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Posts Tagged ‘My Thoughts’

James Stewart Revolutionized the Sport of Motocross

James Stewart - Photo by Steve Cox

James Stewart revolutionized motocross in ways he never imagined – Photo by Steve Cox

You may not have noticed it, but our sport is changing. In the past few years motocross has gone through incredibly significant changes. Yes, the four stroke has become the dominant motocross technology and yes Leatt Braces are now prevalent in almost any motocross event across the country. However, what I'm talking about it something different.

Ever since James Stewart turned pro, his riding style has pushed the limits of what is possible on a motocross bike. It was shocking watching him hit bigger jumps than anyone else (on a KX125, no less) and scrub speed on every double, triple and table top. James Stewart's riding style was truly evolutionary.

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Freestyle Motocross Star Jeremy Lusk Dies, Is This a Sign That FMX Has Come Too Far?

The Metal Mulisha Crew. Lusk on right. Photo from Jeff Kargola.

The Metal Mulisha Crew. Jeremy Lusk on right. Photo by Jeff Kargola.

Tragically, on February 10th, 2009, freestyle motocross star Jeremy Lusk passed away due to head injuries after a failed heart-attack backflip attempt. Lusk was a star in the FMX world and a member of the renowned Metal Mulisha team. The entire motocross industry was automatically sent into a sense of shock and mourning after hearing the news. As a community, we all pulled together to remember the great rider that was Jeremy Lusk.

Looking past his death, however, I believe that this incredibly tragic event is a sign to the entire freestyle motocross industry that perhaps the evolution of the stunts performed by FMX stars has gone too far. The FMX industry has been pushing the envelope for too long, and maybe it is time for something to change.

I don’t want to make the impression that the current crop of FMX tricks don’t require incredible skills, however, it has definitely gotten to the point that a rider with the guts to huck out the latest tricks will beat out a rider with serious motocross skills.

What Caused This Transition?

The Backflip is responsible for the denaturing of FMX GuyB Photo.

The backflip is responsible for the downfall of Freestyle Motocross. Photo by GuyB.

I believe that the backflip and subsequently the variations of the backflip are 100% responsible for the mutation of FMX from a display of skill to a display of guts. The backflip has become a necessary trick in any freestyle routine. Throwing multiple backflips and backflip variations is almost a guarantee for a good score, but if you don’t do one, despite how much skill you display in the rest of your run, your chances of a top 5 or even top 10 score are slim to none.

The backflip began as a demonstration of how skilled freestyle motocross riders have become, but it has readily transformed the sport. Now the backflip has turned into an avenue for aspiring FMX stars to be skyrocketed into fame without developing the necessary skills.

Why is This Bad for the Sport?

Scott Murray did not have the skills of the real freestyle motocross stars when he attempted the double backflip. Photo by GuyB.

Obviously, this transition has been horrible for the sport of Freestyle Motocross. As the number of riders who can do a backflip has increased, more and more of the top FMX riders have become riders who are not necessarily more skilled than their competitors, but simply have more guts to, quite literally, risk their lives.

Examples of this can be seen in a very real way in the evolution of both the backflip and double backflip in freestyle motocross competitions. Arguably, the first person to ride away from a backflip in competition was Caleb Wyatt. Even as a fan of motocross in general and of FMX, I had never heard of Caleb Wyatt until he landed the first backflip. He was an absolute no one. He had not honed his skills to the level of Travis Pastrana, Mike Metzger, Brian Deegan, or any of the other old guards of FMX. He just happened to have the guys to put his life in danger time and time again in order to land the backflip.

Almost exactly the same scenario occured with the Double Backflip. While Travis Pastrana is credited


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with landing the first backflip in competion, before him came “stunt man” (I do not believe he deserves the title of freestyle motocross ride) Scott Murray who attempted it multiple times, and in the process made himself and the sport of FMX look like a total joke. Skill wise he was clearly on a lower level than every other of the competitors he was riding with, yet he continuously threw himself into double backflips, constantly crashing and making FMX look more like an exhibition than a sport.

Almost all of the “old guards” of FMX will tell you that the backflip is not a necessarily hard trick. It just takes guts. As a result, many riders have begun to rise in the sport of FMX without having the right skills to put a flowing, consistent and stylish run together. This has ultimately dumbed down the sport and devalued the work all of the past stars did to make it a legitimate motocross sport.

It is a terrible tragedy, but I believe that it has taken the death of a comrade, Jeremy Lusk, into shocking the FMX world back into reality. This tragedy will, I hope, help bring FMX back to the grassroots and back to the times where skill, not bravery dominated.

What Can Bring the Sport Back?

Travis Pastrana is an example of a skilled FMX rider. GuyB Photo.

Travis Pastrana is an example of a skilled FMX rider. Photo by GuyB.

While I do not believe that the Backflip should be banned from freestyle motocross motocross alltogether, I do believe that some serious changes must be made. While the backflip is an amazing trick and one that I believe will continue to influence the sport, I firmly believe that the influence of the backflip on the sport needs to be reduced. I am unsure of how exactly this can be accomplished, but there are a number of viable options.

Maybe the number of backflips allowed in one run should be reduced, or maybe their point value needs to be considerably reduced so that a winning run can be put together with the prescense of only one or two backflips. I believe that it needs to be possible for riders to win by displaying that they have extreme freestyle motocross skills without actually doing a backflip. Sure, it was a great way to bring the sport to the next level. But in my opinion, its value has been considerably reduced and now it much be treated like any other trick, and must not be the deciding factor in a riders run.

A more viable option, in my opinion, is to change to layout of the freestyle courses. Return the courses to primarily, or all natural terrain hits to promote the evolution of new tricks, and limit the use of the backflip. With natural hits, the riders skill becomes more important than the ability to throw useless tricks such as the backflip and the riders who truly are the best rise to the back through difficult maneuvers perfected through years of time perfecting their skills.

Various competitions have already been formed with this format, and the response has been incredible. They have allowed skilled riders to rise over lucky or brave ones and has promoted the reemergence of basic, yet skillfully complicated tricks which ruled the FMX world prior to the evolution of the backflip.

What Will I Do Until This Happens?

As a display of my disgust at the current state of the Freestyle Motocross World, I will refuse to follow the freestyle motocross community until something changes. I am sick of riders putting their lives in danger performing stunts which are not even good indicators of their skill. I want to see FMX return to the times when skill rules and talented riders rise to the top of the field.

What are your opinions regarding the current state of Freestyle Motocross? How has the death of FMX star Jeremy Lusk affected your view of the sport? Let me know in the comments!


Why We Will See a New Jason Lawrence in 2009

The new year means a lot of things. Everyone is one year older, motocross bikes one year more advanced, and tracks one year more technical. In addition, for riders it is a chance to start over. A chance to forget what happened last year and start on a new season with fresh points and a new bike. One rider who needed this almost more than anyone heading into 2009 was Jason Lawrence.

In years past, Jason has always been fast. Blistering fast at times. However, his attitude and immaturity have cost him many race and championship wins.

Granted, he was the defending champion leading into the 2009 Supercross series, but it is undeniable that he would have achieved much greater success in past years had it not been for his attitude.

However, that is all about to change in 2009. I predict that for the remainder of this season, and seasons in the future, the motocross world will see a much more focused, harder working, and faster Jason Lawrence.

Now or Never

Jason Lawrence needed a fresh start in 2009. Photo by GuyB.
-Photo by GuyB.

Jason's career is hinging on the 2009 Season. This year is his chance to show the motocross community and the world as a whole that he is no joke.

He needs to prove that he is serious about motocross as a career and is ready to put his head down and ride hard, ride fast, and get results.

If he fails to prove this, his career could be in for a tough future. Sure, he will continue to ride, and will probably get some good results, but for the most part, I believe that if he doesn't impress this year, he will be looked over by the major teams in future years as a trouble-maker and a has been.

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Breaking Into the Mainstream {Part 3: Is Supercross the Right Move for the Sport?}

Note: Before reading this post, be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.

Breaking Into the Mainstream {Part 3: Is Supercross the Right Move for the Sport?}

In the previous post in this series, I outlined the reasons why Supercross would allow our sport the growth it needs in order to go mainstream. In this post, I will talk about whether or not Supercross is right for our sport.

Supercross is the fancier, more dramatic, and “fluffier” version of Motocross. It wasn't invented until years after motocross, and the truth is that it has become more of a show in recent years. The format is better suited to television, and it makes the industry much more money than Motocross does.

Motocross is beloved by hard core fans. Paul Buckley Photo.
-Photo by Paul Buckley.

However, regardless of money, Motocross is the sport for the hard core fans. Professional Motocross events happen on the same tracks as amateur ones, and the events resemble the same one that hardcore fans participate in week in and week out. This allows amateur riders to personally connect with Motocross riders and events which is why Motocross races are a favorite among hard core fans of the sport.

Supercross Abandons the Fans

Outdoor Motocross draws large crowds of dedicated fans. Paul Buckley Photo.
-Photo by Paul Buckley.

Supercross abandons the fans. I'm sure some of you right now are wondering what I am talking about. I listed several reasons in Part 2 why Supercross was better for the fans. The difference, however, is that Supercross is not friendly for the hard core fans who actually ride motocross. Supercross is a great way to bring new fans to the sport, but Motocross keeps them interested in the long term.

What keeps fans interested in outdoor Motocross in the long term? As I previously mentioned, it is the connection with which the fans can make to their favorite pros which keeps them loving the outdoor Motocross Nationals. Just like any good piece of literature, Motocross fans can identify with the struggles, triumphs, tragedies and emotions felt by pros while riding on an outdoor motocross track. This deep personal connection leaves them craving more races and is what leads them to battle the elements year in and year out to watch outdoor Motocross races.

Supercross simply cannot match this connection to the fans. Sure, there are some local Supercross tracks, and amateur Arenacross events allow riders to ride almost the same tracks which are used in Supercross. But, the truth is that most riders will never ride a professional caliber Supercross track, and if they do, they will not be able to carry any type of speed and rhythm. By nature, fans simply cannot connect with Supercross as well as they do with Motocross.

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The Truth Behind the James Stewart / Fox Racing / Answer Racing Debacle

James Stewart will now be riding for Answer Racing.

An iconic relationship in the motocross world ended recently. James Stewart is no longer a Fox Sponsored rider, and will be wearing Answer gear, Aplinestars Boots, and Bell Helmets for the near future.

The recent end to their relationship took the motocross industry by surprise, as they had been together since Stewart's PW50 days. The break up is even more surpising considering the fact that the match was almost perfect. Both were fresh, edgy, hip and cool. Fox made flashy gear to match James' flashy riding style. Fox had been a long-term sponsor of the previous king of motocross, Ricky Carmichael, so it was only logical for them to sponsor the next big thing.

Despite the perfectness in their prior relationship, it is over. Stewart has moved on from his Fox Racing days and is ready to approach the 2009 season in his new kit. But what is the true story behind the end to this classic pair?

Pete Fox Talks Out

James Stewart was a Fox Racing sponsored rider for much of his career. Paul Buckley Photo.
-Photo by Paul Buckley.

President and CEO of Fox Racing, Pete Fox recently talked with MXA regarding Stewart, and revealed a number of interesting facts.

It turns out that the truth behind Stewart's leaving was his desire for a Supercross only contract. Fox is dedicated to the sport as a whole, and clearly does not approve of the Supercross only craze. Stewart, along with his move to the San Manuel Yamaha team, decided to make a monumental decision in not riding the Motocross series. Whether this decision was fueled by laziness, money, or just personal desire, I believe that it is the wrong decision. Clearly, Fox Racing agrees with me on this issue, and feels strongly enough to let James Stewart and possible hundreds of thousands of dollars slip from their grasp.

Since our beginning, Fox has been totally committed to motocross and Supercross. We feel strongly that our sport and Industry need both series to be healthy, and Fox will always support both series. That is where Fox's priorities and path recently separated from James. We wish James luck with his Supercross career. Fox remains committed to the entire sport of both Supercross and motocross.

-Pete Fox

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