MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Professional motocross riders from West Coast installations came together for the first ever Semper Ride off-road training and safety event near Julian, Calif., June 17, and 18, 2011.
The Marines and sailors packed up their all-terrain vehicles, dirt bikes and camping equipment and headed to the 300-acre Thunder Horse Ranch, an oasis of trails, tracks and training.
Early Friday morning, the crowd of riders and their families rallied around a Red Bull bus to get word on the events of the day.
“Get out there, have fun and be safe,” said Jeff Tilton, the project manager for the event and a former professional motocross rider, to the mass of riders in attendance. Tilton also mentioned classes the Marines and sailors could sign up for to polish their riding techniques.
“I’ve been pushing off-road for a long time and finally it’s here,” he said. It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of time and energy put into it and a lot of passion.” Tilton works with Headquarters Marine Corps and with base safety on Marine Corps bases around the world.
The event hosted up to 100 riders each day and invited them to take as much training as they could from the professional riders as well as the other riders in their own groups.
“It’s awesome to see such a wide variety of riders wanting to learn,” said Steven Haughelstine, a professional motocross rider at the event. “You can see a difference in how they ride even after a couple of run-throughs with them.”
Haughelstine, who’s been riding since he was a kid, teamed up with X-games gold medalist Ronnie Renner to give tips on cornering and handling jumps during the classes.
“Guys who aren’t used to riding in the ‘attack position’, they get tense,” Renner explained to the handful of riders in front of him,” while stressing the importance of standing up in the attack position on a track. “It will tire you out.”
Most riders came to enjoy the chance to ride on a new track. Corporal Andrew Walsh, an amphibious assault vehicle crewman with Company D, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, from Twentynine Palms, came to ride with his co-workers.
“I’m out here to have fun,” Walsh said. “I’ve been riding for a while, and you can always learn something new.”
In addition to June being Riders’ Safety Month, Semper Ride has set the bar high for a new curriculum for teaching riders the basics and safety precautions to keep their interest in the sport.
“I think what’s cool about Semper Ride is that it’s a completely different way that speaks to the rider,” Tilton said. “It’s not someone yelling at you or trying to scare you. It’s professional riders and your peers talking to you about what the sport is and how to get into it correctly. The ultimate goal here is to make these guys lifetime motorcycle riders.”