Don't let the grey beard fool you. At the age of 70, Ken Botterill is just starting to peak as a BMX racer.
In 2008, Botterill hopped on his son's bike and, unfamiliar with the butt-inthe-air, head-forward stance demanded by a BMX ride, nearly toppled to the ground.
Four years later, the retired tugboat captain celebrated his 70th birthday in April by claiming victory at the USA BMX Great Northwest Nationals in Redmond, Ore.
This weekend, Botterill hopes to add to his collection at the BMX Canada Canadian Nationals at Chilliwack Heritage Park.
It was a visit to the doctor that prompted Botterill to first consider riding. Tipping the scales at around 240 pounds, Botterill was told that he was at risk of diabetes if he didn't change his ways.
After first starting to play drop-in soccer, Botterill upped the ante by joining his son, daughter-in-law and grandsons on the B.C. BMX circuit. Not only has his weight dropped, but so too has the time it takes Botterill to get around a hilly, mound-filled dirt track.
"I'm getting a lot better," said Botterill. "I was always last but now I'm getting in better shape and have more experience."
That's good because Botterill often finds himself pedalling beside riders seven years younger.
"I'm always the oldest guy," he said. While BMX can be a rough and tumble sport, Botterill says that aspect doesn't frighten him.
"We've had a few crashes, but you're got gear on. It doesn't hurt as bad as it looks."
Sometimes the whole Botterill clan convene at a local meet. Other times, when the kids have school, it's just Botterill and his son, Dean, racing around the track on their bikes.
"It makes for more camaraderie: you've got more things to talk about and do," said Botterill. "[Dean] lives in Vernon, so seeing how we're doing this, we get to see each other more."
The family has even made several trips to the Grand Nationals championships held at the end of each year in Tulsa, Okla.
The big challenge-beyond the races themselves-is finding like-minded senior BMX riders. There are two regulars from Washington, but that's about it. Botterill currently has his hooks in a new recruit from Vernon.
"He's just starting, he's brand new so I've got to keep him interested," he said.
Lacking competitors his age, Botterill has dropped down classes in the past to race against bikers half his age.
"There was a race, and I'm 'Geez, I'm not doing well, what's going on here?' And after it was all over, I think the youngest guy was 36 and the oldest guy was 46, and I thought, 'Oh, that's why.'
"There was nobody there for me to race. . . . I've gone down a couple of times to 31. You're racing against guys 31. You're just racing for the fun of it. I don't expect to beat those guys."
To attract more fellow racers, and to hopefully spur the creation of a local BMX track, Botterill has even set up a website, www.chilliwackbmx.ca. Those interested can also contact him at 604794-3265.
But as long as he can hold his own against others his age, or at least other seniors, Botterill plans to keep on rolling.
Chilliwack Heritage Park hosts the BMX Canada Canadian Nationals May 11, 12 and 13.
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