By John Basher

As Tim Olson and I were cruising down the highway towards Glen Helen raceway on a beautiful Tuesday morning, I slowly began to see the track in the distance creep up on the horizon. It wasn’t my first time visiting the huge hills of Glen Helen, but today was different. I immediately discounted that the weather was different, simply because the weather is ever sunny at San Bernardino (or seems like it). I glanced in the rear view mirror, and then I remembered. With Tim at the wheel and myself being the navigator, there was one bike in the back and two of us. Math has never been my strong suit, but with two people and one bike, the only way both of us were getting around the track would be to ride tandem. I suddenly looked down at my left arm, only to be reminded that I would be the guy sitting on the sidelines. Instead of skin, I saw a black cast nearly up to my shoulder. Ah yes, a broken wrist in three places. While a cast does an immaculate job at beginning awkward conversations with people you just met and providing for great stories, it greatly hinders your ability to ride. However, I was struck with doubly bad luck, because I got knocked out when I went tumbling down a straightaway. KO’d and unable to recall the horrific crash, I was left answering the ever-popular question, ‘What happened to you?” without truly knowing what had happened to me.

Today, I didn’t want to answer that question or smile sheepishly after I had provided an answer, I just wanted to ride.

Why was today such a special occasion? Today was Yamaha intro day, where Jody, Tim, Alan (Tim’s dad), Mike and myself were able to view the first installment of the 2004 model bikes. Terry Beal, Doug Dubach, and Steve Butler were bright eyed and ready to unveil the YZ125 and let us ride the bike around Glen Helen to get a feel for the bike and dial in the suspension, gearing, and carburetor. MXA test rider Willie Musgrave showed up slightly after us and the riding and photo shoot began. Mike and I headed out onto the track and immediately found several photogenic spots to shoot Willie and the ’04 YZ125 at.

With Mike as the main photographer, I did the best I could, shooting with one hand just like the paparazzi do at the red carpet. Meanwhile, as Tim was dressing up to pound out some laps, Jody and Terry Beal discussed the new additions and updates on the YZinger. Trying to concentrate on the task at hand, I couldn’t help but hear motocross bikes in the background whining and shrieking. I looked up to see Tim blitz up Shoei Mountain in third gear tapped. I almost couldn’t handle it. Not only did I miss the opportunity to be one of the first people in the U.S. to throw a leg over the ’04 YZ125, but I also couldn’t drag race my way up Shoei Mt. Instead, after the photo shoot was over the only thing I could do was stare at a glistening new bike from the sidelines.

It didn’t really matter, because I was able to listen in on a great conversation between Jody and Terry. Both have an extreme awareness as to what’s happening in motocross and where the sport could be headed in the future. In place of shrills from a motocross bike below me there was instead a vast amount of knowledge. Maybe it wasn’t so bad to be on the sidelines; besides, I have plenty more days of riding ahead of me. Besides, with only a few more weeks of staying off the bike, I had to grasp every opportunity to watch Dubach and Tim display impressive speed and see lines they selected on the track. Dubach, who is the proud father of a baby boy (Carter), was absolutely flying and made easy work of the Glen Helen circuit.

Oh, you wanted to know about the 2004 YZ125? What’s it like? Is it better or worse than last year? What were the major changes made that were noticeable when riding? To be honest, I really couldn’t tell you my personal perspective because I was unable to ride. I did hear lots of buzz though, and let me just say that Yamaha has not lost their knack in making an impressive motocross bike. You’re going to have to read up on the ’04 YZ125 in the an upcoming issue of MXA to find out what we really think. As for me, I’ll just have to wait out the injury and only pound out laps in my head. Remember, casts might make you look tough and are a certain conversation piece, but breaking bones isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.