The Off-Road Market 101
By Guido Ebert
The Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), in its latest statistical annual, suggests off-road motorcycles account for 2.7 million, or 24.5%, of 11 million motorcycles in use in the United States. The same research suggests off-road models in Minnesota represent 50,400 units, or 22%, of the 229,200 motorcycles in use.
What constitutes an off-road motorcycle? Compared to on-road motorcycles, off-road machines are simpler and lighter, mostly under 650cc, have long suspension travel and high ground clearance, are set up with spoked wheels and knobby tires, and feature rugged construction with little bodywork and no fairings to minimize damage.
There are various types of off-road motorcycle disciplines:
Enduro – Consisting of modified and sometimes road-legal motocross bikes, Enduro competitions are timed events that specify exactly when a rider should arrive at certain pre-defined locations along the route.
Flat Track – A flat track competition takes place on a flat oval track that usually consists of dirt or loosely packed shale. The riders use the surface to slide their machines through the turns.
Hare Scrambles – A hare scramble consists of riders on motocross or enduro bikes who complete multiple laps on a marked course through woods or other rugged natural terrain. The winner is the rider who makes the most number of laps during the designated time period.
Hill Climb – A hill climb involves riding an off-road or modified bike up extremely steep hills. On the more difficult hills, the winner is the rider who makes it farthest up the hill. For less difficult hills, the winner is the rider who makes it to the top of the hill in the least amount of time.
Motocross – Motocross is an off-road competition on a short, closed off-road track with a variety of obstacles. The motorcycles have a small fuel tank for lightness and compactness. Long-travel suspension allows riders to take jumps at high speed. Motocross engines are usually single-cylinder two-stroke or four-stroke units, which vary in size from 50cc up to about 450cc. Motocross bikes are also used in Freestyle Motocross.
Trail – A trail bike is a dual-purpose bike, often for on-road and recreational off-road riding. A trail bike may resemble an Enduro bike, but since a trail bike is not intended to be used for competition, it may be (1) less rugged, and (2) equipped with more road legal equipment, such as indicators, mirrors and extra instruments.
Trials – A specialized form of off-road competition testing balancing skills and precision rather than speed. For a trials bike, low weight and crisp throttle response power are the priorities, so a trials bike tends to have a small (125 cc to 300 cc) engine, two-strokes being common.
ARMCA Supports Off-Road
By Guido Ebert
ARMCA is the acronym for Amateur Riders Motorcycle Association, which was founded in 1969 and incorporated as a chartered organization with the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) District 23 in 1974. District 23 membership is comprised of more than 20 road and off-road clubs that hold AMA sanctioned competition events.
The primary purpose of ARMCA is to administer and support amateur motorcycle competition in Minnesota. These activities include: providing and administering a numbering system and an awards system for competition riders; providing and administering a participation and advancement system for riders; coordinating the calendar of AMA sanctioned events held within District 23 boundaries; acting as the second level of adjudication of amateur competition protests in District 23; and other activities in support of amateur competition.
Disciplines include Enduro, Flat Track, Hare Scrambles, Hill Climb, Motocross and non-competitive trail rides.
While the main focus is competition, ARMCA is also committed to advancing and promoting dirt bike riding opportunities of all types in Minnesota.
ARMCA was instrumental in passing Minnesota’s Off-Highway Motorcycle (OHM) registration and funding bills in 1993 and 1994, and more recently created a Trail Rider division to encourage non-competition rider membership.
ARMCA says it recognizes that public trails are crucial to the long-term future of dirt bike riding, and that rider involvement through organized clubs is essential to development of public trails. As a result, the organization encourages non-member riding enthusiasts to join and support the sport.
Learn more at www.armca.org.
Learn To Ride Dirt
Dirt riding skills are different from street skills. Interested in off-road riding but don’t have a clue how to start? DirtBike Tech, based in the Twin Cities, has been delivering dirt bike training for over 10 years and offers courses suitable for riders of all experiences.
Taught by coaches who are MSF-Certified, the classes are designed to develop the mental and physical skills necessary to fully enjoy off-highway motorcycling.
The Basic Dirt Bike School and Family Dirt Bike School offer the basic skills of starting, stopping, turns, clutch control and advanced skills of riding while standing, weight shifting for traction, lower body control for turns, surmounting obstacles, traversing hill, etc. The course is a prerequisite for all students wishing to enroll in Intermediate and Advanced classes.
Participants in the Youth Dirt Bike School must be 6-11 years of age, able to ride a bicycle, reach and operate the controls, and touch both feet to the ground when seated on the bike. The class accommodates up to four students and a parent or adult is required to attend and be an active participant in the six-hour class.
Intermediate Dirt Bike School provides the opportunity to practice the skills you learned in the Basic class with guidance and individual coaching while trail riding more adverse terrain, and the Advanced Dirt Bike School will include lessons in advanced off-road techniques on even more adverse terrain and surface conditions.
DirtBike Tech currently holds courses at the primary site in Forest Lake, as well as in Gilbert and Henderson. Class tuition is $125 per person and classes typically last about eight hours. The Basic Dirt Bike School, Youth and Family courses are all offered from April to September. The Intermediate and Advanced classes are offered upon demand.
DirtBike Tech offers motorcycles for rent ($50) but you may use your own bike if it passes an inspection.
Want to learn more? Visit www.DirtBikeTech.com
Off-Road Riding in MN
So you’re interested in off-highway motorcycles (OHMs) but don’t know where to ride. Generally, you may operate an OHM on private land with the landowners’ permission, on frozen public waters where access is not restricted by law or local ordinance, or on public lands and trails that are posted as open to OHMs.
No OHMs may operate in State Parks or National Parks, but State and National Forests do allow limited use and there are a couple of special off-road riding areas.
State Forest lands are traditionally open to off-road motorcycles from May 1 through November 1. State Forest lands are classified as either: Managed, where no vehicle use is permitted; Limited, where motor vehicle use is permitted unless posted closed; or Closed, where no OHVs are permitted, except that OHVs may operate on frozen public waters.
Paul Bunyon State Forest / Martineau Off-Highway Motorcycle Trails
Location: From Walker, 10 miles west on Hwy 34 to Hwy 64, then north 5.5 miles to trail marker.
Nemadji State Forest
Location: From Holyoke, Co. Rd. 145 to Harlis Rd., 4.5 miles.
Chengwatana State Forest
Location: From Pine City go 4 miles northeast on Co Rd 9,
then 9 miles east on Co. Rd. 10/Chengwatana Forest Road
to parking lot.
St. Croix and the Nemadji State Forests / Gandy Dancer Trail
Location: From Hinckley go east on Hwy. 48, then north on Co. Rd. 173 to Tamarack Forest Road.
General CC Andrews State Forest
Location: From Willow River, north on Co. Rd. 61, 2 miles,
R (east) 2 miles, L (north) 0.5-mile Dago Lake day-use
Genoa OHV Trail
Location: Begins in Eveleth at the intersection of U.S. Hwy 53 and State Hwy 37 and ends at the Sherwood Forest Campground in Gilbert.
Richard J. Dorer State Forest
Location: From Kellogg, 3 miles south on Hwy 61. From Winona, 15 miles northwest on Hwy 61, then 1.7 miles southwest on Co Rd 29.
Miles: 7.5 & 13.5
Solana State Forest
Location: 7.5 miles north of McGrath on Highway 65.
Soo Pits Trails
Location: From Moose Lake, 0.5 miles east on Hwy 27.
Foot Hills State Forest / Spider Lake OHV Trails
Location: From Pine River, 12 miles west on Co. Rd. 2 (24th St SW), then south 1.5 miles on Spider McKinley Forest Rd to parking area.
St. Croix State Forest
Location: From Hinckley go east on Hwy. 48, then north on Co. Rd. 173 to Tamarack Forest Road. Or, from Marksville, Co. Rd. 25. The Willard Munger State Trail is connected by forest trails to the Gandy Dancer and St. Croix ATV/OHM trails.
Tower Multi-Use Trail
Location: In Tower, from Main St 2.5 blocks north on Poplar St. Connects the city of Tower to the public beach and campground at McKinley on Lake Vermilion.
Visitors to the Chippewa National Forest and Superior National Forest will need to become familiar with detailed maps showing which roads they can use and which are off-limits under a new plan.
Together the Forests now offer about 1,600 miles of roads and trails for off-highway-vehicle use.
However, many roads and trails will not be marked, so riders will need maps available at Forest Service offices and, to a far lesser quality, on the web. The best idea for motorcyclists in the National Forest is to obtain the most up-to-date map possible from the NFS and to use a modern GPS unit. Seriously. Unless you snag a local to go riding with, that’s the best advice that can be offered.
Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle State Recreation Area
Location: East from the city of Gilbert on Highway 135; entrance is on Enterprise Trail
Appleton Area OHV Park
Location: 2 miles northeast of Appleton on Hwy. 59.
Miles: 15 miles of OHM trails, 1.5-mile OHM practice track, three enduro tracks, a youth OHM practice track, jumps, sand dunes, hill climbs, etc.
For more information about the legality of off-road riding in Minnesota, obtain a copy of the 2012-2013 Off-Highway Vehicle Regulation Handbook produced by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Visit www.FindTheTrails.com for more information about off-road riding areas within the state.
MN Motocross Tracks
There are a dozen dedicated tracks for off-road motocross competition spread throughout Minnesota:
Berm Benders Raceway
2393 Sherwood St., Brook Park, MN 55007
Buffalo River Race Park
152 S. Highway 9, Glyndon, MN 56547
4840 349th Ave. NW, Cambridge, MN 55008
Echo Valley MX Park
4650 Lavoy Rd., Brookston, MN 55711
Hurricane Hills MX Park
43560 232nd Ave. Mazeppa, MN 55956
Jordan Motocross/Scott County Fairgrounds
7151 190th St. W., Jordan, MN 55352
Kato Cycle Club
Hwy 187, Mankato, MN 56003
Little Falls Raceway
15575 Hawthorn Road (Morrison CR 43),
Little Falls, MN 56345
Meadow Valley MX
28777 646th St. Lake City, MN 55041
58374 Hwy 42, Kellogg, MN 55945
MotoCity Raceway & Moto-Dome
41279 County Road 7, Browerville, MN 56438
Spring Creek MX
63633 298th Ave., Millville, MN 55957
Make Your Off-Road Bike Road Legal
An off-road motorcycle registered for off-road use may also be licensed for on-road use if properly equipped. Equipment requirements include: headlight, taillight, a license plate light, mirrors, horn, DOT tires, a sound compliant muffler, appropriate reflectors and other modifications.
Remember: All off-road motorcycles operated in Minnesota must be registered with the DNR, even if used exclusively on private property or in track racing events.
Further, an off-road motorcycle licensed for highway use that is also used off-road must have both the regular motorcycle license and the DNR OHM registration. The cost of registering a new vehicle is $38.50 and the cost of a renewal is $36. Both are valid for three years. Persons under age 16 must complete appropriate safety training before operating an off-road bike on public lands.
Contact the Department of Public Safety (dvs.dps.mn.gov) for further details and application procedures.
Standing on Two Feet on Two Wheels
by Thomas Day
A lot of really knowledgeable people might argue that the ultimate off-road motorcycle sport is motorcycle trials, traditionally called “observed trials.” While the fine-points of trials rules are sometimes as hard to fathom as golfing rules, the
basic idea is you ride over ridiculously difficult obstacles without stopping or putting your feet on the ground or the obstacles. Do either and you collect unwanted points. If you manage to avoid collecting points, you win. If that sounds easy, you should try it.
In the US, participation in trials peaked in the mid–to-late 1970’s. At that time, there were several world-class American riders, Martin Belaiir, Marland Whaley, Lane Leavitt, and the one-and-only American World Champion, Bernie Schreiber (1979). U.S. riders consistently fill out the tail end of every U.S. event and few Americans have made the effort to compete on the world stage. Outside of the U.S., trials has maintained a fair presence, especially in the indoor format (X-Trials), and world events draw large crowds in several countries.
Trials is the kind of sport that attracts riders of all ages. Due to typically low speeds, extraordinarily light motorcycles, and short sections with minders, helpers, and observers who sometimes morph into catchers, people compete well into their 60s and 70s at a variety of competitive levels. Minnesota and Wisconsin are specially blessed with a strong, if small, group of dedicated trials competitors and if you are interested in trying this sport out, you’ll find it is a great group of friendly and helpful people.
The local trials organization is the Upper Midwest Trials Association (www.UMTA.org). The Winterers (Jim and Ben) are one constant in Minnesota trials is that you will unavoidably run into. Jim is a consistent Senior class competitor and Ben is a regular top-3 in the Champ class. Jim was gracious enough to introduce me to several wonderful sources, including UMTA Treasurer Mark Dittman.
Dittman says UMTA includes nine different competition classes that feature a skill level for everyone.
“Ages in our club range from seven years old to 70 years old, and our club members come from all over the state of Minnesota and Wisconsin,” Dittman said. “The biggest misconception is that everyone hops the bike around. Ninety percent of our club riders do not hop the bike around. I think people feel a little intimidated by that. There are some expert class riders in our club that do not hop, but they can turn the bike on a dime and do some incredible things on a trials bike.”
Due to the light U.S. participation, manufacturers make a half-hearted attempt at importing bikes to the States. Currently, Sherco, Gas Gas, Beta, Ossa, and OSET (electric kids’ bikes) are imported. The U.S. Montesa-Honda distributor was based in Minnetonka until Honda discontinued importing in 2005. On the upside, there are still a fair number of used 1970’s to 2000’s trials bikes for sale for reasonable prices. Many trials bikes are in pretty good shape even after a few decades of competition and will be more than serviceable for many years.
Off-Road Riding: Understanding Liability & Requirements
By Rick Schroeder
Off-road motorcycle riding delivers an adrenaline rush very different than open roads. Whether you own land or intend to ride on someone else’s, it’s important to understand liability and who is accountable for safety and injuries.
If you intend to ride your motorcycle at all, on Minnesota public or private land, you must carry insurance on it. And, if you intend to ride without health insurance, with one wipe out, you could be looking at a mountain of long-term financial problems. While property owners have insurance on their land and for their negligence, just because you get injured on someone’s property does not necessarily mean they are responsible— you have to prove the property owner was at fault. Also, the doctrine of assumption of the risk will apply to your conduct.
Minnesota Laws on Recreational Land Use
As long as an individual is not charging a fee for recreational use of their land, state law limits the property owner’s liability in the case of accidents, injuries and damages.
“… an owner who gives written or oral permission for the use of land for recreational purposes without charge:
1)Owes no duty of care to render or maintain the land safe for entry or use by other persons for recreational purpose;
2)Owes no duty to warn those persons of any dangerous condition on the land, whether patent or latent;
3)Owes no duty of care toward those persons except to refrain from willfully taking action to cause injury; and
4)Owes not duty to curtail use of the land during its use for recreational purpose.”
In offering up the land for free recreational use, the owner may post signage in everyday language indicating that he/she assumes no liability for injuries or damage to equipment. In doing so, the owner isn’t being a jerk and isn’t bluffing. Minnesota law further stands by the landowner and defines recreational trail use to include, “but not limited to hunting, trapping, fishing, bicycling, skiing, horseback riding, snowmobile riding and motorized trail riding.” “An owner who gives written or oral permission for the use of the land for recreational purposes without charge does not by that action:
1)Extend any assurance that the land is safe for any purpose;
2)Confer upon the person the legal status of an invitee or licensee to whom a duty of care is owed; or
3)Assume responsibility for or incur liability for injury to the person or property caused by an act or omission of
Rick’s Bottom Line
Going off-road is a blast. There are even some landowners that have set up off road courses for riders. Most require signing a waiver/release of liability. The Minnesota courts have upheld these waivers/releases. There is a bill in the Legislature currently to limit these waivers/releases—but for now they are pretty iron clad. So don’t construe it to be a vacation from knowing the law, exercising judgment with regard to weather and riding conditions and the operation of your motorcycle. Just understand that you are accountable for all your actions, injuries and damages and be a responsible guest.
Rick Schroeder is a partner at the law firm of Schroeder & Mandel, PA, White Bear Lake, Minn. Schroeder & Mandel serve Minnesota and Wisconsin residents with accident & injury law
Motokazie Promotes Racing
By Guido Ebert
Motokazie this year plans more than 40 events – including 13 motocross races at two tracks in Minnesota and 23 Supercross races at 15 fairgrounds, casinos and community events. The races are AMA and District 23 sanctioned, so riders must have a current AMA membership card and/or a current District 23 membership card.
In Motocross discipline races, classes range from the Shift & Shaft class for 4-8 year olds to a Seniors class for riders 60 years of age or older. In Supercross discipline races, there are 16 classes for riders to choose from, ranging from 50cc oil injected class for 4-8-year-olds all the way up to the Pro class. Both disciplines feature an open Beginner (D) class for riders 12 years & up.
In addition to race promotions, Motokazie also maintains a race school and this year intends to host four dates for expert instruction at tracks in Jordan and Kellogg.
Many topics will be covered at each school, from common bike maintenance, correct body positioning and engine braking to double jumps and timing sections.
Classes range from 4-5 hours in length, and cost $125.00/Pre Registration or $140 day of. A $30.00 deposit is required to hold your spot. Upon completion, students will receive a gift pack and a personalized certificate stating that the rider has graduated from Motokazie Race School.