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Where have all the old crew gone? by Bruce Morris

Bruce Morris from LUXBMX certainly gets around a lot for a guy who has retired from racing, and he’s still very passionate about the sport and is not scared to speak his mind. After a weekend of racing at the Nerang Nationals on Australia’s Gold Coast Bruce ponders the issue of participation of the older classes. If it gets a little difficult to understand the Aussie slang, just remember Bruce enjoys the odd glass of cordial…red…straight.

What can be done about the declining numbers in the older classes in 2019? Maybe the Nerang Nats aren’t a great litmus test here in South East Queensland as the event has had the National Series round deleted, which kind of removes the hype around the event. It’s a shame as for some of the old crew it is such an iconic weekend in the calendar (or week as it used to be).

It’s clear that the salad days of BMX are coming to an end for the kids of the 80’s that came back to racing 8 or 10 years ago in their late 30’s, early 40’s as injuries take their toll, or their own kids have lost interest and it’s no longer a “family” day out. The pool to pull from for the 80’s kids was huge and has probably propped up racing/member numbers in the older classes in the past 10 years, and with the 2008 Olympics raising the sport’s profile, it was a perfect storm to ignite those from that era to start back up again. Certainly did for me.

Shift that age-group timeline to the 90s, and the decrease in the popularity of the sport in that era means that fast forward to 2019 and project the next 10 years and the pool to draw from is much shallower. Which has a knock-on effect on kids entering the sport. Or maybe my hypothesis is completely wack? I can only surmise from personal experience from within my BMX universe.

God bless Ken Nicholson for reppin the 50+ age at the Nats where the 35+ (age class – not Masters) had 8 riders in total. Cruiser class fared a little better with 13 risers over 17 years old racing. Still not great at the year’s first open day in the most populous BMX racing region in OZ.

I didn’t race, so throw a couple of grenades my way, but I’ve got my hands full with BMX still, and I enjoy grabbing shots out on track as much as racing. But I still have a vested interest in BMX racing thriving through my work with LUXBMX.

Is there a solution to the declining numbers in the older groups at race meets across the country? Do us old riders even have a place out there on the track? I’m sure our national association would like to see membership numbers maintained at current levels, or even start to increase again.

Talk around the traps (and on that evil platform, Facebook) is that maybe 10 year groups are a solution that groups riders, and gives them fuller gates and more competition. AND introducing a “novice” class within these groups so that the step from club racing to open days isn’t that huge gap that it is now.
It’s clear that the Shootout Series here in SEQ is successful, drawing upwards of 600 noms, compared to an average of 300 (or less) for open days in the same area. It bridges that gap nicely between club racing and open days. It acts a “intermediate” level of racing. Lower entry fees certainly add to its appeal as well.

So back to the declining numbers in the older groups. As I ventured through staging to grab a few shots of the 40+ crew heading to the gallows (I mean gate) I heard this exact discussion about numbers with one of the boys talking about a novice class for 40+ to help encourage older racers enter open days.

Is there merit in trying this? Does the need to be a complete re-write of the rule book with committee revisions etc and “we’ll need to wait to 2020 to introduce the concept”. Can a club run an open day this year and run 30-39, 40+ Novice and Expert classes? With special awards handed out to “Sandbaggers”? The Kiwis run 10 year groups, as do the Victorians. Keep 30+ Masters, but drop in the 10 year groups with novice and expert.

The Nerang weekend was still a great event, just bereft of interstate riders, barring the Superclasses and a few families on holidays here. And that’s a shame.

As is the lack of craft beer choice at the Bowlo next door…

Pass me the tissues, my rose coloured glasses are fogging up. In the meantime, if you did race, hit the links below to see if I caught you getting rad, or ploughing the farm.

Bruce Morris – LUXBMX
CroMo Fanatic/Salty BMX Racer
e: bruce@luxbmx.com
Insta: @luxbmx.race

[Editor: Bruce may have a point with the 10 year age gaps for the older riders, Track Attack held here in Victoria has semi finals for the 40-49 Open Wheel class this coming weekend. But as history will show not everything works in all parts of the country, but if it will increase participation surely it’s worth a try.]
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