What was in costume this Halloween? Red Bull Straight Rhythm. This is an event primed for the attention-deficit, always connected entitled millennial set, providing all the spoils without the hard work of training or even practicing basic skills like cornering. Plus, every 45-second race fits neatly into an Instagram post. This is for the kids, right?
Not anymore. This year, the event became the champion of the old-school set, throwing out blatant retro vibes via a “the nineties were cooler” marketing campaign, and—most importantly—banning four-strokes. The cloak of the two-stroke became Straight Rhythm’s Trojan horse, turning it from a puzzling “do we really need another race on the schedule?” event to a party the cool kids wanted to go to. Several even came donning costumes.
The right buttons were easy to find, but only Straight Rhythm—not tethered to any sort of history, sanctioning body, or series—could actually push all of them.
The two-strokes are obvious. Any time a pro rider rips a lap on one in a YouTube clip, the numbers shoot up. Further, with Ryan Dungey and Ryan Villopoto’s retirements from the top of the sport still fresh, there’s a chorus insisting that racing has become too hard and too serious. When both Ryans agreed to race Straight Rhythm this year, and on two-strokes to boot, fans had proof of concept: yup, keep it fun, keep them off four-strokes, and the stars will stick around.
No one was getting burned out in the nineties (well, at least not on hard work). Back then, top-level factory riders went to the dunes to freeride (on two-strokes) and then showed it to fans via VHS tape. Jeremy McGrath appeared to be having fun while winning, unlike today’s hard-training robots. Straight Rhythm exploited that angle to the max—they even served vodka-Red Bulls on the infield in premix Ratio Rites.