I’m just sayin’… I think ’08 is going to be a good CZ year. I’m going to get the “Mighty 409” pre-’74 big bore project completed, and the “Mean Lady” pre-’74 250 is almost ready to go, as is. I’m definitely going to make more vintage races this year than last (if I make even one it will be more.)

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In How Much Does It Cost to Buy a Congressman I quoted some 2007 figures for political contributions by big defense contractors compared to the enormous returns they got in earmark funds. My purpose was to demonstrate with actual data something we all know intuitively but don’t like to admit – politics is all about the money. My point was that we in the off-road motorcycling community need an organized, national approach to fighting our public and private land battles, and that part of that approach must be financially supporting Congressmen and Senators who are on our side.

One such Congressman is Mike Simpson of Idaho’s 2nd District. Simpson is one of the authors of CIEDRA, the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act, a bill that tries to protect public access to public lands in the face of a caterwauling extremist environmentalism that shows no compunction about lying, falsifying data, and misrepresenting facts in order to steal our right to responsibly use our public spaces. Last year Congressman Simpson appeared before the Congressional Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests. Here’s a quote from his testimony (full transcript in PDF is here):

This bill is a carefully balanced compromise that seeks to protect the needs of the people who live and recreate in the Boulder-White Clouds while creating a substantive wilderness. It’s unique in that we are trying to be inclusive and recognize the needs of motorized users, the community surrounding it, the ranchers who live in the area, even creating new opportunities such as a first of its kind “primitive access wheelchair trail” into the wilderness. The old approach to wilderness of sacrificing the needs of individuals and specific user groups to the benefit of others will not work anymore. I began this process with the assumption that those who are affected by wilderness creation must be a part of the solution. In short, the needs of the people who live and recreate in the area are as important as the lines drawn on a map.

Simpson goes on to discuss how the endless expansion of Federal control over public lands is crippling existing communities by literally robbing them of the resources they need to survive. Of course, the survival of people and their livelihood is irrelevant to greenies. They’d willingly sacrifice whole populations of people to their cause. Oh, not themselves – their existence is, after all, critical to saving the environment. It’s just us regular people they would sacrifice, because they place no value on human life or livelihood.

This sort of crackpot, extremist pressure is rampant in Congress and in our Federal land policies. And we need to fight it in a cohesive, meaningful way. A responsible representative organization for off-road motorcyclists would have a plan for this. Such an organization might not be able to fund or conduct all the work itself, but it would provide the mechanisms and information and thought leadership that makes it possible. And it would find a way to meaningfully support, with dollars, Congressmen who stand up for our rights.

There are others like Mike Simpson in Congress. Do we know who they are? Are we giving them our support? Is the organization that promises to pursue, promote, and protect the future of motorcycling doing anything at all to help us help those who are fighting for our rights?

hydrosorbentHere’s a nifty little item you might find helpful if you live in a really humid area like I do – hydrosorbent packs from CampingSurvival.com. The self-contained, rechargeable moisture absorbers come in a variety of sizes , change colors to let you know when they’re full, and can be recharged with a few hours in an oven. I put them inside the RubberMaid containers I use to store engines and engine parts, clamp the lid down tight, then slip a big 2ml garbage bag around it. Any moisture that gets in the bag gets absorbed by the gel pack. Over time it will even suck out whatever moisture may be in the engine and really keeps the rust out of the internals. Good stuff and pretty cheap insurance if you’re going to keep a good motor on a shelf for a year or two. (I know, who does that?) From $5-$12 depending on size. Oh, don’t eat them.

28_coverindexThere have been two very interesting stories recently about key publishers, and publications, in the motocross industry. Publishing is one of my interests and it’s one of those areas that seems like it should be really easy, but isn’t. It’s dreadfully hard. Like the restaurant business, way more ersatz publishers crash and burn than ever succeed. Which makes those who succeed all the more remarkable.

The first article I saw was a piece on Loyalty, Character, and Motivation by Tim Cryster of RacerX Virtual Trainer. The key part, for me, was the one paragraph where Tim talks about his high school friend and RacerX founder Davey Coombs.

Not everything that motivates me comes form a despairing source. Peers of mine that are successful motivate me. Davey Coombs, the creator of Racer X Illustrated has been one of my best friends since high school and he motivates the crap out of me. Not sure if many of you know this, but DC started Racer X in high school. At the time he took every picture, wrote every word, and published the newspaper version of Racer X all throughout high school, college, and beyond. I remember thinking that what he was doing was cool and all, but never could have imagined that he would be able to take his little magazine and turn it into one of the most respected and read magazine in motocross. I remember asking him, ‘How are you going to compete with Motocross Action, or Dirt Rider? Those guys are so big!’ He just laughed and said, ‘Those mags are ok, but I can do better!’ And it’s not just Racer X. There is Racer X Canada, Road Racer X, several websites, the Motocross Show, most of the event programs for the Supercross and Motocross series, his work with the AMA, and so much more. He has dedicated himself to the sport and sacrificed more than I could ever imagine, being the best at what he does. That’s motivating stuff when your friends step up to the plate and knock it out of the park.

DC is a veritable publishing dynamo. The guy must never sleep. I’ve never met him, never even seen him, but his accomplishments utterly astound me. The other story was a post on the Cousin Weedy Yahoo forum by VMX Magazine co-owner and editor Ken Smith. VMX is a gorgeous, collector-quality publication dedicated to the preservation of old bikes. I cannot begin to imagine the work, dedication, and investment (both fiscal and emotional) it takes to put it out four times a year. Ken shed a little light on that and helped all of us understand what goes on behind the scenes of this shiny, sexy vintage magazine.

[…] it took Ray [late founder Ray Ryan — Ed] twenty issues before he had attracted sufficient advertising to cover the cost of printing a 96 page magazine. We hope to get there, no question. Why is it as black and white as that you may ask? The answer goes a long way to covering one of the other queries – was Ray an existing successful publisher or independently wealthy? He was neither. Ray (and Barbara) scratched out a living for over five years I can assure you, and the term “on a shoestring” couldn’t be more appropriate (then and now!).

I guess the point of this is that all of these guys inspire me. Each them had the courage to follow their dreams and the conviction to keep pushing. Too often we let life get in the way and we make excuses for not doing the things that matter. And then we wake up to find it’s too late. I am guilty of that myself. Here’s to using 2008 to be a little more like those who inspire me. What are you going to do next year?

tedstrailerWhile on the subject of workshops and trailers and such, here’s a link I found a while back to Crazy Ted’s Motorcycle Trailer page. Ted is just a guy whose wife got him a trailer for Christmas one year. He was so stoked he made a web page just to show off the stuff he did to it. That’s my kind of guy.

Ted has some nice, cost-saving mods, like the tie-down hanger made from conduit, and the rubber mat he uses for cushioning the floor. I also like his setup with the little Mr. Heater Portable Buddy Heater and the insulation. Lot’s of other tips here, too. Nice stuff.

motorcycle_workshopOne of my favorite things to do at big races is walk through the pits. Not to see the bikes – they all look the same – or even the racers. No, my favorite thing to see is the factory rigs and the pit setups. I love seeing what sort of cool, labor-saving jigs and tools and setups they have. It’s the next best thing to seeing inside a professional race shop, which I have never done. I am always looking for things to do to my own shop or trailer to make them more efficient. So when I ran across this book from White Horse Press I bought it right away even though I didn’t expect much (I find low expectations are a great way to avoid disappointment.)

I was pleasantly surprised to find the book is nice a collection of reviews of different shops – ranging from small, personal workspaces all the way up to the Yoshimura Racing facility. The author, C. G. Masi, does a great job describing the shop, the work done in it, and the various trade-offs the owner made for space, layout, etc. There are lots of pictures and plenty of helpful advice for anyone looking to revamp a shop, build a new one, or just rearrange the garage. It’s chok-full of tips for cheap storage, effective layout, and guidelines for things like compressed air plumbing. If you like to plan things out before you start renovating you’ll probably like this book a lot. Add it to the list of things someone can get you for a birthday. You’ll both be happy.

tetRecently I watched a round of the CORR (Championship Off Road Racing) truck series on TV. During one of the racer interviews the driver (whose name I don’t recall) mentioned that his truck was 10 years old. When I saw that I was, once again, reminded how many 4–wheel racing series are structured to keep the equipment viable year after year. We don’t have anything like this in the two-wheeled world. Everything we do in motocross, even our vintage racing, is tightly bound to what the manufacturers produce on a yearly basis.

The idea of competing successfully on a 10–year old, or even a 5–year old, bike is laughable for the average rider. What’s worse, the evolution of bike technology has completely changed the character of our sport. The speeds, risks, and injury rates in MX have all skyrocketed, not to mention the cost and complexity of racing. So what to do?

My suggestion is a rules-based, limited technology class of racing designed to achieve three primary goals:

  • reduce overall cost and complexity
  • reduce overall speed
  • reduce the incentive to build high-speed, obstacle-laden, high-risk race tracks

Imagine if you could build, or buy, a race bike made with modern materials and manufacturing techniques that you knew you could race competitively for the next 5 or 10 years with only regular maintenance and minor modifications. Imagine if you could introduce your kids to a form of motocross that minimized the risk of debilitating injury (and even death) by doing away with the 100–foot triples and long stretches of bulldozer whoops designed specifically to throw you off. Imagine if you and your buddies could get together on weekends and race simple, semi-modern two-stroke bikes with ready parts availability and a low total cost of ownership.

What would these changes mean for your interest in MX? What would they mean to your long-term participation in the sport? This might sound like a pipe dream. After all, we motorcyclists have never known a time when our racing wasn’t structured, top to bottom, to drive sales of new bikes made by the big manufacturers. There’s much more to this than the simple outline I’ve shared here. In future articles I’ll share some of my initial thoughts on what such a bike might be. There are many, many ways to approach it.

But the time has come to rethink our sport and our passion. It’s high time we stopped slavishly following the desires of the motorcycle oligopoly. Stay tuned.

full-body-cast360° backflip in a truck is just not a good idea. Last week we noted that offroad truck racer Rhys Millen was going to try and backflip a truck as part of the Red Bull No Limits New Year’s Eve spectacular. Practice didn’t go so well. From Rhys Millen, in the hospital…

After successfully landing the 360-degree backflip three times into the cardboard boxes in training, I am disappointed that our last jump ended in an accident. As I lay here in the hospital with three broken vertebrae in my neck and two compressed and broken vertebrae in my back, I am also disappointed that we cannot perform the 360-degree backflip at the Red Bull Experiment on New Year’s Eve, but I’m happy that I will be able to walk again. I look forward to watching Robbie Maddison do his 300-plus-foot motorcycle jump in Las Vegas

Some things just shouldn’t be done. But I’m sure that someone, somewhere, will figure out what went wrong and try this stunt again. Found via RacerX Magazine. And no, that’s not a picture of Rhys, at least not as far as I know.

jawa_sign_and_tank_smallNote: These links point to an old server. I haven’t uploaded the files and fixed the links yet. If you want these just contact me and I’ll send them to you.

Once again the fine folks at Practicalia have been kind enough to recreate some high-quality Jawa Chay-Zed emblems for us. And once again I have saved them out in a variety of formats that should prove useful for all you ZedHeads out there. Both tank emblems are saved as a single file. Don’t let the jagged little preview images to the left worry you. These are high-quality, vector files (except the GIF) that can be sized as big or as small as you want. I just took the big GIF and did a quick reduction to shrink it for a preview. Take your pick, but don’t spend them all in one place.

Just right-click and “Save Link As…” on the file format you want.

New message from AMA president and CEO Rob Dingman, posted on the AMA website earlier this week [found via Ed Kuhlenkamp], adds a little clarity to the direction of Dingman’s AMA. In summary, Dingman reiterates his commitment to build member benefits and refocus on those things that are important to members. This is a good thing.

But as we have noted here before, the AMA attempts to serve multiple constituencies with differing goals, needs, and objectives. It is far from a given that those goals and objectives are mutually compatible. I appreciate Dingman’s apparent sincerity and his desire to do the right things, but until I see someone speak forthrightly to the conflicts inherent in this approach I remain skeptical that one organization can make this work. To my knowledge no single organization has ever done this. The AMA has certainly not managed it in more than 80 years of trying. Can they in the future? The first step is to admit that this challenge is real and substantial. Failing that, the answer is definitely no.