Ah, but this will be a brief lull in the program before things get fired up again next week with the arenacross circus. Until then I wanted to use another of these off weeks to talk about something fun.
What's he thinking at this point?
photo: Courtesy of Moto Verte
Well, I suppose fun would not be the word to use here as is this week’s topic doesn’t really have anything to do with fun at all. In fact, this topic pretty much sucks canal water through and through. Like a cold, there is never a good time for it, but it does have an uncanny ability to occur at the worst and most unexpected times. This event strikes you down when you are at your absolute peak performance—just when you are cutting through the air like you never have before, just when you feel like you can eat steel and spit rail road spikes, this event will reach up and grab you by the short and curlies. This event shows absolutely zero prejudice. From the lowliest weekend warrior to the most finely tuned championship winning phenomenon, crashing is a part of every motocrossers portfolio. Crashing is simply a permissible aspect of our trade that we all accept and know dearly. Once upon a time most of the vendor trailers across the country sold a sticker that every single one of you have seen. It boldly and ever so truly reads: Crashing sucks. Here are a couple of mine.
I remember my first bad crash like it was last week. Until that time, motocross was so much fun. The speed, the cool riding gear, and my shiny motorcycle was just the best thing that had ever happened to me. We had traveled to Ponca City and there used to be a little “burnout area” behind the starting gate. My Dad had just put on one of those super long and loud pipes on my Y-Zinger, and man was the thing fast! Problem was, he hadn’t gotten the bitchin YZ60 front forks and works performance rear shock yet. As a result, handling leaned a tad on the sketchy side. Nonetheless, I had a couple of motos before my race and I decided to go tear around the burnout area. After about 12 laps I had a small group of people watching me so I turned up the wick and started showing off, letting my bike dance around on the acceleration bumps and spraying dust off the berms. It so happened I came down the straightaway one time faster than I ever had and the dance my PW50 had been doing quickly turned into a violent swap that had my feet flailing off the pegs like they were attached with rubber bands. Suddenly my vision was a 32:1 ratio of dirt to sky that lasted for what seemed like an eternity. When it finally ended, I was laying on my stomach and all I could see were feet running my direction. I could hear my Y-Zinger out in the weeds with the throttle hung wide open, screaming a blood-curdling cry that terrified me almost as much as the fact that I couldn’t breath.
photo: Courtesy of Moto Verte
Now I was being turned onto my back and I could hear questions like, “Where’s your dad?” “Are you OK” “Where does it hurt?” My reply was a series of deep, labored, gasps followed by a scream that would make a Hollywood sound technician a million bucks. Motocross then took on a whole new meaning: this stuff is scary and crashing sucks.
(Here’s an idea of what Andy’s loop-out would have looked like he were a highly-paid Spanish MotoGP racer.)
On came larger bikes and double jumps. I had seen people do something my friends called “Looping out.” A guy would get his front end too high in the air and flip over backwards causing major damage to himself and his machine. I would just think, ‘What a dumbass. No way I’m doing that.’ Boy was I mistaken. I fell mercy to the dreaded loop out on a 20-foot double jump in Chapman, Kansas. Thing was I didn’t even “double.” I was still too scared to jump so I would cram on the brakes at the last minute to try and save time and not get passed and piss off my Dad.
Todd DeHoop goes for a loop.
Well, this time I overcooked the first jump a little too much and hopped into the face of the second mound of dirt. The impact compressed my suspension and the ensuing rebound tried to throw me off. In hindsight, I should have just let go, but oh no, no way was I going to eat it and scratch my new Rick Johnson replica helmet! I hung on to the bars as tightly as I could but my weight was being carried off the back of the bike. Something was terribly wrong. I was gaining speed. A lot of speed. My bike had never been on the pipe as much as it was at this point in time and I was in big, big trouble. I couldn’t let go.
The last thing I saw from looking out of the bottom of my helmet was my KX60 fly out from my hands in a slow motion backflip. After the vicious barrel roll I noticed the sun was peering into my goggles way more than normal. Something was amiss. I stood up and took inventory and as I pulled my goggles off I noticed what was missing. My visor! I wasn’t really hurt, but I sat back down and cried like a little girl until my Dad got about five yards away. Then I got up and walked to my bike, which was devoid of rear fender and had its handlebars around the tank.
Which reminds me of a time many moons after that one. My demise this time arrived at my first attempt at an outdoor national. I thought I was a pretty big deal in 1996 and was preparing to take the 125cc pro class by storm at Hangtown. I told myself the whole way from Kansas to Sacramento that the world would soon know who Andy Bowyer was! Upon my arrival I discovered that “the world” would have to wait until I first raced amateur day. It was then-Team Green manager Ron Heben’s brilliant plan that I ride the A class on Saturday so I could flex some Team Green muscle.
How did Sunday go, Andy?
After banging the holeshot and opening up a generous lead I came into the 4th gear sweeper at the bottom of the hill in a broadside just as I had the lap before. Only this time, on lap two, I noticed the flagman standing on the side of the track was drenching the baked adobe track surface with a fire hose. Before I knew it I was sliding towards a haybale way, way too fast. I thought, “That’s ok, that little bale will just push to the side when I hit it and maybe slow me down.” Wrong. The haybale was staked into the ground with what must have been a 10-foot wooden spear. After hitting the bale I yardsaled it, ass-over-tea kettle, out into the weeds. My brand new race bike did so many cartwheels that the sub frame was bent both ways and the handlebars were pretzeled. I got in trouble from Team Green for screaming to said flagman that I was going to assassinate him with my bare hands and burn his house down. The world found out who I was when Team Green News posted a picture of the aftermath. Thanks guys. Don’t even ask me how Sunday went.
Those were just a few, ladies and gentlemen. When I wake up on a rainy morning I am reminded of the other ones. But I am not alone. I stand beside you all as a member of the Motocross Crash Club. We are the plenty and the proud. It’s the reason most of us never back down from a fight. “Yeah, sure pal, you think I’m afraid of you? I was in the first turn pile up at Ponca City! I cartwheeled off the side of the infield tabletop at Loretta Lynn’s—on my 60! You don’t know what pain is, Biff.”
Crashing is a part of our sport. From Ricky Carmichael to Mitch Kumpstein, everyone goes down. But what makes us motocrossers is that we expect it, and we deal with it. It’s what makes us tough and gets us the chicks. But one thing is for certain. Crashing sucks.