Mini Revolution

The year was 1995 and moto fans across the globe caught their first glimpse of the MX video that would change the industry forever. Jon Freeman and Dana Nicholson’s Crusty Demons of Dirt featured footage so cutting edge and diverse for its time that it has since evolved into the best-selling and most influential moto video franchise ever. Whether it’s motocross, freestyle, freeriding in the hills, or even desert racing that tickles your fancy, Crusty Demons of Dirt has you covered. Among all of the madness is a piece of footage that was originally thrown in for a laugh. Who would have ever thought that a five-minute segment out of the 35-minute moto thriller would kickstart an entire movement? Who would’ve ever thought that that scene would spark interest among two-wheeled freaks from all walks of life?

Minibikes, pit bikes, 50s, or whatever you and your crew call them are now a staple in the motocross industry. The list of professional MXers who ride them for fun in their spare time is like a who’s who of American motocross history. If you own or have ever ridden a mini, then you know exactly what the buzz is all about. If you haven’t, you’re missing out. A pure, genuine good time enjoyed by professionals and common folk alike, this is the mini revolution.

Scene heard ’round the world

The infamous Z50 scene in Crusty was shot in Jeff Emig’s backyard. At the time, nobody had a clue that the footage would end up in the video. It was shot for no other reason than to document a good time among friends. It just so happens that most of Fro’s friends are decorated MXers like himself. Entertaining and funny as hell, after viewing the footage of Buddy Antunez, Denny Stephenson, David Pingree, Seth Enslow, and Fro Daddy himself, it was a no-brainer for Freeman and Nicholson to throw it into Crusty.

Although Budman crossed the line first on that infamous day, taking home the huge $10 cash prize, many credit Emig for unknowingly sparking the mini revolution. “I guess we created a monster,” laughs Emig. “I had a few friends over to cook up some burgers, drink a few beers, and ride the 50s. We were all just out to have a good time. I never would’ve guessed that footage in Crusty would lead to where the sport is today, but it’s pretty damned cool that it did. We still have a great time on them.”

Emig and friends weren’t the only ones riding minibikes at the time, but that footage was undoubtedly responsible for carrying the sport into the mainstream. “The Crusty footage was the first time the general public could see minibikes on TV,” said Sano Systems’ Ken Johnson. “Pit bikes just weren’t as cool until people saw that caliber of rider having a blast on them.” About as quickly as the mainstream realized what a good time can be had on a mini, Honda’s sales of its 50 exploded. Today, we’re told that the XR/CRF50 and KLX110 are Honda’s and Kawasaki’s best-selling bikes, respectively.

BACKYARD RACER

Crusty Demons may have spurred the movement as a whole, but the racing end of the movement was definitely due, at least in part, to the involvement of Sano’s Ken Johnson. “We pretty much just started out trail riding,” KJ said. “In the beginning, there were about six of us, but it didn’t take long before we started running into other groups of guys on the trails on 50s.” Once Ken’s core group got big enough, they started toying with the idea of throwing their first minibike race. Ken had a buddy named Peter Leo who had an acre of land on an Indian Reservation, so in 2000, with the help of a Bobcat and friends Brian Miller and Dave Dawley, Peter’s piece of land shaped up to house their very first event. “We could pull it off back then because being on the reservation we didn’t have to worry about insurance or anything like that,” said Ken. “We had about 30 people show up to race at our first event.”

With the first race a success, it didn’t take long before event number two came into planning. It was this event that may be solelresponsible for the success of organized minibike racing, as the King of Supercross himself, Jeremy McGrath, showed up to participate. “Everyone caught wind that Jeremy had come to a minibike race, which was unheard of at the time, so we ended up with a lot of people stepping in to help support what we were doing.” Ken and Dave Dawley partnered up to form a company they called Rail America. Together, with the help of sponsors like Motoworld, Tag, and One Industries, they promoted minibike races. When all was said and done, Ken and crew organized somewhere in the ballpark of 60 successful races. “It was cool,” Ken said. “We gave out prizes and everything, so even the spectators had a good time.” The word about the events spread, and in addition to a growing fan base they attracted more and more of the big-name riders, including guys like Travis Pastrana, Tommy Clowers, Matt Buyten, and Chris Gosselaar.

PIMP MY RIDE

Riding minis with a good group of friends is a straight-up, no-holds-barred good time, but for most, the good time starts in the garage, well before the riding. “Back in the beginning stages, you’d see people with pit bikes, but nobody was really fixing them up,” said Johnson. “The aftermarket parts simply weren’t available back then.” Tricking out your mini back in the day meant fabricating stuff straight out of the garage with metal, mounting BMX handlebars, scavenging cables off of other bikes, and grinding down big-bike pegs for a custom fit. “Craig Mason, the owner and founder of Fast 50s, was the first guy to have parts available. It was a bigger clamp. I would consider that the first adult-mini part,” said Johnson.

A never-ending contest among friends to see who could reign supreme in the mini wars, pimping your ride may be the most important part of the sport’s appeal. “We sell thousands of parts across the country and the majority of the time they’re for the exact same reason,” said Johnson. “There will be a group of guys who all decide to get a bar kit. Then as soon as one of them decides to build his motor, they all build their motors. Then one of them gets some suspension—it usually starts with a shock, but it eventually leads into a swingarm and then goes on and on.” It doesn’t take long to stack up a monstrous pile of receipts during the process, but you’ll forget all about it as you pull away from your buddies on the way down the trail!

The fact is, just like with motocross way back in the early ’70s, the aftermarket drives the mini movement. Even companies like Chaos Fabrication, which specializes in off-road suspension for trucks, make some adult-mini parts. Everyone’s getting into it, it seems. After all, it’s nearly impossible for an adult to ride a CRF50F in completely stock form—especially without the problem of bending tons of parts.

BAND OF BROTHERS

It doesn’t matter your background, where you’re from, or who you talk to, you’re sure to find that the camaraderie and brotherhood aspect of the sport is without a doubt its coolest trait. “It’s such a fun thing to do with your buddies and your family,” said Two Brothers’ Joel Albrecht. “From seeing who can build the trickest bike, to riding with my kids, this sport has been a total blast.” One of the coolest things for many is that young kids and their parents can ride them together. “I can go out and ride with my son on the same track and it feels like we’re riding together. If I am at the track on a big bike and he’s on the peewee track, it’s not like I am really hanging out with him.”

If you don’t have kids, you probably can’t relate to what Joel is saying, but if you’re a motocross fan, there is one thing that I am sure we can all agree on. Have you ever wanted to hang out with and ride on the same track as some of our sport’s heroes? We’re somewhat jaded because living in Southern California we often see top professionals practicing at one of our local tracks. It’s awesome to see them ride, but the last thing you want to do is pull onto the track and get into their way. “If I am out at Elsinore or another local track on my big bike, it’s tough for me to ride with the locals because riding is my profession, and I’ve got to take that seriously,” said Chad Reed. “Minis are different, though… There are so many people out there who can go fast on those things, so you can go out and battle, do some rubbing, and have a good time whether you’re at a track or in somebody’s backyard.”

As average Joes, we can’t go to a Supercross track and expect to ride with guys like McGrath or Reed, but just about anybody can get good enough on a minibike to ride with the pros. Bikes are limited on power and the tracks are fairly easy. There aren’t huge jumps and rhythm sections, so you don’t have to be as technically sound. “At a race, you can sign up and race guys like Jeremy McGrath, Buddy Antunez, Jeff Emig, and Guy Cooper… It’s an opportunity that you’d otherwise never have,” said Albrecht.

VIVA LAS VEGAS

On April 31, 2004, at The Orleans Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, minibike fanatics from all parts of the globe gathered to get a taste of the craze at its grandest scale. What started as nothing more than some backyard fun among friends back in the Crusty days has escalated to amazing heights. Nearly 400 entries ranging from stock 50cc amateurs to modified professional classes and 5,200 spectators all filtered into Las Vegas for the first-ever MiniMoto SX. The event, organized by Tim Clark of MiniMoto Magazine and cosponsored by industry giant Parts Unlimited, drew the likes of some of our sport’s biggest heroes. MC, still a crowd favorite no matter what he’s riding, made the trip to Vegas and took home top honors in three of the four professional classes. Tommy Hofmaster of Arenacross fame diced back and forth with MC in the modified 50cc pro main event, eventually getting the upper hand and taking home the win. Aside from that, MC was pretty much unstoppable. Joining him on the list of big names was Jeff Emig, Buddy Antunez, Joel Albrecht, Jeff Stanton, Guy Cooper, David Pingree, Kenny Bartram, Brad Hagseth, Trevor Vines, Jimmy Lewis, Denny Stephenson, Victor Sheldon, and TWMX test rider Rich Taylor.

Although viewed as a huge success, the Vegas event could have been even bigger, but the 18 and over age limit shut down a number of prospective participants (it is, after all, adult minibike racing). In the future, there’s talk of events piggybacking the Arenacross or Freestyle tours nationwide, which could grow the sport tremendously. “Kids from all over the country could race with their friends and in front of their friends,” says Dave Deringer of Sano. “It would be awesome!” With a ton of growth still ahead of it, it’s amazing to see how far the minibike revolution has already come. Two magazines and roughly 50 to 60 companies have popped up because of it. And for what? Just so that you and your buddies can bang bars in the backyard? Well… Yeah!

Mini-riding tips with chad reed

“You don’t have to be a Supercross champion to be fast on a minibike.”

While everyone else was cornering newly-crowned 2004 250cc Supercross Champion Chad Reed to get their “exclusive” interview on his title—okay, we’re guilty of that as well—we had an entirely different agenda in mind. An expert on the tight confines of a Supercross track and avid minibike pilot himself, we figured who better to hit up for some hot tips and how-tos on riding a mini? “I really like riding minibikes,” Reed said. “When you get a bunch of people together, it’s a lot of fun. I think the camaraderie is one of the best things about it, but it’s also cool because anybody can become skilled on one. You don’t have to be a Supercross champion to be fast on a minibike.” With that said, here are a few of Reed’s riding tips…

Legs up: When you’re big and you’re riding a little bike, you’ve always got to remember to keep your legs up and out of the way while cornering.

Balance: The wl onto the track and get into their way. “If I am out at Elsinore or another local track on my big bike, it’s tough for me to ride with the locals because riding is my profession, and I’ve got to take that seriously,” said Chad Reed. “Minis are different, though… There are so many people out there who can go fast on those things, so you can go out and battle, do some rubbing, and have a good time whether you’re at a track or in somebody’s backyard.”

As average Joes, we can’t go to a Supercross track and expect to ride with guys like McGrath or Reed, but just about anybody can get good enough on a minibike to ride with the pros. Bikes are limited on power and the tracks are fairly easy. There aren’t huge jumps and rhythm sections, so you don’t have to be as technically sound. “At a race, you can sign up and race guys like Jeremy McGrath, Buddy Antunez, Jeff Emig, and Guy Cooper… It’s an opportunity that you’d otherwise never have,” said Albrecht.

VIVA LAS VEGAS

On April 31, 2004, at The Orleans Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, minibike fanatics from all parts of the globe gathered to get a taste of the craze at its grandest scale. What started as nothing more than some backyard fun among friends back in the Crusty days has escalated to amazing heights. Nearly 400 entries ranging from stock 50cc amateurs to modified professional classes and 5,200 spectators all filtered into Las Vegas for the first-ever MiniMoto SX. The event, organized by Tim Clark of MiniMoto Magazine and cosponsored by industry giant Parts Unlimited, drew the likes of some of our sport’s biggest heroes. MC, still a crowd favorite no matter what he’s riding, made the trip to Vegas and took home top honors in three of the four professional classes. Tommy Hofmaster of Arenacross fame diced back and forth with MC in the modified 50cc pro main event, eventually getting the upper hand and taking home the win. Aside from that, MC was pretty much unstoppable. Joining him on the list of big names was Jeff Emig, Buddy Antunez, Joel Albrecht, Jeff Stanton, Guy Cooper, David Pingree, Kenny Bartram, Brad Hagseth, Trevor Vines, Jimmy Lewis, Denny Stephenson, Victor Sheldon, and TWMX test rider Rich Taylor.

Although viewed as a huge success, the Vegas event could have been even bigger, but the 18 and over age limit shut down a number of prospective participants (it is, after all, adult minibike racing). In the future, there’s talk of events piggybacking the Arenacross or Freestyle tours nationwide, which could grow the sport tremendously. “Kids from all over the country could race with their friends and in front of their friends,” says Dave Deringer of Sano. “It would be awesome!” With a ton of growth still ahead of it, it’s amazing to see how far the minibike revolution has already come. Two magazines and roughly 50 to 60 companies have popped up because of it. And for what? Just so that you and your buddies can bang bars in the backyard? Well… Yeah!

Mini-riding tips with chad reed

“You don’t have to be a Supercross champion to be fast on a minibike.”

While everyone else was cornering newly-crowned 2004 250cc Supercross Champion Chad Reed to get their “exclusive” interview on his title—okay, we’re guilty of that as well—we had an entirely different agenda in mind. An expert on the tight confines of a Supercross track and avid minibike pilot himself, we figured who better to hit up for some hot tips and how-tos on riding a mini? “I really like riding minibikes,” Reed said. “When you get a bunch of people together, it’s a lot of fun. I think the camaraderie is one of the best things about it, but it’s also cool because anybody can become skilled on one. You don’t have to be a Supercross champion to be fast on a minibike.” With that said, here are a few of Reed’s riding tips…

Legs up: When you’re big and you’re riding a little bike, you’ve always got to remember to keep your legs up and out of the way while cornering.

Balance: The wheels and wheelbase on minis are so small and the horsepower is so big (well, at least on a modified bike), the bikes have a tendency to get really squirrelly and nervous-feeling. For this reason, you’ve got to concentrate on having good balance. If you weight one peg more than the other, you can hit the ground really fast if you’re not careful.

Bmx style: I excel on technical Supercross tracks, so my riding style tends to suit minis pretty well. Having a good “BMX” style is something that helps me with Supercross and minis. You’ve got to be aggressive and lift the bike up and then place it where you want it to go, all the while concentrating on keeping the bike as low as possible.

Stay smooth: Just as in Supercross or BMX, staying as smooth as possible is the key to speed. On minis in particular, riding the rear wheel over obstacles by pulling up harder on the front end lends to accomplishing a smoother rhythm. In BMX, it’s called a “manual.”

Minimotosx

By Steve Cox

Tim Clark seems to defy, well, everyone. Some people said that the U.S. Open of Supercross would never work. After all, who would race a big Supercross in the middle of the off-season? The answer is, just about everyone who’s anyone. As a key part in putting together the original U.S. Open of Supercross at the MGM Grand with partner Eric Perronard in 1998 and on, Clark knows what it’s like to defy convention.

Enter the MiniMoto SX, which took place April 31st, the Friday before the Las Vegas Supercross Finale in Las Vegas’ Orleans Arena.”I got involved in race promotions by working with Eric Perronard the first year when he created the U.S. Open. So this wasn’t my first rodeo,” Clark said.Clark is also the creator and publisher of MiniMoto Magazine, which is the first magazine to tackle the mini craze head-on.

“The MiniMoto Magazine concept really went hand-in-hand with the race promotion concept,” Clark said. “It was very obvious that the industry needed a shot in the arm to bring more attention to it, and there were a lot of people out there making product for the bikes. They just needed a way to bring more attention to the sport, so I kind of thought of both ideas at the exact same time. Then I started doing a little homework and finding out if the people in the industry would support it, and then I just pulled the trigger on it to make it work.”Make it work he did, as the MiniMoto SX ended up with 384 entries and a crowd of 5,200 for the night’s racing.

“The Orleans Arena is a fantastic arena,” Clark said. “It’s virtually state of the art, and it’s only a year old. Most importantly, the people at the arena really, really want to work with you to make the sport grow.” The race ended up attracting many big names from the past and present MX world, including Tommy Hofmaster, Guy Cooper, Jeff Emig, Jeff Stanton, and Jeremy McGrath.

“I called Jeremy McGrath and just flat asked if he’d be interested in doing a race like that, and he said that he would,” Clark said. “Then I asked if he’d help support us, and he said he would. He was so cool about it, and he probably had some of the most fun there of anybody. He’s just a big fan of minibikes, basically, and he stood behind us the whole way and had a good time with it. We certainly appreciate his help.”

Even with the big names involved, it was almost impossible to predict the sort of racing that took place inside the Orleans. The 50cc pro race ended up as a three-rider shootout between Cooper, McGrath, and Hofmaster. Cooper got the holeshot, while McGrath and Hofmaster chased him down. The race had the crowd on its feet from start to finish.

“I think that 50 race might just be one of the best races we’ve seen in a decade,” Clark said. “The three leaders were going at it, and then just when you thought McGrath was going to win, he gets snaked out of it at the very end by Hofmaster. It was just incredible racing. It was two or three notches above what I really expected.”

With such a success in it