Racer X Rewind: Rich Taylor

Racer X Rewind: Rich Taylor

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Many of you know Rich Taylor as founder and owner of EKS Brand Goggles, but before he became the towering clear-vision magnate he is today, Taylor was a professional racer, as well as a factory test pilot. Like anybody that’s been involved in the industry for years, Taylor has no shortage of hilarious stories, which is why we gave him a call for this edition of Racer X Rewind.

Rich Taylor On Washougal
In ‘96 I was riding for Honda R&D. My mechanic, Andy Calver, got ahold of this snowmobile carburetor called a Boswell. It was a modified Mikuni carb that had all this weird stuff going on inside it. We added a special Boyesen reed setup and a Pro Circuit pipe, and I for sure had the fastest bike on the circuit that year. I would line up next to Emig or McGrath and I knew I would probably beat them to the first turn. So at Washougal, which is the closest race to my hometown and my Dad and all my buddies were there, I told everyone I was going to holeshot and throw the biggest whip of my life over the Chuk Sun table in the middle of the track. Sure enough I ripped the holeshot, was in the lead and did the biggest pancake whip off that jump. It was legendary! Well at least that’s what I was told. I really don’t remember. What I do remember is coming through the pit board area and my dad had his hands spread apart like I had a big lead. I looked back and no one was there. I was pulling away. Next thing I remember was sitting back in the pits with the medics around me. The race was over. Turns out I lost the front end in a rutted corner and hit the ground, chin first. I didn’t really hit my head, there was a rock sticking out of the ground that caught the bottom of my chin just right to knock me out.

After the race and after I woke up, I walked over to the turn where I crashed and there was a group of guys partying. I asked them if they saw Rich Taylor crash. They started laughing and said, “You are Rich Taylor,” and they all started yelling and telling me how bad I ate shit. Every guy had a different story as to what I did. Then they made me shotgun a beer with them.

To this day I can’t go anywhere without someone bringing up Washougal of ’96. “You’re the dude that led that National and got knocked out,” they say. Out of all the magazine covers I have been on and out of all the good finishes I had, that is what everyone remembers.

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Rich Taylor photos

On Malaysia
I used to do races all over the world, and one year I got invited to do these Arenacross races in Malaysia. At the first one I did, the King of the country was at the race. I think he was the King, maybe he was the president. I don’t remember. He sat in this big elaborate chair right in the middle of the stadium by the finish line jump. The promoter told me that if I win, I need to ride up to where he is on top of the jump and take my helmet off and bow to him. Well, I won the race and over the finish line I did a crazy no-footed one-hander and pointed at him. Crazy for 1992, anyway. Then I rode up to the top of the jump and threw my hands up in the air. I looked at him but I didn’t bow. I think I waved or something. It wasn’t out of disrespect, I was just pumped and I totally forgot. All of a sudden, the whole crowd started whistling, like really loudly. I was like, 'What’s going on?' I started to ride off and then it went silent. Back in the pits, the promoter came running over and said, “You better get dressed, we have to go!” Just then the King walked over and he was super cool. He was the nicest guy and asked a lot questions about motocross and the race. He even apologized for the crowd and said they didn’t understand. It turns out that the crowd thought that I had shunned the King and they were pissed. Then he made some sort of gesture that got them to stop whistling. Two weeks later I flew back over to do another race and the King was there again. I took my helmet off that time!

On Road Trips
Most of my career I was a privateer. I would hook up with other racers and we would drive from race to race around the country. Those were some of the best times of my life. We would ride all over the country, training together, eating together and basically doing everything together. One year we were driving from Millville to Washougal. It was me and my mechanic, Mike Mogenson, “Mogie”, Ray Sommo and his mechanic, “Stogie”, Jeff Pestana and his mechanic, and his girlfriend, Jason Chisum, and Rusty Holland. That drive takes you directly through Sturgis, ND. It just so happened that the big Harley week was going on as we came through. We decided to spend the night and check it out. What a night! We found this bar called the “Dungeon.” The ceiling was super low and it was down these dark stairs. It was full of the gnarliest biker dudes you have ever seen. Imagine a group of “too cool” motocross kids walking into that!

They had a $.50 draft special going on. Me and Pestana and Holland didn’t really drink much, but the rest of the group was all about it. So Sommo goes up and buys $50 worth and comes back with two big treys of beers. The next thing I know, his mechanic Stogie is hitting on some biker chick over in the corner. I’m still 100 percent sober and I start freaking out. We are going to die! Sure enough I see this monster walking over toward him. A few minutes later I hear everyone yelling and hooting and hollering. I look over and Stogie is on top of a table with his pants around his knees bent over and gyrating his hips around. His balls were swinging around and nearly to his knees. Turns out he bet this biker that his balls hung down to his knees. Basically the guy wanted to kill him for talking to his chick, but Stogie somehow talked his way out of it and ended up showing the entire bar his old man balls. The rest of the night we were the bikers’ best friends!

Of course, Sommo and Holland ended up getting in a fight - with each other! And Pestana and his chick ended up getting in a fight - with each other! We all ended up meeting up in Idaho at a truck stop and went to Washougal like nothing happened.

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On Testing at Hondaland
I was fortunate to get a job testing for Honda R&D in 1988 and tested for them up until the middle of ‘96. Honda leased this land called, “Hondaland” just outside of Simi Valley, CA. It had a gnarly SX track and two national-style tracks. It was awesome! Crazy things used to happen out there. One time we were testing a brand new model CR, maybe ‘90 or ‘91. I came around the corner and there is a guy on all fours holding a camera. It turned out it was an MXA photographer trying to get some spy photos. He saw that I saw him so he took off running through the bushes. The funny thing is I didn’t even care, I wasn’t going to tell on him. I finished my moto and all of a sudden we see the guy walking up the road toward us. The Japanese guys started freaking out throwing the bikes in the truck, yelling and screaming at each other. It ended up that the guy got bit by a rattle snake and needed help. The Japanese guys didn’t understand and wanted to kill this guy and we had to calm them down and try to explain. It was not funny, but really funny at the same time.

For durability testing we would combine the two outdoor tracks to make one long track. In the early and mid ‘90s we had some regular testers that would do durability; mostly Southern California pros that were available. If any factory guys were around they would come out too. It always turned into who could get the fastest lap times, which ultimately meant, who could cheat the best. The Honda race team would show up and the durability guys would be a couple seconds a lap faster because of our “unique” lines. One day Ray Sommo was doing his moto and he disappeared. The Japanese guys jumped on the XR they had and went out to look for him. They came back about five minutes later and threw their hands up in the air as if to say, “Where is he?” Turns out he had a cheater line that cut a whole section of the track. He hit a stump, ate shit, broke his shoulder and knocked himself out. The only reason I found him is because I was thinking about doing the same line and I just happened to look over there!

The whole goal of durability testing for the riders was to break the bikes. We got paid per day so if the bike broke in the morning we were out of there. I think the reason the Honda’s were so good in the ‘90s was because we absolutely tried to kill them every time we rode. We would hit every rock and try to break the wheels, stuff like that. When we did 125 testing we would have all sorts of competitions. We’d see who could log the fastest lap times without shifting out of first gear, which meant we’d ride wide open everywhere for 30 minutes. Those damn bikes would not blow up! Sometimes we would do a whole moto in third gear and we’d have to clutch the shit out of it in turns. The clutches would fade, but very seldom would the baskets scatter like we wanted. Sometimes we would even see who could jump the farthest off of a flat landing jump in the hopes of breaking a frame. Then the next guy, who was in on it, would go one lap and automatically come in and say, “something’s wrong,” hoping the frame was cracked or stretched. The Japanese mechanics would check and measure and then send us back out. Now that I think about it, those poor Japanese mechanics must have hated us.

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On, The Damon Game
The year that Guy Cooper won his National Championship I was living with him in Oklahoma. My girlfriend at the time was going to school in Stillwater so I would ride and train with Coop all week at this place called the “500.” It was an amazing riding spot with a Guy Cooper-built, Excitebike- style motocross track. I would ride one of his RM125s and we would do motos in the morning before finishing the day by playing a game called, The Damon Game. It was, of course, named after Damon Bradshaw. We would basically ride a moto at about 75 percent stuffing and running into each other in every turn.

I think there were only one or two races left and Coop was right there in points for the championship. It was a Thursday and we were to leave for the race on Friday. Anyway, there were about 200 people out watching us. Coop is a legend in Stillwater; the locals follow his every move. There was this huge uphill triple step-up into a left hand turn and then a double jump back down the hill. Most of the crowd was watching that section because Coop would throw giant “Coop whips” every lap off of the jumps. He stuffed me in the turn before so we went off the triple side-by-side. I squared him up and pushed him wide going off the double. Let me remind you that Guy Cooper was, and still is, one of the most competitive guys you will ever meet. He was not letting off and we hit in the air. He did the biggest endo you have ever seen! Not just a normal endo, but a flip into the thick Oklahoma woods with the bike tackling him the whole way. It knocked him a bit dizzy and when I got back to him he was holding his wrist. Holy shit! I just broke Coop’s wrist and there goes the championship! I had 400 eyes tearing me a new ass! I literally thought the locals were going to kill me. Lucky for me, Guy Cooper is some sort of a superman and is made out of rubber or something. He got up and kept riding, and ended up winning the title that year.

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