I watched the Glen Helen national on SPEED TV tonight. It was pretty good. I think one of the main improvements is the absence of Ralph Sheheen. He was replaced by Aussie Leigh Diffey, who also calls the Rolex Sports Car Series and the American LeMans Series. Diffey is a good match for the MX Nationals. He understands racing and strategy and doesn’t try to embellish the race with artificial soap-opera drama. Sheheen always sounds like he’s calling a Monster Truck show presented by Entertainment Tonight. Diffey even makes Emig sound better.

But no one beats Dave Despain and David Bailey. Those were the good ole days…

This Seattle Times news story tells the tale of another local battle to prevent legal riding areas. MXGP of Kirkland, WA have a 467-acre tract in rural Washington state, about an hour from Seattle. The promoters want to use 75 acres to build a multi-track MX facility and have gone to great lengths to address noise and environmental issues. Of course, there is no such thing as addressing all the issues where EcoNazis are concerned.

No doubt, this is the future all all riding facilities – new or old – and we had better get our act together on the federal, state, and local levels and begin a coordinated effort across the country to keep our right to ride intact. [Found via Blogandt]

In this week’s Racer Head Davey Coombs said the Big News we’ve all been waiting for – what’s going to happen to the AMA Toyota Motocross Championshps – will likely be announced before Hangtown next weekend. To quote DC:

Needless to say, there are going to be a few confused people out there, but the vast majority of motocross fans and industry folks will just be glad to put this all behind them and start focusing on the racing and the future.

How’s that for intrigue? Will we see the one-moto format announced for 2009? We’ll definitely lose the stupid “Lites” moniker for the 250s and go with the much better MX2 designation.

But will we see the beginning of the exodus of factory teams? Joe Gibbs Racing is the model for future big-time MX race teams. There’s no way around it. If the sport is going to grow significantly, the professionalism of the teams – not just in equipment but in rider training, preparation, communication skills, etc – has to rise to meet the challenge. Having a bunch of 20-year-olds making $300,000/year and doing their own thing is not going to cut it.

Before the meathead brigade goes all cockeyed and starts calling me names over this little tidbit just hear me out. Many very large, successful motorsports franchises run this way. The factories are very, very involved, but they provide mainly technology to a variety of privately-managed teams. This is a much more cohesive and productive arrangement. Factories are in the business or making and selling technology. They are not in the business of running race teams. Race teams are a marketing expense, or sometimes an R&D expense. But mostly marketing. It makes far more sense for factories to provide technology to privately managed, for-profit businesses that are geared specifically to running race teams. We’re already seeing this. But JGR is a whole new level. And for the first time it’s a team that can truly out-perform the factories in the way they run the business of racing.

What else will we see? I don’t know. But, in the words of Ross Perot, “I’m all ears.”

lemond_spinnerI just picked up a Lemond Revmaster spinner bike for my exercise program. I got it from a fire sale – literally. They guy I bought it from had his house catch fire and the bike was damaged in the fire. It’s pretty smoked up and some of the plastic is melted, but it seemed mechanically sound. Looks like it needs about $150 in parts and a thorough scrubbing and it should be good as new, though maybe not quite as pretty. At just about half the cost of a new one.

Thanks to 35 years of wear and tear on a knee with no meniscus cartilage I just can’t do treadmills, stair climbers, or elliptical machines. Oh, I can do them once, or maybe even twice, but then I’m more or less disabled for 10 days while my knee recovers. That’s not a sustainable exercise plan. But cycling I can do. I’ve been doing a recumbent bike at the local gym, but I don’t like them as much. They just don’t seem to take as much overall effort as a regular bike. And I don’t like standard exercise bikes. They’re kind of crappy. So I wanted a “real” bike, one that felt like actually riding. I like the Concept II rowing machines, too. The trouble is that top-notch exercise equipment is really expensive, so I’ve been cruising Craig’s List to find good deals.

What’s interesting is the guy I bought the bike from was a black man named Justin Stewart, with three kids. Both he and all the kids race MX. He was showing me pictures of the kids with James Stewart and Ricky Carmichael. His kids even did a Honda commercial a few years ago – part of the “I just want to ride” series. Pretty cool. He was a nice guy and we helped each other out. I like that kind of deal.

Chad Reed did a 50-minute interview with the guys at DMXS Radio this week. It was really good. I’m always amazed at how open and accessible many of our top racing stars are. Only NASCAR fans have a similar level of access to their favorite drivers. I can’t imagine getting this kind of interview with an F1, Indy car, or any other racer.

Which brings up another point – why in the world do so many people hate on these guys? I just don’t get it. In my not-so-humble opinion it takes a real dweeb to get off on carping, whining, and generally bad-mouthing any of the top MX racers. These guys put so much of themselves on the line, give up so much to achieve their success, and have so much talent it’s scary. People whose lives are so small all they can do is complain about this or that racer should go spend their time watching professional wrestling, where they belong.

Reported on the Cousin Weedy Y! forum (and not independently confirmed,) moto-icon and super journalist Rick Sieman (aka Super Hunky) is undergoing radiation treatment for cancer. Almost everyone knows who Rick is from his years at the helm of Dirt Bike magazine. If you are among the tiny minority that don’t know Rick, he’s was probably the first real journalist to cover dirt biking and is credited with coining the term moto-journalist. Let’s all wish Rick a full and speedy recovery.

As an aside, be sure to get your annual prostate exam. If you’re VMX age you are old enough to need it. It’s not pleasant, but it’s not that bad and takes, literally, 5-10 seconds. Get “the finger” every year, whether you think you need it or not. Also, get your PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood test. This test is cheap ($30-$40) and is usually done as part of a routine physical exam for men. You may also want to consider having both a total PSA and free PSA blood test. The free PSA test is $70-$80.

PSA is a protein produced only by the prostate, but it is measured in two ways – total and free. Total is the normal test. But some PSA is always bound to other cells in the blood and only a limited amount is circulating free. The ratio of this “free” PSA to total may actually matter more than the total according to this video on WebMD. Prostate cancer is a pernicious scourge on men. It is said that sooner or later we all get it. Let’s raise the odds in our favor with regular checkups and blood tests.

fsm22_coremontageI broke my lower back (T11, T12, L1) about 10 years ago in an auto accident. Thanks to a mis-diagnosis by the rent-a-doc at the local two-bit trauma center and my own stubborness and stupidity, I did not get proper medical treatment for more than six (6) months and was left with a permanently damaged lower spine that put me completely out of action for over three years. Given the incorrect healing and residual problems, I never did do the level of rehab and strengthening that such an injury requires and over the years the resulting muscle weakness has started causing other problems. Now that I’m nearing 50 I know it’s “now or never” if I want to get things back in some semblance of working order.

Weak core muscles (belly, back, and chest) aren’t unusual for guys my age. We don’t do much, as a rule, that strengthens the core. If you’re going to start strength training, you need to be sure your core is strong first, as it is essential to correctly perform strength training exercises, to lift a maximum amount of weight and to reduce your risk of injuries. If you’re going to be racing VMX on a regular basis, it’s even more important, because you’re going to fall off sooner or later and a strong core is your first defense against injury.

As part of my renewed commitment to address some of the other physical issues I face with getting older, I know I need to do some serious work on strengthening my core muscles.

Today I came across this nice set of core exercises from the Mayo Clinic. It’s simple, requires no equipment, and it works. Many of these are the exact exercises that my physical therapist showed me when I finally got treatment (some six months after the accident.) They are also exercises that were part of a yoga class I took a few years ago to try and improve flexibility. So I know they work.

There’s also a good set of alternative core exercises here in this AskMen.com article. Some of these do require a Swiss Ball, an inexpensive piece of home exercise equipment. As with all exercises, use caution and good judgment. Switch up the exercises to keep your muscles active. And check with a competent physician if you have any physical issues or signs of distress. This simple set of exercises won’t be all you need, but it’s a good place to start.

Jason Weigandt (the “Weege” – the guy who makes the SPEED commentators sound like total amateurs by comparison) just posted a disturbing rumor – that the nationals will go to a one-moto format for 2009. Man, if true that sucks and completes the emasculation of arguably the toughest sport on the planet. Weege says he got the rumor from the crew at DMXS Radio. Despite the fact that those guys take a perverse pride in sounding like total dufuses, they do know the business of Pro MX.

No doubt such a change would be seen as “TV-friendly” and more understandable to a “mainstream” (i.e. moto-ignorant) audience. After all, it is a lot to ask an American audience to understand a sport that has two starts and two finishes in a day. The two-moto format has survived for more than 50 years because it works – even if we have shortened them a bit over here on the west side of the Atlantic. But it may not work if the goal is to try and make outdoor MX a TV competitor to NASCAR or American football or any of the other sports that saturate our TV screens every weekend.

Personally I hope this never happens. Getting mainstreamed is not the panacea that many seem to think it is. But that’s just my opinion. What if the one-moto format was an hour+2? Would that work? I don’t know. Weege points out some of the obvious pros and cons of such an arrangement. I don’t think such an arrangement could be moved to the amateur ranks, though. The fitness level of most amateurs is just not high enough to handle that, and people are almost certain to balk at paying a high gate and entry fee for one, single, short race a day as an amateur participant.

On the upside, having just one longer race per day would eliminate a lot of time spent having to gate 37 motos at an amateur event. But I don’t know. It just seems unnatural to me. We’ll have to see if the rumors persist throughout the 2008 season.

ridersdigestcover-smallHere’s another cool site found via Texan Paul Burnett – Rider’s Digest. This vintage Texas MX weekly was produced from the mid 1970s through the early 1980s (I think) and followed the MX scene in Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. I don’t remember ever seeing it, which is odd because ’77-’83 were my most active racing years. My ’74 Ford Econoline with the straight six and three-speed shuffled me and bikes all over the state to race at Swan MX, Rio Bravo, Burleson, Wolf Creek, Mosier Valley, and Lake Whitney, among others. But it’s neat to look back at the race reports from the local tracks I ran as a kid. The site is a bit hard to navigate. It would be nice if the owner could add a “Home” link to each page instead of having to back through all the pages to get to the index. But that’s a nit. It’s a fun site.