We love magazines—and not just Racer X Illustrated. Over the years we’ve collected literally thousands of magazines (the vast majority involving dirt bikes of course). While on a recent spring-cleaning spree, we came across some very unique covers over the years—unique in a variety of ways, as you are about to see!
The most famous motocross cover of all has to be this gem from Sports Illustrated back in 1971, featuring Hollywood superstar Steve McQueen blasting through the desert on a Husqvarna. The magazine basically anointed the dirt bike boom that was upon America. It would be the modern-day equivalent of, say, Brad Pitt or George Clooney taking off their shirt and going riding in the desert!
This was my favorite MXA cover as a kid: Mike Hartwig doing a flying W at Daytona after colliding with Bob Harris (22) while Gary Semics hovers in the background.
Look closely at this long-lost magazine called Mini Bike: That’s a minicycle racing against an actual stagecoach pulled by a team of horses. Wow. It was actually part of a TV commercial shoot for Wells Fargo Bank, and the bike being used was a 44cc Taco.
Here’s a shot that would be a tough sell on the newsstand today. That’s Gary Jones, three-time AMA 250 Motocross Champion, pulling his helmet off, without a motorcycle in sight. Dirt Bike did awesome covers like this all the time back in the day.
Another Dirt Bike gem, this one with CHIPs television star Larry Wilcox posing as a policeman beneath a rider going overhead on a Honda XL600 while Sheila Sieman (Super Hunky’s daughter) looks on.
A more recent gem, this from Motocross Journal featuring one of the most inspiring moment of the nineties, Ryan Hughes pushing his bike to the finish line at Steel City after he lost his chain (as well as the AMA 125cc National Championship). Chris Hultner shot this gem.
That’s three-time 500cc FIM World Champion Dave Thorpe working out on the cover of Dirt Bike Rider from the UK, which asks, “Is Dave Thorpe Britain’s Fittest Sportsman?”
A Jack Burnicle shot of Johnny O’Mara at the game-changing 1981 Trophee des Nations in Lommel, Belgium. Uniquely, it’s black-and-white (rare for a magazine cover) and it was also eighteen years after the actual race! Eric Johnson wrote a gem of an article about that fateful event (and the accompanying Motocross des Nations) in the fourth issue of Racer X Illustrated magazine.
Another great old Dirt Bike Rider cover, this one featuring then-125cc FIM World Champion Sebastien Tortelli in the middle of a high-speed endo, shot by the great Ray Archer.
Yes, that’s Jeremy McGrath on a KTM, and yes, he is quoted as saying “I will win on my KTM.” Of course it didn’t work out so well for MC and the KaTooM, and Transworld Motocross wasn’t the only one that probably regretted the cover—we featured Jeremy doing a nac-nac on his KTM on the cover our 5th Anniversary issue!
Yes, Dirt Bike again, and yes, that man is dressed as a Viking—furry boots and horned helmet and all—while shaking down Husqvarna’s “Virile Viking” 125 CR.
Another all-time great MXA cover, this time featuring then-DGY Yamaha rider Steve Lamson making a whoop-de-doo out of rider #219 at the Washougal 500 National!
A long time ago we vowed never to run a photo of someone doing a backflip on the cover of Racer X because of the immense danger involved with the trick, so when Travis Pastrana saw this cover of him flipping off his bike, he called us out! Technically, it’s not, but it’s still a pretty amazing shot by Steve Jackson. And we did end up doing one backflip cover, which featured Travis along with Ken Block in his Gymkhana rally car.
This MXA cover from 1990 features an amazing shot of Mike Kiedrowski battling with Jeff Matiasevich at that year’s Gatorback National. The only problem is that some people say it’s not a single photo—it was apparently Photoshopped together, which was not easy back then! Does anyone know the truth? When I see Jody at Glen Helen in a few weeks I’ll ask, because if it was an edit, they did a heck of a job!
But this Dirt Bike cover was not such a good Photoshop job. That’s Ricky Carmichael in 2001, his last year on the Kawasaki, and the photo is from the Daytona SX—though RC wore #4 that day, not the #1 you see here, and he would stick with his trademark #4 for pretty much the rest of his career, save for a couple of special occasions.
But back to Dirt Bike’s golden era of really unique cover subjects: a man racing in the desert with his handlebars snapped in two, a sidehack shredding a berm, Darth Vader with a Husqvarna—you won’t see much of any of these in any other moto magazines!
Our most unique cover had to be this shot of the Peanuts gang from our feature on the week series creator Charles M. Schulz dedicated a week of his famous panels to Snoopy’s alter-ego Joe Motocross, a dirt bike-riding dog that was inspired by his son’s passion for motocross.
Not moto, but what amazing work! This was Mark Brelsford, the reigning AMA Grand National Champion in 1973, becoming engulfed in flames at the Daytona 200. It was such an amazing, dramatic moment that it made two magazine covers! Brelsford survived the crash, which was caused when he ran into a slower rider circulating the track, but he did break both legs and shattered his wrist and hand. He would return to racing the following year, but he was never quite the same and soon retired.
Finally, one from Cycle News for the 1982 Rider of the Year: 500cc World Champ Brad Lackey, 250cc World Champ Danny LaPorte, Speedway World Champ Bruce Penhall, and Team USA’s David Bailey, Johnny O’Mara, Jim Gibson, and Danny “Magoo” Chandler. The photo was shot by the Henny Ray Abrams, and it marks the best year abroad for Americans in the history of motocross.
Here’s the thing: Cycle News made so many truly amazing covers over their long history that we’ve decided to do a feature List on their covers alone in the near future!