If you're going to talk to Kevin Windham, come armed with a recorder. Small talk to him sounds like poetry to us. For example, when we called him to get some analysis of the Phoenix Supercross track for the 2013 Monster Energy Supercross program, we ended up drifting to a variety of other topics, each one loaded with insight. It got so good that we just kept recording and made it this week's Monday Conversation!
Racer X: Hey K-Dub I need to talk to you about the Phoenix SX for the program.
Kevin Windham: Oh yeah, Phoenix has been a good town for me, really. It wasn't as talked about like the transfers of today, but that was the first place I ever did a transfer. Great town, great energy there.
Whoa, whoa, the transfer started in Phoenix?
So do you actually remember what year it was?
Not sure, but I think it was '08.
You've been doing the transfers for that long? Four years?
Yeah! It hadn't caught on yet like it has now, but I remember that first one pretty well. If I saw the blueprints of each year's Phoenix track I could show you what year it was, and exactly what I did. But now I might have to find a way to tone these transfers down. The ones I've been doing recently, they're probably averaging 70 feet, so that's basically bigger than any obstacle on the track, and I'm doing it in the dark!
After a big crash a the Monster Energy Cup Windham took five weeks off.
Simon Cudby photo
Yeah you've kind of set yourself into a bad position now.
It scared me when I wanted to talk to Feld about it one year and they said, “If you crash and get hurt in opening ceremonies, here is how we're going to handle it.” They had to put a whole plan together to figure out what would happen if I got hurt! I figure you could just keep the lights turned off and no one would really see what was going on.
[Laughs] Was that first one in '08 pretty lame compared to what you're doing now?
In my head it was so gnarly but it was a joke compared to the ones I'm doing now!
Hey so how are you doing? Last time we saw you, you had a big crash at Monster Energy Cup.
I took five weeks off. I was kind of bummed with the level of the crash and the injuries I sustained from it. I've had crashes where I thought I should have just died, and I get up and everything is okay. Everyone knows why I'm out here at this point in my career, and when I go from a crash at Houston that takes me out for awhile, and then a crash at Vegas that takes me out again, everyone starts to wonder if I should still be doing this anymore. And I certainly understand that, and I've had to think about it myself. I've just got to find some consistency and keep it on two wheels. And in supercross, it seems like stuff can just happen at anytime. So I had to think about it quite a bit, and in the end, I realized the thing to do is not really overanalyze it.
How did you feel once you started riding again?
Once I got back on, I was happy with my cardio, because I've hooked up with a good group of guys back here at home to do some road bicycling. So I was good there. I felt good on the bike, so I don't think the time off really set me back or anything as far as how I will feel when the season begins.
How's the 2013 Honda? I know at Monster Cup you had just gotten on it, but you felt the transition would go smoothly.
The transition was great, which is good because I'm almost ready to go racing right now, and we still have time. Also, I ended up back near a '12 spec with the settings, and that usually doesn't happen when you have a new bike. It usually takes a long time to figure out where you need to be and what you want it to do. At this point in my career I wasn't looking forward to a whole new transition, so I'm happy the new bike felt so much like the other one. I look forward to that being the last of those transitions for my career. I don't anticipate the '14 being that much different!
K-Dub laying it flat at the GEICO Honda photoshoot.
Simon Cudby photo
Okay, so through all this, the retire-after-2014-goal is still there.
The '14 goal is still there. When you get to a certain level of you career, everyone is saying, “Whenever you decide it's time to go, you can go.” There are certain people on the team who are my bosses, but they're my friends, and they'll even say, “We're tired of seeing you hit the ground. Maybe you need to just stop the 2014 thing and just end it at 2012!” But I feel good, I still feel competitive, and I still feel I may have wins left in me. I really love what I'm doing so I don't want to stop. I tell the people around me there are basically three things I don't like with my career right now: First, new kids coming in and being fast, which could make me not competitive. Second is getting hurt. And then the third thing are those carts at the airport!
You know those carts, Weege. You're walking to your gate and they come charging up behind you, beeping the horn, and almost take you down. And half the time, they'll go flying past you just to stop short at the next gate, and then I'm almost running right into them! It's like they start needing to get out of the way of the walker.
[Laughs] And what I don't get is, what are the standards for getting in those things? I've seen the widest variety of people riding in those carts.
Right. Look, I understand someone who is elderly and will have a tough time getting to their gate on time. But nine times out of ten the guy getting a ride looks like a running back for the Saints.
[Laughs] And where do they stage those things? I've never seen the cart parking lot, or even a place where you can go sign up for one. They just seem to come out of nowhere in the middle of the hallway.
I think what it is, is when you're booking a flight, you need to check that box that says special needs. I think we have to start checking that and we can get a ride to the gate.
And I like that because I'm sure they don't even charge you for it. It's like free valet.
If I could figure out how to get on those carts I might be able to race until '16.
[Laughs] This is good stuff. Seriously how is the riding going?
I just got back from California where I got to ride with my GEICO Honda teammates. And even though they're on 250Fs, they are going fast. I'm happy where I'm at. Also, I got to ride with the 41, Trey Canard, and that was good. I feel good about my riding and where I stack up, I just need to be consistent and keep it on two wheels. But I have additional goals; it's not all about winning. I'm just building a legacy, and trying to enjoy this incredible journey I'm on. You get to the point where you want to give back to the fans, help make future fans, really just be good to the sport.
Windham still plans to race another two years.
Simon Cudby photo
Well, yeah, we know your goals might be different than most others, but at the same time, you've maintained that you won't do this just to say you did it. You're not going to keep racing if all you can do is scratch out a top ten, or just make the main event.
Yeah, I am a racer. You have to stay competitive. And today, the difference between a win and a tenth, it could be something out of your control. When all the guys are on their game, it's tough, everyone is so close and pushing it so hard. But I'm not going to go out there and just be pumped to make the mains. I've seen riders push way past the point where they should be retired, and that's not a good place to be. If I get to that point, I'll know. By now, with my age, we're getting to the point where we are in uncharted waters, but luckily one of the only guys who has ever been there, as far as the number of main events, and the age, is Mike LaRocco, and he's the team manager over here right by my side. So I have some good guidance there. And I feel like I have something left. You know, at Monster Cup, the champion [Ryan Villopoto] crashed as well and basically had the same thing happen to him as happen to me. So it can happen to anyone. But everytime something bad happens to me, I start over thinking if I should be doing this anymore. It's weird too, I have a meeting today. I started doing some other stuff, some investments, and they're taking off. The plan was to really focus on these once the racing career ended, but they've just been growing almost out of control. I really don't have time for two jobs right now! We just opened our third Planet Fitness health club, and it looks like I'll be up to five soon. You know, throughout your life you end up seeing a lot of opportunities like that, and you pass a lot of them up and wonder why. Luckily I've been associated with some good people and this one worked out really well. But that makes me a pretty busy guy sometimes. I still need some time to keep focusing on this racing thing.
Okay then, we'll let you get back to it, Kevin. Always good talking to you.