Features 2 Dec 2011

The Matthes Report: What Off-Season?

Steve Matthes answers the question – is there really an off-season in the U.S?

Steve Matthes answers the question – is there really an off-season in the U.S?

The official American motocross season ended in mid-September. That was just shy of two months ago, but really, the season is never over for the racers on this side of the pond.

Those three riders that were lucky enough to be selected for the Motocross des Nations had to be on a plane Monday morning after the last national to defend America’s honour in France. After that, there was the Monster Energy Cup for them and a whole bunch of other riders in mid-October, which was a month after the last national.

So now you’re stringing the season along even longer and a host of racers would head over to Paris for the annual Bercy SX, Geneva and Genoa supercrosses. After the Thanksgiving holiday, you have a month to prepare for the entire 29-race season that begins again.

By the end of the season, most racers are beat up from the feet up and need time to rest and recuperate from the year. Many racers got some surgeries to clean up knees and fix old ailments that they were putting up with all season. Not too mention that with the way the economy is over here, many riders had to wait and see where they were going to ride for 2012.

With races like the MXoN taking centre stage during the 'off-season', top AMA riders never really get a break.

As usual, the budgets and sponsorships were late getting going for many people and some good riders have to wait and see what’s up with them. Great riders like Kyle Regal and Tommy Hahn are going to be going at it privateer-style this season and that just adds to the work needed to get ready.

Although Regal was still in talks with Larry Brooks to ride for him as of press time, the fact is times are tough for many of the men who choose to race dirt bikes for a living.

When I was a mechanic at factory Yamaha, we would be out on the supercross tracks testing new parts on the Wednesday after the last national. Think about that, the riders and teams would have no time to relax and regroup for the new season. It was right back at it.

Part of the reason was because we had to as a team figure out which direction the riders wanted to go so we could place our order back in Japan to start making us certain parts. So the tests lined up after the season would immediately give us an idea on which way a rider would want to go.

For example, we had some KYB bell-bottom forks that we tried one year and the riders gave us feedback indicating that they worked well so we ordered enough upper fork tubes to last us the season. Turns out that the forks were probably too stiff with the new aluminum two-stroke chassis and it was a one and done deal but that’s beside the point.

When I was at KTM, myself and my rider Kelly Smith would hit the road after the last national and contest the six-week East Coast Four Stroke National Series (yes, we used to have special series for riders who rode four-strokes only… imagine that!) which would put us back in California getting ready for supercross around the middle of October.

Ryan Villopoto pocketed a million dollars for his Monster Energy Cup sweep, so a busy off-season can be worth it for some!

Even though beforehand he denied it would be the case, a big reason why Chad Reed struggled so badly at Kawasaki in 2010 was because he contested the full Australian SX series before the American season got underway. He just didn’t have enough time under the right conditions on the green bike to ensure that he was 100 percent ready.

He looked tired, he lacked the old aggressive quality that we had been used to seeing and if it wasn’t for a broken hand at round two, we might have seen Reed really struggle that season. He’s one of the greatest riders of all-time and even he needed to take some time off in order to be at his best.

As you can see, the racing year doesn’t really ever stop and there’s never a relax-mode for the riders. It’s a constant grind of testing, training, maintaining and healing cycle that doesn’t stop for anyone. A rider has to balance the time that he’s not racing with his desire to make some money at overseas races, his next year’s plans and the whole thing starts again.

One time I was talking to former two-time 125 supercross champion Damon Huffman and he mentioned that when he was a kid, his dad told him that if he worked twice as hard as a person should for 15 years, then he can relax for the last 40.

You just got to ask yourself, how bad do you want it?

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