By Jody Weisel
I’m pretty sure that you are just like me‚ although I’m less positive that you want to be just like me. I have been racing motorcycles since 1968. Over that vast period of time, I’ve been fast and I’ve been slow, but it has never really mattered to me which it was. If I could have the choice of being the young, aggressive and faster me from the 1970s or the older, wiser and slower me‚ I’d take today.
Oh, maybe not everything from today‚ but I certainly wouldn’t take back the egotistical, self-centered me that first made my name back in the formative days of the sport. That Jody was all about me, which was perfect for the “Me Generation.” The current Jody is still all about me, but it is about me flying under the radar, not being the center of attention (as much as possible for a person in my position), avoiding the status-backed crowd and being less of a know-it-all.
I’m not into networking or making connections anymore. I’m not looking to be seen or heard. I don’t want any famous friends‚ I already have them, and I like them better now that they aren’t famous anymore. At the races, I work on my bike, help my friends, keep to myself and race my two motos without ever hobnobbing outside of my 100 square feet of pit. When I come home, Lovely Louella will asked me a question about someone from the races, and I will say, “I didn’t talk to him today.” And she will say, “But he went to the races with you‚ in your truck!”
I’ve learned a lot about racing motorcycles in my time. Here is the gist of my wisdom. I pass it down to you for two reasons: First, I’m pretty sure that if you are just like me, you will recognize yourself in my tale. Second, if you don’t want to be anything like me, why are you reading this?
“I’VE BEEN FAST AND I’VE BEEN SLOW, BUT IT HAS NEVER REALLY MATTERED TO ME WHICH IT WAS. IF I COULD HAVE
THE CHOICE OF BEING THE YOUNG, AGGRESSIVE AND FASTER ME FROM THE 1970s OR THE
OLDER, WISER AND SLOWER ME‚ I’D TAKE TODAY.”
(1) I normally go to the starting line very late and squeeze into whatever open gate is available. When I was young, I used to get to the starting line two races before mine so that I could get the one magic starting gate that I believed would get me to the first turn first. Now I’m happy to just get to the first turn.
(2) There is no difference between first place and fifth place when you are at lunch after the race is over. The waitress doesn’t care; your buddies already know where you finished and, best of all, a grilled chicken sandwich tastes the same no matter what the race’s outcome.
(3) There is, however, a major difference between last and any other place. Being last, which I have been many times, is a blow to your self-esteem. I haven’t always seen myself as a winner, but I haven’t embraced being a loser either. I’m not a rocket scientist (although I do have a degree in gerontology, which makes more sense in a world that is so inner directed that the idea of riding a rocket ship out of cell tower range is a deal breaker), but when I look at the sign-up sheet, I already know where I’m going to finish. I run my finger down the names and say, “I can’t beat him. I can beat him. I can’t beat him,” and keep a running tally of where I will finish. When I walk away, I know that I am racing for eighth today‚ and with luck I could be sixth.
(4) Everybody has a place in the pecking order—mine seems to be sixth place. If I get a last-place start, I will ride my heart out to get up to sixth. If I get the holeshot, I will eventually fade back to sixth. That is the motocross version of an insurance company’s actuary table. Statistics don’t lie, and they are more accurate than a transponder.
(5) I wear the plainest, simplest, least Rohschach pattern gear they make. Maybe it goes back to my days in leather pants, where black was the only color, but I prefer solids. They can be brightly colored, but if there is a hint of a floral pattern or whiff of a Jackson Pollock painting, I’m not interested.
(6) Much has been made over the years of my 1970’s all-leather boots. Yes, Alpinestars custom makes them for me and I give my spare boots to my buddy Lars Larsson because he understands why leather is better than plastic. My reason for wearing old-school boots is that my medial collateral ligaments are shot, and wearing 5-pound boots does them no good. I’m a follower of the “willow versus the oak” theory of boot design. On a side note, I break in new boots by wearing one new boot with one old boot. Then, when the new boot breaks in, I wear the other new boot.
(7) I wear knee braces, but I’m not a true believer. You would think that with my knee injuries I’d be shouting their praises from the highest mountain top. Not so! To me, knee braces are similar to wrapping Velcro straps around a 20-pound ham and believing that they will stop it from twisting. In this case, the hams are my thighs. So, why do I wear them? I’m scared to take them off. It is the same reason I have been running Yamalube R in my two-stroke for decades. I’m afraid to switch.
(8) I stopped taking trophies about 20 years ago, which my friends say coincides with when I stopped winning trophies, but that’s far from true…although not very far.
(9) I can’t ride a bike that has hand guards on it. Oh, I’m sure that I could make the adjustment over time. I say that because I couldn’t ride a bike without a crossbar on the handlebars for years, but my mind finally surrendered. It hasn’t waved the white flag to hand guards, though.
(10) I hate cherry pickers. And, paradoxically, I asked to be allowed to move down a class and the promoters told me that I was too fast to move down. I was happy to hear their assessment of my speed, but I’m pretty sure that they are wrong.