LEMARS—“Once you do it, it gets into you and you love it.”
So said local motocross aficionado Justin Jongerius.
He first saddled a motorcycle when he was only 5. His dad, Kelly, taught him how to ride.
“My dad was a very accomplished rider, himself. He was really all I needed,” Jongerius said. “Between him and a few people I became friends with that were really good riders, I just kind of picked it up along the way.”
The Sheldon native cites his interest in BMX — bicycle motocross — as another factor that progressed his riding ability, but he maintains the main credit goes to Kelly.
“I’ve got to give all the credit to him as far as why I’m doing it,” Jongerius said. “How I did it financially, how I did it with my equipment and how I did it as a rider was all because of him.”
While Jongerius learned to ride a motorcycle at a young age, he did not make his foray into motocross racing until later.
Racing hare scrambles, or cross country tracks, beginning at age 8, Jongerius’ talent accelerated along with his age. By the time he was 16, Jongerius was introduced to the “A” class, or pro class on the local circuit.
“I did that basically until this year,” he said.
Now 32 and living in LeMars, Jongerius has taken a step back from the sport.
To combat the volumes of necessary training and discipline, Jongerius has dropped down to the “B” class, or intermediate division.
“I’m doing this for fun now, as opposed to in the past, when I took it pretty seriously,” he said.
When Jongerius was in his prime, he would ride about three days a week.
“I would try to ride as much as I could, and race as much as I could, too,” he said.
As if he did not get his fill of the sport during the summer, Jongerius also would ride wintercross during the colder months.
“It’s basically a condensed version of the sport done inside a hockey rink,” Jongerius said. “I’ve raced everywhere from Milwaukee to Las Vegas inside arenas.”
When Jongerius was not busy competing, he was training.
“It’s been taken up in studies that motocrossers are probably right around decathletes and soccer players at the most physically fit athletes in any sport,” Jongerius said.
Jongerius cites cardiovascular training as the most important for the sport, as riders need to be able to perform while experiencing a high heart rate. Weight training also is important.
“That’s one of the hardest disciplines — disciplining yourself to maintain a proper diet and train as much as you can,” Jongerius said. “The guys who succeed are the guys who stick to that and do as much as they can.”
Since Jongerius has dropped down to the intermediate circuit, so has his training. He now only rides once a week or once every two weeks.
“I basically come off the couch to race, that’s how I refer to it,” he said. “I don’t train as much anymore. I’m busy with my job and life has taken over.”
That has not stopped Jongerius, who works as the parts manager at Glen’s Sports Center in Sheldon, from remaining a motocross fiend.
Serving as president of the Midwest Motocross Series, a tristate area of the Motocross Series, Jongerius does his best to compete at and attend all of the events at the motocross race tracks in Sheldon, LeMars and Homer, NE.
Competing in Open B Intermediate and Vet Plus 30, a division specifically for riders over the age of 30, Jongerius is able to maintain the talent he has accumulated over the years.
That’s not what he enjoys most about the sport, though.
“The thing I enjoy most about moto is the friendships and the family environment,” he said. “It truly is a family sport.”
Jongerius said moms, dads, kids and even grandparents get into the races, and rarely are there any confrontations.
“Of course, it happens,” he said. “People get competitive and it can happen from time to time, but it really is a family involved sport, and that’s probably what I like the most about it — the friendships and the camaraderie you get with the other riders.”
With motocross being so family-oriented, Jongerius’ two daughters, 9-year-old Jordyn and 7-year-old Shaylei have been around the sports and have certainly expressed interest.
“They’re starting to get their feet wet just starting to ride,” Jongerius said. “If they just want to ride for fun, I’ll be perfectly happy with that, because I know what I’ve been through.”
After more than seven concussions, two broken bones in his leg and several shoulder separations, Jongerius will not even attempt to deny how dangerous motocross is.
“There have been many times when I’ve laid there after a crash or in the hospital and said, ‘Why am I doing this?’” Jongerius said. “Every time I get back on my bike I remember why. It’s because I love it so much. I love that feeling of not knowing what’s going to happen.”
Looking to break into the sport of motocross?
Here’s a list of items former professional rider Justin Jongerius suggests you obtain:
Riding outfit, consisting of riding gear pants and a jersey.
Knee braces. Although not every rider wears these, Jongerius says the protective gear is becoming more common place.
Leatt Brace. - “It’s very similar to what NASCAR and race car drivers wear,” Jongerius said. “It’s a cervical collar that is for prevention of spinal cord injuries.”
Chest protector. - “Some riders wear them, some riders don’t,” Jongerius said. “I recommend it, because not only does it protect you from debris flying off of your competitors’ bikes and when you’re not wearing one — it feels like you’re being shot at close-range with a paintball gun — but also, when you’re in a crash and your bike falls on you or you get run over, it serves as body armor. It just protects you.”
For motocross riders just beginning, Justin Jongerius of LeMars suggests starting slow.
“Start with what you know how to do and just work your way up from there,” he said. “To me, motocross is 75 percent mental and 25 percent physical. It’s definitely physically demanding, but confidence speaks volumes in this sport. If you act on fear, you’re going to crash.”
A major part of motocross racing is sponsorships, said rider Justin Jongerius.
Starting out, the local professional was sponsored by Glen’s Sports Center in Sheldon and his parents. He also is sponsored by Fox Racing now.
Jongerius said riders can either build up resumes and submit them for possible partnerships or seek out local businesses that could express an interest.
“Back when I was coming up, I was it. I was the only one racing,” Jongerius said. “Now, there are a lot more kids in this area that are starting to get into it, and there are a lot of generous people that will help.”
NOT ONLY FOR BOYS:
“I’ve seen more and more girls getting into this in the last 10 years than I’ve ever seen,” said local motocross racer Justin Jongerius. “There used to be only a few here and there, but now there’s a complete women’s division on the national level.”
Just this year, the first girl motocross racer got sponsored by a factory team, which Jongerius said is huge for women’s motocross.
The reigning women’s national champion is just 16 years old and is deaf.
“She’s an inspiration for a lot of little girls out there,” Jongerius said.
This article appeared in the Summer Sports 2009 Sports Leader magazine.