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Friends to the End

By Matt Cuddy


By Matt Cuddy


Now any of you young whippersnappers reading this today, there will come a time when your riding buddies will become like family. In fact, some of you would rather spend a night getting rousingly drunk around a campfire with your riding pals than being at home watching the tube with the wife and kids. Most of your free time is spent in their garages bench racing anyway, until dinner time. 

There lies a problem. 

Time marches on. Most of you, if you’re lucky, will be able to ride well past the time most quit riding fast dirt bikes, be it in the Desert or some MX course. But as you move along through time and space, you will lose your riding family to horrible crashes on the street, sickness and death. It is a lonely place where you can’t call up a buddy anymore to relive epic rides because your friend is dead. And all those memories are lost only to you. 

I have boxes of Kodak Instamatic pictures of riding buddies who have passed on. We never thought about death at the time, we were all too busy trying to pass each other. And the image of a hard core dirt biker is not one of compassion and concern. Take my late riding buddy Michael Simeon. Tough as nails, and sarcastic to a fault, once Mike tended to my girlfriend all day, after she ripped a tendon in her ankle trying to start her 250 CZ. Out of character. But down deep a compassionate man. 

Mike rode a CR480, the good one, and was on a different level than the rest of us. He was intermediate to all us novices. I never saw Mike on a ride, because he was usually 100 yards in front of us, and pulling away. We lived a few houses away in Glendale, and being both single most of our time was spent talking about, working on, modifying or riding dirt bikes. Then Mike was dead. Just like that. 

I asked his father if I could buy his baby blue 1969 SS 396 El Camino, or his 480 but his dad had no idea how close Mike and I was, and thought I was playing on his emotions. The El Camino we spent so much time in (at over 100 miles an hour) soon disappeared from the front of Mike’s house, and I’m sure the 480 was gone as well. Monuments to my friend. Gone. I’ll never hear that giant electric fuel pump on the Elco ticking away a block before I could hear the exhaust. Must have got the fuel pump off a B29. 

I send a flower arrangement to Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills every month, with the card “Lest we forget.” For my own wellbeing. Mike could care less. He’s railing clouds on a heavenly works CR500 I guess. 

When I got out of the Navy in 1980, I’d drive by what would turn out to my best friend’s house, and see a Falta Replica 380 CZ in the garage, air shocks and all. Mike didn’t have very many friends. Most of the ones left were begrudgingly civil with Mike, mostly because he was worlds faster than anybody around. Like a stunningly beautiful woman, with men to afraid to approach for getting “shot down” Mike had unwittingly alienated his erstwhile riding buddy’s by beating them so badly on a dirt bike, they quit riding with him. Then I showed up. 



Then there was a friend Niels Fugelsang. He was a mechanical genius, built many fast and great handling dune buggies and dirt bikes. But Niels was spastic when he got on a bike, or in a fast dune buggy. Road berms were his greatest enemy. Once we were riding from El Mirage to Hi Vista, and we all went over this big road berm. Except Niels. He and his DT1 almost re-created every Indy crash on the books. The DT1 and Niels were tangled up for what seemed like thirty seconds. Dust flew, the DT1’s tool kit opened up, and there was Niels, crawling away like a wounded dog, dust still in the air. 

That next weekend, Niels was reading a Dirt Bike magazine in Silverlake Liquor Store, and was shot dead by two hold up men. I have lots of pictures of Niels, lots of memories I can’t relate to anyone else. His pretty girl friend and son stood by his grave as the casket was lowered in. That was it. 

So if you’ve taken anything from my missive, enjoy the good times. And take lots of pictures. You’ll need them some day. 

That’s Mike in the back of his El Camino. I took the picture, my YZ490. My new riding buddy for the next 20 years is leaning on the bed of his Dodge to the left.