The Boyesen name is synonymous with the two-stroke engine, but the company does much more than just reeds. It should be noted that Boyesen is now a sponsor of this column, and as such, we thought it would be fitting to start the new relationship off with an interview with Dag.
Racer X: Hey Dag, your company is now a sponsor for this column—thanks so much for that. You were quite an accomplished racer yourself. Tell me, what is going on with you?
Dag Boyesen: Well, since my father passed away, I am now the president here at Boyesen. Basically for me, it is just business and family! We own the business, but my younger brother and I are pretty much running things here. But I come from a large family, as I have six other brothers and sisters.
That is a big family! But you guys are a motocross family, right? I remember your mother, Marsha, used to sing the national anthem at a bunch of the nationals back in the day.
Haha! Yeah, I guess so. She still does her singing thing at some of the local festivals and whatnot. I remember them going to the nationals, but I was always racing and not paying attention to what my mom and dad were doing! Not all my siblings are into bikes, though.
What about your own family?
I am married and we have four kids. My wife Shayne came from a racing family—she is Tommy Hurd’s younger sister. Tommy used to run Hurricane Hills in Pennsylvania, and today he owns the track at Broome-Tioga, where they used to host the national. We dated on and off for many years, she went to college and I was racing, but we got back together and got married 22 years ago. We have four children, and they range in age from 21, 19, 10 and 7.
Boyesen was a journeyman privateer that earned recognition during the '90s.
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Are any of them aspiring racers?
Well, not really. They all ride, but they are not all that into it. My youngest son, maybe, but I am not pushing him at all.
I understand you live on a farm with a really cool track. I actually saw some footage on YouTube of Hannah riding there back in 1980’s. What’s the story behind the place?
We own an old club track near Allentown, Pennsylvania. It is just a phenomenal outdoor track with these huge hills and lots of off-camber turns. The deal was that it was a practice track way back when and a local club ran it. This is going way back though, like the 1970’s. My father was part of the club and just loved the place. When the owners passed away, the kids inherited it and knew my dad loved it. The family approached and asked if we wanted to buy it, so we did. My wife and I, we live on the property now. It took along time, but we managed to renovate the house and it is a really neat place.
But the place never hosted any races?
I think the club might have once or twice, but the town got involved and it just stayed as a practice track. However, over the years we have hosted some really big names. Back in the days when the riders would stay on the road and in the box vans, we would have all sorts of guys hanging out and riding at the place during the week and in summer. Hannah, Johnson, Ward, Stanton, Kiedrowski—almost all the guys from the 1980’s rode here at one time or another, or many times over! Then in the 1990’s, Henry and Dowd would come all the time, as well as a bunch of other big names.
Let’s talk about your racing. You did pretty well, and had several top-ten finishes in the nationals.
Yeah, I had some good rides on the 500. I was a taller and bigger guy, and always considered myself an open class [rider]. I grew up trying to ride as smooth as possible, and did my best to copy Ron Lechien and David Bailey’s style. I also had a knack for testing, both with motors and suspension, and that was a real strength of mine. I could tell when small tweaks made a big difference.
You were a very well rounded racer, earning a career-best national number of 24 (before the fixed number system was initiated) as well as a title at Loretta’s, and you made some GPs in Europe. Those are some pretty strong credentials.
Yeah, the year I got that low number I finished 14th in the 250 outdoors and I think eighth in the 500 class, plus I scored some points at supercross races, but nothing consistent. But then I stopped the nationals in 1995. I went to Europe for a year or so, but I hurt my knee. I was doing some of the GPs and had hooked up with our Norwegian importer. His son was a promising young GP rider. It was all so different over there, though. The culture shock was hard and I was on my own. It was really hard, but it was an opportunity and I did it. I qualified for a bunch of [GP] races and it was fun, looking back at it. But then when I tore my ACL, well, that was it. My career was over.
Boyesen (#88) battles with Andy Stacy (#47).
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You had some really good outdoor results, yet you were never really a supercross guy. Why was that?
No, I really was not so into supercross. It was not something I was very good at. There was one season where I made 5 or 6 mains, and that was a big deal for me. Growing up in the Northeast, there were no supercross tracks to ride anywhere. So for guys like me in my era, the big thing was Florida. We would go there in the winter to ride. Even in doing that, you had to know the right people to get into supercross-style tracks. But back then, they were not even real supercross tracks, just outdoor tracks with tight jumps, or something of the sort.
These days, you can go to any number of places and get time on a proper supercross track. For supercross, I got thrown to wolves with very little practice. The only real supercross track I had to ride on was Gene Neumac’s place. I think he was the only guy on the entire east coast to have a private supercross track. But Gene was a character, and was really selective about who could ride there.
So what made you come back for Loretta’s after you quit?
Well, the Loretta’s deal—I had actually quit in 1995 or ‘96. I stepped away from the sport when I realized the pro dream was over, but I stuck with riding locally. I was helping my father with product development, and just went out and did it. I think it was 1998 that I won that title. It was funny because I did the first year of Loretta’s back in 1982—I was racing against Barry Carsten in the 100B class! But then I went back there after my pro career was done. I battled it out with Billy Whitley for the win. He had the big #1 from the year before, but I wrestled it away from him [laughs].
Let’s switch gears here and talk about the business. Your dad was very well known and really respected for his two-stroke engineering skills. He passed away a few years ago, and now you are running the business.
Yup. My dad was Norwegian; he came over from Norway and went to a school that was located in Philadelphia. He met my mom and they lived in the Philadelphia area for a number of years. There were no places to ride, so he moved to the Lehigh Valley/Allentown area to ride. There was actually a saddleback type of riding park called Moto Mecca, where you could ride and rent bikes and stuff. It was really ahead of its time for back then. And so my father decided to move out this way so he could ride more often. He moved out here and really focused on the business, and we are still here!
Tell me about the Boyesen business today. A lot has changed with four-strokes. How has that impacted you guys?
For sure it changed the way we do things. At the beginning, and through the late 1990’s, the two-stroke was the core of our business. Reed pedals and reed valves were 100 percent of the business. With the market shifting to four-strokes, we had to diversify what we do. My father was a motocross guy, and that was his passion. He cared for the other segments, but motocross was his big deal. We looked into other markets where two-strokes were used, and came up with some products. Any two-stroke, any reed out there, we have it. Lately, we have been doing a lot of RC stuff—stuff for little RC cars and airplanes. They are 25cc motors or whatever, but still two strokes. We also have some products for the drone airplanes, etc. The more familiar segments—snowmobiles and carting—we are there. We are even in chainsaws! But the dirt bikes are still a big piece of what we do.
What do you see in the future?
Well, some big news for us is that we have become an OEM supplier for KTM. That is a big deal for us. Now every new KTM two-stroke that comes out will be equipped with our products. We have always had a great relationship with them, but this was a big deal and very exciting. Aside from that, we have some things in the pipeline, as well as some further product line extensions.
What is your top seller?
Still off-road stuff—the motocross and dirt bike segment is our largest by far. I am happy about that, as that is my passion and interest as well. We do have a wide range of product classes, and there is not one that I would say totally dominates. The super cooler category, that is exciting for us, as the four-strokes run hot and the product is really good. We have been a part of the factory Kawasaki team since 2006 and they run our stuff. We won a bunch of championships with them over the years. We have also been doing some stuff with the ignition segments, and we’re moving into some V-Twin segments as well with our accelerator pumps.
How many employees do you guys have?
We have about 20 people working for us. It fluctuates depending on seasons.
In 1994, Boyesen earned national number #24 -- a career best.
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That’s cool. Do you do any overseas production?
Absolutely not! All of our production is done here; we do everything here in Pennsylvania. I am very proud of that, and so was my dad. Some of the things such as fasteners, we might source that, but it is only for very small items. We even do some plastic injection molding. The injection molding and fabrication is really something we are proud of. Manufacturing in the USA is not what it used to be, but we are still 100 percent committed to it.
You guys ran the legendary “Team Boyesen” in 1994, and scored some good results. But it was only around for one season. Can you talk about that?
Well, yeah. The team was me, Scott Sheak and John Dowd. I always had great support from my dad, but we did do the team one year. It was quite a production. Yamaha wanted to make a change and wanted to get some satellite teams going. They wanted an east coast team and a west coast team, so it was us and NCY, basically. We had Sheak and Dowd—they were the 125 supercross guys. My position was the outdoor guy. I did all the supercross races that we traveled to: Orlando, Texas, Charlotte, Pontiac, etc.
But you guys were pretty much one and done?
Results wise, the team was successful—John parlayed his rides into a factory Yamaha ride and even won two races wearing our graphics, and after Mike Craig’s collapse with Yamaha. But, it was a big financial burden on our company. We did not expect it to cost as much as it did, but my dad was committed to it 100 percent to finish the season. I can see how some teams just pull the plugs when the money runs out. Yamaha was really helpful for us, with bikes and parts, but still there were so many costs that went along with it. The bulk of the expenses fell on the company—three riders, three mechanics and three box vans running around the country.
But in short, essentially, it was hard to gage the return. We had so much success, but there was no metric to measure to how it was working for us, and if it paid off. I don’t think there were any regrets from anyone involved. In essence, it only helped us, but it just cost a ton of money. I think people saw the company in a good light though.
One thing I think that was lost on that effort was that it really launched the careers of Dowd and Sheak. Both of those guys did well previously, but never really could put it together for a full season. Dowd had been racing pro since 1987, but he finally made a breakthrough with you guys.
Yeah, I guess if you look at it that way, it really did launch Dowd’s career. He was around, but never put it together for a full season. Dowd was awesome though. I think most people don’t know, but he almost died back in 1991 after breaking his leg at Red Bud—it got infected. All of a sudden, his body started crashing and they had to cut him open to keep him alive. It was really crazy, and pretty rough. That was in 1991 and it took a while for him to come back! But for us, in 1994, he won at Binghampton and Millville and got a second at Gainesville that year. That was really cool.
Well, Dag, we covered a lot of stuff, and I have to wrap this up. One last question, what was your favorite track?
Good question! I would have to say Washougal. It was on the 500 schedule and I really liked it. The track was a special hard pack track and my style worked there. You had to be smooth and careful; it took finesse to do well. But locally, my favorite track was Hurricane Hills, which is just outside of Scranton, Pennsylvania. I owe a lot of my career to learning to ride there and it holds a special place to me.