The first Supercross race to be held anywhere in the Northeast United States in 27 years will be taking place this Saturday, April 26 at MetLife Stadium. The penultimate round of the 2014 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championships has been touted far and wide as a New York Metropolitan Area event, which is true, but it's taking place in New Jersey. Since I grew up in the Wawa State, I'm claiming it as our own event.
The fact that this will be the first SX to take place in NJ since 1991, which was ironically the year before I discovered the existence of motocross, has some implications. As fellow Jersey native, Jason Weigandt, pointed out in his piece earlier this week, the NYC area simply was not a good market for motocross back in the late '80s and early '90s. Dirt bikes and concrete simply don't mix. However, several major factors have lead to an increased popularity and interest in all things dirt bikes.
I'll go as far as to say the original Crusty Demons of Dirt video helped get things started in the right direction, depending on your perspective of course. The subsequent freestyle movement, which continues to this day, helped gain some much needed mainstream exposure for us dirt bags.
Many people will probably scoff at this one, but much like he has done for riding technique, he also unwittingly did for opening up motocross to a larger market. That's right, I'm talking about James Stewart. Go ahead, roll your eyes, but as a minority (and even more of one around a motocross track) I can tell you first hand that before Stewart came around on the pro tour, at any given local race, it was extremely rare to find another minority aside from the occasional female rider. After 2002, the year Stew turned pro, that rarity began to diminish. Today, while motocross is still a white-dominated sport, I'm no longer in shock when I see other races walking around at the... umm... races.
Another major contributor to why we're finally seeing a NJSX (aside from the efforts of Feld Motorsports and the countless people that go into making a Supercross race a reality)? The good 'ol Interwebs, which didn't even exist that last time there was a race in the Northeast! During the Stone Age, you had to be directly involved with niche interests if you wanted to keep on top of breaking news. Nowadays, even people who couldn't care less about dirt bikes have probably watched, and thoroughly enjoyed, their fair share of moto vids, such as this new classic. Yes, the Internet is making the world smaller, but there is nothing like firsthand experience. For this reason, I have put together a small list of off-the-beaten-path touristy things for motocrossers to do while in NYC. While it's great that SX has finally reached the largest urban market in the U.S., there is no place that a motocrosser is more out of his element than in a concrete jungle.
The High Line -- Take a stroll on this converted rail line on Manhattan's lower west side that now serves as an urban park, of sorts, and has recently been extended. Enjoy the unique views of the city, grab a coffee at the sidewalk cafe and people watch. You'll slowly begin to realize that you've already seen this place dozens of times in different TV and magazine ads with people that are... well, about as gorgeous as the people you see walking in front you.
The Subway -- No, I'm not talking about the mystery meat-serving sandwich joint. I mean the real subway that has been in operation since 1904. Just hop on and wherever you might be going, remember that the journey is just as important, and sometimes better than, the destination. You never know what or who you're going to find on the NYC subway and riding it is easily one of my favorite activities in the Big Apple.
Williamsburg -- Twenty years ago, Brooklyn was considered dangerous (as was much of the Five Borough area for that matter). Fifteen years ago it was sketchy. Ten years ago it started to get the big G treatment (gentrification). Then the hipsters moved in. Brooklyn is quickly becoming an extension of Manhattan, but it still has its own flavor. Want to visit the birthplace of your skinny jeans, lens-less Poindexter glasses, and countless Indie bands and Hip-Hop artists? Take the L Train to the Bedford Ave. stop for the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn and enjoy the ironic magic.
Pumps -- While in Brooklyn, check out Pumps Bar, which is in East Williamsburg. What's so special about this place? Along with the lovely ladies working the bar, the owner is a die-hard moto fan, and there are several restored vintage MX machines hanging from the ceiling. What more could a Supercross fan ask for?
The New York Earth Room -- Want a laugh? There's a building in SoHo (141 Wooster Street, New York) with an apartment called the Earth Room. What's in there? A whole bunch of earth... or as MXers like to call it: dirt. An artist put the 22 inch-deep layer of terra firma in there as an installation a few decades ago, perhaps as a way of reminding the urbanites that there was a natural world beyond the walls of their city grid. For folks who spend their weekends literally playing in the dirt, something like the Earth Room might seem ridiculous. So, go ahead. Visit, point, and laugh at the silly city dwellers' fascinations.