Ping dives in on pro vs. average rider track design, Sexton vs. JMart moving to the 450 class, and how pros would do on privateer equipment.


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I am 64 and have been riding and racing since 1967. I realize and accept that motocross has evolved and passed me by. Mother Nature is also done with me and is trying to kill me to get me out of the gene pool. I ride all of the tracks in SoCal. I prefer the main tracks to the vets and not because I'm a great rider anymore, but because I like the soft dirt and open terrain. Also, the vet tracks generally suck, instantly are beat to hell and very overcrowded. Lately the tracks are not as much fun for me. The design and size of the obstacles has changed. While, depending on the track or the day, I do most all of the obstacles, a lot of them are designed in such a way as to punish you for being safe or taking it easy. Clear and clean it or roll it with no middle option. On the track I notice I am not the only one having this problem. 

My question/bitch is about track designers. Am I correct in thinking that most the guys doing the tracks here are heavy equipment operators, do not actually ride on the tracks, and are not experienced business people? Do they understand that a handful of national pros, many who don't pay to get in, are not the main source of track revenue? Is the difference between setting up a track for 30 or 40 world class riders for National practice on a Wednesday and 300 normal riders on Saturday and Sunday completely lost on them?  Where do they get their ideas for track layouts? I suspect from watching Supercross and the Nationals on the TV. I have noticed that some shitty obstacle like a wall is added to a stadium track to increase the lap times. The next week there's a wall on a straight and the entrance or exit of corners on every track in southern California. While I do the walls, I don't think they are particularly fun. It takes time and money to build them and I haven't spoken to many riders that like them. Why build them?

Why do they think it’s good to put a big lump in the middle of a table top right where the slower guys land? Do they really think that flat, slippery, very off-camber turns are fun? Do they honestly believe unevenly spaced, oddly shaped whoops of varying heights are a good idea? What about corners with a greatly elevated inside line and a flat sweeping outside line, do they really think this is safe? Why are they putting a hump on the take-off and landing ramp of every jump? This forces one rider to roll the jump, another to case the landing hump while yet another clears it, sometimes all at the same time. A good example is big doubles? They are cool if you can clear them. When you have riders rolling, jumping into the middle or clearing them all at the same time doubles are not cool anymore. A table top is a much safer option and more fun for the slower riders. The fast guy goes from ramp to ramp. It doesn't matter if it’s a double, table or a pit full of alligators. Also, newer riders can safely and progressively learn how to do them. It makes the track safer and the flow smoother for everyone. I believe there is a way to make tracks safer and more fun while still being challenging for the pros. I also understand the necessity for pro tracks as well. I ride the main at Glen Helen, but not on pro day in the middle of the week. 

Tracks have a mass market clientele. Modern bikes are much faster and more capable. Track management needs to consider the common denominator, potential liability and where their revenue comes from. Watch the main track on the reservation near San Diego on a Sunday. You will see national pros, fast intermediates, vets, fast kids on 85s, tiny children on 60s, fat guys on dual sports and guys on XR600s with tool bags on the fenders on the main track at the same time. Slower riders are rolling doubles while pros are clearing them. Little munchkins that can't be seen are showing up out of nowhere. I have been at the track on the reservation up above Temecula every Sunday for the last 3 weeks and watched Life flights each time. There have also been fatalities' recently at tracks.

Another thing that tracks really need to consider: If someone is injured on a ride at a theme park there's a big lawsuit and payout. The park has a responsibility to anticipate dangerous situations and eliminate them. Precedent has already been set regarding this. There is an Implied Warranty of safety by simply opening the doors to the park and allowing people to ride. It’s only a matter of time before a court rules that this applies to a motorcycle track as well. The vail of Liability releases and tribal courts will be pierced by federal courts. Nobody likes it when you bring this up but it needs to be discussed and dealt with. I don't want to see tracks shut down. I hope to see our sport grow.

In closing these whippersnappers today don't realize what a luxury having a track is. There was no such thing as practice days or tracks open for riding for the first couple of decades when I started riding. Carlsbad and Saddleback weren't groomed and the only thing they did was flood all of the low areas completely under water. There was no soft deep dirt, only hard pack adobe, slippery clay with skid marks and big square chunks coming up. I genuinely appreciate having all these of these track within driving distance and the effort they put in to them.

One final question. Why in the hell is it so hard to water a track properly? Have you ever watched someone spraying water on sloppy mud while ignoring the dry stuff? Anyway, that's for another rant.




First of all, I love hearing that you’re still out there roosting and enjoying motorcycles at your age. I hope that doesn’t sound condescending; it just gives me hope that maybe I can do the same. I have to agree with you here, though it gets worse at certain times of the year. I’ve noticed that the month or so leading up to the start of the nationals, some tracks cater to the pro teams and the main tracks are almost unrideable unless you are a top-100 pro. The frustrating thing is that there is a track design that is fun for pros and joes alike, with safety as a primary factor. As you mentioned, tabletops are a great obstacle for learning without the consequences. And, if you put two of them in a row, viola!... pros can use them as a double as well, with a safety deck on the landing, no less. Step-ups are safer, as long as the landing has a good transition because you can see where you’re jumping to. Also, can we quit it with the man-made berms in every corner? They are fun once in a while, but let’s leave stadium tracks to the stadium. Rip the dirt up deep in the turns, water it well, and let us build our own lines. The main thing, in my humble opinion, that makes a track good or bad is the dirt prep. You can have a very basic track layout, but if the dirt is good it will be fun to ride. Ruts and berms form in good soil and provide the technical aspect of motocross, regardless of what jumps you have built. I hate to complain too much because, as you mentioned, just having watered tracks to ride every single day of the week is a massive step forward for all of us. Still, anything that keeps injuries down and keep riders on bikes is a good thing, and safer tracks do just that. Let’s tackle the water thing another time… I have opinions about that as well.


Hey Ping,

I don’t want this taken the wrong way by anyone; I’m a big fan of Sexton and certainly realize that he has a ton of potential on the 450... next year and beyond.

My question is this... Why in the world wouldn’t Honda put JMart on the empty 450 outdoor spot this year? JMart has two outdoor titles and finished 2nd at Daytona (the most mx like supercross race on the schedule) two years ago on the big bike. He wasn’t in contention for a sx title and was going to point out anyway, so why not sit him out of Salt Lake altogether and let him test and prepare for the 450 outdoors? Sexton has certainly matured quickly and is great in supercross, but had absolutely nothing for Ferrandis and AC last year outdoors. He won one moto and overheated so badly doing so that he couldn’t finish the second moto. Other than that, he struggled to hang around 4-5 outdoors. Again, I’m not hating on Sexton at all, there’s a ton of potential there and it’s obvious that Honda is grooming their future, but I truly believe JMart could be contending for podiums on the 450 by mid-year (possibly finishing higher than Roczen if his health woes continues). That would also give Sexton this year on 250s to mature a bit more outdoors. I don’t want to hear about physical stature either. I get that Sexton might be better suited for the 450 but as you and GL often point out, there are no stats or facts to back that up. 

Anyway, maybe this only seems an obvious choice to me and no one else, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. Why let an outdoor rider like Martin sit in the 250’s too long while possibly rushing Sexton’s progress?

Confused Couch Commentator



I understand where you’re coming from, but there are a couple reasons why this didn’t happen. First of all, Chase had a clause in his contract that kept him at Honda if he won the title. Since he is now pointed out, Honda could have chosen to build him a 450 program under the Geico tent, but that isn’t really the model they are going after. Chase has delivered two titles, back to back, and he should be rewarded for that. Sexton’s technique is better than any rider I’ve seen in a long time, and I expect him to be a title contender in that class in a year or two… I’m sure Honda is well aware of this. 

Regarding Martin, you have to remember that he was out for over a year with a broken back. Honda has to plan for the future with a pretty large lead time, and I’m sure this had something to do with their decision. Remember, they clipped Ricky Carmichael because he tore his ACL and they thought he was done. Talk about your all-time backfires. Jeremy probably likes the idea of using the 250 MX class to build his confidence back up before making a run in the 450 class. However, this could all be moot if we don’t go racing this summer at all. Let’s hope a series can get put together soon.



How do you think a top 450 class rider like Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen or say RV or RD (in their prime) would have done on a stock 450 in the outdoor series? The caveats being that they can use aftermarket wheels/rims, re-valved stock suspension and aftermarket exhaust (essentially a privateer bike albeit with the backing of a factory team to keep the bikes fresh). Could they still win races? How about titles? Is the gap between a privateer 450 and a factory 450 closer than it was during the 2-stroke era (privateer 250 2-stroke vs a factory 250 2-stroke)? 




The biggest advantage a factory rider has is the means to find comfort. You’ll hear riders talking about this all the time, and for good reason. At the highest level of racing, fractions of a second separate many of the riders on any given day. The difference is how comfortable they are with their setup. The misconception is that once you find a good setting, you’re good to go for the season. The truth is that your bike might feel awesome on one track, and completely off the mark at another. It’s up to the team as a whole to make the necessary adjustments and get the rider comfortable; that can be the difference between a win and a fifth. 

So, to answer your question, I think these guys could still have won races on a production-based bike, though their results would have been less consistent throughout the series. The biggest help would be having the factory team to help them set the bike up. Titles? Man, I’m just not sure. 

Are the privateer bikes closer to the factory bikes now than they were in the two-stroke days? Honestly, I don’t think it’s much different. Factory bikes then and now produce slightly more horsepower, most likely, but the real advantage is in the power delivery and in the handling. I had a Pro Circuit KX250 that I raced some east coast SX rounds on and I compared it to Ryno’s factory KX at the test track. His bike didn’t make more power than mine, but it came on sooner, pulled smoother and carried over longer than mine did. Also, his suspension felt like it erased my mistakes; I could go short or long on a jump and it felt more planted and stable. His bike tracked better in the whoops and his bike turned in a little easier than mine in the turns. When you ride a factory bike today and compare it to a good privateer setup, you could basically cut and paste these comments in. The difference today, primarily, is the cost is much higher to build a competitive bike. 


Do you have burning questions that need answering? E-mail Ping at ping@vitalmx.com. Want more? Click the @PING tag below to quickly find all the previous columns.

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