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Life on Two Wheels | Editor’s Blog 6

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Life on Two Wheels | Editor’s Blog 6

Okay, when I decided to start this blog thing, I set out to write one every week to detail the behind-the-scenes action that goes into producing the Swapmoto Live web site and social channels. Five weeks in, I blew it! Haha! Let’s just say I had a Whistler hangover. Well that, or I was traumatized by the Panda Pod hotel we had to stay in on our last night in Canada.

Nevertheless, the past two weeks have been busy ones and as always, I’ve had a blast doing my job!

Monday

I have to admit: it was tough going into the office the Monday morning after Crankworx, but there was work that needed to be done, and we also had Bradley Taft coming in for the 6D Helmets Kickstart Podcast. While I was gone, I loaned Taft our 2020 Kawasaki KX250 and gave him a Bill’s Pipes exhaust to test out for us. Taft had just signed a contract to race the Australian Supercross Series and was glad to do some testing for us as he needed to brush up on his moto skills, anyway. I was pumped to hear that he was as impressed with the Bill’s Pipes system on the KX250 as Chase and I are…the thing really woke the bike up down low. 

Anyway, Taft was set to stop by the office on his way back from Fox Raceway. When he came in, his head was hung low and he stared at the ground like a young boy who got caught in his dad’s stash of Playboy Magazines. “I fuc*ed up, swap,” he said. “I blew the Kawi up.” Upon closer inspection of the bike, we discovered that a rock had broken the clutch cover and as he rode, the bike lost enough oil to cause the engine to lock up. No harm, no foul! Taft, though, felt so bad it was almost funny. Thankfully, our guy Mike Chavez at Kawasaki is a badass and will have our test bike back up and running in no time.

The podcast with Taft started out kind of slow because I think he was still feeling bad about our bike, but he loosened up after a few minutes and it turned out to be a great show….especially the second half when he told us all about the new deal he signed in Australia. A couple of hours later when I posted the edited podcast Taft told me that the team in Australia had yet to issue a press release about him joining the team, and I had to re-edit it without the “big news.” You’re fired, Taft! Just kidding. Good luck in Oz, bud. CLICK HERE to listen.

After work, I went for a quick pedal through Chino Hills State Park and of course, it was really disappointing after riding in Whistler for a week beforehand. August in CHSP is crazy because the place is literally crawling with tarantulas. I found it ironic that after riding some of the gnarliest terrain for four days straight in Whistler and not having so much as a tip-over, I washed my front end and ate shit on my local trail because I was swerving to avoid running over a spider.

Tuesday

Yamaha invited us to Milestone MX Park to take delivery of our 2020 YZ450F test bike. Pat Foster drove down from Bishop to help us do the honors, and people always seem to love PFo’s super thorough explanations of what he felt while riding the bike. CLICK HERE to see Foster in action and hear what he thought! 

Had a really embarrassing “crash” when it was my turn on the bike. As Travis Preston was setting the rear shock sag for me, I totally ate shit and hit my head on the concrete pad we were pitted on. How? After Preston measured the sag, I swung my leg over the bike to get off, but my boot clipped the bike stand that had been moved out of the way and I lost my balance and fell backward. Embarrassed, I got up quickly and tried to play it off, but as I was riding laps on the track I developed a splitting headache and decided to cut it short.

The new YZ450F doesn’t look any different from the ’19 bike but with a new chassis and engine, it feels a lot different than its predecessor! The engine, especially, is super impressive and it is mind-blowing how easy it is to fine-tune the bike’s powerband with the Power Tuner App. In stock condition, I felt that the suspension had too much movement and needed to be both firmed up and slowed down with clicker adjustments after I rode only a few laps. I was pumped when I told Pat my thoughts and he agreed completely. All told, the Yamaha is pretty badass and I am sure it will be a contender for Bike of the Year honors in our 2020 450 Shootout that starts next week.

Wednesday

On Wednesdays, I write a weekly post called Garage Finds, presented by Backyard Design that goes live on Thursdays. Basically, I go into my garage and pick something to write about. Through the years, I have amassed a ton of cool stuff, and for last Thursday’s post I chose a pair of James Stewart’s Nike boots. To this day, it’s still hard to believe that Nike got involved in motocross for a few years. In the grand scheme of things our sport is tiny in comparison to stick and ball sports and the fast that Nike produced some very special boots for James and Ryan Dungey is super cool. To be honest, when you hold the boots in your hand they aren’t as impressive as you might expect. They are super light, but also pretty flimsy. Now, I know James liked his boots to be floppy like a pair of Pocahontas’ old moccasins (I used to break in his Gaerne SG-12s for him, and I never seemed to get them floppy enough, haha!), but these things are even softer! CLICK HERE to read about the boot. You won’t believe how many Dungey went through in a season! 

Thursday

Motonation’s Jason Kilroy and Mountain Bike Action’s Brandon Castelli.

On Thursday, Chase and I headed up to Skypark at Santa’s Village in Skyforest, California. Motonation is the official United States importer for Sidi boots and cycling shoes, and the Italian footwear company finally added a trail MTB shoe to its catalog. Motonation’s Jason Kilroy invited us up to try the new shoe out, and we were joined by the Managing Editor of Mountain Bike Action, Brandon Castelli, 

The Sidi Dimaro shoe costs $224.99 and is super comfortable. On first glance, we weren’t blown away by its appearance, but it totally grew on us as the day went on. Stay tuned for a more in-depth product test, but for now, I will say that while riding my Stumpjumper trail bike, this is my shoe of choice as it is more comfortable, breathes better, and is much lighter than the Afton shoes I’ve been wearing for a couple of years. CLICK HERE to check them out.

Chase and I had a great time riding with Jason and Brandon. Both of them are absolute rippers on mountain bikes, and as the eldest dude in the group, I often found myself bringing up the rear. Until we hit the technical Comet trail, that is. That’s when Chase lost his mind and fell about four times on the way down. Haha!

When it came time to bust out my camera and shoot some action photos of Chase riding in the shoe, I happened on a happy coincidence. In order to check my camera settings, I will usually snap a photo or two of riders before the person I intend to shoot. In this instance, I snapped a shot of a giant red beard as it flew past. I mean, it looked like a flying squirrel through my viewfinder! When I zoomed in on the photo, though, I realized that I had snapped a photo of my old friend Mike Jones, who I first met a couple of decades ago when he worked at N-Style.

I was also stoked to run into my friend Anneke Beerten, who is a badass MTB racer and part-time motocross racer at the Swapmoto Race Series. Joining her on the mountain was Ricky Brabec, the Monster Energy Honda racer who would have won this year’s Dakar Rally if not for an engine failure. Brabec has blown past me several times at Milestone on his rally bike, but this was the first time I had seen him on a mountain bike. And the dude has skills! Brabec was convinced that he looked like a goon over this jump and when I showed him the photo, he was shocked. Before I even unloaded my bike at home, he had DMed me, “Hey can I bother you for that magical picture?” Haha! Even certified badasses like to post pics, I guess!

My niece Zayne and my buddy Casey.

After Skypark, I had to drive down to Guitar Center in Murrietta to buy a cord. Up until now, all of our podcasts have been recorded in person, with the guest in the same room with me. I called around to a few places that should know, but surprisingly no one had an answer for me when I told them I wanted to record audio from my phone straight to my audio recorder. I had an idea, and I found the type of wire that I needed at the music store. Since I’d be passing through Lake Elsinore, I called up my buddy Casey Davis to see if he wanted to meet for dinner at our favorite Italian joint, Vincenzo’s Olive Tree. To my surprise, he said, “we’ll meet you there!”

In one of my first blog entries, I wrote that Casey and my niece Zayne were just starting to go on a few dates here and there. Well, these days they are full-on playing in the World Series of Love. It’s still strange seeing them together, but I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner more than normal now! 

A few days later, my daughters suggested that if they get married, Casey should take Zayne’s last name, as the name “Casey Maeda” might open some doors in motocross. Haha!

Friday

 

Chase Curtis on our 2020 Husqvarna FC 250.

On Friday, my buddy Jason McCune of Insideline Connect met Chase and me at the track to test out a couple of FMF Racing exhaust systems. He wanted us to try out the new pipe for the KX250 but since Taft blew our test bike up, we asked him to bring a system for the Husky 250. Chase was really impressed with the performance of the FMF pipe on the FC 250, saying that it gave the bike more low-end roll-on power that made it easier to ride. I tried a system on the 2020 Honda CRF450R and was shocked when I actually liked it better than stock. Not that I doubt FMF’s ability to produce excellent products, but because the stock CRF450R is so damn amazing! With three maps and three levels of traction control available at the touch of a button, there are nine different powerbands available to CRF450R owners in stock form! In addition to sounding super throaty and intimidating, the FMF pipe made the Honda even easier to ride as it smoothed out the powerband and gave it an electric feel.

I snapped this pic of Jason “Hapa” McCune just before he installed the FMF pipe on my Honda. Swear!

After leaving Milestone, I drove to Suzuki’s headquarters in Brea, California, to pick up our 2020 RM-Z450 test bike. Since it is unchanged from the ’19, they elected to just hand them off to us instead of going out with us for a formal bike intro. I made plans to have HEP Suzuki’s Alex Ray put the bike through its paces for our cameras sometime the following week.

Saturday

Do you follow @dailymotomedia?

On Saturday, Dommer and I headed to Fox Raceway to ride a few motos with my friend Matt Horton. When TransWorld MX was shut down and I was in the strategizing stages of launching Swapmoto Live, Matt reached out and was super helpful with advice, encouragement, and suggestions. See, Matt runs @dailymotomedia on Instagram and has amassed nearly half a million followers. Matt and his buddy drove to SoCal for the weekend to check out a few of our tracks, and as expected he said they were waaaay different from the tracks near his home in Arizona. I brought him our 2020 KTM 450 SX-F to take a spin on, but he also had his personal ride: a Factory Edition 450 SX-F. All in all, it was great to finally meet Matt in person, even though he was too fast for me to actually ride with. Haha!

Sunday

On Sunday, I had a daddy/daughter date with my youngest daughter Megan. Of my two kids, Meg is the most interested in moto as she built the original SwapmotoLive.com web site and does all of the Swapmoto Race Series racer profiles. Starting basically tomorrow (September 1) she will spend the first semester of her senior year in college studying abroad in Kyoto, Japan. That said, I requested an afternoon to myself so that we could do something cool together before she left.

So back to Skypark at Santa’s Village I went. Honestly, if you like in SoCal and enjoy mountain biking, this is a great place to take your family as there are a ton of other activities to do in addition to pedaling. Meg and I had a blast riding around on our bikes (thanks Troy Lee Designs for decking her out in a sweet kit!), but we also shot arrows, threw tomahawks, and ate a great meal. 

I’m gonna miss her while she’s gone, but I am excited for her to submerge herself in Japanese culture and experience new things abroad. Plus, thanks to texting and Facetime, the world really is a smaller place these days, right? The first two weeks will be the most brutal, as her big sister Samy will accompany her while she gets situated. The house is gonna be quiet…

Monday

Fresh off the final three 250 MX Nationals of the year, GEICO Honda’s Jo Shimoda joined us in the SML offices on Monday for the 6D Helmets Kickstart Podcast. I’ve been friends with Jo and his family for a few years now and it has been exciting to watch him rise through the ranks. Filming last year’s movie FAST with him was especially fun, as I got to visit him at his home in Suzuka, Japan.

 

Is that Max Headroom?

Remember I mentioned my idea how to record a remote guest for a podcast? Anton was still on the road following the Ironman National, so I called him up via Facetime and the wiring idea I had worked! I turned the computer around backwards for the video version of the show, not realizing how funny it would look with Anton’s face on the screen. Most of you are probably too young to remember Max Headroom, the fictional artificial intelligence character from the mid-80s, but that’s what Anton looked like! I’ll have to come up with a better option for future shows… 

CLICK HERE to check out Jo Shimoda on the 6D Helmets Kickstart Podcast!

Tuesday

 

The Fast Boyz class of 2020: Justin Cooper, Colt Nichols, Dylan Ferrandis, and Mitchell Oldenburg. Does it get any fresher?

On Tuesday, I researched and wrote a piece on the Thor Fast Boyz gear, which has been redone as a throwback from the original 1990s line. The crew at Thor recreated the original ad that featured Mike Craig, Jeff Emig, Ronnie Tichenor and Larry Brooks with Justin Cooper, Colt Nichols, Dylan Ferrandis, and Mitchell Oldenberg. It’s sweet!

The original Thor MX Fast Boyz advertisement from the ’90s features Michael Ray Craig, Jeff Emig, Ronnie Tichenor and Larry Brooks.

Anyway, I succeeded in getting ahold of three of the four original Fast Boyz for quotes in the story I wrote. I never worked with Ronnie Tichenor as a journalist, and I am sure he was wondering who the hell I was when he listened to my voice mail. Haha! When I was speaking with Mike Craig on the phone, he declared that he wanted to get back into shape and would join me on my morning mountain bike ride up Skyline in Corona. Anyway, CLICK HERE to read about the Fast Boyz!

Pat Foster: The people’s tester.

We also took delivery of the 2020 KTM 350 SX-F on Tuesday and Pat drove back down from Bishop again. Every time he comes down we have a blast riding both bikes and mountain bikes together, but this time was special for him as he just picked up a brand new 2020 Specialized Stumpjumper from Roy’s Cyclery! We went for an early morning ride up Skyline before we even headed to Milestone for the test. To my surprise, Stingray was there waiting! The only problem was he was in the back seat of his truck completely passed out and we couldn’t wake him! Apparently, he got there at 5:30 because he didn’t wanna miss us and decided to take a quick nap while he waited. 

Wednesday

Alex Ray, admiring his own spray.

Cahuilla Creek MX is the place to be on Wednesday’s so we loaded up the 2020 Suzuki RM-Z450 and headed south. ARay came with and rode the bike for our photos and video, and he even managed to not destroy it the way I had feared. It’s remarkable how much wear and tear a rider of an elite caliber can inflict on a motorcycle in short order, and I was worried that our new test bike would be completely clapped after Alex overworked the clutch and stomped on the gear shifter. It pulled through like a champ, though, and ARay obviously had a shitload of fun on it. Do yourself a favor and watch the GoPro video below…

 

Because Thor sent us a pink set of the new Fast Boyz gear for ARay to ride in, we thought we would recreate the original ad for a second time! Haha!

On Wednesday, we also got to remove the TransWorld MX cover from our Action Sports Canopies frame and replace it with a badass new SML version. Can’t thank Action Sports Canopies enough for the update: theirs is by far the sturdiest, best-build shade I’ve ever used in the three decades of riding moto.

Thursday

Michael Ray Craig…The Stingray.

Lo and behold, guess who was waiting at the Skyline trail entrance for me on Thursday? Stingray joined Rene Garcia and me on our morning ride and made it halfway up the mountain on his girlfriend’s bike! It was good to see him, but I gotta get that dude a helmet!

After Skyline, I showered and headed south to the Seven MX headquarters in Murrietta for a business meeting. It had been months since I’d seen Roger Larsen and the rest of the crew, and I was pumped when we worked out a deal to work together not only on the upcoming Mini Major race but on some other projects as well. Since launching SwapmotoLive.com it has been humbling to receive the support we have from the industry…

While I was there, I spotted this Bell X Seven MX helmet in one of the offices. Can you believe that it was a sample that did not make the cut for production? I was shocked that Roger agreed to let me have it when I asked. Sweet! Thanks, guys!

Friday

I’m not gonna lie and say we had stuff to test on Friday…I just wanted to ride! Chase, Anton and I headed for Milestone for a quick fix and the track was amazing. Prep was perfect, the weather was mild, and there weren’t a gazillion people there cutting laps. One guy who I was stoked to see was Malcolm Stewart, who returned to SoCal this week after a few weeks training and riding at home in Florida. Signed to contest the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross Championship for Motoconcepts Honda, Mookie has been working hard since recovering from the broken femur that ended his 2019 season. And the dude is seriously fit! I couldn’t believe how lean he looked…and how fast he looked on the track!

I tried to get him to go mountain biking after leading the track, but he and Jarrett Frye had seen a big rattlesnake at Greer Ranch the day before and I’m pretty sure that will be the end of his MTB career. Haha!

So that’s it for now. It’s Saturday afternoon as I write this final sentence, and I’m scheduled to go to Mookie’s place to get the 6D Helmets Kickstart Podcast done ahead of time since Monday is Labor Day and I plan on doing everything but labor!

Until next time, thanks for reading!

  • Donn
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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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