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Dirt-bike-riding school trains riders safely

July 9, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
You have to be at least 16 to drive a motorcycle on California's streets. The dirt is a different story, where kids as young as 6 can ride. Safety is still a big concern. Kids of all ages can get important dirt bike training.While many of their friends might be sitting in front of a computer or on a sofa, these kids are out having fun on real dirt bikes.

"It's great exercise, it's great for your mind. It's great to teach responsibility as well," said Ty van Hooydonk, director of communications for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. "You've got to take care of your dirt bike before you go out there and ride it."

At the MSF DirtBike School, kids of almost any age can learn how to ride the proper way.

"If you're riding and you don't have a class, and you come to something you're not used to, you could hurt yourself," said 12-year-old Schuyler Yager.

In these classes, which start at about $150, the chances of actually getting hurt are minimized.

"You have to really be careful and you have to know what the controls do and stuff or you could fall," said 15-year-old Leah Vetrano. "I have fallen once, but the dirt's soft and with the right gear I didn't really get hurt."

Everything is provided in the class, from helmets to clothing to the off-road motorcycles, which have to fit properly too.

"You have to do it the right way and on the right size bike or else you might hurt yourself," said student Jason Hayford.

And doing it the right way can't be overstated.

"This is the place to learn how to ride a dirt bike. Don't rely on friends, family, relatives, whatever. Come out here and learn from the pros," said van Hooydonk.

I've probably done 100,000 miles riding on the street, but haven't spent too much time on the dirt, other than a spin on a friend's dirt bike as a kid in a vacant lot (sorry Mom and Dad). And that's the point. You really should be trained properly. So let's get started.

First, the right safety gear. Then, the basics of how a motorcycle handles in the dirt. It's a lot different than what happens on pavement.

After a few basic drills, the real fun began on the trail course. We were less than a mile from Interstate 10, but it felt like we were out in the wilderness.

The youngsters later got their turn on the trail too. And one of my new young riding buddies summed it all up this way:

"Because it's fast, and you don't have to pedal," said Hannah Villegas, 6.

My sentiments exactly.


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