Before you beg your parents to buy a bike and haul you down to the local track, arm yourself with these five insider tips about getting started and going pro. Professional riders Mike Mason, Nate Adams and Adam Jones talk about everything from gearing up to getting hurt.
And remember, even Mike Mason had to do his homework and make his bed before his parents let him ride his bike.
Tip No. 1: Get the GearWearing the right safety gear is the first and most important step towards protecting yourself in this notoriously dangerous sport. Essential safety items include a helmet, goggles, long-sleeve shirt or racing jersey, boots and gloves. Optional--but strongly recommended--gear includes a chest protector, and racing pants with hip pads.
When picking a bike, visit a couple of local shops for advice on which bikes are good for beginners. It's easy to get starry eyed when it comes to gear but you don't need the best equipment when starting out.
Adam Jones says he began riding on a "piece-of-junk bike" that his parents picked up for him when he was 8 years old. This allowed him to try it out and see if motocross was something he really liked before his parents invested too much money.
Tip No. 2: Take It SlowBefore you start throwing tricks, learn the basics. A lot of freestyle pros got their start in motocross racing, which gave them the chance to learn basic bike-handling skills that proved vital to their success when they transitioned to freestyle.
"Kids need to learn how to actually ride a bike and race a bike before they start jumping ramps," says Jones, who rode for seven years before turning pro. "Understanding your bike and having control is a big part of freestyle."
Nate Adams points out that there isn't an established ranking system in freestyle, there's only one group of professionals. So the best way to improve your motocross skills, and get noticed, is to climb the ranks through racing. "Build a base and the tricks will come later," says Adams.
Tip No. 3: Start LocalIf you're interested in riding professionally, the best place to start is in your hometown. Sign up for local races where you can meet people and gain experience.