Their bikes carry considerably less octane these days, but navigating two wheels over rough terrain remains a way of life for Johnny O'Mara and Jake Watson.
O'Mara, a two-time national champion in motocross a decade ago, is a national champion in cross-country mountain-bike racing. Watson, once an avid desert racer on a motorcycle, now flies downhill on a mountain bike for a living.
Both racers are sponsored by Diamond Back bicycles of Camarillo, a sponsorship that pays them a yearly salary in exchange for wheeling all over the world showcasing Diamond Back gear.
"I cross-trained with mountain-biking when I raced motocross and the changeover was pretty smooth," said O'Mara, 33, of Simi Valley. "Even though I don't have a motor under me, I can maneuver my bike more smoothly than most guys."
The two sports may have similarities, but O'Mara's rapid success in mountain-biking is astonishing nevertheless. In 1992, his first year on the National Off-Road Bicycling Assn. circuit, O'Mara was amateur champion of the expert division.
"I showed a lot of potential," he said.
O'Mara turned professional in 1993 and has come close to cracking the top 20 nationally in each of his first two years.
His track record suggests it won't be long before he rises to the top.
In 1983, O'Mara was national champion on 125cc bikes and in '84 he won the 250cc Supercross national championship.
This year's seven-event NORBA championship series begins in three weeks with a race in Spokane, Wash. Other races will take place in Atlanta; Big Bear and Mammoth Lakes, Calif.; Mt. Snow, Vt.; Vail, Colo.; and Traver City, Mich.
Along for the ride will be Watson, who at 21 is just pedaling into his potential.
After racing with his father in grueling desert motorcycle events such as the Baja 1000 at age 15, Watson made the switch to mountain bikes and found a vocation.
"Here I am," said Watson, who lives in Agoura Hills and trains in the Santa Monica Mountains directly behind his home. "This is the life. I love what I'm doing."
Can't beat the travel opportunities. In addition to the NORBA circuit, Watson will squeeze in competition on the European tour this summer. He leaves for Sweden in early June and will commute every few weeks for various European events, a pace he has maintained for the past four years.
And to think, Watson stopped racing motorcycles because the trek to desert areas where riding is legal became too much of a hassle.
"I have no complaints," he said.
Add mountain bikes: O'Mara and Watson raced last Sunday in an event at Lake Castaic Recreation Area called the California Mountain Bike Challenge, billed as one of seven races that will determine state champions.
Although lesser known than NORBA, the word is out that the CMBC circuit provides quality races and a festive atmosphere to riders of all abilities. Michael Epstein of Agoura Hills organizes the series.
More than 1,200 riders competed and the event drew more than 3,000 spectators.
"We keep it at a level of providing personal service to racers of all levels, but it is big enough to feel like a festival," Epstein said.
The event was also family oriented. A race for children 10 and under drew 100 entries and diversions such as a rock-climbing wall kept non-racers busy all day.
CMBC events take place once a month through October with the final event returning to Lake Castaic. Other venues include the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area in Irwindale, Big Bear, Mammoth Lakes, Monterey and San Jose.
O'Mara, a friend of Epstein's, has delighted in watching the CMBC series develop.
"It's amazing to see it grow," he said. "I helped Michael with his first race four years ago. We had about 300 racers. Now it's well over 1,000.
"It's a credit to Mike. He really looks out for the riders. No one walks away disappointed."