We Went Fast Editor Brett Smith
Brett Smith, Editor of We Went Fast and host of We Went Fast podcast, discusses his recent project Little Giant- The PW50 Story and how it turned into a documentary. He also shares his process in finding stories, his favorite piece that he’s done, and the adventure he went on that led to him writing The Curious Life of Terry Pratt.
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Get to know Brett:
Racing dirt bikes in Michigan in the 1980s and ‘90s, Brett dreamed of editing a motocross magazine. He landed in television instead and produced moto programming for ESPN and SPEED TV. Today, he tells stories about motorcycles and how they change people’s lives. Find him on the trails or at wewentfast.com.
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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.
[00:00:15.290] - Dave Sulecki
Welcome to Pit Pass Moto, the show that keeps you up to speed on the latest in motorcycling and brings the biggest names in motorcycle racing right to you. I'm Dave Sulecki.
[00:00:24.240] - Dale Spangler
And I'm Dale Spangler. And this week we have writer, storyteller, retailer and founder of We Went Fast, Brett Smith. It's a new year and we're excited to announce we've launched a new Pit Pass Moto store where you can show your support for Pit Pass Moto with some of our new branded merchandise. Head to pitpassmoto.com and look for the store button at the top of the home page.
[00:00:57.790] - Dave Sulecki
This week's Industry spotlight. We'd like to talk about the unfortunate passing of racing icon Earl Hayden, who passed away December 29. Earl he's built a racing dynasty with his three sons, Nikki, Tommy and Roger Lee. He's been one of the most influential people in AMA dirt track racing as well as road racing, as we all know. This culminated with Nikki's winning the MotoGP World Championship in 2006. I'd like to give a pit pass Moto shout out to Earl and Godspeed to him. He was 74 years old.
[00:01:49.790] - Dale Spangler
Upcoming Racing we have the Dakar Rally underway in Saudi Arabia, which began on New Year's Day with the prologue stage and finishes twelve stages later on January 14. Gas Gas Factory Racing Sam Sunderland leads the general rankings after stage two over Adrian Van Beveren and Daniel Sanders. The Kicker Arena Cross Series starts this weekend, January 7 and 8th, with the opening round set to take place in Loveland, Colorado. The Hoosier Arena Cross Series will return after a holiday break for rounds nine and ten in Kansas City, Missouri, at the Hale Arena on January 14 and 15th. And finally, the series many have been anticipating for months. The Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series kicks off this weekend, January 8. The series returns to a traditional start in Southern California at Anaheim's Angel Stadium and will be the opening round of the 250 West Series and the first of 17 rounds for the premiere 450 class.
[00:02:59.790] - Dave Sulecki
We'd like to welcome to the show today Brett Smith. He is the editor, Tshirt folder and intern at We Went Fast. Welcome to the show, Brett.
[00:03:10.060] - Brett Smith
Thanks, guys. Thanks, Dale. Thanks, Dave. Yes, the T shirt job. There's an opening there if anyone would like to follow. It's a volunteer position.
[00:03:16.900] - Dave Sulecki
Though, and we love that. And I got to say, if you've dealt with We Went Fast, Brett puts a personal touch into every shipment. I just think that is just one of the things that separates you from a lot of the other places, and it's greatly appreciated.
[00:03:30.720] - Brett Smith
It's the little things that count the details, right?
[00:03:33.340] - Dave Sulecki
Absolutely. And it definitely adds up.
[00:03:35.380] - Brett Smith
Well, thank you. Yeah. Lots of goodies [email protected] And wewantfast comSHOP if I could get a little plug in there. Thank you so much.
[00:03:44.100] - Dale Spangler
Hey, Brett, let's talk a little bit about your current project that you have kind of in two parts. So a little while ago, you rolled out a long form piece called Little Giant, the PW 50 Story. And then recently, you also created a documentary. Tell us a little bit about that project and how it came about, for one. And then the second part, how it turned into a documentary.
[00:04:07.670] - Brett Smith
Everyone likes the first bike story, right? We all connect emotionally to that first thrill. And most of us that involved smashing into the side of something, whether it was a house or a barn. We all whiskey throttled into some immovable object. But maybe that was just me. But my first bike was the PW 50. And of course, that story had been on my radar for years. Even before I started. We Went Fast.com. I think I knew I'll tell the 40th anniversary story of the PW because Yamaha is still making that bike. And the only thing they've changed is the color and a little bit of the fenders, little bit of design of the body work. When I saw the anniversary coming up, we Went Fast.com was up and running. And I thought, well, that's where I'm going to tell it. Then it's my story, it's my brand. And that's where that story is going to live. And I went as far as tracking down Ed Burke, who was the product planner for that bike. Long retired from Yamaha, but still enjoying the retired life down in Arizona and Nevada. And we ripped about why they brought that thing to market, why they released the YZ 50, which you probably remember, Dale, and it lasted a year.
[00:05:24.490] - Brett Smith
It was one of the bikes that Damon Bradshaw road before he moved on to the junior cycle class, the 60 CC and 80 CCS. So this YZ 50 lasts a year. And then they introduced the PW 50, which was nothing like it, but I'm getting off track. The PW 50 was my first bike and I wanted to tell the story of that thing. So we did take a 67,000 word article on We Went Fast.com. It's available as a podcast on my podcast channel, just search. We Went Fast. I think it's episode number twelve or eleven or twelve, and people just start sending me photos of their experience with a PW 50. It becomes this community response, which was what we Went Fast originally was. Anyways, I wanted it to be a community of people just sharing their own stories. So it was just the perfect scenario for me because it was everything I wanted as a brand, as a storyteller. When it was done, though, I was kind of exhausted by the PW 50. Lots of photos, lots of stories. Wrote that thing, spent months on it, and I thought it was exactly what I wanted it to be.
[00:06:24.840] - Brett Smith
I thought I was done with it. And Dale, I sent you that link to the story on my website about how the movie came to me. I was through with PW 50s. We sold a Tshirt. Yamaha allowed me to do a limited run Tshirt, which has long since been sold out. And I felt like we did it and we did it right, and I was ready to move on. And RevZilla, which is now owned by Comodo, called me. I've written for them a little bit in the past, and they said we loved the PW 50 story. We want to make a movie. We want to adapt your article into a movie. And I got to put my head down at the same desk I'm sitting at right now and just went, if you guys ever been both excited and kind of dreading a project, you want to do it. But I don't know, because I didn't know how am I going to tell that story any differently? I felt like I had done it already. It's been done. How do I tell this story differently? And people have been sending me links to PW 50s for sale.
[00:07:26.010] - Brett Smith
And I thought, that's cool. They're out there. People are still selling them. They were sending me 1981 PW 50s, which was what I had the very first model year of the bike was 1981. It came out in the fall of 1980, and I kept getting these listings coming my way. Craigslist, Facebook, Marketplace, you name it. And I thought it'd be cool to own one, but what the hell would I do with it? I'm 42. I don't ride PW 50s anymore. I have little girls, but we live in Baltimore. Pw 50s aren't very good for doing wheelies, so I don't think those would go well in the streets of Baltimore. And that's when it hit me. And that's when I called RevZilla back. I said, we're going to buy a Junker and 81. I'll buy an original 81 just like the one I had that needs to be rescued. I had seen some that looked like they belonged in a Museum, but that's not a very good story. I wanted the story, so I found one in Pittsburgh. I told him, we'll buy this, we'll restore it, and I'll teach my kids how to ride it on camera live.
[00:08:27.590] - Brett Smith
That will be the story arc. Within that arc, we will tell the history of the PW 50 and why it exists and how many lives it has changed. And that's the story in a nutshell.
[00:08:38.200] - Dale Spangler
I think it translated very well, and I think they're kind of distinctly different in their own way. Kudos to you on that. I think you did an amazing job of taking long form and then turning into a similar story, but also unique in its own way. One thing that stood out to me when I was reading the article I thought was amazing was it says 380,000 of these have been sold worldwide in 150 countries. But the key point to me was not counting the countless times that has been passed along to others. And so it just made me kind of think like, this bike is sort of like the old clothes we passed on to our brothers and sisters. Would you say that's kind of a similarity?
[00:09:16.900] - Brett Smith
Exactly. The PW 50 is the magazine that's sitting on the dentist's waiting room coffee table. You have no idea how many people will read that magazine. The PW 50 is the same thing. Ask anyone who started on a PW 50 and what they did with that bike next. Some of them kept them. Some of them got passed to cousin Jenny. Cousin Jenny gave it to her little brother. Her little brother then passed it on to the neighbor. There were so many stories that came to me and some of them got worked into the article and some of them didn't about PW 50s that left the house, went to six or seven other houses. The owner lost track of it and then somehow got it back into their garage three decades later. I love stuff like that. And the PW 50 movie is out, by the way. You can find it at Red Zillow's YouTube page. Awesome.
[00:10:06.890] - Dave Sulecki
And it was an awesome story. Enjoyed watching every minute of it. Brett, that was one of the best. And when I look through.
[00:10:13.070] - Brett Smith
Thanks so much.
[00:10:13.920] - Dave Sulecki
Absolutely. And when I look through the long list of stories that you've broken up the moment, the shot, the short features, the long versions, there are so many, and it's hard to pick a favorite at this point. I know for myself if I'm being selfish because I did purchase the book, the Terry Pratt Story. The Curious Life of Terry Pratt is how you, I think, titled it and just thoroughly enjoy the depth of detail and the research that you went through to tell that compelling story. Going back to can you talk a little bit about that process and what it was like?
[00:10:49.610] - Brett Smith
I like stories that come to me by accident, maybe isn't the right word, but I just put my four year old down for a nap. And this story about this young girl ends with her going to the dog pound and she stressed out about how am I going to figure out which dog to get? Because there's dozens of dogs here. And the person who works at the dog pond said, you'll know, the one it'll come to you. And she figures out like that one dog in the back that wasn't getting any love or was quiet when the others were like in her face, that was the dog she wanted. That's how I pick stories. I let them come to me.
I don't stress out about too much about what story am I going to tell next.
[00:11:28.240] - Brett Smith
It's all kind of by Feel and the Terry Pratt one. And the response to that story blew me away. And you can probably kind of measure it by the number of comments that were left on that story, which some of my stories get. Zero comments, maybe I don't know why that one got like four dozen comments, like people wanting to share their brush with Terry Pratt. Terry was an ad agent, a marketing executive for Cycle News for about three decades. If you're not familiar with the story, I saw that book. It's called Grandfree Motocross The World Championship Season, which I have for sale at wewantfast. Comshop. I think it's the only place in the world where you can get it. That book went out of print when Terry died in 2012. I didn't see it until Terry was dead. I was in David Coombs office. I pulled it off his shelf, I was flipping through it and I saw a photo that I really liked. And I said, what's this book? And David gave me Terry Pratt. He's gone now. He's no longer with us. I wanted that photo. And I found his sister and his sister said, I have all the books.
[00:12:39.050] - Brett Smith
And I said, like the books? She said, yeah, if you're ever out in the middle of nowhere Mojave Desert, come find me. But she said, you'll never be out here. There's no reason for you to come out to where I live. And in 2019, I had to go to California for something. And I called her and I said, I'm coming to see you, Shelley. I'm going to drive up there. It means 3 hours in the opposite direction of where I needed to go. And sitting in not a storage unit. It was like a closed down restaurant. On the side of the road that their family owned were stacks and stacks of boxes that had those books in it, which had been selling on Amazon and ebay for hundreds of dollars because anyone who wanted one couldn't find it. And anyone who had one wasn't getting rid of it because it's a gorgeous book. It's a beautiful piece of work. And she said, yeah, here they are. I don't know what to do with them. And at this point, I think I just opened up my store that we shop. I was selling a couple of T shirts.
[00:13:42.410] - Brett Smith
These books are nearly £3 each. And I'm in a rental car and I'm in the Mojave Desert and it's hotter than hell. It's June. I'm like, what? Hey, I'll take ten boxes and I'll ship them back to myself. And we worked out a deal where she gets a Commission off of every book that gets sold. And I said, Shelley, I have no idea if I'll sell a single book. I don't know if anyone wants these things, but I'll try. And she also handed me a box of stuff and she said this was the only thing that didn't get taken in, like the estate sale as friends or whatever. Because Terry had a ton of motorcycles. He was big into Arma, he was big into vintage racing. He had a lot of bikes parts, so that was the stuff that people love. Bikes and parts I like paper. I'm not really into hard parts. I don't have a bunch of bikes in my garage. I like photographs, I like magazines, I like old slides, I like books. That's the kind of stuff that really gets me going. And she handed me this box of stuff, and I didn't open it until I got back to my room in Temecula.
[00:14:43.310] - Brett Smith
And I start going through it. And there Dale, you would love to see some of this stuff. They were Typed up interviews that Terry did with Roger, Brad Lackey, Joel Robert, stuff that he did over in Europe and 72, 73, 74, because he went over to Europe three different times. And there were love letters from girls that he met along the way, notes home from mom receipts, all the photos from the book, and a bunch of undeveloped negatives from the 1973 season. Just a treasure trove of information and clues left behind. And that's when it hit me. Like, what is this guy's story? Terry Pratt. Who is he? We always want to tell the stories of the Rogers and the Bob Hannah's and Brad Lackey and Rick Johnson. But would anyone be interested in the story of Terry Pratt, an ad executive at Cycle News that most people have never heard of? Why not? What the hell? I'll give it a shot.
[00:15:46.070] - Dave Sulecki
And it turned out to be an amazing story. And I love the way you sell it. And you may have answered my next question, but my next question is you've done things on a lot of different platforms in media. Written, obviously, is one of them in audio and video, which is your favorite at this point.
[00:16:04.900] - Brett Smith
My one goal in high school was to be the editor of a motorcycle magazine. And I actually interviewed with Dirt Bike right out of College, like my final semester of College. But I'd also already done an internship down in Peach Tree City, Georgia, at Motor World, which is a story all on its own. They usually hired kids from Georgia State University of Georgia to come down to Peachtree City and intern. This is at a little company called Steele's Communications. They produced Motor World, and I begged them until they're like, yeah, come on down. But we have no place for you to stay. We don't pay you. I don't really think they expected me to show up, and I did. And so I kind of learned a little bit of video production, but I still wanted to be a writer. And when it came down to it, I think I realized I was an East Coast kid. And so I stayed on the East Coast. I went and did the television production gig. And so I learned TV and kept writing on the side. And 20 years later, in this era of new media, digital media, that's proved to be quite valuable, to have all of those skills and the audio skills.
[00:17:14.710] - Brett Smith
I mean, I think you just pull from your writing and your video skills to figure all that out. So at the end of the day, though, Dave, it's all storytelling, right? We're just telling a story, a good story, whether it's listening, writing, reading or watching. Storytelling remains the same.
[00:17:31.960] - Dale Spangler
Well, Brett, you're definitely, in my opinion, probably one of the best, if not the best long form writer of our time. Is there a favorite piece that you like? Also, while we're at it, we got to say we got to slide that in there. What's your pick for the Supercars coming up this weekend? So two fold question.
[00:17:49.990] - Brett Smith
A favorite piece? Well, to answer Dave's question, I think it comes down to writing. For me, everything starts with a written story. I want to write the story first, and then I can make it into an audio story. And in the case of the PW 50, becomes a video, too. But I think for me, everything starts with the writing. That's my favorite my favorite piece. Oh, man. I mean, they're like children, right? But that Terry Pratt story. They kind of close that one off. That was such an unexpected calling. I mean, it was kind of a risk, right? Anytime you put something out there, you run the risk of will anybody care enough to read this? Listen to this, watch this. And I had no idea. I'm writing about someone that nobody needed that story. Right. But when you read it, people are like, I am so glad I now know that story. And like I said, the response was amazing. And the books, people were so grateful that the book was back out there. I really felt like, wow. It's like I'm providing the community some kind of service that I never expected to do that.
[00:18:54.860] - Brett Smith
But to get that back out there to finish Terry's work, to help out his sister, clean out her storage unit, it was so gratifying. It was so rewarding. And to tell the story because I sat on those books for months, I'm like, what am I going to do with these things? I didn't want to just put them out there without context. And so telling the story and having the context along with the product, that's really at the heart of everything I do. Everything has to have a story behind it.
[00:19:19.510] - Dale Spangler
First, the story of the story.
[00:19:21.790] - Brett Smith
The story of the story. Yes. And now the super cross season. If I'm being totally honest, I don't follow what's happening currently as closely as I should. I enjoy watching the races. I love it. I love a good battle. I love a good race. But I am so focused on the stories that I'm telling, which sometimes I'll tell a story about a current athlete, a current rider. I'm not only about things that happened 30, 40 years ago, but I'm not, like, ingrained in the day to day of what's happening amongst today's crop of riders. Like a rider gets injured or a rider breaks up with his girlfriend or a new team or so and so switching handlebars. I hate to say it, I don't care about that kind of stuff, but I do care about a good personality story. Like when I told the Austin Forkner story a few years ago, the Chad Reed story. I love stuff like that. I like to dive into what makes these guys tick and find something that no one else is really looking for. But if I'm going to tell you who's going to win the Supercross season this year, it's Cooper Web.
[00:20:26.940] - Brett Smith
Cooper Web mentally is stronger than any other rider. I'm lifting from my friend Clinton Fowler, who follow him at three laps down. And I might Butcher this stat, Clinton. So I'm sorry. It had something to do with lapse lead like Cooper. Once he got into the lead, that was it. He's winning the race. He didn't always lead from the start, whereas Kenny was the exact opposite of that. And I'm not giving you my opinion here. This is just cold, hard data. Kenny often got into the lead early, lost positions, Cooper Webb. If he led at a certain point, he didn't go backwards ever. That was it. Race was over with, and he is so mentally strong like that. Eli Tomac is ungodly fast but unpredictable. And then who knows what's going to happen with two Kawasaki riders, AC and Anderson? I'm excited to see Malcolm Stewart on the Husky, and then there's tons of potential out there. But if you were to ask me who's going to win the series, I'm going with Cooper Web.
[00:21:33.480] - Dave Sulecki
All right, that's fair enough. And we're not going to hold your feet to the fire, but I appreciate the depth and insight and the data, and they say statistics never lie, that's for sure. So, Brett, we could talk for hours with you, man. You've got so much to cover. And unfortunately, we are running out of time. So I wanted to take the last few moments, if you don't mind, if you want to mention your website, where to find you, and also social media the best place to look for you so that folks can look you up.
[00:22:00.140] - Brett Smith
Yeah. Check out the [email protected] Favorite podcast player? Just search. We went fast. Every article that I put up there I read as an audio release. I got a new one coming out this week about Jeremy McGrath and the Knock knock. It was a story I wrote a few years ago that I just didn't get around to. Voicing finally did that look me up on Instagram and Facebook and we went fast.
[00:22:22.310] - Dave Sulecki
Awesome. Thanks again, Brett. We appreciate you taking time to spend with us at Pasmodo, man. Thanks.
[00:22:27.700] - Brett Smith
Happy new year, everyone. Thanks, Dale. Thanks, Dave.
[00:22:44.170] - Dave Sulecki
Thanks again to our guests for being with us today. And thank you for tuning in. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure you follow us on your favorite podcast apps so you never miss an episode. If you have a moment, please write and review us. We really appreciate it. Make sure you're also following us on Twitter.
[00:22:59.250] - Dale Spangler
Facebook and Instagram and visit pitpassmoto.com or you can check out our blog on our brand new store where you can get your Pit pass swag this has been a production of evergreen podcast A special thank you to Tommy boy Halverson, producer Leah Longbrake, and audio engineer Eric Koltnow. I'm Dave Sulecki and I'm Dale Spangler. See you next week on Pit Pass Moto.