By John Basher
Maybe you want to know how fast I am. Maybe you don’t.
Either way, I might as well tell you. I’m not very fast, nor am
I dreadfully slow. I like to think that I’ve worked hard enough
to win races, but not hard enough to win any races you’ve
ever heard of. The mantle in my house is mostly empty, aside
from a few trophies I’ve kept because they conjure up great
memories of long-ago battles. The five-cent trophies also help
stroke my confidence, which has always been fragile when the
helmet goes on. That’s because fighting for my rightful place
in the pack hasn’t come easy. I have never been the type that
wins both motos going away, rather the happenstance victor
after going 4-2. A win is a win, but it’s always better to style
out front than luck into it.
“FOR MANY YEARS I WAS
CLOUDED BY AN IDEA THAT
IN ORDER TO WORK AT MXA,
MY SKILLS NEEDED TO BE WAY
I got a late start in racing. I was 13 years old the first
time I lined up to a gate. My competition had a decade of
experience on me. That only mattered in the results. Finishing
anywhere better than last place was a win in those early
days as a neophyte racer. Slowly I improved, evidenced by my
ascent up the standings. Things began to click. My technique
changed, as did my fitness. Tracks seemed to shrink in size
as my lap times dropped. Brimming with confidence,
I convinced myself that I belonged at the front of the pack.
Success can become addictive. Case
in point, I realized my potential after sum-
miting my very own motocross mountain.
I wanted to go higher, and so I searched
for taller peaks. Faster classes, stiffer
competition, different tracks and longer motos stood in front of me like the
craggy snow-capped peaks of the Andes.
However, several unplanned avalanches
slowed my advance to the top. I forged
ahead, but my life was quickly changing.
I settled down and had kids. Those aren’t
excuses, rather they’re amazing reasons
why my mentality shifted up while my left
foot shifted down.
I still love to ride and race. Heck, it’s
what I get paid to do. Still, working for
MXA, which focuses so heavily on testing
motorcycles and products, can be overwhelming. For many years I was clouded
by an idea that in order to work at MXA,
my skills needed to be way above average.
As a representative of the longest-running
motocross magazine on the newsstand,
I felt like I was weighed and measured
based on how far I could twist the throttle.
Then I wised up. It turned out that people
didn’t care how fast I could go. They had
zero interest in whether I won the previous weekend’s race. Instead, they wanted
insight on a certain bike they were thinking about buying and what aftermarket
products I recommended for their steed.
Information was more valuable than my
skill level. As a result, I have tried to retain
everything that I have learned through 11 years of schooling
by Professor Jody at the college of MXA.
The realization that speed on a bike was even less important
hit me the moment I opened my eyes to the fact that going
blazing fast on a bike is a talent that few riders possess. So
often the focus is on the one-percenters—the Ryan Dungeys
and Adam Cianciarulos of the world—because they can do one
thing extraordinarily well. The rest of us struggle just to clear
all the jumps and navigate turns without tucking the front end
or roasting the clutch. Motocross is a sport enjoyed by many
but perfected by few. That’s one of its many charms.
I will never be a one-percenter, and I’m okay with that. In
my line of work, ordinary is extraordinary. I relate to the
common rider. My suspension preferences are ballpark for
most folks. If a bike’s powerband is too difficult to keep on
the pipe, then I know that it will be unforgiving for the vast
majority of riders. Falling smack dab in a broad segment of
the riding community is very rewarding, because I have a lot
to offer. I fry clutches, click through suspension settings and
break stuff so you don’t have to. Or, if you do, at least you’ll
know it’s coming.
There are times I wish that I could go faster around the
track. It would be nice to soar over Supercross triples and
drag the handlebars through the dirt without falling. However,
I take satisfaction in knowing that I am Sir Edmund Hillary of
my very own modest mountain. Mount Everest is for the
fearless and daring—a place where I don’t belong.
Still, sometimes I do get the itch to show off, so I’ll order a
few sets of gear with my name on the jerseys. I pass off the
gear to my pals, Daryl Ecklund and Dennis Stapleton, and tell
them to go rip around the track. Daryl and Dennis are among
the one-percenters. There’s nothing quite like watching myself
whip a bike upside down and blow out berms while standing
on the side of the track well out of harm’s way. I’m a pretty
good rider, after all!