The little sport that's gaining speed
Pocket bikes are growing in popularity, prompting an increase in racing events.
And on a recent late summer weekend, while huge motorcycles roared in the background, an old parking lot witnessed a new phenomenon: pocket bike racing.
Bennie Taylor, 7, and Colton Evans, 10, were among about 15 competitors at PIR to don protective gear, climb on their mini motorcycles and ride to the finish, mostly on spendy Italian-made bikes no higher than your knee.
Pocket bikes became infamous over the summer, when many an overgrown kid scrunched up enough to haunt cul-de-sacs and sidewalks with the relatively cheap versions.
But, as Bennie and Colton can attest, pocket bike racing isn't for amateurs. Their Bianchi Motor Sport bikes, measuring about 14 inches high and less than 50 pounds, are fine-tuned Grand Prix look-alike machines that can easily set a budding racer back a couple thousand dollars.
And the 39cc, 4.2 horsepower Polini motor can hit freeway speeds under the right conditions. When most kids were timidly taking off the training wheels, Bennie, 7, hit 58 mph on his bike during a closed-course speed trial.
Children as young as five have been racing pocket bikes for a few years, and Oregon followed suit last racing season. Mini racetracks are set up at PIR, McMinnville Sprint Track and Pat's Acres Racing Complex in Canby throughout the summer and early fall race season.