In a sport in which the top riders are mostly in their mid-20s and weigh under 150 pounds, Grand Haven native David Marod is trying to buck the trend.
His sport is motorcycle road racing.
Marod, who recently celebrated his 44th birthday and measures in at 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, isn't going to let certain statistics deter him from continuing a lifelong dream.
In the end, the only thing that matters to Marod is managing a powerful machine that can reach speeds of 170 mph on road track straightaways.
Marod, who operates his own racing team under his name, has proven capable of mastering his need for speed. He's won several races and overall class standings in road racing circuits in Washington and Oregon, as well enjoying success in the national circuit, WERA Motorcycling Roadracing.
“I race a 2012 Ducati 848 Superbike in the 600 and 750 Supersport classes,” he explained. “I am also able to race in the twin (cylinder) classes. A Ducati is a twin in addition to being a superbike, so it is a very versatile machine able to race in many classes.”
A superbike is optimized for extreme acceleration, sharp breaking and an ability to take tight corners with ease. They're capable of reaching triple digits on the speedometer with one twist of the throttle. Marod said he can encounter an average of 14-21 razor-sharp turns during a given race.
After successfully competing in the expert level for the past two years in road racing circuits in the Pacific Northwest, the Seattle native is ready to make the jump to the American Motorcycle Association — the premier professional motorcycle racing organization in North America and the highest level in the sport.
“The first AMA event I’m looking to compete in is the weekend of June 1 in Elkhart Lake, Wis.,” he said.
Marod's ultimate goal is to qualify for an event called Laguna Seca, which is held in Monterey, Calif.
“What makes Laguna Seca unique is the fact it is a shared weekend with MotoGP,” he explained. “MotoGP is an 18-event season in 15 countries on five continents with the best riders and fastest machines on the planet. The opportunity to share the track for the weekend with these guys is every sportbike riders dream.”
Marod's passion for the sport began like many others — with a dirt bike during his youth.
“I started riding as a kid,” he said. “I grew up on Lakeshore Drive, and at about 6 or 7 I got my first dirt bike and eventually started racing them. I always had street bikes after that.”
Marod still has a large number of family members in Grand Haven, including his parents, Bob and Gail.
“The thing I miss most is Fricano's Pizza,” Marod said with a laugh.
Marod, a 1987 Grand Haven High School graduate, shifted away from the sport as he completed a degree at Michigan State University and later enlisted in the U.S. Navy. During two years of active service, he was introduced to Seattle and Pacific Northwest, and fell in love with the region — mostly due to his abundance of outdoor sporting opportunities.
It wasn't until 2007 when Marod began getting more involved in street racing.
“It was something I wanted to try my hand at,” he said. “Fortunately, 30 years on a motorcycle transitioned pretty easy.”
Marod dove in head first, as he gained a comfort level with instruction from local riders at track days. He soon joined the racing club at the Washington Motorcycle Road Racing Association and began competing in events throughout the West Coast.
With more success came more exposure, which in turn meant better sponsorship. Marod's main sponsor is Gary Crossley Ford, a dealership in Kansas City, Mo.
“At the club level, on any given event, you can win around $700 to $1,200,” Marod said. “But you're spending a lot of that.”
Marod said he competed in 16 events in 2012, and expenses totaled as much as $30,000 to $40,000.
“Sponsors will cover about half of that, so it's a big help.”
Marod said one of the biggest expenses is tires, as his racing team goes through many in a season. Travel and meals are also a hit on the pocketbook, and the team also pays a mechanic to travel with them to events.
Marod said riders understand the risks they're encountering every time they sit on a bike — but realistically, the high speeds and potential dangers are an afterthought when the adrenaline gets pumping.
“The speed gets very relative,” he said. “When we're all doing 160 on the straightaway, it doesn't seem that fast. But when you're coming to a sudden stop, that's when you feel it.”
Unfortunately, Marod has not been able to compete injury-free, despite the protective suits drivers wear. He was knocked unconscious in a crash in Portland, Ore., and separated his shoulder and injured his clavicle in a race in Las Vegas.
Still, it hasn't deterred him from competing and hopefully matching speeds with the best in the AMA.
It all hits home, however, when he sees his son Evan, 13, ride on his dirt bike.
“He's just getting real good at dirt bikes,” Marod said. “He's pretty fearless on them and gets going pretty fast. And, as a parent, you're like, 'Whoa! Slow down. You're going to get hurt.'”
With the Marods, craving speed on two wheels must run in the family.