MXA’S TWO-STROKE TUESDAY: DOERS VERSUS WATCHERS

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Mike-Larocco-and-Start-1993_0005Out of the gate at Glen Helen when two-strokes were king and the Talladega first turn hadn’t been built yet.

Competitiveness is a healthy part of human biology. The desire to win is one of the few things that can be stronger than the will of self preservation. Many racers are quite happy with bragging rights and a cheap plastic trophy. From small interest the AMA  National were spawned. Promoters realized the entertainment value of the sport and spread it across the country. All it took was organized events involving a bunch of motocross nuts and cutting out a track in an empty field to make the sport take off.

Motocross is built on people riding bikes. The more the merrier. And to a much lesser extent fans watching talented men race their motorcycles. It is always assumed that there will be cross-over between the people who race and the people who watch. The idea is that the more people who become fans, the more they will want to experience the thrill of bombing across rough terrain for themselves. Bike sales pays for bike development, high-paid stars’ salaries and fancy aftermarket mods. No bike sales and the base of the pyramid collapses—for everybody.

Inexpensive and easy to maintain two strokes made it possible for hundreds of thousands of people to become a part of the sport, above and beyond the spectator level. The glory days of motocross racing were fueled by two-strokes. Will there be a new glory days, apart from when Ken Roczen goes to the bank, with the advent of expensive and hard to maintain four-strokes?

Engine ICE

Motorcycles are noisy, but two-strokes are pleasantly noisy. Fans love noise. Pre-mixers also seem to have more variance in pitch. With a four-stroke the sound is loud, but quite consistent. Hearing a full range of noises from the motorcycle is like catnip for race fans. It is very pronounced when a two-stroke is pinned. The full experience must engulf all of the senses. Two-strokes are visual machines, too. The off-color smoke adds to the ambiance. Smoke is one of those visual clues that identifies the machine. The smells, the sounds and the sights tell a story.

The two-stroke identifies itself as a monster and the rider must tame it faster than anyone else. Most of all, two-strokes are more challenging than four-strokes to ride. Their short powerbands and varied response require more rider attention. This leads to the potential for many more mistakes, which certainly makes the races more interesting. With thumpers, the race often gets dull before the first lap is over. The riders still have to fight the track and each other, but fitness is what is put on display. Back in the two-stroke days, racing was more inconsistent. The inconsistencies made it a greater fan experience. The greater the experience, the more fans that will come to the sport.

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