The slam of a metal gate against a 20-foot concrete hill is a sound heard throughout the night at Chandler BMX.
By Ralph Freso, Tribune
July 13, 2005
The sound is followed by eight bike racers pedaling furiously down onto a track of packed dirt, hills and banked turns. Within seconds, a hydraulic lift raises the gate back into position and another group of bicycle motocross racers takes a spot on the starting hill.
This is the scene every Friday night at the Chandler BMX track, located at McQueen and Frye roads in Chandler. BMX riders of all ages, some as young as 4, gather to showcase their riding skills and compete in races on the facility's 998-foot track.
Some riders seem disproportionate in size to their tiny bikes, while other younger competitors can barely touch the ground once mounted on their seats. Despite the size of each rider, they all share the same will to compete in three skill level classes that usually are broken into age groups.
Novices and first-timers are easy to spot with their wideeyed uncertainty as they look down over the track from the starting hill. Smaller riders are assisted by parents who hold them up in the starting position before the gate releases.
Seasoned riders such as Joey Backus, 19, glide over jumps, pumping their bikes against the terrain in their constant search for speed. Competitors navigate the winding track to a chorus of "keep pedaling" yelled from cheering sections in the bleachers.
William Riddle of Chandler takes a hands-on approach in coaching his daughter Brealyn, 7. During pre-race practice sessions, Riddle, wearing what appears to be a black painted army helmet, rides along shadowing his daughter and other young riders while offering encouragement and support. Track manager and announcer Charlie Borland's voice echoes over the loud speaker as he calls each race wire to wire while mixing in some comic relief.
By the end of the night, when the dust begins to settle, winners stroll with trophies in hand, swapping stories and riding techniques with other competitors. Parents round up children and load bikes into waiting pickups and SUVs, ready to race again the next week.
Check it out
Racing at Chandler BMX starts with signups at 6:30 p.m. Fridays and 5:30 p.m. Sundays. Fee is $10. Practice is also held 6 p.m. Tuesdays for a $5 fee. To learn more, call (480) 963-1053.
Contact Ralph Freso by phone (480) 898-6515
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