Ask Ping!

October 9, 2006 10:57am | by:

Hey Ping,
Love the column each month and am really impressed with your coverage of the AMA Nationals and Supermoto. Quick question: We all know that RC has beaten off more challengers than a $10 hooker. Who do you see coming up that has a chance to tackle any of the records set by The Angry Elf?
Derrick. Dallas, TX

Dear Derrick,
That is an interesting metaphor. You know, it’s difficult to say if and when a record will be broken. Just a few years ago it seemed like a ludicrous thought that anyone could eat fifty and a half hot dogs in a hot-dog-eating contest and, then Takeru Kobayashi comes along and does it. Amazing! Now he’s the reigning champ and holder of the highly coveted yellow “Mustard Belt.” See what can happen when you dare to dream, Derrick?

Now, as far as RC’s records are concerned, it doesn’t seem like anyone will ever match his number of national wins or championships or perfect seasons or any of the other records he holds. But someday, it might happen. Maybe it will be another redheaded kid. Maybe he’ll start his career out with a national championship at Pro Circuit. Who knows?

I know I’m beating a dead horse here, but why can’t the motorcycle industry see the value in the two-stroke? We as consumers are killing those low-center-of-gravity, high-revving oil-burners (man, I still love that smell) by falling for the marketing genius of the factories. They must be loving it! They seem to give all the advantage to the thumpers. “First, let’s double the cc’s so they can get some serious power out of those things, then lets take away the leaded gas that is the lifeblood of the oil burner to make power.” Man, talk about a slap in the face! They even rename the stinkin’ classes we race in for God’s sake! All of this is going to add up to a sport that no longer has an entry-level bike. We now have 80cc bikes that must compete with a 150cc bike, and the price is, again higher yet than the 80. They have pretty much already killed the 125 (yet again, less money than the 250F). You for sure should have some love for the 125—#90 in, oh say, ’94 Unadilla?
For a challenge, I would like to see all race organizations have two-stroke-only classes of their own. This means you, Coombs. Oh, and what about the “Four Stroke Nationals?” Like that’s a big deal anymore—I can see that any weekend at my local track. Why not the Two-Stroke Nationals with some serious contingency pay. Better yet, why don’t we even things up a bit and allow, oh, say, a 295cc (or so) bike to compete with a 450F and a 167cc bike to compete with a 250F in the Nationals? (Man, I’m getting fired up!) That should keep it close down the start for a bike that is just over half the displacement of the other. I hate to say it, but maybe the GNCC guys are the smart ones, as they seem to be the only loyal ones—I’m not a sheep in the flock.
R.M. (Yes, a two-stroke). Boise, Idaho

Dear RM,
I like your energy, Mr. Two-Stroke, I really do. I’ve been slow to accept the industry revolution to four-stroke bikes since their inception. I still ride two-strokes as much as possible and on many occasions because I have more fun on them than on a thumper. I think a lot of people are realizing that they enjoyed their old bikes and are switching back—I’ve heard quite a few people tell me that, anyway. Unfortunately, it’s too late. The manufacturers made a decision to go down the valve-and-cam road and there isn’t any going back. Fuel injection will be a standard item in the next two to three years and, as technology continues to advance, so do the price of the bikes. It won’t be long before we are paying $10,000 for a dirt bike. That is a scary thought.

Will Barry be on a four-stroke in 2007?

photo: Ray Gundy

And I hate to rain on your parade, but I think some of the GNCC race teams, including two-stroke holdout Yamaha, will be competing on four-stroke bikes next year. The whole situation almost makes me want to quit riding bikes. Almost.

Hey DP,
Good to hear you moving up in the broadcast world. (I have not seen you yet on the tube licking a microphone because I refuse to pay cable companies extra money for the bigger packages, and I don't have time nowadays to go somewhere to watch the races any more. That’s okay, if there is one thing I can't stand, it's the sound of a track full of four-strokes.) I am forty-two years old, and I have been riding since I was ten. I raced for ten years but never got really good, probably because I didn't race enough each summer (we have snow here). No big deal.

My question is, why is the whole darn industry too chickenshit to question the AMA publicly, asking them, "Why do we have to run stupid fuel, and why they were instrumental in helping the EPA push out our beloved two-strokes?” Doug Henry proved that 400cc was a winner. Now I see Honda will not make two-strokes after 2007, and we all know the other manufacturers will follow. Now we are stuck with the more expensive four-strokes that are so loud, tracks and riding areas are now closing again (and I know it is mostly due to the noise. How’s it going in Riverside, by the way?). The four-strokes don't pass the 2006 "carb" standards either. The whole industry let the EPA push us around, and they did not even have a legal right to do so (being that closed-course competition is exempt from the carb rules). So here we are, riding what was forced down our throats, and we let the EPA do the force-feeding, with the AMA/FIM helping them. The "AMA—protecting your right to ride" now needs to be changed to “The "AMA—protecting your right to ride what the EPA wants you to ride."

Have you seen the new electric bike that makes 19hp and weighs much less than a gas-engine bike? Will the AMA drop the bike-weight rules to help get rid of gas bikes? Boy, the "Lites" name sure fits here, doesn't it? They are doing wonders with brushless electric motors and lithium batteries these days. The four-stroke days are now numbered. The aftermarket days are now numbered. Mitch Payton and Donny Emler have to be loosing sleep (or they’d better be). We need some strong voices—in public places—so let’s get ‘er done!

This whole issue is driving me away from the sport. And I build small two-stroke engines for hobbyists now (business is great). Goodbye, motocross—it was fun, but I am done.
Doug Johns. Grand Rapids, MI

Dear Doug,
You are one angry sunnovabitch. Hey, I’m not sure where the blame lies on all of this, but I definitely understand your frustration. I know one thing that always screws things up is politics. When Clear Channel and Jam Sports had their little battle over the supercross series, the FIM was forced upon us. That is the reason for the fuel regulations. It wasn’t something the AMA wanted to do, but it was the only solution to the situation they were in.

I get flooded with e-mails from people who feel the same way you do about the direction the sport is headed. You know what helps me when I am so angry that the veins in my face look like strips of garden hose lying just beneath my skin, Doug? A quart of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream. I don’t want to go all Tom Cruise on you, but pills just can’t settle me down like a heaping helping of Vermont’s finest. Give it a try. I promise you’ll feel better.

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