collateral_damage_dvdIn warfare there is a term – collateral damage – that is used to describe damage to people and property which is unintended or incidental to the intended outcome. It is important we understand that, unlike land closures and noise ordinances, the latest threat to our vintage dirt bike hobby, the Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act of 2010, is not targeted toward vintage dirt bikes, or motorcycles, or even off-road vehicles in general.

It is targeted at the thousands of foreign manufacturers who ship electronics, toys, clothing, and consumer goods into the US. It is intended to make those companies subject to, and easily accessible by, the US tort system. It also includes any suppliers to those companies – such as companies that make boxes, pallets, packaging materials, straps, plastics, etc.

We, the vintage dirt bikers, are just a little invisible community that will be squashed if this bill passes. Continue reading

usvmx_logo-th5Rick Doughty, of Vintage Iron fame has announced the new, national VMX series — the U.S. Vintage Motocross Series.

This has been in the works for a while. It’s the first vintage national MX series (to my knowledge) not promoted by the American Historic Motorcycle Racing Association (AHRMA). The off-road portion of AHRMA in general, and the MX group in particular, has suffered quite a few issues over the past couple of years. Many of the local and regional clubs upon which AHRMA was based began to chafe under the organization’s rules, politics, and restrictions.

Even my own Southeast region group defected and went off on their own in 2007 after months of internal discussion and debate. A couple of others across the nation did the same thing — establishing their own series and point structures. Add this to the existing base of non-AHRMA groups and you have a fairly large collection of riders who wanted to a national series outside of the AHRMA umbrella. At least, that’s how it seems to me.

I have mixed feelings about this. The sport of Vintage MX has grown and matured and it’s a natural consequence of growth that people will have differing desires and objectives. In this sense, the USVMX series is a sign that the sport is growing and the market is evolving to serve it.

Competition also serves to send a message to incumbent players that things may need to change. If there is enough momentum to support this new series, AHRMA will be forced to re-examine it’s policies and procedures in light of dwindling membership and attendance at their own races.

Make no mistake — it’s far from assured that USVMX will survive. There is always risk when a startup takes on the challenge of a well-established competitor. And that’s where I’m concerned. While VMX has grown, it’s not clear that it’s grown enough to support two national series. With the economic slow down it’s possible that one or the other will not survive.

If USVMX ultimately survives the consequences for a financially strapped AHRMA could be serious. The organization is already in severe financial trouble after a lengthy and controversial law suit. I don’t know what percentage of the AHRMA membership is just in it for VMX, but I suspect it’s not inconsequential. I would hate to see AHRMA seriously damaged.

I wish Rick and the entire USVMX team well. In the end, the market will win. What economist Joseph Schumpeter termed “creative destruction” will ultimately reshape the VMX landscape to what the market wants. It may be a bumpy ride, and we may not end up where we thought. But that’s the way it is these days.

Let’s hear it for Steve “Souper” Clark and the Sportsman-class 125 project code-named Lester! Owned by the infamous Giles Nelson and the subject of ongoing and endless modifications and improvements by “Dr. G” Larry Garcia and “CZ Guy” Lee Holth, this little beauty throws some dirt at the 2007 Chehalis Classic. Nice work, guys! Now let’s see some more.

I was talking to a friend today, reminiscing about when I was a kid and first learning about MX. I got my first mini-bike — a Briggs & Stratton-engined number with 10″ inch wheels — when I was 9 (I think.) But I clearly remember sitting in my fifth-grade class at Bell Elementary in Tyler, TX drawing pictures of dirt bikes, mostly the Suzukis of DeCoster, and Robert.

That would have been in 1970. A childhood friend, Greg Berkhouse, and I used to draw pictures in class and sell them to fellow students for $.10 – $.25 each. By 1972 I had saved enough paper route money to pay for a Honda SL70 – my pride and joy. It cost $452 brand new. I used to sit in class in Jr. High (what’s now called Middle School) and read Dirt Bike, Modern Cycle, and Motocross Action instead of the text books.

Man, those were the days. What was your childhood passion?

Last night I got an email from Tony Wenck, producer of Pit Pass Radio, to let me know they’re interviewing AMA CEO Rob Dingman on tomorrow night’s show. Tony asked if I had any questions I wanted him to ask.

It’s short notice, but one of the things I want to do is gauge the feelings of the vintage community on the AMA, so I put together a short (4 question) survey I’m asking my fellow vintage enthusiasts to take. The survey is being sponsored by Motorsports Publications, LLC, the distributor of classic European magazines. When you complete the survey you’ll be entered in a drawing to win a free, 1-year subscription to Classic Dirt Bike magazine!

I also submitted the following questions to Tony (thanks to Rick Salazar for his input.):

  • It’s apparent that significant, positive changes are underway at the AMA, but there is a legacy of mistrust among much of the off-road community (at least in TX and across the southeast where I have always lived) that the AMA has taken our dues and done nothing to promote or protect our rights. One of the ways to address this type of mistrust is improved transparency into an organization’s sources and uses of funds. Are there plans to improve visibility into the AMA’s financial operations, and let the members see where the money comes from and where it goes?
  • I was very encouraged by the recent profile of AMA Board Chairman Stan Simpson in American Motorcyclist. He seems to have a very strong off-road background and may be the kind of personality that can legitimize the AMA in the minds of many off-road enthusiasts. Does the organization have a plan for uniting the fractious, scattered, and highly individualized off-road rights efforts into a more cohesive, nation-wide effort?
  • While the AMA is distancing itself from the business of professional racing (a move I applaud,) the men who risk their health and lives for a career in racing are still motorcyclists and deserve representation. In many cases they are icons and our heroes, and we owe them a lot. Seeing people like Danny Chandler and David Bailey living near poverty or going without needed medical care for lack of funds is a tragedy. Does the AMA have any plans to develop (or push for) long-term benefits/pension plans for the professional athletes in our sport? (I realize this could ultimately put the AMA at odds with the very companies they sold the racing organization(s) to.)
  • In the professional arenas where the AMA is still involved, are there any plans to alter current rules favoring a specific technology (four-stroke engines) and level the playing field for other approaches?
  • Also in professional racing with AMA involvement, are there any plans to restructure the purses to better support the smaller teams and independents rider who fill the gates but do not finish in the top 5?
  • As a corporation, does the AMA see any future role for itself in preserving, or even acquiring, private land for use by off-road enthusiasts?
  • The disability rates for our professional athletes are among the highest in major professional sports. Does the AMA see any role for itself in researching causes, impacts, and solutions?
  • Recently a long-time AMA Congress delegate from District 36 wrote to Cycle News with a some interesting, if uncomplimentary, observations. What role does the AMA see for the district structure and the Congress in the future?

I will post the survey results — summary statistics and no names, of course — here when I have enough response. If I get 100 responses by tomorrow afternoon I will forward the results to Tony at Pit Pass to share with Dingman. Please be sure and catch the interview tomorrow nite.

Recently my old school friend Ronnie Welch sent me a bunch of pictures from TVRC’s annual “King of the Ant Hill” race in Texas. If you were under the misguided belief that pitbike races were some new phenomenon, well, let me assure you that the only thing truly new in dirt biking is the backflip.

There were plenty of cool XR75s, including some single-shock models using aftermarket swingarms. But Ronnie was representin’ for all the Po’ Boys who had to ride ’em like they came from the factory. His beater SL70 was sporting nothing more than a Green Weenie filter and a DG-style megaphone.

Wish I had been there. I have two SL70 project bikes sitting around the house here somewhere if I can ever get back to them…




flip-out-tableTwo cool links today. First is another nice trailer conversion site I found while researching some RV awnings. I don’t know the owner’s name, but he’s done some really nice stuff inside his 7’x14′ tandem axle trailer. I especially this idea for a flip-out table that attaches to the E-Track cargo strips along the wall. He can move the table anywhere in the trailer. He’s also done some really nice stuff with heating, A/C, cabinetry, etc. Pulls the thing with a Toyota Tacoma with a 3.4L V-6. Says he uses it as support for his grandson who races 50cc and 65cc bikes. Cool. A great source of ideas.

Next up is my friend Tommy Montgomery, who has posted some good pictures from Diamond Don’s over at flickr. Nice job, Tommy!