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Garage Finds | Damon Huffman’s 1996 Arai Helmet


Garage Finds | Damon Huffman’s 1996 Arai Helmet

Presented by Backyard Design

For this week’s Garage Finds presented by Backyard Design, I only had to grab a step stool to pluck this treasure off the top of my cabinets, where I have most of my favorite helmets displayed. In 1996, two-time Western Regional 125 Supercross Champion Damon Huffman signed with the factory Kawasaki Racing team to make his 250 Supercross debut. In 1995 when “Huff Daddy” wrapped up his second 125 SX championship with Team Suzuki, he wore AXO Sport gear, head to toe. As well as changing teams for ’96, Huffman also switched helmet sponsors, as Arai had finally produced a one-piece full-face helmet dubbed the V-Cross, and hired him as their star rider.

The V-Cross was met with mixed enthusiasm, as its chinbar had a strange shape and was angled back towards the rider’s face. In fact, only a couple of years later, the helmet was redesigned and took on the basic shell shape that today’s VX-Pro4 is based on (with the addition of the modern plastic scoops and mouthpiece). Still, Huffman made the V-Cross look good, as he was one of the most stylish riders at the time, and his smooth, effortless riding style could make a UPS Uniform look trick.

In the mid-90s, Troy Lee found great success with helmet sticker kits that mimicked a custom paint jobs, and he debuted an all-new one on Huffman’s new Arai. Of course, Troy didn’t just slap the sticker kit on a cue-ball white helmet; he replaced the strange stock visor with one of his own, then gave the V-Cross a base coat of fluorescent green before adding the stickers, painting Damon’s new number 10 on the visor, and clear coating it all. Through the next couple of years, Huffman ran several different versions of the kit, which quickly became his trademark. He even had a gross bronze one in 1997 that looked like a third-place X Games medal. (Gross) The flo green ones, though, were the shit, and I was super stoked when Damon agreed to run an MXracer sticker on the visor for me. I launched MXracer Magazine that year, and Damon was happy to support my new venture. We had first become friends years earlier at the local CMC races in SoCal, as he was a top Intermediate and I was a Cycle News reporter.

Huffman was in between sizes in the V-Cross, and told me once that his helmet was a “schmedium,” a size medium with extra-thick padding to take up the extra space. I was super excited when he decided to give me the helmet that he had run my sticker on, and it’s been a prized possession ever since. Looking at the helmet now, I can’t believe that I didn’t trim the excess material off the MXracer sticker before handing it over to him!

One of the coolest things a rider could get from Troy Lee back then was a custom caricature, and Damon’s was pretty dang cool. The back of his helmet certainly would have been cooler if the caricature had been painted on, but the clear-coated sticker was still rad back in the day…

Today, Damon gets his two-wheeled thrills in the saddle of a mountain bike, and spends his days riding an LAPD street motorcycle. That’s right, Huff Daddy wears a badge these days, and I’m currently trying to schedule him in for an episode of the SML Show! Stay tuned…

Backyard Design Bike Graphic of the Week

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Backyard Design was founded in 2010 by two privateer Supercross racers: Jared Hicks from Alabama and Philipp Klakow from Germany. What started off as a project to fund their Supercross racing efforts has now grown into a worldwide graphics manufacturer, with dual headquarters in the United States and Germany. Backyard Design is known for being one of the first custom graphics makers to have a completely interactive website, where customers can design their own kits with a few clicks on a computer mouse.

The guys at Backyard Design USA are up for any challenge when it comes to making your bike or helmet look cool, as they can help you create the graphic kit or helmet wrap of your dreams in only a few easy steps. Take this Team Ferro Therm bike for instance: though it is a Kawasaki KX450, it is outfitted with teal Acerbis plastic parts, and the BYD crew was able to whip up a sweet custom kit to match the unique aftermarket color.

Don’t need something this wild? Backyard Design USA’s web site has a wide selection of baseline designs to start with for all brands, which can be customized with your sponsor logos, etc.

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Donn Maeda

Donn Maeda is a 30-year veteran in moto-journalism, having worked at Cycle News and Dirt Rider before launching MXracer Magazine and TransWorld Motocross Magazine. Maeda is the Editor-In-Chief at Swapmoto Live and you can catch him on a dirt bike or in the saddle of a mountain bike on most days.

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  1. Daniel July 18, 2019

    I have a Huffman 1996 AXO Sport signed jersey from Red Bud hanging on my office wall!

  2. Tonic July 19, 2019

    Loving these Garage Find articles. The combination of throwback to gear from a generation ago, cool memorabilia, and the stories around the item/person is awesome!