For the Hellam family, dirt bike racing is a multi-generational passion. The passion, turned way of life, began with the family’s patriarch, John. As a mechanical engineer, he was recruited by Rowntree McIntosh to work on their high speed packing machinery and after accepting the position, John and his young family moved to Canada from England in 1977.
While John was enjoying his career as an engineer, it was motorcycles that he was absolutely passionate about. When sons David and Jamie were still quite young, John and his wife, Julia, decided that it was important to have them involved in an extracurricular activity. Motocross was the obvious sport of choice. After all, a family that plays together stays together and they fully embraced their chosen familial passion.
Sons David and Jamie were avid racers. Prior to breaking his leg and being out of commission for six months, David was a force to be reckoned with on the track. “Dad and I were very competitive at the Nationals. We were consistent top five for many, many years,” said David. Jamie also had his share of accidents which eventually sidelined his racing career but this led him to join forces with his father on the business side of things.
This passion for the sport fuelled John’s desire to expand the opportunities for motocross and in 1988; the first indoor race in the area took place at the Agriplex in Cloverdale. The successes they saw in Cloverdale eventually led to an expansion of the sport further east and John hosted competitions at the Agrifair Arena in Abbotsford. He also held a hugely successful road race at the Chilliwack Airport.
Then, 16-years ago, while on a family vacation in the UK, John’s nephew told him that a new arena had been built near the area that they’re from. John’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to expand the competitions and they currently host events in London, Liverpool and Belfast. They also decided to begin a national series in Chilliwack when Chilliwack Heritage Park opened almost eleven years ago.
Today, David has his own successful plumbing business while John and Jamie continue to host competitions locally and abroad. They are excited and encouraged by the fact that the love of the sport has been passed onto the younger generation in the Hellam family.
Eight year old Dylan, like his father, David, is a strong competitor. Quite the articulate young man, he explains his move to a faster motorcycle. “I’m riding a Cobra 50 CC. I was riding a KTM but Cobras are faster and easier to maintain,” he said, quite frankly.
Young Dylan trains about three times a week because competition demands a high skill level. “You’re not just leisurely riding a motorcycle. To be safe and to get the best results your skills need to be in place,” said his father, David. This constant training has paid off as Dylan won the BC Championships last year and was named CMA (Canadian Motorcycle Association) National Champion in the Cobra 50 CC class. The wins are a collaborative effort with Dylan racing and strategizing while his father strategies as well as repairs the bikes whenever necessary. “Papa watches me race and sometimes he gives me pointers too,” said Dylan.
Dylan, who’s a Grade 2 student at Vedder Elementary School, is thrilled to have his family’s support and as a racer he has learned the meaning of discipline. “I enjoy winning and most times I do it just because I love it but sometimes I have to push myself,” he chuckled. David quickly added, “The competitors are athletes and they’re involved in a sport. They have to watch their diet on race days and it’s all about balance. You can’t over ride because you burn out but you have to ride enough so that you get enough experience. It is actually quite involved, as any sport can be,” he explained.
There is no question that the Hellam family has found success in doing something that they love which can be rare in this day and age. They work hard and play hard and enjoy every minute of it. “I do enjoy racing and I’d like to be a top racer. That’s what I’d like for a job but if not, I’d like to be a plumber like my dad or maybe a house builder,” said Dylan, with an easy smile.