I’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.