Every Oklahoma Kid Needs A Dirt Bike
It was this time last year that the stupid covid took the life of a beloved family member, my Uncle Eddie. He was the life of the family gatherings and the fun uncle that always went out of his way to share his passion for motorcycles.
From the earliest memories in my mind, he always had a motorcycle for everyone to ride. This was true when I was four years old and we all took turns riding the little PW's and JR 50cc dirt bikes and it remained true through the last time we rode together when I was around 35-ish.
It was a last hurrah at the family farm, the hometown was having the annual festival parade, and he didn't even ask me if I wanted to ride, he just tossed me a key and said "Hop on, we gotta go." It was the first and only time I got to ride his incredibly quick Kawasaki KDX200. For such a small displacement bike, it'll sure get up and go.
His death was the first truly sad family death, not to say the others weren't sad, his just wasn't expected. Hindsight being 20/20, I mourned quietly on my own, remembering the good times we all shared on our homemade motocross track... Friday nights under the lights at the races... That first big over-the-handlebars crash... I started thinking "I should buy a motorcycle."
It's been years since I've had a motorcycle. As I said, we all grew up on dirt bikes so as I became an adult, I thought I wanted a cruiser. Tried my hand at a Harley, hated it. Nothing but vibrations that put my legs to sleep. I really liked the Victory bikes but never had the money.
I did score a Kawasaki Vulcan on a trade with a guy in my early twenties. It was a two-tone old-man bike, so I bobbed it and rode it ragged for a year or two. Still, I hated that under-slung, recliner-type seating position the traditional American style cruisers sit, so I ultimately sold it when I got tired of almost getting hit constantly in Lawton traffic.
I've been motorcycle-less since 2008 and never gave it a second thought. I got pretty heavy into shooting sports, so that was my hobby for a long time... until I started thinking about how fun growing up on a motorcycle was again the first half of this year.
Five or six years ago, my nephew got a motorcycle for his birthday. It was a Chinese clone of a TTR110, but everyone just calls them "Pit Bikes" nowadays because that's the trend. It was a little big for him at nine years old, but he would grow into it if he could get over the fear of falling off.
I don't think he rode that thing much over the last six years until I brought it up back in March or April. I asked him where his motorcycle was and told him we should get it running for him.
He's fifteen and now taller than me. That little bike looks so small under him... but it's a bike and that's where it counts for now.
We rebuilt his motor, replaced the rusted and broken wheels, new tires, etc... We've spent one weekend each month since June working on it, and it's finally at a point where he knows enough of his regular maintenance to keep it running tip-top while I'm down here in Lawton prepping for our next big moto-weekend.
Let me get back to the point of why every kid needs a motorcycle.
Since June, my nephew has nearly completely ditched the video games he played every waking moment he wasn't in school or forced to go outside and do stuff. He's made peace with getting his hands dirty. He's learned to work with tools, oil and gas, and how physics plays when you stack wrenches to break loose old crusty bolts. He may TikTok and Snapchat his lady-friend constantly, but his life that used to be buried in his phone is pretty much extinct, and I cannot be more proud of that kid.
Don't get me wrong, I had my own video games daze... and they are still a ton of fun. But instead of playing games and watching the YouTubes for hours and hours on end until your eyes hurt, a motorcycle will leave a kid with just enough energy to play for half an hour before turning in for the night.
Motorcycles have the tendency to improve a kid's life more than you'd expect.
Before you hit me with the "Well there's no place to ride in Lawton..." mumbo jumbo, I know. It's a veritable off-road desert in this part of the state, but it's not completely isolated.
There used to be a motocross track Southeast of Lawton that we used to race at when we were kids. I'll sporadically see announcements that it opens for a weekend here or there once in a while for practice riding and such.
There's a place called PettiJohn's up in Rush Springs that offers more than motocross tracks, they have trails and such too.
You can access and ride the river pretty much at will, and there's a shocking amount of BLM acres down along that river too.
"But motorcycles are expensive!"
Yep. Like any other hobby, it can be as expensive as you allow it to be... but you can also get into it relatively cheap.
I've always been a fan of used motorcycles. You look around long enough, you'll find one for sale from someone that can't work on 'em looking to sell their bike dirt cheap fearing the worst. Nine times out of ten, it's a small fix to get it up and going... but that unlucky tenth time can be a real doozy too.
If you look around Facebook Marketplace, there are plenty of cheaply-listed Chinese pit bikes for sale with prices so low it grabs your attention. Odds are, that price instantly jumps up, but they're not bad pieces for kids to learn on... but as the parent, you'll learn to work on them plenty too. They all cost the same, it just depends if you want to put that money in over time working on it, or just tossing it all in buying a new one off the showroom floor. Six of one, half dozen of the other.
Full disclosure, while new bikes were few and far between, the prices of used motorcycles went sky-high just like used car values did. Luckily, as Japan delivers new shipments weekly, the price on used bikes is slowly coming down again.
If you're still looking for Christmas ideas for the kiddos this year, you might take a look at the one thing that can pull your kid back outside. Four-wheelers are also fun, though you have even fewer places to ride them. Go-Karts are also acceptable, but nobody ever has an epic story that starts with "So I was driving my go-kart and...."
Who knows, maybe you'll find one your size too and make it a family affair. Just remember the basics... Always make them wear their helmet, looking cool is no reason to end up like Gary Busey. Gloves are mandatory safety items to keep the hands from bruising and bubbling up with blisters. Ankle support is just as important as the helmet.
Now go ride.