The UK vintage motocross scene, it`s all about the numbers Visitors to this website from other countries or people who stumble across it by accident & don`t necessarily know too much about the vintage motocross scene here in the UK may get the impression that it`s a huge fast growing movement with every street in every town having at lease one hard core enthusiast living on it but sadly this is far from the case. As one or two new people come into the scene, at the same time one or two people are leaving it due to age, injury, money problems etc etc. True the movement does seem to be growing in popularity but not at the speed that would be of much financial benefit to yet another one of those outsider entrepreneurs who thinks that by bringing in monthly container loads of over priced half dead vintage motocross machinery his bank balance is going to be quadrupled in the blink of an eye. The truth is the market place, & quite a small one it is too, is already very well catered for by a band of well established specialists, many of whom will tell you that there is better & easier money to be made elsewhere but what keeps most of them going is a genuine passion for classic dirtbikes & hard financial times are weathered just so that they can spend their days surrounded by such machines.
For quite a while now I have been wondering just how big the classic / vintage motocross scene really is. No doubt the pastime attracts all sorts of people from folk who who buy restore & collect old motocross machines but have decided that their riding days are over, surprisingly there are quite a few people out there who are happy just to have a bike tucked up in the garage ready to go at any time but have absolutely no intention of ever using it in anger, of course there are riders who do ride their toys but just enjoy hooning around at practise tracks. I think the worst thing that could possibly happen to the vintage motocross scene is if it becomes a fashionable thing to do. I witnessed this first hand many years ago when the classic VW scene started to change from a pastime populated by genuine oily enthusiasts to something that attracted a younger crowd who were far more interested in the music, fashion & general coolness that some how became attached to these vehicles rather than the history & workings behind them. True it does tend to bring a lot more money into a hobby or sport when this happens, mainly all the prices go up, but it can also have the effect of bringing in a lot of human garbage as well. Don`t get me wrong the vintage / classic off road world Isn’t totally devoid of sharp operators, I myself have been approached on many occasions by people who want to use this well visited website as a platform to promote their goods & services but unfortunately they don`t want to pay for the privilege. Amazingly am not just talking about small start up enterprises either, some times they can be a multi million pound organisation. I find the strangest situation arises when someone wants me to freely donate photographic or written work to them so that they can publish & sell it back to the very same guys & girls who could have viewed it all on here for free !
Then we have the boys & girls who actually race & this is the section of enthusiasts where we can try & make a stab at the numbers taking part. From basically talking to people who help run organisations / clubs & looking at data published on various websites I came up with a 2016 start figure of around 1000 people who are either registered classic licence holders or registered on club riders lists. Unfortunately this figure can`t be treated as absolute fact, you have to remember that some riders may be registered with more than one organisation or they might get counted twice because they have signed on for two different classes within the same club, so it might be smaller than first thought. Now you may at this point be shouting at your PC screen & saying “But Mr J I bet you haven’t accounted for the number of riders in our club or organisation, we don`t disclose the figure because it`s all very top secret you know”. Well that`s ok, lets chuck another 1000 into the melting pot to account for all those secretly registered riders & lets go crazy wild & shove another 1000 in to account for all those other riders who don`t register with anyone but just turn up as & when they feel like it & pay the extra to ride at short notice.
I think it`s fair to say that I might have been a little too generous with the last two figures that I chucked into the imaginary pot but who knows. If there are 3000 riders out & about most weekends racing at organised vintage motocross / scramble events then I have only ever seen a fraction of them. Just like a lot of you reading this, I too have travelled all over the place to ride or just to take photos & you do tend to see the same familiar faces & machinery around the paddock & on the start line. True I haven’t been to Ireland or much into Scotland but surly there isn’t a huge secret army of classic motocross racers in either country, is there ? Could the actual number of riders out their who are keen, ready & properly tooled up for a day of classic / Twinshock / Evo racing be way less than 2000 ? Think about it, most meetings would consider 250 riders a pretty good turn out on a sunny Sunday in mid summer & there is usually only about 3 or 4 classic race meetings spread around mainland Britain on any given weekend. As you know, it`s quite often the case a meeting will have to run with less than 150 riders taking part, no doubt we can all recount a meeting than ran with less than 100, there’s usually no particular reason for this, track & weather forecast were ok & the other couple of meetings were spread hundreds of miles away. The plain & simple truth is we are a very small & niche community of classic competition racers.
You might totally disagree with every thing I have written above & think I am a crazy mad fool but if it sparks a debate over a pint at your next club meeting or around the camp fire in the paddock next summer then the article has done it`s job. What is for sure is pretty much all the major players who put on race meetings had their up & coming seasons race date calendar drawn up & published by mid November & a hell of a lot of effort went into making sure dates don`t clash or that race meetings aren’t geographically too close together. So if ever you find yourself wondering why your bike, spare parts or some other gear aimed at the vintage motocross racer isn’t selling very fast, the simple truth might be there just aren’t that many people out there who are actually interested in it…Mr J January 2017