Moto XXX: The Complete Oral History

Moto XXX: The Complete Oral History

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From its inception in 1997 to the end of the line in 2008, team Moto XXX has stood for everything that was dirt bike riding, heck maybe even motorcycle riding in general. A little bit rebellious, a little bit of outlaw and some desire to be different were the general rifts of the team. Started by three guys that just loved the sport, the Moto XXX brand helped a lot of riders over the years and spawned a career in the industry that can still be felt today. Nine riders that rode for the team had factory rides before or after being on the team and seven former mechanics went on to be factory wrenches (this author included).

The team lasted for eleven years in various incarnations, through different managers, different bike brands and different ways of getting to the races and it’s hard to tell the whole story of the team unless it’s through the words of the people that lived it.

The team was started by punk rock band members Jordan Burns and Erik Sandin and snowboard film director Kurt Haller (Ed Note: Despite repeated requests Kurt Haller declined to be interviewed for this story). It lasted for eleven years in various incarnations, through different managers, bike brands and ways of getting to the races. The best way to tell the whole story of the team is through the words of the people that lived it.

We have part 1 in the newest Racer X Illustrated, so pick it up if you want those details. We kicked off years two and three HERE at Racer X Online last week and we’ll follow up with a new story each week. Here is the good, bad and the ugly of Team Moto XXX through the words of the people that were there and lived it.

YEAR FOUR—2000

Rider: Kyle Lewis

Kyle Lewis, Rider—“I got on Moto XXX because of Kenny Watson- he’s how I ended up on the team. He asked me what I was doing after I got done racing in Japan and I didn’t know. I had Suzuki support from my years over in Japan and he asked me if I wanted to be on the team. I had a meeting with Kurt and we started talking about it. He had wanted to sort of revive the team as it had bogged down a bit. I wasn’t edgy like they wanted but whatever, we put the deal together, got a box van and myself and Kiwi (mechanic Ross Miles) went around the country in 2000.”

Jordan Burns, Drummer for Strung Out, Team Owner—“I had met Kyle years ago through Watson and I remember when we had the big earthquake here in California, 1994, Watson and I were living together and I wanted to get out of there. Those guys were going to the Houston and Dallas supercross and when we were driving back in the box van, I hadn’t showered in a while, so I rubbed my fingers in my crotch and was asking if Kyle smelled anything. He said he didn’t smell anything and I kept asking him what that was. So then I rubbed my fingers on my carpet and then said it was the carpet and to smell my fingers. He freaked out at the smell of my fingers and he was so pissed. That’s what I remember about first hanging out with Kyle Lewis.”

Erik Sandin, Drummer NOFX, Team Owner—“I was just happy to be at the track when we had Lewis, he hadn’t raced supercross in a number of years and it was a survival year for us. We had to get him to the outdoors because that was where he was much better. We were just trying to keep it together, we didn’t have much money to get any riders.”

Lewis—“Kiwi and I butted heads, he wouldn’t do what I asked. We had this huge parts budget from Suzuki and he wouldn’t change anything. Eventually I got to a point where I told him that he was going to change the parts for me and that I wanted to get the old parts back so I knew I had new stuff on my bike. He always said he changed things but would throw them away. He was a good guy I just didn’t want him as my mechanic. Nothing personal, it just didn’t work and that was some frustration for me.”

Scott Roegner, Moto XXX Employee—“I started at Moto XXX when I was 17, it would’ve been around 2000 or so. It was still a big company, we had the videos going out and I was in the office. I lived up in Santa Barbara and was part-time during the summer and then it became a full-time deal. Videos, graphics and clothes were really selling; I think it was right around the third video. It was getting popular and was still growing.”

Lewis—“The Suzukis weren’t that good that year and it didn’t work out very well for me. The guys at Suzuki were great to me, they gave me plenty of parts but it wasn’t a very good bike.”

Kyle Lewis. Photo: Simon Cudby
Kyle Lewis. Photo: Simon Cudby

Roegner—“When I started we just had Kyle Lewis in one box van, it was a really small operation. In 2002 when we had Lewis, Wey and Ward things started to pick up again on the racing end of things.  We’d ship ten thousand pre-sells or so every time a video came out. And I’d bet we’d sell 25,000 or so of each video or DVD. The Moto XXX brand was solid and people loved it back then.”

Burns—“We went through tough times with sponsors, us not getting paid and then we had to pay people along the way. There were different scenarios where if we weren’t getting paid by our sponsors, we couldn’t pay people. It wasn’t that we were pocketing the money and getting rich, we wanted to pay but the money just wasn’t always there.”

Roegner—“In the office, we never saw Jordan or Erik except for the video premieres or at the races. But Kurt was in there every day and a guy named Jay Schweitzer was there doing some videos and sales stuff. There were handfuls of other people that came and went in that time as well.

The business was good, man, the videos were the ones driving the sales but graphics and clothing were also doing well. We had some distributors and of course we’d sell to the public on-line as well. I don’t know the exact numbers but the stuff was selling. As soon as the videos came out we’d pull an all-nighter to get them all boxed up and sent out. It was a cool place to work and a lot of fun.”

Lewis—“When it comes to Erik, Jordan and Kurt, they were great and easy to get along with. They were normal dudes, things got heated here and there but Erik was always a mellow guy. He didn’t want to be the voice but Jordan wanted to stand up for what was right. We weren’t getting the correct parking and were getting shut down a lot. It was kind of disgusting that they wouldn’t let teams promote themselves. We’re working our asses off to get to the races and just trying to make money to live.”

 

Michael Brandes. Photo: Simon Cudby
Michael Brandes. Photo: Simon Cudby

YEAR FIVE—2001

Riders Kyle Lewis, Larry Ward and Michael Brandes

Moto XXX was now becoming a real race team and the owners thought that maybe the original team name was now hurting it instead of helping. So Team Moto X3 was now born.

Burns—“I think we were getting to a point where we thought we were trying to be more accepted as a real race team. We were trying to fit in and develop this team into something real. Kurt had it in mind that we needed to mellow out a bit and fit in a little better. He thought if we didn’t, no one would want to sponsor us or ride for us. So with Brian [Deegan] doing what he did, we were quickly becoming the black sheep in the sport. I still wonder what would have happened if Brian wouldn’t have left?”

Roegner—“When we went to X3, it was a re-brand that went bad in my opinion. There were some new people that came in and I think the thought was that if we can create some sort of branding where people wouldn’t think of porn, then we’d be able to get some more outside sponsors. But it didn’t work; it was away from the roots of the company and the brand itself. It was also an ugly logo.”

Sandin—“That was dumb, that was a bad move and it was Kurt Haller who did that, I think. We were turning our back on what made us who we were. When we went to X3, we kind of faded into just another team in the pits. We lost some edginess. That was when the AMA was on our ass and we slowed down on the giveaways and the riots and shit. We forgot what our brand was.”

Roegner—“I think that was Kurt’s idea. Looking back on it, and hindsight is always 20/20; it wasn’t a smart move by any of us. I was in the office and although the thought process behind it made sense—you’ve got to take a risk-- it didn’t work.”

Lewis—“In 2001 we got hooked up with DGY and I went to Yamaha and the program got a little bigger from the year before. I rode the two-stroke indoors but the four-stroke outdoors and we needed some set-up help on the thumper. The bike was still new back then and Yoshimura was helping me out a little bit. They were awesome.

Larry Ward.  Photo: Simon Cudby
Larry Ward.  Photo: Simon Cudby

We also had Jamie Grosser on board and got his rig for that season. We had Michael Brandes and then Larry Ward for the Nationals. It was complete comedy whenever Larry was around.”

Larry Ward, Rider—“At the time, I was coming off a bad year at Kawasaki and even though [Ricky] Carmichael did ok, it wasn’t the best year for those green guys. And I was warned by [Jeff] Emig and [Damon] Huffman about the Kawi bikes, but you always think that you can make a difference, y’know? After two good years at Suzuki, I thought I was going to change the world at Kawasaki but all I did was crash and break. Kyle Lewis was the one who called me about riding for XXX, we were always friends even though he’s a different dude.”

Lewis—“Larry and I had known each other forever, we rode together on Team Green in 1981 or something and then we were teammates on Noleen Yamaha. We didn’t get along in ’81 but after that we were fine. Larry didn’t like a lot of people; you’re either with him or against him. We battled all the time and we didn’t see eye to eye until we were at Noleen. On XXX, we got along great and had a ton of laughs.”

Michael Brandes, Rider—“Kyle Lewis called me in November of 2000 for a ride and we worked out the details for me to come back to the team. When I signed my contract, I went to the office, then out for dinner and I watched the band rehearse later that night. Jordan was an enthusiast, he was always stoked and having a good time no matter what. He was my boss but he was cool as shit.”

Ward—“I skipped supercross that next year for the first time in 12 years. At some point I had ridden the new four-stroke Yamaha 250F and knew that it was good. I always rode the little bike well but I was too big for a 125. They let me race the four-stroke 250F and I thought I could get top fives with that bike. They offered me a bike, mechanic, all expenses paid and I took it. I wasn’t ready to quit yet. I may have gotten a salary from O’Neal or somebody like that to wear the gear.”

Lewis—“The AMA was still getting on us and trying to make our lives miserable but then some of them would come up after the races and ask us for VIP passes to our after parties!”

Brandes—“At Anaheim, the first round I shattered my ankle, collapsed my lung and went for rehab for all that. So I forgot about SX and focused on outdoors.”

Ward—“That first year the team was fine, I never had any expectations and never had a picture of what I thought it was going to be like before I got there. I showed up, they had a nice rig, my mechanic’s name was Doug, Kyle was there and there was a guy named Chet hanging out.”

Sandin—“ It was awesome to have him [Ward] on the team. He was kind of intimidating. I was beyond pumped to have him and I looked up to him over the years. He was a phenomenal rider and I remember at Glen Helen, in the first moto, he got fourth place, I was like, ‘Whoa, this guy just got off the couch and did this, we are contenders here’!”

Ward—“I was competitive right from the start. I showed up at Glen Helen, no one has seen me for eight months and I get a fourth behind Langston, Brown and Pastrana. And people can say what they want about the advantage of a four-stroke in the class but I promise you that Brown’s Kawasaki and Langston’s KTM would pull my goggles off as they passed me. They were that good. The first moto I was in third at one point and thought this was sweet and then in the second moto I stalled and couldn’t start my bike. I then thought that this sucked and I should’ve stayed home!”

Brandes—“I got a call from Kurt saying our sponsors are unhappy with you for not riding supercross and they’d have to let me go! I said that I knew the sponsors and went out for dinner with them and did he know what a dick he sounded like? Basically they wanted Larry Ward and they got him but they wanted to can me to add him! So I threatened to sue him, he backed down and he gave me a credit card, a box van and I raced the rest of the year by myself. I had my own program with Moto XXX graphics.”

Lewis Photo: Simon Cudby
Lewis Photo: Simon Cudby

As the season went on Ward started to heat up in the 125 Nationals. The #10 X3 rider went 2-2 for second overall at Budds Creek and at the very next race, Moto XXX would make history again when Ward won the overall at RedBud with another 2-2 score. In doing so he became the first rider in AMA history to win on a 250 four-stroke.

Lewis—“I looked forward to going to the races that year because of Larry and how much fun we were having. I wasn’t surprised that Larry won a race to be honest. If you know Larry Ward and he’s having fun and is on, he does well. He could probably still go out and kill it right now. It’s just a matter of if Larry wants to do something. Very few people could beat him when he was on. And if he wasn’t having fun and didn’t like his set-up, the whole pits would hear about it!”

Sandin—“When he won RedBud, I was so stoked for him but at the same time I was a little freaked out by him. I would go up and say hi and ask how he was and all he would say was, “Hey, how are you” and there seemed to be a sense that I was bugging him. He was Larry Ward though and I was a nobody.”

Burns—“When Larry won that national, I wasn’t there but I was paying attention to the results. It was the best I could in the pre-internet era. Before Larry won, he had made the podium in a moto so we knew he was on it. I was blown away that we won one race, never mind two! And he was the first 250F national winner, the beginning of an era. So we had that and then the historic ghost riding moment from Deegan. There’s been a lot of teams come and go and never win a thing. And we’re this little team that is having all this success with different riders.”

Lewis—“I didn’t care for some of the stuff, like we’re trying to get ready for the race and there’s all these people around the van partying and stuff. But that was the Moto XXX way. We were out in the field racing and repping XXX and they were back in the office selling.”

Ward—“I was fortunate that they let me kind of do what I wanted with my program. There wasn’t any pressure at all, they were all, “Dude, you were ripping, too bad you crashed!” That was it. Any pressure on me was all put on by myself.”

Sandin—“Larry went on to win another moto at Washougal later on and tied for the overall win on the day, man he was awesome that year.”

Ward—“I was 31 years old and at that point, Moto XXX was the best fit for me. “

Stay tuned right here on Racerxonline.com next for part 4 of the "Moto XXX Story: The Complete Oral History".

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