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Ping,

This season has seen a rash of upper-body injuries in Supercross. The FIM mandates chest and back protection that meets CE level 2 for impact resistance and the Dakar Rally mandates all riders wear airbag vests, similar to Moto GP. What is your opinion on the AMA mandating some form of upper body protection in SX/MX, both at the pro and amateur level? 

I know the complaint by riders is a lack of mobility, but I personally feel this has more to do with It seems like it is vanity and the exuberance of youth perpetuating the delusion of invincibility more than anything else. Dylan Ferrandis has won a few 250 championships and finished on the podium this season wearing "mobility hampering" upper body protection. The Euros seem to have no problem kicking our ass at MXoN on a regular basis wearing their mandated gear. In addition, if everyone has to wear it then it is a level playing field. The other big argument is that it can't prevent all injuries and it could become a liability issue. I will use the example of one of the few pieces of mandatory equipment, the helmet. You can still get knocked unconscious or suffer a concussion, but no one thinks it is a good idea to race without a helmet. Safety equipment is there to minimize injury, nothing can eliminate the inherent dangers of racing a motorcycle. It should still be a priority to reduce these dangers and the severity of injuries incurred by them, though. 

As you know, there many options today that feature modern intelligent molecular materials like D30 and A-XOC that are both thin, light, and flexible and can fit under the jersey. Some of these products are used in other dangerous sports or are mandated by law for street riding in Europe. It is unfortunate that these types of safety products are not marketed as aggressively as they have been in the past in SX/MX. I think the gear companies have gotten lost down a "rabbit hole" of color swatches and light breathable materials and have forgotten the purpose of the gear is SAFETY. If guys earned money wearing some form of upper body protection like they do for helmets, boots, and goggles, I'm sure there would be no more complaining. I also think that better safety products would be produced due to R&D that could occur.

The bikes are more powerful and go faster than ever before. Guys can jump higher and further every year. It is time to make some advancements in safety rules before a tragedy occurs. Let's not wait like NASCAR did or so many other motorsports have in the past.

Regards,
Safety First 

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Safety,

I don’t have a whole lot to come back with here, and you’re making a lot of sense to me. I will say that you can’t blame any of the gear manufacturers; they’ll make whatever people want to buy, and there are fantastic chest protectors now that feel like a second skin. The fact is, top-level pros don’t like the look of them, so they don’t wear them. TLD requires their riders to wear some type of protection under or over their jerseys. For Troy, it’s an insurance policy against a very large investment he makes every year with his race team. I wish more teams would follow suit. This is also an area where Feld and MX Sports could come together and mandate some form of protection. After all, when a top rider goes down with an injury, it’s bad for them too. Let’s see if it goes anywhere, but I’m in complete agreement with you. 

- PING


How goes it Ping,

I'm curious about your take on the 450 class. In years past, Tomac was someone with outright flashes of blinding speed similar to James Stewart and nobody could match him. However, this season, and maybe even most of last, we haven't seen anything close to that. Hell, even Stewart himself said ET was a guy he was worried about, speed-wise. Tomac has talked about how it's difficult to slice through the field w/ the depth of the field these days but I wonder from your perspective if the field has stepped up the pace or if Tomac may have lost a step or two at the ripe old Supercross age of 28. I loved the podcast you guys did with him when you called attention to his kind of mental state when he crashes and the seemingly glacial pace he takes to get back on the bike and get going again, but it seems from my bench racing view that he’s not the ET of a couple of years ago anymore. Don't get me wrong, I love that the class isn't dominated by one guy, but as an ET fan I'm left curious. Appreciate your insight on the topic and I really do enjoy and look forward to your column every Friday.

Thanks,
Mxer Rob

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Rob,

Eli’s story has been a curious one. He’s always been blazing fast but prone to crashes here and there. My personal opinion, which is barely worth the space on this web page, is that the Colorado crash changed him. Throughout his pro career, Eli has searched for the right front-end feel on his bikes. Once he finds it and gets comfortable, look out. That outdoor season when he destroyed his shoulders at Thunder Valley’s rutted downhill sweeper was pivotal. That type of injury tends to force a rider to reassess things. Risk versus gain, tactics and strategy, and all that. It also plants a seed of fear in the back of a rider’s head that it could happen again. Eli has had some big crashes during his career, but none as painful as that, I promise you. Since then, the magical speed that Bubba worried about has been intermittent. One weekend he wins by twenty seconds, the next he’s fighting for tenth like a privateer who’s eaten nothing but bananas and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches all day and has his girlfriend running his pit board. It’s a real head-scratcher. 

I also think the competition is stacked at the moment, and their speed has increased; that is a part of it. Add to all that his new family, which is a lifestyle adjustment, and you have a formula for mixed results. Try to remind yourself just how difficult this sport is. If you think it’s tough to win your local pro class, try competing for titles at his level. The focus and commitment it takes to keep that going year after year is unimaginable. I hope Eli has some years left in the tank because when he’s on, he’s really fun to watch. If not, he’s tallied a staggering number of wins, titles indoors and out, and he’s solidified himself as a legend in the record books. Respect.

- PING


Hey David,

Hope all is well. Long time, no talk.  I’m officially old. 67 years to be exact, coming up on 68 like a freight train going down a steep hill with no brakes. Anyway, my wife and I purchased these Surron e-bikes right before the pandemic hit and have had a ton of fun riding the trails over here on Kauai where we live. I just don’t feel safe riding the track on my gas bikes anymore, not that I was any good at it by any stretch of the imagination. We do get our dual sports out once in a while and hit the Waimea Canyon trails, but 90% of our riding is on the Surrons. They are small and light, 120lbs, but have quite a bit of torque and decent power. What are your thoughts on these electric dirt-bikes and the Surron in particular? PS: We bought Bryce and Alissa a couple of Surrons for X-Mas and he seems to be digging it, building a little track on his property and doing motos. Stay safe!

Mike Vallee

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Mike,

Great to hear from you! I haven’t had a chance to ride the Surron yet, but they look like a blast. We actually just had a great discussion about the electric movement and where it fits into our sport on the latest Whiskey Throttle Show with Dave Arnold. He’s very plugged-in (no pun intended) at Honda and he offered his thoughts on the subject. I’ll say this: There is a market for electric bikes and you’re proving it. Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s there was so much more open land, particularly in today’s urban areas. I’m sure you just took off from the house back then and you could ride up in the hills. Today, folks have to load up and drive an hour or better to get to a track. But, if there is any land on your property, or near your house, you can still get away with riding there as long as you aren’t making a bunch of noise and dust. That’s where electric bikes come in. I’ve ridden some of the trails on Kauai and those things would be amazing! And now that I know Bryce has two, I’ll be going down there for some motos! Glad to hear you’ve found a way to keep enjoying two wheels, Mike… that’s truly what it’s all about. Cheers!

- PING

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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1 comment
  • rg807

    3/7/2021 10:28 AM

    Safety First - 1000% agree. Hannah, Johnson, Bailey, RC, etc. all wore upper body armor. Hannah liked it so much he started HRP! I have said for years, it is simply DUMB to not mandate more protection.

    When the stars are injured, it not only hurts them, but it hurts the sport. This should not be hard to understand for the AMA.. and yet they still think of themselves as a "club" organization.

    I've heard the arguments that shoulder pads don't protect against a collarbone break. Perhaps and yet why do football players wear them then? There are also lots of other upper body injuries that can be prevented or at least mitigated.

    Would Jeremy Martin be racing right now if he had a decent set of shoulder pads on? Perhaps. He certainly wouldn't be worse off, that's for sure.

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