Valentino Rossi broke his right leg whilst training – this ensured two things!
Firstly, it ended his vision of winning another MotoGP title this year. And second, it started a social media frenzy on why he is risking his career by training on dirt bikes, because “doesn’t he know they are dangerous to ride”.
This is not the first and definitely won’t be last time a road rider has and will be laid from a “dirt bike training incident”.
With that out of the way let’s address the subject with a bit more thought.
It is often forgotten that professional road racers spend little time doing what they get paid to do than just about any other professional athlete. How many days a does year go by without a soccer player kicking a ball or a baseball player shooting some hoops? Yet MotoGP and World Superbike riders literally get to ride their true race bikes on the tracks where they compete for just a very limited number of days a year.
Finding alternative training methods which allow them to hone their skill set and to stay in shape that allows the rider to go faster than all other humans on the planet for 40 grueling minutes while sweating in leathers. Two of the most popular ways to train are riding bicycles and riding motocross or flat track. Each of these activities has its own dangers, as we saw with Nicky Hayden this year on his bicycle or Rossi this week riding an off-road motorcycle.
Bicycling is great cardiovascular exercise and builds leg muscles the racers need. Riding on a stationary bike in a gym is another alternative, but they are human, and that is boring. Riding dirt bikes at speed is not only a great workout — there’s a reason motocross riders are among the fittest athletes and it also gives the racer constant practice at controlling a sliding motorcycle on all those days they’re not allowed to ride the motorcycles and tracks where they compete.
Rossi has consistently proven previously that this training method at his ranch in his hometown in Italy, in the dirt is such an important component both for himself and the young Italian racers he is mentoring.
Leon Camier, a British motorcycle racer (2005 British Supersport, 2009 British Superbike Champion and currently competing in the World Superbike series on an MV Augusta) is just one of the many current riders across all levels and skill sets that endorse that riding motocross make them better and more skilled riders.
Those fans who say the pros shouldn’t take those kinds of “risks,” by riding off-road, aren’t giving very much thought to the true likelihood of taking a racer, who thrives on competition and speed and challenge, and expecting him to live in a safety bubble the 300 or so days a year he’s not racing.