Want the real truth from a rider? Give them anonymity!
Want the real truth from a rider? Give them anonymity!
We’ve done this type of column before on Pulpmx but it’s been a while. I wanted to get you people some information on what pros in our sport really think. Like, what they tell guys like me when the mics are off. The only way to do that and not have them get hammered by fans and the industry is to promise anonymity. So that’s what we did. We asked a current top rider about certain aspects in the sport and promised him that his identity wouldn’t be released. So without further adieu, here’s what “Rider X” had to say about certain topics- Matthes
ON HOW MUCH MONEY RIDERS MAKE…
I think a lot of people have misconceptions on how much we make. Yeah, the money’s not bad on a factory level, I’m not going to complain but there are definitely a lot of expenses. You can make a lot of money in this sport but what I don’t think people understand that making that money maybe starts at 19 years old and maybe if you have a solid career, that’s only ten years. So now you’re 29 and done and you’re never going to make that kind of money again in your life. You’re starting from scratch in terms of life skills…so you better figure out something to do. All that money has to last you a long time. So you have to be really smart with the money you make.
There were two years with bonuses and everything I made around a million bucks a year. Some other ones where I didn’t have as good of finishes, with my base salary and all my gear money, I was right around 700-750K for the year. I know that other guys around my level years ago were a million before they even threw a leg over the bike…I’m not complaining but just informing everyone. The best salary I ever made was good but it wasn’t as good as a few years ago when things were better. I know that Josh Grant was a 250 guy and making 900K for two years around ’07 and ’08. I think he was the highest paid 250 rider ever.
I probably could have made a bit more from year to year but I didn’t really hold out for more and made the same base salary for a few years. I could’ve maybe gotten more if I had my agent wait but security is a nice thing also.
If you’re one of the better guys, on a factory team, the money comes in but to be someone that good means you didn’t finish high school and there’s not much education there. So you’re options are limited when you’re done. So you have to be careful when that money comes in with one big chunk. So you have to spend like you’re not making much when you are.
ON RIDER EXPENSES…
Remember Uncle Sam gets 50% pretty much right off the top also so that number above isn’t that big and then you add on this stuff. Agent, trainers, practice bike mechanic, your own track maybe. You can get a practice bike guy pretty cheap. A lot of guys want to do, it’s a way to get your foot in the door but you’re spending at least 30K a year for that guy. Depends on whether the guy lives with you which I’ve heard some do. I’ve heard of some guys getting 60K a year but they’re also doing more for that. If you have a compound they’re working on the track, dozer’s, lawnmowers or whatever. So those types of guys are going to be paid more.
Trainers vary and all over the map. Those top trainers in the sport, and you know who I mean, I’ve heard that those guys are making 200K from their top guys. If you’re just one of the guys using one of those top guys, it’s 60 to 80K a year. I’ve paid 40K for my guys. Some guys pay to ride at other guy’s facilities. RV, Baggett, Stewart, Reed and those guys have their own properties now and if you’re a buddy, you can pay 50, 60K a year just to ride there which goes into expenses.
So if you’re someone like me, you’re in for minimum 150K right now for practice bike guy, trainer and a place to ride if you don’t have one. And you have to give your agent a percentage of all these deals, not out of bonuses but I have heard some agents get a percentage of bonuses which is insane, but any kind of deals they do for you is 10%–that’s the standard. So all that money above, agent takes 10%.
Gear money is around 200K now for a top ten guy, that’s pretty standard. One thing that’s a little weird in our sport is the top guys, the very top guys get a million a year from the gear companies. That’s not goggles, helmet or boots and that’s a huge difference from the guys that finish a few seconds behind them. Don’t get me wrong, they should get more because they’re winning a lot but that much more?
ON MECHANIC BONUSES…
Mechanics and bonuses are a little different with different guys. I never had an official agreement with any of my guys, one year I gave my dude 30K which is pretty generous I think. I did well that year. Some mechanics like to get it set before the year starts and I’m not sure about that. I’ve seen some scenarios over the years where the mechanic’s are unhappy with bonuses and it sort of infects the team. I’ve heard from people close to the situation that Christophe Pourcel never gave his guy one dime despite winning two 250SX titles and almost two 250MX titles.
That’s not cool to me. You have to have a good relationship with your mechanic, he’s literally got your life in his hands. I’d like for my mechanic to take the extra time to build my bike and not be pissed off at me. I like to have a friendship with my guy and I’ve always gotten along with any guy I’ve had. It’s important to keep that strong and healthy.
Fans love to talk about PED’s in our sport and think that all these people are doing it. I personally haven’t seen anything concrete. I’ve had my suspicions about riders like everyone else but I’ve been around a lot of guys and haven’t seen anything. I think it’s been blown out of proportion by fans in our sport, it’s out there I’m sure but I don’t think it’s out there that much. Now IV’s between motos, I’ve never done it but I’ll bet you a lot of money that shit goes on. There are a lot of stories about it and it’s pretty easy to do. I don’t think PED’s are cheap either so that eliminates a lot of riders. To do it right, it would cost a lot of money and that’s out of reach of a lot of guys.
ON HOW TEAMS TREAT YOU…
I’ve been a number one guy, or close to it, on teams and then I’ve been the guy that’s clearly not doing as well as my teammates. And there is a difference in the way a team treats you. It’s tough for the teams to listen to things about the bike when they can look at the other guy who’s winning and shrug their shoulders. Tough to go back to the pits and complain right?
There is a problem with that but I guess that’s the way the sport is. I look at it like the guy that’s outperforming the other guy needs less attention because he’s doing great. I look at it like hey guys, you’re paying me regardless of how I do so how about helping me out because it seems like the guy doing great has things under control. I’m not saying ignore the guy doing great but if you can get the guy going who’s struggling with the bike going, then it’s a win-win right? If you’re killing it the team will bend over backward for you but if you’re not doing as well, I’ve had teams sort of put me on the back burner and not care that much about me. At least it feels like that. Then you get bummed on them and they get more bummed at you and it’s a vicious circle! (laughs)
Matthes you know what it’s like, you’ve been there on a lot of teams…stop me if I’m wrong. I was in a really bad spot at one point where I couldn’t get anything done for me.
A COMMON MISCONCEPTION…
I think another thing is by no means am I moaning about what we do. It is cool that we get to be professional dirt bike racing but the fans see Saturday when the rigs show up and look great. The bikes are built up brand new, the gear is all brand new and everything looks unbelievable. On Monday though, when you show up in your van to the practice track, a van that’s beat down. The gear bag is faded from sitting in the back of the truck, the helmet is beat up and the track is dry and worked. That’s where the work is done. I don’t think a lot of fans think about the work Monday to Friday when they see us being rock stars on Saturday you know? It’s hard work out there on and off the bike people and there’s no one cheering you and looking on with admiration for five days a week.