rider isn’t about speed; it’s about understanding what the
bike is doing underneath you.
Losing count. Guess what? You need to have
ridden the 2008 Honda CRF450 to know why
the 2015 model is the way it is. If a test rider
never threw a leg over a 2008 Honda CRF450,
he is ill-equipped to state an opinion on the 2015 model.
Without spending time on a Keihin FCR-fueled machine, a
test rider will never get the full picture of fuel injection’s
pluses and minuses. One undeniable fact is that the more
bikes you ride, the better test rider you become. And every
MXA test rider has lost count of how many different bikes
he has ridden. Some have ridden just over 100 and some
Our readers. When you get your bike dialed
in to your tastes, do your friends like your
setup? Do you like the way your friends set up
their bikes? Or, do they have their levers way
down, bars in their laps and a pogo stick for a rear shock?
An MXA test rider can’t just think of himself when testing
a bike or product; he has to think about you. Our readers
are who we test for, not ourselves.
Fit the mold. We have countless sets of
helmets, boots and gear. But guess what?
They are all in one size. To be an MXA tester
or photo rider, you must fit the mold. That
means a medium helmet, size- 10 boots, large jersey, size-
32 pants and size- 10 gloves. While it is true that some test
riders don’t wear those sizes, they don’t complain as they
squeeze their size- 12 feet into size- 10 boots.
Money. If you are not an employee of
MXA (there are only a handful of us), then
you do not get paid. Whether you are an
endurance test rider or a photo rider, you
are not on the payroll. We look at it as on-the-job training,
because maybe one day they will get the paying gig. Plus,
would you turn down a chance to ride new bikes every
week for free? ❏
What it takes. Every year
riders from all walks of life
ask if they can become
part of the MXA wrecking
crew. It looks like an easy job. Ride next
year’s bikes. Test cool products and write
reviews. But, it is a dream job that takes
years of experience to learn the ins and
outs. You may be able to ride like the
wind, but do you understand the mechan-
ics, technology and physics of motocross
bikes? The ability to ride is useless
without the knowledge to explain in detail
every facet of the experience.
Good or bad. An MXA test
rider never knows what a
new bike brings to the table.
It can be nerve-wracking.
Some aftermarket companies’ project bikes
come from Craigslist. Test riders are at
the mercy of who put the bikes together.
We have had bikes blow up off the face
of jumps and parts that fly off at the least
opportune time. Sometimes we ride it out
and sometimes we don’t. On occasion,
MXA test riders become test pilots.
Comfortable. What’s your
favorite bike? The KTM 350SXF? Kawasaki
KX450F? Yamaha YZ250? Whatever it may
be, if you are an MXA test rider, the odds
are you’ll be riding something else. With over 20 brand-
new models each year, not counting project bikes and
factory bikes, MXA test riders don’t pick the bikes they
get to ride. They are assigned them. And, once they get
the assigned bike dialed in, it’s time to move on to the
next bike on the list.
Freebies. It is true that MXA test riders
get everything on God’s green earth for free.
Sadly, they don’t have time to enjoy the
freebies. Every photo shoot and test session
means a different brand of gear, helmet, boots and
goggles. It is very rare that an MXA test rider gets to
wear the same-color gear twice in the magazine.
Terminology. Dirt bike racers talk with
hand gestures and guttural noises. It is a
primitive language that all racers understand,
but suspension technicians and factory
engineers don’t. “Braap” is a foreign language to them.
MXA test riders have to answer test questions with a
consistent vocabulary of terms. No hand gestures or
funny sounds allowed. The MXA lexicon of technical
terms and phrases takes the guesswork out of being
understood by an engineer who doesn’t race. Pity the
poor test rider who says “motor” instead of “engine.”
Speed doesn’t matter. Age brings with
it experience while it reduces speed. A test
rider who has spent 15 years riding has
a valuable reservoir of knowledge that no
17-year-old Pro can come close to duplicating. Take Jody
Weisel, for example. He has ridden every bike made in
the last 40 years. On the track, our Pro test riders run
circles around him. Off the track, Jody can deliver a
flawless report on powerband, suspension and handling
flaws with a bibliography of references to previous bikes
that shared the same characteristics. Being a good test
ABOUT BEING AN MXA TEST RIDER