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Observations: Motocross Magazine

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Look, I know it’s the off-season and there isn’t a whole lot going on in the motocross world (unless you consider the Justin Brayton world domination tour news) but I felt I needed to tell you guys about how I recently hit the jackpot.

  • Welcome to the Matthes look-back at this issue of Motocross Magazine. Odd cover choice for sure and weird dirt as well. Looks like the Vancouver SX a few years ago.
How much did I win you ask? Well not really any actual money but I’m rich in memories and nostalgia! Y’see, my buddy Trevor up in Canada secured two boxes of old motocross magazines. The DHL man rang my doorbell and delivered the best X-Mas present ever a couple of mornings ago and sadly, I haven’t gotten much work done since. Inside the boxes were stacks of MXA’s, Motocross Magazine, Super/Motocross and Dirt Bikes. It’s been just a revelation for me to flip through these mags but in a way it also makes me resent my mom for making me throw out my own collection all those years ago. What was I thinking?

I thought it would be fun to go through a random copy of one of these issues to look back at how our sport was and how it has changed in recent years. It’s always fun and the way I watch old supercrosses, read old moto magazines, listen to the '80s channel on Sirius, I’m starting to think that I need to find an old multi-zippered jacket to wear around.

The random issue I grabbed was Motocross Magazine from December 1983. It’s an oldie but a goodie (aren’t they all?) and this mag was a Hi-Torque publication for about three years. It was more of a lifestyle magazine compared to its sister publication, Motocross Action, and was a little more photo heavy than MXA.  Dennis “Ketchup” Cox was the editor and whatever happened to that guy anyways? I see the test riders are Billy Keefe (nowadays “Bill” Keefe is the team manager at Canidae/Rockstar Suzuki), Mike Tripes (Marty’s brother and recently he was a KTM factory mechanic), Derek Nye (not sure who that is, maybe Eric’s dad?), A.J. Whiting (who would go on to become a pretty good racer for a few years after 1983), Mickey Dymond (yes, that Mickey Dymond. The ’86, ’87 125 National champion and a great guest on my podcast show. If you want to have some fun, take a shot every time The Mick says ‘uhhhh’ on my show. You’ll be obliterated before you reach the ten minute mark) and Brian Myerscough (another good rider that had his career end early from sort of pre-Epstein Barr virus.)

Cover: I don’t know what kind of world SoCal people were living in at this time (I was ten and in the wastelands of Canada) but it seems to me that America winning the 1983 Trophee and Motocross des Nations for only the third time ever AND the Grand National points series being decided (by one point) as well as an exclusive interview with Bob Hannah (who clearly says that he’s going to quit… something) would be MUCH bigger news and therefore much more cover worthy than a dude on the brand new 1984 YZ250 blowing up a berm. Sigh… I guess not. To me, this issue could have had a better cover but that’s just me.

  • I'm telling you that you COULD NOT get any cooler than this in 1983. Actually, I'm not sure if you could get any cooler than this in 2009. I had this set-up at one point but the mouth guard never stayed tucked in underneath the nose guard and it would pop out and slide down my chin. I wasn't that cool then.
Pages 1 and 2: Now this is the epitome of cool. A JT Racing ad with the whole face mask system and cool “techno” style visor to match.  You had your options here with all the different colors and there are so many different ways to make yourself look like a stormtrooper it’s ridiculous. You’ll notice that, with the way the visor is attached on his helmet, it kind of looks like the upcoming JT ALS open face and later on in this issue I notice that David Bailey has “JT” painted on his helmet on the bottom all the way around. Man, if another helmet company was smart enough, they could’ve figured out what JT was going to produce. IT WAS ALL RIGHT THERE THE WHOLE TIME AND WE COULDN’T FIGURE IT OUT!!

Pages 5 and 6 are a win ad from Honda reminding us that Bailey won the 250 and SX championships and Johnny O’Mara won the 125 nationals. They go on to say that DB and Johnny O' really checked out your bike this year and that your 1984 CR is just like what they race. Wow, I guess I must’ve missed all the low tank with a fuel-pump, on the weight limit, disc braked, cartridge forked, left side exhaust stuff in the features and benefits of the bike down at my dealer. Strange.

Pages 8 and 9 are the staff listing with some guy named Wallenberg as the advertising director. Don’t know who he is but I’m sure he’ll never last in the industry. Also Ketchup Cox’s column is a good read as he talks about an epic day of riding out at Saddleback and how he loves that feeling. Replace “Saddleback” with “Glen Helen” and you could be reading a 2009 issue of MXA. You also see an ad for Sun Suzuki where they are selling Gaerne boots for $129.95 which seems like a lot when you can buy some Thor boots today for about the same price. Who knew boots weren’t affected by inflation?

  • The 1984 Hondas were pretty cool but I'm not buying the whole
Pages 10 and 11 have the little tid-bits that have been at the front of every motocross magazine forever. In this issue they profile the new Can-Ams and incredibly the 250MX model has dropped 18 pounds from last year. 18 POUNDS!!! Sweet Jesus, what did they do to get that much weight off a motorcycle? Get rid of the free 15 pound weight in the airbox? What If you owned a 1983 Can-Am (don’t laugh, a guy named BigWave Billy in Canada did!) and you see the new models come out weighing a small child less than yours? Would you cry? Would you try to drill through your hand?

There’s a bunch of Euro racing news in this section and it’s all written by a Canadian guy named Will De Clercq who I’ve been in touch with recently and scanned some of his old photos. He lived over there in the mid-'80s as Eric Geboers personal PR guy. Yes, it’s a small world.

 Anyway, remember when American magazines would report on GP racing? Like in these magazines I’ve gotten, I’m simply astonished at the number of GP dudes on the cover of MXA. You have a better chance of getting Donn Maeda and Jimmy Lewis to reenact Rocky and Apollo frolicking in the surf in Rocky III than you have of seeing Tanel Leok on the cover in 2009.

Pages 17 to 20 have the famed test of the cover bike, the 1984 YZ250. They go on to talk about how the shock now has the external compression adjuster on the shock and not under the seat (?!?) like the previous year’s bike. The test goes on to say that they were a little disappointed to see the bike not looking much different than the ’83 model but that looks can be deceiving. Then they go on to list all the insignificant changes that they made for 1984 like seat gussets, a rebuildable aluminum silencer and closer gear ratios. Anytime you start off talking about improvements like seat gussets and closer gear ratios when talking about a new model, you’re in trouble. And again I stress, this bike made the cover over the MXDN team.

The last paragraph of the test says that if you liked the ’83 model, you’ll like the ’84 one. Shocker. Underneath the test is a quick write up about the YZ80 and this strikes a chord with me as I had one of these bikes. Only mine was white and red and not this yellow bastardized version that is in the picture.  I won some 80cc B-class races in Manitoba, Canada on this machine and that’s all you need to know about its performance.

  • Behold, the 1984 CR480! Errr, wait the CR 500! Well actually, the CR 491! Check out the M Robert boots and the picture perfect form in the berm.
Page 26 is a Lakewood National report and it's odd that they would just cover a national so poorly but back in the day, all the magazines did this at one point or another. Anyways, it tells us that Bob Hannah didn’t finish either moto, Bailey won the 250s, Goat Breker won the 50’s (which I hadn’t even realized that Breker ever won a national so congratulations on that, Goat) and some kid wearing 224 won the 125’s. Back when all three classes ran on one day it sure was privateer heaven as a guy named Gene Gentsh finished eighth overall in 125s. Gene Gentsh everybody! On another note, while I was looking at the page, super agent Paul Lindsey called me to chat and with Paul being a Colorado native I asked him about this very race I was looking at. He didn’t remember too much but he did say that Gene’s nickname was “Fireball” back in the day. Who knew? I wonder if Gene is a shoe salesman in Colorado these days and his fellow employees call him Fireball. Like “Hey Fireball, we need these ladies pumps in a size 7…get to it!” and then he thinks back to that day when he was eighth overall in a 125 national and just smashes his head into the wall over and over.

Page 27 is an ad for some gear called “Jammin USA” which may or may not hold the record for plainest gear ever made. It’s running neck and neck with the Glad garbage bag you put on for mud races. Is this stuff owned by “Jamming” Jimmy Weinert? The home base is in Chatsworth, California and Jimmy is a New York guy so I think not. I don’t know man, the more I look at the dude in this ad, the more he looks like Weinert. Maybe it is. Anyone know?

Pages 28 to 33 cover the Millville national which was the final national of the year and Suzuki’s Mark Barnett and Honda’s David Bailey were going at it for the number one Grand National plate which was awarded to the top points guy from supercross and nationals. Interesting color shot of the start of the 500s and I have to say, the track looks exactly the same as it does now.  I was a huge Barnett fan back in the day and this race brings up bad memories for me as Hannah moved over for Bailey in the second moto while way out in front to help his cause and Ron Lechien, on the trick OW125, went 1-1 in the scorching heat to somehow beat Barnett. These two things combined to give DB the number one plate and not my beloved Bomber. Ironically I’m now friends with Bailey and Lechien (we’re friends…right guys?) and Barnett doesn’t know me from a hole in the ground.

Glover also clinched the 500 title this weekend and there’s a half page shot of a youngster wearing #680 and the caption reads “Keith Bowen has in the matter of two nationals become the hot new property on the pro circuit.”

  • I'm not sure why Team USA thinks having their hats like this is funny, but I suppose if you're as fast as these dudes are, you can do what you want. Look at the height difference between Ward and Bailey!
Pages 34 to 42 are an eight page (!) ad from Honda all about the new CRs that are coming out. It starts with a headshot of Hannah and says “Do not try to catch this man by yourself” and then you turn the page and it’s a shot of Hannah on the bike saying “Consider him armed.” The page after that says “has been charged with ATAC” and features a shot of Honda’s all-new engine with this revolutionary power valve system. It gets better, the final page says “Last seen on a works bike.”

Pretty cool marketing and when you add up the other two pages, Honda purchased ten pages in this issue to promote their brand. And that was just in this one magazine. I bet they haven’t purchased ten pages in one magazine in twenty years! Times were good back then apparently. Also it’s weird that they blow up Hannah so much when Bailey was the big winner in ’83. However,  I do know from talking to David himself that Bob was hella-mega fast this year (his first on Honda) but couldn’t stay healthy. I suppose the Honda execs knew this also as well as Bob being the recognizable name on the team.

Page 43 has a headline that says “Amsterdam Supercross-Europeans shock the Americans” which is pretty amazing because in 1983, the American riders were pretty much pooping all over any Euro that dared to race supercross. So the Euros “shocking” the Americans should be big news right? Let’s take a look at the results shall we?

1. Jukka Sintonen
2. Eric Geboers
3. Gert-Jan Van Dorn
4. Jo Martens
5. Benny Wilken
6. John Hensen
7. John Van De Berk
8. Martin Schalkwijk
9. John Cavatorta
10. Arno Bosch
11. Peter Van de Nieuwenhof

  • Only $1,349 for a 1983 RM125, they are blowing them out folks! I think that's because the 1984 RM125 was all new.
Ah yes, the American supercrossers were definitely shocked by the Europeans as the headline states. After all, the great Martin Schalkwijk from El Cajon was beaten soundly as was up and coming Ohio rider Arno Bosch. WTF? So if you read the story, you find out that there were two Americans there and they were Jim Gibson, who crashed in practice and didn’t line up for the show and Darrell Schultz, whose knees were held together with duct tape and JB Weld at this point. And, if you keep reading you find out that Schultz crashed 30 feet off the gate and his night was done! Yes, you’re right, the Euros sure shocked America in this race. The article is written by a guy named Guy Drossin who is probably French and is bitter that his dad’s farm was crushed by the American tanks who were coming to rescue his ass in WWII.

Pages 46 and 47 have an interview with new World Champion “Gorgeous” George Jobe.  Still amazing that these old magazines devoted so much coverage to the Euro dudes. Anyways the interview (conducted by De Clercq, the Canadian) asks Jobe what he thinks of Canadian champion Ross Pederson and his performance (see? It’s not just me that asks these questions, it’s obviously in our lineage) and this is the best part of the magazine in my opinion. I’m going to quote Jobe, the World Champ, right here “I’d say that he is wasting his time in Canada. There’s no one there to present him a challenge. If he came here to Europe, was well-prepared, had a good bike and was well organized, he would be a top-five rider.” BOOYAH!  That’s right, mother effing Ross Pederson was a top five GP rider so says George Jobe! I love it. I will now go and watch the 1987 Atlanta Arenacross on the World’s Greatest Supercrosses DVD where THE Ross dominates Guy Cooper and dream of what could have been.

Pages 48 to 52 have the 1983 MXDN coverage in it. By all accounts the Americans smoked them again and this was the first year that they sent over the absolute best guys. In the years before it was an all-Honda team as Roger DeCoster really wanted to go do the event. Once the other OEMs saw that they wouldn’t go over there and suck balls, they all wanted in! Bailey, Glover, Barnett and Ward went and basically dominated despite Bomber having some shock problems and Ward crashing in one moto. The final score of the Trophee des Nations was USA 18 and Belgium with 52! Yes, that’s a whupping. And remember, at the Motocross des Nations, Barnett and Glover had to ride crappy ass air-cooled 500s whilst the Euros were on the factory water-cooled bitchin 500s. Props to Geboers though who managed to win a moto over the American invaders. Mr. 875 was legit.

  • Why did Yamaha insist on putting the number 1 on the bikes over and over? Who remembers sitting in their garage with a blow dryer for hours trying to get these damm things off? Drove me nuts and I'm sure many others.
Pages 53 to 57 have a Bob Hannah interview and let me sum it up for you here. “I’m the best, I try the hardest, the today's kids are babies, I love Brian Luiness, I will get paid more than anyone next year or I’m quitting, I have no talent, everyone hates me, no one knows what tough is anymore and I’m the best.” I didn’t know if I was reading an interview from ’78, ’83 or ’87 right there.  Like I said though, the old-timers I talk to say he was the best rider this year, hands down. So you have to give him credit, I’d love for James Stewart to come out and say these types of things. That would be awesome.

Pages 60 to 65 have a 1984 Honda CR500 test. It used to be called a CR480 but they bumped up the cc’s to a 491 so they just rounded up. I wish I could do that with my paycheck. Anyways, this bike looks like a handful to me in the pictures and I sat on it at the Primm Museum and lemme tell you, I confirmed that it is a handful. It feels like you’re straddling a water buffalo.  Anyone who rode these things fast back in the day deserves some props for sure. The magazine loves the bike, big news is the addition of a front disc brake and some major suspension improvements.

There’s an interview with factory Honda rider Goat Breker (otherwise known as the man who won the 500 class at Lakewood this same year and didn’t even get a lousy picture in the story) and he comments that this production bike is as good as his works bike. Imagine that, a paid rider saying that. That wasn’t the most shocking thing to me though, what was amazing to me was Goat saying that they had a hydraulic clutch on his works Honda bike. That’s cool stuff back then.

After that its ads, an offer to subscribe to Dirtwheels magazine, a BMX Plus ad and some Crash and Burn shots which always get me giggling. Can’t get enough of other people’s pain, I suppose. Thanks for getting in this time machine with me and going back to December 1983.

Email me at matthes@racerxonline.com for anything that may be on your mind.

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