Then 7-year-old Andy Allen and then 9-year-old J.R. Allen stood on the metal pedals of their red Honda 70 and Honda 50 mini dirt bikes. They revved up their single-cylinder engines and hit the same one-foot-tall dirt bump going opposite directions. Their front tires collided mid-air, and the two boys tumbled a few feet to the dirt and rocks.
Andy laughs as he recalls the story, “It didn’t hurt that much.”
Now a freshman and junior, Andy and J.R. have spent the last seven years competing in dirt biking tournaments and riding for fun with their dad, Mark Allen. With their two other siblings, the family has bonded over the adrenaline rush – controlling a motorcycle going 90 mph – and the love for the sport – watching dirt biking every weekend together.
While the other siblings, 9-year-old Marshall and 11-year-old Cecily, don’t compete yet due to their height, they are not far behind their older brothers.
Mark is in it to stay young. J.R. and Andy are in it for the love of the sport. Cecily is always hesitant to go but always has a blast. Marshall is in it to follow his brothers. And Rachel, their mom, holds down the fort, not a rider herself. Although all different reasons to compete, the result is the same, an unbreakable bond between father and child.
Some of their best memories – even better than watching dirt biking every weekend during season, cheering on their favorite pro rider, James Stewart – come when they’re all out tuning up their bikes and hitting the dirt slopes.
“Me, J.R. and my dad are all motorheads, and I love nothing more than being out riding motorcycles with [them],” Andy said.
The three even went to Taylor Park in Colorado over the summer to ride for three days straight in the mountains, sightseeing and riding on single tracks.
A past amateur rider for three years, Mark passed on the sport to all of his kids, from their first Honda bikes to their current European-made big bikes and Fox gear. The Allen kids have spent their childhood with their dad, riding dirt bikes.
The Chicken Ranch or Plat County Riders Association, spanning 300 acres in Leavenworth, is where the Allens go about once a month during riding season, April to October. They travel an hour to to reach the enduro events, 2-hour races through forests, always making sure to stop for Jimmy Johns on the way.
“It’s our hillbilly country club,” J.R. said.
Most of the people they see at the “ranch” live out of RV’s and travel the country to compete for money prizes, some as young as 16 years old. Allens do not care about the cash, however; they compete for the adrenaline rush and entertainment. When the competition or day of riding is done, they pile into Mark’s Ram 2500 truck and go home.
Marshall, who rides separate smaller jumps, sees both of his brothers’ success on the tracks and aspires to be like them. J.R. and Andy both compete in the highest level of enduro competitions. Usually with 20-30 year old guys, they weave in between trees, rocks while standing atop their bikes for the entire 2-hour race.
“I am better at enduro because it requires more skill and endurance, whereas [in closed-course] motocross you have to have a lot of guts to do the big jumps,” J.R. said.
Although dirt biking is considered dangerous by most people, Mark believes teaching his kids to properly ride early prevents them from getting injured later in life. They always go by their motto, “Don’t go out of your comfort zone.” No broken bones, only bruises and burns so far.
But, despite the inevitable new bruise or fall, none of the Allens are planning on stopping anytime soon. While J.R. plans to stop after he is sixty, Mark is a bit more ambitious.
“[There is] no end in sight,” Mark said. “I’ll ride dirt bikes until I’m 70.”