Last nite was a big event in the world of professional motocross. The NPG, RacerX Illustrated, and SPEED TV are really stepping it up. David Clabaugh, owner of Thunder Valley MX, and the NPG put on the first-ever night-time AMA MX National. The lighting was tough on some of the riders, and it wasn’t perfect. But it was workable, and it was a hell of a first-time effort for lighting an entire, national-caliber, outdoor MX track.

Just like they did last year on a couple of occasions, RacerX and live.motocross.com picked up the SPEED TV raw feed for the first motos and pushed it over the web. But then the real surprise started. SPEED TV started their tape-delayed broadcast of the 450/MX1 class approximately 15 minutes after the gate dropped on Moto 2! Yep, I was watching “almost live” coverage of the event – even as I listened to the RacerX audio show on my laptop. SPEED even had Leigh Diffey back as the main commentator. Hooray!

According to the Weege and Kevin Kelly the crowd was “at least twice as big” as last year, the atmosphere was like a festival or carnival and, — aside from teething problems with the lights — the whole thing was way cool.

I spend a lot of energy carping about the state of the motocross industry, because there are some things that are wrong. But among those things you will not find the NPG, RacerX, or any of the amazing racers who put their butts on the line to give us the best MX on the planet. We are so lucky to have a group like NPG driving the sport. It’s amazing to me what they have done in less than 1 year now that they are out from under the AMA’s misguided interference and mismanagement. No, they don’t have a signed deal with DMG yet, and things could still go wrong. But thank God we’re not in the same shape as the road racers.

The whole road race community is in civil war over the changes being made by DMG. That’s partly because the road race guys were relatively happy with the way things were and now it’s all gone. But MX sucked under the AMA. They were awful at it. Most of us out here in fan-land thought they were, really and truly, trying to kill the entire sport. But the NPG loves the sport. They live it and breathe it. They own tracks. They go to each other’s races. They love it.

People who own road race tracks don’t live and breathe motorcycle road racing. They like it. They might like it a lot. But it’s a business. If the motorcycles go away they can still race cars. That’s what their tracks were built for in the first place. Motorcycles will always be second-class citizens in the bigger world of road racing.

But not MX. If you own an MX track it’s because you love it. Your facility may host other off road motorcycle or ATV events, but your bread and butter is MX racing. If you have the rights to promote an MX national you’re probably a fanatic.

Let’s hope DMG knows what an asset it has in the NPG and leaves the sport in their capable hands. If what I saw last night was any indication, these guys will take care of us just fine.

This message came via e-mail from my friend Rick Salazar in southern California. With Rick’s permission I reprint it here, in its entirety. There’s some good stuff at the Super Hunky site. I just ordered a copy of “Monkey Butt” and some posters.

BTW, I did this post back in May when I first heard rumors of Rick’s condition. It’s a reminder to all of us about some new developments regarding PSA, what it means, and why we should get the finger every year. Please check it out.

Dear Friend,

I don’t know if you are aware, but our old friend Rick (Super Hunky) Sieman has been facing some serious personal challenges lately.

SH recently found out that he has prostate cancer for the second time, and has been undergoing Chemo therapy. SH is now waiting to find out if the treatment was successful or not. As you may know, Rick has lived in Baja, Mex. for years, but recently had to move back to the US to get his medical treatment. Rick and his wife Tina moved out into the desert of Maricopa, Arizona, however, because Tina had to take a job to help with bills, they have had to move again. This time closer to town, to be near his doctor/hospital, so he could drive himself back and forth. The real estate market being what it is, Rick lost quite a bit of money that was earmarked for retirement and other things due to the moves.

I have been following SH’s progress for months thru a friend of mine who is personal friend of SH and lives close to SH. A couple of weekends ago Rick’s old friend Wes, (who was also arrested back in the day at the same time as Rick) gathered over a half dozen friends with trucks and trailers along with my friend and a few of the VMX community in AZ. to help move SH. SH being extremely weakened due to the chemo therapy was unable to help very much. My friend said Rick was quite humbled that so many strangers would turn out to help him move. Stephen mentioned to Rick that many in the vintage motorcycle community that had heard of SH’s medical plight would like to help, if help would be accepted. SH said he wouldn’t be offended or turn down any offers of help.

To be clear, Rick receives medical benefits from the US Navy, however he has lost quite a bit of money in the moves, and at his age (pushing 70), and condition (stroke, knee replacement as well as prostrate cancer for the second time) he couldn’t really afford to lose that money.

For those of you that grew up in the “Golden age of Motocross” you may remember Super Hunky as the CZ, and Maico riding older brother that wrote of his adventures. Super Hunky gave us the straight scoop about the newest dirt bikes, which ones were worth the money, and which ones were junk. Rick also told us about waging a legal battle against the BLM and the Sierra Club to preserve riding land here in California. Rick was jailed, and almost bankrupt himself taking on the BLM, fighting to keep the Barstow to Vegas desert race going, for dirt riders everywhere.

The reason I’m writing this letter is that the vintage community has always helped out guys in need, and now Rick Siemen needs our help. It is time to give something back to Rick “Super Hunky” Siemen for his 35 plus years of giving to us.

There are FOUR ways to help Rick, whichever way you choose, the money goes right to Rick.

  1. Go to his website SuperHunky.com and buy his books, CD’s, posters and other collectible items. If you haven’t read his book “Monkey Butt” you ought to.
  2. I know not everybody has a PayPal account but if you do, a donation can be sent to Rick via https://www.paypal.com/ Simply click on “Send money to your friends and relatives”. Enter Rick’s email address: superhunky@gmail.com and follow directions.
  3. Mail a donation directly to Rick Siemen. (this is his NEW address)
    Rick Siemen
    36607 West Cosa Blanca St.
    Maricopa, AZ. 85238
  4. If everybody would forward this email to a friend or two and get the word out it it would help a great guy. Let the spirit of goodwill guide you.

Regards,

Rick Salazar

Michael Scott’s “In The Paddock” column in the new Cycle News, (pg 60, July 2, 2008) is all about the two-stroke motorcycle engine, its past, present, and future. Some interesting stuff there. Mostly Scott talks about road racing and the death of the 250 GP class, which DORNA has killed effective 2010. But he also interviews Jan Witteveen, legendary Aprilia two-stroke engine designer and gets his views on the state of the two-stroke, plus discusses possible changes at the FIM to bring the two-stroke back to MX.

According to Scott, Witteveen recently designed an innovative two-stroke 125 for Chinese company Haojue and is “working on a project for the future of the two-stroke engine.” Scott goes on to discuss the “death” of the two-stroke and, like others with whom I’ve spoken, lays the blame at the doorstep of Honda, who were the first of the Jap conglomerates to declare a moratorium on two-stroke production.

In fact, I’ve been told by one well-placed industry engineer that the entire affair at Honda has little or nothing to do with emissions, performance, or cost but rather with patents. He claims that Honda has no patentable two-stroke technology and, therefore, no way to control that segment of the industry. So they declared it a “very bad idea”, Yamaha meekly followed, and voila! the two-stroke is dead.

Or is it? According to Scott the FIM is now proposing a return to two-stroke racing in MX:

Over on the mud, they’ve already made the switch from two-stroke to four-stroke, and now there is a significant backlash. Four-stroke racing dirt bikes are expensive to buy, and virtually impossible for an amateur mechanic to maintain. Engine blowups can be financially crippling. They also have a strictly limited service life, making them lose value rapidly. And two-strokes are lighter and more fun. In response to these problems, which afflict all but factory riders, the FIM are now proposing a switch back to an all two-stroke formula, with the plonkers actually banned.

Now don’t go blaming me for the problems Scott attributes to four-bangers. I was actually told by one fellow that anyone who can read a manual can do a proper job servicing a modern four-stroke MX race motor. But then, I also know that people as well respected as Stu Peters (CMC founder) and Tim Cotter (MXSports.com and promoter of Loretta Lynn’s) feel that the maintenance cost and complexity of the modern four-stroke are serious problems for the long-term health of the sport. So it’s not just me, folks.

On the other hand, I’d hate to see four-strokes banned in MX, and I think that unlikely. After all, I’m sure Honda are dead serious about not making them anymore. But there should be displacement parity such that the two technologies can compete on more-or-less equal terms. Then the racers can choose. And that would be good for everyone. What we have now is an arbitrary policy imposed, essentially, by one big Jap conglomerate. It’s not to the racers’ benefit, it’s not to the fans’ benefit, it’s not even to the environment’s benefit. It’s mostly just to Honda’s benefit. And I’m getting tired of that.

Update: You may be interested in reading this article posted on July 10, 2008 which goes into more detail on this topic.

c1_07_rear3qwhI’ve been watching a two-hour documentary from Discovery Channel on MotoCzysz (pronounced moto-siz), the 100% American-made, from scratch, MotoGP machine. Yes, you read that right – one dude from Portland, OR (who isn’t even an engineer) decided he could take on the world and build a world-class MotoGP prototype racing machine from scratch. It’s taken him 3+ years and approximately $5 million, but he’s gotten damn close. Here’s a Cycle World web article from this past March, and there’s a full story in the July ’08 issue of Cycle World.

Of course, there’s a little problem that DORNA changed the MotoGP rules last year to require 800cc bikes and the MotoCzysz C1 is a 990 like the rules required when he started, but Michael Czysz is not giving up. He recently had a breakthrough test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and now lists among the believers several GP-caliber road racers.

Michael Czysz has taken, literally, a clean-sheet approach to building a motorcycle. He hired a couple of ex-Cosworth engineers to make his engine concept a reality – using a split cranksahft, 4-cylinder monoblock design. They have developed their own hydraulic/electronic slipper clutch, and even engineered their own suspension from scratch. The bike features a twin-shock rear and single-shock front suspension. Imagine that – no single-shock linkage rear suspension. How could that possibly work?! Starting from his garage, Michael Czysz is very close to completing a journey no one thought possible – creating a world-class MotoGP racing machine from scratch. This guy has balls the size of grapefruits.

I’ve written a lot here about what I perceive as the problem with American MX. I’ve couched my argument in terms of Production Racing, and tried to make the point that our singular focus on production racing has made us little more than slaves to four ginormous Japanese conglomerates. But I realize now that production racing is a symptom, not a cause.

The cause is a lack of balls – we don’t have any. We have the fastest MX racers on earth. We have more of them than anyplace else on earth. We have the most successful MX series (Supercross) on earth. We have the most competitive outdoor MX series on earth. And yet we are all at the complete mercy of four Japanese motorcycle manufacturers and we do nothing about it.

Every year we slobber over their bold new graphics and whatever technology advancements they deign to grant us as if it were manna from Heaven. We beg and plead and grovel before them to get their support for our races. We rely almost 100% on them as the financial backbone of a sport that we own. We do whatever they want, whenever they want it. The Japanese must be laughing their asses off behind our backs.

The typical vintage guy’s cop-out of “I don’t care about modern bikes” doesn’t wash with me. I want to know why the hell not? I’ll tell you why, because there’s only four of them and they might as well be fraternal quadruplets wearing red, green, yellow, and blue sweaters. And modern MX guys are so invested in the status quo anytime someone raises a complaint about the state of modern MX machinery the real argument gets completely lost.

The next time you go out to buy your new, modern MX bike, and you slap those bold new graphics of balls on your jeans where real ones ought to go I want you to think about Michael Czysz. There ought to be a place in modern MX where the Japanese don’t get to make all the rules. There ought to be a place where innovation and creativity and the small operator have a fighting chance of survival. We should be ashamed of having followed the Japanese like Pavlov’s dogs for 30 years. Our fathers would have been. And their fathers before them. We should be ashamed of accepting four different colors of “good enough”. Good enough is for soap and deodorant and cardboard boxes full of tasteless microwave dinners. But this is America and we should not settle for “good enough” in a sport that is all about passion and emotion. The machines matter. The heart and soul that goes into them is as important as the heart and soul of the riders. We have forgotten that.

And to Michael Czysz – you are a genuine American hero. Here’s hoping your dream becomes the vibrant reality it deserves.

I’ve begun development of the Muddy Waters MX podcast. I’m planning to do some interviews with interesting folks from the vintage racing scene; “how-to” segments with some of the folks that do cool stuff with their bikes, trailers, and such; interviews with AMA area reps to better understand how we, the riders, make our voice heard in the AMA, and discussion with some of the leaders of the land access battle. I’m also open to suggestions for topics. Not sure when I’ll be ready to publish the first one. I’m just getting all the gear together and lining up my first interviews. But stay tuned. It shouldn’t be too long.

Racer X added Erin Normoyle to the broadcast team this year and already she has distinguished herself as a darn good interviewer. She doesn’t ask nearly as many redundant, pointless questions as SPEED TV’s female pit reporter, she doesn’t mis-state the obvious, and she doesn’t always sound like she’s struggling to read cue cards written by a gammatically challened 9th-grader. I know SPEED’s team covers a lot of different events, and motocross is just one of them. But still, after a couple of years you expect them to get better. Maybe it’s just the difference in audience – SPEED trying to cater to a lowest-common-denominator TV audience, and Racer X having the luxury of catering to a knowledgeable enthusiast audience. Whatever. It seems to me that the standard Racer X sets would benefit everyone.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not easy to be a good reporter/analyst/color person on TV (or radio.) And it’s not like there is a huge pool of experienced talent to pick from for MX/SX. I’m sure Erin Bates and Ralph Shaheen are nice folks, but SPEED can do better. They’ve already put Leigh Diffey on the roster in place of Shaheen. Now let’s get someone else in the pits and let Bates work in another area.

holeshot_book_cover2I was reorganizing all my old motorcycle books and magazines today and came across this old book from one of my hometown racers – Kyle Kilgore. Kyle was a couple of years older than me but his brother Kevin and I were in the same HS class. Other than Gary Bailey and Carl Shipman’s 1974 “How to Win Motocross” it’s one of the few books I owned on racing technique from back in those days.

But Holeshot was a unique book (published 1982 by American Ventures Marketing.) It was all about the mental game. In fact, it’s completely about the mental game. The first chapter is titled “Mind Over Motorcycle”. I don’t know of any other book that ever took this approach to the sport. There’s one chapter on basic physical training, circa 1980, but the rest is all about the head game. Other chapters cover looking within yourself, finding internal drive, persistence, mental targeting, and training your mind to win. Looking back, it’s cool to see how far ahead this little “nobody” book really was.

Today, mental imaging is taken for granted but we call it visualization and sports psychology. Here’s a (dreadfully hard to read) paper from Vanderbilt University on the topic. It’s not talked about much among MX racers, but I’ll wager Eldon Baker (formerly Ricky Carmichael’s trainer and now working with James Stewart) knows plenty about it. It’s kinda cool to look back and realize one of my high school cohorts was this far ahead of the game.

holeshot_photo_sm2Here’s a trivia question for you East Texas readers: Who’s the guy in these pics? I don’t know him. But he has to be from among our same motley crew of East Texas racers in the late-’70s to early-’80s. It’s not Kyle, and it’s not Kevin. So who can name this hard-training racer with all the trophies behind him? Post your answers in the comments and the first person to name him wins an all-expense paid dinner for one at Taco Bell. Click the photo for a bigger pic.

According to this Forbes.com report, Harley-Davidson is in an advanced stage of talks to buy part or all of Italian motorcycle company MV Agusta. Why would HD buy an Italian sportbike company when they already have Buell?

Because big companies have to grow sales – year-over-year, quarter-over-quarter – always growing. When sales slow (as they have in the motorcycle market for the past year or so) there are only two things you can do:

  • Invest in developing new products or new markets for your existing products (both of which take time)
  • Buy customers (and sales) via acquisition

When it comes to buying motorcycle companies, Italy is about the only place you can go. H-D flirted with buying Ducati last year but was rebuffed. We’ll see if this turns out differently.