Ping talks about dragon's backs and why they suck, SX and MX on national TV, and why stock bikes are the way they are.


@PING is brought to you by Troy Lee Designs, Eks Brand, and VP Racing Fuels.

Hi Ping, 

A big +1 on the track design discussion ... being 60 and a vet rider of the tracks here in Colorado ... I love the groomed/watered bits but ... hey, the needless doubles/triples are a real head scratcher. 

The new question.  I know of no other commercial leagues or sports that see such a high rate of athlete attrition (due to injury) coupled with an extreme severity of injury as supercross, and yet do nothing about it. Forkner just lost his spleen for pete's sake! Cooper Webb and Adam C. taken out by the same horribly conceived dragon's back, both of whom could have been killed or 'career over'ed' ... this (in part) by stupid track design. So, here's the question:

What did Trey Canard really try to do, and why did his efforts to improve safety fail? How can we better protect the stars and heroes of our sport?





Dragon’s back obstacles have always been overtly dangerous. Wish I could have been in the design room when they pitched that concept: “Let’s build a set of escalating whoops that stop once they get riders up about seven feet in the air. They’ll be hauling ass to stay on top of them, so let’s really exploit that. Let’s make a double jump out of it by putting a landing just past the peak. That way, if any rider gets just slightly out-of-rhythm, they’ll be sure to slam into the landing with their face. This should fill the highlight reels for a while.”

I’m sure it wasn’t that malicious, but the concept itself is wildly unsafe. Trey was trying to create an organization that worked between riders, promoters and track builders/owners to create a safer racing course and atmosphere. We covered it extensively in his Whiskey Throttle Show episode, if you missed it. The concept was great, and he is the perfect guy for the job. However, the caveat was funding… who’s going to pay for that? The riders? Nope. The promoters? Nope. It was a fantastic idea that died because it would have cost too much money. Plane flights a lone for a full season are approximately $12,000, plus hotels, plus rental cars, plus food, plus a decent salary for doing the job. If somebody has an extra $100K to fund it, please step forward because it would be great for the sport and the riders. Until then, expect more dragon backs, high speed rhythm sections, and whoops after triple jumps… and more injuries. 


Hi Ping,

I really enjoy your contributions to the moto world and appreciate your insight. This is the second time asking you to dig deep into the well of moto wisdom that doubles as your hat rack.  At what point do FELD, MX Sports Pro Racing, AMA, and the rest of the moto ruler types pull their heads out and hit the reset button on their tv package? In a time when nothing is on TV and no sports are playing, SX got one Sunday (really an hour) of TV coverage and then buried into the app or NBC SN again. Bikes are selling but no one is watching. 

They’ve been trying to get a full-fledged tv package together as if they were a mainstream sport but we just aren’t. I’ve tried to like the NBC Gold format but I just think it’s awful. It’s hard to access and doesn’t draw the eyeballs nor does it have the reach that I see in different pay-to-watch formats. I have a hard time believing that it’s better than a straight pay per view package. Moto Fite  Klub put together a decent result with almost no planning, very little time, and  rushed marketing plan. With some thought and a real marketing effort, I know the moto governors could pull a good result.  MMA and Boxing seem to get way closer to mainstream coverage with their pay per view packages than moto ever does. I’ve been invited to watch tons of MMA and Boxing matches, but I can count on one hand the times that me or buddies ever had a moto watch party. Plus, any of us idiots with cable (or dish or any tv service) have ready access to scroll through and watch a fight or revisit a past event with our regular tv remote that we use every day. No need to visit a separate Gold App. Do you have any insight on why the moto rulers think that an obscure hybrid TV package with NBC Gold is better for the sport than just rolling solo and getting a straight pay per view package? Set me straight or help me start the campaign!

Keep it on 2 wheels!

Kam – SLC



For the longest time, supercross and motocross were not profitable in the television space. People thought the promoters were raking in cash by having the series on television, but they were actually paying for it to be aired. Often times they would have to buy the time slot and then go sell advertising to make their money back, hoping ultimately that the sport would grow and they would see dividends down the road. That situation has improved and I think they are making a small profit with the TV package now. You also have to consider the challenges that each series is facing, because they are quite different. 

Supercross has to compete with football at the beginning of their season, College sports, and then pro basketball once the Super Bowl is over. Those games take up the best time slots and networks because they are the most popular sports. Supercross can be condensed into a tight TV package that is easy to sell and relatively inexpensive to produce. 

The nationals are fighting NBA finals, baseball and NASCAR for time slots, but their bigger issue is the length of the shows. Do you think any network is going to sign up for the four-hour block that it would take to run all four motos? And how about producing it? Where supercross is all visible from one location and much of the internal wiring is built into the building, motocross requires cables to be run all over the tracks, and the logistics to produce it are much more difficult. So, those are the challenges and the reason we don’t see racing on Fox, NBC, or ESPN live in prime time. To your point, maybe a Pay-Per-View concept would be better for the fans we have. In concept, it seems like it would be easier and they could likely turn a profit that way. This model does nothing to introduce new fans to the sport. Does that matter? Do we really generate new fans from TV? I don’t know. I get annoyed that racing announcers in our sport seem to cater to the handful of people who may be watching for the very first time; you don’t hear that in any other elite level sport. I understand this is coming from the producers, not the commentators, but I find it annoying. 

I don’t have the solution, but I can assure you that Feld and MX Sports are doing their very best to advance the sport. If you’re skeptical that they are doing it for the love of the game, at least know they would do it because it improves their bottom line as well. 



Question about how bikes come from the factory: I get the fact that manufacturers try to make a good and reliable bike for the most people. However, I read reviews on something like exhaust saying “power is stronger everywhere,” or “better in every way.” I know there are emissions reasons, but why don’t the factories just equip the bike with these specs? They don’t need to be carbon/titanium, just have similar performance benefits. The factories must have more resources and R&D time, over companies like, FMF, PC, or Yoshi. Same for ECU’s… are the aftermarket ECU’s or companies flashing a stock ECU, making your bike that much less reliable? Even the bikes that can be fine-tuned by the user can be made better. I know there are cost, emissions, and reliability aspects to producing a good bike. It just seems like some things won’t increase cost or reliability too much, and the factories are rushing to release bikes. 





It’s a fair question, and I’m sure there are some parts that could be better from the manufacturer. There is a huge component to the answer that revolves around reliability. The Japanese brands in particular, because they are such large companies, have a huge interest in making sure the bike won’t fail and injure somebody. All of them are inundated with lawsuits as it is, so they have to cover their asses to make sure they aren’t found liable. 

There is also a chasm between pre-production testing and a bike that rolls off the assembly line. This is one of the great mysteries of development to me, because there isn’t a good answer for it. Many test riders I know personally have told me that they’ve had multiple experiences where they got a pre-pro bike working perfectly. They’ve gone so far as to say that they thought this bike would blow people’s minds when it hit showroom floors. And then, for whatever reason, the production bike wasn’t nearly as good. Was it a budget issue? Did something get lost in translation between US testers and the Japanese engineers? Manufacturing defect? It’s a mystery, but it happens all too often. 

I also think you’re off a little bit in regards to R&D time/budget. Manufacturers are worried about the whole package (with reliability a key factor), where a company like Pro Circuit can take the bike and focus in on their specialties; making a better exhaust system, for example. Do you think the manufacturers have one guy whose sole job it is to build exhaust systems for motocross models? Not likely. Some things, like a link arm that helps the handling, seem like they could be caught by the manufacturer, and I don’t have an answer for that. Other things, like ignition and engine performance, are likely tied to reliability. Anything you do to make more horsepower is increasing the likelihood of something breaking, and manufacturers are very risk-averse. Hope that helps you process things. 


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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