Thirteen-year-old Luke Geis is a young man of few words. He prefers to speak in the rips and roars of his 125cc dirt bike. And with that tool, he makes a statement.
Next week, the young Jordanite will compete at Loretta Lynn’s legendary ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee for the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship. Luke earned his spot at the championship by qualifying at regional competitions in Millville, Minnesota in June. Luke’s mother Jess said more than 22,000 riders tried out for a spot in the championship series.
“Getting to the ranch is every kid’s dream,” Jess said. “You’re one of the top 40 riders in the U.S.”
Luke rides a 125cc bike and will compete in the 125cc class and the 450cc class at nationals. In the 450cc class, he has the disadvantage of riding a bike with far less horsepower than his competitors. But what he lacks in horsepower, he makes up for in weight and grit. Luke’s light, but strong, build gives him the advantage over racers that are up to double his age, and far larger. Crowds are usually surprised to see the 13-year-old come out on top.
“It’s hard to believe,” Jess said. “He’s so light compared to the older riders. He’s a 13-year-old; he just throws the bike around. When he gets first in the 450cc everyone is like, ‘No way!’”
Luke’s greatest obstacle, however, is getting a clean launch out the gate, where his lack of horsepower on the 125cc bike is most apparent. In Tennessee, he will compete against 41 other riders at a time. The track itself will be an even playing field since it isn’t ridden outside of the competition. Like any other race, each rider is given time to practice before the competition, but that track time is more valuable on a course none of them have experienced.
“You get like three 15-minute practices on it that day,” Luke said. “The next day you get a lap in the morning and then you’re ready to race.”
Another difference in the national championship is that races are measured in time rather than laps. Competitors will race for 15 minutes, and whoever is first to cross the finish line at the end of that period is the winner.
“It goes by time, so you better be physically fit,” Jess said.
Fifteen minutes is about twice as long as Luke’s usual races. To prepare, he’s spent his free time lifting weights and riding for greater duration. The goal, he said, is to finish in the top 10.
On the road, Luke is accompanied by his family, which includes his younger brothers: 11-year-old Lance, who also races, and 5-year-old Levi, who also rides dirt bikes. The family is supported by a host of sponsors who help make racing purchases more affordable. Luke and his brothers don’t have a formal coach, so their skills have largely been developed by practice and experience.
Luke started riding dirt bikes at age 5 after his mother took him and his siblings to a Motokazie show in Jordan.
During winter and spring breaks, the family bundles up in their RV and heads down south for vacation. They hit up a few tracks so Luke and Lance can keep their skills fresh while snow is on the ground back home. So while the family is used to heading down south to race, the stakes will be greater than ever when they arrive at Loretta Lynn’s ranch next week.
In the days leading up to the championship, Jess said Luke is excited under his calm and collected exterior. When she asked him how he thinks he’ll do, Luke simply said it depends whether he’s “on” or not that day.
As is usually the case, Luke Geis will let his dirt bike do the talking, and with a record like his, who wouldn’t?
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