By Jody Weisel

Motocross is one strange sport. You would think that something as simple as “Go fast; don’t be last,” would be pretty easy to master, but the easiest part of the sport to understand is the part that involves motorcycles. The rest is a mystery.

Take V-neck jerseys as an example. What clothing designer thinks that we want roost fast-tracked directly down to our BDVs. Has he ever raced? If he had ever taken a 12-gauge shotgun blast of dirt, pebbles and discarded tear-offs down the front of his jersey, he’d know why that is a stupid jersey design.

I’m not finicky about fashion, but I’m picky about performance. One day at Glen Helen, Jeff Surwall gave me a pair of next year’s prototype No Fear gloves. He watched in horror as I took a pair of scissors and cut the Velcro straps off his brand-new gloves. “What are you doing?” He asked.

I replied, “What do I need locks on my gloves for? Where are they gonna go?”

I’m mystified by helmet visors. In the 1970s, motocross racers wore duckbill visors to keep the sun out of their eyes and to block roost from hitting their goggles. So, let me see if I have this right: modern visors are not long enough to block the sun and are mounted too high to protect your goggles from roost. What’s the point? Today’s visor is like the hood ornament on a car—shiny and bright but useless.

I used to wear a kidney belt. I wouldn’t ride without one and believed in the science that it strengthened my core, supported the muscles in my lower back and added a layer of protection should I become berm-adjacent. None of that has changed, but today no one wears a kidney belt. As for me, I don’t wear a kidney belt now because that is a battle that my gut won and my kidneys lost.

Every now and then, Lovely Louella goes for a PDA (Public Display of Affection) as we stroll through the pits. She reaches over and lovingly holds my hand. Then she recoils in horror when my lobster claw of a thumb scratches her dainty pinky with a callous the size of Texas. That piece of beef jerky between my thumb and forefinger is the Red Badge of Courage for motocross racers. I like to tell her, in a manly way, that it comes from turning the throttle wide open. She corrects me by saying that, “Basic math would prove that half of that callous comes from shutting the throttle off.”

When I tore the medial collateral ligament in my right knee, it was a good thing, because it balanced out the limp in my left knee. When I first hurt my knee, I asked famous trainer Jeff Spencer whether I should wear knee braces. He said, “You should wear knee braces if the pain in your knees is greater than the pain of wearing knee braces.” I quickly learned what he meant. To this day, I have never complained about the intense pain in my knees. Instead, I complain about the pain my carbon fiber knee braces cause. At days end, when I take my knee braces off, there is an indentation in my shin where the carbon fiber went, there are abrasions behind my knees where the straps rubbed, and my medial collateral ligaments hurt from having the hinges pressed against them. If I had to choose between wearing knee braces or being water-boarded by the CIA, I’d be gurgling right now.

My friends make fun of my all-leather Alpinestars Super Victory boots. I don’t care that they’re not stylish. I only care that they weigh 3 pounds less than the latest hinged, molded, plastic wonder boot. How much sense would it make to suspend 5-pound boots from fragile knees that don’t like the weight of flip-flops at the beach.

Lots of weekends after I come home from a race, Lovely Louella will ask, “Why are you limping? Did you hurt your knee again?”

“No.” I reply. “My toes hurt.”

“How is that possible?” asks Louella. “Nothing could get to your toes when you are wearing those thick leather boots. Explain that to me.”

“When my bike is doing 40 mph, my boots, socks and toes are also doing 40 mph, but when my foot hits a rock hidden in a berm, my boot stops dead in its tracks, but the bike and my toes are still going 40 mph.” The collision of my toes against the front of my boot is like one of those National Insurance Institute crash tests.

There is no mystery about what enticed me into becoming a motorcycle racer. As a kid, I loved the look of motocross gear. There was a romantic allure to the black leather pants, seven-strap boots, Jofa mouthguard, duckbill visor, open-face helmet, pig-skin gloves and Carrera goggles. Perhaps, today’s kaleidoscope of colors and harlequin patterns appeals to young kids in the same way, but that makes me worry about the future.



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