THE MXA INTERVIEW: WARREN REID: The Life & Times Of A True Factory Pilot. He Raced For BMW, Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Yamaha and ATK

March 23, 2009
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By: Zap
   He rode for every factory. He raced against the best riders in America. He helped develop the bikes the public bought. He competed in every type of event. He was trained by a Rabbit and an American Idol. His step dad was an accalimed factory wrench. Warren Reid lived a life that most of us could only dream of. We wondered, whatever happened to the first guy to win all three classes at Mammoth Mountain in one weekend (and who got sick from accidentally drinking coolant that he thought was Gatorade)?  We tracked Warren down to get a firsthand account of the central role he played in the American motocross scene in it’s most pivotal days.

MXA: What’s the current life story for Warren Reid?
I’m 50 years old now, I live in Georgia and manage the PE National Field Service Group for Honda. I still ride mountain bikes a bunch and so do a bunch of us at work. We have a lot of dirt bikers too, but I just don’t ride that much anymore. I do throw my leg over a bike about once a year and do well enough to consider training for the Vet Nationals next year in the Over-50 class. The Glen Helen downhill beckons every time I see a picture of it. My kids are all grown. Jarret did a lot of stunt work and now just occasionally. Alden works at the Pentagon after a five-year stint in the USAF straight out of high school. Courtney is graduating from Drexel University in June with a degree in Materials Engineering. My wife Cinda and I just plod along and wait for marriages and grandkids, when we can start a new life project with them. My step dad Jon R is still the mad professor in his retirement. In fact, he was recently featured in a Wall Street Journal article for his “Experiments with Nuclear fusors”!  He really should have been a nuclear physicist instead of motocross mechanic….I venture that our paths would have never crossed if that had been the case.
MXA: How long was your Pro career and who did you ride for?
Let’s see…how about I break it down to my pre-Pro and Pro career in numerical order.

   1. In 1971 I got sponsored by Cycle Path Motors. They were a minibike only shop in Westminster, CA. and located in an old Fosters Freeze restaurant. They sold Gemini minibikes and Rokon two-wheel-drive ATV motorcycles (before the Don Kudalski days).

Warren and his blue Econoline van were a regular presence in the CMC pits at Saddleback in the ’70s. Says Warren, “My girlfriend (now wife) took this photo in late 1975 at a CMC race at Saddleback. I won that day and made a bunch of money. Before that, she thought motorcycles were just loud and dirty!”

   2. Dennis and Wendy Blanton were my sponsors from 1973 to ’74 (Dennis and Wendy were weekend desert riding friends of ours and Dennis worked as Marty Tripes’s mechanic at Honda). He and Wendy thought I might be good at MX even though I had never raced before so when the Honda Elsinore came out, Dennis and Wendy bought one and took me to the CMC races to race. That is how Dennis discovered Marty Smith, Chuck Bower, Bruce McDougal for the 1974 Honda 125 team for the first year of 125 Nationals.) In 1974 Jon R and my mom got married and they bought the bike from the Blantons. Jon R became the lead 125 mechanic for Team Honda. Marty Smith and (FMF owner) Donnie Emler were tight so there you see how Honda started using FMF pipes and porting very early on. I got to hang with a lot of fast folks and ride with them when they practiced. I learned to practice from Marty Smith and Pierre Karsmakers.

Pro Career: 

Factory FMF test pilot, racer and pipe welder!

   1. FMF 1974~1/2-1976: My job at FMF was free pipes and jerseys and they paid me to weld pipes. I made them in my garage using my bike as the welding jig. I would deliver 10 pipes at a time to the FMF shop in Harbor City, California, and got paid $5 bucks a pipe. I could do two an hour after school. Righteous bucks in those days. Dave Miller was the pipe guru at FMF then and he gave me a lot of tips. I learned how to make my own custom pipes too. When I got fast enough, FMF started porting my cylinders for free. When I made way more $ racing local Pro, I quit making pipes except for myself when Jon R would experiment with different configurations and I would make all the pipes. I was 16. I rode the Nationals for FMF in 1975 and 1976 and got 9th and 6th.

   2. 1977-1979: Team Honda. I got a factory ride with Honda after winning a Trans-AMA Support class race. I won the Trans-AMA Support class title over Glover and Wise in 1978. 

Reid as a factory Kawasaki rider.

   3. 1980-1981: Team Kawasaki. A lot of people left Honda after 1979. Their bikes got really good after that with Roger D’s influence….Damn! Gary Mathers was the team manager at Kawi. He found a way to make me gone. That seemed to be common trait with him and riders over the years. Was it him or the riders? I think history will look at the common denominator and draw the right conclusion.

Reid as a factory Suzuki rider.

   4. 1982: Team Suzuki. I did well there…I was fourth in the 250 Nationals behind Johnson, Hansen and Glover, seventh in the Supercross series, but I never felt a good fit there and obviously they felt the same.

   5. 1983-1984: Yamaha support and then Factory halfway through the year. I never got a salary though, all bonus. Broke my leg in January of 1984. Amazingly, I got a letter in the hospital from Zap and he asked me not to quit racing. I didn’t. I just decided that I would ride all the different types of races that I always wanted to try while I started up a cabinet contracting business full time (which then turned in to a race truck building business when all my old MX buddies found out what I was doing)!

   6. 1984: White Brothers. Rode the Ascot TT National on a TT600 Yam. Qualified, but didn’t make the main.

   7. 1985: ATK. I tested and rode some 500 Nationals and the Austrian 500 GP and 500 USGP for Horst Leitner, the founder of ATK. Nobody was riding four-strokes back then. Horst was and still is a pioneer and an innovator. I remodeled his kitchen too as I started up my cabinet contracting business.

   8. 1985: White Bros. I rode the Ascot TT National again. Qualified for the National, but didn’t make the main. My brother and I drove all night after the Ascot race to Hangtown where I raced the AMA 500 Motocross National on an ATK. To my knowledge nobody had ever qualified on back-to-back days for a Dirt Track National and a Motocross National and I am pretty sure they haven’t since. 

   9. 1985: BMW. I raced a factory BMW in the Baja 1000 with teammates Tom Kelly and Dave Chase. We got fourth overall on a street bike. To this day, that is still the single best motorcycle I have ridden for what it was meant to do. My old friend Al Baker flew over the race in his plane and told me later he clocked me at 125 mph on a dirt road! My wife gave birth to my daughter Courtney two weeks later.

Warren teamed with four-stroke pioneer Horst Leitner long before four strokes were fashionable.

   10. 1986: ATK. I rode the Whiskey Pete’s Hare and Hound World Championship and got around 10th. 

   11.1986: ATK. Rode the Ascot TT again, for Horst this time. Made the main event and got 13th. (Against Springsteen, Shobert, Carr, Fay, Jones, Poovey, Graham, Parker, Goss, et-freakin-cetera) and earned a National number in AMA Dirt Track. (#27 although I never raced with it and gave it up after one year.)

   12. 1986: Cody Racing. I raced a Jawa Speedway bike in the Second Division Speedway Championships, scoring a perfect 15 points in the heats and got second in the final behind future British Leaguer Ronnie Corry.

   13. 1989: Kawasaki. I had hardly ridden, let alone raced in years, but I called Norm Bigelow at Kawi. He got me a bike to race the World Vet Championship. I picked it up on Friday, rode it for a half hour on Saturday after doing a cabinet install all day, and won the 1989 Vet World Championships the next day. The bike sat unridden for months until Kawi asked for it back. 

   14. 2003: I have ridden various vintage races, but I won a Vintage championship series that ran in Florida, Texas and California riding a 1973 CR250 owned by Diamond Don Rainey. It was good to see so many of my old racing buddies again. I may do some more vintage in a few years.

MXA: Besides your job at Honda what do you do to pass the time?
Warren: Now I mostly ride mountain bikes and raced a 50-miler in August in Georgia. If you think it was hard riding MX Nationals in the Summer in the 70’s and 80’s in the South when they were 40 minute plus two laps, try a 50-mile mountain bike race in Georgia in August! The kids in motocross now a-days ride 30 minute wussy motos and never venture to the South in the Summer. I even read sometimes where they say the guy got tired in a 30-minute moto. Holy cow, give me a break!
Warren at speed in the Superbiker race at Carlsbad Raceway.

MXA: What were your career highlights?
The Trans-AMA Support Class Championship in 1978 and the Vet World Championship of 1989. As far as I know, I am the only person who has earned championship points in Motocross, Supercross, National Dirt Track, Motocross GP’s and SCORE off-road racing. I think I am the only person to hold an AMA professional license in Dirt Track, Road Race, Motocross and Speedway at the same time. (I never did ride a road race National, but I almost won the first Superbikers event in 1979, so I think I would have been pretty good.)

MXA: How different were the weekend CMC “Nationals” from the AMA Nationals in terms of competition?
Not much. The biggest difference was that there were a few more fast guys and a lot more slow guys at Nationals. The CMC top 20 could almost surely make a National from the qualifying motos. You have to remember that there were more people that rode Motocross in So Cal in the early ’70s than anywhere in the world (either before or since). It was like Belgium only with five times the people and more places to ride.
Warren’s factory 125 GP Bike with right-side drivetrain, homemade heat shield, laid down Fox AirShox and aluminum tank.
MXA: Can you tell us something about the # 19 Honda factory bike?
Warren: I’d say it has to be 1977, 125 GP at Mid Ohio. Jon R is in deep thought checking the bike out before practice. In those days black number plate meant CMC, but my AMA number and my CMC number was 23 that year, so this has to be the Mid-Ohio USGP. Broc Glover coincidentally was 17 in CMC and number 17 in AMA too. I made that heat shield on the pipe in the garage at Jon R’s parents house in Springfield, Missouri, between Nationals because my leg kept getting fried. 
MXA; You rode for every factory and had a lot of teammates – who was your favorite?
Warren: Steve Wise. We were friends before we were teammates and have remained close friends today. Mike Bell and I were also close at various times in our careers, before and after factory rides. But I have to tell you, I got along with my teammates really well. Having ridden for everyone, I have a lot of former teammates. Who was the funniest? Me. But Jim Weinert is pretty funny too.
The 1979 factory Honda team: Back row (left-right) – Warren Reid, Jim Ellis, Marty Tripes, Gunnar Lindstrom, Marty Smith, Gary Semics, Steve Wise. Front row (left-right): Brian Lunnis, George Ellis, Jon R, Dave Arnold, Arnie Beamon and Cliff White. 
MXA: You ride for Team Honda in the days when it was the most powerful, most vaunted factory at the races – what was that like?
The Team Honda squad in the ’70’s and ’80’s was the like the hey-day of Yankee Baseball of the ’20’s and ’30’s. If you wore the Honda Red, White and Blue, it was like having a Yankee Pinstripe uniform.
MXA: Any good rental car stories?
Warren: I was in the rent-a-car at the Mid-Ohio Trans-AMA with Marty Moates, Marty Smith and Marty Tripes where we entered a jeep mud race in a Camaro and got third. I think Moates was driving.
MXA: What was the difference between the FMF and the factory bike for you?
The works bike was designed from the beginning to be long travel. Production bikes then were modified for long travel so there was always some design and handling compromises. Mostly it was the attention to detail and that the bikes were dialed in to you by really smart people like Jon R and Dave Arnold and Cliff White with the engineering expertise of a factory behind them. Looking back, I still think the factories would have done well to utilize the expertise of guys like Emler at FMF for motor development before the season when we were doing other stuff. Now the teams all have motor guys and a lot of them came out of FMF or shops like them.

“I’m wearing a helmet I painted with FMF colors and logos in my Auto Body class at Bolsa Grande High School in Garden Grove, California….If only I’d have known how the helmet painting business would progress…TLD!”

MXA: On a scale of 1 to 10 – how crazy was life at FMF back in the heyday of ’70’s So. Cal. motocross?
Ten! Looking back I think it was like being around any really creative personality. They move technology, style, perceptions and viewpoints along by sheer enthusiasm. If anybody there had an idea to try something new, it flourished under Emler. Look how many leading industry folks have come out of FMF during any of the versions it has existed in over the years, Cliff Lett, Bob Oliver, Dave Miller, and dozens of others. Also, there were so many companies emulating FMF then that the competition was fierce. I still have an original FMF jersey.
MXA: What’s your take on the current state of racing?
Warren: Generally I am impressed with the state of the sport, if not the racing. I am somewhat mystified with the dominance of one or two guys. I guess it runs in cycles. The growth of private teams is the most healthy thing I see. I envision a day when the factories just support private teams like NASCAR does. This seems to spread the wealth a little, I would like to see the AMA become the rider’s union rep, after all, they are the American Motorcyclist Association, to get some of the money out of the promoters. I would like to see harder tracks at Supercross and Motocross. The indoor tracks are cookie cutter: Pattern jump straight-aways with banked 180-degree corners. One whoop straightaway (and they’re all the same height and space), a big jump finish and maybe one sand pit. The dirt is always pretty hard and no ruts or bumps form naturally. Boring! Except for Glen Helen and Unadilla, the Motocorss tracks are technically easy. By that I don’t mean they have difficult jumps, there are few steep hills and huge whoop de doos (Well, Millville has one). I want to see gnarls off-cambers, momentum breaker obstacles, not just a set of doubles and a table top. And the motos are too short!

As far as the racing current culture…Culture is culture. If you are not part of the whatever the culture, it is hard to compare or judge it. If you see something destructive in it, then comment. I see nothing destructive other than some individual behaviors and I am sure some were worried about me on that issue back in my day.  My advice to todays riders is always hammered home to them by the press and their handlers…Practice more and try harder all the time.

The Yamaha Mini Enduro was the bike that moved kids from Mini Bikes to Mini Cycles. It moved them from little wheels and centrifugal clutches to spoked wheels and transmissions.
MXA: Of all the bikes you rode through the years, which one had the biggest impact on your life?
My Yamaha Mini Enduro. My dad told me that if I saved half the money, he would pay the other half. I saved all summer in 1970 mowing lawns and keeping Birthday dollars until I earned enough by late Fall.  Even by Christmas, they were hard to get and we couldn’t find one. My mom was somehow able to get one and secretly kept in at the neighbors house. My last gift she had me open that Christmas was little light box about an inch thick and 5 inches by 8 inches. I opened it and found an Owners Manual with a little note saying the bike was at our motorcycling friend, Jim William’s house. I sprinted down the street in bare feet and no shirt and Jim was opening his garage as I ran up. There it was. My deliverance. My providence for life. My reason for living for the next 15 years. Thoughtfully, Jim had a helmet for me to wear so I could ride it home. (And it had rubber covered foot pegs so my feet were OK too.)
As for the best factory bike….The 83 Yamaha OW250 was a great bike. But the best works bike I rode was BMW factory works bike in the 85 Baja 1000. It was perfect for what it was meant for, which was really fast off road races. Me, Tom Kelly and Dave Chase got 4th overall. The late Al Baker told me he clocked me at 125 mph on dirt road on the course while he was flying over the race in his plane.


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