Two years ago the training wheels came off Bryce Huckabee's bike.
Today, the 7-year-old is the No. 1 ranked competitor in the nation for his age group in bicycle motocross racing, or BMX.
Bryce, a second-grader at Augusta Christian Schools, ascended to the top spot in the Rookie Class after winning several big races including the U.S. Open in Morristown, Tenn., and the President's Cup in Orlando, Fla. His next hurdle is the Grand National in Louisville, Ky., this fall, where he will compete for the right to wear the No. 1 plate on his bike for the following year.
"It's my favorite thing to do," said Bryce, who loves the thrill of competition, the tricky tracks, and especially the interspersed bumps along the way.
"I like jumping best," said Bryce, who chooses to take on the bumps rather than weave around them. It's a matter of personal style; riders can slide, jump or hug the earth, whichever is the fastest way for them to get to the finish line.
To win an event, competitors must gain points by racing their bicycles in three different motos, or heats. The results are totaled, and the rider with the most points wins.
Bryce, who also enjoys computers, basketball and skateboarding, became inspired to try the sport less than a year ago when he saw the video Ultimate X, which highlights some of the X Games. His father, Brian Huckabee, soon was researching the location of the nearest track, and was pleased to see Augusta has one on Wood Street behind Lake Olmstead Stadium.
Bryce tried the track using his traditional, heavy child's bicycle, and loved it.
"The bike he rode at first was too small, too heavy, and not even close to what he needed," his father said.
Once his son's interest was piqued, Huckabee researched bikes and selected a more suitable one for the sport. The new bike is lighter, more streamlined with thinner tires and free of excess gear like reflectors and a kickstand.
Learning the sport was a family affair. Bryce's parents traded weekends at the lake for weekend competitions around the region where he perfected his skill.
Bryce also got plenty of tips and mentoring from some of the older boys involved in Augusta's BMX group, which numbers about 60. As Bryce's interest grew, his parents supported him by taking him to practice two or three times a week, volunteering time to maintain the local track, and by making weekend competitions a fun, family affair.
All three Huckabees have made friends from across the nation whom they regularly see as they attend events. Between races, Bryce and his competitors can be found playing with model cars and passing the afternoons in typical little-boy fashion.
Though every racer wants to win, good sportsmanship and encouraging others is an important part of the sport, said Bryce's mom, Lisa Huckabee.
"Everyone is pulling for everybody," she said.
"The sport is so much fun. We enjoy it as much as he does," Brian Huckabee added.
BMX became popular in the 1970s as an outgrowth of motorcycle racing. The sport attracts riders of all ages (the oldest competitor the Huckabees have seen was 72; the youngest was 3), and will make its debut as an Olympic sport in 2008, he said.
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