There’s nothing quite like a good ol’ fashioned road trip. This time, our particular mission was to hit the road for the first two rounds of the 2007 Maxxis EnduroCross series in Denver, Colorado, followed by the next weekend in Guthrie, Oklahoma. Piling into Big Air Tod Sciacqua’s tightly packed motor home, the crew started out with Tod, myself, off-road up-and-comers Kyle Redmond and Gary “Plankton” Fogg, as well as my older brother, Scott, and former supercross hero-turned diaper specialist Damon Huffman. (However, Scooter and Huff Daddy had “real” responsibilities that kept them from partaking in the entire trip.) Together, our merry band of roaming roost carnies left California on a sunny morning and bombed it straight to Colorado, struggling to keep 65 mph going in our overloaded rig full of bikes, gear and junk food. Fueled by laughter and our beloved Texaco gas card, the trip started out as just another dirt bike adventure with a few favorite friends. Yet when the motor home came to a halt and we pulled out the bikes, the true meaning of our journey became evermore clear: We drove halfway across the country just to race, and race we did.When we finally arrived at Denver’s National Western Stock Show complex and laid eyes on the freshly completed course, it was clear that round one of EnduroCross would certainly weed out the weak of heart. The organized practice sessions confirmed this, as the track’s tricky boulder sections, greasy slick logs and loose river rock corner made things more than a little interesting. But who said EnduroCross was supposed to be easy? While nearly everyone crashed, some pulled off and a few quit completely, a couple of riders visibly excelled on the brutal little track; it was clear who had done their homework coming in. I felt decent on my Suzuki RM250 two-smoke but was reminded that one of the key aspects to EnduroCross lies in your arms-they’re going to pump no matter what, so you can either quit or accept it. I chose the latter.After pounding through qualifiers, I hit the track for the Junior (ages 24 and under) main event. One cool aspect of EX is that unlike in supercross, amateur classes race on the same track as the pros do, so you really get an appreciation for how good those guys are. As is usually the case with off-road riders, pretty much all the invited pros are cool enough to come out and watch you ride, mostly for track-study purposes but also for their own entertainment. Working through my eight laps of fury, I noticed Ty Davis, John Dowd and David Knight standing along the sidelines with all the other VIPs and mechanics-very cool indeed, and a great motivator when you need a second wind. Despite the tricky conditions, the racing was close yet the riding was clean, with most riders being too busy taking themselves out to really have a crack at anyone else. I struggled in the rock corner but rode somewhat mistake-free and crossed the line in fifth, giving me nearly a minute of recovery time before taking off in the succeeding Open two-stroke main. I pulled through that one with a seventh-five gaping spots away from making the night show-but was slightly stoked to be able to take my gear off for the night.When the final race of the evening took off in front of the packed crowd, Knight pinned it off the line and never looked back. Several riders looked to be in a position to keep the KTM rider honest, but it was trials pro Keith Wineland who eventually grabbed the runner-up podium spot. Huffman showed no signs of his recent retirement, riding with a smooth, consistent style to take the final podium position. Back at the motor home, you could see in Damon’s eyes that he was just stoked to be back racing after a two-year hiatus; this guy was born to ride a dirt bike.
Dog tired and totally filthy, we hastily threw everything in the trailer and went to sleep in the arena parking lot. Early the next morning, we made the jaunt up to my parents’ place in the foothills and started the long process of cleaning up and preparing for next week’s race. One downfall to EnduroCross is the amount of wear and tear that can take place on your machine; riding through huge boulders and water crossings is no cakewalk for equipment. Luckily, though, we had some entertainment while we worked: ’06 EX crowd favorite Nick “Trials Guy” Mantzoros and his buddy Garrett Greenfield had nothing to do, so they decided to tag along for the next few days, entertaining us with nose wheelies and an odd taste in food (Nick was seen eating a burrito made of a tortilla Dog tired and totally filthy, we hastily threw everything stuffed with Skittles, Pop Tarts and a Snickers bar with maple syrup inside. Yuck.).After we got our bikes reprepped (which consisted of changing oil, straightening rotors and checking everything top to bottom), it was time for some R&R-we cut firewood, shot skeet, rode trials, threw knives and enjoyed my Mom’s down home cooking for the whole next day. You can’t have fun forever, though, so the next morning it was back to business as we again loaded up and hopped over to Geoff Aaron’s home in Bailey, Colorado. Geoff is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, but he didn’t earn his 10 trials championships without working hard, and he certainly knows how to crack the whip when it comes to practicing. Realizing our propensity for goofing off, Geoff immediately put us on a gnarly training diet of waking up early, hiking in the mountains, rock climbing without ropes and riding over boulders that shouldn’t be ridden upon. You really have to see Aaron ride to appreciate his skill, and his flawless approach to every obstacle motivated us to sharpen up for the coming weekend. It wasn’t all work, though, as Geoff rewarded our progress by showing us the many sights around his friendly little town, which has some of the coolest backwoods hangouts imaginable. Still, by the time we motored back onto the freeway we were hardened, focused and ready to race.It’s a good thing we practiced all week, because Oklahoma was a whole different animal than Colorado. Set inside the famed Lazy-E Rodeo Arena, the huge course looked like a supercross track covered in tires and logs. To give you an idea of how big the venue is, I rode a freestyle contest there in 2002 where we competed over eight ramps, five dirt hits and a double-double-double rhythm section with plenty of room to spare. The place is big, and the Shane Schaeffer-created track wasn’t something you could just ride around. One of the most snarling obstacles was a dirt step-up to a plateau of logs, followed by another huge log and a steep, small downside. With nearly everyone watching the first practice, the freestyler inside took hold. I failed an attempt to pop up the step and over the logs in what Huffman described as, “the scariest crash I’ve ever seen.” My trials tire clipped the top and sent me flipping over the bar, but I somehow cleared the next log and rolled straight to my feet without a single scratch. While my bike was totally tweaked, I was stoked to walk away unharmed, even if I had just played guinea pig for everyone about to go out for practice. For the remainder of day qualifiers and into the pro race that night, nobody tried the hideous little double again.
As was the case in ’06, trials bikes were once again allowed to compete in this year’s EnduroCross series. This caused a good bit of controversy in the pits, as some believe that a trials machine is too much of an advantage when the going gets rough. Still, it was quite fun to jokingly trash talk to some of the faster trials riders in attendance. Geoff decided to race his KTM 450 in the name of fairness, but rookie trials pro Colton Haaker stuck to his guns for qualifiers, though he quickly had enough with our jeering comments. In a bold move, the kid grabbed Tod’s YZ250 and followed me to the start of the Junior class main to prove that his win in Denver wasn’t on account of superior equipment. It almost worked, as Haaker finished a close third behind Kawasaki’s Jamie Lanza and myself, effectively earning himself a huge heap of respect in the process.If you have access to the Internet or saw the race on television, you already know how things ended up. Huffman upped his results from the previous week by finishing runner-up, and was again excited as ever to have a spot on the podium. The rest of the racing was intense, with Dave Pearson, Wineland and Nick Brozovich all turning in great rides aboard the long course. Fan favorites John Dowd and Guy Cooper both rode well, though Coop didn’t make it all the way to the main event. Yet by the end of the evening, nobody was surprised with who the winner was: David Knight continued his reign of dominance by waxing the field from start to finish, showing that he truly is the man to beat when it comes to off-road riding. While loading up that evening, Damon had nothing but nice things to say about Knight’s riding. Yet when asked about the upcoming Vegas round, that same racer’s smile crept upon Huffman’s face. “I know I can beat that guy.”I took the late shift in the motor home and drove until 6:30 A.M. before turning the wheel over just before sunrise. Climbing into the upper bunk for some shuteye, I listened to the droning sounds of the highway as I tried to force myself to sleep. Every time I closed my eyes, though, visions of jagged boulders, looming logs and knee-deep water sections kept reminding me that my mind was still in race mode. EnduroCross is like nothing else on earth, and the overall impact of such a wild form of racing is still familiar to me even as I type this. If you’re looking for a good time, I suggest you recruit a few buddies, load up your bikes and drive to the farthest-not nearest-round of the Maxxis EnduroCross series. I promise that you won’t be disappointed.Endurocross: The Stats
Gnarly obstacles weed out the sissies.
Low speed plus tough tracks equals safe crashes with very few injuries.
A variety of amateur classes provide a chance for everyone to shine.
Feeling fast? If you make the night show, you get to try to qualify with the invited pros!
Racing indoors makes you feel like a champion.What’s Not!
Don’t like bashing your bike? Don’t race.
You haven’t had arm-pump until you’ve tried EnduroCross.
Short motos favor the sprinters.
With only three rounds in 2007, entries were gone in a hurry. Luckily, there are seven rounds on the ’08 schedule.Overall: EnduroCross is awesome, even if it’s hell on your pipe. Think you’ve got what it takes? Check out www.endurocross.com.
Make Your MX Bike Endurocross-Ready In Just 10 Steps!
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need an off-road bike to compete in EnduroCross. Many modern motocross bikes, such as this ’08 Suzuki RM250 two-stroke, are only a few steps away from being rocky-race ready, thanks mostly to their low weight, nimble handling, easy starting and snappy power. With a relatively minimal amount of modification, the Suzuki MXer was transformed into what many would consider to be the ultimate privateer EnduroCross bike. Here’s how:1.Race Tech Suspension: Valved for a 155- pound off-road expert, this plush setup rides way smoother over obstacles than stock, yet still takes harder hits and big drops. As Borat would say, “Very niiice!”2. T.M. Design Works Chain Slide-N-Guide: Metal bends, plastic doesn’t. Enough said.3. Guts Step-Seat And Gripper Cover: When getting your feet to the pegs isn’t really an option, a gripper step-seat can do wonders for bike control. This foam was custom cut for less height in the rear.4. Steahly Flywheel Weight: A heavyweight flywheel is a must for slow, lugging conditions. The 10-ounce weight works well for Enduro Cross applications.5. Fastway/Pro Moto Billet Guards (bark busters, hand shields, rear disc guard and brake snake): Arm yourself…the rocks are coming!6. ProTaper Controls (bar, grips and sprockets): This Woods-Hi Bend bar is higher and narrower than stock, and the heavy-duty 13/51 gearing combo offers a bit better pull off the bottom.7. Works Connection Radiator Braces, EZ Holeshot, Skid Plate, Rear Caliper Guard And Frame Guards: It’s possible to protect your bike too much (read: heavy), but a minimal assortment of guards will save you money in the long run. Also, the holeshot holder is mandatory for a good start!8. Dunlop Tires: Traction is a must, and good rubber is essential for traction. This 742F front and D803 trials rear combo works well on everything from loose boulders to deep sand.9. 18-inch Rear Wheel: If you can mount an 18-inch trials tire on a 19-inch stock wheel, you’re either very good at changing tires or very strong. For those of us who are neither, a smaller wheel is key.10. FMF Gnarly Pipe, PowerCore Silencer And Graphics: Some of those logs are pretty big, and a little extra bark goes a long way in getting over them. And yes, the graphics do add an extra bit of horsepower.Interview: David Knight
America’s Latest Off-Road Champ (Who Isn’t American)
Dirt Rider: How’s the year been so far?
David Knight: Juha Salminen definitely raised the bar in the GNCC series, and as a European I was always aware that none of the U.S. riders were going to want to get beaten by me, so I was expecting to have a fight on my hands. I wasn’t expecting the year to be quite as challenging as it was, but things worked out in the end. My priority was always to win the U.S. GNCC series this year, so it was hard to really prepare myself for the first two rounds of the EnduroCross series because of my cross-country schedule.In EnduroCross things have gone well, as I’ve won both of the opening rounds without too many problems. Everyone knows that I enjoy the challenge of competing in indoor events, and because of my previous successes there’s a fair bit of pressure on me to perform.Now that I’ve wrapped up the GNCC championship, I have the time to really prepare myself properly for the Las Vegas final, which I’m really looking forward to. I think that, having won the first two rounds, a lot of people are looking at me to make a clean sweep of the series and collect the $50K prize. Of course, I’ll try my best to win the event but anything can happen when you’re racing indoors. I’d love to take home the money, but if I don’t win, I won’t be too disappointed. I got the GNCC championship.DR: And you’re doing it on a four-stroke.
DK: It doesn’t really make any difference to me what type of bike I race indoors. I can race a two- or a four-stroke. I’ve been racing a four-stroke [in EX] this season because that’s what I’ve been racing in cross-country events. Changing from one bike to another can take a little time, which is why I stuck to a four-stroke. I really enjoy riding the 450 indoors. A lot of riders prefer two-strokes because they’re lighter and easier to start, but four-strokes have smoother power, which I like. It really doesn’t make a lot of difference to me what I ride, just as long as I have a little time to get used to it and set it up.DR: And you have these little trials bikes running around, too.DK: I’m not really a big fan of having trials bikes compete in the events. Do I think it’s an advantage riding a trials bike? Over the rocks and logs it is. I’m not sure that allowing trials bikes, or even trials tires, in EnduroCross events is a good thing. Half the fun of indoor racing is seeing what you can achieve on a motocross or cross-country bike with off-road ires. That’s what makes it so exciting. I think it would make for better racing if trials bikes weren’t allowed to compete.DR: And next year…DK: I’ll start the ’08 GNCC series knowing what to expect, so with my bike set upproperly, I know I can be much stronger an faster than I was this year. I don’t think winning each and every round of the championship next year is out of the question. I’m not being big-headed, but if I can avoid injuries and get my bike set up well, then I think it’s possible. It’s down to me really. I won’t ride above myself if things aren’t going well; I know I don’t need to win every race to win the championship. For ’08 I’ll be ready to defend my title.