Writer's Ramblings

Stripe's Rodeo Reflections

Written by  December 31, 2007

On snowy Kansas City days such as today, I tend to reminisce about fun events I attended during the past year. Readers who are familiar with my rally coverage know that I get a great deal of enjoyment from motorcycle rodeos and field events. Such events never fail to provide great entertainment for the spectators, but the participants have even more fun. In the year ahead, I would encourage rally attendees to get involved in the field events rather than watch from the sidelines. Those who are without partners can usually recruit someone from the audience to team up with them. In my experience, beginners often experience surprising success in bike rodeos.

It occurred to me that those who sponsor rodeos can encourage participation by conducting their events in a way that makes competitors feel that their safety is ensured and their enjoyment is important to the organizers. A number of ideas come to mind as to what makes a good rodeo.

Safety First:
For events involving an element of speed, such as barrel races, tire drags, and so on, it is important that spectators be kept at a safe distance. Sufficient run-out space must be allowed after bikes cross the finish line to permit competitors to stop safely. If there is pedestrian or motorized traffic that crosses the shutdown area, people should be stationed there to stop traffic during the competition.

Games involving speed are normally conducted on soft surfaces. Still, there is always a possibility of injury, and medical personnel should be on hand, just in case. There should also be people handy to quickly pick up a bike in case a fallen rider is pinned underneath.

Competitors should be encouraged to keep their bikes and tempers under control at all times. There is a temptation for riders to express their frustration at being eliminated from an event such as a slow ride by exiting the arena at high speed, kicking up rooster tails as they go. Just remember that crashing your bike is harder on the ego than failing to win an event.

The Rules:
Organizers should make sure the rules of the events are clearly understood by the contestants and should never make rule changes after an event has started. It is especially important to explain any non-standard rules. I once attended an event where the slow race finish was determined by the back wheel crossing the finish line, not the front. This wasn’t explained beforehand, and resulted in some frustrated riders. If it is decided that the wienie is too high for a wienie bite contest, couples who have already made an attempt should be given another chance.

The Event Staff:
Members of the event staff should be familiar with the rules so that they can explain them to competitors. They should consider that there could be beginners involved in the competition and should not take it for granted that everyone knows what to do.
There should be sufficient staff to control traffic if necessary, stop runaway kegs during a keg roll or keg toss event before someone is hurt or damage is done, and keep an eye on each competitor so that events are fairly judged. As an example, for a slow race it is ideal to have one judge for each lane to make sure riders touching a line are eliminated.

Familiar Games:
It is important to have some events that are pretty much universally understood. Games such as a balloon toss, slow race, keg roll, tire toss, and wienie bite are favorites of spectators and competitors alike, and make it easier to get riders to compete.

Off the Wall Games:
Games that are out of the ordinary are also lots of fun. One example is road kill roundup wherein the passenger uses a fishing net to scoop up stuffed animals while riding past a line of them. This game can be made more interesting by marking certain animals for extra points. Another unusual event is a joust wherein the passenger picks up rings off pylons using a lance that can be stiff (pvc pipe) or droopy (swimming pool noodle). How about a game that requires the passenger to hang panties on a “clothesline” while riding past?

Non-motorcycle Games:
It is a good idea to have a game or two that doesn’t require a motorcycle, for the benefit of people who, for whatever reason, prefer not to compete on a bike. Examples are a keg toss, dizzy race (running after spinning around a baseball bat), boot race (running to a pile of boots, finding your boots, putting the boots on, and running to the finish line), and boot toss (closest to target wins).

Spectators and competitors will lose interest if there is a long lag between events. Any required equipment or props should be kept handy and set up quickly. This includes such items as the planks for a plank ride, the standards used for the balloon toss and wienie bite, hay and potatoes for potato-in-the-haystack, balloons, wienies, pylons, tennis balls, straws and bottles for straw-in-the bottle, and the like.

For me, plaques are better than trophies simply because they are less fragile and easier to pack home in a saddlebag. Cash or free admission to future rallies make nice prizes. Even free beer has been known to motivate bikers to join the competition. In the case of couples events, it’s nice to have prizes for both members of the winning teams as many teams are not permanent couples.

This is just a collection of my thoughts as to what makes field events fun for audiences and competitors alike. Once again, I highly recommend getting involved in motorcycle rodeos whenever an opportunity presents itself. However, if you insist on being a spectator, don’t hesitate to applaud and cheer on those who do compete. They will definitely appreciate it.

Story and photos by Stripe