TMWX Race Series Racer Profile

Mike Ulrich
Age: 45
Hometown: Burbank, CA
Classes Raced: 40 Intermediate
Sponsors: Myself, my dad, and I work for Yamaha so they are a big supporter

I hear today is your first motocross race in a while. What brings you out?

Yeah, it’s been a long time actually. I’ve been working with Donn from TransWorld MX a lot and he’s been asking me to come out to see the races, also to have some fun again! So finally I had a little bit of a break in my schedule and decided to take him up on the offer, I’m glad I did.

My dad says you raced pro back in the day. How far did you go with your racing career? After that, you transitioned into a testing role at Yamaha. Can you tell me about that?

Back in the day I probably didn’t go far enough, turns out I wasn’t really that good. It set me up for a great career with Yamaha. As you said, I transitioned into testing. Actually, Doug Dubach got my foot in the door with starting to do some durability testing when the four-strokes first came around, so I think my first project was the original YZ400F. Eventually, it turned into a full-time position in the testing division, I was there for basically 19 years doing testing. It was a great time and I definitely learned a lot while meeting some great people.

Are you still in the testing department?

I just recently changed over to the media relations department, so now I am the off-road media relations manager. It’s a little bit of a different role, actually a lot different for me – but it’s challenging but fun at the same time. I have to use my brain in a different way, it is definitely a steep learning curve and tougher than I expected it to be. I enjoy doing something new and having a new challenge to overcome.

What was it like playing an important part of developing new bikes?

It’s awesome that every time we come out with new bikes, pretty much all of our hearts and souls go into the new model. When its well-received its great, when it’s not well received it hurts a little bit. Luckily, I think we made good products at Yamaha. It’s always exciting when new bikes come out and you feel like you had a small part in the end result, it is really a good feeling.

What was the hardest thing you needed to learn as a test rider versus being a racer?

I think as a test rider you have to pay a lot more attention to what the bike is doing rather than having to go for all-out speed. A really important thing is to realize you’re not setting the bike up for yourself anymore, you have to set it up for the customer who is going to be buying the bike which may not be your particular body build or even level of riding. So, you have to use your head a lot more than just going out there and pinning it. I had a lot of good people around when I started that really taught me how to transition into that role. At Yamaha now, since I left the testing department, I still get to ride quite a bit. The test riders we have now are doing a great job at that, we have a lot of great people there.

What changes have you seen in the sport through the years?

It just seems like every year the guys get faster and faster, it’s amazing how fast the kids go and how serious they’re are taking it with all the training. I’m a little bit worried that it seems like there are not as many local racing. It seems like a lot of the local series that used to be here in California has gone away. Local racing has shrunk a little bit, but with that said, coming here to the TransWorld race I’m really impressed with the turnout here. There are a lot of people, a lot of classes, good competition, seems pretty lowkey, and I think that’s what we need. We need to get to the grassroots. Get more kids and more families involved in the sport again, I think that will help the whole industry.

Racing is addictive – think you’ll be back?

Yeah, I think I will be back, I’m starting to get the bug again. Maybe Donn just cost me a bunch of money cause I’ll be riding more and going out to a bunch of races. I think I’ll definitely be back.

We try to run a different kind of program at the TWMX race series. What do you think so far?

Like I said, I think it’s great. I’m really impressed with the turnout. I see a lot of families which is really good, there’s a lot of kids classes that are run on two separate tracks. It seems like the races are going pretty quickly, and I think that a lot of complaints for people who used to race on the local level was that you just sit around for most of the day. The program is moving really fast and there is a class for everyone. I’m just happy to see the kids out there.

Lastly, what’s the best thing about being a dirt biker?

Man, for me it’s everything. Everything I have in life came from dirt biking, I started at an early age and I think it really kept my family closer together. It kept me out of a lot of trouble when I was growing up where my friends started getting into trouble partying in high school. I couldn’t do that because I was racing and it really kept me on the straight and narrow. The most important thing is it kept our family really tight. I’d like to see that moving forward with my family. It’s good for you and even moving on after I got done racing, it turned into a really great career for me. I don’t know what else I would be doing, I love it.