Three Punk Drummers Take On Motocross

It’s All About Rhythm. You’ve got to be in shape for drumming and riding motocross, and surprisingly, there are some definite links between the two activities, as both Burns and Sandin attest.

“Timing,” Sandin emphasizes. “Motocross is all about rhythm and timing, it really is. Timing in the sense of knowing there’s a part coming up, get ready … now … and then flowing with it, and then … now. And you know when you’re drumming and you set a groove, you find your pace, and you kind of stay there? Riding is the same. If you’re riding good you get into a groove, a rhythm. There’s movement and fluidity to it, as opposed to chopping and hacking your way through it, starting and stopping, slowing down and speeding up. You want to get into a groove and flow.” And as for having good or bad days, “It’s like anything else. There are days when you don’t have to think; it just comes out. And there are other days, like on drums, just doing a basic beat, and it’s, ‘Man, I just suck today.’ Same thing with riding.”

Likewise, Burns sees similarities between drumming and riding, particularly from the physical standpoint. “I get a lot of motocross people coming to the Strung Out shows,” he says, “and I always say before I’m about to go on stage, ‘I’m about to go ride an hour moto.’ Because I really relate the way my forearms pump during a race, and when I drum. My style of drumming is really strenuous on my forearms. It’s very similar. So the things that you can do that loosen you up for drumming are the same things that will help you out when riding a motorcycle. For people that don’t know, riding motorcycles works every single muscle in your body. They say it’s one of the most strenuous sports that you can do, but it’s been the sport I’ve always enjoyed. I was never into baseball, football, basketball, or any of the so-called ‘jock’ sports. I grew up skateboarding, did a little surfing and snowboarding, but motocross has always been my thing.

“Considering I’ve barely learned how to ride a motorcycle, it’s hard to compare them,” Burns continues, trying to explain the comparative learning curves between dirt traversing and skin bashing. “Drumming came naturally for me, but riding a motorcycle is so difficult. We get out here and watch these pros and see how they do it, see how fast they go for 20 laps, and it blows our minds. You definitely have to learn to flow on the motorcycle.”

Down The Stretch They Come! We’ve made it through some preliminary heats with the big boys (phew!), and now it’s intermission, and time for the drummers to step up to the starting line for the celebrity Suzuki Crossover Challenge. Twenty-four extreme-sports athletes from skateboarding, BMX, surfing, snowboarding, and more join Burns (wearing #178), Koff (#701), and “Smelly” Sandin (#111) – due to Pennywise commitments, Byron McMackin was not at the event – for five laps around the track on Suzuki DRZ110 bikes, which are considerably smaller than what the professionals are riding. “They’re basically made for a nine-year old,” Sandin laughs. “I’m 38, and the seat height is about two feet. It’s like clowns getting into that car at the circus, but motorcycle style.”

They might not get as much air as the pros, but there’s no doubt they’re serious as they speed through the turbulent moguls and hit the gas over the jumps. When asked about how he stacks up as a rider against the pros, even though he’s been doing it for 12 years, Sandin doesn’t pull any punches.

“Terrible,” he shrugs. “In the last couple years I haven’t really done all that much. I’m horrible. We have a good time, and I used to race quite a bit with Jordan ten years ago or so, and back then for the class we raced in, I was okay. We raced nationals, which is like everybody from the country, the fastest amateurs, get together, and the best I ever did was I finished 12th out of 40 guys. Jordan’s gotten a fifth and seventh.”

For all the honesty, and the fact that they’re not riding the faster bikes, it doesn’t mean that the potential for serious injury isn’t there. They’ve all had their share, and for Burns, he took his first trip to the hospital only a couple of months into riding.

“My first injury ever was around 1989,” he remembers. “I was watching a friend of mine do this jump over a hill, and when I did it, I didn’t realize that you barely needed any speed to go across the top. Anyways, I’ll try to explain it – I didn’t let off the gas, I just held the gas going over the top of the hill. It had to be a good 100 feet to the bottom, or whatever, but I cleared the whole hill and flatlanded. I broke my ankle, blew my knee out, tore all the tendons and ligaments, and fractured my tibia bone. I was just wasted. I was in the hospital for seven days, had full-blown surgery, and was out of it for a good six months. That was probably the worst.”

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