Champion Rider and Magazine Editor Jimmy Lewis
Champion rider and magazine editor Jimmy Lewis discusses Dakar, and what has changed since he competed. He also shares his thoughts on the future of EV bikes in racing, and teaching the next generation at his Jimmy Lewis Off-Road Training School.
Pit Pass Moto is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. A special thank you to Tommy Boy Halverson, Producer Leah Longbrake and Audio Engineer Eric Koltnow.
This transcript is AI generated and may contain inaccuracies.
[00:00:15.290] - Dale Spangler
Welcome to Pit Pass Moto, the show that keeps you up to speed on the latest in motorcycling and brings you the biggest names in motorcycle racing. Right to you. I'm Dale Spangler.
[00:00:25.230] - Dave Sulecki
I'm Dave Sulecki. And this week we have Jimmy Lewis is our guest. This week's, Industry Spotlight. We'd like to talk about power sports industry trade shows, the Aim Expo. It soon begins in Las Vegas in late January. And we recently saw the cancelation of the Parts Unlimited NVP event, which is in Louisville, Kentucky, later in the month due to covert concerns. Mainly, we have also witnessed many other industry events change, alter their approach or become discontinued altogether. What can we take away from the starts and stops? And does this impact how we do business going forward? No question the power sports industry has been wondering what to do about when, how and where to present itself to the world. And that's been going on for more than five years. When the dealer news events finally stopped back in 2017 and Aim tried to pick up where they left off, the trade side of the business has really never felt the same. And some wonder if trade shows are even needed now since the ability to launch new products has become more of a virtual exercise than something you do face to face. Anyone could argue both sides of this, and the evidence from the successful performance racing industry show in Indianapolis not too long ago would make somebody think nothing has really changed or should change.
[00:01:53.590] - Dale Spangler
For this week's moment in Moto history, we'd like to celebrate the first American to win the DA Car Rally in the motorcycle class, Ricky Brabec. Ricky took home his unprecedented win in 2020.
[00:02:05.850] - Dave Sulecki
Yeah. And going back to 1979, American racers had not been able to break the top step of the podium until 2020. And Bray Back riding that CRF 450 rally modified Honda, he was able to take home the wind after his only his fifth attempt in the series. And this is in and of itself. It should be recognized. And also, the win was a redemption for Bray Back because he led the event in 2019 until he had a catastrophic engine failure.
[00:02:32.490] - Dale Spangler
Yeah. It's really cool what Bray Back has done. Being the first American, I feel like he's opened the door for other Americans to step up and go for the win or podium. And Dakar, we're seeing some notable new people in this year's Dakar Rally, which we'll talk about with our upcoming guest. Yeah. There's some interesting fact about Bray Back and his Honda win in 2020, as this broke an 18 year KTM wind streak. Wow. I had no idea it was that long of a wind streak, Dave.
[00:03:01.370] - Dave Sulecki
Yes, absolutely. And they seem to have a stranglehold on it this year. It's going to be interesting to see how this race event shapes up over the rest of the week. And we're all watching to see how they do, man.
[00:03:33.150] - Dale Spangler
Upcoming Races We have the Kicker AMA Arena Cross Series rounds four and five at the Lazy E Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, January 21 and 22nd. January 22 we have round three of the AMA Supercross Series at Petco Park in San Diego, California, January 23. The World Offroad Championship Series, also known as Work, kicks off in Prim, Nevada. Back east the US Sprint Enduro Series also starts at Maurice Paradise in Sellers, South Carolina on January 23. And finally back out west, the National Heron Hound Series gets its start in Lucerne Valley, California, January. Welcome to Pit Pass Moto. Jimmy Lewis. How are you today, Jimmy?
[00:04:29.810] - Jimmy Lewis
I'm actually really good other than I'm not riding right now.
[00:04:36.710] - Dale Spangler
So as we record this episode, Jimmy, we're a little over halfway through the car. It's been pretty chaotic to say the least. We've seen a lot of changes from day to day with overall contenders losing huge chunks of time because of tricky navigation riders not wanting to lead out and even stage six being canceled. So what are your thoughts so far in this year's car?
[00:04:58.520] - Jimmy Lewis
It's been a while, that car for sure. It's getting set up for the top guys now to be an incredible finish. Four more days you're going to see I mean, there's always been a little bit of strategy being played out, but you're going to see in the next four days a ton of strategy, not just with the top riders, but utilizing their teams to their advantage. You have a bunch of different manufacturers and brands that are in contention. So it's set up to be a real epic finish and these guys are going to pin it.
[00:05:29.490] - Dave Sulecki
So, Jimmy, I'm wondering as a racer in this situation, as you're more than halfway through what's going through their minds right now, what are these guys plotting thinking? Are they panicking? Are they calculating what's the mindset their minds unfortunately.
[00:05:45.860] - Jimmy Lewis
Are probably a little bit numb because they have raced for a little bit over a week. So they had six days, a rest day. And I think what was yesterday was day eight. So they're two days past the rest day. And the rest day isn't much of a rest day these days because they're doing so much media. But at this point you're relying on what we'll call your base mileage, the training you've been doing all year long. And it's kind of at this point really keeping your head together. And we've seen like you saw Daniel Sanders go out on a liaison, which is just almost unheard of. But then you start hearing the circumstances of what happened. It was dark. It was super early in the morning. He essentially hit a curb on a sort of a roundabout or a turnout. And this kind of stuff when it happens is not surprising. But at the same time, it just shows you what level these guys are stressed to. But I think they're kind of on autopilot to a certain extent, a lot of them. But now I guess it's like you've done your qualifiers in the Supercross and now you're lining up for the main event.
[00:06:53.470] - Jimmy Lewis
It's just going to take four days.
[00:06:55.050] - Dale Spangler
So, Jimmy, with you being a former Dakar podium finisher and double class winner, from your perspective, what are some of the biggest changes you've seen in recent years with the Dakara rally since your time? A couple of examples is that the bikes like them going to 450, the navigation become more difficult or is it the raw speed? I'm just curious, from your perspective, how has the car really evolved and changed?
[00:07:21.920] - Jimmy Lewis
Everything has changed. It's not the same race. And I guess when I look back at I would call myself a second or almost a third generation DACA rider. And I would say, now we're up to like six or seven generations and generations not in being a ten year time period. It's kind of like how the race evolved and it really started just a bunch of crazy guys saying, hey, we're going to race to Senegal, we're in Paris now, we're going to race to Senegal. And they didn't know what they were doing or how they were going to do it. They just did it. And probably a little bit like the very first Baja 1000 where guys just started in Tijuana and said, hey, we're going to race down La Paz on whatever way we can get there. And then it became a race. And then people actually started maybe doing a little bit more planning and a little more strategizing. And then it changed based on the equipment got advanced, the equipment evolved, the navigation became more of a thing. And when I did it, the race was 21 days long, 2021 days long, and it was very point to point.
[00:08:30.480] - Jimmy Lewis
Each day you were covering a large distance and everybody was in the race like there were no motorhomes and all of your parts were in a truck that was actually entered in the race. And if that truck didn't race, your parts didn't get there. So it's evolved so much and these guys taking nothing away from them and what they're doing the race now is so much about pure speed, and even the navigation is ridiculously difficult, but it's things that you kind of know, well, now we go out and we really train and practice for this to understand, kind of how to decode what the navigation really is and then do it without slowing down. And that's the kind of the essence of you have 20 guys that are now capable of riding very fast and navigating. But then the way that they've started working on this navigation has started causing what you're seeing the seesaw effect. So if you start, it's called starting or opening the stage, you're the first guy out and you're making the first track on the road. And then as they become more tracks and stuff. Guys can start to start following the tracks.
[00:09:50.630] - Jimmy Lewis
They don't have to navigate as much because they can literally see the track. And so they're just sort of confirming the navigation. But yeah, it's an incredible journey with the Dakar has done going to different countries and continents and doing all this stuff. And the way that the racing has evolved along with it, I don't know if we're in a great time for it, other than it's I mean, you think about it Aso puts on the Tour de France and the Dacar, and they have just learned how to make a really good TV show out of an incredible race.
[00:10:27.080] - Dave Sulecki
All part of the entertainment, I guess, is probably the takeaway on that, but just kind of shifting gears a little bit. Jimmy, obviously you've worked with training guys for the car, but go back to your website where the Jimmy Lewis Offroad training website, where now you're also working with individuals to kind of teach them the off road skills they need to compete and get better at what they do. I'm really interested to kind of hear your thoughts on how you work with riders and how you approach them and bring them into your program.
[00:10:58.020] - Jimmy Lewis
With Jimmy Lewis off road. It's two real, completely separate things, like the navigation training and the rider training. In all honesty, most of my rider training is focused on I would call it dual sport or adventure riders or we're starting to get a little bit more popular with guys that just want to kind of increase their game in racing. But it's something I've been doing for more than 20 years now. And it started because some guy said, hey, if he's a BMW factory rider, he must know how to ride these big giant they weren't even called adventure bikes back then, these big giant GS offroad. And I learned I kind of had a knack for it and I really enjoyed it. So it's kind of funny because I don't have like a level one or a level two or an advanced class. We call it our series one class. And it's very basic riding techniques taken to an extremely high level because even when I do work with some really good riders, you realize that they're kind of struggling with some of the very basic techniques, like they're leaving something out in the balance or the traction.
[00:12:04.630] - Jimmy Lewis
And that's what's catching up to now, even at a very high level. So a regular guy, even a guy has been riding 20 years can come out and we're essentially breaking bad habits or kind of dispelling some myths about riding. That's where we're at with that. And then we take the same approach to the navigation training. And we don't train those two things at the same time. Like people say, I want to do a sand Dune riding course, and it's like, are you having problem with riding in the sand? Or are you having problem navigating, which is it? I try to funnel things down to the very basics and figure out how to apply those and really get the students to understand what the real problem is, not smoke and mirrors coaching.
[00:12:50.370] - Dave Sulecki
The takeaway I see is looking at your blog and writing tips and some of the instructional videos where it seems like you've broken it down to the basic steps so that people can understand how and why things happen rather than just here's how you do it, because there's two ways of teaching. Right. So I think you've done a good job of explaining the basics so that they can understand it and learn it. And I think, as you said, apply it to the larger motorcycles later.
[00:13:15.870] - Jimmy Lewis
Yeah. And it's funny because we're kind of known for the adventure bike training. I encourage people to come out. I'm like, come out and take the class on a smaller bike. And they're like, but I don't really want to ride those and they want to ride the adventure bikes. The adventure bike is actually as much as it's harder to ride, it also masks a lot of the problems that the rider is creating because like I said, it comes down to balance. And it's really, believe it or not, once that adventure bike starts moving, it's a lot harder to knock it out of balance. And the small bike, it really shows you what you are doing as a rider. And there's a lot of kind of correlation between, you know, we're trying to teach the rider to do things and you can carry those skills on to any bike that you ride. So that's where we kind of get that technique.
[00:14:07.210] - Dale Spangler
So, Jimmy, many have said, I think Eric Kudlow probably being one of them, that the creation of the full Gas Sprinter Durrell series has really helped American riders become podium threats in the ISDE. So likewise, I feel like what guys like you and guys like Quinn Cody are doing to help us rally racers has really elevated the level of US riders to podium and overall winning winter threats at the Car rally. So what is it about your training regimen that you would say is helping these riders, like the 2022 car winner Ricky BayBack, take that step to the top of the podium in a race that's so difficult? Like the car?
[00:14:45.060] - Jimmy Lewis
It's really the fact that guys like Ricky and Andrew Short are willing to put in the work and really focus on whatever the next step is. And this is what's so awesome about working with top level athletes that are really on their game. And a lot of credit also goes to Johnny Campbell for actually he kind of funneled a lot of the people that we've worked with. Any guy that you've seen do anything in the rally game from the United States, I've had some interaction or work with them at some point or another. And you come in and you basically take this basic class, I don't care where you're at in your rally stuff. And then we start working on things, and we get to a point with these guys that you can tell they take what they learned and they go and they practice it and they practice it. And then the really good guys come back and start asking questions, and they're like, hey, I was doing this. I was doing that. And so we have MacBooks out here that literally focus on a specific skill. They literally have lessons built into them. And when you get to the level of where Ricky is at, where Andrew is at, these guys are coming back to me with problems, things that we see kind of the style of navigation training, the style of navigation are using the rally changing ever so slightly.
[00:16:07.500] - Jimmy Lewis
And so it's up to us collectively to kind of figure out a way. And they challenge me with coming up with drills and techniques that will help them kind of kick it up to the next level. And luckily it's been really good. This year is a really bad example. And I guess my only explanation for it is they've made the navigation, and they would like to call it tricky, but they've gone, in my opinion, they've gone to the point where it requires a certain amount of guessing and a little bit of luck. I don't like this because navigation is kind of a precision. There's a certain amount of precision or science to it. And if you get to a note and you do what it tells you to do exactly or as close as you can, and then you're still wrong, like you kind of at some point in here had to guess what you were supposed to do that's no longer navigation. And I think they did it a little bit. They're really doing it to slow the whole pace of the rally down. And it's working because you see the guys that are starting in the front every day losing 20 minutes to the guys that start 20 minutes back or farther.
[00:17:22.920] - Jimmy Lewis
And there's a seesaw effect. And it's always been a little bit of that on a rally. But now when you trip up six of the top 20 guys in the game, they come to a note and they do it on day one where so many guys got caught out when they go do everything perfectly. And then even when things start going wrong, like, let's just say it was a bad note, and they start doing the techniques that we use to solve that problem, and they do all this perfectly, and it still costs you from 30 minutes to an hour based on when you arrived on the scene. I mean, it's tough to swallow. And when these guys train all year long for a single event and it's thrown out in potentially one node, that's rough.
[00:18:06.490] - Dave Sulecki
So Jimmy when we get a guy like you on the show, we love to kind of pick your brain because you've been in the industry a long time, well known for that. I have to ask you kind of what your thoughts are, the future of the EV platform in Motorcycling and really that's a pretty broad, big question. And there's some starts and stops, I think with Altar and Zero that happened over the years and now we see the Stark Bard coming along. I'm just kind of curious to get your opinion. What do you see as the future or is there a future for EVs and Motorcycling as a washed up ex motorcycle journalist?
[00:18:42.690] - Jimmy Lewis
Well, I still do it a little bit. I've written pretty much every version of electric motorcycle. I have not written a star, but I wrote the Zero and the Altar. So I've written all the different versions and it's getting better and it's getting better and it's getting better. But I still think that right now the best electric bike out there. I haven't ridden the Stasik yet, but that might be the best one. But the ocean, I'm sorry. I always tell people the ocean is the best electric bike out there because it's getting people into the game. It's easy to maintain. It requires a little bit of work and maintenance because it's not the bill of equality. And then I even rode that little KTM E 50 or E Five, they call it, which is an incredible motorcycle. Then you start looking at the Stark and the different things. I don't think we're quite at the point. And there was a lot of claims with that Stark that are really out there. And when you start digging around and listening to the things even in the videos you saw, they say, well, it's only really operating at 60% of what their claims are.
[00:19:49.870] - Jimmy Lewis
And I think they're expecting that the battery technology is going to take a jump before they actually release that thing in November. Those are things that I as a journalist, I would question and I always said I don't really know until I ride it. And then when I actually ride it, then I can tell you how it works, but it's coming. There's no doubt that you would be ridiculous to not think that Honda and Yamaha and KTM have some stuff going on. And the reason you haven't seen it from them is that it's probably not ready for primetime just yet. And there's a lot of excitement hype with this, but you're seeing it with the electric vehicles on road, you know, cars and trucks and stuff, and it's getting better. But with the motorcycle, you're stressed with such a difficult packaging problem to try to fit all of this stuff inside of a thing. How are you able to charge it as quickly as you need to? What kind of charging infrastructure do you need? There's a lot of stuff that comes into play. But when you start looking at the things, the reasons they're doing it for the less sound, for the impact on riding areas to be able to go places where it was quiet.
[00:21:06.290] - Jimmy Lewis
I heard some really interesting stuff about during COVID, a lot of these tracks pretty much shut down. And then people that lived near them started enjoying the peace and quiet. And then when they came back, it was like, hey, I don't like this. And this is the thing that we're going to have to pay attention to, especially on the tracks that are close to civilization. It's coming. I'm excited for it. I know that compared to the first ones I rode, the Alto was absolutely phenomenal because the first ones were really horrible and not designed by motorcycle people. So they didn't understand power delivery, which is very important. And for sure, even the Alta, they didn't understand chassis performance. And that was really one of the biggest downfalls with that.
[00:21:51.900] - Dave Sulecki
So let me ask you one follow up question to that then, because you hit on a few good points, and it really struck me and I've always wondered what the EVs, at least in our realm, right? We're dirt bike guys, we're off road guys. And really that sensation of riding a motorcycle is fundamental to the experience. I just got to wonder, has the EV market really embraced that rider bike interface in a way that if they could resemble more what we have today, would they be more successful in getting buy in from future riders? Because it seems like what they've offered to us so far has been so vastly different. You kind of hit on that that it kind of throws people off.
[00:22:31.260] - Jimmy Lewis
I think that with any change or evolution, man, the motorcycle industry is probably the biggest bunch of dinosaurs I've ever seen. Like, you're going to put a power valve on that two stroke that'll never work, things like four strokes, horrible. They'll never come back. All these things. And this is what you kind of hear a little bit about the EV. And I think the biggest thing that we're going to have to get over is the sound, the lack of sound, because that's part of the riding experience. And I know this from when we train guys, there's some guys that ride by sound and you take this out, and then all of a sudden they realize their bike goes a lot faster when they actually feel the power, as opposed to hear the power. And so that's probably the hurdle. But maybe some kids that are going to be coming up are never going to ride a gas motorcycle. They're going to start on an electric bike, and then there'll be an electric 80. By the time they're ready to come off of their pee wee sized bike, we're going to have to change the names. What are we going to call them?
[00:23:32.210] - Jimmy Lewis
Is it a eight as opposed to a five and then we get up to whatever the big ones are. So right now you're going to hear all the naysayers complain about the things that are easy to complain about and complain about stuff they don't know. But until you've actually written one, I don't think you can complain until you actually have some seat time on it and say, I like this or I like that and figure out what works. You may be regulated into writing one of these at some point or another and nobody likes that. But hopefully if that time comes when that time comes that the equipment is good enough to make it enjoyable because I don't want to stop riding.
[00:24:10.830] - Dale Spangler
Well, the future certainly looks like it's going to be interesting from some of what we've already seen. Like you guys have mentioned the Stark Varg. It's pretty interesting looking machine. Jimmy, we really appreciate your time today. We could talk for hours about this. We did forget to mention that in your Air quotes. Free time. You also run a website called Dirtbiketest.com and also a podcast called Taco Talk Tuesday, if I'm not mistaken.
[00:24:38.280] - Jimmy Lewis
Close enough Tech Talk Taco Tuesday. I have a hard time saying it sometimes too, especially when we had a beer or two.
[00:24:45.450] - Dale Spangler
Yeah. Where can people find you on the interwebs and on social to learn more about your offroad school and dirt bike test.
[00:24:53.610] - Jimmy Lewis
It's actually pretty easy. It's Jimmylewisoffroad.com is probably the main one. Again. Dirt bike test will kind of take you to all of the other things that we're doing and pretty soon we're going to have a whole Better Rider podcast to help people so they can hopefully listen a little bit to how to Become a Better Rider.
[00:25:13.920] - Dale Spangler
Once again, thank you, Jimmy. We appreciate your time today.
[00:25:17.100] - Jimmy Lewis
Okay. Thanks a lot, guys.
[00:25:29.070] - Dale Spangler
Thank you again to our guests for being with us today and thank you for tuning in. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to follow us on your favorite Podcast app so you will never miss an episode. If you have a moment, please rate and review the show on your favorite podcast Listening app. We really appreciate it. Make sure you're also following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and visit Pitpassmoto.com where you can check out our latest blog in our brand new Pitpass Moto Store.
[00:25:58.330] - Dave Sulecki
This has been a production of Evergreen Podcasts. A special thank you to Tommy Boy Halverson, producer Leah Longbrake and audio engineer Eric Koltnow. I'm Dave Sulecki.
[00:26:09.000] - Dale Spangler
And I'm Dale Spangler. See you next week on Pit Pass Moto.