Unless they are riding a bicycle downhill, most 10-year-olds have a top speed of about 15 miles per hour. Gage McBee can do that in first gear.
Actually, while whipping around motocross tracks throughout the region, his Suzuki RM85 motorcycle tops out at closer to 80 mph.
Gage started riding a bicycle when he was 2 years old. Within a year, he'd traded pedal power for a two-stroke engine and safety gear. At age 4, he entered his first race at The Mountain MX in Madisonville, Tenn.
"I liked the way it feels when you lean [into turns] and the adrenaline rush," Gage said of that initial competition.
For the last six years, Gage has ridden every weekend in events around the region. He races in four classes, based on engine size (65/85 cubic centimeters) and stock or modified bikes. In all, Gage has competed more than 600 times, winning about 250 trophies, often for first-place finishes.
Last year, Gage qualified to compete at the National Motosport Association Grand National Championships in Ponca City, Okla. He finished 15th in the 7-9 age class.
This year, he said, his goal is to qualify for another national championship, the American Motorcyclist Association's Amateur National Motocross Championships, which will be held Aug. 1-6 at the Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn.
Gage's father, Herky McBee raced from age 6 to 13 until a shoulder injury took him out of the competitive circuit. At his house in Rocky Face, Ga., McBee dug out a full-length track in the backyard for Gage to practice on. Every weekend, they take a camper out to events, generally within a 70-mile radius of their home.
McBee said Gage has been a natural rider since the moment he first sat in the seat.
"I've told him several times that, 'Gage, if you get tired of this, we'll stop and do something else,' but he always says he's having fun," he said. "I have a blast, too.
"If we don't get a chance to go, I probably get more bummed out than he does."
A self-described daredevil, Gage said he couldn't wait to get back in the saddle after suffering his one serious race-related injury - a broken collar bone.
The quest to perfect his riding is unending, Gage said.
"There's not really a stopping point," he said. "You can always be better ... faster in the turns, go farther on jumps, be faster on starts. There's no point where you can't get any better."
Gage's mother, Kellie Smith, said she's often asked by other parents whether she is concerned for her son. Gage races aggressively, she said, but she's reassured by his full body safety gear.
From the beginning, Gage's passion for riding has been obvious, Smith said, and that's something she would never want to take away from him.
"It's hard to be nervous when you're watching him do something he loves so much," she said. "I think it's important that he finds what he wants to do and - even more importantly - that he's truly dedicated to it. He is truly dedicated to his racing."
Contact Casey Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6205.
CLAIM TO FAME
Gage McBee, 10, has been racing motocross since age 4. In six years, he has raced in about 600 races in four classes, receiving about 250 trophies, most of which are for first-place finishes. Last year, he qualified for the National Motosport Association Grand National Championships, coming in 15th for his age group in the 65cc engine class.
Do you know a child age 13 or younger with a precocious talent in academics, athletics or the arts? We're searching for children to feature in "Talent Show," which appears in the Life section on Tuesdays. To nominate a child as a possible subject of a future feature article, e-mail staff writer Casey Phillips at email@example.com or call him at 423-757-6205.