Ready, Set, Race

Senior Solly Mervis ‘23 tells the story of how he began racing motorcycles after the COVID pandemic.

Allison Pea, Reporter

In 2020 the world shut down causing most to remain at home for months at a time with absolutely nothing to do. Some walked their dogs, some watched TV while a small few, like senior Solly Mervis ’23, were racing motorcycles.

“(During the beginning of the pandemic), my dad bought a dirt bike from a family friend. I rode it in the backyard and it turns out I was actually pretty good at it and I just started doing it,” Solly said. Solly’s dad, Josh Mervis said, “This was an accident. Solly got on (the bike), and started going fast. got off, and told us ‘I want to race!’ Neither his mom, nor I had any idea about any kind of racing, let alone motorcycle racing.”

Before the pandemic, Solly was a wrestler at Carmel high school but tore a ligament in his arm during the hybrid system at Carmel. “I tried to come back but I could not wrestle at the same ability that I used to and at that point, I started focusing more of my time on racing,” Solly said. While he rode in his backyard throughout the lockdown, Solly did not seriously begin riding until April 2021. “I began to practice at a track in Ohio and then in a flash, I was competing in my first race on July 31, 2021,” Solly said. 

After Solly won his first two races, he began to race for a number of clubs. Josh said, “Currently he rides a number of race series, WERA, CCS, various flat track events, Supermoto, and some mini-moto, when time permits.” Solly has been offered several additional opportunities according to Josh, “He’s been asked (and encouraged by two professional racers) to ride the MotoAmerica Junior Cup which is the starting level of professional motorcycle road racing here in the USA. He’s been offered the opportunity to ride in the UK, as well as training in Spain. It’s shocking to us, to be truthful.”

Solly has autism and tends to struggle with social situations. “For Solly, navigating social settings where everything is verbal communication can be overwhelming. Once others realize he is not a neurotypical individual, things go much more smoothly. He is not handicapped, he is challenged and he tries hard to work with others everywhere he goes. What we hope others will learn from Solly is that judgement can be detrimental; however, those people who take the time to get to know Solly realize he’s funny, genuine, caring and intelligent. When he’s on the motorcycle no one sees his challenges, they see his hardwork and dedication and they reward him for his tireless effort. If Solly’s success riding can provide inspiration for just one young autistic person, then he’s accomplished great things! Everyone deserves the opportunity to be who they want to be,” Josh said. 

Solly elaborated, saying, “I think that racing has been pretty good (for me) because I’ve learned how to deal with new people. You have to be able to talk to people in order to get sponsors.”

Solly addressed the assumption regarding the danger of the sport, saying, “There are a lot of misconceptions about how dangerous motorcycles are and the type of racing I do. A lot of people believe that what I am doing is more dangerous than Moto-Cross (another branch of motorcycle sports) because I am going at faster speeds but Moto-Cross has much more contact than what I do.” 

  Solly’s parents said that while the idea of him getting hurt is scary, they continue to support it because it’s his passion. Josh said, “As a parent, you try to put your child in the best position to be safe, get them the best safety gear, provide them with the best coaching and training and you have to let them chase their dreams. I am scared constantly when he’s on the bike. I never ever relax until the bike is back in the pits but if your child finds meaning and self-expression in an activity, we feel you need to help them.”

While it may look dangerous to the outside viewer, Solly said that “it is not as scary as one might think. The scary part for me is cornering, which is where you try to get through a corner going as fast and as safe as possible but the straight part of the track isn’t very scary for me. (When I am racing), it’s not about being scared or really anything other than me focusing on how I can be the best that I can be.”

Solly has received numerous offers to quit school and race professionally but wants to continue his education and become a mechanical engineer when he is older. As far as his racing future is concerned, he eventually wants to race internationally and his parents have echoed their support. Josh said, “If he wants to chase racing, as long as he keeps his education up, we are happy to do all we can to support him. Where does this all go? Again, that’s up to his work ethic, his talent, and a bit of luck.”

Solly’s journey from wrestler to motorcycle racer has been an extraordinary feat that he says he could not have achieved without perseverance. “Without the ligament tear, I would have never started racing. I was able to persevere, bear down and discover something I really love and have fun doing.”