Thought I’d send you a question that doesn’t involve a 2-stroke comeback, track redesigns or the MXGP vs AMA debate. Crazy, eh? Well here goes...
It seems to me that what motocross is missing is some good old fashioned fun. I can’t help but think everything has gotten a little too serious, kids are on factory contracts, riders train 24/7 and everyone is only one crash from a lifetime working as a checkout assistant. I think this has something to do with the rider’s unwillingness (certainly for AMA guys) to ride the upcoming MXON. I get it. The travel, the training, the pressure… It all becomes too much. At the height of his success RV looked like he'd rather adopt Justin Bieber than be on another A1 start gate. But maybe there is another way. I give you Dean Wilson. Maybe it’s because he's experienced both the highs and lows of the sport, but he seems to be really enjoying every minute of his current situation. If you have followed his Insta recently he has somehow turned the MXON into a holiday of a lifetime. Don’t get me wrong, I'm sure he’s putting in the work, but maybe the rest of the AMA guys can take a leaf from his book? The MXON shouldn't be a chore, it should be not only an honour but an unforgettable experience. Dean is fast, fun and has a great profile; I’m sure the sponsors are queuing up for him. So many riders say they go fastest when they are having fun. Surely when riders are having fun it’s better for everyone. I know for sure I'd rather see big grins and high fives on the podium than another interview with an "over it" superstar.
So my question is this. When did motocross stop being fun for these guys and how can the fun factor be returned?
Keep up the good work.
North Yorkshire, England.
Excellent points and I’ll lay the blame squarely on Ricky Carmichael’s shoulders. Until he came along riders were having fun. Whether it was play riding together in the hills after a rain, guzzling Goldschlager at Lake Havasu on off-weekends or playing basketball every Saturday when the races were still on Sunday, most of the riders made it a point to enjoy the job. But Ricky set the bar so damn high in terms of physical fitness and commitment that everybody had to get serious. And that attitude trickled down to the next generation until that was the standard for success in our sport. From the time you can tie your own shoes you have to be on a homeschool program and riding every day to make it as a pro when you are 17.
I believe there is a balance and riders will find it again eventually. Ken Roczen is a great example of a guy who works incredibly hard and commits completely to the task at hand. And then, when the work is done, he’s crushing Coors Lights and wake surfing in water that looks like it came out of a septic tank. The point is, he balances the work that needs to be put in and enjoying his youth.
Deano is a great example and I think you nailed the reason why: through hard work he’s given himself a second chance after all his injuries and he appreciates how lucky he is to be in the position he’s in. Like you, I love seeing a guy who is smiling in his interviews and having fun with the job. Sometimes these guys lose sight of how amazing it is to race a motorcycle for a living. That isn’t to say it’s easy, but they should enjoy it while it lasts because they are going to blink and it will be over. Good luck to all the riders competing in the UK this weekend. When the last moto finishes, don’t be afraid to follow Deano to the closest pub for a proper pint.
Long time reader, second time questioner. Not that that matters or anything. It's just, you accused me of smuggling cocaine last time. It's cool. I still respect your opinion. Anyway... So lots of talk about our sport expanding and bringing in new sponsors from outside to make it more 'healthy.' Maybe we can be more like NASCAR or something. My question is this: it seems like a high percentage of the fans of our sport also participate in the sport to some degree. Do you think that could be limiting how outside big sponsors view us? Do we really think the droves of NASCAR fans go to the local autocross circuit on off weekends? I'm sure some do, but not all. Do we need to be more inclusive of fans who don't ride? Or do we keep the sport to ourselves because it's so awesome that we don't want to share?
Good to hear you made it through customs with enough Columbian BamBam in your rear end to bring Hugh Hefner back to life. Interesting career choice for sure. I think the biggest limiting factor for our sport is that motorcycle riding is much less relatable to the general public than car racing. No, not everybody puts a tank of gas in their car and then heads out onto the track at Talladega for a few fast ones. But anybody over 16 has driven a car and understands how fast 80 or 100 mph feels behind the wheel of a car. So, when they hear how fast those guys are circulating it is intriguing. However, the general population still thinks you just sit on the seat and twist the throttle to race motorcycles—it’s easy.
We have to hook fans on excitement, Monster girl boobs, and personalities, because we don’t have the relatability that car racing has. Honestly, the sport is going to grow at the same slow rate it has because there is a certain percentage of the population that gets it and likes it. I like the idea of outside sponsors so that our entire industry isn’t propped up by the manufacturers and energy drinks; if one of those two decides to leave motocross the whole sport would collapse. I think it would be a good time to attract new riders and fans because many folks are disenchanted with stick and ball sports. However, we have our own entry-level hurdles to jump over, namely a cost-effective way to get started. With format changes and metal start pads and whatever else the powers that be have planned, it will be interesting to see what our sport looks like in a few years time.
Love your column. So what is or was the reasons they do not leave Unadilla this way any longer (picture enclosed)?? I had friends who raced it back when and they say it was truly "chocolate cake" and incredible.
Well, the problem with any motocross track is that the topsoil begins to erode away the minute they turn the dirt over and start having races on it. Back in the glory days of Unadilla they only had one race a year on it—a Trans-AMA, a GP or a National—so the grass grew right back over the track and kept the soil from running off too badly. But in the early 1990s they started running amateur days on the track, letting thousands of riders circulate the track the day before the National. They held GNCC races there and vintage races and even—gasp—quad races, scraping the good dirt from the top and sending it off the track and down the drainage areas when it rained. Also, there’s a basic principle in motocross where the good dirt ends up dragged away on the bikes, and washed down with a pressure washer in the pits or in the driveway.
They’ve tried their best to bring some dirt in and remove rocks but it just isn’t the same. Maybe, just maybe, if they brought in some good dirt and then planted grass seed and let it grow all year it could be good for one weekend in July again. But money talks and I’m sure they’ll trade cash for good racing conditions. So, those days are long gone. If you want to see something like that you have to go to the Castillo Ranch. Good luck with an invite.
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