Brett Smith’s "One of a Kind” ran in the December issue of Racer X Illustrated. Subscribe today to read this full feature and for more in-depth stories Jeffrey Herlings' trip to America, how promoters from Europe and the States settled their differences and put on the USGP together, Henry Miller, the Racer X Maine Event, and more.
At first I didn’t want this assignment. Hot button or sensitive topics don’t scare me; I’ve carved a niche at being able to research and write about tragic deaths, drug addiction, and controversy. Stories that ignite flame fest conversations between two-stroke and four-stroke advocates however, never really seem to present any clear conclusions. My opinion on the matter is curt: influence the market with your wallet. But, then again, I’m no longer a teenager on the starting line trying to win races.
We’re getting off topic.
“One of a Kind”, the story of the Honda CRF150R, was proposed in early January to a group of staffers and freelancers by editor-in-chief, Davey Coombs. The idea hung out there for a few months and didn’t get picked up so I reluctantly took it and started making phone calls. What I discovered was really interesting.
Here’s the summary of the original proposed angle: Why has the bike that was supposed to change the game of minicycle racing changed nothing at all?
Six manufacturers (Yamaha, KTM, Husqvarna, Suzuki, Kawasaki, and TM) make 85cc two-stroke motorcycles. Honda is the only OEM that does not and they’re also the only one making a four-stroke 150 intended for competition. I quickly learned that just because it has little representation on the line at major races like the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Amateur Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s doesn’t mean nobody is riding it. So, here are the questions I tried to get answered in the research process:
- What did the AMA think of Honda releasing the bike and what was their reaction?
- Why didn’t any other brand join Honda with a competing model?
- How does Honda feel about the bike 11 years after its original release?
- Why did Amsoil/Factory Connection (GEICO) Honda build Carson Mumford a priceless/custom rocket ship?
- Who is racing the production bike and where? (I looked at a lot of results pages. My eyeballs are still bleeding.)
- How well is the bike selling?
Manufacturers are not wont to release sales figures but I have sources and I was able to reverse engineer some good insight into how the Honda is selling against the other brands. (I still refrained from posting specific numbers because that’s a good way to get into trouble in the industry.) I also really wanted to know if any of the other OEMs were working on a four-stroke mini racer for future release but, of course, I had a better chance of finding Jimmy Hoffa’s body.
I didn’t write about this in the article, but I discovered through someone whose business works closely with the bike manufacturers that a Japanese OEM is planning a 2019 release of a four-stroke minicycle.
[Insert sound of motorcycling’s corner of the internet melting down.]
He/she was highly confident in their information but would not disclose the brand. The displacement was still unknown.
With every project I get into, I try to explore all the angles and I spoke with the AMA, five different Honda employees, Rick “Ziggy” Zielfelder, the owner of Factory Connection, Kristian Kibby, the GEICO Honda technician behind Mumford’s masterpiece, MX Sports, Justin Barcia, and an employee of JGR who built the engine for Cooper Webb’s CRF150R back in 2010. There were also background sources who spoke to me on the condition of anonymity.
What you’ve read here isn’t even close to what you’ll find on page 102 in the December 2017 issue of Racer X Illustrated. And if you haven’t already, follow me on Instagram (@wewentfast).