Baltimore has a reputation when it comes to dirt bikes, and it is not a good one. There are self-proclaimed gangs and urban bike clubs, such as the infamous 12 O’Clock Boys, that take to the streets in mass numbers, riding in and out of traffic, popping wheelies down the busy downtown streets. Their recklessness and showboating often put themselves and other motorists at risk, and they have dared law enforcement to do something about it. Well, they have… Baltimore Police have recently organized a new task force to tackle the dirt bike “problem” in Baltimore, and have zero tolerance for illegal riding. I don’t condone riding through the streets like an asshole, but as a new dirt bike rider myself, I have come to understand at least part of the problem. There is nowhere to ride legally, anywhere near Baltimore.
My son has wanted a dirt bike since his Power Wheels days. I’ve always written them off as too expensive, and too dangerous, especially for a kid who didn’t master a regular bicycle until he was 12, and I use the term “master” very loosely. Finally, this Christmas, his little heart skipped a beat when his only Christmas wish came true, and Santa brought him his first dirt bike. Naturally, I asked Santa for one, too, because it is no fun playing alone!
We were both eager to play with our new toys, and so we set out the day after Christmas to ride with another group. We headed off to an area near Glen Burnie, that we were assured was dirt bike friendly. It was a great spot, with large, rolling fields, and easy-to-navigate wooded trails. There were no homes or businesses nearby to disturb. The fields are very secluded and covered several acres of land. It was a great place for us to learn to ride, without causing any damage or disruption. We met several other groups of riders, of varying ages and ethnicities. All were extremely polite, friendly, and helpful folks who stopped by to say “hello.” We had a great time, until a group of gentlemen approached us on ATVs warning us that the police had arrived, rather aggressively. We decided that it was time to leave, realizing that this dirt bike friendly location was not quite as friendly as we had thought. If the police stopped us, or anyone else riding in the area, they would have likely impounded our bikes, handed us a large fine, and possibly even arrested us. Our bikes are legal, with titles, but that may not even come up in conversation with police officers, even if you were foolish enough to ride around with your bike’s title in your hand (this is
Sparta Baltimore, after all).
That put a damper on the day, and an end to any local riding spots. Luckily, we have a friend who has a backyard track where we can ride occasionally. It’s a fun little track, but it is not beginner friendly, what, with magnetic trees (ouch!) and a bog of eternal stench that is just waiting for us to veer off course. The track is about the size of a home’s footprint, so it’s not quite big enough to really drive in a straight line, or to go very fast. Occasionally, we are going to want to branch out to a larger trail or track to ride. The closest parks to Baltimore where it is legal to ride are: Budds Creek Motocross Track in Mechanicsville, Wicomico Motorsports Park in Chaptico, and The Landing MX in Easton. All three parks are approximately 1.5 hours from Baltimore, and range in price from $30 to $45 per rider, per day… not exactly convenient or affordable.
With my new-found hobby, I have a much better understanding of why dirt bike riders are frustrated. Most of us are friendly and courteous people who are just looking for a place to safely ride, often with young children, without bothering anyone, and without anyone bothering us. You might find those people riding far off the beaten path in the woods, or in wide-open, uninhabited utility fields. There are adequate places to ride in the county without being seen or heard, but none are legal. I can understand land owners not wanting groups of strangers on their property, but most locations suitable for riding are not residential, and are huge swaths of land owned by utility companies, or undeveloped woodlands that never see people, outside of the occasional rider. I wish that there were some welcoming areas to ride that were closer to Baltimore. There are a few trail systems to the far west, and in neighboring states, that are open to the public. I hear that in the near future, Western Maryland will get a series of public motosport trails, as well.
Those who take to the streets and ride their dirt bikes recklessly have no interest in riding on a track or trail. If they did, you wouldn’t see them on the street, they would be far back in the woods, out-of-sight, riding the trails that dirt bikes were made for. They are in it for the attention and stares, and they get plenty of them. The rest of us are friendly folks just looking for a safe place to ride without getting into trouble.