Dirt-bike racing is in Mike Barber's blood. • The St. Petersburg 58-year-old — who also happens to be president of the Disston Heights Neighborhood Association — has been racing since he was 20, but he has been watching races since he was a baby in Connecticut. • His father raced dirt bikes and his father's father raced dirt bikes. • But while they both stopped racing when their sons started, Barber — whose 27-year-old son, James, has been racing since he was 4 — never quit. • And that, says his wife, Rhonda, makes him one old and cool biker dude. • Barber has had his share of injuries but he has also had his share of wins, most recently, the 2012 Super Senior (50+) Dirt Track Grand Championship in Springfield, Ill. He said it was like winning the triple crown, it's that prestigious of a race. • We pursuaded Barber to cut his engine for a minute to answer our Five Questions. You be the judge of his coolness. Patti Ewald, Times staff writer
1 What makes you cool?
I ride a motorcycle 125 mph on a dirt track.
To be able to keep doing that, I ride a bicycle 8 miles a day — to and from work — and I go to the gym every day. I also put 20 to 30 hours a week into maintenance, on top of a full-time job with the city of St. Petersburg in the fleet department. It's been a lifetime commitment to racing and family devotion.
2 How and when did you start dirt-bike racing?
I've been racing since 1974. I'm a third-generation racer. Motorcycle racing is a family affair. When I go to a race, nine people come along, my mom and dad and sisters and cousins and 8-year-old grand-nephew, Logan, a racer himself.
There's nothing my dad would rather do than go to races.
My grandfather and several of his brothers raced. They wore shirts and ties back then, in the late '20s and early '30s. When my dad started racing, my grandfather stopped to be his mechanic.
I'm the one that never stopped. I just keep racing.
3 What's the coolest thing about the sport?
It's not the leather jumpsuit I wear! It's cool looking but that's it.
It's the speed and the adrenaline rush you get racing against the best riders in the country and winning a championship.
4 Tell us about the most memorable or scariest moment you've had.
The scariest was when I crashed at Barberville near Daytona during Bike Week in 1986. I got a helicopter ride to Halifax Hospital. It was Days of Thunder and I was Tom Cruise. The only difference is I was on a motorcycle.
I hit a hole and my own motorcycle landed on top of me. I don't remember any of it. I was out for three days. I had a concussion and broke my collarbone and five ribs.
The most memorable was winning the Indy Mile in 1998. It was only the second mile-long dirt track I had ever been on and it's one of the premier tracks in the country.
5 How about some advice for all those wanna-be cool guys out there?
You're never too old to pull out your old bikes and come out to race.