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James Stewart Discuses Supercross, The Internet and His Future with Mike Martin

James Stewart took the win in Salt Lake City. Photo by Brendan Lutes.

James Stewart took the win in Salt Lake City. Photo by Brendan Lutes of TWMX.

James Stewart is a superstar of the motocross industry. He rides with incredible flow and style and is constantly raising the sport to a new level. In addition, he is the most well known motocross rider, outside of the industry.

After writing an article on Stewart's new website and Twitter account, I recently got a chance to interview the motocross sensation. Below is the interview in both audio and text format. Enjoy!

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Let the Kids Ride! New CPSC Act Essentially Outlaws Youth Motocross

The CPSC has effectively outlawed youth motocross

Effective February 10th, 2009, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has effectively outlawed all power sports equipment for children under the age of 13. Connecticut residents will recall in years past where motocross racing was outlawed for children under the age of 13. This new act, however, is quite different. It outlaws the sale of both new units but also parts for late model vehicles due to their high lead content. From the article on Racer X:

We have already begun to experience the devastating consequences of this new legislation upon our sport, as OEMs have already pulled these machines from their showroom floors. Youth racing is the foundation of our sport. That is when most of you fell in love with motorcycles in the first place, only to grow up to bring your own kids back to the racetracks. Only now, they can't ride.

This recent act has all but shut down the entire small powersports industry in all of America. From racing to riding, children under the age of 13 are facing a future without motocross. This is, obviously, horrible for the entire industry and will affect bike sales throughout the lineup, not just for smaller models.

We All Know Lead is Bad

Lead is a toxic substance, but youth motocross should not be banned!

Photo by NIOSH on Flickr.

Let’s face it, lead is a dangerous substance. Everyone knows it. It has caused thousands of health issues throughout our country, and the changes we have made as a country in the past years are remarkable. There is no doubt that lead needs to be all but eliminated in our world.

On the contrary, this recent move by the CPSC is irrational to say the least. While I do believe that in the long term, lead should be eliminated the truth is that lead, along with many other toxic chemicals, it is, and has been for many years, in motocross bike parts. Has this ever caused health issues for the thousands of youths who enjoy motocross each year? Have you ever heard reports of children becoming sick due to use of their motorcycle? Absolutely not. The lead in motorcycles is not in a position to harm the children, and while I still believed it should be eliminated, it is not of direct harm to young motocross riders.

Slower Transition

So what would be the best way to go about removing lead form children’s (and adult’s) motocross bikes? A slow, gradual transition to lead free components. Rather then outlawing the current models in one broad swoop, the CPSC should have set a series of guidelines set to gradually eliminate lead in all motorcycles within the next 5 to 10 years. This could have included an act for motorcycle manufacturers to have the lead content down to 50% of what it is today by 2010, 25% by 2012, 12% by 2014 and totally eliminated by 2016. This method would have been both safe, economically feasible, and controlled. However, rather than do what is rational, the CPSC decided to essentially eliminate nearly half of the motorcycle/motocross industries market in one act.

Economic Impact of the Ban

There is no doubt that our world, country, and industry are in tough economic times. While the motocross industry may not be a huge economic boom to the small towns visited by motocross races throughout the summer months, it does provide a small economic boost to the small mom and pop stores surrounding the tracks we love. In addition, motocross is an economic dependency for track and shop owners alike.

This recent ban which eliminates the market for children’s motocross will have short and long term effects on the motocross economy. In the short term, track and shop owners profits will be cut nearly in half. With almost half of their demographic eliminated, they will quickly fall into economic turmoil. Motorcycle shops and track are already in a tough situation economically, but without little Johnny running around the shop begging Dad for the latest gear, they will be hit even harder. We all know that small children are a huge market, and this recent ban eliminates that market, and with it, almost instantly limits the potential profits of many motorcycle based businesses.

The long term effects, however, are even more frightening. Without a strong youth rider base, the entire motocross industry will quickly decline. The youth are the heart, the soul, and the backbone of the motocross industry. Who begs their parents to take them to the track every weekend? Who convinces their dad to hop back on a bike after 20 years of not riding? Who stays up late on Saturday nights to watch the live broadcast of Anaheim 1? Under 13 year old motocross fanatics, thats who.

Without this entire group ever being exposed to motocross, amateur races will be in desperate need for riders, and the entire skill level of the sport will drop significantly. For example, Ryan Villopoto went pro at age 16. If he had never raced a dirt bike before

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the age of 13, do you believe he would have been as good as he was at age 16? Absolutely not! Not only will it be harder to get gets interested in motocross at age 13, but it will take more time for their skills develop to the point that they can make a serious contribution to the sport on the pro level.

This ban immediately eliminates the youth motocross market, and leaves the sport in a situation where future talent will be hard to come by, and riders will no longer peak at the age of 16, but at a much later age, if at all.

Motocross is a Family Sport

Motocross is a Family Sport

Photo by Fazen on Flickr.

Anyone who rides, or has ever ridden a dirt bike has certainly noticed one thing, it brings families together. Motocross families are some of the tightest knit clans that I know. We spend every weekend traveling hours, setting up hundreds of pounds of equipment and racing in some of the gnarliest conditions known to man. Our grit and determination helps families to relate to each other and ultimately results in more dynamic family values and relationships.

By this same virtue, motocross racers are some of the best kids I know. Determined, focused, and hard working, motocross teaches kids a host of important life skills that would be impossible to learn anywhere else. Motocross helps keep kids off the streets, and ultimately starts them off the path to a better life. Motocross keeps kids out of trouble, which is extremely important in this current era when drugs, crimes and juvenile deliquesce runs rampant amongst most teens.

This ban by the CPSC, completely eliminates this strong central bonding experience which has helped to bring families together, and has shaped thousands of children’s lives. Ultimately this will result in less kids riding dirt bikes and more kids getting into drugs and crime. I know that motorcycling and thus motocross has a connotation as somewhat of a rebellious sport, but the truth is that it is good for children of all ages and teaches them crucial values. Without it, many kids will be lost in their lives, with nothing to strive and nothing to work for, and as a result will find other uses of their time. Uses that are both detrimental to themselves and their society.

Lets Work Together to Stop This Ban!

Kid on a dirt bike

Photo by Paul Buckley.

Don’t let the government and the CPSC step all over yours and your children’s rights to ride motocross. We need to work together in order to stop this ban and bring back children’s motocross. Here is a list of things you can do in order to help the situation.

  • Spread the Word: Do you have a podcast or blog? Are you active on social networks? Leverage this communities to your advantage. Spread the word of this atrociety and make sure that all of your friends are aware of the ban and are helping in the fight.
  • Submit a Letter: The following letter has been prepared by the MIC to be sent to the CPSC in support of the petition and ultimately in support of the removal of this ban. Download CPSC Letter Here
  • Sign the Petition: visit http://www.tomself.com/, submit your info and sign the petition.
  • Write to your Congressmen and Senators: Let them know the far reaching affects of this law and the many benefits provided to families by the small powers ports industry.

    **Thanks to Commenter Joe Roth, I have been made aware of an automatic system to submit a letter to your congressmen and senators which has been set up by the AMA. Check out the AMA's Rapid Response System right away.**

  • Watch and Spread the Video: Matt Wozney of MXPTV has produced an awesome video regarding the ban. Watch it, spread the link, and embed it on your site. The more people aware of this issue the better.

This ban is, and will continue to be incredible detrimental to our sport, our families and our industry. Hopefully we can work together to get this banned as I fully believe that it is 100% out of line, unconstitutional and will have incredible impact on thousands of young children in the years to come.

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How Team Monster Energy Pro Circuit Can Turn Has-Beens Into Heroes

Pro Circuit Monster Energy Kawasaki

-Photo by ProCircuit.com.

If you’ve been following AMA Motocross and Supercross for any period of time whatsoever, you have surely hear of the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki Lites team. Run by Mitch Payton and the rest of the Pro Circuit crew, the team has had incredibly stellar results since its inception and has dominated AMA Pro Racing for many years.

The question many Supercross and Motocross spectators are left asking is, how do they do it? How can the Pro Circuit team take a traditionally mediocre rider and turn them into a superstar? The number of careers this team has turned around is amazing. Here are the secrets behind their operation and how they manage to churn out champion after champion.

Technologically Advanced Motocross Bikes

Pro Circuit has the nicest bikes in the pro pits. Photo by Paul Buckley.
-Photo by Paul Buckley.

Pro Circuit is by far the largest, most successful and most technologically advanced motor modification shop in the pro pits. They know how to make bikes go fast, and they know how to do some effectively and reliably. A testament to this is the fact that they provide exhaust systems for Factory Connection Honda, Monster Energy Kawasaki, Makita Suzuki. These relationships allow them to produce some of the best exhaust systems and allows them to learn the ins and outs of how to get the most power out of every type of bike. In addition, they build motors for Factory Connection Honda and for their own team which provides them with the knowledge of what it takes to make motors go fast and last in Supercross and Motocross.

More importantly, however, they have been building Kawasaki motors for their own team since 1993. This long term relationship with Kawasaki provides them with incredible knowledge of how Kawasaki motors work and how exactly to make Kawasaki motors go blazing fast. They have been building KX250fs since 2004 meaning they have more experience than anyone in making kawasaki four strokes go fast.

What does this mean for the riders? Essentially it means that every rider on Team Pro Circuit is on the absolute best equipment, and they know it. Granted, all factory equipment is top notch, but Monster Energy Pro Circuit bikes are just above the standard. This gives riders the confidence that they have the best bikes and that everything other riders can do, they can do. If someone on another team hits a certain rhythm section, the riders on Pro Circuit bikes know that they have the ability to do it. This confidence is not empty, either. They are backed by powerful and well handling bikes which allow them to ride at incredible speeds.

The incredible speed of the Pro Circuit bikes sky rockets riders to the front of the pack and allows them to turn slow, awkward and unusual lines and rhythms into surprisingly fast, smooth and ultimately race winning routes.

In House Development and R&D

Pro Circuit is Undeniably #1 in the AMA Lites Class. Photo by Guy B
-Photo by Guy B.

Because Pro Circuit is a full fledged modification shop, they have the technology, machinery, and knowledge to produce a full fleet of aftermarket parts for their race team. This always them to produce almost every on their race bikes, in-house. While this may seem like a close-minded approach to running a race team, in fact it is one of the most beneficial factors to the Pro Circuit team.

This approach to race team parts allows Team Pro Circuit to ensure absolute perfectionism on their race bikes. In doing everything themselves, it gives the Pro Circuit team the ability to make sure every part, nut, and bolt is absolutely perfect, and allows them to completely eliminate mistakes in the race bike building process. by eliminating middle-men in the products and services used in their race bikes, they can lower costs and maximize performance. It allows them to reduce the number of mechanical failures due to mistakes by people of other companies.

This in house development also allows them to be more experimental in their modifications as they do not have to wait for a 3rd party to do their porting or to machine pieces for them. If they want a certain part, they can have it made and ready to be used in hours.

However, this approach does occasionally backfire. Like at Southwick in 2004 when almost all of the Pro Circuit Kawasaki 250f motors failed due to a decision made by Mitch Payton to use an experimental metal in their pistons. While this decision clearly hurt those riders on that day, overall this risk reward ratio has clearly benefitted the team as a whole in the past 15 years.

History of Excellence

Ricky Carmichael began his career on a Pro Circuit bike. Photo by Paul Buckley.
-Photo by Paul Buckley.

Team Pro Circuit is notoriously fast, relentless and aggressive. Just the sight of their rig in the pits inspires fear into the hearts of their competitors. This reputation is not in vain, either. It is the direct result of years of successful riders and over 22 AMA Championships. The team almost always fields successful riders and not being a top contender on a Pro Circuit bike is extremely rare.

This reputation helps their riders in two ways. Fi

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rst of all, it gives them incredible confidence. Any rider lining up with a PC bike between their legs knows that they are on the best team in the AMA pits and that everyone else on the line knows this. Riding a Pro Circuit bike gives riders of any ability a sense of belonging and a sense of entitlement to the podium. When you ride a Pro Circuit bike, you ride fast, and you get results. No exceptions.

In addition, the history of the Pro Circuit team helps the riders by making them appear faster, and possibly even more talented to their competitors. From a riders point of view, trying to hold off a rider on a Pro Circuit bike, is an extremely daunting task. Just knowing that the rider behind you impressed the infamous Mitch Payton enough to earn a spot on the Pro Circuit team tells you as a rider that they have serious skills on a motocross bike, and are on the equipment to put them to good use. As a rider, it is extremely difficult to muster up the confidence to hold off a Pro Circuit rider

Expect Excellence and Excellence Will Follow

Pro Circuit expects their riders to be excellent. Paul Buckley Photo.
-Photo by Paul Buckley.

Due to the history of the Pro Circuit team, the riders are simply expected to do good. There is absolutely no exceptions to this rule. Mitch Payton expects his riders to be the best, and he gets what he wants. This aspect of the Pro Circuit team benefits riders by motivating them to train day in and day out, with no exception.

When you are expected to do well, it is extremely easy to get motivated to work hard and try your best. Similarly, when your expectations are low, your results will probably be low as well. This is one of the reasons Pro Circuit riders do so well. They are motivated by their teams, and the public’s expectations of them. They have no other excuses to do bad, other than their own actions. If they don't perform, every knows it is 100% because they failed to prepare. They cannot blame the bike, the team, or the atmosphere. Team Pro Circuit has perfected 75% of their riders programs. The last 25% is up to them, and because they are held to such high standards, they are motivated to live up to the expectations.

Surrounding the Riders With Good People

Team Pro Circuit surrounds their riders with good people. Guy B Photo.
-Photo by Guy B.

We have seen recently in the latest Jason Lawrence debacle that surrounding yourself with good people and making good choices can have a huge effect on your racing. Surrounding yourself with good people who act as a good influence on your racing is crucial to your training and racing. A good support base not only helps motivate you, but also help to bring you up when your feeling down. Let's face it, no when is 100% every time they ride. We all have bad days, and having a strong support can help bring you up from these slumps. It's hard to stay motivated after a few bad races, but a helpful group of supporters can make this much easier.

Pro Circuit, makes this even more possible by their riders. All the riders on the team are good people, the mechanics educated, focused, and skilled, and the rest of the crew is trained and know exactly what their job is and how to do it in the best way possible. This strong support group helps the Pro Circuit riders to make good choices, and provides them with the support they need when they are down and out. This support lifts the Pro Circuit riders up after every moto and helps motivate them to come back swinging each week to support their strong supportive group.

Mitch Payton is a Recruiting Genius

Mitch Payton knows a talented rider when he sees one. Photo by Guy B.
-Photo by Guy B.

Granted, the Pro Circuit team is an amazing environment for professional riders. However, the truth is that not every one could be turned into a hero simply by riding for the Pro Circuit team. Mitch Payton knows a good rider when he sees one, and he doesn't necessarily base his choices solely off speed. He knows when he sees potential to be a leader and a winner. These smart recruiting tactics allow the Pro Circuit team to take a group of mediocre riders and use their advantages to propel the riders to the front of the Lites class. Without these tactics, the entire Pro Circuit infrastructure would be wasted on riders with no potential. Thankfully, Mitch Payton's incredibly keen eye for talented riders stops this from happening.

Could this System Work for Everyone?

No. While the entire Pro Circuit ecosystem is incredible at turning mediocre professionals into leaders on the Lites class, there is no way this same system could work for amateur riders. The whole idea of excellent equipment, menacing reputation, and a strong support group is entirely wasted if the riders talent isn't there. Talent, speed, and skill is still the number one contributing factor in the success of professional motocross racers, and a rider lacking these qualities will not last long in the pro ranks.

Mitch Payton has built an incredible team with his Pro Circuit racing squad. They have shockingly fast bikes, are preceded by an intimidating reputation and follow through with Earth-shattering results. The Pro Circuit team is by far the most successful AMA Lites team in recent history, and with the strong base that has been built up in the past 18 years, they will continue to dominate the AMA Lites class for many more years to come.

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