Already this year, Nick Click has been to Arlington, Texas; Atlanta, Ga.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Daytona, Fla.; Detroit, Mich.; and this weekend he’s headed north to Toronto, Ontario, in Canada.
It’s a lot of travel, but that’s part of the job when you’re a privateer on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, said Click, 24, St. Clair.
Supercross or SX is the sport of off-road motorcycle racing done on man-made tracks inside large stadiums. Dirt is brought in (as much as 500 truckloads) and sculpted using construction equipment.
Privateers are those riders who hold down regular jobs to help fund their sport.
Click, son of Julie and Todd Click, St. Clair, and grandson of Raymond Click, Richwoods, works second shift at Ozark Die Casting in St. Clair, and he feels lucky. The owner, Gary Land, is flexible with Click’s schedule, allowing him to be off to attend races on the weekends.
Next weekend, Click will catch a break when the Monster Energy Supercross competition comes to St. Louis Saturday, March 29, at the Edward Jones Dome.
Practice and qualifying runs will begin at 12:30 p.m. with the main event starting at 7 p.m.
Click, who rides as No. 508, will be one of the 60 to 80 riders competing in the 450SX class. While he doesn’t expect to win, he hopes to do well enough to make it to the night show. And if his past performances are any indicator, he will.
First Race Was at Washington Fair
Click’s first motorcycle race was the motocross event at the Washington Town and Country Fair in 1998.
He had gotten his first motorcycle, a Yamaha PW80, when he was 8. It was a gift from his father, but Click wasn’t too keen on riding it.
“I was scared of it,” he said.
A year or so later, when a few friends were getting into the sport, Click decided to try it again. His stepfather purchased him a new bike, one more geared for racing, a Kawasaki KX60.
At the Washington Town and Country Fair race, Click placed 10th.
After that he took the sport slow for a few years, but in 2002 decided to make a more serious commitment.
“I started to step up and get more interested. It was a weekend thing. We did it every weekend,” said Click, who credited his family with helping him participate.
Riders need the help and support of their families to compete, Click said, for one, because it’s an expensive sport.
“You don’t just go buy a pair of tennis shoes and play basketball,” he said. “You have to have all the gear.”
But support is also necessary because of the travel involved and the amount of equipment and gear that needs to be hauled to each race.
Family may not be the first thing that comes to mind when people think of motorcycle sports, but it’s actually a very wholesome activity, said Click.
“It’s kept me out of trouble my whole life. That’s the good thing about it,” he said. “You’re close with your family; you’re at the track with other families doing it.”
Click said it was his commitment to the sport that led him to leave St. Clair High School after the 10th grade to be homeschooled. At that point he was traveling out of town every weekend for races, and that often required him to miss classes on Friday.
He graduated in 2007.
It Can Be Dangerous
The flip side is that it can be dangerous, which Click knows from personal experience. Over the years, he’s had many bad injuries. The worst was in 2008 when he broke both feet so badly that he needed three surgeries and was confined to a wheelchair for a while.
“I came up short on a jump really bad,” said Click, noting it was during a race in Michigan.
Other injuries have included broken arms and legs, a broken collar-bone, shoulder . . . Yet the pain from none of them would ever be enough to stop him from staying in the sport.
To protect himself from serious injuries as much as possible, Click wears a neck brace in addition to his other gear — helmet, boots, jersey and pants, knee braces . . .
Supercross V. Motocross
Click gets his gear from Big St. Charles, a motorcycle shop that serves as his main sponsor.
Big St. Charles has given him a bike, a Honda CRF 250, and also helps him pay entry fees (around $200 per race), among other things.
Click noted that he’s one of the only riders who uses a 250 bike in the 450 class.
It’s a less powerful bike, he said, but it’s what he prefers.
“I like the feel of it. I feel more comfortable on it,” said Click.
The supercross season runs January to early May, with a race each weekend in some city across the country.
In the off-season, Click said he will ride local motocross events just for the practice. Still, supercross is his preference.
“I like supercross because of the rush you get. It’s way more technical, and there’s 60,000 people watching you,” said Click.
“They sell out almost every weekend at the football stadium. It’s really a rush, and that’s what I like.”
The difference with motocross, Click explained, is that the course is outdoors and more spread out so there are areas where spectators can’t see the riders. There may be only 100 to 200 people who show up to watch, he said.
With supercross, the hills are steeper and the jumps are bigger.
“It’s all for the crowd,” said Click. “They want to get the crowd into it.
“The hills are 10 feet tall, but straight up and down.”
Speeds vary depending on the track, but riders can go in excess of 60 miles per hour at a typical supercross event. They can soar as far as 70 feet and fly as high as a three-story building off jumps known as “triples.”
The winners are determined by time. Whoever is the fastest, has the best time, wins, said Click. It doesn’t matter how clean or sloppy they rode the course.
“You can roll around the whole practice and have one clean run that gets you in,” said Click.
During the qualifying events, each rider has a transponder on his bike that records the time, Click noted. The top 40 riders advance to the night show with heat racing and the main event to determine a first-place winner.
Typical times for supercross races are between 50 seconds to a minute, and the time difference between riders’ times can be less than a second.
Click usually places around 40, out of the 60 to 80 riders in the 450 class.
“The competition is tough,” he remarked. “I ride week to week . . . I don’t get to ride during the week at all. I ride every Saturday.”
Being from the Midwest is one of the biggest challenges to a supercross rider, said Click, because the weather and location often prevent practicing.
When the weather cooperates and he’s off work, he is able to practice at a supercross-style outdoor track in Park Hills, about an hour from his home.
More Fun Than Lucrative
Winnings, for riders who place around 40 like Click, can be around $1,000, which sounds like a lot, but not when you factor in travel and other expenses. First-place winners, on the other hand, can get as much as $25,000.
“This isn’t really an opportunity to make money,” said Click. “It’s more about having fun.”
When he was younger, Click admits he dreamed about making a career out of supercross. Today, he’s comfortable where he is — just having fun.
“I want to look forward to other stuff now. I just do it for fun,” he said.
“The sport’s just awesome to be around. It’s a good atmosphere.”
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t push himself to be his best.
“I still want to be good, and I still train. I still have certain expectations.”
Although he’s still young, Click is already on the downside of the age range for supercross. Top riders are typically between 18 and 21, and many drop out by their early 30s.
“It takes a toll on your body eventually,” said Click. “You can only take so much of it.
“And once you start getting 10th and stuff, that’s not where they want to be anymore, so they quit.”
Click said he thought last year was going to be his last. He’d had a very good year, made all the night shows. Now he’s thinking after this year he’ll be ready to quit.
“It’s so expensive. You don’t make money at it,” he said. “And I have to have people go with me, mechanics and stuff, and they have to take off work.”
No matter when Click decides to end his racing career, he still plans to be active in the sport, helping other riders on their way up.
“I like training other people, working with them,” he said. “It’s always good to have a guy that’s done it . . . out there.
For the rest of the story, which appeared in the March 22-23 Weekend Missourian, subscribe to The Missourian.
“I enjoy doing that stuff.”
Looking ahead to the competition in St. Louis next weekend, Click admits he’s nervous, more so than when the races are out of town.
“St. Louis is always intimidating because there are so many people I know in the audience,” he said.
Click is one of a handful of riders coming to the race who call the St. Louis metro area home. They are competitive with each other, but also friendly.
“We’ve all been friends forever. We all grew up together,” said Click, noting last year there were 10 St. Louis area riders who traveled together, but several of them have quit.
They help each other out, giving tips about the course.
“There’s a lot of sections, where there’s a lot of different options, where you can go double triple or triples . . . We’ll come up to each other and say, ‘Hey, you really need to do this section different.’
“We help each other.”
For more information on supercross or the race next Saturday, March 29, at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, people can visit www.supercrossonline.com or, for tickets, call 1-800-745-3000. Prices range from $10 to $55 each.