classicdirtbikecoverI just got the new issue (Issue Six) of Classic Dirt Bike magazine. This relatively new quarterly publication comes from the UK, published by WH Smith. I have to say I really like this mag. It’s quite different from VMX Magazine, which I wrote about back in December. Classic Dirt Bike covers the whole twin-shock market – including MX, trials, and general offroad – in the UK and to a lesser extent Europe and the US. There’s plenty of historical content going all the way back to the early 1960s and beyond, as well as ongoing technical and how-to articles like the rebuilding of a TY175. But what I really like is the extensive coverage of the UK twin-shock scene, which appears to be way more active and mature than our own vintage efforts.

For instance, they have actual vintage MX racing teams. The current issue profiles Chris Houseman’s Dick Do Racing, which fields a team of no less than 11 beautifully prepped Maico 490s, both twin-shock and Evo-class single-shockers. Issue Three profiled Andy Story Racing, which fields a team of 6 1973 Honda CR250 Elsinores. How cool is that, real VMX “factory” teams? There’s also business coverage – of the extensive cottage industry that supports the whole twin-shock movement. Everything from small companies like Greeves and AJS that are keeping venerable old names alive to companies like Wulfsport that can sell you everything you need to build a brand new Maico 490 race bike. As well as a bounty of craftsman frame makers, metal casters, and machinists. The current issue profiles the new owners of Sammy Miller products, who are introducing a new line of MX parts to complement the trials line. Even the apparel market seems more lively, with ads from several vendors in each issue. There’s even a full-page ad for motorhomes – yes, motorhomes – on the outside back cover.

This kind of stuff is very exciting to me. It’s great to see how vital the twin-shock market is over there and it gives me some hope for our future here. Population density is a big barrier for us. After all the UK has 60 million people in an area about the size of Oregon, so gaining critical mass is a lot easier. Our vintage brethren are scattered across a land mass so huge a “national” series is a ridiculously expensive proposition. But it’s still great to see all the companies and teams and products and bikes that are alive and kicking in the UK. If you haven’t had a look at Classic Dirt Bike go check them out. I think you’ll really like it.

vmx_coverindexHaving said that, I want to give some props to VMX mag. I subscribe to both, and will continue to do so. VMX is a stunningly beautiful homage to the golden era(s) of motocross, and it’s obvious that Classic Dirt Bike’s high production values are a direct result of VMX setting a blue ribbon standard. Both magazines provide valuable, but different, views to our past. VMX is strictly vintage motocross and, as such, may be a better choice for the restorer or enthusiast who wants to focus exclusively on that. But for my money both publications should be in the reading room of any good vintage dirt bike lover.

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?