Opinion: Should Practice Riders Pay Full Price on Race Day?

July 6, 2017 by  

Should Non-Racers Pay Full-Price to Practice
This July 4th, many of us who were not out prepping the grill, readying some big-boom stuff for after-dark or ticking items off the household honey-do list, were engaged in a passionate back & forth on Facebook (if only the Founding Fathers could see us now).

The topic of debate: how much should practice-only riders pay on race day? Should they pay the same as racers, or should they get a special, lower “practice only” rate?

To most, it seems like a pretty clear-cut answer. Of course, the opinions on how clear-cut it truly is fall on both sides of the issue.

On one side are those who feel riders showing up on race night only to practice should pay a lower fee than on-the-sheets racers.

On the other side are those who feel race day is for racing, and people who want to just come out and practice should, at the very least, pay the full race fee (if the track allows non-racers to just practice and not race, because some do not).

For my part, I am firmly in the latter camp, and feel race night should be for racers only. But, if the track allows practice-only on race day, those riders should pay full-pop for the privilege.

Let’s pause for a moment and take a wide-angle look at what we’re talking about:

1). We know we have a system-wide local race attendance problem, where we can’t make classes, and local tracks struggle to make ends meet as a result. If you’re paying race-rate, maybe…just maybe…you’ll get on the sheets and actually RACE. If you don’t, at least the track is getting the same contribution from you as they would an honest-to-goodness racer.

2). Consider the cultural message it sends for tracks to say, in effect, “not only can you come out to our race, and leave once motos are posted, but we’ll give you a DISCOUNT for doing it.”

What does THAT say to up & coming riders, who see a chunk of riders head out of the parking lot before the race action starts? At first, they don’t know why. But, in time, it perpetuates the “locals ain’t cool” mindset we seem to have baked-in to the local track culture. And that needs to stop.

3). Everyone is all-for supporting the local track, but some draw the line at the extra four or five dollars to pay the full-race price, so the track can pay the bills and be there next season, and the season after that.

So, while it’s not “all about the money,” as some commenters said, it needs to be a LITTLE about the money (the power company, afterall, doesn’t take Saver Stamps), and a little about how BMXers view the local track, and their unique role in keeping it running.

Best Case Scenario
Well, the truly best case scenario is BMXers racing at the local track. But, assuming the rider in question will not have a class, the best case scenario for the track and the rider — for a track that permits practice-only on race nights— would be to charge the full race price, and allow them to ride during normal pre-race practice, and re-open practice for 30-60 minutes after the race is finished.

This way, the hotshoe riders stick around for the race (maybe even run the gate or stand in a turn—but if not, just add to the “lots of people are here” vibe).

We don’t have up & coming families confused as to why a big chunk of riders are leaving before the race even starts. And, the track can justify allowing practice-only riders to come out when they may not have an actual class to race.

Yeah, But…
The Facebook thread that started this discussion, on the “BMX Race Bikes” group, attracted over 100 comments, and spilled over to July 5.

Among the comments, the prospect of affordability was brought up. “What if the rider can’t afford to pay the extra few dollars between practice fee and full race fee?”

While I think that is probably a fairly-rare occurrence, I can accept that it may happen.

In such a case, the rider should show-up at the regularly-scheduled practice night that most tracks run—at practice rate.

Or, let’s say, they can’t ever make it on Thursday night for practice due to work or family commitments. In such a rarest-of-rare cases, talk to the Track Operator and ask if there is something you can do to offset the extra few bucks (stay-behind and water the track, clean up and service the loaner bikes, take the loaner helmets home and wash them…whatever it may be). Chances are excellent something can be arranged.

Thanks to Cory Cochran of Colorado for starting the thread.

—Mike Carruth

Top Photo: Building – Nick Bowers, via Flickr


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Should Non-Racers Pay Full-Price to Practice