After a three-year absence, motocross has a home again in King County. In August, Pacific Raceways in Kent opened its newly revamped dirt-bike track.
It's welcome news for riders and enthusiasts such as Gary Grimm, of Yelm. "It was much, much needed," he says. "We've had to drive to Richland or the coast to find a track."
Manager Lance Smail, a 25-year veteran of pro motocross racing, says the track is designed to be fun yet mellow and to appeal to riders of all skill levels. It features tabletop jumps, a big double (two mounds you can clear in a single jump), and plenty of 180- and 90-degree corners.
Smail plans to start safe, and gradually add more obstacles and bigger jumps so the course remains fresh and challenging. He will also use rider feedback to make improvements.
Early users have had the most difficulty on a long, sweeping curve, and on the "rhythm section" — a series of four-foot jumps that riders must time correctly to avoid landing on a mound.
If you go
- Schedule: The track is open for practice through October and during the winter on select days according to weather conditions. Check Pacific Raceways' website or Facebook page for dates.
- Cost: Riders can use the track all day for $30. Crew and spectator admission is $5. Children 6 or younger are free. Riders must bring their own bikes.
- Online: pacificraceways.com/motocross.aspx; facebook.com/theplacetorace
Ryder Steffy, 17, of Edmonds, and Brandon Kittelman, 15, of Enumclaw, enjoy the technical aspects of the new track. "Toward the end of the day, it gets rough," Steffy says. "The lines you take [in the turns] get rutted and little holes form. It's harder to hold onto your bike."
"Carrying speed through the corners is my favorite part," Kittelman says. He advises beginners to ride early in the day, when the track is still smooth.
Smail spent the summer adding screened dirt to the track and packing down the jumps. He says it will only improve during the winter.
"Time and moisture will help solidify the jumps," he says. "Some have begun to harden up already. Once the track is saturated this winter, and if snow or ice sit on it, that will help pack the dirt even more."
Next summer, Pacific Raceways will add races and bring back the popular Friday Night Series. ATV racing is also possible if the track holds up, Smail says.
Even under controlled conditions, motocross can be a dangerous sport. New riders are often surprised by the speed and how physically demanding it can be, Smail says.
"We break bones," he says. "It's part of it. We have lots of sprains and abrasions."
When accidents occur, eight track officials wave caution flags to warn other riders, and paramedics are always on site during business hours. Riders take part in 12-minute sessions and are grouped according to ability.
Smail advises riders not to ride above their ability level, and to take it easy. "When you get tired, you don't have the strength to control your bike," he says.
In spite of the hazards, Grimm says he sees a lot of smaller kids riding in motocross. "The sport is fairly new, but you're seeing second- and third-generation riders [from the area], so it becomes a family event. It's the ultimate family sport."
Smail hopes to keep families riding motocross at Pacific Raceways for years to come. "We want to give people a place to ride and call home," he says.
For King County riders, home is now only minutes away.