This article was originally printed in our January 2018 issue of TransWorld Motocross.
The Making of Premix 2
By Donn Maeda | Photos by Casey Davis, Mike Emery, Donn Maeda, and Austin Rohr
Two years ago, I had the wild idea to focus our entire 2015 feature film on two-stroke dirt bikes, and the original Premix came together in a perfect storm of ideal circumstances. It was a whirlwind, but Jordan Powell and I filmed and edited the entire movie in only a few short months. Riders were stoked on the idea, and it seemed like everything fell together like a well-placed row of dominos. Ryan Villopoto had his own Kawasaki KX250, Dean Wilson and Weston Peick were glad to ride our test bikes, Sean Collier had his infamous 500, Suzuki loaned me a very special aluminum-framed RM250 for Broc Tickle to ride, and my friend AJ Waggoner at Service Honda gladly shipped me a CR500AF and KX250AF for me to film Christian Craig, Josh Hill, and Jeremy McGrath on. It was too easy, and when all was said and done, Premix became the best-selling movie that TransWorld Motocross has ever produced!
In 2016, Premix 2 was a no-brainer, and the list of riders verbally committed to taking part was impressive. For as smoothly as the original came together, though, Premix 2 seemed doomed from the start. Jessy Nelson suffered paralyzing injuries at Unadilla, Cole Seely busted up his shoulder, Ken Roczen was released from his RCH Suzuki contract a few weeks early, James Stewart went MIA, and only Chad Reed was willing and able to fire up his two-smoker. Since you can't make a feature film with only one rider, the project was shelved.
Part 2 Take 2: Mookie Fever
Oftentimes riders want to wait until the end of the season to film, especially when it involves a different variable like riding a two-stroke. Lucky for us, Malcolm Stewart was doing nothing during the summer months but fishing and riding his bicycle and he agreed to meet us at Zaca Station to throw a leg over a very special—albeit familiar—Suzuki RM250. Built in-house as a fun project by some employees at Suzuki, the aluminum-framed RM250 that Broc Tickle had destroyed Cahuilla Creek on two years earlier was still in mint condition and just resting in a corner of the shop. Suzuki was gracious enough to let us take her out again, so we loaded up and headed north. Believe it or not, Mookie was nervous about riding the bike. "It's been years, man. No one film me for a while until I get comfortable," Stewart said. "I don't want to be filmed while I'm bogging around and falling off the pipe." Let's just say that it took Malcolm around two-and-a-half corners to look comfortable, and Casey Davis, Chase Curtis, and I spent the rest of the day in awe. We've been visiting Zaca Station for many years now, and we have never seen someone attack the track and go as fast as Malcolm did that day. Though it was our first shoot of the movie, we knew that we had already landed our grand finale.
In an attempt to get some extra-exhilarating footage, I looked at the tracks he was leaving in a fast corner, pointed to a spot a foot to the side of it, and told him that I would be standing there and he shouldn't be afraid to get close. "Hey man, I don't know if I would be doing that," Stewart said. "Because I don't have a plan. I don't know where I'm going to go or where I'm going to end up. All I know is that I want to be wide open for the movie!" Believe me when I say that Malcolm is wide f-ing open throughout his entire part.
Off The Couch
With the super-trick Suzuki RM250 still in our possession, we wondered who else might be available to film in the middle of June. How about Jake Weimer? After racing Supercross for the JGR MX team, Weimer had been enjoying the summer and was glad to accept our invitation to be in Premix 2. "Hey, let's do something different," Weimer said. "I haven't been riding a whole lot and I need to scare myself to get the adrenaline going. Let's film on a Supercross track!"
The private Suzuki Supercross track was selected as the location, and although there were a few weeds growing from lack of use, it proved to be the perfect spot to film Jake. After helping him swap the stock suspension for a set of works Showa suspension valved for Supercross, Weimz took to the track and—like Malcolm—looked comfortable on the bike in short order. The sound of the RM250 blitzing through the whoops sent chills down our spines, as it's been quite a while since we've heard that sweet music.
The Odd Couple
After following Josh Hansen's adventures at the Two-Stroke Dream Race at Washougal aboard his Husqvarna TC 125, we slid into his DMs on Instagram to see if he'd ride for our cameras. That's all it took to get the former TransWorld Motocross cover boy signed up for a day with us at Perris Raceway, and a few days later when we posted a photo of our new 2018 Yamaha YZ250 test bike on our Instagram account, Wil Hahn reached out to us to see if he could ride it. "It's been a minute since I got to play on a 250 two-stroke," Hahn said. "Let me ride that thing!" The banter between Hahn and Hanny at Perris alone was almost better than watching them ride in tandem around SoCal's oldest motocross track. Hansen kept his small-bore Husky pinned around the outsides of every corner while Lil' Willy did an admirable job of taming the mighty YZ250. Some of my favorite parts of Premix 2 feature Wil and Josh…in the credits blooper section!
When Suzuki introduced the new 2018 RM-Z450, they flew us to the amazing JGRMX facility in Huntersville, North Carolina. Knowing well that JGR's John Basher had an immaculate RM125 somewhere in the shop, we inquired about filming the day before the press intro with Justin Barcia. An untimely cartwheel and subsequent concussion the weekend before at the Washougal National rendered Justin unable to ride, so just as he does on the race team, Phil Nicoletti stepped up to the plate to fill in. And man, are we glad he did! While hearing Barcia scream the guts out of the little 125 would have been epic, it's hard to imagine him riding with any more precision than Phil did for us on the picturesque track that winds through the woods that line the facility. Phil's interview, especially, is interesting to watch, as his insight and opinions are among the most intelligent in the film.
Back in the day when Adam Cianciarulo was a rising mini-bike star, he used to write a guest editorial column for TransWorld Motocross. When he was in SoCal, he would also frequent our TWMX Race Series events, and it was at one of our races that he made his debut on a full-sized Kawasaki KX125. AC only rode the bike for a short time before moving up to a KX250F, so needless to say he was anxious to get his hands on one to get reacquainted with for our movie. Alas, Mitch Payton still has a couple old race bikes in cold storage, and the one he sent out to Cahuilla Creek for us to use was pristine. This would be the first time Adam threw a leg over a bike adorned with his new permanent number 92, which he wore throughout his amateur career.
Just as Adam fired the bike up to take to the track, his mechanic mentioned that in addition to the full tank in the bike, all he had for race gas was two additional gallons in a can. While that struck fear into our hearts (125s burn a massive amount of fuel when ridden by a skilled pilot), we managed to wrangle in AC and keep him from wasting gas with extra not-on-camera laps. Though he is quite large for a small-bore two-stroke at his adult height, AC was masterful aboard the screaming green machine.
Back To The Future
For three years now, TransWorld Motocross has been promoting the Mini Major, a three-day championship race just for mini bikes. Highly regarded as the premier event for kids, it is at the inaugural Mini Major that we first met our next two movie stars, Stilez Robertson and Enzo Temmerman. Robertson is the first mini rider to ever grace the cover of our magazine, and with his recent move to big bikes, the prospect of filming him on his restored Kawasaki KX125 was enough to lure us up to DT1 MX Park in Central California, near Stilez' home in Bakersfield. Coincidentally, Enzo Temmerman's family owns DT1 MX Park, and asking him to join in on the fun was a no-brainer. Enzo has always impressed us with his speed and skill, even when he was on 50s. Watching the two youthful riders rip around the track side-by-side was a pleasure, and it felt a lot like watching coming attractions at the movies. Mark my words: These two will be players when their time comes.
As the filming for Premix 2 wound down, the number of riders who suddenly took an interest in joining in on the fun was mind blowing. Though a couple shoots—Chad Reed and Justin Bogle—didn't materialize, there were plenty of other riders waiting in the wings. Our penultimate shoot started out as a two-rider segment with GoPro/Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM teammates Alex Martin and JordonSmith at Pala Raceway, but it doubled in size when Yamalube/Star Racing/Yamaha's Colt Nichols saw Hahn's Instagram post from his day at Perris and said he wanted in. Next was new Monster Energy/Yamalube/Chaparral/Yamaha Financial Services/Yamaha rider Davi Millsaps, who I mentioned the shoot to during our time together at the GoPro HERO6 launch in San Francisco the week prior. Two riders are a blast to film. Three would be even cooler. But four? My stress level went through the roof the evening before our shoot.
Though it was at times hard to coordinate all four riders (it is, after all, a lot of fun to rip a new two-stroke, so who can blame any of them for going off on their own and smoking laps?), the shoot ended up being one of the most exciting and entertaining of the movie. Would you believe that Millsaps and Smith had never ridden a 250cc two-stroke prior to that day? And Nichols raced one only once before! It was a privilege to see them all experience things for the first time.
Things I took away from our time with the quartet at Pala:
1. Alex Martin thought I wanted him to ride a CRF150R mini bike when I first asked him to join in.
2 Davi Millsaps can do heel clickers. Who knew?
3. Even riders as accomplished as Jordon Smith can nearly loop out.
4. Colt Nichols would rather spell his "braaaps" than speak them.
The King And The Kid
Several days past my personal deadline for filming, an opportunity came up that was too good to pass up. A few weeks prior, our publisher, Don Wilson, had purchased a 2003 Kawasaki KX250 from a friend, and we had it beautifully restored by Jay Clark of Dirt Bike TV on YouTube. Axell Hodges caught wind of it and asked if he could throw a leg over it, and before I knew it, Jeremy McGrath would be joining us as well. Believe it or not, Axell had very limited time on two-strokes before we shot, as he grew up riding a Honda CRF150R and transitioned straight to four-stroke big bikes.
It spooked him at first, but by the end of the day Axell was doing all of his regular ridiculous things on the high-revving KX250. One of the things that surprised me was that with the entire Pala Raceway facility at our disposal, both Axell and Jeremy preferred to rip laps on the vet track before Axell headed to the private FMX ramp area. "I don't think I can do that," Axell said about most of the things we asked him to do, but within a few tries he always succeeded in proving himself wrong.
There was a point when I didn't understand the massive social media following Axell Hodges has, but let's just say that I totally get it now.
In 2009 I picked up a video camera for the first time out of necessity (no one else to make our movies) and the original Kickstart movie was born. Since then, I've filmed and produced eight feature films, been through four new computers, five different editing programs, seven new video cameras, and acquired new tripods, sliders, gimbals, and other gadgets. Through it all, none of the filming and editing has been as fun to work on as Premix 2. Man, I love two-strokes…