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The Lost Decade

by Larry VanZandt on 04/20/2011

Article written by: L. Van Zandt

The Lost Decade: Part I

            A recent article in Motocross Action magazine, where the writer of that particular story, colorfully and beautifully summarizing what is wrong with four-stroke motorcycles in general….and what is right with 2-strokes….ended the article by suggesting the following:

The 2011 Yamaha YZ250 two-stroke is like an IQ test for the motorcycle buying public. How stupid are you?

            As a writer, I can come up with some rather outrageous (and original) insults for people (or large groups thereof) and/or race sanctioning bodies, idiot politicians, or even soulless, mentally-retarded people who drive Toyotas….as I often do for my primary reading audience, in NASCAR circles. In addition, an oddball (and usually witty) observation or three that comes out of nowhere might be printed in an editorial of mine, most of the time going in a direction that nobody was expecting….and often afterward, hilarity ensues.

 While I’d like to think I might be the next Oscar Wilde, Anton Chekov, or (insert name of any other famous dead white guy author here), the fact of the matter is that I, nor any other writer out there, can think of everything. We do our best, but quite often, when I’m reading someone else’s work, I occasionally read something so moving, so intelligent, that I feel somewhat-lessened for not having come up with it myself.

I’ve been searching around a decade now, for the shortest explanation possible to explain why soooo many idiots buy four-stroke-powered motorcycles, ATV’s, UTV’s, and…whatever else has these dated, stupidly-complicated, incredibly-overweight, and woefully-underpowered engines providing forward….and in the case of the French….rearward propulsion.

I think I may have stumbled onto something.

My last motorcycle/ATV/whatever was a 1993 Honda TRX300EX, which was an improvement over the ATV that this replaced, which was a 2002 Honda TRX400EX.

Yes, you read that correctly.

An improvement. More on this later.

When I sold that last Honda 300, an overweight, unstable, fart-can of a machine, that represented bike number seventy-two that I’ve owned, over a span of thirty-three years, my first bike being an ancient Yamaha YZ-80, which probably wasn’t the greatest bike to start out on, however, as I am writing this today, I obviously somehow wasn’t killed, and I was hooked on motorcycles.

While I’ve owned a fair number of motorcycles, both street and dirt oriented, and a pile of three-wheelers/ATV’s, and have ridden scores of others (the most frightening being a race-modified Kawasaki 750 triple oil burner), the bikes I have fun on are the two-strokes, unless we’re talking about superbikes….and I don’t ride those.

The wife insists.

The four-strokes? Well, they’re okay….if you don’t mind a heavy bike.

Now that you know a bit more about me….on with the show.

While I haven’t written much about the 4-stroke motorcycle frenzy in my NASCAR rants, there are an amazing amount of parallels between modern motocross, and Sprint Cup stock car racing; both sports suffer from racing costs spiraling out of control, and sanctioning bodies of both NASCAR and the AMA not really giving a tinker’s damn about controlling them. Both use overpriced 4-stroke technology, and both are developing into a racing series that increasing amounts of fans are abandoning as these two series mirror each other in that clueless executives from both sanctioning bodies are more worried about lining their own pockets instead of being concerned about whether or not the fans are packing the stands.

There’s a difference between the two series, however; in the case of NASCAR, ‘what races on Sunday sells on Monday’ used to apply, but for the most part, the cars you see competing in the top echelon of stock car racing are cars you see primarily in rental fleets, with the sole exception being Toyota, which scores of people own, simply because their designs are just as soulless and boring as the people who drive them. On a side note, I’m not even sure why Toyota is in NASCAR; they don’t sell anything that shouts “Hey, look, I’m fast!” anywhere in their vehicle lineup.

However, in Motocross….what wins on Sunday is the only thing that sells on Monday….just as it used to be in NASCAR, say, around 135,000 years ago. When Jeremy McGrath won on a Honda, scores of impressionable young skulls full of mush begged, pleaded, and often pulled guns on their parents to get them to, early on in McGrath’s career anyway, to the local Honda dealership, and with a slight, year-long (?), disastrous blip on a Spewzuki RM out of the way, afterward, parents were coerced (usually with kids threatening their parents with claims of child abuse to local authorities) into signing contractual agreements on the latest Yamaha motocrosser for their darling little (snot-nosed) Johnny.

Something changed, however, when a certain Yamaha YZ400 4-stroke won a certain Supercross race.

 The end of Part I….to be continued in Part II.