Last week we asked you to ask anything of our esteemed editor-at-large Jason Thomas. We had so many good questions, we decided to break this up into two parts. Part I is below, part II will run next week.
Some questions have been lightly edited for clarity.
I know the odds are slim, but do you ever think we'll see TMs compete in U.S. SX/MX? I know these bikes are very expensive and their dealer network here in the states is small. Do you think they would stand a chance against the other OEM juggernauts? Maybe with enough exposure, perhaps it would encourage more U.S. dealers to carry the TM lineup.
It’s not impossible, but it would certainly be an uphill climb. In their current state, I would say probably not, but if a brand like KTM bought it, they could change the entire landscape quickly. The American market is so competitive right now and TM doesn’t currently have the placement or familiarity with most consumers to gain real traction. Max Nagl could certainly help in Europe for MXGP next season, but the U.S. market is going to be a bit tougher.
Hey JT, how was the triathlon you made and what where your times? :D
I didn’t get to race, unfortunately. I hurt my back around a month before the event and it kept me from doing the training I needed to. I didn’t want to go backward from last year and was even more worried about it locking up during the swim, so I just backed out. It’s on my list for 2018, now that my back is feeling good again. For times, I am hoping for a nine-minute swim, 33-minute bike, and 20-minute run. If I could get anywhere near that, I would be thrilled.
I don't need names or anything like that, but I've always been curious about the pay structures for long time. Is there like an A- and a B-salary rider for the factory teams? Win bonuses, gear deals—what other kind of perks do the riders get? I understand you can’t provide exact numbers, but rough estimates that you could provide would be cool to know.
It really varies, depending on who you are and how badly companies want you as their guy. The elite, winning-level riders are making somewhere in the $5 million range for salary totals. It drops off fast, though, as all of the money is at the very top of the sport right now. Races like the Paris Supercross or the Australian series are great opportunities to add big numbers onto a year’s income for a guy like Justin Brayton or Dean Wilson. They can make $200K-$300K in a month or two if they hustle. Similarly, the bonuses for winning supercross can totally change a year. Winning a race can match an entire year’s salary in some cases.
With all the international races you've done, tracks you've ridden, etc., what's the most bizarre MX/SX experience you've had?
There are a lot to choose from here. I raced in over 25 countries, so imagine how many stories go along with those and figure in somewhere around 110 international races total. The one that sticks out is a trip to Guatemala in the winter of 2001. I got a call that Ryan Clark wasn’t able to go at the last minute, so I stepped in with literally five hours to gather my stuff and get to the airport. I landed and was picked up by someone I had never met and raced a Yamaha, though I rode Hondas at home. I ended up winning the race, but during the main event, my wallet and camera got stolen out of my gear bag. On Sunday, the only person with USD was… let’s just call him… a pharmaceutical distributor. We went to his house hidden down in this valley. He had boats and cars and motorcycles everywhere! I was pretty nervous, but the guy was as nice as could be. I knew that I probably should just mind my business, take my winnings, and get the hell out of there. As we were leaving his house, my host told me that this person had bought all of that in the last six months after his last house was raided and seized. Perfect!
Sadly, the host who arranged for me to come down was murdered a year later and found in his car with wallet and phone still in his possession. Even worse, in 2009, motocross up-and-comer Oscar Diaz was also murdered there after a motocross event. He was thought to be caught in a feud between rival organizations. So, yeah, Guatemala might be off my vacation list.
Is there any way to get rid of Jeff Emig and Ralph Sheheen?
Broadcast teams come and go. There is no way to please everyone, regardless of who is in the booth. I do think Weege [Jason Weigandt] is the best in the business, though. I don’t know what his future holds for commentating, but his huge base of moto knowledge, his ability to relate to casual fans, and his acumen for bridging the talent’s insight in an easily understandable conversation is unmatched. I like Ralph and Fro, and regardless of what anyone thinks of them, they are representing the sport very professionally.
The “eighties” is considered an era. Then it's the "Bradshaw, Matiasevich, Bayle, Stanton" era, then "MC." Then "RC, Stew, and Reed" on up to "the Ryans." I find it interesting that this year's supercross season will start without either Ryan. Top that off with the fact that Reed is the only former champion on the gate. If that's not a recipe for a new era, I don't know what is. What's your opinion on this topic and do you have any predictions on the face of the new era? Eras can be defined in different ways. By a single rider, a group of riders or even a style of racing or even technology. *Disclaimer: The listed eras are my opinion, you may have your own designations.
There is definitely a new era at the front of the pack. Members of this group are all similar in age and have been battling all the way up through the ranks. Kenny, Eli, Deano, Baggett, JA21, and Cole Seely (and probably Webb, although he’s a bit younger) are the youth gone wild. There are a few outliers like Marvin and Tickle who are a bit older than this group, but with Chad turning 35 this year, both Ryans retired, Stew seemingly retired, and Millsaps and Barcia both struggling in their own ways, the changing of the guard has come and gone.
What needs to be done for some riders and “real fans” to be open to change for the betterment of a sport? (Not just change for the sake of change.)
In particular, a playoff type system or whatever it needs to be to keep multiple riders racing for a shot at the championship the entire season. I know all the lame excuses and they are beyond tired. I’m not that big a fan of WWE, but I’d have to say this off-season, the only thing I’ve been interested in are the events Uncle Ronnie is going to. Everyone that doesn't know NASCAR likes to blame the chase. In actuality, it was things like #48 points racing and making cars fans didn't identify with etc., etc., that hurt NASCAR. If you watch playoff races, it doesn't get much better than what's been going on each week. I'm not saying the playoff is the answer; maybe only score 15 out of 17 or whatever would be best. Just reviewing the past five to ten seasons and seeing what would give the sport the best chance of having three or more riders battling all the way to Vegas.
I think Feld is on the right track with the changes. They are taking baby steps toward a complete overhaul of the series. Many have been wondering if supercross is growing a bit stale, and these changes are long overdue in my opinion. There are many who don’t want change and have their own agenda, but for the betterment of the sport, I like the direction and aggressiveness by the Feld decision-makers. I would like to move more toward the three main event system as the norm instead of the rarity.
How often do you think teams hire a rider because they can bring something to the team? Such as a team hiring a rider because they can bring a sponsor for a semi truck, or having someone who is willing to pay for gas for the year if they get a ride?
It seems like there have been several good riders this year getting passed over for some rides for people who have family or past sponsors that can bring something to the table for the team.
This happens a lot in road racing, and I think we will see more and more of it in moto. Racing a full season is a very expensive enterprise for teams to undertake, so when there is a group of riders that could be lumped into the same level, any extra edge can make the difference. Brian Bogers was just signed to HRC’s MXGP team, and I don’t think it’s any secret that his ability to bring financial support to the team was the main motivator in his signing. It’s usually the private teams that are willing to make a move like this, so it’s interesting to see arguably the biggest MXGP team do this. As the motorcycles become more expensive and the series continues to expand globally, financial considerations will carry more and more weight.
JT: Pretty sure you know about the 2-strokes making a comeback in the MX2 (250cc) class in Canada. I have said that I do think it's good to see them back, but my only complaint is that I personally feel the bike has lost a considerable amount of credibility since it's now going head-to-head against the 250 4-strokes when 10-12 years ago, it went head-to-head against the 450 4-strokes in the premiere class. What are your thoughts, and are you in agreement with that statement on the 250cc 2-strokes being considerably discredited?
As for the U.S. series, do you feel the industry is "turning a blind eye" to the 450cc class with so little rides available and a 250cc ride almost a sure-guarantee? Why or why not?
I don’t think the 250 two-stroke has a great place against four-strokes. They are a big advantage over 250Fs, but a huge disadvantage against a 450. When 450s first arrived, they were much more comparable than current models. The 450 had an edge in certain conditions, but a good 250 could still do well in the right hands. With the advancements of fuel injection and the general march of technology, though, the 450s are an overwhelming mismatch for anyone on a 250 two-stroke.
Even with the 250 two-stroke having an edge over 250Fs, that may not be the case for much longer. The factory-level 250Fs are in the low 50s for HP and gaining by the day. The fuel maps are continually evolving, and their traction control capabilities make it a weapon against a 250 two-stroke in certain conditions. So, while it’s nice to have a way to race a 250 two-stroke, I don’t think there is a great fit in current racing classes. They need to have their own classes to really be a fair fight.
Hey JT, I love your style in even asking for these questions. How about a failed gear history lesson? Whatever happened to those Nike boots? Sinisalo's disappearing act? Yoko gear? Carmichael’s boots that had the eyes for logos? I know they flopped, but I’m not real sure of the details on stuff like that. Just a thought… even if no answer, keep up the great work.
Good questions here. Some of this stuff appears, sticks around a few years and then disappears without much explanation.
- Nike never really had a plan to sell their boots; it was a marketing play with Nike 6.0. TCX made the one-off boots for Nike and used Dungey and Stew to promote their branding. From what I know, Nike just decided to ditch the program and put that money somewhere else.
- Sinisalo was imported into the U.S. by Bob Rathkamp, I believe, and his focus seemed to move over to the boot world. Sinisalo is still around, just much smaller than it was in the nineties. Both Yoko and Sinisalo are both Finnish companies, which is pretty remarkable when you consider their historical impact versus the size of the country and smaller moto community.
- Berik boots didn’t seem to pan out for anyone. I don’t think that was a good situation for Ricky when all was said and done.
I know from listening to PulpMX your association with Fly racing, my knee braces always wreck the tank seat junction. Is there anything out there—either better knee braces or race pants—that can get me a better grip on the bike without trashing my race pants and bike? I have an older set of CTIs.
Do you use the gear guards that come with the braces? They are pads that protect your pants and bike from the harsh metal hinges. Those should help. When my pads wore out and the metal was exposed, they destroyed everything.
The St. Louis Dungey incident took a lot of fans away from Chad Reed, myself included.
In addition, the only other race he seemed to compete in was the Las Vegas finale, where he was, again, clearly more concerned with holding up Dungey and trying to help Tomac than win the race. Jason Anderson put a very aggressive block pass on Chad and I am sure it was related to Reed's cheap shots at Dungey.
Given that Chad has been so outspoken against so many manufacturers, do you think he'll get any support for 2018? I am inclined to believe that after St. Louis, Yamaha told Reed he was done at the end of the season and if he tried anything like that again, they would remove him from the team before the final race in Las Vegas.
You are rumored to be pretty close to Chad, so I am curious where you seem him landing at A-1. On the gate on a factory bike, a support ride, a total privateer or sitting at home watching the race on TV?
I want to address a couple of things here before we get to the actual question. As for St. Louis, I can understand your viewpoint and can’t really disagree with it. As for Vegas, though, I think there may have been some misinterpretation. Chad was trying to win that race, plain and simple. His Dungey drama was long since settled, and any time a win is possible for Chad, that has his entire focus. The Anderson pass was intentionally aggressive, as you mentioned, but it wasn’t any sort of retaliation. Anderson was basically Dungey’s bodyguard to ensure that title for the KTM/Husky family. It wasn’t personal, and Anderson told Chad this right after the checkered flag flew. Anderson was in the middle of his contract negotiation, making this a crucial time for the bigger picture. Tomac slowed the pace by 2-3 seconds per lap, bringing Anderson, Grant, Reed, and Baggett into the fray. Anderson helped his employer when it counted most. Supercross titles are the end-all goal for the teams and they will use every asset they can. Once Anderson was sure that Dungey was locked in for the title, he took his shot at the win and pulled it off.
As for Chad and A1, I don’t see him being ready yet, but I haven’t spoken to him about it, either. If he can find a way to be ready to race by then, I think he will be in some level of privateer effort. He is a legend in the sport and will find a way to make it work, but I think he will be doing it on his own once again. Whether he can race A1 is a whole different story, though.
Hey JT, what would you consider the biggest accomplishment of your MX career? Also, what are your career goals as a FLY Racing rep?
Hmm, tough question. Even with my modest results, there are many things I am proud of. My success in overseas SX was something I worked very hard at, even if most in the U.S. never saw the races. The Montreal Supercross was another highlight for me that I always focused on. When most of the racing world was relaxing in September, I had the hammer down, putting in 20 laps, moto after moto. Beyond that, just being able to stay at a respectable level for 16 years was something I never thought I would be able to say. The sport evolved a lot during that time and I had to work on my skill set constantly to fight off the kids that kept turning pro year after year.
In my world now with FLY Racing, my main goal is to continue to facilitate this company’s rise in the global apparel market. FLY has risen from a napkin drawing to one of the world leaders in motocross apparel. The people I work with are very proud of this brand and we are all invested in its success. My goals aren’t really personal; they are more tied to the overall health, growth, and legacy of FLY Racing. If the brand wins, so will I.