Dirt bike racing shows OD that life is more than being fastest

February 1, 2011

Though a busy man, Andrew Jones, OD, wouldn't give up dirt bike racing if you handed him a flourishing optometry practice for free.

Since the late 1990s, Andrew Jones, OD, has torn his ACL twice, broken his heal, and sprained both ankles-not to mention the hundreds of bruises, cuts, and scrapes his body has endured along the way.

Dr. Jones has been involved in dirt bike racing (DBR) since he graduated from optometry school back in 1994. Despite the injuries, constant training, and sore muscles, he wouldn't give up the sport even if you handed him a flourishing optometry practice for free. Racing or trail riding, he said, is his brand of meditation that helps him escape the stresses of daily life.

"My dad was really into dirt bikes when I was a kid," he said. "I remember begging him for a dirt bike when I was 5. Finally, at 10, my twin brother and I each got the exact same bike-a 70cc, yellow Indian, which they don't make anymore," he said.

Now Dr. Jones rides a 400cc-powered bike and has won several Enduro races. Enduro is a thinking man's sport, he said. While taking up to several hours to finish, he explained that the race relies on skill and strategy as well as speed.

"As you're riding, you watch your odometer and the clock mounted on your handlebars," he said. "You try to match your speed according to the route sheet. If you're early or late at certain checkpoints, you lose points. If you're more than an hour late, you're out of the race. It's very hard to do."

In 2002, Dr. Jones entered his first Enduro race-appropriately named Black & Blue Enduro. At the time, he was riding a 250cc bike and earned first place in the C-light or novice class. Then he moved up a notch, to B or amateur class, after switching to a bigger, 400cc bike. In 2005, he won second place in the race's B-Heavy class.

One of his proudest memories came during that first race. After several hours of riding, he recalls looking around him, seeing no one ahead or behind him. Was he lost?

"I remember looking at the route sheet, thinking, 'I'm so tired and there's no one around me. Am I dead last or doing well?'" he said. After riding a bit longer, his jaw suddenly dropped. Standing in front of him was a 20 foot-high, sheer rock cliff.

Dr. Jones knew the path went straight up since many of the rocks were scuffed with black marks from spinning tires. He rode most of the way up the cliff, and then dragged his bike up the last 10 feet. When he reached the finish line, he handed in his score sheet. The judges tally the sheets from all competitors, compare scores, and then determine a winner.

"It was just amazing because I had never won a race or trophy," Dr. Jones said. "I was pretty excited about it."

To prepare for racing, he weight trains and rides a mountain bike. Before his knee injuries, Dr. Jones also participated in triathlons, which included sections of swimming, bicycling, and running. But now, at age 42, he only participates in the swimming leg of the race.

He said many people believe DBR is all about speed when it's actually about making wise decisions.

"It's not the fastest person who always wins, but the person who makes the right choices, like choosing the best route to take up a hill or going around a big mud puddle instead of through it," Dr. Jones said. "A much faster person might crash halfway through, then be out of the race."

Nowadays, he participates in five races a year and spends his free time with his wife and two children riding trails.

In the exam room at his practice, Dr. Jones displays a picture of his family sitting on dirt bikes. He said it's a good conversation-starter for patients who now perceive him as a family man or friend instead of just an optometrist.

"Each year, I get a little better, which feeds into my competitive nature," he said. "This is something that I grew up doing and can't let go of."

FYI

Andrew Jones, ODPhone: 802/295-0938
E-mail: ajonesod@comcast.net

Dr. Jones did not indicate a financial interest in the subject.