The James Gang rides again; not on horses with blazing guns, but on motorcycles with blazing speed. Dustin James, 22 and brother Cody,18, both of Enterprise have been racing motocross professionally for the past seven years. "We've been riding motorbikes for most of our lives," the brothers said. "It's tons of fun," they added.
The duo have worked their way up through the beginner and junior classes and now ride in the intermediate/expert class. Their next step will take them to the professional level.
Racers work their way up through the different classes determined by their riding skill level.
"It's kind of a ladder process, the better you get the higher you go," Dustin said. "Once you get to a point where you start winning the majority of races that you enter, you advance. It's a repetitive process that gets harder and harder at each level," he added.
The brothers really don't know what their individual records are, but they both have a pile of trophies for their efforts.
"We don't win every race that we enter, but we are in the top placers most of the time," Cody said.
Motocross is a tough sport with riders averaging in the 16-26 year old age group.
The brothers agreed that when you hit the 30's you are considered an old man in motocross.
The physical demands of the sport can take a lot out of a rider and take a toll on the body.
"We can tell when the weather changes," Dustin said. The brothers have both had their mishaps, spills and concussions. Dustin has had a broken hip, broken arm and two concussions while younger brother Cody has sustained four concussions, a broken wrist, broken foot and broken collar bone.
"It was nothing too major," Cody said. "I've thought about retiring, but after watching someone else ride from the sidelines the injuries don't really matter. It's in our blood, I guess," he added.
"It's a thrill and a physical challenge. You have to push your body to the limit, especially when you are out there racing" Dustin said.
Their spills haven't dissuaded their competitive nature. "If one of us does something on the track the other has to do it as well, there's no backing down," Dustin said.
Speeds can reach in excess of 60 mph during a race depending on the jumps. Average speeds range between 20 to 40 mph. Riders can fly through the air 60 feet on average, over a variety of jumps. On some of the bigger tracks riders can travel in excess of 100 feet through the air.
There is no standard track length on moto cross courses. Lap times usually run about two to two and a half minutes on most outdoor tracks with riders turning in lap times of under a minute on super moto cross tracks. Most races last between 20 and 35 minutes.
When going over jumps with another rider beside you the possibility exists of collision. "We think about it, but as little as possible," Cody said. "You are kind of committed at that point. There's no chickening out once you get up to speed. You just keep going," he added.
According to the brothers, the most exhilarating part of motocross is right out of the starting gate. The flag drops, the gate falls and it's pretty much a drag race to the corner. At the nationals there are 42 bikes. "Your heart is definitely pumping when you head into the first corner," Dustin said.
A race can be won or lost at the first corner but not always. "If a rider is not in the top ten around the first corner, it is a heck of a job to pick your way back to the front," Dustin said. Riders are bombarded with legs, handle bars and foot pegs as 40 plus bikes converge into a ten foot mass of riders traveling between 35 and 50 mph.
Contact is part of the sport, but intentionally taking some one out of the race is not allowed. Riders usually get penalized a lap or, if the contact is severe enough, they are black flagged and disqualified.
Both young men agreed that motocross is as dangerous as the guy riding the bike. "You can play it safe and not crash or you can go out wide open and ride above your limits," Cody said "That can be dangerous," he added.
The brothers usually ride at the nationals in Washougal, WA. plus a number of races on different racing circuits across Oregon,Washington and Idaho. They normally don't concentrate on one circuit but choose to ride in races on different circuits across the northwest for placing and position.