Thunder ridge sprots


Where It All Began: Thunder Ridge

    When Jim Simmons was a teenager, he learned to ride motorcycles on a 1950 Matchless (English) motorcycle that his uncle drove around the roads of Otsego, Oneida, and Madison counties until he had an altercation on one of those roads with a cow. At that point, Uncle Roger did what a lot of post World War II men of his generation did and turned a somewhat heavy and awkward road warrior into a heavy and awkward dirt bike. He installed knobby field tires and a larger rear sprocket to give it traction and geared down for more low end torque to haul it around the woods and trails. Roger and a group of his buddies including Jim’s father, Henry, spent a number of Sundays on what was then the Edmonds Farm. (Later to become Thunder Ridge) riding through the woods and fields. A natural off shoot of this on any Sunday activity, was racing.

    Playing in the woods beget enduros, (a timed event including road and trails in combination). The courses were typically 50 to 100 miles in length and made up of various sections. The Scat Cat Enduro, promoted by Three Rivers Trail Riders for a number of years in the early 1970’s was one such event, which utilized a portion of Thunder Ridge and the Simmons Family Farm as well as sections of Unadilla Valley Sports Center. Three Rivers Trail Riders was started by a local group of dirt bike enthusiasts, including Jim and some of his riding buds. That initial group included the likes of Russ Patterson, Paul Lindholm, Bob Starr, Sam Seymour and Fred Zackow to name a few.

    Another type of racing event, where speed is deemed to be more important than with Enduro racing is Hare and Hound Races, (Western US Deserts) and Hare Scrambles (Eastern US woods and fields). These events are something similar to a closed course Enduro, (no roads or road legal motorcycles) except the starting waves are larger and the course is shorter. (5 to10 miles for Eastern Hare Scrambles) The course is ridden for two to three hours with multiple classes on the track at one time. The rider finishing the most laps in the allotted time period is the winner. The first Hare Scrambles promoted by Thunder Ridge was run at the park in late 1974. The first Hare Scrambles run on what was then known as the Edmonds farm was actually promoted by Ward Robinson just before he opened Unadilla Valley Sports Center, a few miles from the Ridge.

    The other type of event which has graced the hills and woods of The Ridge is Observed Trials. In this type of motorcycle event, balance is the key element. For a trials event, various sections are marked out on the steepest and most difficult terrain including, in some sections, large logs, and even some large rocks and boulders. Each rider then attempts to travel from the beginning to the end of a particular section without putting a foot down on the ground. While there hasn’t been an Observed Trials held at Thunder Ridge in a number of years, the 2005, 2006, and 2007 seasons saw a trials event held in August and co-sponsored by a local group, 3D Trials.

    Interestingly enough, the beginnings of all these racing venues probably began as observed trials in the mid 1920’s in Camberley Heath, Surrey, England. They called any off road event first as “Trials Riding” and they included an “Observed Section” where the riders were watched to be sure they hadn’t touched the ground with their feet. Reportedly, on March 29, 1924, the Southern Scott Scramble, was run by the Camberley Club. In this race, the observed sections were taken out and a new form of racing was born. It was

called “scrambling.” The popularity of this new event grew rapidly in England and soon crossed the English Channel to France. In France, it was given a new name, “Motocross.”

    Motocross spread rapidly across Europe and made it’s way here to the USA, to become a natural offshoot of our off road adventures in the 1960’s. In 1971, Bruce Brown released the film, “On Any Given Sunday.” This was one of the biggest driving forces towards today’s popularity of motocross and other off road motorcycle riding experiences.

    An alternative type of race, which has become an offshoot of outdoor motocross is Supercross. Stadium Motocross or Arenacross, depending on who is promoting it and where it is run. This type of event is similar to Motocross, but the track is shorter, and very tight, with a number of jumps. The scoring format is more like stock cars, etc. in that there are heats and qualifying to get into the main race to become the winner. This type of event is conducive to racing in small areas, such as stadiums and arenas which have the capability to hold large numbers of spectators. 2005 saw Stadium Type Motocross (Thundercross or The Thunder Ridge style of Stadium Motocross) enter the event schedule at Thunder Ridge.

    Since the beginning, Jim has had the help from family members and friends at Thunder Ridge. His grandparents and parents have been there through the years, doing some of the little things that need constant attention. Others, such as Bruce Hume have been involved from the beginning in the weekend activities. Bruce and Jim’s kids grew up with racing and dirt riding. Those kids (Lisa, Roger, Mike, Corrina, Jason, and Larissa) have continued to be a source of support and help for various racing and riding experiences at Thunder Ridge.

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