Ask Ping!

November 10, 2006 11:37am | by:

Dear Mr. Pingree,
It is well known that motocross is a sport for the younger demographic. However, as you are aware, there are many of us 40 and up that actively participate in the sport, whether riding with our young ones, riding vintage motocross, or riding old-man classes on our 450s. To keep the interest of its older fans, the PGA (pro golf) has a Seniors Tour, which allows us to see people our age on TV who we are familiar with competing in a sport we love. 

Johnny O'Mara

photo: Carlso Aguirre

I am aware the there are many Vet races in MX. My question is: Has the AMA (or Live Nation) ever thought about running a Vet Pro class series during their telecasts? As TV time is precious, perhaps this could be done in a three-minute highlight package. I am sure the stadium draw to see the live race would be increased. In my opinion, this would also draw numerous television viewers for a small cost to the promoter.
     This would be especially cool if famous names from the ‘70s, ‘80s and early ‘90s participated in a points series, such Howerton, Lackey, Hannah, Johnson, Emig, Bell, Barnett, Ward, O’ Mara, Smith … Pingree! The list could go on and on. Perhaps there could be two classes, 35-45 and 46 and older.
The follow-up questions are, do you think if there was a high-profile Senior MX series that the name riders would participate? Would the factories support these riders? To me it seems like a natural progression for our sport to keep the majority of its fans for 20- 40 years rather then just though their teens and twenties.
Jonathan Sherr

Dear Jonathan,
Thanks for the letter. While I appreciate the idea of seeing stars of the past back on the track, I’m just not sure it could ever happen. On a professional level, motocross is just a young man’s sport. Sure, a lot of the riders you mentioned still ride, but few of them race motocross on a regular basis, not even at a local level. There is just too much time, effort, risk, and sacrifice that goes into competing at the level that all of them would want to compete at. Besides, nobody wants to see their hero from the 1970s carted off the track with a broken hip.
Riders of yesteryear that do want to race usually hit the Mammoth Mountain Motocross or the White Brothers Vet Nationals at Glen Helen. In fact, Casey Johnson just won a barnburner against Ryan Hughes and Doug Dubach last weekend at that race.
     Also, it’s really a stretch to compare golf to motocross, Jonathan, and I think Live Nation knows that. The only similarity I can think of between the two is the fact that Travis Pastrana wore a plaid outfit at the X Games when he did his double backflip, and most golfers make the fashion faux pas of wearing plaid pants on the links at some point. Pretty damn thin, don’t you think?
     If you really need a taste of old-school, check out our most recent Racer X Tested 450 and 250 shootouts here on the site. We’ve got a couple test riders you might get a kick out of. Thanks for reading.

Let me just say that your race at the “Duel at the Docks” on Sunday was downright poetry—by far the best battle of the day as you held off some extremely fast competition. I was running back and forth over the bridges to catch as much street and dirt action as I could. The lappers were making me a little nervous at the end, as I'm sure they were making you, but they were cool and you pulled through. Awesome race. (Well, except for the crappy PA system.) Just wanted to let you know that I am a huge fan of your domination in Long Beach.  My only question is: how does it feel to lay the smack DOWN?!?!?!?!?  BOOOOYAAAAA!

Ping is amazing

photo: Frank Hoppen

Dear Smitty,
I’ll tell you how it feels, Smitty: borderline amazing! I’ve been just a tick off the top two guys all year, and to finally figure things out at that race was awesome. It wasn’t an easy day, either. I was eighth fastest after the first practice; not exactly setting the world on fire. In the last qualifying session I set the fastest time on the third lap and then disintegrated my motor on lap four. It sounded like someone dropped a grenade down in my transmission. Luckily, my fast lap held for the rest of qualifying and I stayed on the pole. I was also lucky that Josh Hansen couldn’t race, because the KTM guys let me use his spare motor. We threw it in and I headed to the grid with no idea how that engine would run. Obviously, it worked just fine.
     The honest truth is that I got into Supermoto racing just so I could wear leather pants. Now that I have the Fender guitar I won last weekend, my master plan to wear leather pants and play lead guitar in a band is almost complete. Look out, Dave Navarro.

I don’t know if you can answer this given your past dough boy physique, but I’ve always been curious as to how fit the top MX racers really are. Has anyone ever put a pulse-rate monitor on a couple of the fast guys during Southwick? Could Ricky hang with Armstrong if we decided to switch to bicycles? Everyone knows about the 40 +/- year old report about how MX was rated as the second hardest sport, but is that really considered to be true? I used to race, and I know it can be very, very hard, but it is also only an hour of racing, and when a guy like Marty Tripes or JMB can win, it makes you wonder what the fitness requirements really are. Put down that Ding Dong and let us know what you think.
Rob Green

Dear Rob,


As far back as I can remember, I’ve been arguing with morons that believed it was easy to race motocross. “All you do is sit on the seat and turn the throttle, so it can’t be that tiring,” they would say.
Ricky Carmichael is an amazing athlete. Could he drop Lance Armstrong on a bicycle ride? No. But he isn’t training to be able to do that. Let’s get Lance to Anaheim 1 and see how he does in Ricky’s sport. Oh, wait, that’s not even an option, because Lance lacks the ability to even negotiate a supercross track. There are a handful of wildly talented riders—JMB, Tripes, Lechien, etc.—that can get away with being in less-than-phenomenal physical condition and still win races. Most aren’t that lucky. Motocross requires you to be excellent in every aspect of athleticism. Strength, cardiovascular fitness, muscle endurance, flexibility, hand-eye coordination, reaction time, etc., are all mandatory to compete at the highest level.
     Name another sport that requires all the things that motocross does. There isn’t one. To the doubters and skeptics out there, and it sounds like you are on the fence here, I say get your butt on a bike and ride two 45-minute motos on a rough motocross track as hard as you can. Then you tell me if you have to be in shape.