Professional athletes often make things look easy, whether on the Olympic stage or on a race track. The champions make it look even more effortless.
But Chad Wienen, who’s won the last five ATV Motocross professional championships, will tell you that racing a small four-wheeler is a whole lot harder than it looks. Wienen said the exhaustion he feels while racing ATVs is “almost like a fatigue that nothing else really brings,” comparing it to climbing 5,000 feet of elevation on a bicycle — while also pushing to beat the clock.
“There’s a constant drag on you to push the limits and the track is rough,” Wienen explained. “Then the mental aspect of it, I think, is probably the toughest.
“Maybe things aren’t going right and you’re worried about it,” Wienen noted. “It almost seems like you get tired twice as fast when your mind is working against you. You have to be mentally strong.”
ATV Motocross is just what it sounds like — racing four-wheelers on a motocross track, full of all the jumps and twists that challenge the two-wheeled motocross riders. The series started in 1985 and the historical outline on its website says the sport had tons of growth during that decade. But safety concerns based upon people’s experiences with three-wheeled machines soon tanked the sport’s growth, which led to manufacturers taking their focus off of performance-oriented machines and factory support leaving the series.
The series survived through its early difficulties and factory support returned about two decades later. Its historical recount says popularity was on the rise yet again by the early 2000s.
That’s around the time Wienen got his start, older than most at age 16. Wienen says like any other motorsports, there are racers who first hopped on an ATV at 4 years old.
Wienen’s family wasn’t into racing and he just happened to grow up on a lot of land. He didn’t even get an ATV for recreational use until he was about 12 or 13 years old, but if it wasn’t obvious from the five straight championships, the late start turned out to be a good thing.
“It’s almost like a blessing in disguise that I didn’t start that early,” said Wienen, who entered a local ATV race at age 16 and won his first moto. “A lot of those kids who start that early, they get to 16 years old and they’re like ‘Ah, I want to get a car, I want to go drive it.’ They get distracted and end up not pursuing it.
“I’d already been through all of that, kind of, when I started racing.”
The racing in ATV Motocross happens on a closed-course track with jumps with each class running two motos per event. The series itself conducts 11 events a year. There are amateurs and professionals, along with other classes like a separate female division. The female racers, however, don’t have to run that division — so long as a rider has the equipment, he or she can run whichever class works.
Andrew Mahey, ATV Motocross’ digital media manager and a former ATV rider himself, claims an amateur rider can typically get all of the equipment needed to race for around $8,000. From that point, he said, it’s “all how much you really want to put into it.”
For the teams that choose to put a decent amount of money into it, Mahey says they’ll haul motorhomes and race trailers to the track. Similar to most other forms of motorsports, those trailers are full of spare parts and backup ATVs.