By Jody Weisel
I keep the phone numbers of my friends who have died in my phone. That way, when I’m scrolling through and see Rich Eierstedt’s, Phil Alderton’s,
Danny Chandler’s and Laroy Montgomery’s numbers, I
think about giving them a call. In a moment, I realize
that I can’t, but I feel good knowing that I wanted to.
I didn’t start racing motorcycles because I saw it as a
lucrative career—just the opposite. I started racing motocross in 1968 because no one knew what it was, how it
was done or what it was all about. The appeal was in its
rebellious nature. The fact that it turned out to be a lucrative career didn’t add anything to what I love about it.
I went to college for nine years while working on my
bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees. Don’t think of me
as an overachiever. Going to college was the best way
for me to keep racing, because my parents paid for my
education and I could schedule my classes so that I could
travel to the races over the weekends. It was a sweet
deal and in stark contrast to the current crop of pseudo
home-schooled racers. I don’t blame young kids for
sacrificing their futures in hopes of grabbing the golden
ring of motocross stardom, but I’m appalled by their
parents’ shortsightedness. Who would want to be home-schooled by parents stupid enough to trade their child’s
future for a slim chance at motocross success?
I don’t Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat or Facebook. It’s
not that I’m computer illiterate—because during the Y2K
hysteria I was contacted because I am well-versed in
both Cobalt and Fortran programming—it’s just that I
don’t want to live my life in front of the morons on the
Internet. No offense if that’s you; it just isn’t me.
You may think that modern motocross bikes are
magnificent technological wonders. I don’t. They are
bloated leviathans. How are we better off with
245-pound, complex, expensive and impossible-to-work-on, 450cc four-strokes than we were
with lightweight, affordable, repairable,
simple, 218-pound, 250cc two-strokes?
What has 15 years of four-stroke
dominance gotten us? Forks you
can’t work on, $9000 price tags,
electronics that require a degree in
Fortran to repair and exhaust pipes that
cost $1000. Welcome to the brave new
world and its high admission price.
The other day I overheard a stranger say that MXA
was much better before I took over. That is a strong
possibility. The reality check is that I took over in
December of 1976. How old is this guy? You remember
1976 don’t you? Peter Frampton was the biggest pop star.
Bruce Jenner won the Olympic Decathlon. Jimmy Carter
was the Man of the Year. The Dow Jones Industrial
Average was at 1004. Gasoline cost $0.59 cents a gallon.
Mao Zedong assumed room temperature. And, I started
I’ll never let anyone convince me to jump a double just
because someone as fast as I am did. I want someone
much slower than I to jump it before I’ll even think about
it. On the stopwatch, I could save a second a lap by
jumping the big double. On the calendar, I could lose six
months in plaster if I failed to clear it. The way I figure it,
I save five months, 29 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59
seconds every time I chicken out. That’s a fast lap time.
I had a close friend who wanted his son to become
a professional motorcycle racer. The kid was 14 and a
decent 250 Novice. He wanted my advice on how to turn
his kid into the next Ryan Villopoto. Here was my advice
to him: “Pray that your kid never gets any faster than he
is today. Novices can race motocross for the rest of their
lives, happy in their ignorance and slowness. Not so for a
Pro; he is constantly worried about his place in the pecking order. He is paralyzed by the fear that he will get
beat by some guy who is lower on the totem pole. Being
fast is a burden, not a blessing. If your kid makes it to
the Pro ranks, he will be unhappy. He will think that he
got cheated, that the good rides went to someone else,
and he will quit racing by the time he is 22 years old.
If you want to do something to help your kid’s
motocross career, buy a bike and start racing the Vet
class. Spending time with him is the greatest gift you
can give him.” Sadly, his kid quit at 20 because the
pressure was too great.
On the subject of advice, here is the best
counsel that I have ever handed down from
Mount Jody. Break new boots in one at
a time. Wear your new left boot with
your old right boot for a couple rides,
and then phase in the new right boot.
It’s better to miss the shifter than
to miss the brake and shifter at the
same time. ❏
Photo: Debbi Tamietti