ERIK KEHOE’S RISE THROUGH THE RACING RANKS
Erik Kehoe was a budding Amateur star in the late 1970s. The baby-faced kid from Granada Hills, California, was the talk of the motocross industry. He owned the 80cc class
when it was considered the hotbed of the sport, and his reign extended as far as Ponca City. Yamaha was
quick to notice Kehoe’s talent, and soon the soft-spoken son of a machinist was on the road to a factory ride.
Unfortunately, Kehoe’s professional racing career didn’t start off well. In 1981, shortly after Erik turned Pro,
his ankle got sucked into his swingarm. The broken ankle ended his career with Team Yamaha, and no other
factory sponsorships were forthcoming. After two years on a privateer Honda (the second year he finished
second overall in the 125 Nationals), Kehoe was rewarded with an offer from Suzuki. He repaid their generosity
with two wins and a second-place finish overall in the 125 Nationals. In fact, Erik won 125 Nationals for four
straight years, beginning in 1985. He had the speed to win but never captured the coveted title.
Kehoe’s career ended just the way it began—with an injury. In 1994, while riding for Honda of Troy, Erik
endoed off a jump at Mt. Morris and broke his back. After the injury, he was forced to realize he could no
longer continue with the racing grind. Fortunately, a good friend helped Kehoe transition into life as a team
manager, first at Honda of Troy and eventually at factory Honda, where he worked until the end of 2012.
MXA watched Erik Kehoe grow up, following him to the far corners of the earth, and documenting his races
for the magazine. Feeling nostalgic, we wanted to sit down with Erik, get out the scrapbook, and discuss some
of his fondest racing memories.
1978—IN THE GARAGE
“This photo was taken in my garage in Granada Hills. That’s my father
on the right, and we’re working on my Yamaha YZ80. I was about 14
years old at the time. My dad taught me how to work on bikes. He
worked for an aircraft company, and he would make modifications to
parts that were failing. I actually had a C.C. Specialty grinding kit, and
I was doing some of the porting on my YZ80. It was a very interesting
time, because I was learning about motorcycles.
“I actually started working on the neighborhood kids’ mopeds. I
would raise the exhaust a couple of millimeters to give the mopeds more
top-end power. Once word spread, I soon had a line of guys wanting me
to port their moped engines [laughter].”