Indulge yourself if just for a second because earlier this year, at the inaugural SuperMotocross final in the L.A. Coliseum, I performed a miracle. After not setting foot on a motocross track for almost 20 years, I rode one designed for the world's top 24 motocross and supercross riders. And, technically, though I needed a quick trip to the hospital, I didn’t even break any bones doing it. But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

For motorcycle junkies, the L.A. Coliseum is hallowed ground, as it played host to the first-ever Supercross race in 1972, set the stage for the world’s first in-competition double backflip on a motorcycle, and that’s before you consider that it hosted two Olympic games and will hold another in 2028. Some of the greatest riders and drivers of the past 50 years, my idols, competed here. It’s also one of the most dangerous races around.

L.A. Coliseum

So when an email landed in my inbox inviting me to ride Yamaha’s latest off-road machinery at the Coliseum, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the potential for serious injury wasn’t going to stop me.

Now, I’ve done some off-roading over the past few years. But there’s off-roading, and there’s SuperMotocross at the Coliseum. It takes the best (read: most difficult) aspects of the Supercross and Motocross race series and churns out a mutant track made for the greatest riders to create viral reels. And when my editor asked if I thought I’d be able to ride such a beast, of course, I replied, “Yeah, it won’t be a problem at all.”, lying through my teeth. 

Though I fibbed, most people will never get this chance. And to that point, when I talked to Supercross Vice President Dave Prater about the choice of venue for the final, he responded, “It's been 25 years since we were there last, and it could be another 25 years until we're there again.” So don’t mistake my bullishness for wanton lunacy. I wasn’t going to disrespect this opportunity by half-assing my preparation. 

Straight off the call with my editor, I had another with my short-circuit motorcycle-riding coach, Charlie. It went something like this, “Coach, I need a crash course in motocross riding. I have three weeks. Do you know anyone?”. Charlie: “Yeah, I know a guy, his name’s Nico. He’s a six-time national champion and 5-time World Vets champion.” That conversation felt nothing short of a miracle. 

Nicolas España, number 31

The next day, I was sitting across from Nico and Charlie, showing them the L.A. Coliseum SuperMotocross track, and trying to figure out whether my crash course would have too much emphasis on the “crash”.

Nico agreed to give me a lesson on his Husqvarna FC 450 that weekend around a motocross track but finished our meeting saying something to the effect of, “If he doesn’t crash on the first lap, I think he might have a chance. But I think he’ll crash.”. 

The three days leading up to our session felt like the longest of my life.

Crash Course  

With Nico’s words still ringing in my ears, I threw my leg over his Husqvarna FC 450 and thought, “Either he’s underestimating me, or I’m majorly overestimating myself.” I felt my heart beating in time with the thumper sitting beneath my legs as I headed out. But, after a few squeaky bum moments, I’d made it around physically unscathed. 

Nico’s Husqvarna FC 450

I didn’t fall during my track sessions with Nico, but unless I wanted to tentatively make my way around the Coliseum in constant fear of making a fool of myself, and not taking advantage of this opportunity, I needed a lot more work. So, the next coach Charlie recommended specialized in teaching kids. 

This was, as I’m sure you could guess, a little embarrassing at first, and more so when I got overtaken by a child on a KTM 50 SX. Finding out he was the state champion took the sting out of it somewhat. Yet, I saw the benefit, and the next two weeks were filled with more crashes and embarrassing moments than I care to recall. But by the end, I could stay ahead of the kid on the 50. All I needed was a 200cc advantage. 

I felt ready. Ha.

Enter the Coliseum 

A haze was in the air when I arrived at the Coliseum, almost like a real-life filter over my eyes. It may have been from the tons of dirt they were hauling around the stadium, but to me, it felt like I was about to star in my own movie. I was just waiting for someone to shout “action”.

2024 Yamaha YZ250F

I donned my gear and was led down the same entrance where I’d watched the biggest stars in the sport pass through less than an hour before. I couldn’t tell whether the tingling throughout my body was born out of nervous excitement or straight fear. But what met my eyes stole my attention completely. An awning brimming with 30th anniversary YZ and YZF models awaited me. One of Yamaha’s reps asked, “So which one would you like to try first?”, as though I was at a friend’s house being offered a beer. Hoping for the best way to ease myself into the track, I pointed to a YZ125.

Riding the Yamaha YZ125

As I waited to be set free over the tabletop starting jump, in a sea of thunderous 4-stroke engines and wailing 2-strokes, my mind fell near silent with the weight of the Coliseum upon it. I’m not ashamed to say I welled up, and as I made eye contact with the other riders, I saw more than a few half-teary eyes gleaming over quiet smiles hiding excited screams and roars. And then we were off. 

Before I could even get out of first gear, I saw one of the other riders hit the ground on the crest of a jump that I was quickly approaching. I dodged him, but soon after, I was face to face with the section of track leading up through the peristyles. I did my best to keep the 125cc 2-stroke singing while holding on for dear life because I knew only one thing for sure: bog down and cut out here, and it’s a long way to the bottom. 

The motor dipped just below the power band momentarily and I slipped the clutch, as I’d been taught in my training. It worked! The engine was back screaming, and I felt like I could handle this track. Queue foreboding music. 

Yamaha YZ125

As I made my way through the back section of the peristyles and came to re-enter the Coliseum, the gravity of the experience hit me like a stone to the head. “I’m dropping into the L.A. Coliseum on a bloody SuperMotocross track.”, I thought to myself, keeping every atom in my body from exploding out of sheer excitement and disbelief. 


I indulged in the rest of Yamaha’s 2024 lineup throughout the event, and each bike was so good that I was doing boy math between runs to see what kind of financial trouble I’d be in if I bought one. But there was one model I was trying not to make direct eye contact with, the YZ250. In the right hands, skilled hands, the YZ250 is an absolute weapon. In my hands, it also acted as a weapon, but not in the way I’d hoped.

Riding Yamaha's YZ250

Just letting the clutch out on the YZ250 dilated my pupils. This was a different beast from anything I’d ridden that day, but once the session started, things were going well, if only for a moment. As I rolled over the first in a series of jumps that were far too big and technical for me, I quickly came upon a rider who had fallen and was about to have a much worse incident if I didn’t redirect my course quickly. So I hit the throttle, kept my bike up, steered from the rear (somewhat), and got around him. I’d saved him, but now I was in trouble.

I found myself on the pipe of a YZ250 halfway up the face of a jump that I’d planned to roll over. With too much whiskey in my right hand, I launched into the air almost vertically. Unprepared and with my body running parallel to the bike, I saw what no rider ever wants to see: my helmet in line with the front mudguard. I had just enough airtime to consider my life choices and know that in about two seconds, I would be in a lot of pain.

Luckily, my ribs and torso absorbed most of the impact through the handlebars before I flipped and landed on my back. I was in pain and embarrassed, but the jump behind me was so steep that, as I lay on the ground, I thought, “At least no one was able to see that,” before thinking, “Wait, no one can see me!”, and frantically making my way to the side of the track.

Yamaha YZ250F Fall

A rider soon pulled up alongside me as I stood like the hunchback of Notre Dame. After telling me what a helluva crash I’d had, he asked if I was all right. When I went to say, “I think I’m done”, I felt like somebody had rung out of my lungs. I had no air.

My crash was so spectacular that even the stewards wanted to know how I’d done it, and before long, two of them were helping me pick the bike up. One offered to bring the motorcycle back to the pits, but there was no way I was letting this journey end on that note. Little did I know, the only way to get the bike back to the pits was for me to ride the rest of the track, re-entering at the base of the climb to the peristyles, which, in hindsight, I’m delighted I did. For better or worse, it was my most memorable and enjoyable run. But I was hopped up on adrenaline that would soon wear off.

Bruised Ribs

Coughing, walking, breathing, and oh-my-God sneezing, became near intolerable tasks over the next few days. So when I returned home, I went to the doctor, who told me I had possibly cracked a rib and sent me for X-rays that same day. Miraculously, my ribs were intact, although it still took six weeks to recover from the abdominal hematomas I’d incurred.

A Fairytale Ending

Once I finished catching my breath and battered ribs, I got to watch the pros do it in four of the best live races I’d ever seen. And they weren’t just some of the best because of the racing action, but also what was on the line. Any of the three top riders could have taken home the $500k grand prize in the Lites class, and it was the same story in the 450 class, but the prize money was upped to a million dollars.

Jett Lawrence Finishing First

On any other day of the year, watching the three top 250 riders duke it out for $500k, followed by the top three 450 riders battle for a million, would’ve been the highlight of my year. Two fairytale races. But I was caught up in my own fairytale, the one where an Irish guy got to live out his dream of riding a track he thought he’d never even see. 

A Happy Robbie

In some ways, I lamented, thinking this might be the highlight of my career at just 30 years old. But this isn’t an opportunity I could’ve ever imagined, which gives me hope that another million-dollar moment might come my way in the future. And if this is the highlight, well, that’s nothing to complain about.

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