By Mike Garrison
A Moment with Mike is a weekly opinion column where LiveRC’s Mike Garrison gives his take on hot-button issues, general topics, and conversations within the RC industry. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of LiveRC.
As a toddler I always wanted a job as a professional rodeo bull rider. As I grew a little older I wanted my job to be the trash guy that gets to ride on the back of the trash truck while its moving. Fast forward 25+ years and one thing I have always wanted to do, but never had the opportunity, is to either work at a dirt bike dealership or an R/C hobby shop. It just so happens that my good friend and our local track (Fastlane Raceway) employee of 14 years, Scott Simon, recently decided to step away from his role at the hobby shop to pursue his full-time day job and join us as just a racer when time allows. While more than a few, including myself, were sad to hear Scott was moving on, there was now a position that needed to be filled. That position was the opportunity I’ve been waiting for since I started racing R/C cars over a decade ago – so my wife Britani and I were quick to apply.
To our surprise, we got the job! Now you’re probably yourself asking how or why it takes two people to fill the spot of one guy quitting? You see, Scott was a jack of all trades, whereas, the hobby shop does not stand a chance if you left me alone to do ALL of his duties. My wife was eager to step in and do the jobs I am terrible at such as organizing, handling sales, keeping track of inventory, or figuring out how the credit card machine works, etc. Where I come in is what I consider the fun stuff (the stuff I’ve always wanted to do) like helping customers pick out their next kit, fixing the new kid’s broken a-arms, running the race program, and so on.
This past week was our first week on the job working Tuesday through Thursday evenings and Saturday all-day. While I’ve only spent 4 days on the job, I’ve quickly learned that my racing background and experience that I expected to use most, applies to only a very small group of the customers the hobby shop works with. It turns out I am in for a BIG learning curve, such as learning how to install the various R/C wheelie bars (something as a racer I have never assumed would be beneficial to increasing my lap times on the race track, so therefore I have no knowledge or experience with).
Wheelie bars are not exactly my thing, but as it turns out, seeing the smiling faces of customers after helping them create whatever wheelie ripping, mud-bogging, backflipping, speed demon of an R/C vehicle they can imagine…installing a wheelie bar isn’t so bad after all.
All of this brings me back around to identifying the things holding R/C racing back and developing plans to help the racing scene grow. After working behind the counter of a hobby shop it’s clearer to me than ever that while R/C racers and general R/C enthusiasts (aka “bashers”) don’t always see eye-to-eye, in order to grow the racing side of R/C, we as racers need to work together to welcome the general enthusiasts, install a few wheelie bars from time to time, and support them as we hope they will someday support us.
(A race track should be a welcoming environment to new and experienced racers of all ages and skill levels.)
Sometimes experienced racers tend to forget where they started, and are quick to turn their back, roll their eyes, or be short in helping new enthusiasts – especially towards those without a serious race car sitting in their pits. Rather than putting down their wheelie bar equipped RTR, telling them they have no chance at racing unless they spend $1000 in new gear, or simply walking away when they ask for help, it’s important that we take the time to help them work with what they have, encourage them to get on the track racing, and guide them towards what they truly need to go racing. The key here is guiding them to what THEY need as new racers, not what YOU need as an experienced racer. In other words, help them pick out the necessities to get started and enjoy their racing, keeping it as simple as possible, and keeping it fun (it does not require a $500 radio system or $160 stock motor to get started).
(Whether your helping another racer or a basher, take the time to help others.)
If your local track or hobby shop is anything like ours, there are plenty of interested R/C enthusiasts walking around on race day browsing the hobby shop and pits who have never even driven on a race track, let alone race on one. I challenge you as experienced racers to step out of the box, start a conversation, and go out of your way this coming race day to welcome just one of the many interested "bashers" passing through into the world of R/C racing. Take time to explain the racing format, the classes, how race day works, what they need to get started, help them setup their vehicle, and encourage them that the race track can be just as friendly and fun as doing backflips at the local skate park.
"Bashers" need a reason to go racing, and it's our job to give it to them one friendly racer at a time.
(Accomplished and experienced racer, Sarah Ernst, at the 2015 Milwaukee Mile R/C Race taking time to teach kids interested in R/C racing.)