By Katelyn DeAgro ’17
In sixth grade, when most students were attending tryouts for basketball or football, Liam Fanning ’19, and Odin Bartie ’19 had already found their passion in the unconventional sport of dirt biking.
Fanning began riding at seven years old and began racing competitively only two years later. Now he spends nearly every weekend at the track and mountain bikes every day after school to stay in shape.
“It started out just as something to do every now and then,” Fanning said, “but as my brother and I got more into the sport, it progressed into dedication.”
Bartie rides enduro, which is a form of biking where there are timed downhill sections of a trail and sections of downhill stages that have to be completed during a certain time allotment.
“It’s exciting for me to be able to ride off road and to feel free, like I can go anywhere that I want, and go on any terrain I want,” Bartie said. “Also to jump and feel the weightlessness when in the air.”
While Fanning doesn’t have an official coach to practice with on a regular basis, he has been able to foster friendships with local professionals who have come to mentor him. Last February, Fanning and his father were able to make a trip to train in South Carolina. While there, Fanning was professionally coached and trained alongside the top five racers in the world.
“The tracks were amazing. Everyone was really friendly, and the training was great,” Fanning said. “Overall, it was a really great trip. Definitely worth going back.”
For some, the competitive aspect of biking isn’t a part of the thrill. Bartie rides strictly recreationally. That being said due to the shared interest of dirt biking, he and Fanning have spent time riding together even though their styles differ.
“It was fun,” Bartie said. “He is a very skilled rider from all the years on moto that he’s done.”
For Fanning, the motocross season is almost year-round, with the exception being winter. While Fanning is in season, he travels weekly for practice. Although this takes a great deal of time and dedication, Fanning admits that his love for the sport makes it worthwhile.
“I like being independent with the bike,” Fanning said. “There’s not a moment sitting on the bench, so it’s a great sport to be involved in.”
Bartie started riding in fifth grade when his father bought him his first bike and they have been riding together ever since.
“[He] taught me how to use the clutch, shift gears and use the throttle,” Bartie said.
However, for all the support that Bartie’s parents give him, they still often get worried that he could potentially hurt himself.
“I have never been up to the dam and seen Odin dirt bike,” his mother Kirsten Bartie said. “It’s almost better that I haven’t seen him do all the things that he does.”
After high school, Fanning has considered taking his time on the bike to a more professional level. While there is no college recruitment for motocross, there are still opportunities for Fanning to continue his training and competing.
“We’ll see how I do at regionals, and if I do end up making it to nationals,” Fanning said, “then [racing professionally] would be a possibility.”