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New Ride, Same Results

Bike Change Works Wonders for Plainfield Champion

  • Travis Marsh, of Plainfield, recently won a pair of regional motocross championships at the New England Sports Committee race in Maine. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen)

    Travis Marsh, of Plainfield, recently won a pair of regional motocross championships at the New England Sports Committee race in Maine. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Purchase photo reprints »

  • A change in motorbikes helped Plainfield’s Travis Marsh to a regional motocross title. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen)

    A change in motorbikes helped Plainfield’s Travis Marsh to a regional motocross title. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Travis Marsh, of Plainfield, recently won a pair of regional motocross championships at the New England Sports Committee race in Maine. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen)
  • A change in motorbikes helped Plainfield’s Travis Marsh to a regional motocross title. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen)

Lebanon — Prior to the New England Sports Committee’s motocross season finale earlier this month in Maine, Travis Marsh’s busted exhaust ended up as a stroke of good fortune.

Competing for a championship in the 250cc Lites pro division July 6-7 at Lyman’s MX-207 track, the 20-year-old Plainfield resident discovered a broken head pipe on his primary dirt bike on the morning of the first race. That forced him to turn last-minute to his newly acquired backup bike, a heady machine equipped with a two-stroke engine that packs loads more power than the less-intense-but-more-manageable four-stroker he’d been riding all season.

Thanks to Marsh’s superior control and strength, switching bikes may have been the biggest factor in what shaped up to be a dominant weekend. Pitted one-on-one against Austin Phelps in four races over two days, Marsh swept his rival from Connecticut to capture the overall division crown in the region’s premier amateur race circuit. Marsh’s 37 series points were three ahead of Jason Brooks, who did not participate in the weekend’s action, and 20 better than Phelps. Marsh also won a pair of 450 pro races on day one of the event to clinch third place overall in that division.

“I wasn’t expecting to win every moto, just to do well,” said Marsh, a 2011 Lebanon High graduate who works as a full-time mechanic at Mason Racing in Lebanon. “I ended up being really comfortable (on the two-stoke bike) and had a great weekend.”

With more explosiveness than Phelps’ four-stroke machine, Marsh was able to charge ahead out of the gate with each race. That wouldn’t have done him any good if unable to navigate swiftly over Lyman’s jumps and turns, but Marsh was able execute with aplomb while Phelps flailed in the dust.

The excellence was no accident for Marsh, who trains constantly on a backyard track built behind his home by his father, former motocross competitor Todd Marsh, and on mountain bikes in wooded areas to help build leg strength. He’s also been hitting the gym to steady the core muscles necessary to help guide bikes during abrupt changes in direction as wheels spin and the machine throttles over loose dirt and sand.

“It’s definitely physically demanding,” said Marsh, who was promoted from the expert to pro expert class by NESC officials after three podium finishes to start the season. “If you want to get better and faster, you have to train just like any sport. If you’re not on a dirt bike, you’re on a mountain bike or in the gym. I didn’t really realize how important staying healthy and being in shape was until last year, my first year with NESC.”

Training commitment says nothing of the maintenance of the bikes, which can be expensive and require plenty of labor. Marsh is fortunate to have access to top-line parts through a store run by his uncle, but he performs virtually all of the maintenance himself.

“The bikes take a lot of abuse, so there’s always parts to replace and work to be done on them. It’s always a good idea to change the oil, if nothing else,” Marsh said.

Travel is also taxing, at least for an NESC competitor stationed in the Upper Valley. All 11 events during Marsh’s championship season were in Connecticut, Massachusetts or Maine, meaning weekly one-way trips of 2 1/2 hours or longer for Marsh and his family.

“There’s a lot of waking up at 4:30 in the morning for a three-hour ride, then you’re doing four races per day and getting home late Sunday night with work Monday morning,” Marsh said. “That’s basically why it was just me and Phelps (in the 250cc pro expert class) in Maine, because a lot of the guys from southern New England didn’t want to make the long trip. I’m used to it, though.”

Marsh calls the life of a young motocross competitor “climbing the hill” and said the thrill of ripping through dirt and lunging off jumps is only part of what keeps him interested.

An alumnus of Canaan Fair Speedway races geared toward beginners, he’s gone from a wide-eyed middle schooler to the top of the amateur heap in a few short years.

“It’s really the progress, seeing your results get better, that keeps you going,” he said. “You get better and faster and you just want to keep pushing hard.”

Last year, Marsh attained a license to compete professionally. He was invited to try out for 2012 American Motocross Association fall-season outdoor races in Massachusetts and New York, but suffered a broken collarbone in mid July and missed the entire fall season as well as the tryouts.

Invited back for a pair of pro-race tryouts this year, Marsh missed the cut June 29 for an AMA race in Southwick, Mass., but will try to qualify for another Aug. 10 in Unadilla, N.Y. In the meantime, he’ll focus on putting out a strong fall season in NESC, where he ranks second in both the 250 and 450 divisions following podium finishes in each during the season opener at Southwick on Sunday.

“It was a good start,” said Marsh, who received NESC’s Ironman award for finishing in the top 20 of every race during the spring season. “Hopefully, it’ll be another good finish.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.