GUEST EDITOR: THE FOUR STROKE DEBACLE
GUEST EDITOR STEPHEN GAUTREAU SPEAKS OUT ON FOUR STROKE FIASCO
By Matt Cuddy
Stephen Gautreau owns and operates a motorcycle repair shop in the Phoenix, Arizona (SG CYCLES - 602-705-5876) section of this great land of ours, and has seen first hand the costs in both money and injuries that the new breed of four stroke MX bike has foisted on the sport. Below are his thoughts on how the sport is being ransacked by the introduciton of these new "wonder" bikes. Also please find a picture of a connecting rod with ten (10) hours on it, shot beyond repair. Go get 'em, Stephen ...
From where I sit it has become painfully obvious that the four stroke debacle grows by the day. The manufacturers (Yamaha firing the first shot) have pushed the four stroke dirt bike agenda beyond any margin of safety on a number of fronts. High costs for the initial bike purchase, high replacement part costs, extremely short lived engines and out of sight repair costs to go with the expensive parts. The manufacturers have told the masses of the benefits of their four stroke wonder bikes, lower emissions, more torque, instant power delivery and now fuel injection. The truth being that a correctly set up and directly injected two stroke motor creates LESS emissions and takes half the moving parts and half the displacement to accomplish the same job.
Honda CRF450F connecting rod with ten hours on it, shot beyond use.
More and more voices are being heard in concern for the future of SX and Outdoor Nationals. The number of riders who suffer major injuries due to the ever more difficult tracks (two top riders were badly hurt at St. Louis) have been rising steadily. The outdoor tracks have all been (for the most part) compromised to be four stroke friendly with the obligatory sweeping turns, sharp jump faces and a "flowing" design. (They ruined Southwick for this very reason) The AMA has gone to great lengths to make MX Nationals a four stroke dog and pony show.
They are now paying the price for their decisions that have revolved around $$$ and drawing a "new" brand of spectator. These new "spectators" pay their entry fees and buy expensive "T" shirts all in the hope seeing some young fellow crash in some horrific way and sustain major injuries. It has become a place to see a number of great MX riders taking their very lives in their hands and leaving the riders to worry about their own safety.
In between the entry costs of a new bike, extremely high maintenance costs and the out of control insurance costs associated with the types of injures that come from riding these types of tracks, the sport is already showing signs of deterioration at the local club levels. Lower entry numbers, always escalating ways to "promote" the sport by all the entities who stand to make a buck to keep it viable and the what appears to be a dwindling stream of potential new riders coming up through the ranks who will do anything for the shot at a " Factory" ride. They take far too many risks to make the cut. The number of crippling, career ending and even fatal crashes has risen dramatically over the last few years.
Parents voicing fears of their children being seriously hurt (Marty Smith,USGP 125 winner, has convinced his own sons that they don't need or want to go "pro" due to the much greater possibility of being hurt) The cost of travel and maintaining these new four stroke wonder bikes is having a negative effect on the sport overall. The sport can only sustain this pace of decline for so long. Remedies need to implemented and changes made for the long haul to make MX safer and for the vast majority of participants a good family hobby.
Yamaha may have been the first kid on the block with the new whiz bang go fast four stroke, but they and all the others (Honda) will rue the day they pushed the envelope on four stroke dirt bikes for MX.