more of a way of life in Europe than here in the U.S.  Off road riding is huge here in the U.S. but in regards to road racing, up until now, the U.S. has not created the correct solution to grow the sport.  We (Minimoto USA) are doing something about this situation and it is on its way to being fixed.

 

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Q: Is there someplace parents can go to find out more information about racing/riding for their kids?

A: Call us and ask us any questions, we love to help and have information on the sport.  Visit our website here:

 

Q: What actually constitutes “the best results”? Championships? Lap records? 

A: That is a great question.  You know, sometimes you will have a rider that can go REALLY fast and smash lap records out, but isn’t so consistent and crashes a little too much.  But then sometimes, those riders refine their riding a bit and become very dominant in a championship situation such as our current Moto GP Champ Marc Marquez.  But all in all, I would say the “best result” in my opinion is a rider who can both decisively win races AND win championships.  As much as I do respect riders who can win a championship based on good consistency, but maybe are not blindingly fast, I have a bit more enjoyment watching the riders whom are winning races along the way toward competing for the championships.

 

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Q: What racing/riding disciplines should parents pursue to broaden their kid’s experience and abilities? Why is dirt important?

A: Yes, it helps so much for the child to be used to the bike being “loose”.  So I would say a healthy dose of dirt bike riding and speedway or flat track is very important.

I would also say any endurance sport that pushes the child to dig deep and push themselves physically and mentally to new limits is important.

 

Q: How much does it all cost?  What are realistic expectations for sponsorship for a kid road racer?

A: 1.  The bikes are anywhere from $200 for a used fixer upper to $4,000k or more for a top of the line machine.  But there are many new machines that work great that go for around $3,000.  A full setup of gear could cost around $1000 for all brand new top of the line equipment.  A weekend of racing including travel, entry fees, fuel etc. could cost around $500-$1500 probably on the average depending on how you do it.

 

2.  We are working on getting more exposure for our kid racers.  They are some amazing little beings with such brave and great attitudes.  I have noticed the kids have a few sponsors here and there, but we do need more help at this grass roots level.

 

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Q: How involved does Dad/Mom need to be in the kid’s development and coaching?

A: I read a great article on Marc Marquez recently.  His Dad didn’t have a motorcycle racing background and didn’t know much about what to tell Marc in regards to technique.  What was good is that his Dad realized this and turned over the development/coaching job to people he trusted who had noticed Marc and they took on that task.  Then there is a funny story about Valentino Rossi in his book where he said he didn’t really want his dad giving him advice, and wanted to figure it out on his own.

 

I would say if the Dad and Mom actually know what they are talking about in regards to proper cornering and racing techniques then of course they should help, but if not, then get someone to help out who knows what they are doing.  I read a story once about the MX racer Ricky Carmichael.  His mom was not a racer herself, but even when Ricky was a top factory racer, she would work with him on his corners continuously throughout his career.  Obviously she knew what she was talking about and it worked great.

 

Sometimes I hear “not so great” advice at the track and I know it can hurt the rider’s development and progress.  BUT, the parent is SO MUCH a part of the whole process and should do whatever positive things they can do to support and back up their little rider.  They should be the backbone of the team and keep it together.

 

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Q: When is the right time to seek outside help/coaching for a kid? What should parents expect from it?

A: From the first time the kid rides.  The results will speak for themselves.  A racer and parent should expect good steady progress with a continual rise in the kids ability level and thus confidence.

 

Q: How do you keep a kid focused on their riding goals and having fun at the same time? 

A: I would say keeping the communication very good, honest, and fun is a must.  Setting immediate and long-term goals is important to keep that carrot out there for the child.  Even a quick little conversation at breakfast can help get the kid re-focused on what they want to do with the sport they are in, you know, little reminders here and there to help keep that dream alive and in their minds.

 

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Q: Anything else you think parents should know?

Yes, I have known many kids who know what they want to do with their life from their very early years.  It is the parent’s job to help their child out in going after their dreams and goals.  Support, love, help them out and they will have a chance to accomplish those dreams.

For more information please visit http: www.minimotousa.com

 

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