NEWTON TWP. — When Jason Carnes rolled into Cedar BMX, it brought back some good memories.
Carnes, the reigning USA BMX National Cruiser Champion, won his first professional race at the track in 1990.
He returned Aug. 12 to run a Redline Flight School clinic, which taught BMX riders of all ages the mechanics of the sport. Carnes also demonstrated techniques to help the riders improve the skills.
Carnes stressed the importance of continuing to be a student of BMX.
“I’ve been racing for 30 years and I’m still trying to learn how to make the bike go faster,” he said. “No matter your skill level or age, you can always get better and smarter.”
While Carnes showed the riders a lot of basic fundamentals of riding and a few tricks, he also focused on the mental aspect of racing.
“A lot of you are young and probably don’t understand how powerful your brain can be out there,” he said. “When you’re at the races, you need to always keep a positive mindset. BMX is a crazy sport and anything can happen out there in those 30 seconds. When you come up to the gate, don’t spend any of your energy thinking about the things you can’t control. The minute you start thinking about the other riders on the gate, they’re already in your head and they’re going to mess you up.”
The long-time pro also spoke to the riders about the need to properly prepare for the start of a race.
“It’s imperative to warm up before you go out to race,” he said. “You have to take it upon yourselves to warm up your body. BMX is a highly explosive sport and you only have about 30 or 40 seconds to get your business done. Your body has to be ready when the lights come on and the beeps go off, so you can go from zero to 100 percent immediately.”
Carnes suggested squats, lunges and jumping jacks as examples of activities to get in race form, but each rider may have a different plan.
“Do whatever you can do to fire your muscles up and get your brain and muscles to work together,” he said. “You will be quicker, more alert and you will make better decisions.”
The Texas native focused on a few basic approaches riders should follow to be successful on the track.
“You need to have a fast start and when you get up to speed, you also need to have fast legs,” he said. “You need to have good bike handling skills and the ability to get over the jumps smooth and safe, around the turns and deal with all the competitors.
“And, do it fast.”
Carnes also emphasized the value of sticking to basic techniques, especially for less experienced riders.
“Keep it simple, don’t worry about being fancy,” he said. “You want to worry about about going fast and staying smooth. Body position on the bike is also really important. The basic thing is pumping over the jumps. When you go over the top of the jump, your pedals need to be flat, front to back. If you’re not gaining speed on every jump, you’re not doing something right.”