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October 21, 2014

Moto 6 trailer

About 15 or 20 years ago, full-length motocross movies were fairly plentiful. Starting with Fox's "Terrafirma" in 1994 -- or, if you really want to go way back, Gary Bailey's "Pros at Practice and Play" from 1989 -- and continuing on through "Crusty Demons of Dirt," Moto XXX," "Fly" and "Steel Roots," plus all the sequels and imitators they spawned, motocross videos were produced on a pretty prolific scale for a while there.

It makes sense, really -- all you needed for a hit video back then was a half-decent camera, a weekend or two to film at Glamis or Beaumont and maybe some "lifestyle footage" from Lake Havasu. 

But nowadays, with web edits likely consuming more of the average moto-viewers time than full-length videos possibly could, it seems there are far fewer filmmakers willing to take the time and expense necessary to make a quality, multi-segment moto movie. Again, it's easy to see why: With so many above-average web videos appearing on a daily basis, it really takes a special project to capture viewers' attention today.

Thankfully, the crew behind the Moto series have continued to accept this challenge. The trailer for their latest is below, and as usual, it's worth a watch. 

Just for fun, consider watching it after viewing "Pros at Practice and Play." The moto-movie genre has come a long way in the last 25 years, but without the pioneers, who knows where we'd be today -- except perhaps still at Glamis.

October 15, 2014

Moto Source Monster Cup SX Party 2014

OK, so it's been a silly season to remember. But now the rumor mill is about to be silenced by actual racing at this Saturday's Monster Cup in Las Vegas.

If you're looking for the best place to watch the race in Reno, the Moto Source party at Legends Grill is a safe bet -- get the details on the flyer below, which also links to the Moto Source Facebook page. If you're looking for the latest scoop on who's racing -- and what color bike they'll be riding -- this report from Racer X should bring you up to speed (for the moment -- things can change quickly in the days before this race!).

It should be a very interesting evening. The only way it could get better is if RV hopped a last-minute plane from Europe to get in on the action. Wouldn't that be cool? 


October 08, 2014

Straight fast

In case you've not been paying attention the last 12 years, James Stewart is great at cornering. The speed he carries through turns is one of the primary reasons he's a multi-time champion. But guess what happens when you remove the corners from a supercross track?

The man is still a machine.

Speaking of machines, it was also pretty cool to see TP199 back in action, this time on a 500cc two-stroke monster. Got to love the sound from this clip.

September 30, 2014

MXdN recap

Sadly, the Motocross des Nations (I still refuse to call it Motocross of Nations) didn't go to the Americans this year, though the team of Ryan Dungey, Eli Tomac and Jeremy Martin put up a valiant fight in Latvia and salvaged a podium finish in the end.

While it wasn't necessarily surprising that the French team took the win, the fact that it was only their second-ever win -- in an event that has been happening since 1947 -- is pretty astonishing. There have been numerous great French riders over the years, so it's hard to believe they've not taken the top spot more often.

But in any case, Gautier Paulin and company clearly earned it this year. You can check out the highlights below.

September 24, 2014

Pastrana is not slowing down

If you haven't seen this yet, prepare to have your mind blown. Yes, there are airbags involved in some of it, but everything is still next-level big.

September 17, 2014

Vital MX checks out the new YZ250

OK, so the 2015 Yamaha YZ250 isn't a complete redesign. But Yamaha still deserves kudos for updating the venerable pre-mixer's looks. 

However, this footage of a brand-new two-stroke ripping a beautifully prepped Glen Helen will make whatever you're doing right now seem a little lamer in comparison. You've been warned.

September 10, 2014

How we got here

It's no secret that northern Nevada motocross has reached a difficult point in its history. Event turnouts have been flat or down for years. Racetracks have been disappearing or struggling to stay afloat. Series have been rescheduled or even cancelled with alarming regularity.

It's understandable why newcomers to the scene might wonder: How did we get here? Why is there seemingly so much discord in northern Nevada motocross?

I have been involved in local motocross for more than 20 years and I'm not certain I can offer satisfactory answers to those questions. But what I can offer is an account of what I've seen since I arrived in northern Nevada in 1993 as an 80cc Junior. 

The growth years

In 1993, the race scene here was pretty understated. Races primarily consisted of Friday night events at Carson City's Silver State Speedway, an occasional CMC Golden State or Trans Cal race at the same venue and, every now and then, an Over The Hill Gang or Old Timer's MX national at Fernley International Raceway.

There were periodic race circuits like the Dealer Challenge -- a series that pit riders and their sponsors against each other for a few races -- but there was no area championship or major series to really speak of yet.

By the late 1990s, however, it was clear the local MX was on an upswing. New events began springing up at places like Stead, and Fernley began to host more races too. Silver State endured some challenges during this era, but its final chapter was still to come. It wasn't long before contests like the 1997 Sandmaster Series were drawing strong turnouts and bringing more racetracks into the fray. (I even remember racing at Carson City's Fuji Park at one point around this time. Today it's a dog park.)

This momentum led to the creation of a sanctioning body that sought to unify the previously fragmented race scene. It was called MX West. While this sanctioning body had both critics and supporters throughout its life -- full disclosure, I was on its board at one point -- this much is undeniable: It presided over one of the most prosperous eras northern Nevada motocross had ever seen. 

The high times

By the early 2000s, MX West had brought tracks such as Fernley, Stead, Winnemucca (both Calder Cycle Park and its successor), Lovelock, Silver State (now called Champion Speedway) and the Fallon Fairgrounds under its umbrella. It formed a Nevada State Championship Series that hosted rounds at most of these venues, as well as a Spring Series that typically kicked off with a huge event each February at Fernley.

I had become a reporter for Cycle News by this era and nearly every story I wrote contained some tidbit about how the turnouts were growing and each class was getting deeper and more talented. And this wasn't hype -- it was truly a remarkable time for local racing.

At round one of the 2004 MX West Spring Series at Fernley, the turnout reached the highest point I can recall: 612 entries. It took all day to get through those motos, but there was such a buzz around the pits during that time, hardly anyone seemed to mind.

A scene divided

But success often breeds competition, and it wasn't long before a rival sanctioning body, Sierra Motocross Racing Association (SMRA), arrived to challenge MX West. Sierra disagreed with MX West on a number of points, and since several of the founders of SMRA were also part of the Nevada Old Timers or the Reno Over The Hill Gang -- which at the time were the two clubs that promoted races at the popular Fernley circuit -- SMRA represented an immediate threat to MX West's dominance.

Regardless of which sanctioning body you preferred, it was clear that the emergence of competing race series in the area played a role in diminishing the mega turnouts that had marked the decade to that point. While MX West initially fought to compete with SMRA, within a couple of years MX West disbanded -- most of the major tracks in the era were leaning SMRA's direction by this point -- and left SMRA as the sole major sanctioning body in the area.

While 2006 and 2007 were still relatively decent years for local motocross, there was a storm brewing in the form of the financial crisis and the Great Recession that would follow. By 2008, this storm had hit with full force, causing northern Nevada motocross, which was already struggling with political discontent and disunity among its promoters at this point, to take a serious nosedive.

Effects of the downturn

There were a few reasons the economic downturn hit northern Nevada motocross especially hard:

  • Nevada was one of the states hit hardest by the housing crisis.
  • Many of the families in local motocross were in the trades, and the downturn in building cut sharply into many of their budgets. The high unemployment rate in the state meant alternatives were scarce.
  • The general costs of racing were on an upswing independent of the nation's financial woes. Pricey four-strokes had all but replaced two-strokes by this point, and the era of the 250f -- a high-strung race machine prone to costly engine failures -- had numerous families struggling to keep their children in equipment.  
  • The political discord had already tempered race turnouts to some extent over the previous two years, which made it easier for some to simply continue staying away from the races in light of the economic troubles.

Still, local racing continued on a muted level as the nation wobbled through a unsteady economic recovery that, for the most part, persists to this day. Within the last few years, new venues like Exit 28 have arrived to breathe fresh life into the scene, and the Regional Motocross Association (RMA) -- a sanctioning body that sought to rival SMRA -- has made periodic attempts to hold its own series. However, its latest effort -- the RCH Series -- was cancelled, reportedly because of a lackluster turnout at the first round.

SMRA has continued to hold events since its inception, though it recently cancelled its 2014 Fall Series for a lack of venues. SMRA has promised it will return, but any way you slice it, its absence this fall is yet another troubling sign for local motocross. The same goes for the unsteady trajectory of the last series put on by Club MX775, which also faced a series of unreliable turnouts.  

Searching for answers

The paragraphs above offer some insight into the question of how we got to this point. Yet they do little to answer the second question of why there is so much discord in the local scene today.

The simple truth behind the apparent enmity among promoters, sanctioning bodies and even riders is that most motocross people -- race organizers included -- are a competitive and independent breed, and very few of them have yet been forced into a corner. For years now, events have been able to squeak by, suffering losses that have been offset by occasional successes.

But given the dismal trajectory of the last few years, the era of acceptable losses may be coming to an end. To survive in this climate, race promoters and sanctioning bodies have to start seeing each other as allies rather than competitors (though of course, they remain both in the end). The time for going it alone and wishing ill on your competitors has passed, and any promoter who fails to see this likely won't remain a promoter for long.

Contrary to what many say, I don't believe promoters should do this for the good of local motocross. I believe they should do it for the good of their pocketbooks. Local motocross may not be a cash cow as it sits, but a year or two of good, unified efforts by some savvy promoters could change that in a hurry.

I've long suspected that most local riders care little for the drama surrounding the local race scene. I believe most racers simply want to contest well-run events and series at a number of worthwhile race venues. And the promoter who delivers that -- or, most likely, promoters -- will reap the benefits of awakening a rider base that stopped caring about local race politics years ago.

Correction: An earlier version of this story indicated that SMRA was founded only by members of the Nevada Old Timers, instead of members of both the Old Timers and the Reno Over The Hill Gang.

September 04, 2014

Silly season 2014

By Clifton Kump
I cannot remember an off-season so rife with rumors, half-truths and rider/team changes as this one. It has been absolutely insane.
Let's go over some of the big moves.

Troy Lee Designs Honda moving to KTM to become TLD/Red Bull/KTM

The TLD team will campaign next season on the pumpkins. The team infrastructure will remain the same, but some riders will not return to the squad. As of today, it looks like Mookie Stewart is out of a job. I have also heard that TLD will be marketing a new Red Bull signature line of riding gear, much like the Lucas Oil Honda gear they had a few years back. Should be cool!

Rockstar Husqvarna, formerly Rockstar KTM

Look, I'm a Euro nerd and and get all worked up for anything from the Austria manufacturer. They have Kiska Design to thank for their new look over the last few years and next year's bikes will be no exception. The team's inner-workings will remain the same, but Zach Osborne and Martin Davalos will join the squad on 250s while Jason Anderson rides the four-piftay.

Yoshimura Suzuki

This one is probably one of the most intriguing, because no one really knows what's happening with JS7. I have read that he is on suspension. I've also read that he will not receive a suspension. Who knows what to believe? We will see. GuyB from Vital MX wrote a summary of the goings-on and included a little morsel claiming Blake Baggett will ride for Yosh Suzuki. This should make Layne Kolbet very pleased.

Red Bull KTM

Ryan Dungey showed big-time heart in battling with the young gun, Ken Roczen, this summer. He is motivated and from what I hear, he's hired Aldon Baker to take him to the next level. Dean Wilson will come over from PC Kawi and should be top five at times. Mark that. He will also wear Ansr gear. Marvin Musquin remains and will look to build on the stellar second half of his 2014 season, and Justin Hill comes over from PC Kawi as well. Justin is a charismatic dude, just like his older bro, but everyone knows that Justin works harder. He has a West Coast 250 win under his belt. He could be a title threat.

RCH Suzuki

Ken Roczen moves over here with his main sponsor, Red Bull, and his mega Fox deal. He's a perfect fit for this team as they definitely have an edge and Ken fits that perfectly. He will be the biggest star this sport has ever seen -- bar none. It's unclear who the second rider will be, though I have heard that Broc Tickle may be in if he has healed properly from his injuries.

Muscle Milk Honda

Trey Canard returns after winning four out of the final six motos of the outdoor championship. He will be good, and hopefully he can stay healthy. Cole Seely comes over from TLD Honda and will be a frontrunner, though he is more of a supercross specialist, it seems.

JGR/Toyota Yamaha

Here's hoping Justin Barcia comes back for this team and kills it. He is awesome to watch and will have a great team behind him. Weston Peick, the privateer hero, has landed a factory ride here after his summer with RCH. Peick deserves all of this, though he owes a lot to the moto media for getting his name out there. Good job, Weston!

Now, to address the elephant in the room -- Ryan Villopoto ...

Here's what I've heard and read:

1. He sold his properties and severed his relationship with trainer Aldon Baker.
2. He went on a tour of Europe.
3. He looked at houses and according to a source, bought a home in the Netherlands. All the fast guys in Europe train and live there, Cairoli included.
4. Villopoto wanted Tyla Rattray to be his teammate and Tyla was "let go" from his Husqvarna contract. He subsequently signed with Factory Kawi Europe.
5. Gautier Paulin, current factory Kawi Europe rider, is rumored to be going to HRC Honda Europe. This would jive because Max Nagl has signed with Husqvarna Europe, opening a spot for Paulin.
6. Steven Frossard was linked to Red Bull KTM with Cairoli, but then Tommy Searle was confirmed with KTM Europe. Steven now is rumored to be signed with SRT KTM alongside Jake Nichols. This opens the final spot for Villopoto on Factory Kawi Europe.
7. Villo will not be ready for the opener at Anaheim 1 due to his knee injury, but he could be ready for the first GP in March.
8. It has been speculated that Villo has to race the entire season next year to appease his sponsors, but with his knee, he won't be able to do the full U.S. circuit. It has been said that he does want to continue racing, but given his recovery, Europe is his only option for contesting a full season.

Given all of the above, I would say there is no question that Villo will end up in Europe. He will be in shape and he loves the outdoors anyway. His decision to go over there and compete with the best of the rest of the world is both brave and noble. I wish him all the luck and I will certainly be watching! Should be good!

September 03, 2014

The other side of motocross fame

If you've ever thought about risking your future (or your offspring's future) on a career in motocross, Ben Riddle's story is a worthwhile read.

Riddle, a former amateur prodigy and Suzuki factory rider, gave an interview to Racer X this week in which he detailed the struggles he's faced since his professional motocross career came to an end in 2003. Today, Riddle appears to be on a better path, but his story shows just how fleeting motocross fame can be.

Riddle hopes to make a comeback in motocross, but only to make the 40-man starting gate at an outdoor national. Given how talented Riddle is -- he won numerous amateur national championships in his youth, earning as much as $250,000 annually despite not yet being a pro -- it might be foolish to bet against him.  

August 27, 2014

1 hour and 39 minutes of crazy

OK, full disclosure: I have no idea what's going on here. I mean, I know this is helmet-cam footage of Jonny Walker at the Erzberg Enduro, and that it highlights some pretty awesome riding. But I have no idea how he's navigating any of this. If I saw this video without knowing anything about this race, I would be confused why a man was blasting random lines through an Austrian quarry filled with bystanders who, in large part, don't seem to be expecting to encounter motorcycles at all.

Second bit of full disclosure: I didn't watch the full clip. But the first few minutes were enough to convince me that, as I have always suspected, off-road dudes are nuts.

Fast-forward to the 53-minute mark if you need your own confirmation.