Road racing can be brutal, but it’s also beautiful. Needless to say, it is perhaps the most polarizing sport in the minds of the people who love it.
Events such as the North West 200, Isle of Man TT, Manx Grand Prix – to name but a few – are landmark races on the motorcycling calendar and rightly so. These are fantastic events run by passionate, professional people who know what they’re doing.
This is less the case in France, at least for some. On the other side of the Channel, they run what are called “rodeos”, late at night, without any organization. Essentially, it’s motorcycle “street racing” like the ones in the first three or four Fast and Furious movies.
France24 reports that these are particularly popular in low-income areas of the country and that the French government intends to crack down on “rodeos”.
The call for government intervention comes after two children – an 11-year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy – were injured after being hit by a bicycle while playing outside their house.
Additionally, France24 reports that the two children were injured after a 19-year-old man was killed when he was run over by a bicycle.
France24 claims that “rodeos” are being championed as a “gritty urban subculture that provides an outlet for disgruntled young people”. Plus, there’s an upcoming movie called “Rodeo” that apparently glorifies this “subculture.”
In the UK there is a comparison to be made. Over the past week, people on social media have written about their annoyance with young people riding dirt bikes and quads in the streets in droves.
As in France, where “rodeos” are forbidden, people riding mountain bikes on the streets of the UK are being defended by left-wing journalists/activists, as seen in the tweet thread below. Their argument is that young people are not doing anything particularly dangerous.
The argument of people who live in areas where this happens – in Darlington or County Durham, for example, as the Northern Echo reports – is that people who ride dirt bikes are intimidating and scare people young children and the elderly. . Sounds fair, but the unfortunate part is the reaction, which has been to increase police powers to seize vehicles.
Theoretically, this would deter people from riding dirt bikes on the road in the first place, and those who did could no longer do so because the bikes would no longer be in their possession.
The argument for increasing the powers of the police, and the argument for leaving the situation alone, are both false. If people feel intimidated or scared because of the actions of a number of other people, the negative freedom society we live in dictates that off-road riders are over-exploiting their own freedom to encroach on the freedom of others, and thus must face some sort of punishment (i.e. the confiscation of their motorbikes) for the aforementioned overexploitation of their own freedom.
Therefore, there needs to be some kind of action so that people who feel bullied do not continue to feel bullied. While confiscating motorcycles is a very obvious solution, it is a negative and ultimately unsuccessful solution. If people have their motorcycles confiscated, they will just find another way to seek out the fun they got from riding the motorcycles. Maybe “the other way” will be worse than the original problem.
In the UK we have many motocross tracks. Motocross tracks use dirt, and dirt bikes – oddly enough – are designed to ride on dirt. Perhaps promoting these motocross tracks – or even the sport of motocross (or other dirt-based motorcycle disciplines like enduro) – would be beneficial. If young people who like to ride off-road bikes on the road realized that there were places they could do it that were actually much more enjoyable and rewarding, they might prefer to go there.
How to promote motocross becomes another matter. Maybe if there was a British Motocross Grand Prix, or a British Motocross Championship, or a UK MX Nationals, that might work.
In fact, they all exist. There is (at least since 2018) a British Motocross Grand Prix; there is a British Motocross Championship; and there is a UK MX Nationals. But no one knows them. The national media never talk about it, either in the press or on television. Unless you know motocross you will almost never experience motocross in the UK.
In October, the first round of the brand new Supercross World Championship (they are trying to sell it as a continuation of the collaborative FIM/AMA championships, but the reality is that the series is new) takes place in Cardiff. The British Grand Prix. This is the second British GP for dirt bike riders this year, and this one is even more accessible than the MXGP of Great Britain at Matterley Basin.
The reality of supercross is that races are held in stadiums and the place to find a stadium is in a city. This means that access is simple. Take a train to Cardiff, go see the race, stay overnight in a hotel, come back on Sunday. As Max Anstie said when Visordown recently told him about the Supercross World Championship, “You’re actually in a stadium, it’s a cool atmosphere, it’s a cool event to bring your family and a Saturday night in a city like this, I think it’s going to be really cool.
But, still, he remains locked into racing and motorcycle media. The national media is not interested and will probably continue to be. National journalists, political activists, commentators, politicians, government ministers – none of them have heard of Little Silver, Hawkstone Park, Fat Cat or even Matterley. The solution is probably there, but no one knows it.
And what a wasted opportunity that seems to be. If you have a problem with people who have dirt bikes but seem to have nowhere to ride them, promoting the sport that uses the facilities designed for those dirt bikes is surely the obvious thing. But no. The choices are already made: do nothing; or involve the police. It’s actually a bit tragic.
Image of French officials looking at bikes seized during a ‘rodeo’ courtesy of Philippe Desmazes/AFP/France24.