It’s a sure sign that the cup of confidence is overflowing whenever a rider freely chooses to take a hand off a perfectly good grip and drag it through the dirt while railing a corner. Daryl Ecklund was feeling the flow this past week on Cycra Racing’s Yamaha YZ250 two-stroke. However, things took a drastic turn for the worse later in the day. Read on to find out how Ecklund’s time went south.


Mitchell was Nathan Ramsey’s mechanic for most of Nathan’s career, including a stint at factory Honda

Mitchell was Nathan Ramsey’s mechanic for most of Nathan’s career, including a stint at factory Honda

WORKING FOR HONDA DURING THEIR TRANSITION GOM TWO-STROKES TO THE CRF450 FOUR-STROKE, WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST HURDLE YOU HAD TO OVERCOME? The hardest thing about the Honda CRF450 was getting the engine to where it wasn’t so violent. Nathan used to come off the Supercross track and tell me that he would only give it quarter-throttle at most. He said that it was so hard to ride a track and not give it any throttle. On a two-stroke he would whack the throttle wide open, but he couldn’t do that on the CRF450. Our biggest challenge was getting the power to where we could use it. Also, four-strokes were carbureted when they came out. Learning the mechanical accelerator pump and getting the bike to where it wouldn’t bog was difficult.


An eventful 48 hours riding Justin Barcia’s bike, going to a top-secret facility, hanging out with great people, and only one riding casualty through it all

The Joe Gibbs Racing outdoor track is a sight to behold. It’s pretty to look at, but scary to ride.

This past Wednesday I drove up to the JGR compound, a secret facility found on the outskirts of a small town with a population nearing 700. I can say that JGR’s collection of a Supercross track, Arenacross track, and long outdoor circuit is off Interstate 40. Don’t bother looking for it on a map, because you probably wouldn’t want to ride there anyway. Why? It’s a place where bones weaken and dreams go to die.

Daryl Ecklund didn’t mind getting whipped over the 80-foot step-down double.

On a good day I’m a decent Vet Intermediate in SoCal. Translation: I do my very best to keep both wheels close to the ground. The JGR outdoor track, built by Mark Barnett for the likes of Josh Grant, Justin Brayton, and lately Weston Peick, Phil Nicoletti and Justin Barcia, is scary. It’s hard admitting that I couldn’t hang on a track that had more big jumps in two straights than a place like LACR or Milestone have around their entire layout. Let’s call a spade a spade. I was never delusional enough to believe that I could launch the 110-foot step-up triple or sky over the blind 80-foot step-down double. Granted, I rode motocross bikes perfectly capable of clearing such distances. My pal, Daryl Ecklund, proved as much. That’s why he’s the photo rider and I’m the photographer.

Several months ago I chatted with Cycra’s Glen Laivens about testing a few of their bikes near their headquarters of Thomasville, North Carolina. We ironed out the details, coming to an understanding that a hopped-up JGR Yamaha YZ250F, along with a sweet Yamaha YZ250 two-stroke, were the focus. Time passed and plans changed. What happened? I loaded up the family and moved to Newport, North Carolina. Located 15 minutes from the ocean and the next town over from where Cooper Webb grew up, Newport is a great location for raising kids and writing romance novels. Newport is also four hours from Cycra Racing, a rather short drive in the grand scheme of things. Daryl Ecklund flew from Los Angeles to Charlotte, where I picked him up and drove north to Greensboro. The following day is when the magic happened.

Was Justin Barcia’s JGR Yamaha YZ450F a dream to ride? That depends. How good are you at twisting the throttle?

We had a great group of guys at the JGR facility the first day. The JGR staff of Jeremy Albrecht, Spencer Bloomer, John “Bundy” Mitchell, Joey Bray and Johnny Oler, as well as Cycra’s Ken and Glen Laivens, and Sunstar’s Mike Ivers were on board. Daryl Ecklund was the photo rider, and Justin Barcia was spinning laps in preparation for the Motocross des Nations.

I’ve known JGR’s Coy Gibbs and team manager, Jeremy Albrecht, for quite a few years. They’re great guys, passionate about the sport and tireless in their quest to win a title. Given that we were already testing a JGR Yamaha YZ250F, I didn’t think it would be a stretch to have JGR give MXA Justin Barcia’s outdoor bike. They obliged. We ended up riding Bam Bam’s YZ450F, which had rolled out of the semi from the National finale in Indiana, on JGR’s outdoor track while sharing the same plot of land with Justin Barcia. It was every kid’s dream.

Ecklund seemed quite comfortable on Bam Bam’s outdoor bike.

Only perception and reality are very different. First, the aforementioned JGR track is every bit intimidating. Many local experts wouldn’t work up the courage to jump all the obstacles on the track. Second, Justin Barcia was going quasar fast. Try navigating a track as Barcia is breaking the sound barrier next to you. Third, riding a top-tier Pro’s bike is anything but enjoyable. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked what it’s like to ride a factory bike. My answer? It’s fast, with incredibly stiff suspension, quirky ergonomics, and is generally uncomfortable. The idea of riding Justin Barcia’s YZ450F was exciting, but in reality most riders could go faster on a stock YZ450F.

The JGR Yamaha YZ250F was built in-house by the JGR retail department. There were over $10,000 in mods made to the bike.

Daryl Ecklund has a knack for relating to the common rider. He hucked every jump at JGR, but explained the performance of the engine and suspension in a broader scope than what most Pro’s would. Daryl likes softer suspension (for a Pro) and a metered powerband that won’t rip your arms off. That’s one of the reasons why Daryl is good at what he does. I watched as he did one-footed whips over the jumps and listened as he articulated the nuances of Barcia’s bike. He followed up an outstanding performance by throwing a leg over the JGR Yamaha YZ250F. A sucker for whoops and steep jumps, he spun laps around the Arenacross track before taking to the outdoor circuit. It was a great time watching a guy dissect two very different tracks with the same precision and enthusiasm.

Daryl digs into the prime dirt on the Cycra Racing/FTI Suspension Yamaha YZ250 two-stroke. Photo by Paul Sachak.

We wrapped up the tests, bid adieu to the JGR folks, and headed back to the hotel. The next day we rode a track more conducive to amateur talent. Located in Boonville, North Carolina, Center Road MX is a very cool facility. It has the best dirt I’ve ever laid knobby to. Center Road MX owner, Jay, has made it his life’s ambition to make the best dirt mixture for motocross. The deep and soft loamy soil is so good that you can hold the throttle wide open through corners. A plethora of modestly-sized jumps were fun and challenging enough to think twice before twisting the throttle. After trepidation the day before at the JGR compound, Center Road MX was the perfect place to regain confidence.

The Cycra Racing/FTI Suspension Yamaha YZ250 in all its glory.

We were joined by Ken and Glen Laivens at Cycra, as well as Mike Ivers from Sunstar, Cal Northrop from FTI Suspension, along with Paul Sachak and Scott Beard from Armored Graphix. The objective was to test ride a 2015 Yamaha YZ250 two-stroke built by Cycra and FTI Suspension. Things started off well. Daryl loves two-strokes, and his excitement for riding a new place, combined with amazing soil, resulted in a great photo shoot. Ecklund was so comfortable that he dragged his left hand through the dirt while powering around a corner. That’s a sure sign that Daryl was feeling the flow.

Daryl went front-end-high on the peppy YZ250. This photo was taken moments before he lawn-darted and wound up in the hospital.

After the shoot, we met back in the pits to discuss the bike. I geared up and spun a few laps, while Daryl continued to build up berms (this time keeping both hands on the bars). A short break later, Daryl went back out to try different settings. In all his glory, he began hitting one jump as fast as possible in order to touch down far beyond the landing. It was a poor decision. He went offline, landed in the soft stuff, and rode the handlebars on his stomach until he hit the next jump. Over the bars and through the dirt to the hospital he went. The damage? A broken collarbone and nasty road rash were the lasting effects. It’s strange how Daryl cleared death-defying leaps one day and splattered to the ground the next over a small jump. Those are the breaks.

Special thanks to the Cycra Racing crew, JGR, Mike Ivers, Jay at Center Road MX, Armored Graphix, Cal at FTI, and Justin Barcia for letting us blow out his berms. Look for the bike tests in an upcoming issue of MXA.


“I have a lot of people come up to me at the races and tell me that they can take me to the next level if I get on their program. I giggle inside, because I’ve been through everything. Now I know what my body needs. Obviously there are always things I can put in my program to make me better, but I know what I need to do. If I’m not fit then it’s my fault and no one elses. I don’t need to pay someone a ton of money to say, ‘Hey, go ride your bicycle.’ I can tell myself to do that at this point in my career. Maybe when I was 16 years old it was tougher for me to make that choice, but now I know that if I’m not in really good shape then I’ll suffer on the track.”–Justin Barcia

Click here to read the full interview.


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Press release:Hinson Clutch Components congratulates Romain Febvre on winning his first MXGP Motocross World Championship two rounds early at the MXGP of Assen in the Netherlands with a comfortable 102 point lead over second. Romain put on several head turning performances as he won multiple races beginning with a moto win at the MXGP of Great Britian in May. As wins became the norm, Romain proved to his fans and fierce competition that he was the man to beat.

The Yamaha Factory Racing Yamalube rider matured quickly in his rookie season and rose to the top in one of the most competitive seasons in recent history. Romain’s success began at the GP of Great Britian where he claimed his first win in moto two. The very next weekend at the GP of France, Romain insured his speed with a 3-1 finish, scoring the overall. In the rounds following, speed and consistency paid off for the MX1 rookie as he earned his first championship with two rounds to spare.

Hinson Clutch Components sells the most advanced Off-Road Motorcycle, ATV and Sport Bike clutch components in the world. Hinson Clutch Components offers premium clutch baskets, inner hubs, pressure plates, slipper clutches, fiber and steel plates, clutch springs and extremely durable clutch covers. In our 23 years of doing business, Hinson Clutch Components have won 293 National and World Championships.

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