Keith Knight, motocross rider
Competitor Keith Knight talks with SN&R in advance of his big race at the Hangtown Motocross Classic
If you’ve ever researched how much it costs to race motocross, you know the incredibly high prices facing the local racer. And while most weekend warriors don’t need to worry about having a bike from the current year or having the trickiest gear, those looking to compete without the luxury of having a factory-sponsored ride face some serious costs. One rider who’s been able to ride out the hardships to stay on the track is Carmichael motocross rider Keith Knight, who turns 23 just around the time of the annual Hangtown Motocross Classic. He’ll be competing with some of the nation’s best in this week’s event in the 250-cubic-centimeter class under the number 636. Knight gave SN&R a little info on what he’s going up against, how he does it and what it’s like to live the motocross life.
How did you get started in motocross?
My dad raced motocross when he was my age and got me into it at a really early age. I was only 5 years old when he got me my first bike, a Yamaha PW50. My first race didn’t go go so well, though, and I fell over constantly throughout the race and my dad had to help pick me up. I’ve been riding and racing ever since.
This won’t be your first time racing in the Hangtown Classic. What’s it like?
I’ve been racing locally at Prairie City OHV [where the race will be held] for about 15 years now. This will be my fifth year racing the Hangtown Classic. The hardest part about this race has always been dealing with the hometown nerves. The Dirt Diggers North Motorcycle Club, who help present the race, usually bring in a lot of sand and the track will get rough and choppy early on in the day. Hangtown is the only national I’ve never made the main event. I think I missed it by one slot one year.
Do you make any money racing the pro class locally to balance out costs?
The only real money I make comes from the American Motocross Association and pro purses at local tracks that range from $200 to $500. I typically have to pay around $50 a class and close to around $100 when I race both the 250cc and 450cc classes. I love local races and always place in the top three. My last race was in the Mammoth Qualifier, but I race at Riverfront MX Park in Marysville, E Street MX in Marysville, Prairie City OHV, Argyll Park in Dixon, and more. My favorite track is still the E Street in Marysville, although I usually practice at Prairie City during the week additionally as well. Zeb Armstrong runs REP Racing and he hosts a summer and winter series. Zeb is awesome and has put on special practices for riders as well.
How do you afford your motocross habit? It’s so damn expensive these days when compared to the early ’90s and late ’80s.
I have a lot of sponsors and people on my side. I work at Roseville Yamaha Kawasaki as well. I also get help from Haeseker Racing Engines, Strock Fitness, 180 Decals, No Toil, Troy Lee Designs, Bell Helmets, 100 Percent Goggles, FMF, Ride Engineering, Alpinestars, Works Connection, Acerbis and Ryno Power. Jim [Haeseker] from Haeseker Racing Engines has also been a huge part in making sure my bike is ready to go at each round. And, course, my mom and dad.
How do you like working around motorcyles all day long?
It’s awesome. I started riding for Roseville Yamaha Kawasaki in 2013. Shortly after, the owner, Sean Copeland, gave gave me an offer to work full-time around October 2013. I love being around dirt bikes and I have many repeat cool customers that I know from seeing them on a regular basis. I love talking about motocross and being around people who ride. Many of the folks who come in know me from racing locally and being at the shop as well.
Who is your biggest competition in this region?
Hmm. I don’t think I can name just one rider. You never know who could step up and be the man to beat on that particular day. There are some fast guys locally but I really only concentrate on myself and the top three riders these days. Kinser Endicott is probably my biggest competition around here. He’s really fast. There are many guys who “sandbag” and stay in the intermediate class forever so they can hopefully get a factory ride.
What are your goals and aspirations as a pro motocross racer?
I just want to place top 20 in a national race. As of right now, I plan on doing five rounds at Hangtown, Glen Helen, Thunder Valley in Colorado, Washougal and Utah. During outdoor motocross, if you don’t qualify as one of the top 36 fastest riders during timed practice, you do not make it to the main event. There are 40 riders at the gate during the main event. You get two 15-minute practices and they simply take your best lap time. My best finish to date at a motocross outdoor national is 26th. This year I plan to have much better luck as I have been training and racing locally around the area.
What is it that gets you out to the track again and again?
I think it’s about me trying to better myself every day. It’s like I am trying to see how far I can take myself and to constantly test the limitations of my body. The thrill of motocross cannot be matched and there is nothing better than it, besides sex, of course. But, motocross is a close second!