Photo Gallery | Motocross practice in Cheshire
CHESHIRE -- Like a number of sports already popular with many local adults and youths, motocross faces a formidable challenge in Berkshire County: a lack of practice space.
What makes it tougher for motocross riders, though, is that they need more than just open land that can be mowed and lined. They need a track.
"It's tough. It's tough all the way around," said Shane DiGennaro of Adams, the father of three racers. "The closest track for us is like an hour and a half away. You've got three hours of travel just to ride."
Ray Condron of Cheshire faced the same problem with his daughters -- Emma, 10, and Aubree, 8.
"There definitely is a demand," he said. "You get seat time without spending extra money and traveling far away. Seat time makes a good racer."
Condron's home track has straightaways, turns and jumps, and typically attracts most of the youth racers in the Berkshires multiple times a week. Thursday night was no exception. His daughters took their bikes out on the track around 4:30, and 90 minutes later, there were at least a dozen bikes on hand.
Racers were as young as 4-year-old Keagan Burke of Lenox Dale, and as old as 17-year-old Brodie DiGennaro of Adams. They reflected just a fraction of a close-knit motocross community in the Berkshires that has made itself known on, among others, the Metropolitan Sports Committee (MSC) circuit for a number of years now.
Condron, the owner of D. Condron Construction, built his home track, which averages about a 90-second lap time for a young racer, six years ago.
The track -- augmented by a smaller circle track down the hill for the youngest riders -- is a necessity for two reasons: racing experience and the saving of both time and money.
Emma and Aubree Condron are on the track between four and seven days a week. Emma says she'll ride three hours a day during the school year, and even more during the summer if possible.
"Before this huge track was here, it was half of this," Emma said. "It was basically a circle track. Now it's this huge, complicated [track]."
Ray can't seem to keep them off the track, but that doesn't exactly bother him. They'll race "as long as we'll let ‘em," he joked.
"Until we get tired," added Mike Tristany, whose son Logan, 11, was practicing Thursday.
DiGennaro, a welder at J.H. Maxymillian, Inc., often brings his three sons -- Brodie, 12-year-old Logan and 8-year-old Hayden -- to the track. Between the three of them, there are five bikes to race, service and store at their Adams home. Upkeep and repair on each bike is a daily task for Shane, and it's not a cheap task.
"For me, it's a neverending thing," he said.
Some parents on hand Thursday estimated bike cost around $4,000-5,000. The air filters have to be changed often. Same with the oil. Ray Condron said it's about $500 for a 55-gallon drum of fuel, and he'll go through about four per year for Emma's three bikes.
Add in a $600 helmet, a $325 protective vest, $300 boots and $50 goggles -- to say nothing of the travel costs and money needed for track time and entrance fees during the MSC season -- and you have one of the more expensive sports there is. So sponsorships are a big deal for each racer.
"Sponsorships are a must," DiGennaro said. "I've got a lot of backing from great people. There are so many corporations and small businesses in the area that help me with my kids."
Sponsorship -- which can be offered or even earned through websites like sponsorhouse.com -- can mean anything from free to discounted gear, to entrance fees being paid for races. Every bike on hand Thursday, be it KTM or Suzuki, 50cc or 250cc, had sponsors' logos on it.
The time and money being put into the sport is paying off for the young racers, too. A few examples: In the MSC Pee-Wee 4-6 division, three racers on hand Thursday -- 7-year-old Landon Corcoran of Dalton, 7-year-old Noah Willis of Washington and 6-year-old Mason Mickle of Lanesborough -- are in the top 10 in points through the most recent race in Claverack, N.Y. Willis and Mickle are in the top six in the Pee Wee Oil Injected division. Emma Condron is in the top 15 in the Girls 7+ division.
The racing has its benefits off the tracks, too. Through their travels to various races, like this Saturday's event in Winchester, N.H., the riders and their families have become a close-knit community. If someone's bike needs a part, it might be taken off the bike of another racer not on the track for that race. The young racers have made friends from beyond the Berkshires during their track time.
For Emma, that means the time and money are well spent.
"I don't mind it at all. It's fun," she said. "I get to see my friends who live two hours away. We get to do a lot of things on Saturday nights. You discover new things."
It's worth it for her father, too.
"We started with a tiny circle track, and this is what it's become," he said.
To reach Matthew Sprague:
or (413) 496-6254.
On Twitter: @BE_MSprague.