Describe your average teenage boy - into the usual football and basketball, video games, cell phones, music and just hangin’.
Riley Pemberton is not your average teenage boy. He doesn’t crave organized team sports, but, instead has a need for speed and the excitement he gets from his 85CC KTM taking him over the motocross track with death defying jumps in a race for the finish line.
Pemberton, 14, wasted no time starting his motocross career at the tender age of six.
“It’s kind of a weird thing,” said Pemberton. “My cousin had a motorcyle and I rode it. My dad asked me if I would rather get on a horse and rope. I told him ‘horses aren’t fast enough,’” and the love of motocross began.
Pemberton has made a name for himself and was sitting second in the standings, until he had a twist of fate during a race on Mother’s Day at the Freestone Race Track in Worthem. Pemberton was off to a good start when he found himself in the middle of a wreck. One rider in front of him got sideways when attempting a 100-foot jump, which caused Pemberton to land on his brakes trying to avoid the rider. The impact threw Pemberton from his bike and when the bike landed, it came back on top of him, breaking the radius and ulna of his right arm.
The injury put him a cast from until mid-July, sidelining him from riding until his doctor’s release, which is anticipated in three weeks. Even then, he will be limited to light practice which will make August a training month prior to his return to competition at the local motocross races set for the last three weeks of September at the at the Erath County Livestock Association.
His dad, Jay, a former calf roper, had also done a stint with motorcycles, until he had a run-in with a tree.
“Dad went from cycles to horses because he ran into a tree,” Riley said.
But, he enjoyed being able to view his Dad’s scrapbook from his days of motorcycles.
Pemberton’s greatest support comes from his Grandma Jackie, Jay’s mother. Pemberton said she’s a “die-hard” motocross fan, not just his biggest supporter. Her job at the races is to push him to go faster. And, he admits, sometimes he needs to be pushed just a little.
Motocross riders take five laps around the track. Pemberton, who turns 15 in December, rides an 85CC KTM in the 14-15 age group. When he turns 15, he can jump to riding a bigger bike, a 125CC. Motocross rules state that competitors can’t ride anything bigger than an 85CC before they are 15.
And, Pemberton doesn’t race just for cash prizes. In fact, riders can’t compete for money until they turn pro, at the minimum age of 16. In place of cash, winners are awarded “racing bucks,” which can be used for paying future race entry fees. Riders also compete for trophies and prizes are awarded through fifth place.
Pemberton takes a very mature attitude towards racing.
“Motocross is a very responsible sport. We are constantly training and it’s very expensive. We have to buy our own gas and our own bike gear and pay our entry fees,” he said.
Pemberton races because he likes the reputation he receives from racing and how people recognize him more because he races. And, he says, it’s just a lot of fun. Pemberton likes the drive that riding gives him through the competition and how “everyone is one big happy family and always helping each other.”
“It’s been a very family-oriented sport. The people have been wonderful and I have made more life-long friends through racing. I have been very proud of Riley because it takes so much physically and mentally for him to do what he does,” his mother, Kaylee, said. “He makes do with what he has and makes it work. It takes skills, it’s about 75 percent mental. Tthey have to be prepared to do it and they have to be positive. I think it’s the most physical and mental sport that there is.”
Like most youth sports, it takes the family to make it all happen. His dad is the team mechanic and his mother handles the bills and the doctors.
“I’m called ‘moto-mom.’ I make sure there is food, that the gear is clean and when Dad is not around, I’m the mechanic, the driver, the cook and I stand in the long lines to pay the entry fees,” Kaylee said.
The family tries to make it to a race every weekend, which are held all over the United States with their farthest excursion being a trek to Denver, CO.
There is a motocross creed for competitors Pemberton said that states, “Do good in school, be polite to others and race good.”
Pemberton’s efforts have been recognized by his continued sponsorship from Lonestar Racing of Ft. Worth, GT Collosions, Guthrie Trailers, Heartbeat Racing, all of Stephenville and AXO America Sports, based in California.
Pemberton admitted he would like to make motocross racing a career and at the rate he is going, that could be a real possibility.