Like most other forms of recreation, the virus took its toll on off-road racing, which is just now recovering.
The GasIt Off-Road Racing series, which came to a screeching halt after only two races last year, is set to rev it up again Saturday, Aug. 28 with the Oh My God 100 near Cuba.
Some riders, like Albuquerque’s Greg Sceiford, got so desperate to race they headed out of state to get in some competition.
“But that wasn’t as fun because you weren’t with all of your buddies riding and camping and having a good time,” he said.
Sceiford, 49, who owns the High Velocity Cycles shop that’s aimed at off-road motorcyclists, said it became a way of life when he was pretty young.
“My dad kind of got me into when it when I was in high school as a way to keep me out of trouble and it worked,” he said. “It’s just a hobby that you can do. I had fun with it and took it up and it morphed into a lifestyle.”
Riders at the Oh My God 100 will face a 24-mile course that sends riders cruising through a painted desert area overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. The series continues with rides the following two months in Gallup and Carlsbad. In a normal season, riders have the option of as many as seven rides, said Paul Luce, co-owner of the series that is regulated by the American Motorcyclist Association. Alamogordo, Española, Socorro and Las Cruces are other regular stops on the tour.
“I think I crashed out of it,” Sceiford said of his first race. “And I just had so much fun with it I wanted to go back and do it again. It wasn’t something I was afraid of. I just wanted more of it. We enjoyed the people that go out to the races and the camping and getting to see all the fun scenery all over the state. We get to see stuff on motorcycles that most people don’t get to see.”
Loren Worthen, 50, of Albuquerque, said he’s been riding since he was very young, as well, and got his start alongside his father then picked up racing in 2007.
“When he passed in ’05, I decided to try desert racing,” he said. “The Oh My God 100 was the longest running desert race in the state and I did that one in 2007. That kicked me off and I stuck with it constantly until 2013.”
During that time he won more than 30 individual championships and eventually an overall championship and since then he is kind of choosy about which races he rides.
“The competitive nature of the racing,” Worthen explained is what keeps him coming back. “The people involved in desert racing are a great group of people. The camaraderie is great. Overall it’s a great experience.”
The start can be pretty intense with 100 or more bikes hitting trail at once.
“But once you get out in the desert, it’s a little tranquil,” Worthen said. “And eerie. It can be a little bit intimidating but it’s a great time.”
And it can sometimes be a bit dangerous on the ride.
“A buddy of mine ran into a cow a one year,” Worthen said with a chuckle. “I’ve had deer and elk cross right in front of me. Then you have rain ruts and rabbits. And a lot of cactus.”
It is a sport that appeal to all kinds of riders, Sceiford said.
“We have racers who are kids and racers who are 77-80 years who still do it,” he said. “There’s a wide range of people that show up. And there’s a very large group of girls that come out for all of our races. Race weekend is just fun. Everybody brings tents and RVs and we go to these remote locations where nobody has been and we show up and turn it into a little city. People camping in the middle of the desert having a good time. And when we leave, everybody cleans up their garbage so there’s no trash left behind.”