I wrote most of this page before I started racing seriously. In 2009 I went back and added some more comments.
Spot GPS Tracking
I bought a Spot Tracker in 2008 for my first BITD race. This small GPS device allows you to send messages to your friends to let them know you are ok or hurt and it also has a 911 feature that calls the local 911 emergency service. It also has the option of tracking you and displaying where you are online on a google earth map. It is really cool. Learn more on their site: http://findmespot.com/en/ I bought mine new off ebay for quite a bit less than MSRP and I really like it. You can also find coupon codes online to get a cheaper rate when you activate it.
Here is a link to my shared spot page.
I have learned the #1 item to have to be a faster rider is better fitness. In 2006-07 I was in the novice class steadily placing in the top 5. In November of 2007 I started boxing and Muay Thai 4-5 days a week instead of lifting weights like I used to. When the 2008 season started I noticed I felt a lot better on the quad. I didn't learn any new skills and I didn't get any craizer but I was quite a bit faster. I was easily winning my race in the Amateur class in March of 08 when my engine blew. The next race I did win and I was bumped to the expert class which I never really expected to happen. I probably rode less in 2008 but I kept doing Muay Thai 2-3 times per week and I kept placing in the top 5 at each race.
I currently train Muay Thai about 2x per week at my house using the skills I learned going to Metayo Muay Thai for 10 months. A workout consists of 1-2 three minute rounds of jumping rope then stretching. We end up doing 12 rounds of working out with various punching and kicking pads. Six of those rounds I am holding the pads for my workout partner Adam. Then we do situps and pushups and that is it. It takes an hour to do. You could also just run to stay in shape but I can't handle the boredom of running.
You must have hands of steal if you don't wear gloves. My friend went on one ride without gloves and his hands were pretty tore up. Then he went out and bought the finest pair of gloves that $9.95 will buy you. He might as well have been wearing plastic sacks on his hands because they still got tore up and he had to quit riding a day early at the dunes. My point is try to buy a good set of gloves, you will not regret it.
Update: I currently use Fox dirt paw gloves. They normally only last about 3 races before getting holes in them. I also wear Kevlar under gloves by Underwares for racing. I highly recommend them, they really cut down on the nasty blisters.
Riding Jersey pants
After one trip to the track in the summertime I really didn't like the jeans. They are too hot. So I got some O'neal tracker pants from the bargain room at Town and Country Motorsports. Retail on these is $100ish, internet price is about $80 but they were on sale for $40 because they are last year's style. They seem to run a little smaller than normal pants so I had to get one size larger to fit good. They are much cooler than jeans and I don't have any complaints other than they are zero pockets and no loops to tie my kill switch to.
Update: For 2007 and 2008 I wore Moose M1 pants for my races because they come in obnoxious orange (my favorite color, aka KTM orange). I do wish these things had a pocket or two in them.
When I first started riding again in December of 2005 I noticed that my ass was getting really sore and basically chapped. This is because I was riding in jeans. I like the jeans because they keep the exhaust off my leg and they keep the desert bushes from scratching me. To help curb the monkey butt I went to Sports Authority and bought some padded Cycling shorts. They are meant for people who spend a lot of time pedaling bikes. They look like tight shorts with a "man pad" in the ass and crotch area. They are pretty funny looking but they helped me a great deal at the dunes and around the desert. I have been wearing O'neal jersey pants at the track but I still wear the manpon shorts underneath. Baseball sliding shorts also work.
Update: I stopped wearing undershorts about 2 seasons ago and I haven't experienced much chaffing at all.
I normally just wear a t-shirt when I ride but my first trip to the track I found out how muddy it is. So I went to the bargain room and got a jersey for $10. The mud washes out of it extremely easy so I like it. The mud from the mx track does not wash out of a regular t-shirt. :(
I normally wear an old pair of nike's when I ride and I had no complaints. However, most tracks require over the ankle boots. So I went online and did a bunch of research. It was hard to weed through all the posts regarding all the brands and models of boots. I also read about a few people who tried riding boots and went back to regular hiking boots. I went to Cycle Gear and tried on a few pairs and they were quite uncomfortable. As I really did not want to make a $150-$300 mistake I decided to go to Sports Authority and buy some cheaper over the ankle boots. They had some high, black police boots which I used my first 2 trips to the track. The problem was at the track you are jumping a lot and when I would land the footpeg was really smashing into my arch and it hurt. I was also getting a pretty good bruise on my right upper calve.
So I decided I needed to upgrade to real boots. I went back online and read everyone's opinion then I went to Town And Country to try some on. They had quite a few styles but only 2 in my size 12. Also the salesman was pretty rude and he seemed to know less about boots than me. So the next day I went back to Cycle gear and the guy there was extremely nice and knowledgeable. They had the alpinestar Tech 6's on sale for $260 or so and they also had some older Alpinestar Vectors for $220. Everyone in the store told me the tech 6 was a better boot and I remember the online discussions stating it was a good boot. However I preferred the way the vector fit so I bought them. Going into the stores I wanted to get boots with the optional "all terrain" tread. the all terrain tread is basically a hiking boot sole on a riding boots, they are made for quad guys. However none of the local stores had them so I got the vectors. I have no complaints about their sole, I have plenty of traction, but then again I have tried an all terrain sole so I might be missing something.
Update: I wore the Alpinestar Vector boots through the 2008 season and they still work great, they are very comfortable but the lack of a removable liner has turned them into a toxic waste hole. They really stink!! So for xmas 2008 I got a pair of Tech 8's in KTM orange!
All boots are clearly uncomfortable when you try them on. I read online that to break them in quickly you put them in a tub of hot water, then wear them around. The guy in the store said that is an old trick and you don't need to do that anymore just buy this fancy alpinestar shoe conditioner and be on your way. I was skeptical so I went with the free bath tub method. I basically followed these directions posted on trx450r.org. After moving around in the tub with the boots on, I went outside and washed my quad with the boots on and walked around a bit. Then I took them off and let them dry. The next morning I was headed to the track and they were still damp so I wore them all day while they were damp. The next day they were dry and they were all broken in. Walking and riding is a lot easier now. Don't forget to move your shifter up a few notches so you can shift the bike. On my bike all you do is remove the 8mm bolt from the shifter and pull the shifter off of the splines and then put it back on at a higher location and put the bolt back in and tighten. I will say that finding neutral is a bit harder with the boots on, but you will get used to it.
Update several months later: I have been wearing the boots on all rides for a while now and I love them. I can't imagine riding without them I know they have saved my feet and ankles quite a few times.
I like to wear blue or red tinted goggles when I ride in the desert or dunes because the contrast seems to help pickup the subtle changes in terrain. However when riding at night at the dunes they are not as good as clear goggles so now I take two pairs. I use Scott goggles because they are usually on sale.
Update: I still run Scott goggles and I love them. I use tear offs too instead of roll offs. I tried the roll offs once and I didnt like them at all. Too much dust gets between the roll off and the lense.
For the first year of riding I have been using a cheap brand helmet. I haven't really crashed so i don't have any feedback (knock on wood). It fits nice and breathes ok. However the interior panels are showing signs of wear. When I signed up for my first whiplash race and tried to pass tech they barely passed my helmet and they told me to get a better helmet prior to the next race. I took their advice and got a higher rated Snell helmet and it is working out fine.
Update: Since the middle of 2008 I have been using a Vemar helmet. They are made in Italy and they use the ECE rating instead of the Snell rating. Depending on who you ask the ECE rating is safer for off road racing.
My first trip to the dunes I did not have paddle tires. I still had plenty of fun but getting traction off the line is impossible. After doing a lot of research I bought some sandstars on the douglas red label rims. I like the sandstars a lot, they go good in a straight line and they turn well. They also don't throw up a huge roost when just riding around. However a lot of friends run the haulers, which are a straight paddle tire. They seem to turn fairly good and they definitely have more traction from a dig, but they throw a nice roost all the time which is quite annoying when riding in a line at the dunes.
The sandstars also seem to hold up at the Cinders whereas the haulers get torn up badly up there.
Update: Still using the same send of sandstars, I like them a lot.