BEST OF JODY’S BOX: DECIPHERING THE TRUTH BEHIND THE SPORT



By Jody Weisel

Here are ten things you need to know about factory riders.

Fallacy: Have you ever heard the phrase “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday”? It’s an old wives’ tale. There is not a shred of evidence that winning races sells anything. In fact, there are a boatload of statistics that refute the idea that hiring winning motorcycle racers sells bikes. Need proof? If winning races sold motorcycles, then wouldn’t everybody on the planet be riding a Suzuki — given that Ricky Carmichael won virtually every race he entered on one. Do you own a Suzuki? Probably not. According to insider reports, Suzuki’s sales didn’t even increase during Ricky Carmichael’s reign.

High-paid models: Clothing companies sponsor riders so that they will showcase their gear at the races. But, in truth, the gear that the riders wear is not identifiable from the stands. The proof of this became startling obvious when four clothing magnates sat next to each other in the press box at a race and tried to guess what brand of gear the riders on the track were wearing. When they didn’t know the rider’s name, they couldn’t recognize what brand of gear he was wearing — even if it was their gear. Riders aren’t sponsored to wear clothes, they are sponsored to be photographed in them.

Star power: We throw the term “motocross star” around as casually as Paris Hilton juggles poodles. Let’s face it, not every guy who signs on the dotted line to race a motorcycle is a star—far from it (regardless of what he thinks). The word “star” can only be applied to riders who have achieved championships, double-digit victories or the undying love of the fans. And of the three, undying love is the most important.

Life span: The vast majority of professional motorcycle racers, including factory riders, are journeymen. They ply their trade for a few years, achieve modest success, and then leave the sport to pursue a way to make a living. Often they make phenomenal money during their five or six year stint — money that many of them spend on cars, watches, shoes and toys. If you know a pro racer, remind him that the average life span today is 78 years, which means that two-thirds of their lives will be spent not racing motorcycles.

THERE ARE INCREDIBLY NICE GUYS IN THE SPORT, AND THERE ARE GUYS WHO, IF THEY WEREN’T RACING, WOULD BE IN PRISON. SPEED ON A MOTORCYCLE IS NO MEASURE OF HUMAN WORTH.

Nice guys: Fans love to imbue their heroes with the best personality traits possible. They assume that their favorite factory rider is funny, pleasant, nice, cool and hip. And, they think that if they got to spend time with him, that they would become quick buds. It’s not true. Professional motocross is no different from the high school you went to. Out of every 100 students in your Senior class, how many were cool? How many did you like? How many would you hang out with? And, how many could you not care less about? Scholastic studies report that the average high-school student has fewer than ten friends from any student body. Professional racers run the spectrum of human types, and life in the AMA pits is an exact replica of life at Bobby Rydell High School. There are incredibly nice guys in the sport, and there are guys who, if they weren’t racing, would be in prison. Speed on a motorcycle is no measure of human worth.

Good for the sport: Don’t you love it when you hear that someone or something is “good for the sport?” Good for the sport is code that actually translates into “good for my pocketbook.” Mazda was good for the sport until they were replaced by Chevy. Chevy lost its goodness when Toyota started signing the checks. Amp’d Mobile was good for the sport, even though it left millions of people hanging with dead phones. Mastercraft was good for the sport, although if their boat had decapitated Ricky Carmichael it would be a different story. Today, Monster is good for the sport—especially if they are sponsoring your series or your race team, but who else in the sport benefits from a can of water with miscellaneous stuff thrown in it.

Sticker wars: The battle over who gets their sticker on the rider’s bike, body and helmet has raged for decades. As a rule of thumb, here is how the territory is divided. The bike belongs to the factory. The rider cannot put any of his personal sponsors on the bike in any shape or form. The front of the jersey is a battleground. Some teams have a template that the clothing manufacturers must follow to the letter (often at the expense of the gear company’s logo), while others are a little more open. As a rule of thumb, factory riders get only a small portion of their jerseys for personal sponsors. The helmet belongs to the rider, although he may be required to run some corporate logos. And everyone is familiar with the water bottle wars. The riders get paid to shove an energy drink bottle in front of the camera whenever possible. The exception to this rule is James Stewart. He refused.

Work ethic: When an AMA pro rider tells the world how hard he works, it is difficultto suppress a giggle. They get paid to do what the rest of us pay to do. First and foremost, only a handful of factory riders have ever held a real job. They think that going riding is work, or that lying on the mats at the gym is work, or that flying to the races is work. That’s not work! Digging sewer lines, pulling wire at an electrical firm, painting houses in the hot sun or working in a factory from 9 to 5 is work. The other misconception that most pro riders have is that the fans in stands can’t tell that they are out of shape. Come on boys, if there is something that local racers can identify with, it is being out of shape. We can spot the telltale head bob from the bleacher seats.

Posse: The people a rider surrounds himself with says more about who he is than almost anything else. The motorcycle industry isn’t above making snap judgments about who they want to do business with. The Catch-22 is that if you are winning, you can get away with almost any excess, but start losing and new rules instantly come into play. Riders who lasted a long time, kept their sponsors through the hard times and remained popular even in a slump are those who have made good life choices.

Significant others: When your wife or girlfriend starts to play a big role in your motocross career, you are automatically downgraded on the masculine scale. Hillary Clinton liked to claim that her time in the White House as the First Lady gave her the experience to be the next President. The natural extension of that logic would have made Ellie Reed a Supercross Champion.

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