Things Are Looking Up. Or So It Seems...
Motorcycle racing and its effect on the industry
It’s hard to tell, but the outlook appears promising. By now, we’ve all heard that the motorcycle industry has been in somewhat of a stagnant rut over the last 10 years compared to the numbers it was enjoying during the late ‘90s and early 2000s, but I’m not here to beat a dead horse. Things are looking up. Or so it seems.
Sure, there are all sorts of new and exciting models being released, many of which are aimed to entice prospective riders, and a lot of manufacturers are reporting record sales numbers too, but what has stood out to me lately, is the emergence and growing popularity of motorcycle racing. Maybe not emergence necessarily as much as emphasis, because motorcycle racing never went anywhere, it’s always been there for the faithful and committed.
There has been a major emphasis on evolving motorcycle racing it seems, focused both on the fan as well as racer experience. On the fan side of things, race series like Monster Energy Supercross, MotoAmerica and American Flat Track are taking big strides to create a more engaging spectator experience. They’ve created incentives other than just the racing itself for fans or people curious to come check it out and take a deeper look, behind the curtains, if you will.
For example, Monster Energy Supercross has their Party in the Pits all day before the gates drop, and all you have to do is bring any size can of Monster to be admitted. How easy is that? Once in the pits, fans can meet the racers and check out all the teams’ operations, from the big factory rigs to the privateer vans, up close and personal. There are other attractions too, like live music, giveaways, raffles, bike demos and memory-lane type historical exhibits displaying vintage two-strokes – the list goes on… Oh, and Monster Girls. Hey now! Anyone, regardless of age, can feel like a kid in a candy store, and I’m proudly guilty of it. How often do you get to nerd out on all the latest and greatest, not to mention intuitive and clever race mods? This goes for all different types of racing, but maybe I’m just a gearhead.
MotoAmerica and American Flat Track are taking the same approach Monster Energy has to make their weekends revolve around more than just the racing, although that’s obviously the best part. Many manufacturers and title sponsors are investing more money in 2018 than ever before. Flat trackers have contingency incentives of nearly $2 million, and that amount continues to grow. Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycles have contributed nearly half of it, pledging $562,500 and $358,000, respectively, and from the industry buzz, I’m pretty sure I see their contributions working.
I think this year is the year for flat track. It’s a grass-roots, blue-collar type racing that almost any Average Joe can get into or at least appreciate, more so than any sort of high-tech, high-dollar road racing – flat track is motorcycling’s answer to NASCAR. It’s going to continue to grow exponentially, put motorcycle racing in the U.S. back in the mainstream and ought to have a big impact on bike sales – I’m calling it now.
To further bring flat track into the mainstream limelight, we have the Super Hooligan Class for small-timers, people like you and me looking to get their feet wet. I know at least a half dozen guys who have invested minimal amounts of money to go out and give it a shot, and guess what? They’re hooked and I’m jealous, but also very stoked for them. This past July, the Super Hooligans raced at the Summer X Games and Harley-Davidson is debuting its V-Twin Snow Hill Climb competition at Winter X Games this weekend in Aspen. Motorcycling is on the rise, at least it seems to be…
On the racing side of things, series like MotoAmerica and M1GP have expanded or created small-displacement racing to encourage more prospective racers to start racing. Race organizers’ main objective is to make motorcycle racing as accessible, affordable and fun as possible. MotoAmerica’s Junior Cup has replaced the KTM RC Cup and now allows and encourages bikes other than the RC390 to be raced. This change has opened the door for riders with R3s, CBR500Rs, GSX250Rs, Ninja 300/400s and bikes of the like to start competing.
MotoAmerica has also implemented rules on how much you can modify a Junior Cup bike and how much you can spend on those modifications. The goal is to essentially keep the bikes as showroom-stock as possible to level the playing field and emphasize rider ability over whoever’s got deeper pockets. A collaboration between M1GP and the Women in Motorsports Foundation have created a very similar series called the Superlights Endurance Championship where they’re heavily encouraging women to sign up and line up.
For riders looking to race bigger bikes, MotoAmerica has their all-new Stock 1000 class, which basically implements the same parameters as the Junior Cup in the sense that the bikes are to remain as stock as possible, to make it as affordable as can be for interested racers. On the other hand, there’s also the new MotoAmerica Twins Class, which is designed for common 600-800cc twin-cylinder streetbikes that can be modified and upgraded with almost no restrictions really other than a minimum weight.
This class and its lenient set of rules was created with hopes to attract more manufacturers, race shops, and tuners to participate and show off their work by giving them the freedom to really go nuts. All the homologated bikes approved for racing the Twins class are popular bikes that many people have in their garages already. They include Ducati Monsters, the Harley-Davidson 750 and Street Rod, Kawasaki Ninja 650, KTM 790 Duke, Suzuki SV650 and the Yamaha FZ/MT-07. The Twins class could be the ultimate weekend warrior class.
These are just a few examples of big-name racing series. There’s all sorts of club and district racing, both on- and off-road, all over the U.S. Another exciting thing to keep an eye on and encourage is the amount of girls going out, getting bikes if they don’t already have them, and showing us guys that they’ve got what it takes to muscle a bike around too. Keep that shit up!
Anyway, I think things are looking up and we as motorcyclists have nothing but good things to look forward to in 2018 and beyond…