By Jody Weisel
I have been very lucky in my racing life. In many ways, I’m probably the luckiest man the sport has ever seen. Note that I don’t assign any of my good
fortune to an abundance of talent.
My first stroke of genius, which is a fancy way of
saying I had nothing to do with it, came from an accident
of birth. I was born at Letterman General Hospital in San
Francisco at just the right time to be old enough to race
motocross when the sport came to America in 1968. Any
sooner and I’d have been a dirt-track racer; any later and
I’d have been part of the great unwashed masses who
discovered the sport through the movie On Any Sunday.
My second stroke of genius was to get fast enough, at
the right place and at the right time, to make the cover
of Cycle News in 1974. There was no internet back then.
There were barely any jungle drums to communicate who
was who in the sport, but there was the weekly issue
of Cycle News. It sat on the counter of every motorcycle
shop in America and sold for $0.50. Being on the cover
sprung me from my obscure Texas racing roots to media
darling overnight; of course, a week later, I was under
the ejection end of 10,000 parakeets.
My education was important to my parents—and there
was no way that I could disrespect the faith they had in
me by dropping out of the University of Texas or, later,
North Texas State University to run
around the country in a van with my
bikes in the back. So, I spent nine
years in college pursuing a bachelor’s degree,
master’s degree and PhD in gerontology. I scheduled
all of my classes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and
Thursdays, even though it meant signing up for
some three-hour night classes, so I could drive around
the country in a van with my bikes in the back.
My luck held in that I had help when I was rising
through the ranks and, more important, sinking back
down through them. Marvin Foster at Hodaka, the
Bradshaw family at Big R Cycles, my loyal mechanic/
competitor Laroy Montgomery, Cycle News owner
Sharon Clayton and my boss of 40 years Roland Hinz.
Every time I got cocky, they brought me back to earth.
My sudden fame, after toiling as a test rider for products and motorcycle manufacturers, got me bigger and
better offers. And because of stroke-of-genius number
one, I was old enough to see the light at the end of the
tunnel—and that light was looking a little dim for a guy
with only a modicum of natural talent. Or, as they say in
cycling, “Leg speed goes before leg strength.” I was
grinding out results with determination against guys
who never lifted a weight or cycled 100 miles in their
lives. They were fast without understanding what a
blessing that was. I was anxious to give up the weekly
grind of trying to earn a living by doing well. I was on
to something much grander—earning a living no matter
how well I did. Test riders get paid—win or lose. You
don’t know what kind of relief that is for a racer pushing
past 26 years old. I was where Ryan Dungey is today,
only 40 years ago—and without the $1,000,000 checks.
Some are born to fame and some have it thrust upon
them. I was thus thrust. After my cover-boy gig, Cycle
News made me an offer to come to the head office in
SoCal and run the newspaper. Once there, I got offers
from every motorcycle magazine to join their merry
bands of pranksters. In December of 1976, I chose to
go to MXA. It wasn’t the most money. It wasn’t the
biggest magazine. It didn’t have the merriest pranksters.
But, it was the only magazine exclusively about moto-
cross—and motocross racing was what I was about.