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Motorcyclist Roger Hurd with the practice bike he used to prepare for the Baja 1000 in November. Two years ago, Hurd, a former professional racer, was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, but has returned to racing despite the degenerative nerve disorder.

Outracing Parkinson's

Two years ago, Roger Hurd was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, but it hasn't stopped a return to racing motorcycles

STAFF WRITER

Roger Hurd grew up around motorcycles.

"I've been around motorcycles since the day I was born. I started riding when I was 5," said Hurd, 42.

The son of championship rider Steve Hurd, Hurd was attending his father's off-road races as a newborn.

A career in racing "was always my dream when I was a kid," and in 1989, the first year he raced in the Baja 1000, a grueling off-road race on Mexico's Baja California Peninsula, he attracted the attention of Kawasaki, after he came in first in his division. The company offered him a place on their team, and he made a living racing motorcycles for them through 1992. He ranked second in 1991 and 1992, 125-cc class motorcycle-racing category in the American Motorcyclist Association's District 37.

He quit professional racing to focus on Woodhawk, the Hesperia company he and his step-father co-own, which builds shock absorbers for hot rods, off-road motorcycles and mountain bikes. But motorcycles were in his blood, and he kept riding for fun.

But Hurd began to develop tremors. His friends and family noticed, but he ignored the shaking and what it might mean.

"I had the symptoms for the past six years, but being a tough desert rat guy, I ignored it. 'Oh, it's a pinched nerve,'" he remembered. "I'd race once or twice a year. I didn't know that I had it at the time, but my endurance went way down."

Two years ago, a doctor finally diagnosed Hurd: He had Parkinson's disease, a degenerative disorder that affects the central nervous system. The most common symptoms are muscle tremors, joint stiffness, slowness of movement and, eventually, issues with balance.

"It's not life-shortening, it's just a pain in the ass," Hurd said. "As long as I can ride and work, I'm fine."

Hurd had no intention to stop living his life after his diagnosis.

"This is my therapy," he said, resting a hand on a practice bike stripped down for maintenance and repairs after a recent race. "I ride as much as I can."

And that includes racing in the Baja 1000 last November, 14 years after the last time he'd participated in it. Veteran racer Anna Cody asked Hurd to come out of retirement to join her team and he got back in training.

"I got up every morning religiously and did a loop around my house on my mountain bike," he said. The Parksinson's tremors "don't affect me while I'm racing."

Last year's Baja 1000 was a 1,000 kilometer race (621 miles), of which Hurd handled more than a third, gaining 10 minutes on the leader in the first 120 mile leg.

Cody's team ended up coming in third in class 20.

"We're already getting ready to do it again next year," said Hurd.

This year's Baja 1000 will be a 1,000-mile race, rather than 1,000 kilometers, and comes 20 years after Hurd won the race.

"I didn't go down to prove anything," he said. "I had a blast."

Parkinson's is a progressive disease, and there will come a time when the disease has adapted to his current medication and he'll have to switch to something stronger. But he also hopes there will be a cure in the next decade and is already planning for the future.

"My son is 14 and in a few years, I'd like to be in a team with him."

For more information on Anna Cody's racing team, visit http://www.150xrockenracers.com/meettheracers.htm

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/HesperiaStar.


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