Once upon a time, there was no Twitter, no Internet, and certainly no live race coverage on TV (we would have all switched channels 10 times and stayed up till 2AM to watch a live race on TV in the eighties).
Once upon a time, there was no Twitter, no Internet, and certainly no live race coverage on TV (we would have all switched channels 10 times and stayed up till 2AM to watch a live race on TV in the eighties).
In those dark days, we had but one outlet to satiate out thirst for moto info- the motocross magazine. MXA, Dirt Bike, Cycle News and Dirt Rider were the only way to get race info if you were not lucky enough to attend an event. Yes, the info was three months old, but we all lapped it up like Manna from heaven.
In these halcyon days of the motocross magazine’s glory, one publication stood above all the rest-Motocross Action. MXA was the alpha dog and set the standard for the industry. While today, MXA has devolved into little more than a bully pulpit for Jody Wiesel and his personal proclivities (two-strokes, Glen Helen REM races, the good old days, KTM’s, grab handles), in the eighties, it was the most influential publication in motocross.
For this installment of the motocross way-back machine, we are going to recall the great year that was 1989, through the eyes of Motocross Action.
January kicks off with a couple of stars of tomorrow on the cover, doing battle in the 1989 Trans-Cal Championships. Kyle Lewis (12), Ty Davis (1) and Damon Bradshaw (12) would all go onto to have very successful careers, though each would enjoy very different paths. Both Bradshaw and Davis would claim 125 Supercross titles, before retiring suddenly (Bradshaw) and switching to off-road racing (Davis). Ironically, it would be the least publicized of the three who would have the longest motocross career. “Lucky” would claim the ’95 and ’96 Ultracross title for Noleen Yamaha, before moving to Japan to capture the ’98 and ’99 250 All-Japanese Motocross titles. Kyle, who in ‘87 became the youngest rider (up to that point) to win a 125 Supercross, would enjoy a remarkable motocross career that would last well into the new millennium.
Inside the January issue, we get tests of the Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki 125’s, as well as a review of the afore mentioned Trans-Cal MX series. There is also a wrap of the World Supercross Championship, which is a huge off season money maker for the vacationing Americans. There are interviews with Bradshaw and the first man to win all three major motocross World Titles, Erik Geboers. Lastly, MXA saves the sport once again by answering the age old question: What is wrong with professional motocross?
First up, is the all-new ’89 CR125, which gets the CR250R’s sexy low-boy bodywork, but dodges a major bullet by forgoing its gruesome upside-down forks. MXA starts the review by asking if the reader remembers the glory year of 1987 (where the little CR wiped the floor with the competition) and proclaims Honda sure did. After the disappointment of the mellow ’88 Honda tiddler, the new rocket-fast ’89 is a return to greatness for the previous champ. The motor is pro-oriented and harder to ride than the competition, but unbeatable in a race to the first turn. Suspension is way better than its bigger brothers, as the 125 retains the excellent conventional 43mm cartridge forks, which made headlines in ’87. MXA loves the CR and proclaims it the early front-runner for 125 of the year.
The 1989 CR125R is a huge improvement over the mellow ’88 and early front-runner for MXA 125 Bike Of The Year.
In the European SX wrap up on page 55, a mixed bag of nationalities take the glory in Sweden, Italy and Holland. In Sweden, a surprising Pekka Vekkonen takes the victory over a Euro heavy field. The top American in Sweden is Ricky Ryan in 4th. In Holland, it is the “Bounder”, Jeff Leisk who sprays the champagne over Jeff Ward and Broc Glover. At this point, Leisk is a legitimate contender inside and out and a real threat for the upcoming ’89 500 World MX Title. The last race covered is in Maggiora, Italy, where American Rodney Smith (yes the GNCC champ) wins in a bit of an upset over the O’Show and the Dogger who finish 2nd and 3rd.
In our second review of the January issue, the Wrecking Crew tests Damon Bradshaw’s new ride, the ’89 YZ125. The YZ is all new for ’89 and gets the super trick YZM bodywork the YZ250 received the year before. Everything on the bike is reworked, with a new beefier frame, trick inverted forks and a works-style ’19 inch rim (shod with a bizarre tractor-tire pattern Bridgestone). Power wise, the YZ is hard hitting, but short on breadth. It is strictly a mid-range mauler and has little power at the extremes. The suspension and handling are worlds better than the ’88 model and MXA proclaims it a legitimate contender.
In the Bradshaw interview, Damon talks about the impressive 5-4 moto scores he carded at his first pro National and how much he enjoyed banging bars with Guy Cooper (shades of things to come from the Beast from the East). Bradshaw seems humble and even talks about how nervous he was sitting on the starting line next to riders like Ron Tichenor and Donny Schmit. In short, Damon seems a world away from the cocky and brash kid that would be upsetting the apple cart of the established stars a mere 12 months later.
In MXA’s next interview, they talk to Mr. 875 himself, Eric Geboers. Geboers is coming off the 1988 500 World Motocross title and basking in the glow of becoming the first rider to win a 125, 250 and 500 World MX title. There are also mini-interviews with David Thorpe (How I Lost), Jeff Leisk (What I Am Gonna Do) and Haken Carlqvist (Why I Quit). The highlight of the entire issue has to be Carla recounting his dominating victory in his final ever race, where he actually stops at the halfway point of the 1st moto to enjoy a trackside pint of beer. It is a great story and fitting end to the career for one of Sweden’s greatest champions.
Haken Carlqvist’s dominating win at his final career GP was certainly remarkable, but the fact that he had a big enough lead to stop half way through and enjoy a beer trackside made it one for the ages.
On page 93 MXA puts the new RM125 through its paces and declares it a complete revitalization of Suzuki’s flagging motocross program. By ’88, the RM125 had become a bit of a motocross joke, but the ’89 Zook tiddler is all-new and as up-to-date as anything in the class. The ‘89 bike looks to be a decade ahead of its stale predecessor. The motor is the exact opposite of the gutless screamer of ’88 and snaps to attention with a barky surge. Power is decidedly low-to-mid, with a complete lack of top-end thrust. Handling and suspension is typical Suzuki, with plush action and razor sharp manners. In short, it is a phenomenal novice bike, but pros find its lack of top-end a major handicap.
Finally, the Wrecking Crew saves the sport by suggesting we need more mainstream coverage and fewer races. They also postulate that we should make the 125 division more of a stock class and allow an “anything goes” attitude in the 500’s. In hindsight, this would probably have been a good idea and may have kept the Open class around a bit longer. Oh well.
For the February cover, we get a picture of Wrecking Crew member and Kawasaki privateer Larry “Family Time” Brooks ringing out his ’88 KX125. Inside, we have the hotly contested ‘89 125 shootout, as well as a test of Suzuki’s totally revamped ’89 RM250. There is also lots of off season race coverage and tips on how to get sponsored.
The ’89 125 shootout pits a mildly revamped KX125 (the ’88 winner) against three all-new competitors in an eighth-liter duel to the death. Unlike previous years, where there is one awesome bike and three also-rans, the ’89 125 class has three solid contenders. All four bikes are well suspended and handle very well (if very differently). In terms of power, the shrieking top-end of the Honda leads the horsepower wars, but trails in the usability department. The KX125 has a good “lap-time” motor, but is too smooth for most riders’ taste and the barky Yamaha hits the hardest, but offers the shortest spread. For novices, the awesome torque and snappy response of the RM is King, but its complete lack of top-end limits its appeal for faster riders (this ends up being a massive problem in the Nationals, as even privateer Honda’s run away from the Factory Suzuki’s all summer). In the final standings, the blazing-fast Honda proves unassailable, in spite of its pro-oriented powerband.
The ’89 KX has the suspension to be champ, but its mellow motor makes it take a back seat to the powerhouse Honda in the final rankings.
In our second test of the issue, MXA gets down and dirty with ATK’s newest baby, the 406. The 406 is unique in a way only ATK can do. It is a weird combination of Austrian, Dutch and American engineering and offers an air-cooled motor from the seventies married to the most innovative chassis in the pits. Interestingly, the bike was originally designed by ATK to be sold as a Can-Am, but the demise of the Canadian motorcycle operation led ATK to self-brand the product. The 406 is slower than a typical Open class machine, but it offers the best handling, smoothest suspension and lightest weight in the class. MXA loves its quirky personality and flawless workmanship, declaring it to be one of the best Open bikes you can buy in ’89.
Our third test of the issue is of the completely revamped ’89 RM250. The new deuce-and-a-half Zook is a remarkable departure from its geriatric looking predecessor and shares not a single part with the ’88 RM. There is a new case-reed mill to go with its works-like USD forks and sleek, sexy bodywork. The new RM feels and handles like a big 125, turning circles under the other 250’s. The power is very similar to its 125 sibling as well, with a punchy delivery, but short spread. Perhaps most concerning, is its suspect reliability, as MXA’s test bike grenades twice during the test (a problem all too common to ’89 RM’s in both classes). Overall, it is a quantum leap ahead of its predecessor in most respects, but in need of further refinement to beat the best bikes in the class.
The surprise of the February issue has to be Mike Pascarella’s upset victory over Jeff Ward and Jeff Matiasevich at the Kawasaki Race of Champions in Englishtown, New Jersey. Is that Jason Weigandt in the red ball cap?
The race coverage in the February issue is a potpourri of events from all over the globe. In Englishtown, Kawasaki holds its annual Race of Champions, but Suzuki spoils the party with wins in the 125 class (Johnny O’Mara) and 250’s (Mike Pascarella) over Kawasaki favorites Jeff Matiasevich and Jeff Ward. Only the 500 class goes as planned, with a dominating victory by Ronnie Lechien on the mighty KX500.
In Holland, we get coverage of the famous Veronica beach race by MXA’s intrepid GP correspondent Luc Verbeke. The Dutch, who claim the top two spots, predictably dominate the race. The winner is a relatively unknown rider by the name of Edwin Evertsen who leads the race from start to finish. Shaun Kalos (USA) turns out to be the top finishing non-Dutchman in third, over several big name riders in the field such as Mike Healey, Rodney Smith and 250 World MX Champ John Van Den Berk. Canadian Shane Drew (now Honda’s chassis guy) actually finishes inside the top ten. Weird right?
Next we travel to Japan, where the World gets its first look at the true potential of the sports “Next Big Thing”, Damon Bradshaw. In Osaka the 16-year old from North Carolina puts the hammer down and roosts away to a shocking 250 victory over the likes of Rick Johnson, Jeff Ward and every other major player in the sport. In doing so, the Yamaha ace becomes only the third man to beat Johnson on a Supercross track in the last two years. After the victory, RJ famously tells Bradshaw that the win may have actually been the worst thing for the kid, as now everyone will expect him to win it all the time. The statement will turn out to be prophetic indeed, as the intense pressure will lead the gifted twenty-year-old to walk away from motocross and a multi-million dollar contract a mere four years later.
Lastly, we head back to American soil to get coverage of the first annual Commotion By The Ocean in Carlsbad, California. The Commotion is a lighthearted affair, held at the scene of the World famous 500 United States Motocross Grand Prix. It is a run-what-ya-brung sort of deal where any bike can be entered. The top spots predictably go to locals as Rick Johnson, Broc Glover and a Mike Craig take the podium. The only surprise is Craig, who beats out a roaring pack of 250’s on his little YZ125. MXA predicts the #59 will be a true threat in the ’89 season.
For March, we get a cover full of nearly 300 horsepower and five ground-pounding mega-machines. This issue promises to test “the five most awesome motocrossers known to man”. In other words, girly men need not apply. There is also an uber-exciting handlebar shootout, Paris Supercross action and an article on how to fix Honda’s abysmal ’89 inverted forks.
The stars of the issue are of course, the Open class machines of ’89, and first up is the all-new CR500R. The ’89 CR is new from the ground up and gets the sleek new bodywork debuted on the ’88 CR250R. The chassis is stiffer, with a greatly lowered center of gravity that makes the bike feel much lighter than before. The motor lacks the power valve of the Kawasaki, but it is still more than fast enough to rearrange shoulder sockets. Handling is remarkable for a 500, with razor sharp turning and a bit of nasty headshake thrown in for good measure. Interestingly, the extra weight and heavy vibes of the 500, tame a good deal of the harshness out of the upside-down Showa’s and MXA likes them much better than on the 250. A final verdict will have to wait for the shootout, but the Wrecking Crew gives a massive thumbs up to Honda’s newest trench digger.
Next up is Kawasaki big green teddy bear, the KX500. For ’89, the KX only sees refinement, after a complete revamp in ’88. While it lacks the slim and trim 250-style layout of the Honda, it more than makes up for it with the most luscious two-stroke mill ever to grace the 500 class. The Kawasaki’s KIPS equipped mill is equal parts pussycat and grizzly bear. It is both smoother and faster than the Honda, offering one of the widest spreads of power ever seen on a two-stroke. Another advantage for the Kwacker is its suspension, which is plusher than the CR in all conditions. For ’89, Kawasaki wisely chose to ditch their new inverted forks planned for production at the last minute and go with the tried and true conventionals for one more year. This gamble pays of big time, as the Kawasaki is dialed and the CR is still a major work in progress. While it is bigger and bulkier than the CR, for hard-core motocross, the KX is a better machine. It’s so good that Kawasaki decides to not change it for the next fifteen-odd years. We’re kidding. Sort of.
When men were men and bikes were scary. The 1989 CR500R may have been a pussycat compared to its mid-eighties forebears, but the big five-honey still had enough ponies to scare the uninitiated into taking up golf.
MXA’s next test is of the ’89 YZ490, and it is not all-new. It is in fact, quite a moldy oldie at this point. The venerable air hammer was already outdated in 1985; so four more years of competition have done it no favors. It still bangs, clatters and clangs like it has marbles loose in the top end and defies any and all attempts to rectify its finicky jetting. Air-cooled and lacking even a rear disc to bring it down from speed, the big Y-Zed is firmly planted in the 1970’s. The motor is weird for an Open bike, with all of its power up high where most 500 riders fear to tread. Suspension is adequate, but only just. On the bright side, the YZ is the cheapest by $250 and the simplest to work on. MXA thinks the bike can win, but the YZ rider will be working twice as hard to do it.
On page 104, we get a review of the ’89 KTM500, and it is by far the best Open class machine the Austrian factory has ever produced. Great pains have been taken to mellow out its quirky personality and it shows. The power is strong and competitive with anything in the class and for once its Dellorto carburetor actually carburates. The shifting is still grim and its clutch is cantankerous, but the motor pulls like a freight train. The Dutch White Power suspension is actually set up well and the bike does nothing particularly odd. Its main fault is its tall chassis and “Euro” handling feel which makes the bike difficult to turn and unwieldy on tight tracks. In short, it is competitive, but its continental flavor is an acquired taste.
While Supercross was certainly not their strong suit, you have to admire old school Euro’s like George Jobe giving it the old college try every fall in Bercy.
Our last test of the issue is of the booming ATK604 thumper. This interesting Frankenstein machine is nearly twice the cost of all the other bikes and worth every penny. In a sign of things to come, the big 604 offers the most power, over the broadest range and puts it to the ground with an ease the two-strokes can’t match. With electric starting, it is also the easiest to light by a mile. Careful set up by ATK also gives it the most sorted suspension and remarkable handling for a 260-pound motorcycle. Its only problems are its sumo-sized waistline, stratospheric cost and two-year waiting list.
In race action, we get a report from the 1988 running of the Paris Supercross. Bercy has become an off-season tradition by 1989, and all the big names come out to do battle in the tiny arena. Rick Johnson is the big winner, capturing night one and the overall title over Guy Cooper and Ron Lechien. The true star, however, is French sensation Jean-Michel Bayle who delights the crowd with an opening night third, but is unable to match the American’s pace the other two nights.
In the highly anticipated handlebar shootout, the stock carbon steel bars from the Suzuki and Yamaha are found to have the tensile strength of Parkay margarine, while the chrome-moly steel bars of the Kawasaki and Honda are found to be actually tougher than the Renthal alloy’s. Tops in the shootout is Answer, with their trick new Alumilite bar. The Alumilite is head and shoulders stronger that the others and will be the top bar in motocross until the unveiling of their Pro-Taper two years later. In other news, we imagine Renthal was very excited about placing more ads in next month’s MXA.
For April, we get the highly anticipated, but never duplicated MXA 250 motocross shootout. Just as in the 125 class, the 250 field for ’89 is much improved and none of the bikes are total disasters. The new RM is picked as the best looking, but its narrow power spread, weak brakes and suspect reliability relegate it to last. The YZ250 that won all the marbles the year before is refined and better, but does nothing truly better than the others. It is a solid package that does everything well, but nothing spectacularly. It is the solid choice for a racer looking to buy it and race it right off the showroom floor.
From there, things get a little more complicated. MXA declares the Honda both the best bike and the worst bike depending on your aspirations. For a pro, the Honda is hard to beat, with its unparalleled horsepower, razor sharp manners and flawless durability. It’s gruesome stock suspension is a massive handicap, however, and any rider planning to race the CR must get it addressed. For pro riders, the suspension is less of an issue as they are likely to get it revalved anyway. In the stock rankings, its bone-jarring forks are enough to knock it out of the top spot.
The ’89 YZ250 is a really good bike, overshadowed by more flashy competition
Alone at the top, we have the Kawasaki KX250. It is smoother than the Honda, with a super wide powerband and easy-to-ride delivery. Handling is very good, but the bike is big and bulky with an almost 500-like feel. It is not nearly as well built as the Honda, but its awesome suspension tips the scales in its favor.
Other than the shootout, the main focus of the April issue is a piece on the 100 greatest photo’s in motocross. There are tons of iconic pictures from the first two decades of American Motocross and the only bummer is that 95% of them are in black and white (that is the first thing you really notice about these old mags, almost none of the photo’s are in color). It is a really cool walk down memory lane for any fan of classic moto.
Just a few of the “classics” that grace the April issue.
On page 96, there is also an interesting look at the latest craze to hit the motocross world-the mountain bike. At this point, the sport is still in its infancy and none of the bikes offer suspension. May top riders like Jeff Ward, Rick Johnson and Johnny O’Mara (who would go on to race them professionally after retiring from motocross) swear by the new sport as a great way to cross train for motocross. The top bikes ring in at around $1100, a far cry from the $10K a high-end bike will set you back today.
Yeah, that mountain bike thing will never catch on. Jeff Ward demonstrates.
The April cover is graced by the Chicken man himself, Jeff Matiasevich. At the time, Chicken is one of the hottest properties in motocross after dominating the ’88 125 Western SX title chase. Matiasevich opens up the ’89 campaign by routing the field in the first four events of ’89. The 250’s are just as predictable, as Rick Johnson lays waist to the competition at every event. Behind RJ, the racing is intense as Guy Cooper, Jeff Stanton (newly to the Honda squad, after RJ recommended him for the team), Johnny O’Mara and even 16-year old rookie Damon Bradshaw fight for the podium. At San Diego, Kawasaki Support rider Mike Fisher gets in on the act, leading several laps before ejecting himself over the berm and out of the lead. O’Mara in particular is much improved on his new RM and looks to have the season opener in hand before his works Suzuki snaps in half on lap 11. With four straight victories and Jeff Ward out due to injury, it looks like Johnson’s title to lose.
The first test of the issue is of Noleen’s new Yamaha 360cc kit bike. The kit is developed by Ohlins in Sweden and gives YZ devotees a choice for Open class racing. The kit cost $1200 and turns your ’88 or ’89 YZ250 into a viable 500 alternative. The bike lacks the torque of the 500 Honda and Kawasaki, but is lighter and better handling than the big brutes. Factory Yamaha actually plans to campaign 360 kitted bikes in the 500 Nationals later in the year.
After two years of misery on subpar machines, the O’Show is back with a vengeance in ’89. In the season opener, Johnny rockets out to a commanding lead and looks to have the win in the bag, when his Factory Suzuki nearly breaks in half off a double jump. On the podium, winner Rick Johnson muses, “Johnny had the win, but his Suzuki broke and my Honda didn’t”. It was yet another bitter pill for the ’84 Supercross champ.
The second test of the issue is of the ’89 KTM 250MX. By ’89, the old school KTM is in need of a revamp (one that will come in ’90 with the new Broc Glover replica 250 SX) and seems decidedly out of step with the American market. The power is decent, but the transmission is notchy and the clutch feel is bizarre. Overall handling is good, with passible turning and good stability. Its biggest problem is suspension, which is set up so poorly that the bike cannot be raced in stock condition. Spring rates are as soft as a Honda XR200 trail bike and not suited to America’s jump infested tracks. It is also the heaviest 250 in the class and beset with odd detailing choices. Overall, it is a pleasant bike, but no thoroughbred.
The issue concludes with interviews with three of the hottest stars in the sport- Jeff Matiasevich, Jeff Stanton and Johnny O’Mara. First up, is Matiasevich, who confirms that Kawasaki is paying him three million a year (he’s kidding) and likes pet reptiles (he’s not kidding). We also learn that he likes Mexican food, straightaways (an interesting choice for ones favorite motocross obstacle) and Porsche’s.
“Jeremy who?” is how this picture is captioned in the Seattle race report. At the time, McGrath is only six months removed from being a So Cal intermediate and basically unknown on the National circuit. An out-of-nowhere second in Seattle serves notice that the kid from Hesperia is one to keep an eye on.
Next up is Stanton, who informs us that he and Johnson have a bet going where the loser of each race has to spend a night in RJ’s doghouse. At this point, Jeff has endured four lonely nights with the pooch. Jeff also informs us that he believes his results have improved a great deal because of his new bikes and his off-season training with Johnson. This friendship is quite charming at this point, but will predictably take a turn for the worse once the pupil starts beating the master mid-season.
Last up is the O’Show, who is happy to finally have his career back on track. Johnny informs us that he believes it is a combination of several things that have gotten him back up to speed. First and foremost is his new bike, which is a huge improvement over the Barnett era clunkers he had been riding. He has also become a Christian in the off-season and gotten his personal life in order. In spite of the bitter disappointment of his Anaheim DNF (stupid fragile Suzuki), Johnny is optimistic about the rest of his year and believes he will card some wins before the season is done.
Now this is how we start an issue! Right up front and on the cover we have the Beast from the East himself, Damon Bradshaw. The picture is from the 1989 Daytona Supercross and Bradshaw looks resplendent in his sweet Fox Racing zebra gear. In typical Bradshaw fashion, Damon would be blazing fast in ’89, but just as inconsistent. Wreckers or checkers would be the theme of Damon’s inaugural pro season.
This issue is the first one of the year not to have a bike test in it, but it does have lots of race coverage. There are several interviews with the stars of the sport, the unveiling on MXA’s rider of the year (for ’88, which seems a bit odd to have in the June’ 89 issue) and a run down of the ten best and worst used bike buys.
First up is coverage of the Atlanta Supercross, where Rick Johnson is handed the first loss of his season. Ricky crashes while dueling with teammate Stanton and hands the Michigan rider his first 250 Supercross win. The highlight of the race has to be the spectacular dismount performed by Honda’s Guy Cooper who miss times a rhythm section and gets ejected while 30 feet in the air. Amazingly, Cooper lands right on his feet like a cat and is unharmed, running right back to his bike to reenter the race. While the race seems fairly insignificant at the time, it actually signals the changing of the guard. Stanton will go onto capture the ’89 Supercross crown, and Ricky Johnson will never be a legitimate title threat ever again, due to events that will take place the following week in Gainesville.
A fleeting glimpse is all the Gainesville faithful got of Rick Johnson. Only moments after this photograph was taken, the Bad Boy would be landed on by Danny Storbeck, badly breaking the star’s wrist and ending his ’89 250 season. Johnson would return to win Gainesville the following year, but would never be the same rider he was before the injury.
Coverage of the Gatorback National in Gainesville is centered on one event: the injury of Rick Johnson. In morning practice, Johnson tangles with Texan Danny Storbeck and ends up with a badly broken right wrist. The injury takes Johnson out of the title chase (and eventually leads to his premature retirement) and leaves the door open for a surprising upset winner. Jean-Michel Bayle, who is on a working vacation to the US before beginning his 1989 250 World MX title chase, shows up with “Starbuster” on the back of his pants and shocks the Americans with a 1-3 score to capture the first 250 National of his career. Behind Bayle are Stanton and Jeff Ward, who know the Frenchman is no threat for the title and are more concerned with their own title fight.
In the 125’s it is a preview of the dual that will last the duration of the summer as two rookies steal the veterans thunder and swap moto victories. Little known Mike Kiedrowski and very known Damon Bradshaw split wins, but the overall goes to Mike due to his more consistent finishes. This is a pattern that will play out over and over again all season, as the blazing fast Bradshaw crashes himself out of contention repeatedly.
Next up, is MXA’s guide to the ten best and worst used bike buys of ’89. Topping the list of winners is the 86-‘87 Honda CR250R and CR500R. Both bikes are stone axe reliable and head and shoulders above the competition. Also making the list is the ATK 604 (bulletproof. exclusive and blazing fast), ’88 KX125 (the best KX in five years), ’88 RM250 (not as pretty as the ’89, but a good race bike), ’87-’88 RM80 and YZ80 (both good minicycles, although the YZ is aimed mainly at beginners), ’88 YZ125 (a solid and reliable bike that can still be competitive), ’88 YZ250 (a phenomenal bike in ’88, that has not lost much to the ’89 competition) and the ’86 to current CR125R (the only 125 that you can go back more than one year on and be competitive).
Heading up the worst bike list is anything Austrian (KTM), Italian (Cagiva), Swedish/Italian (Husky) or homemade (seriously?). They also advise buyers to stay away from anything bankrupt or out of production (Maico, Can-Am) and anything older than five years old. Any RM125 also makes the list as the bikes are far from world-beaters stock and tend to wear out extremely quickly. The YZ490 also gets a mention, as its antiquated performance puts it at a disadvantage for anything but play riding. The surprise of the list has to be the CR80R, which gets thumbs down due to poor long-term reliability. Unlike its big brothers, Honda 80’s were known to wear out very quickly. New they were a great buy, used they were best avoided.
On page 116, we get the presentation of MXA’s coveted (and I’m not joking here, this was actually a big deal in the eighties) rider of the year. The award comes with a brand new Nissan Hardbody truck that has to be the coolest trophy in motocross. Rick Johnson is the recipient and the win marks the third (and unfortunately as fate would have it, last) time the Bad Boy would receive the award.
For July, we once again get a test free issue and lots of race coverage. On the cover we have a still wet- behind-the-ears Jeff Emig ripping it up in the Las Vegas desert and the promise of tons of pro racing secrets for your bike. There are also several rider interviews and the “Ten Commandments of Racing”.
In the “Dirt” section upfront, there are rumors that 125 National Champion George Holland may be moving to Europe to contest the GP’s for 1990. The reasoning is that with the huge stable of riders Honda has and Bayle coming to America, the National champ will be the odd man out at Big Red. As it turns out, the question will prove moot, as Holland will retire for good at the end of the season due to nagging shoulder issues. After retirement, the soft-spoken Holland will drop completely off the motocross map and return to Kerman, California to run his family’s almond farm.
In race coverage, there is a breakdown of the Dallas Supercross, which is a knock-down-drag-out battle to the final turn between run-away points leader Jeff Stanton and a returning from injury Jeff Ward. With the absence of an injured Rick Johnson, Stanton enjoys a healthy points lead, in spite of a costly DNF at the Tampa round (Stanton’s works CR cracked the engine cases at the countershaft).
The Bounder: Before there was Chad Reed, there was Jeff Leisk. After three years in America, the Australian moved to the GP’s for ’89 and promptly laid the wood to the established GP stars. If not for suffering some bad luck, he would probably have been the 1989 500 World Motocross champion.
In Dallas, Ward and Stanton stage an epic duel where the both riders swap the lead multiple times. On the last lap, Stanton seems to finally have the battle won, when he grabs a handful out of a tight turn and whiskey throttles his Factory Honda into the cheap seats. As Stanton goes running across the infield to retrieve his errant Honda, a triumphant Ward claims the checkered flag in front of a cheering crowd.
Next up, is a report from the sands of Holland, were GP newcomer Jeff Leisk has just turned the established guard on its head with a blazing ride in the first GP of the season. The Australian is fresh off a three-year stint in the US and displays a go-for-broke, aggressive style that bolts him to the front in both motos. Unfortunately, this pin-it riding style sees the likeable Aussie run his Honda out of fuel with one lap remaining in the first moto. In the second moto, Leisk romps his way to a dominating victory over Great Britain’s Kurt Nicoll. If Holland is any indicator, the established guard is in for a long 500 season in ’89.
In the Ten Commandments of Racing, we learn never to look back (I’m not sure the Alessi’s ever read this article), never quit (Mike did read this part), never remove your goggles (easier said than done), dress for the crash not the ride (always sage council), never be the first to jump a tricky double (personally, I always tried to be the last guy to jump a tricky double), never run new parts on race day (even if its top secret MCR stuff), don’t screw with spodes (where is the fun in that), never let them see you sweat (huh?), eat healthy (duh) and don’t wear outlandish gear (In MXA’s opinion, only spodes wear zebra stripes and polka dots. There is no mention of their thoughts on old farts in orange helmets). Overall these seem like excellent ideas and the motocross youth of America ignores 90% of them.
Like father, like son: There are a total of 14 World Motocross titles in this picture. Last time I checked, that was a lot.
In coverage of the World Mini Grand Prix from Las Vegas, there is an epic confrontation between mini stars Tommy Clowers and Buddy Antunez that leady to fisticuffs during the Kawasaki Race of Champions (Can you imagine if they tried this race today, with all the top guys on identical KX80’s? The other OEM’s would have a conniption fit). In the last of three motos, Clowers T-bones Antunez out of the lead, causing Buddy to lose his cool and cut the track in an attempt to confront Tommy. The two end up throwing down their bikes in the middle of the race and have to be separated. The crowd is not pleased and actually boos at the two rider’s unsportsmanlike conduct. The infraction costs Antunez the title (he had won the first two motos) and hands it to Joel Albrecht (brother of JGR team manager Jeremy).
Other notable names at the event are Jeff Emig, who captures the 125 and 250 modified pro classes and 15-year old Butch Smith who takes home a total of four titles on the weekend. Mini cycle prodigy’s Robbie Reynard and Ricky Carmichael are also both in attendance and capture the 9-11 Super Mini and 9-11 Junior Cycle Modified divisions. The big discovery of the weekend is an unknown rider from northern California by the name of Steve Lamson, who opens a lot of eyes with a second place behind Jeff Emig. Lamson is excited just to be mixing it up with the big name amateurs and hopes this will get him some additional exposure before turning pro.
The most interesting of the many interviews in the July issue is with Harry Everts and his son Stefan. Harry, a four time World Champion, has arranged to get Stefan a full factory ride with Suzuki at the tender age of fifteen. Harry recounts his many accomplishments in the sport and talks about the exotic Puch he used to win his first 250 World title. He also talks about his talented son stating: “If I can help my son with my connections, why wouldn’t I do it? On the other hand, Stefan is under intense pressure at a very tender age. All eyes are focused on him”. Personally, I think it is much ado about nothing and we are not likely to hear from this Stefan kid again any time soon.
For our August cover, we get the Dr. himself, Doug Dubach leading Johnny O’Mara at the Hangtown National. The Dr. is Yamaha’s top rider at Sacramento and scores a solid forth behind Stanton, Ward and the O’Show. In addition to race coverage, we get a test of JMB’s Gatorback winning Pro Circuit CR250R and a list of the “ten most feared men in the World”. Search the Tell us a Story archives and Doug talks about this cover.
First up, is the MXA World ranking of the ten fastest men in motocross. Leading the list is Ricky Johnson, who is busy sitting at home with a cast on his right wrist. In hindsight, this list is actually kind of sad, because no one at the time imagined the injury would be so debilitating as to bring an end to Johnson’s career. When he was hurt, he was at the height of his powers and his ranking reflects their feeling that he will come back as fast as before (sigh). In second, we have 27-year old Jeff Ward who is still a threat inside and out in spite of his advancing years. Third is actually a bit of a shock, as MXA ranks Mr. 875 Eric Geboers ahead of the rest of the American’s. Considering MXA’s jingoistic editorial bent, this pick is a bit of a surprise. In fourth, we have another Euro (surprise, surprise), Jean-Michel Bayle. This is a lot of credit to give the Frenchman, but he is a two-time World Motocross champ at this point and the winner of the first National of the year.
Always the bridesmaid: After several very good years at Factory Suzuki (where he was always close to capturing the 125 title), things went south for Erik Kehoe in 1989. Dissatisfied with the bikes and eager for a change, Erik and Suzuki would part company at the end of the ’89 season.
In fifth, MXA has the guy that actually deserves to be number one at the time this is published, Jeff Stanton. I understand why they put him in fifth (his success is sudden and it is hard to predict if it is a fluke), but by years end he will hold both 250 titles. Sixth is Ron Lechien, which I think may be a bit too high (if you will pardon the pun) for the troubled rider. In ’89, Ronnie is in a bit of a slump and well off the pace most of the time (with the occasional out-of-nowhere flash of brilliance). In the 500’s, an admittedly hung over Lechien will cartwheel his KX500, snapping his femur. The crash will end the Dogger’s season and in effect, his career. In truth, I think this ranking is more a salute to his former performances, than a true bearing of his speed at the time.
Seventh through tenth is another mix of American and Continental talent. Johnny O’Mara claims the seventh spot, in large part due to his much-improved ’89 finishes. In eighth place we have the Flying Dutchman, John Van De Berk. In hindsight, this may have been a bit high, but there is no doubt the ’88 250 World champ had speed. For me, I would have actually put our next rider ahead of Van Den Berk, the world’s fastest novice-David Thorpe. Considering MXA’s well publicized bias against King David, it is not particularly a surprise, but it is hard to argue with the lanky Brit’s results. There were many times he was the fastest man on the track (even against the American’s), and I think he gets a bit short-changed due to one performance at the MXDN. King David deserves better.
In tenth we have one of my all-time favorite riders, The Beast from the East himself-Damon Bradshaw. Damon is the only one of the big name rookies of ’89 to crack MXA’s top ten and it is hard not to see why. He was the fastest 125 rider on the track at nearly every event he entered (in fairness, he was also usually the fastest one to go on his head) and showed on several occasions he had the speed to beat the top 250 guys at their own game. If raw speed was the criteria, Damon should have probably been in the top five, but MXA seemed to weigh this list largely on past accomplishments, and by that measure the Beast had not yet paid his dues.
The darling of the ’89 125 season is privateer hero Donny Schmit. Donny campaigns the Nationals on a Pro Circuit Honda, after being release at the last minute by Factory Suzuki. By season’s end, the Minnesota native would finish 4thoverall, before moving to Europe to campaign the 1990 125 World Motocross Grand Prix’s for the Bieffe Suzuki team (a title he would win).
In race action, we travel to Muddy Creek Raceway in Tennessee for the Pizza Plus Eastern Continental Championships (how’s that for a mouthful?). The star of the race coverage is a 16-year old local boy by the name of Mike Brown, who roosts away to a commanding victory in the first 250 moto. Running a #411 Kawasaki, the Tennessee native backs it up with a sixth in moto two, for fourth overall. In the interview that accompanies the coverage, Brown explains that he pretty much dominates local races at Muddy Creek and is excited to get the chance to match up against some of the big name amateurs like Jim Chester and Jeromy Buehl. It is too early to tell, but you might want to watch this guy.
On page 49, the Wrecking Crew gets a chance to spin some laps on the bike that won the first National of the year and comes away impressed and sore. The Pro Circuit tuned CR250R that Jean-Michel Bayle roosted to victory on is quasar fast, but buckboard stiff. At the pace mere mortals can achieve, the suspension barely moves and transmits every pebble directly to your backside. The motor is smooth, with beaucoup power and an endless supply of over-rev. Pro testers love the bike, but slower riders find JMB’s machine a bit too much for comfort. As always, motocross is more about the rider than the bike, and having JMB’s machine will not turn Joe Schmo into Johnny O’Mara.
In MXA’s coverage of the Hangtown National, talk revolves around the domination of Honda’s CR125R, as Big Red claims the top four spots in the 125 class. The Factory Kawasaki’s and Suzuki’s look notably slower than the Honda’s and struggle to keep pace all day. Even the privateer CR of Donny Schmit is more than the other brands can handle. This is a theme that will play out all summer, as only the Yamaha’s seem capable of keeping up with the blazing-fast Honda’s.
In Supercross coverage (back then they didn’t wait for one to end before the other started), we get the details of the NJ event, where Jeff Stanton prevails over Yamaha’s Micky Dymond and Suzuki’s O’Mara. In the 125’s, its Damon Bradshaw on top, ahead of his season-long rival Mike Kiedrowski and Kawasaki’s Denny Stephenson. With only one round left and only six point separating them, the Bradshaw vs. Kiedrowski battle is going to go down to the wire for the 125 East Coast title.
Lastly, there is a nice guide on how to prevent bike seizures. In a bit of a revelation, MXA advises readers to stop riding those unreliable two-strokes and get a nice four-stroke (just kidding).
Gracing the cover of the September issue is Australian hero Jeff Leisk, who is busy making waves across the pond in the 500 GP’s. The picture is from the USGP in Hollister, which is covered in this issue. There is also coverage of the Southwick National, some long-term test wrap ups and a report on the twenty five biggest innovations in motocross awaiting intrepid MXA readers.
In addition to all the race coverage, we get an interesting report on all the Americans currently racing the Grand Prix’s in Europe. A decade before, it was considered a great honor to race in Europe, but by ’89 the GP’s are beginning to be thought of as a second class series by most American’s. After ’89, GP coverage will dwindle down to a trickle in the American press throughout the nineties. Where riders like Lackey and Pomeroy were held up as American heroes in the seventies, current ex-pats like Trampas Parker, Broc Glover (who is racing for KTM after losing his ride with Yamaha in the US) and Mike Healey are thought of as “has- beens” (a label famously placed on them by Jeff Stanton before the ’91 USGP), or “never weres”. Regardless of many American’s prejudices, riders like Parker, Billy Liles and Rodney Smith are making a nice living racing overseas and deserve credit for their accomplishments. At the end of the year, Trampas will be America’s first 125 Motocross champion.
After two years of lackluster results in Europe, Shreveport, Louisiana’s Trampas Parker caught fire in ’89 and rode away with the 125 World Motocross title. Two years later, Parker would prove it was no fluke by capturing the 1991 250 World Motocross as well.
On page 60, the Wrecking crew delves into the 500 USGP from Hollister, CA. As expected, an American wins it, but it is not the one everyone expects. At the time of the event, Jeff Stanton is the hottest rider in motocross and a confirmed 500 specialist. Pretty much everyone in attendance expects Stanton to run away with the event, but a combination of a bad start and a blown motor in the second moto open up the door for a surprise winner. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of a miserable season, Ron “The Machine” Lechien would go on an absolute tear this blazing hot California day. The Dogger (who had reportedly been sequestered away for the week prior to the event by JT Racing’s John Gregory) came out sober and swinging, winning both moto’s in an absolute romp. It was just the kind of out-of-nowhere performance he had pulled the year before at the MXDN and solidified his position as the biggest enigma in the sport. Tops among the regular GP competitors is Eric Geboers, who scores a 2-3 for second overall.
Next up is MXA’s wrap up of their twelve months with the MX 250’s. Over the course of that time, little has changed in the performance rankings, but some reliability issues have cropped up. Over the course of the year, the shootout winning KX250 has shown a propensity to break frames that has cooled the Wrecking Crew’s zeal somewhat for the green machine. Just as in the shootout, the RM250 tends to go through pistons at an accelerated rate and bears constant monitoring to prevent grenading one of its fragile top ends. The CR’s suspension is so bad, that mid-year Honda actually issues a recall and offers to install different internals in an effort to improve performance. The new specs are an improvement, but only slightly, and the Honda continues to torture wrists the nation over. Over the course of the year, the Yamaha turns out to be the most trouble free mount. Its performance is very good from the start and suffers none of the mechanical maladies of the others.
In Southwick coverage, an unknown local by the name of John Dowd shock the established stars with a third place overall in the 250 class. The only riders to beat Dowd in the final standings are Jeff Ward and Jeff Stanton, who rides away to a dominating 1-1 victory. MXA labels Stanton a juggernaut and muses that his rise to superstardom has left Rick Johnson a forgotten man (big ouch for RJ fans like myself) in the pits.
In the 125 class, we have a shakeup at the top, as Larry Ward captures the first overall of his career. Behind Ward are privateer Donny Schmit and National Champ George Holland. Both the series big guns falter in the Southwick sand, with Kiedrowski carding a sixth and Bradshaw a tenth. With only a few rounds to go, the MX Kied owns a fourteen point lead in the championship and looks to be the favorite to be the new 125 National Motocross champion.
Hallelujah and hold the presses! October is here and with it comes the arrival of the greatest batch of motocross beauties ever to set wheels to dirt. The 1990 model bikes are top to bottom some of the cleanest and best looking bikes ever in my opinion (I know some of you do not share my affection for these bikes, but this is my review just skip to the next paragraph if you don’t like it). The CR and RM are two of my all-time favorites and are just gorgeous, with sleek lines and understated graphics. The KTM’s this year are some of my favorites, with a cool red white and blue color scheme that is sweet looking, but a bit of an odd choice on an Austrian built machine. This is also the year that Kawasaki drops its neutron bomb on the MX community, with their first perimeter framed KX125 and KX250. The KX’s look like something from the future and start the trend toward crazier and crazier graphics. The ugly duckling of the year is the YZ, which is basically the beautiful ’89 model with the unfortunate addition of red forks (Ugh) and some stupid stripes on the seat (stripes, really?). Even with those dubious editions, the YZ is 100% better looking than anything from 1991.
The first thing to blow my wig back in the October issue is an ad for the all-new 1990 CR250R. The ad features a full page spread of a pitbull painted Honda red, followed by a ’90 CR250on the following page in the same pose. The ad is clever and eye catching, with the tag line that fro 1990, Honda has unleashed a whole new breed of animal. In 40 years of making motocross bikes, this one still stands as my favorite for the CR line. Clean, clever and concise, that’s how we do that my friends.
This four-page beauty of a spread made it into my list of top-ten motocross ads of all time and continues to stand the test of time. Cleaver, creative, and unforgettable; what more could you ask for in a motorcycle ad?
After the rundown of all the sweet 1990 machines coming our way (I loved the ’90 Honda’s so much that I bought all three: 125, 250 and 500), there is an article on MXA’s Hall of Fame. This seems like a cool Idea, that MXA lost interest in at some point. Maybe the sport is too new to keep it going, or we just don’t have enough riders to warrant a yearly induction. Whatever the reason, I wish they had kept it going (maybe they should have done just one rider a year instead of four to space it out a bit).
The inaugural class is hard to argue with, as it is a veritable who’s who of seventies moto. First up is “The Man”, Roger DeCoster. DeCoster is THE icon of motocross the world over and deserves to be on any list of MX greats. Next up is “Bad” Brad Lackey, who holds the distinction of being both America’s first World Motocross Champ and wanted so much money that he could not get a ride to defend it. Can you imagine that? You are the 500 WORLD MOTOCROSS CHAMP and you can’t get someone to give you a ride to parade around that big number one plate! That, my friends, is pretty crazy in a sport that puts so much emphasis on winning titles.
MXA’s third inductee is America’s first National Champion, Gary Jones. Jones actually won the first four consecutive 250 National Championships while racing for Yamaha, Honda and Can-Am (becoming the first man to campaign Honda’s original Elsinore in the process). Gary even started his own motorcycle company for a time, before economic problems in Mexico (where the bike was built) forced the operation into bankruptcy. After retirement, Jones became a member of the Wrecking Crew, trading his number one plates for an orange helmet (there is no mention of whether he voted for himself in the rankings).
Next up is…SWEET JESUS, will you look at that! Smack dab in the middle of MXA’s Hall of Fame, is the ad for the all-new KX250 and hold onto your hats is it cool. That baby screams badsass from every pour and makes me forget about the old farts in the MXA hall of Fame. Damn, I got to get me one of these too. Where was I? Oh yeah, old farts.
Motocross’ first teen idol: In 1976, Marty Smith was the very definition of cool.
Our last inductee into the MXA hall of fame is motocross’ original teen idol, Marty Smith. Marty is the winner of the first two 125 MX titles and the very embodiment of America’s new breed of motocross hero. He is tanned, toned, longhaired and not afraid to hang it out. Marty is held out of a three-peat by a young Bob Hannah in ’76, but he does bounce back to claim the 500 title in ’77. Overall, it is hard to argue with the guys MXA has chosen for its inaugural Hall of Fame.
The real star of the race action in the October issue is a doozy, as we get coverage of the 250 USGP from the legendary Unadilla circuit. The race is loaded with interesting story lines, foremost of which being the return of Rick Johnson from his wrist injury. This is the first real test Johnson has faced since the injury (he did win a few motos at Mammoth in preparation for his comeback) and everyone is anxious to see how he will stack up against the blazing fast Frenchman who is dominating the ’89 GP’s. In addition to RJ’s comeback, we have the return of KTM’s Broc Glover to American soil and the farewell race for motocross legend Bob Hurricane Hannah.
The mirage: Ricky Johnson makes a triumphant return to racing at Mammoth Mountain, but his domination there is no indication of the true state of his recovery. Fans think he is back, but time will prove that unfortunately, the old Bad Boy is gone forever. Trivia note- this is actually Bones Bacon of Pro Circuit’s bike and it’s still at PC to this day with those number plates.
As a lifelong RJ fan, I have to say this race may be the most bittersweet of his career. I think all of us Bad Boy devotees were waiting for him to come out and wax the world’s best and that is just what he did. RJ ran JMB (who was dominating the 250 World Title chase at this point) down from behind and roosted away to a dominating double moto victory that had the entire motocross community thinking the kid from El Cajon was back. It really looked like Johnson was ready to take back the crown that had been stolen by his usurping teammate, but alas, it was not to be.
As history would show us, the Unadilla victory was actually a complete mirage that sucks us all into thinking Johnson is back on top. His wrist injury was far worse than anyone anticipated (I’m not sure even Ricky realized just how bad his wrist was at this point) and like the end of Camelot, King Arthur had been vanquished for good. The sad truth was, no amount of rest and rehab was going to get him back to anything close to 100%. While RJ would soldier on for another year-and-a-half trying to get back to the front, it was obvious the old speed had left him. While he would capture an additional two victories in the outdoors (Gatorback and Unadilla in 1990), he would never again stand upon the top step in Supercross and eventually retire a few rounds into the ’91 season. It was a sad end for an illustrious career.
For the penultimate issue of the ’89 season, we get a sweet pic defending 500 World Champ Eric Geboers at the historic Citadel of Namur (For the record that is two GP themed covers in three months. Can you imagine that happening today?). The Namur race is held in the shadow of an ancient Belgian castle and is the equivalent of staging a race on the White House west lawn. It is by far the most unique of all the GP rounds and is part of flavor that makes Grand Prix racing so different than American racing.
For the ’89 running of the Belgian GP, 70,000 fans turn out to see their heroes due battle on the hills, valleys and occasional pavement stretches that make up the unique Namur track. Up to this point, the 500 GP season has been a free-for-all, with six different winners in the first ten events. The Belgian event signals a turning point for the series, as Great Britain’s Dave Thorpe captures a dominating victory, before reeling off three in a row and opening up a lead in the series that can not me overtaken. At the end of the year, King David will have a third 500 World Motocross trophy for his living room mantle.
The star of the Kenworthy National in July (covered in November, how is that for topical?) is Guy Cooper, who uses his Supercross skills to claim his first win of the 125 outdoor season.
On page 36, we get our first test of the 1990 season, the Honda CR500R. While the CR is more-or-less a refined version of the ’89 five-honey, it does have a distinctly different personality to go with its new coat of orange paint. For 1990, the CR has gone from Top-Fueler to torquey-tractor and MXA is absolutely smitten. Jody even compares the new motor to the Holy Grail of Open class motors: the vaunted 1981 Maico 490. The Honda mill is smooth, torquey and hooked up in way that had eluded Big Red since the introduction of their first Open bike in 1981. The suspension is improved over the abysmal ’89, but still not in the same league as the Kawasaki. Overall, the Wrecking Crew loves the big Honda and thinks it will at least be in the running for best 500 of the year.
The second test of the issue is of the all-new “Broc Glover” replica KTM 250 SX. This red white and blue beauty is designed to be more appealing to the American market and is a major step forward for the Austrian brand. Power from the new case-reed mill is too mellow for most riders’ taste, but at least the kickstarter is on the correct (right) side. The suspension is too soft, but the fit, finish and feel of the bike is far more mainstream than in the past. MXA proclaims the new bike a huge improvement and the best KTM 250 ever.
With an absolute tractor for a motor and a 250-like feel, the 1990 CR500R is the best Honda Open bike since the original CR480R.
In American race coverage, we go to the Ponca City Amateur National where there is an epic battle between Team Green stars Jeff Emig and Ryan Hughes. While both rising stars show blazing speed, it is the more consistent Emig who takes home the class titles. Other stars of MXA’s coverage are a “Pre-Factory” Phil Lawrence, Jeff Dement and a diminutive redhead from Florida by the name of Ricky Carmichael who smokes the pee-wee classes, but gets DQ’d in the 80’s for using a bucket to help hold up the bike on the starting line.
The big controversy of the November issue centers on Johnny O’Mara, who wants to be allowed to step back down to the 125 class for the remainder of the AMA nationals. In 1989, Suzuki does not make a 500, and both the O’Show and his employer would like to put him on a tiddler for the last few National events. The problem with this plan, is the MXA and several other teams believe Johnny is not eligible due to his 1984 125 MX title. It is similar to the current 250 SX class where riders are pointed out and forced to move up. When pressed on the issue, the AMA rules that while it against the spirit of the class, there is no specific verbiage in the rule book that would prevent the O’Show from jumping back to the 125’s. Roger DeCoster (a member of Team Honda at the time) in particular is vehemently against this ruling, but the decision is upheld and O’Mara is allowed to compete. As always, some things never change and the moving up/moving down rules continue to be controversial to this day.
For December, we get one of MXA’s most iconic covers, as Downers Grove Yamaha’s Steve Lamson tries to use Doug Dubach for traction at the Washougal National. Matthes got all excited because that other rider down on the left is multi-time Canadian champion Al Dyck. Canada made the cover of MXA! In addition to coverage of Washougal, the December issue brings us race reports from the Motocross des Nations in Germany and wrap ups of the 125, 250 and 500 World MX titles. In race tests, there is a review of the new Honda CR125R and a report on the longevity of the ’89 125’s.
First up, is coverage of the ’89 MXDN, where Team USA captures their ninth team title in a row. The team of Jeff Ward (500), Jeff Stanton (250) and Mike Kiedrowski (a last minute pick, after Rick Johnson declined to ride the 125) prove to be too much for GP regulars. All three classes are won by American’s, even though only two of them are on Team USA. Stanton and Kiedrowski both dominate their divisions on the rock hard and slippery track, while newly crowned 125 World Motocross champion Trampas Parker (ironically, riding for Team Italy) just beats out Ward for the 500 class win.
In further race coverage, we get an update from the first 500 class race of the year in Washougal Washington. The first round is won by Jeff Ward, who is looking to become the first rider ever to win titles in all four divisions (125, 250SX, 250MX and 500). The 500 title is the only one still eluding the Kawasaki star and the win is a big boost to his chances in the abbreviated 500 series. A few ticks off Ward is Jeff Stanton, who has been dominating the racing all summer and figures to be Ward’s biggest competition for the title. His consistent 3-3 is good enough for second place in Washington. In third place is Ronnie Lechien, who many in the pits believe will be out at Kawasaki at year’s end, regardless of his results. Apparently three years of partying are all that Green Team can take and they are ready to move on from the mercurial star.
Coming into the ’89 500 series, all bets were on newly crowned 250 Supercross and National Motocross champ Jeff Stanton. Previously thought of as a 500 specialist, the Sherwood Michigan star seemed like a safe bet, but bad luck and uncharacteristic mistakes by Stanton would cost him the triple crown and allow Jeff Ward to claim his first 500 National Motocross title.
Our only new model test of the issue is of the Honda CR125R, which is majorly revised for 1990. The orange tiddler gets an all-new HPP mill for ’90 that greatly increases the mid-range torque of Honda’s little screamer. The addition of USD forks to the 125 looks good on the spec sheet, but perform worse on the track than the old 43’s. Shock performance is likewise, less than spectacular. The rest of the bike is typical Honda, with flawless build quality, sharp handling and quality components. If only they could figure out a set of forks…
Our last article for 1989 is a long-term wrap up on the ’89 125’s. Of all the 125’s, only the RM proves unreliable. The Suzuki suffers from engine seizures and other maladies that make it a tough machine to own. Like its 250 big brother, the YZ125 proves stone-axe reliable over the course if the year. Its performance and feel are a tick off the Honda, but it is a great buy none-the-less. The mellow Kawasaki is loved for its handling and proves far more reliable than the KX250. It suffers none of the frame breakage issues seen on the 250, but still has annoyances like a leaky gas cap and all too brittle plastic. Tops of all the bikes is the Honda, which starts out costing the most, but pays you back in longevity and performance. It is fast, great handling and impossible to break, what more could you want in a 125?
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