Living life off-road


Sam Beetham

“And Gilman turns the corner, he’s looking to make the jump, annnnnnddd he wipes out. I repeat, Gilman wipes out.” Coming off of a jump, motocross rider and West Ottawa Jr. Taten Gilman wiped out as he landed. His foot got caught on the ground, throwing his leg up over his head. His body was thrown from his bike 20 feet through the air, where he skidded through the dirt to a stop. The result was a sprained hip, cracked helmet, broken face guard and pride that was in need of repair. Gilman is no stranger to seeing wipe outs, and he understands the risk of riding motocross. Not only does he understand the risks of dangerous, fast, off road racing, but he also understands the risk of going “off the road” when choosing what to do after high school.

  Every time Gilman gets on his bike he runs the risk of potentially injuring himself. Motocross riding poses a serious health hazard. Hundreds of people are injured or killed from motocross accidents every year. By riding over jumps, sharp turns, rough roads, deep ruts and unexpected loose rubble all at a high speed, the dangers are high. Add in the fact that riders all race at the same time and are all driven by the same desire to drive through the treacherous terrain as fast as possible, and you have a situation that is about as dangerous as they come.

  Gilman does not wipe out frequently and has not been seriously injured from riding, but he does realize that the sport has the potential to damage his health if something were to go wrong. Every turn, every jump, every time loose rubble comes up on the course, Gilman runs a very fine line that if run incorrectly, has the potential to end in injury.

  Another risk that he runs is the risk of choosing not to go to college. Although Gilman is still registered as a junior in high school, he has earned all his credits early enough to graduate a year in advance. He has chosen to bypass college after high school and go directly into the motocross business. Nearly 70% of all high school students in the United States go to college immediately after high school. By choosing to go directly into motocross, Gilman chooses to make his own path rather than following the well known road. Instead of choosing to go from high school to college and then finding a job, he jumps over the college stage, a high risk path, but also one that could produce reward. Just like taking a jump off a mound of dirt on the track, by skipping college, Gilman throws himself into the air and hopes for the best. One small problem and the whole bike could wipe out, or everything continues smoothly and he races to the finish. He enters a high risk, high reward situation by choosing to skip college.  

  However, Gliman is no stranger to risks, he has been riding a dirt bike since he was five years old. Before he had stepped foot in a classroom to learn how to read, he had already learned to ride a motorbike. He first competed in an organized race at the age of seven. At eight years old, he won his first ever organized motocross competition. Since then, Gilman has made motocross something of a lifestyle. He practices most days to keep his body in shape during the week. Then, every weekend between March and November, he gets to compete in races. Compared to other sports where a team is needed, Gilman enters into the race by himself and the pressure rests squarely on his shoulders. He says that it has often made its way into his mind. “It’s difficult because you go in and nobody has your back. Only you and yourself,” Gilman said.

  All the hard work and dedication that Gilman has put into his sport has come with rich rewards. For one thing, he has many great memories of the sport. This past year, Gilman, wearing his heart rate monitor, landed an amazing 140 foot jump. When he checked his monitor, it read an astounding 173 beats per minute. Compare that to the resting rate of a well trained athlete at 40 beats per minute. Another reward from Gilman’s hard work and practice has come from FLY Racing and Lake Cycle KTM, who both have sponsored him for the past two years and look to continue sponsoring him in the future. He currently ranks 25th in the nation for his age group and last year won his qualifier race in order to advance to the national level. He describes that race as one of the most satisfying moments of his life. “It’s just the most unbelievable feeling when you win. You win, and then you’re just on top of the world all by yourself. It’s so great,” Gilman said.

  Starting at a young age, Gilman chose to take the dangerous road, the road full of risks. He continues to choose that same path as he decides not to go to college next year and instead race professionally.