Casting one’s eyes upon championship-winning motocross bikes—the actual bikes that crossed finish lines to win number-one plates—can be, if one is open to it, a mesmerizing crash course in moto history. Nowhere is this dynamic more evident than in the lobby of the big white building visible from the 91 freeway in Corona, California. Motocross Action swung by Pro Circuit to catch up with Pro Circuit overlord and mastermind Mitch Payton. We let Mitch hand picked six of the bikes in his museum. Here is bike number four.

By Eric Johnson/Photos: Ryne Swanberg


THE 2001 MXDN: “We were planning on going to the 2001 Motocross des Nations and everybody was excited. It was going to be in Belgium, and that would have been cool. We had Ricky Carmichael, Kevin Windham and Mike Brown. For me, it was going to be like hanging out with all of your buddies, and it would be real easy to go there and work really closely together. I was at home when one of our mechanics called and said, ‘Turn your TV on.’ I thought I was watching an advertisement for ‘Die Hard 3’ or some movie. It was September 11, 2001. Mike’s bike was in the crate and was getting picked up that day. The airlines were shut down and nobody was flying anywhere.

“I called Roger DeCoster and asked, ‘Are we shipping or not? What are we doing?’ Roger said, ‘I don’t know. I’m trying to get a hold of Kevin and Ricky.’ Finally, he got a hold of them and they didn’t want to go, but Mike really wanted to go. He said, ‘Hey, I want to go. Let’s get some other riders and go.’”

MOM AND DAD: “Later that night my mom called me and asked what we were going to do. My mom said, ‘Just so you know, your dad couldn’t care less if you go or not. We think you need to stay home.’ My dad is a former Marine, but both he and my mother were really concerned about us being highly visible Americans in a less than stable world. They said to me, ‘You might get over there and you might get stuck there if there is another terrorist attack.’”

PULLING THE PLUG: “We pulled the plug on it. Somewhere I have a photo of that night when we were all at the shop. It was Chad Watts, who built Ricky’s bike; Alley Semar, who built Kevin’s bike; and Steve Henderson, who built Mike’s bike. We had a couple of beers and everything seemed kind of funny. Pretty soon we took this photo of all of us together flipping off Bin Laden. So this was the bike we had built for the 2001 Motocross des Nations. The bike was in the crate and we should have left it there for posterity. It was a terrible day for everybody, and it just showed you what crazy people can do.”


To read Part One on Jeremy McGrath’s 1992 Team Peak Honda, click here.

To read Part Two on Mickael Pichon’s 1995 SplitFire KX125, click here.

To read Part Three on Ricky Carmichael’s 1997 SplitFire KX125, click here.

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