Between the Motos: Troy Lee


Troy Lee’s name is so synonymous with motorcycling that some people don’t even realize that the Troy Lee in Troy Lee Designs is actually a person. He’s been around for decades, and he’s seen it all. Recently, Lee took part in the Lead Ban Protest at Malcolm Smith Motorsports in Riverside, California, purchasing a KTM mini for his son. We got an update from Troy Lee yesterday for this week’s “Between The Motos.”

  • Troy rolls his son out of Malcolm Smith Motorsports with a brand new 65
Racer X: You’ve been around the motorcycle industry for decades, obviously. Have you ever seen anything that had the impact of this lead ban before?
Troy Lee: No. I mean, we deal with Hot Wheels, and we have seen it happen with their toy cars and stuff like that. Everything’s just getting more and more restrictions these days, and a lot of it’s for good reasons, but this one definitely seems out of line, you know?

Yeah, well obviously a Hot Wheels car can go in a kid’s mouth, right?
Yeah, bikes can go in a kid’s mouth too, but kids the age that we’re selling these bikes to, they’re not chewing on the bikes. They need to change the law to three year olds or something. After three, they stop chewing on things. Maybe two, really. I don’t think I’ve had to tell my nine-year-old not to chew on things [laughs]. And the funny thing is, like we brought up at the meeting, me and my friend Max go fishing all the time, and we take squibb shots [made of lead], and half the time, we leave them in our mouths while we’re fishing. I don’t know if you’ve done that before, but you bite down on those things with your teeth. I think that’s even the instructions on the package.

So it’s almost like it should be illegal for adults to go fishing instead of for kids to have motorcycles... I’ve always sort of believed that people should ignore unjust laws because that forces the government to reconsider. If people abide by the law, then the government has no reason to change it. That seems like what you guys finally started to do with this protest over at Malcolm Smith’s last Thursday. How did that all come about?
I went up there three or four days before that, and we were kind of bringing some stuff over there, and we were talking about how he was able to sell some bikes to kids – like, he could sell a 100 to a kid, or an 85cc to an eight-year-old, but he shouldn’t be riding that bike. It’s actually making it more dangerous to put youngsters on bigger bikes than they should be on. And he was talking about how he had customers coming in there dealing with that, and some come in to buy bikes to play in the hills, and they both walk out because he couldn’t buy his son a bike. It wasn’t available. So he’d lose the sale for his dad, too, you know? That’s what started to really get Malcolm frustrated. These guys want to do it, and they can’t do it, because of this new law they implemented without thinking about it. So I asked him what we’re doing about it, and he was like, “People are sneaking them through,” and we went, “You know, this is ridiculous. We just need to come out front and say, ‘Hey, we’re selling them anyway,’ because that’s the only way to make things change.” So we decided to blow it up a little bit and kind of rub it in their faces a little bit to get it fixed, because we know if they really think about it, the government will realize they made a mistake.

I don’t think any reasonable person would think that you guys were in the wrong for going against a law that prevents six-year-olds from chewing on motorcycles. It doesn’t make sense. Do you know what the potential penalties are?
It’s $100,000 per unit sold, so Bud Feldkamp bought one – bless his soul, because right now I know he’s going through some really, really hard times – and then Jeff Ward bought one. I was trying to buy Jeff’s old bike from him, and he was like, “I want to buy a new one for Ayrton,” so that’s when Bud really initiated it and said, “Let’s all buy bikes.” I said, “I’m on that bandwagon.” And I called Wardy, and he was in, and so was Jeremy McGrath, and even Mitch Payton, but then Malcolm got cold feet when he realized it was $100,000 per incident. “Let’s just do three of them. I’m on the line for $300,000.” There was also some jail time associated with it, too, and Malcolm was the one to say, “Hey, let’s all put it on the table and be the one who takes the first step here.” Hopefully, other dealers follow his lead.

  • Malcolm Smith's protest sale was huge
  • Jeff Ward bought a bike for his son as well
Yeah, and the thing is, if all of the dealers would’ve done it anyway, they can’t possibly punish all of the dealers and throw them all in jail. It would force the government to re-evaluate the law.
Yeah, you’ve just got to say, “Is this right?” That’s what I did, and I decided this is right. There is precious time we’re wasting here. I haven’t ridden with my kid in the last three or four months, and I was getting tired of going out riding by myself. He’s sitting at home, and I’m seeing him getting into other sports and stuff, and playing more video games than he needs to play, and I’m like, “I want to get him back out here riding! This is ridiculous! My son loves riding.” And it just wasn’t any question in my mind. I know they’ve asked in interviews if I’ve checked with lawyers as to what the consequences are, and I was like, “You know what? It’s the government that has made a mistake here, and we’re carving our own path. I’m not going to stop riding with my son, no matter what.” Same thing with Wardy. That’s what he does for a living, still, and every time that he can take his kid... Half the fun is driving to the event and home from the event and talking about what went down while you were riding, you know?

And, again, if everyone just followed the law, there would be no reason to change it.
Right, and the bad thing is that me and Wardy and Malcolm and Bud Feldkamp, we all want to do the right things on this planet, and we still feel like we did do the right thing. Malcolm said that, “Hey, I’ll sell you these under the table. Let’s fix the paperwork.” And I think that’s what a lot of dealers are doing. But that’s not right. We shouldn’t be doing that. We feel really good about what we did.

Where to from here? Have you heard anything from the authorities?
I haven’t heard anything from the government, and I’m not sure we will, but Malcolm’s the one that’s on the line for $300,000 and some jail time. I haven’t heard anything, though. All I’ve heard is really good, positive things. I know Malcolm took off to Mexico as soon as it was done. Not that they can’t track him down, but... All we’ve gotten is really good press on Speed and I think even on the supercross broadcast.

Ultimately, people have to figure that the right thing will overcome the rest, right? This should be a temporary thing.
Yeah, that’s the hope. I mean, there’s more lead in your car than in these motorcycles. Should we not put kids in cars anymore? It’s not lead on the frame of the motorcycles – they’re all using better paint there – it’s the lead in the cable, the oil in the cases, and the battery and the electric start. I have two twins at home that are 14 months old, and they’ve got batteries in all their toys. They’ve got lead in each of those toys. They’re plastic, and the lead’s inside, and the fear that one of them will tear the feet off and chew on the batteries, that’s ridiculous.

So how is your involvement with the AMA Supermoto series going?
Every year, we do whatever it takes to make it happen. Last weekend, we did the trophies, and the pit shirts, and the flagger shirts, and we brought as many sponsors on as we can, but next XTRM is really running it, and they’re doing an excellent job. They’ve really grabbed the bull by the horns and they’re running with it. We’re going to do the final round at Mammoth, and we’re just trying to help as much as we can. And we’re running Jeff Ward and Joey Pascarella, and Ward came out and won last weekend, which is awesome.

  • Jeff Ward is STILL fast!
He’s, what, like 46 or 47 years old now?
He’s 48!

He could potentially be a 50-year-old Supermoto champ in a couple of years!
We were talking about that, and he was like, “God, am I doing it again next year?” I’m like, “Don’t worry about that, now, Wardy, just have fun at it.” He said he wanted to do X Games, and then he was like, “Well, I’ve got to start training,” and then me and him went racing in Argentina about three weeks ago, and on the plane, I was like, “Dude, you might as well go race the first one to get ready for X Games,” and he said he wanted to do Mammoth, and he wanted to do X Games, and he wanted to do Infineon Raceway, so it was like, “Well, Wardy, you may as well do all of them.” But then, to go to the first round and come out a winner, he’s on top of the world. I talked to him this morning, and he’s like, “Dude, that’s so cool, man!” He’s like the Energizer Bunny, man. He just keeps on ticking.

It’s pretty amazing, looking at what he’s done over the past 45 years...
It’ll definitely be a movie at some point, I think.