ClubMX Life | Editorial 3

Vital MX was recently invited to ClubMX for a tour and chance to spend a few days experiencing their amateur training program.

Training facilities have become the norm in professional dirt bike racing over the last decade or so. Multiple motocross and supercross tracks, garages, trainers, and almost anything you need to succeed are available to those riders and their families who want to make a run at being professional racers. ClubMX, in Chesterfield, South Carolina, is one of the premier facilities in the country, and they recently invited Vital MX to spend a few days experiencing what they offer.

Michael Lindsay, Jamie Guida, and Sean Ogden made the trip to interview ClubMX owner Brandon Haas, train with the amateur group, and video the experience. You can check out that video below. Scroll down for Jamie's written account of training at the facility.

 

When I started working at Vital MX, I mentioned to ML that ClubMX was somewhere I wanted to visit, so this was the perfect opportunity. I had heard many stories about their tracks and seen enough pictures and videos to know it was a motocross playground. I also knew it didn’t become what it is overnight. A facility like ClubMX has a story behind it that includes a lot of time, work, and money spent.

Brandon Haas is the owner, president, and head coach of ClubMX. Brandon was an accomplished amateur motocross racer, raced some pro nationals, and had top-five finishes in Arenacross. It was while training for Arenacross in 2009 that he found out about a track Zach Osborne had in Chesterfield, SC. Brandon got in touch with ZachO and went to ride at the track. Shortly after, Brandon had a knee injury, which led to him realizing he needed to think about his future outside of racing. Eventually, Brandon and Zach worked out a way to train kids on the property, something they were both very passionate about. Fast forward, and Zach decided to make racing his primary focus and sold his portion to Brandon in 2010. 

The ClubMX facility started on 42 acres with one supercross track, the main track, and Zach’s original GP sand track. Thirteen years later, it’s 200 acres with ten total tracks, including 3-4 supercross tracks (depending on layouts). There are four family cabins, multiple apartments, RV hookups, a fitness center, a pro shop, private garages, a common garage with a mechanic on site, a clubhouse, and much more. When it comes to the dirt, it doesn't get any better than what Club offers. They have deep, gnarly sand and some clay between all the different tracks and it gets rough and rutty.

Photo
Sean Ogden

Obviously, a facility of this stature needs staff, and ClubMX has it. Brandon is onsite as a coach, along with General Manager/Riding Coach Ben Graves, Head Trainer Ross Muinzer, Fitness Coach/Physical Therapist Hayden Justice, Mental Skills Coach Timothy Laskis, PH.D., and Nutritionist Debra Meszaros. Mike Bonacci is the Team Manager of the pro team but also manages the facility, and Miguel Majeau gets the tracks ready to ride. This doesn’t even count the pro team mechanics, riders, and a truck driver.

ClubMX normally operates with 30-35 amateurs and 15-18 pros training. Mike Bonacci, who started running the practice facility and has grown into the role of Pro team manager, described the amateur program as ‘menu-driven,’ meaning you could pick options such as the food program, RV hookup, or personal garage off of the ‘menu.’ This allows the family of each rider to decide what needs they have and meet them individually.

I arrived at Club on September 10th, the day after the Charlotte SMX round. The size of the place blew me away. As soon as I rolled through the entrance, I started seeing tracks and was eager to get unloaded and ride. There was a group of guys, including Brandon Haas, riding their turn track, so I got geared up and went out. The turn track was loamy sand and had lots of ruts, which I am not good at. It also had a small triple, which will come into play later. Riding at a training facility is not like going to your local track when it’s perfectly prepared and just moto’ing for fun. The tracks are rough and designed to force you to work on technique. In short, it’s difficult. It didn’t take long for me to be exhausted and to realize I had a lot of work to do. We closed out the day with Mike giving me a tour of the entire facility, which left me drooling over all the tracks. I was certainly not going to have enough time to ride them all.

Photo
Sean Ogden

The plan was for me to join in with the amateur kids and experience their program. Monday morning, I met my group in the gym at 7 a.m., where we did some stretching and a run. We then went to the clubhouse for breakfast and a meeting where the coaches talked to the kids about what they’d be working on. After breakfast, we had a little time to get geared up and bikes prepped, and we were meeting back on the turn track, which had been prepped from the day before. We were told to go out and do some laps for a warm-up. Even though every kid there made me look slow, I still had fun. I finally pulled the trigger on the little triple coming out of the left-hand turn, and my ego grew. That may have been my downfall. 

 

Very early into the second session, I caught a rut on the face of the triple, which shot me to the left, and I lost my forward momentum. I cased the landing, which put a lot of pressure on my ankles. I then landed sideways and crashed. It was frustrating and very embarrassing. My left ankle felt like it could be broken, so I went and had it x-rayed. I was told it was a severe sprain and some tissue damage, which was going to make it difficult to accomplish the goal I was sent to ClubMX to do. That being to ride and experience the program. It was not a great situation.

That evening, I decided to try an ice bath, hoping it would help with the swelling and pain. In case you are unaware, ice baths hurt, too. I didn’t make it long fully submerged but did leave my ankle in for a good bit. Amazingly enough, the next morning, it felt much better. I decided I’d try to ride.

Photo
Sean Ogden

Tuesday, after gym and breakfast, we were scheduled to ride on the front main track. I squeezed my bad ankle into my boots and rolled down with the group. We went out and did some warm-up laps, and I felt way out of my league. I had not gotten comfortable on the 450; my ankle hurt, and the track had some big jumps. I was intimidated, to say the least. Thankfully, after our first break, Ben and the other coaches had us ride a small section of the track and work on technique. It didn’t take long before Ben pulled me to the side and gave me some pointers to focus on. He immediately noticed some bad habits I had and pushed me to improve in the short time I was there. 

A moment I want to point out happened after the first few laps doing this particular section. There was a tabletop that I was not jumping, partially because of my ankle and partially because I was uncomfortable on the bike. Some kids kept pumping me up and telling me I had it, so I finally pulled the trigger and cleared it. It wasn’t a big jump, but at the time, it was a big deal. I appreciate those little buttholes for making fun of me. I did not ride the full day. The ankle was starting to hurt and swelling, and I needed to get some interviews done with the pro guys before they left for the day. Phill Nicoletti, Garrett Marchbanks, and the rest of the pro team finished their training around midday. (Those interviews can be found on Ep285 of the MotoXpod Show.)

My final day was Wednesday, but no riding was to be had. A storm rolled in Tuesday evening and drenched the track. Instead of riding, I spent the day in the pro shop with the mechanics as they worked on bikes and talked trash with each other. We went into town and had some lunch, and the guys made me feel like I was part of the crew. 

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Sean Ogden

It’s unfortunate that I made the mistake and missed out on the full experience. ClubMX has the tools available if you’re looking for a training facility to prepare you for the rigors of amateur motocross and, eventually, a step into a pro career. All the personnel at Club love this sport and want to help each rider be their best. Riders such as Justin Brayton and Freddie Noren, who aren’t on the ClubMX race team, choose it because it has everything you could want or need. Weekly, monthly, and yearly memberships are available. You can go to ClubMX.com and get more info. I also want to thank the entire ClubMX family for having us out and for all the hospitality. I will be back.

Photo
Sean Ogden

 

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