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Local Feature

REEDLEY AIR TIME BMX

words by Jackie Dale
I
mage by Frankie Leal

The riders are lining up, an automated voice calls out, “riders, watch the gate” and with a loud clang the steel gate drops and the riders burst out onto the track like a shot out of a cannon. Feet pedaling furiously, they hit the first hill and become air-born. The second and third hills bring more air-time before hitting the first bank turn. These more experienced riders, including long-time rider Josh Taylor and local professional Randy Stumpfauser, navigate the course quickly and a group of novices move up to take their turn on the track. When the Traffic photographer shows up, I encourage the riders to show their best “moves” and they willingly comply with some gravity-defying stunts!

Whether you’re a pro or a beginner, everyone receives an equal opportunity to practice and race on the track. There is no pressure or stress. Everyone is friendly and helpful and unfailingly patient when waiting for their turn. BMX riding just might be the perfect fit for those kids who are just not cut out for the team sports scene. You can compete if you choose or you can just ride for yourself.

Reedley Air Time BMX is a non-profit organization that is sanctioned by the National Bicycle League. (NBL) The NBL is actually a worldwide organization that promotes bicycle motocross racing as a competitive sport. Air Time BMX is operated by the husband and wife team of Paul and Donna Huebert. For the last 12 years Paul and Donna have volunteered their time to ensure that BMX enthusiasts in this area have a place to practice and race. Racing is definitely a family affair as all three of the Huebert’s children have raced, and Paul continues to do so, although he is currently nursing an injury.

I convinced my 10 year old daughter, Dominique, to give it a try, and we headed to the track. Since she doesn’t have a bike she was given one of the free loaner bikes and helmets that are available to all. Paul asked one of the boys to take her around the track the first time which he seemed happy to do. She was wobbly and nervous at first, but she grew more confident and improved with each lap. She learned to watch the more experienced riders and try to emulate some of their techniques.

After watching her for awhile, I decided to give it a try myself. Donna helped me choose a bike, handed me a helmet and I ventured out to the starting area praying feverishly that I would not “eat dirt”. I opted to skip the gate and rode out onto the track via what I only guess is the beginner entrance. You have to pedal really fast to make it over the hills. It was a blast! Like my daughter, I grew more confident with each lap and by the end of the session we were hooked.
There are no age barriers in this sport. Racing categories start at 5 and under and there is no upper age limit. Riders who want to go on to the racing circuit only need to race 6 times (minimum) to go to the state level for ranking. Once ranked on the state level, racers can then advance (through point accumulation), to regional, national and finally, the world championships.

Paul Huebert placed 3rd overall in last years 2007 Nationals held annually in Kentucky. He was joined in Kentucky by local riders Stevie Grote and Austin Garza. All three won in their individual categories. In 2001 Paul also ranked 2nd overall at the world competition. This summer, for the first time ever, BMX racing will be included as an event at the summer Olympics in China.

The Air Time BMX track is located on American Avenue, right across the street from Great Western School, next to the Reedley Airport. Practices are held every Tuesday evening from 6-8 p.m. Races are held on Saturdays from 6-8pm if enough riders show up. If there are no races then regular practices are held. First time riders get to try it once for free. If they want to continue riding they must join the NBL which costs $45 for the year. You can try a 30 day membership for $30 and if you then decide to join for the year, you pay the additional $15. Thereafter, practice fees are only $5 and race day fees are $10.
So get those kids off the couch (yes, the girls too) and head over to the track. Interestingly, Paul disclosed to me that girls are often more coordinated at riding than the boys! There is one tiny little girl in her pink gear that comes out to the track often. She really gives it her all.

You don’t even have to go fast to ride. You can just cruise the course and get some great exercise. It is a great family sport that is not only affordable but also a fantastic way to get some physical activity. Spectators are encouraged too. So if you want, just come out and watch. There are bleachers, a nice green lawn and plenty of shade. Come and take a little look see. Watching is free and quite entertaining.

Those who choose to participate must wear full face helmets, long pants, long sleeve shirts and closed toe shoes. Gloves are advisable. Contact Paul or Donna for more information or any questions you may have. They can be reached at 638-2057 or 859-0949.
As this article goes to print, my daughter and I have been out to the track every Tuesday and Saturday since the first time we went. We would love to see you out there too! Give it a try and you might be surprised at just how much fun it really is. Remember, it’s free to give it a try. You can borrow a bike and a helmet. What’s stopping you? If you can pedal a bike, you’re in!

 

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