Know a little something about maintaining, repairing, tuning, or modifying motorcycles, ATVs, UTVs, snowmobiles, or PWC? Or, maybe you have mad skills riding or racing them? Whatever the case, if you have valuable knowledge and experiences that relates to power sports, please help your fellow riders by sharing your best tips, tricks, and how-to.

Bryan Bosch
FMF Racing has announced a partnership with Husqvarna that will see one lucky participant take home a brand new TC 125 during the FMF Triple Crown Series Dream Race. Starting at Hangtown the FMF Triple Crown will take place prior to Moto 1 of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship and then be followed up with round two at Lakewood and then ending in Washougal. The FMF Husqvarna will be awarded to one lucky winner that competes in all three FMF Triple Crown events. FMF will randomly select a rider at Washougal during the final round of the Dream Race series. 

With FMF Racing being founded upon 2-Stroke racing in 1973 and Husqvarna being one of the oldest motorcycle manufacturers, and the first company to ever produce a purpose-built off-road bike, Husqvarna Motorcycles have always been a great advocate of 2-stroke technology. The Husqvarna TC 125 is the perfect machine of choice for outdoor motocross merriment; suited for the future Pro Motocross star and the playful local track terrain-challenger. For complete contest rules please refer to and follow @fmf73 @fmf.125.triplecrown for all the action. 

About FMF Racing:
Established in 1973, FMF Racing is one of the most dominant and influential brands in the world of Off-Road Motocross Racing. Founded by Don Emler in his Hawthorne, CA garage, the brand’s steadfast dedication to supporting the sport, along with its athletes and partners, has earned the respect and loyalty of industry consumers and insiders.  From cutting-edge design to efficient manufacturing, sourcing, marketing, operations and distribution, FMF strives to elevate performance in every facet of the business. FMF Racing’s iconic red-and-yellow logo is still fueling the growth and passion for the sport of motocross more than 40 years later. The family-owned and operated company also features top level world-class race teams that continue to dominate the podium at events around the globe. For more information, visit
Chris Cooksey

Congratulations to Ryan Dungey on his highly successful racing career!   He will go down as one of the all-time greats in the sport of Motocross and Supercross.  While the sport is beneficial with Dungey’s participation, the sport will survive without it.  After hearing his retirement speech, at his personal press conference, I am curious to see how he handles retirement.  Retirement for professional athletes can be tough.  Athletes define themselves by their skills and Dungey's entire life has been dedicated to the goal of winning.  Once winning is no longer an athlete’s sole goal in life, depression can take hold.  The identity of their professional self dies and they are forced to reinvent themselves.  In the heat of the moment Dungey probably wished he was normal and didn't have the intense pressure or stress anymore.  While this is true, he will still miss the adoration of so many fans.  He will never be able to recreate the feeling of crossing the line to win a Supercross Championship.  His life will be full of great joy and good times but the feeling of being Champion cannot be replicated.

Ryan Dungey will be remembered as one of the hardest working and determined riders in the sport’s history.  This skill will help him moving forward or it will be his downfall.  Unfortunately, professional athletes are not held to normal societal rules and many are socially inept.  They are so used to everything being geared towards them and their goals.   In retirement they are expected to instantly become regular people.  They no longer receive special treatment or have an entire team geared toward assisting them reach their goals.  They lose many “friends” who were there to feed off their fame and fortune.  This is devastating to their psyche.  Dungey will need to learn how to widen his focus.  The tunnel vision required to be a Champion can alienate an athlete in regular society.  Retiring athletes often have an identity crisis when it all ends.  During their careers they have a team of people helping them focus and move forward.  When they retire this giant support system shrinks to a few people and things can feel lonely.

In the next couple years Ryan and Lindsay will be challenged in their relationship.  The divorce rate for professional athletes upon retirement is extremely high, their relationship dynamic will completely change.  I have heard many people say, “He is rich and has a hot wife, life is good!”  While this is true many professional Motocross racers don't have the money to sit back and reflect.  Ryan has the money to allow the nothingness of retirement set in.  Ryan doesn't need to enter the regular workforce and will have a lot of time on his hands.  Ryan will have to find a new motivation for getting up in the morning, much like Kevin Windham.  He might want to give Windham a call and allow Windham to explain the emotional roller coaster that lies ahead, and unlike his professional career this will be played out in private.
While we celebrate Ryan Dungey and his historic career achievements, I am concerned for him as a human being.  I don't think Ryan will go very far from the sport, he has too much to offer.   Hopefully he will make the transition and embrace his new life in whatever role he chooses.  RD5 is no longer his identity, he is now Ryan from Minnesota.  I personally appreciated Dungey this season as this was my first season in the Supercross media and he made it very memorable.  He answered my press conference questions honestly and didn’t hide his emotions.  I took a lot of heat after Glendale, but I wouldn't have it any other way.  He showed his human side, something he never showed earlier in his career.  

If you want a perfect example of the struggles an athlete goes through upon retirement, check out the documentary State of Play: Happiness.  
(Photos by LC)

Carb Mods
The recommended baseline jetting seems to a #38 pilot and a #130 main.  The TTR230's come with a TK (Teikei) carb stock and jets are somewhat difficult to find.  Stock jetting is a #36 pilot, a #125 main and a 5C20 needle.
Pilot Jets - Yamaha Part Numbers
#36 - 1C6-14342-18-00 (stock)
#36 - 43F-14342-18-00 (obsolete)
#38 - 43F-14342-19-00
#38 - 43F-14342-68-00 (obsolete)
Main Jet Size - Yamaha Part Numbers - TK Part No
#122 - 288-14343-61-00
#125 - 288-14343-63-00 (stock)
#130 - 288-14343-65-00
#135 - 288-14343-68-00
#140 - 288-14343-70-00
#146 - 288-14343-73-00
#156 - 288-14343-78-00
#160 - 288-14343-80-00
JetsRUs Teikei Main Jets:
JetsRUs Teikei Pilot Jets:
Yamaha Parts:
Chris Cooksey
The 2017 Monster Energy Supercross Series is officially over.  Ryan Dungey clinched the Championship and I cannot remember another series more entertaining.  Obviously, I have to start with the 450 class and what could have been Ryan Dungey’s last Supercross race.  Going into the 2017 season all the talk centered on Ken Roczen and his new Honda, and Roczen did not disappoint.  He came out swinging in the first two rounds, winning the opener and out dueling Dungey in San Diego.  San Diego appeared to be the start of many storylines.  Dungey showed us he wasn't going down without a fight, and then ar A2 Roczen experienced his horrific crash and subsequent injury.  At this point message boards and industry insiders all speculated Dungey was on cruise control to his 4th title.  Eli Tomac was a favorite entering the series but after struggling for the first three rounds everybody was speculating about his bike, fitness and mental status.  Whatever he was battling in the first three rounds he quickly fixed, and the Glendale SX began Eli’s domination.  Where Eli dominated, Dungey's foundation began to crack.  In the postrace press conference Dungey broke character and let loose on me!
Looking back it is clear Dungey’s motivation entering the 2017 season appeared to be aimed at Roczen.  When Roczen became injured , Dungey lost his motivation and was reminded of his mortality (similar to Rick Johnson the year after David Bailey became paralyzed).  But Dungey is not a champion by accident. While battling inner demons and a noticeable burnout he still maintained consistency and managed his point lead.  As many champions do, Dungey has established a ridiculous expectation from fans and media.  Anything less than a win had fans and media questioning, “What's wrong with Dungey?”  The season stress only increased for Dungey and he looked like he was ready to wave the white flag after Salt Lake City.  This shifted all pressure directly to Eli and it became his championship to lose.  Like Ricky Carmichael said, “the red plate pressure” had Eli floundering in East Rutherford.  Even if Marvin Musquin didn't pull over for Dungey in East Rutherford Ryan was leaving with the points lead heading into the final round in Las Vegas.

Marvin Musquin pulling over and basically handing KTM and Dungey 3 points in East Rutherford could have turned into a poor strategic move by KTM.  Heading into Vegas, Dungey had a 9 point lead, and Musquin’s move justified in any tactics Eli chose in his attempt to claim the Championship.  From the pre-race press conference it was clear Tomac wasn't going down without a fight.  I spoke with some industry insiders and told them I thought Eli would get dirty if needed and they scoffed at the idea.  They assumed Kawasaki didn’t want the title in that way.  I disagreed and during an event with Andrew Short I asked him his thoughts.  Andrew replied, “I wouldn't want to hurt him, but yea you have to take a shot.”  Eli not only took a shot, he took three!  He slowed the race pace and if not for Jason Anderson acting as Dungey's wingman Eli’s plan might have worked.  When the pace slowed, Chad Reed sensed a chance to win.  Reed does not care about other’s agendas or any championship in which he can't win and saw an opportunity to grab a win.  Luckily for Dungey his wingman straight t-boned Reed ending his shot at being the oldest rider to ever win a Monster Energy Supercross.  Eli made one last Hail Mary attempt by letting Dungey pass in order to try and take him out.  In the process this allowed Anderson to squeak past and steal the race win.  Dungey realized he had a big gap back to 5th place and stopped taking Eli’s bait.  Dungey became the 2017 Monster Energy Supercross Champion in what was likely his last Supercross race, even though he declined to announce as he had previously promised.

The Dave Coombs Sr. Memorial East/West Shootout may have been the best race I have ever seen and Supercross winner David Vuillimin agreed.  Here is Vuillimin’s tweet after the race: “I've just witnessed the best SX race in history... #CongratsZacho.”   Typically the press box is reserved, with cheering and yelling at a minimum.  When Zach caught Joey Savatgy and made the pass the press box erupted, not because they were fans of Osborne but because we all realized we had just seen a race that will be talked about for years to come.  Zach's performance was one that parents will reference when teaching their kids discipline and the importance of never giving up.  As bad as Savatgy has to feel, he was part of a historic race that will remembered for a long time.  As exciting as the race was it was equally disappointing for both Savatgy and Jordan Smith who both were in positions to win the Championship.  Savatgy appears to have something going on with him mentally.  He reminds me of Chuck Knoblauch, the second baseman for the Yankees who forgot how to throw to first base: (  Hopefully Savatgy can get this corrected.  I was also glad to hear Smith was alright after his frightening crash heading into the stadium.  He smashed into the side of the track going about 70mph and that easily could have been life altering.

The sport of Supercross is the most exciting form of Motorsports!  I will argue this with anyone who is up for a debate.  Supercross is changing the format for next year, at least there are serious discussions about making changes.  The changes I want to see have to do with the rule book and how rules are enforced, but I have a different article for that, here is a link to Part 1:

Chris Cooksey
Tomac needs to get dirty!

With Las Vegas left in the 2017 Monster Energy Supercross series, countless storylines are still in development.  The most important is The 450 Championship.  Eli Tomac needs to win which would require Ryan Dungey to finish 5th or worse, and that's the simple version.  Looking closer at last week’s race we find a frustrated and even angry Eli Tomac.  Typically when racing one of the sports all-time greats, you want to maintain a clean and respectful race.  After KTM took their gloves off last week, having Marvin Musquin pull over and hand Dungey the win, the door is wide open for Tomac to play dirty.  KTM cast the first stone, unfortunately if Tomac takes Dungey out in spectacular form, he will definitely take heat.  KTM is playing with a loaded deck in Vegas.  Eli is battling Dungey, Musquin, Millsaps, Baggett, Anderson and Wilson.  That is 5 guys that will move out of Dungey's way in order to get Dungey into the top 4.  Eli might have placed himself in this situation with his “choke job” in East Rutherford, despite the controversial “team orders.”  If this was Carmichael, Reed, Johnson, Hannah or Villopoto they all would be planning an attack against Dungey.  Is Tomac willing to get dirty to win the most prestigious MX/SX championship in the world?  If Tomac decides to execute this strategy he can only become more popular.  Tomac is single handily taking on the current evil empire of Supercross (KTM/Husqvarna) and not many would blame him for fighting the bully using dirty tactics.  I think Eli will take a shot at Dungey on Saturday night.

In the 250 class team tactics could also get out of control.  With the East and West Regions combined, and the West already claimed by Josh Hill, a group of riders are vulnerable to being forced to “help” their teammates.  We all know the Pro Circuit Kawasaki team isn't shy about using team tactics.  I guarantee KTM and Husqvarna won't be shy about using their guys either as this is the only time any Supercross Championship has been a winner take all finale with 3 riders.  Joey Savatgy is likely to be the guy with the most teammates at his disposal, but Hill is looking for a 450 ride.  I don’t think Hill will risk angering a future employer.  Adam Ciancirulo is still alive in the championship.  Austin Forkner is still looking for his first win, would he sacrifice that for Hill?  Let's not forget Tyler Bowers isn't Savatgy’s teammate this year and even though Bowers hasn't been a top guy this year his disdain for Joey Savatgy has not subsided.  Bowers has mentioned on multiple occasions that he would love to get a shot at Savatgy.  Jordan Smith has a couple of good teammates in Shane Mcelrath and Mitchell Oldenburg.  Both guys appear to be team players and would sacrifice their race so TLD KTM can earn their first championship.  Zach Osborne has been the fastest guy in the East and should be able to win this outright with no help.  His teammate Martin Davalos should be willing to help Zach, but at times Davalos looks more like a human torpedo on the track.  His best offering might be staying out of Zach’s way.

Don't miss the race on Saturday night!  This season will be dissected for years to come.  2017 is Dungey's last season (maybe) along with Roczen’s too (I hope not).  This will be the last year with the modern format.  We will see many changes coming in 2018, whether it's a Chase Format, a 2 moto format or something new.  This will be the last series under the current format and no matter how Saturday ends it has been one for the ages!

Timing, they say, is everything, and that’s particularly true with engines.  Understanding how and when the individual events happen, and why they happen when they do will help you understand why they have to be set up as they are, and that always makes it easier to figure out what’s going on when problems arise.
Let’s start by going over the basic way the engine works, and what events need to occur and when.  First, we’ll look at the simple basics, then at the reason things happen exactly when they do.  To simplify the discussion, and to make it more closely relevant to dirt bikes, we are only going to discuss single cylinder engines during this explanation. 
The term, “four-stroke cycle” means that the engine needs to move the piston up or down the bore 4 times to complete all the functions that go into producing power from gasoline.  Because the piston is connected to the crank via the connecting rod, each “stroke” takes a half revolution of the crank, or two full revolutions for the four necessary strokes. 
The Four-Stroke Cycle
A lot of folks have seen this simplified version, but let's review. The cycle starts with the Intake Stroke, near top dead center (TDC), where the piston is at its highest possible position, with the intake valve opening and the piston moving down the bore toward bottom dead center (BDC).  This creates a void above the piston that is filled by air from outside rushing in through the intake port to fill it, and that air carries with it the fuel added by either the carburetor or a fuel injection system.
The rotating crank then begins to move the piston up the bore and the intake valve closes, trapping the fuel and air in the cylinder.  As the piston continues upward, the air/fuel mix is compressed, which heats it and increases the amount of force with which it will expand when ignited.  This is the compression stroke. 
The power stroke begins near the top of that second stroke, when ignition takes place, starting the fire.  The crank rotates past TDC as the burning fuel begins to expand, and the combustion force pushes the piston down the bore, creating the rotating force on the crank that drives the whole works.  
As the piston nears BDC again, the exhaust valve opens, and the piston is run up the bore to pump the spent gasses out through the exhaust port to complete the cycle with the exhaust stroke. 
Half Speed
Notice something here: The engine’s crankshaft rotated twice to produce four trips up and down the cylinder for the piston, but each valve only opened and closed once during that time.  To make this work, the camshafts have to turn at one half the engine speed, so the chain and sprockets, or gears, or toothed belt and sprockets used to drive them are set up at a 2:1 ratio. 
Ignition also has to happen right on time, so each ignition system, whether simple ‘50’s style points, or the most sophisticated electronic, has to have something to signal when that is. Traditionally, this signaling trigger has been attached to the camshaft so that the spark occurred only once every other revolution, but engineers seeking to simplify the design of single cylinder dirt bikes found no reason that there could not be a spark on every revolution, so the trigger sensor was mounted at the crankshaft instead.  That means there is a spark on every revolution, instead of only once per each two-revolution cycle of the engine. The second spark happens at the end of the exhaust stroke, so there’s nothing present in the cylinder that would burn.  It also makes setting up the timing during assembly somewhat simpler by eliminating what used to be a common mechanic’s mistake of picking the wrong top dead center position.
Getting Ahead of Things (The Engine is Dynamic)
Simplified explanations of the cycle like the one we started with here always show the valves opening and closing right at TDC and BDC, but if you watch the piston position as you turn an engine over by hand to watch the valve gear operate, you will notice that the valves don’t open and close at the exact top and bottom of their respective strokes. That’s because the engine is a dynamic system, which means it’s something that moves, and it does so at a pretty high speed. Most MX 450’s make peak power at around 9000 RPM,  which means they make two full revolutions and complete an operating cycle in about 13 milliseconds at that speed.  The crank spins continuously, but the intake, exhaust, and combustion all stop and start again while that’s going on.  That means that all of these events actually have only a certain amount of time in which to occur, so they have to be started in advance so that they happen on time.  Again, we’ll look at the intake stroke first. 
With the crankshaft spinning along at a few thousand revolutions per minute, if we were to wait until top dead center to open the intake valve, the piston will travel well down in the bore by the time the valve is open wide enough to let much air into the cylinder, so the intake valve begins to open around 20 degrees or more before top dead center (BTDC).  This does a couple of things.  For one, the exhaust stroke is just ending, and the inertia of the spent gasses leaving the cylinder creates a bit of a vacuum that helps get the intake air moving in.  There’s a little bit of built up pressure right behind the intake valve as a result of the intake valve having been slammed shut on a moving column of air at the end of the previous intake stroke, and that helps, too.  But mainly, we want the intake valve to have time to be open nice and wide as the piston moves through the fastest part of its down stroke so we can get the cylinder as full as possible.  On top of that, we’re going to keep the intake valve open until well after bottom dead center (ABDC) to take advantage of the inertia of the incoming air.
Which brings us to the compression stroke.  The piston is now rising and pushing against the load of incoming air, stalling the flow into the cylinder, so the intake valve closes as this balance is struck, about 130 degrees BTDC.  With both valves now closed, the piston compresses the air and fuel mix to less than 1/10th its original volume to heat it up and to increase the force with which it expands as it burns.  This compression will continue until TDC, but the ignition has to happen well before that in order to extract the maximum power from the burning of fuel.
The Power stroke, then, is initiated before the piston actually starts down.  This “spark advance” allows the burning gasoline time to start at one small point near the spark plug and spread across the combustion chamber to the point where it becomes confined by the piston and must push it down out of the way.  That’s where the power comes from.  If the spark occurs too late (is “retarded”), the piston will outrun the fuel burn and not much pressure will be applied.  On the other hand, if it happens too early (“advanced”) then too much pressure will be created while the piston can’t get out of the way fast enough, which leads to damage from detonation and the like.  The faster the engine turns, the more advance the ignition needs to keep up, so modern systems advance the timing as the RPM increases.
At about 120-130 degrees ATDC, the energy from the fuel burn is so low that it really isn’t putting a lot of force on the piston any more, and the leverage that the piston has on the crank is getting pretty low, so the exhaust valve starts open before reaching BDC.  The pressure that remains from the burn starts the gasses flowing outward, boosted by the piston as it rises and pumps the bore clear.  The exhaust valve remains open past TDC to utilize gas inertia and help restart the intake airflow for the next cycle. 
Am I 180 Out?
People ask this a lot when they have trouble getting an engine running after they’ve set the cam timing up, or when they bring the piston up to Top Dead Center and find both valves open.  This is the common mistake we mentioned earlier, and it's one of the things that's more easily understood when you have a good grasp of the complete cycle.  It’s more of a car thing, but if you have an old classic four-stroke from the ‘70’s or before that uses cam driven breaker points, it’s sometimes possible.  These days, the answer is usually, “no.”  The old way of connecting the ignition to the engine mechanically, that of using a distributor or some other device driven at half speed by the cam, allows a mistake in assembly to be made.  A mechanic could position the engine at TDC, and if not careful to check, he could position the ignition trigger to fire during the exhaust stroke instead of the compression stroke.  This was referred to as being “180 degrees out” because the distributor or point plate was 180 degrees away from the correct position on the camshaft because of this. Actually, going by the crank, the ignition timing was 360 degrees out.
But with the ignition trigger located on the crankshaft instead, as is the case with virtually all modern single cylinder dirt bike 4 strokes, that’s not possible.  Without the cams connected to the crank, one TDC is exactly like another; the rod’s at the top, and the spark signal is given as the crank gets there, every time.  So, the only thing that determines which stroke is which is the camshaft(s), and how they are positioned by the assembler.  That’s why the service manuals for such engines make no mention of checking for which of the two different TDC’s is used.  In operation, there is a second, "wasted" spark that happens near the end of the exhaust stroke. 
What About Automatic Decompression?
This is another area where really understanding the four-stroke cycle helps clear things up.  It's extremely common to hear people tell someone with a modern four-stroke single to "find TDC" before starting, but that's wrong.  When you turn the engine over slowly, you find it rotates fairly easily until you come to a "hard spot".  Without auto decompression, the hard spot is the point at which the intake valve closes to begin the compression stroke.  That looks like the picture below, "Non AD".             
From this point, you would need to force the engine to compress about 80% of it's full stroke length worth of air, and that can be nearly impossible with the high compression ratios used these days.  What automatic decompression does is use a speed sensitive mechanical system to lift the exhaust valve off its seat at very low speeds (slower than the engine will idle at) until the engine gets a lot closer to TDC, but not past it, so that when kicked over from this position (or spun through it by a starter motor) there will still be enough compression to start, and both valves will be closed as the spark happens and the end passes top dead center.  That looks like the "Auto Decomp" picture above.  You can see that there will be a lot less effort needed to compress the air/fuel charge from here than from the normal, non auto decompression setup.  This, by the way, is where you want to be if you have an older manual decompression engine.  If you go past TDC instead of stopping just prior to it, you would have to kick the engine through nearly two full revolutions to get back to the compression stroke again, and it would still be at full strength.
Once you have the whole picture set in your mind, you'll make fewer assembly mistakes, and you'll be able to catch on to problems more quickly.  A crusty old  mechanic told me a long time ago, "The best way to figure out why something works wrong is to know how it's works when it works right".

Chris Cooksey
With my first season as a Monster Energy Supercross media member winding down, I decided to provide a media member perspective of my day in Salt Lake City.  By now everyone has seen or heard about Eli Tomac’s amazing ride, so I won't beat a dead horse.  This is all about my day in SLC, a behind the scenes look at my Supercross experience.

In Salt Lake City the vibes were different than other Monster Energy Supercross events.  In Utah the crowd attending appeared family based as Utah doesn't have the “So-Cal Bro” feel of Anaheim and Las Vegas.  If you wanted to bring children to a clean race, this was the event.  My day started with a stroll through the pits where I took pictures and made the rounds catching up with industry friends and coworkers.  I spoke with Charles Castloo from 100% about their impressive growth.   I chatted tire preferences with my WPS co-worker and working man hero, Kyle Gills.  He prefers to run the Michelin Starcross 5. Kyle is about as privateer as a rider can be.  While he has some friends as mechanics, he does most of the work himself.  Kyle only competes in select events as he has a 9-5 job and traveling across the country every week isn't feasible. 

From there I headed to the track walk, specifically to get a closer look.  As I tried to enter the track I was stopped by an official and told, “Sorry, working media only.”  While I could have easily become upset or explained my way onto the track I didn’t have too.  Standing to the side and towering over most, wearing a cowboy hat and boots, Teddy Parks and his grizzly voice directed me to a VIP view from the grandstands, after posing for several photos of course.  I would proceed to see him multiple times throughout the night, even holding the flag during the National Anthem!  After track walk and rider’s meeting a chapel service was conducted on the track.  The pastor was puzzling to say the least.  Typically, most members of the media head to the press box to watch practice, but I like to watch from different places around the stadium.  This gives me a better idea of what the riders are doing and how they are feeling.  I enjoy watching the B and C practices as this give the best indication as to how difficult certain sections of the track are, sometimes the A riders make it look too easy. 

After practice and timed qualifying I headed to the press box.  The press box is strange, there are a few seats reserved for “working media” mixed in with JT$’s VIPs taking in the experience.  JT$ walks the VIPs through the track during track walk explaining the sections, level of difficulty, and possibly what the riders are thinking.  I usually don't sit in the “working media section” because I can't watch the race without showing emotion.  In the end none of us were able to watch Tomac and Dungey's epic battle without screaming emotion.  By the main event the normal stress and tense mood of the room melted into an outcry of emotion for Tomac.  For a brief moment every media member put their deadlines to the side and became a fan in the crowd.

After the race, leaving the press box becomes a race itself.  With elevators jammed packed and the press conference held in secrecy, no media person desires to walk into the press conference room late, or get locked out unintentionally.   The press conferences have been a source of great controversy, as it is a new system and there is little or no guidance outside of asking any question to the podium finishers.  Some of the old guards of Supercross media despise the new format, they feel it removes their inside advantage.  For newbies like myself it provides access to the top stars.  In previous years you had to be a rider’s friend or grind through the system for years to get an interview or quote.  The new format allows media access to riders who might otherwise avoid them. 

I was extremely nervous, as this was my first press conference since the infamous, “there was no crown” incident in Glendale.  I heard a rumor the 250 class changed their eligibility rules allowing champions to defend their title.  I wanted to know if Justin Hill would defend or look for a 450 ride.  I asked my question and without hesitation he confirmed he was racing 450 in 2018.  

Ryan and his wife Lindsay sat directly behind me during the press conference and I did a little eavesdropping.  I cannot be 100% sure of everything said, but I caught a few things.  Ryan described Eli’s performance to Lindsay as Eli riding full of confidence after signing a multimillion dollar contract and Eli’s willingness to hang it all out.  Since I didn't hear the entire conversation or the exact context consider this “fake news” but interesting nonetheless.   As the 450 riders were called to the podium Daniel Blair announced Jason Anderson would not be in attendance as he was battling altitude sickness.  Dungey took his seat in the 2nd place spot. Tomac avoided sitting in the middle, in the first place seat, and chose to sit furthest away from Dungey.  Tomac appeared professional showcasing his Monster Energy drink, but avoided direct eye contact with Dungey.  While they both respected the press conference process there was definitely tension between the two, even if it was one sided from Tomac.  

After a few reporter questions had been asked, the mic was passed to me.  With hands sweating and my heart racing I tried to hide my nerves and make sure I asked my question correctly.  This time I held the mic tight until I was sure Dungey understood exactly what I was asking.  I didn’t want to ask the cookie cutter questions others were asking, but also I didn’t want to be disrespectful as these guys just put their hearts and lives on the line for 28 laps.  I asked Dungey if the implementation of the chase format would have any impact on his retirement decision.  To my surprise Dungey appeared relieved to share his thoughts on the future format.  He expressed his opinion that he didn’t want things to change or turn into a “circus,” but did not break any information regarding his retirement.

As they dismissed the 450 riders from the podium, the top 10 riders from both 250 and 450 classes were obliged to hang around for 20 minutes for individual interviews.  Dungey didn't want to hang around and headed straight for the door, I thanked him for not yelling at me this time and he gave me a funny look, I’m positive he did not remember me from before.  At the end of my 14 hour day, I was mostly relieved to complete my first press conference since Glendale, and look forward to Vegas!

Chris Cooksey

With controversy surrounding Supercross this season associated with inconsistent penalties, I decided rather than criticize FIM Race Director John Gallagher I would sit down with him to understand what his job fully entailed.  After talking with John, I left with the impression that he is both knowledgeable about Supercross and truly cares about his position, the riders, and the crowd.  I also left with more questions about the overall rule structure of Supercross, specifically how loose the rule book is, ultimately allowing for human interpretation.  This is part 1 of my look behind the curtains of Supercross and who makes the important decisions.  This is all about John Gallagher, his responsibilities, decisions and his thought process.

Who is John Gallagher and how did he get started in Supercross?  His involvement in Supercross began in 1976 as a flagger, from there he continued officiating and racing locally until he graduated from Riverside City College with Associates of Science in Motorcycle Technology.  Throughout his journey, John has been an official in Supercross, MTEG Ultracross, 4-Stroke Nationals, Thunder Bikes, Arenacross, Dirt Track, X-Games, and Endurocross from 1976 until present day.   When preparing for a race, John will fly into the race city the Thursday before racing weekend and spend his Friday and Saturday at the track.   His job consists of three different facets.  

First is safety, John relies on his years of experience to determine the safety standards.  He does this by making sure there are no immediate dangers to the racers, officials, and crowd.  As it pertains to the crowd; making sure rocks, dirt chunks or motorcycles cannot make contact or do harm to any race fan.  A particular area of concern is behind the starting gate, ensuring bikes cannot toss roost into the stands.  The second facet is enforcing the rule book and confirming tech inspection is completed correctly.  The third facet is ensuring the program runs with-in the time allotted.  This includes allowing time for teams to complete bike changes or repairs while staying within the three hour television window.  John also is involved with the input to the promoter to determine the rider breaks and the length in time to give the riders in between heats.  He speaks with the teams and mechanics and considers their input when determining the schedule.  John also has twelve officials placed around the track to act as his eyes during the event.  John trusts each official’s interpretation as if he saw the incident himself.   While he trusts in what his officials’ witness, ultimately, it is John’s decision if a punishment is distributed.
I asked John why he did an interview with Jenny Taft before informing Jason Anderson that he had been disqualified from Anaheim 2.  John stated he informed Jason's team manager and was adamant that the responsibility then fell to the team manager to deliver the news as he needed to get back to his duties.  John insisted if Anderson was not informed it was not his or any of the twelve officials’ responsibilities to seek Anderson out.  Once Anderson’s team manager was notified John got back to his nightly duties.  While Jenny Taft didn't have any issues finding Anderson, he was not in the mood to talk.  John told Jenny Taft immediately following the incident, “If it becomes physical on the track or off the track it results in an immediate disqualification.”  

In comparison I asked John why Broc Tickle was not disqualified from Toronto after smacking Barcia in the back of the helmet, as that appeared to be “physical” off the track.  John replied, “Every guy knows there is the ability to make somebody swing on you, I could probably provoke you to be very angry with me.”  I also asked John why Tickle didn't receive the same punishment as Anderson at Anaheim 2.  John stated, “Mr. Friese was not doing anything to provoke any part of that [Anderson incident], not anywhere in it.”   In regards to his previous statement to Jenny Taft, I asked if Tickle had taken matters into his own hands by striking Barcia in the back of the helmet and if he should have been disqualified.  John responded, “And running into someone with their motorcycle is not considered the same thing?, which is what Justin did in reverse, those guys got close to each other and had a discussion but it was nothing like what Anderson did to Vince Friese, you cannot compare the two.  No possible way.”   
John viewed the Anderson incident as one sided, while viewing the Tickle and Barcia incident as a couple of racers working out their issues. Therefore the latter punishment issued did not warrant severity.  I asked John, if Barcia ran his bike into Tickle after the race and Tickle smacked Barcia’s helmet, wouldn't he sit them both down for the night?  John said, “Not necessary to sit either guy down.  They had a disagreement, it got heated and I dealt with it.  Anderson’s incident was not this, it was all one sided. He was dealing with this issue because of what he thought happened on the track, and by the way, he [Anderson] was incorrect.  What happened on the track was not Friese’s fault.”  I asked John if Barcia was on probation and he confirmed, “No.  He was warned but not to that degree.”  He also stated when the Barcia and Tickle incident got out of hand he had to interject himself, but he preferred to let them work it out first.  Both teams got involved and asked for action, so he had no choice to intervene and punish both riders.  Tickle’s punishment included starting last in the Semi, receiving a written warning, and paying a fine.  Barcia received a written warning.  

As far as the Chad Reed/Blue flag penalty, John informed me he contacted Reed on the Monday after the event informing him of his penalty.  At this time he tried every possible way to inform Reed of the appropriate way to appeal the penalty in a proper and timely fashion.  John attempted to inform Reed of the proper procedure, due to Reed’s past incident with the Black Flag and Trey Canard.  Once the black flag has been thrown, Reed had no way to appeal the penalty.  John confirmed this was not the reason he did not Black Flag Reed.  His concern was related to making sure Dungey didn't have another issue that might be slowing him down, such as a tire going down or a clutch slipping.  If Dungey was experiencing any issues, and Reed wasn't holding him up, then it would be unfair to Black Flag Reed.  Upon finding out Dungey had no issues, and to also have time to analyze all facets of the incident, is when John decided to penalize Reed.  

As far as inconsistent punishments, John stated, “my job is to change behavior.  If a rider feels a certain behavior is acceptable and the rest of the paddock doesn't feel it is acceptable, I have to figure out how to take a group of people that are vastly different in ability, quality of team, and funding, to find a way to make this all work.”  In relation to different punishments for different riders John stated, “in regard to Jason Anderson, points are a big deal.  A fine not so much.  If you flip the situation and Friese threw the punches, a fine that would affect Anderson would bankrupt a Vince Friese and Vince doesn't have enough points for what Jason lost at that race now.  Vince would still owe me points.”   John determines decisions based on what is “equitable to each rider,” and the rule book allows this.

Bottom line is punishments are his decision.  I asked if John considered punishing Barcia in St. Louis for his take out of Alex Ray (which he didn't see until watching the event on television Monday or Tuesday) and he said he told Barcia, “Justin learned that type of thing not only screwed the other guy but also took him out as well.”  He continued, “Is that the way you want to move forward because you are riding in the back right now?”  John admits there is no clear way to determine when an action requires punishment or it would be written in the rule book.  He determines punishments on a rider’s intent and whether or not riders can sort it out themselves.  His tasks do not physically allow him to interject himself in every issue.  In regard to punishments, John said, “Bottom line is it ends with me!"

In Part 2 I will dive into the rule book and show how loopholes could be closed and ensure less human interjection.  This will draw clearer lines as to what is a penalty and what punishments should apply.

Even though our sport isn’t that “old” compared to some others, it has its own share of beliefs, some rooted in truth and some not so much.
In this feature we’ll be looking at different things riders and racers say about off-road motorcycling and try to determine whether they are true or false…or maybe somewhere in-between!
We sat with a few of our staff and asked them to name a few of the pervasive and persistent beliefs that they felt were indicative of the theme stated above, so lets look at each of them and see what we find out.
(Editor’s note: In researching this article, many that were interviewed gave very long technical explanations to our questions. We normally edit these answers for the sake of length and clarity, but in this case we let the responders give longer, technical answers. Part of this is due to reader demand so let us know if this “works” for you, the reader, thanks!)
We’ve all seen different and sometime creative ways of transporting off road motorcycles but the ubiquitous tie-down strap arrangement has to be most common. This involves attaching tie-downs to the handlebars and cinching the forks down until they don’t move…there’s no science to how far to pull the forks down and everyone seems to do it a bit differently so right away you have differences in technique and implementation.
But is this a good way to blow fork seals? Is this phenomenon fact or myth?
Obviously anytime fork seals are under compression they are being stressed, let’s agree on that. But are they stressed enough to help blow the forks seals?
We spoke with James Burry of Risk Racing who had this to say:
“Your forks and fork seals are designed to take big hits, and therefore a lot of pressure when that happens.  Of course that is for short period of time, which they are good at.  The issue occurs over time, and is compounded when people over tighten their tie-downs.  A new fork seal is soft and will “stretch and flex” with the added pressure, as there are designed to do, but as they age they lose their flexibility and their ability to hold the pressure over long periods of time.  Eventually they will leak.  It is best to just leave them at rest or reduced pressure during transit if possible.”
OK, so keeping them stressed all the time can be an issue…how about using a fork brace that sits between the front tire and underside of the fender?
He continued: “The fork brace can help protect your fork seals because it prevents the fork from being over compressed and therefore limits the overall pressure.  When the fork brace is squeezed between the fork and the tire, the tire becomes the “flexible” member of the group rather than the suspension.  The real benefit to the brace is to prevent the bike from compressing during transit.  If you use tie-downs, and are nice to your suspension by not over compressing, then you stand the chance for your suspension to compress further during transit when the vehicle hits a “g-out” style bump.  This can compress the suspension more causing the tie-downs to lose tension and possible become disconnected from the bike or vehicle…end result is a bike flopping down the highway.  So, the fork brace is easier on fork seals because it allows the user to tightly secure their bike without over-compressing the front suspension, and also prevents the suspension from compressing any further during transit.
OK so fork braces are a good accessory to use with tie-down(s) to prevent additional stress on the form seals, except when hitting a large bump which can loosen the whole arrangement. What about the newer stationary systems that attach to the floor of the carrying vehicle and to the footpegs or frame of the bike?
Burry continued: “The Lock-N-Load system responds to all concerns when transporting a bike.  It reduces pressure on the fork seals, limits the travel of the bikes suspension (and) eliminates the potential for a tie down to break. Of course the trade off is the (expense compared to) a cheap pair of straps.”
On this same subject, we had a look at two other factors that may play a role in raising or lowering pressure during transport and we came up with two items to explore:
Atmospheric Pressure - In theory, air pressure in your fork tubes stays static if all environmental factors remain identical, but that doesn't happen in the real world. One factor would be the altitude at which you transport the vehicle, because as you increase your height geographically, atmospheric pressure decreases. For example, atmospheric pressure is approx. 14.7 PSI at sea level, but drops drops to about 10 PSI at 10,000 feet...
So that means atmospheric pressure increases with decreasing height! So the pressure in your fork tube can rise or fall depending upon your location, but not dramatically at no more than a 5 PSI swing for 10,000 feet. So tie down solutions that exhibit static pressure in the fork tubes can have that value actually increase, causing even more stress on the seals.
Air Temperature - It doesn't immediately come to mind when thinking about suspension components except at the pro level, air temperature can also contribute to stress on fork seals when under load as in transporting.
Temperature affects air pressure by causing the air to either become more or less dense, which expands or lowers its pressure. Warm air is less dense than cold air, and as air becomes less dense, its pressure increases.
Standard rule of thumb for evaluating pressure to air temperature ratio is tire pressure will increase by 1 PSI for every 10 degrees of ambient temperature increase, and this is true in reverse as well. So it's not a huge figure but between it is a contributor to elevated (unexpected) fork pressure.
The pressure in your fork tubes can increase as the temperature rises, and this again can cause additional pressure in the fork tubes causing even more stress on the seals.
Conclusion: Pressure on fork seals can be high and for long periods of time when transporting a motorcycle using the tie-down method, potentially leading to premature failure, and using a fork brace or stationary transport mechanism can diminish or eliminate this pressure extending the service life of your fork seals.
Riders and racers we spoke to had strong opinions about this statement but lack of real world examples hampered their arguments.
First of all let’s define what we mean by handguards…this would be a wrap around metal or plastic “bar” that stretches from the end of the handlebar around the rider’s hands and attaches to the front of the handlebars, creating a loop.
This “loop” of metal is the culprit at hand so to speak, in theory and in practice it can create a situation in which your arm can go through the loop and then be at the mercy of anything else that happens. You may leverage your arm and snap it…maybe get your arm caught in there as the bike drags you into an injurious situation - the possibilities are endless when you think about it.
But does it happen often? Is this phenomenon fact or myth?
Since we didn’t actually know any riders who this has happened to, we searched the Internet for some clues. Many of the responses came from threads just like these:
The theme of these threads seems to be “it can happen…but usually doesn’t” and most riders/racers have never seen these happen…and if they have, it may have been due to other factors such as mounting the guard too high or so loose it wrapped around and “bit” the rider.
Conclusion: The myth of handguards being the culprit in broken arms and/or wrist injuries just doesn’t hold water. We’ve spoken to countless racers who’ve admitted they’ve never seen this happen. We aren’t saying it doesn’t ever happen but the notion that these components are so dangerous because of it just isn’t true, and most racers agree that the benefit of the guards far outweighs the risk of injury by not running them.
We just received a big bore 2-stroke engine back from our builder and we asked him…”how do we break in this engine, and is there a certain way you like to do it?” and as with almost everyone we’ve spoken to, he has his own way to “break in” the engine. But with today’s tight tolerances, computer machining techniques and improved quality control is this really necessary? How different are the requirements for a 2-stroke vs. a 4-stroke?
We figured asking some engine builders would be the best way to find out as they deal with this question all the time.
One of the best responses we got was from Tom Zont of TZR Racing and his extensive insight and experience dictated that we publish his comment in entirety.
Tom Zont: “The need to methodically heat cycle a new engine has changed over the years. With better materials being used, higher precision in the manufacturing of the parts themselves, and with most engines being liquid cooled, lengthy and methodical break in procedures are generally not as necessary on today's engines as they once were. This is particularly true with the newest 4 strokes.”
“On any new motor, 2-stroke or 4, parts like pistons, rings, valves and cylinder walls will indeed ‘wear in’ as the engine is run. The piston rings (contact) against the cylinder wall is an area that has a measurable effect on overall output being as good as that engine can be. There are some differences between 2 and 4-strokes in what is critical during the initial ‘break-in’ however. “
“On modern 4 strokes, there is no need to "seat the piston" thru methodical heat cycling. With electro-fusion/Nikasil cylinders, ultra precision cast and forged pistons, and the relatively uniform temperatures achieved with liquid cooling in a cylinder with no ports, damaging a 4 strokes piston is extremely hard to do as long as the engine has oil in it of course. With so much quality oil being splashed and pumped to lubricate the cylinder walls and piston skirt, there is really no need to ‘seat’ or ‘wear-in’ a 4-stroke piston when new. The rings themselves will indeed ‘wear in’ to the cylinder walls over time, creating a better ring seal at the 1 hour mark than when they were brand new. This will happen regardless of how many times you warm up the motor and let it cool (heat-cycle). We have and can put a brand new 4-stroke motor (bike) on a dyno, and as long as we simply warm it up to full operating temperature, we can run it wide open to measure its power output and not damage the piston or rings. The power will go up slightly but measurably, as the parts like the rings wear-in, and the engine becomes a more efficient air pump.“

“On a modern 2 stroke however, there is some merit into ‘heat cycling’ a new piston. Because of the elaborate casting of the ports throughout a 2-stroke cylinder, the temperature of the cylinder itself is not as uniform as in a 4-stroke. Temperature variations mean that the cylinder will not expand as uniformly as the engine temperature changes. This can lead to parts of the cylinder that do not expand as much as others. (Aluminum expands dramatically as its heated) You also do not have as much oil available to cushion moving parts as in a 4-stroke. Three to four ounces of oil per gallon of gasoline is not much when you think about how long that one gallon will run your engine for. With less oil to stay between the moving parts, the chances of parts rubbing together without adequate lubrication to prevent seizure or heavy wear are increased.”
“We want the piston to be very close fitting in the cylinder bore. That way it cannot tip or rock back and forth, so the rings will stay tangent to the cylinder walls and create a good seal. That new, exceptionally tight fitting piston is at risk for seizure against the cylinder walls if it expands too much or too quickly, in comparison with the cylinder that it is in. This is where the heat cycling can be a benefit. By methodically warming the piston up to incrementally hotter temperatures, we would gently, GRADUALLY scuff away material where the piston is running out of room to expand. The key here is the very gradual ‘scuffing’ away of material, ONLY in places where it has run out of clearance. Running a new 2-stroke engine for short periods, each time slightly longer, getting it slightly hotter than the last time, can indeed "seat the piston" gradually enough so as to prevent a full on seizure the first time the engine reaches maximum temperature under the most severe operating conditions.”
“The term ‘seating in’ is more appropriate to the pistons rings themselves, and I prefer the term "wearing in" when referring to the piston. ‘Wearing in’ the piston essentially means that you will allow the new piston to very gradually rub away areas on its skirts that become too tight in the cylinder bore because of un-even expansion, both of the piston itself, or the walls of the cylinder. Heat cycling is a cautious way of letting this process happen in a manner that is gradual enough so as not to have what we call a piston seizure. By engine builder’s standards and terminology, a piston seizure is not always a piston that becomes completely stuck, melted or wedged in the cylinder. A heavily ‘scuffed’ piston skirt on an engine that never quit running can still be considered ‘seized’ by many, to varying degrees anyways.”
“Many factors involved can influence how critical it is to ‘heat cycle’ a new 2 stroke engine to ‘wear in’ the new piston, and too many to list here. But as a general rule, it would never hurt anything by heat cycling a 2-stroke a few times before running it at full race pace. Don't confuse ‘heat cycling’ (to break in or wear in new parts) with a standard "warming up". Every modern 2 or 4-stroke should ALWAYS  be warmed up gradually, as close to full operating temperature as possible, before going wide open down a holeshot straightaway. Letting all internal moving parts expand to their normal operating size somewhat gradually, will reduce wear on parts that are expanding at different rates. Not just in new engines, but for their entire lifespan.”
Conclusion: The belief that “heat cycling” your engine before full operation is important, even more so for a 2-stroke versus 4-stroke. It’s not detrimental to your new engine and can result in an engine that will run longer and realize its full performance potential.
Most of us love our motorcycles and want to give them the best fuel available…but what does “best” really mean when it comes to off-road motorcycles. With bikes like Honda’s CRF250R coming stock with over 13:1 compression, this is becoming more important.
Higher octane doesn't give your bike more power, it burns slower to avoid detonation in higher compression engines. Detonation is a very destructive force in an engine and should be avoided at all costs. You can find more in-depth reading on octane HERE.
What does the manufacturer of your bike recommend? This is extremely important because all engines are different. You must base your decision on what grade gasoline to use by knowing the minimum grade recommended by the manufacturer. If they don’t recommend high octane gas for your bike, then you're just throwing away money by using it…there is no real benefit…except if you detect pinging or knocking when using lower octane gas, that would require you raise the octane rating to compensate.
Conclusion:  The answer here is a lot more evident than some of the other items we’ve covered in this article. Always use the fuel with at least the octane rating specified in your owner’s manual. Using a higher grade is of little detriment in most cases except to your wallet…but using a lower grade that could encourage detonation can do a lot of damage and why risk that for the sake of a few pennies per gallon?
If you’ve been to the local MX track in the last few years or watched Arenacross/Supercross on television, you’ll hear riders and racers revving their 4-stroke bikes right up to the limits…until the rev limiter kicks in and interrupts the ignition circuit, lowering the revs and then allowing the circuit to re-energize and do it all over again, causing that familiar 4-stroke “panic rev” sound that used to associated mostly with trying to lift the front of your bike before impending doom.
Justin Barcia comes to mind…
Now many riders just do it for a variety of reasons that we won’t get into here…what we want to know is whether it’s bad for the engine? It sure sounds like it would be…but we see racers run their bikes like this constantly during a racing event without seeming to cause damage…is it because of the rev limiter?
We’d just assume that this is a bad way to run your engine, bouncing off the rev limiter when not needed, but many newer riders use this technique and report that it actually helps them concentrate and stay focused, almost blurring out their opponents and the outside world with this wall of noise.
So we reached out to some a few professionals who have a better insight into the specifics of how and why this technique can affect your engine.
First up was Brent Kirk from Fastheads, who crafts amazing motocross cylinder heads and valve train components for all motorcycle brands. They offer world class precision seat machining, modifications, porting repairs, and general head servicing, so we figured Brent would be one good guy to ask about this.
Brent Kirk: “Rev limiters keep the RPM’s within the limits engineers have designed the engine to operate. On 4-strokes the valve train is the most crucial factor in setting limits for RPM (because) valve springs are limited to how high of RPM they can efficiently be operated. At a certain point they can't keep up with the speed of the valve and cam and this is due partly to harmonics. As a shock wave flows up and down the length of the spring and can actually deaden it ability extend and when the cam can not control the valve due to the spring, all kinds of devastating problems can occur. Valve float is when the valve is moving so fast that it slings itself of the end of the cam lobe and if it doesn't meet up with the back side of the cam before it closes, the valve will slam the seat and bounce. During this uncontrolled time valve shims can fall out, valves can break along with lifters, retainers, keepers and springs. The best engineered coil springs won't perform much over 14,000 RPM.”
Kirk continued: “On a stock 4-stroke race motor engineers limit the RPM’s so the valve spring keeps the valve train under control and within its operating range…this done by retarding the timing when the crank reaches and per determined RPM. We normally only see engine failures when the valve train is tampered with or not maintained.”
Next up we spoke with Derek Harris of Harris Performance Engineering, who specializes in building custom racing 2 and 4-stroke engines in his state of the art performance shop located in Marion, Texas.
Harris: “With the involvement of the factory teams into amateur racing at an aggressive level, (Justin) Barcia was signed to a large salary with endless bikes, equipment with a full-time mechanic.  He would rotate practice motors once every 2 weeks or so, or more frequently if it broke. Matt Biscgelia was on the same program, and while Matt doesn't ride like Justin - it was at least once a month he would have pieces thrown out of his cases....Kids saw Barcia and the video coverage at the same time and the rest is history.”  
“So a production motorcycle IS built to run on the limiter all day, however, not many people follow OEM service manual suggestions. Example; Honda suggests cranks every 15 hours with full engine inspection/tear down on their 250F. Parts are stressed proportionally to RPM.  The more RPM, the more stress. So if you spend time on the limiter - the bike will wear out more quickly. What's most sad is all the engines with exception of the new KTM 250F's do not make good power at the limiter.  It's faster to shift before then.”
“In summary - the more you rev your bike consistently - the shorter it will live. “
Conclusion: The belief that “hitting the rev limiter all the time can ruin your engine” has some basis in truth. Yes, rev limiters are set to kick in before potential damage to the engine occurs, but only in a perfect engine. Any weakness in engine components is magnified and there is a much higher potential for failure of these components at high RPM’s.
What do you think of this article? Where did we hit? Miss? Have something to add or correct? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Chris Cooksey
Oil for the common man:
With all the talk about ratings and magical additives included in oil these days, I wanted to get with the guys at Bel-Ray (Andrew Hodges and Chris “Dang” McAvoy) to see how they could simplify things.  Changing oil is a necessary evil, and not a task I personally enjoy.  Working at Western Power Sports I sell many different brands of oil and have experienced the oil manufacturers tell me they have an unbeatable formula only to have an oil competitor explain the previous company was lying and they have the scientific data to prove otherwise.  Now, if you talk to motor builders they all have their favorite brand and a story as to why, maybe a bike that ran with no coolant or their impeccable reliability record.  What does all this mean?
 Do formulas matter if I change my oil regularly?
-    Yes! Regardless of whether you are changing your oil after 100 miles or 10,000 miles, you still want to have a good quality oil in your bike. Changing it after relatively short intervals does give you the option of running mineral oils without fear of oil degradation being a problem, but even then, it is still advisable to use a high quality product. Friction is there from the first revolution to the last, so an oil that provides excellent wear protection is a good idea no matter how often it is changed.
Why do I need motorcycle specific oil, car oil is cheaper and I change it every ride?  
-    This is a common preference I see and I definitely get the thinking behind it, but there are some aspects that I don’t believe riders doing this are fully considering. 
Let’s assume you manage to find a high quality automotive engine oil that does not contain friction modifiers (which are deal breakers for a wet clutch) but still provides good gear and clutch protection (assuming this is for a bike with a shared sump). 
1.    I agree with your comment in your introduction that changing oil is a chore so having to change it every single time I ride sounds like a nightmare.
2.    The cost of buying oil and a filter every single ride does not sound inexpensive no matter how cheap the oil is, so I doubt there is really much money being saved compared to a motorcycle specific product that can be changed much less frequently.
3.    Inexpensive automotive oils typically meet the absolute minimum standards for automotive use, so even a “high performance” car oil’s additive package is likely a bit underwhelming compared to a fully formulated motorcycle oil.
4.    Automobiles exert much less physical shearing on their oil compared to most motorcycles because their engines and transmissions are separate. Therefore, most automotive engine oils do not perform in shear resistance tests as well as motorcycle specific oils should. Viscosity loss due to shear can be a very bad thing for engine life so the product chosen should be verified for shear resistance in gearboxes.
Does my motorcycle specific oil brand matter if I change it every ride?
-    If the choice is between two brands that perform equally, then no the choice won’t matter. However, if one brand has better performance then the other, the choice should be clear. 
Brand choice does matter, but there are many good brands to choose from. I have an obvious bias for Bel-Ray products, but my personal belief, because of the testing we do here, is that Bel-Ray products are the best in the market. Our approach to formulating and testing has provided us with decades of success and excellence. The methods we use to evaluate and develop our products have given us some of the best performing products we can find on the market today. So if you are trying to choose a brand, I am more than happy to shamelessly recommend Bel-Ray to you.
What oil is best for bikes without separate gear oil?  Will a full synthetic make my clutch slip?
-    The best oil to use in a bike with a shared sump for the engine and the transmission is a JASO rated engine oil. All JASO rated engine oils have to meet the minimum API standards for their respective performance levels so engine performance is guaranteed. However, the JASO regulations include additional performance requirements including clutch performance. There are four levels of performance in the JASO regulation, but only three of them are for combined sumps with a wet clutch: MA, MA1 and MA2. The only difference between MA, MA1, and MA2 is with regards to their results in a clutch friction test, but that difference is important. 
o    MA1 has the lowest amount of friction
o    MA has a medium amount of friction
o    MA2 has the highest amount of friction
MA1 and MA oils have a lower amount of friction between the clutch plates which results in more slipping between clutch plates. Slipping the clutch to some degree is important to control power delivery, but I would much rather prefer to rely on my own use of the clutch lever than the oil limit the power delivery. Therefore I prefer MA2 oils, which have the strongest clutch engagement properties. These oils give the least amount of slipping and strongest engagement. Without slipping, less wear and overheating occurs in the clutch so it will extend clutch life as well.
Another aspect of an oil that needs to serve as both engine and transmission lubricant is the gear protection. Extreme pressure protection is important to protect gear surfaces from damage in high torque applications. So you should look for an engine oil that provides that protection.
-    The concept that a full synthetic oil will make the clutch slip had some truth to it thirty years ago but not in today’s oils. The synthetic base oils and the additives we use today are all evaluated meticulously for their effects on performance and we only use components we know will work in the application we are formulating for.
What oil is best for bikes with separate gear oil?
-    In the engine, once the issue of the combined transmission is removed, there are a lot more options for the engine oil. In general a friction modified product with friction reducing additives is ideal for this type of situation. Similar to automotive oils, an oil designed just for the engine does not need to include extreme pressure additives so the focus of the formula can be on anti-wear and friction reduction. This type of product generally produces less heat, increases horsepower, and minimizes wear compared to a product designed for a shared sump.
The best oil for the transmission is one that enhances the clutch’s performance and protects the transmission from damage. An oil that has good extreme pressure protection without the use of friction reducing additives and a robust additive package to inhibit degradation is the recipe for success for the transmission oil. JASO rated engine oils are typically suitable in this application, but they often have unnecessary components required for the engine that may limit some of the performance in the transmission.
If I run full synthetic, can I wait longer before oil changes?
-    In general yes. A full synthetic engine oil should provide a higher level of resistance to oxidation. Oxidation of the oil is the main factor in oil degradation so reducing the oxidation rate extends the life of the oil. If you have two identically formulated oils with the exception of one being a fully synthetic polyalphaolefin (PAO) and ester blend and the other being a conventional/mineral product, the synthetic product will often last more than double the time of the mineral before a change is needed.
Do I really need a new oil filter every oil change?
-    Is it absolutely necessary? Probably not, but I would still suggest it as a good practice.
 The filter is there to catch wear particles and contaminants in the oil during circulation. Those contaminants are usually things that promote oxidation and accelerate the overall degradation of the oil. So if you change the oil but leave the old filter in place, you are circulating your fresh oil through the crud that was already filtered out and exposing it to those contaminants right away. By doing this you are immediately accelerating the degradation of the oil before any new contaminants can even make their way into the bike. Alternatively, by changing the filter each time, you are removing those things and giving the bike a fresh start each time and maximizing oil life.
I have had an oil brand with the exact same bottle and two different colors, any idea why this would happen?
-    Formula changes are pretty common in our industry. We are somewhat less regulated than the automotive engine oil marketplace so we have a little more freedom to go outside the box and develop and change our formulas. 
Certain additives are naturally colorful, so they may impart some color to the final formula. So formula changes are one possibility that could change the color.
Another possibility is the base oil being used. Common base oil colors range from being as clear as water to as dark as molasses. There are others that have slight green, blue, or red tints them as well. The most commonly used base oils are either clear or some shade of amber, but occasionally those others may be used and they will influence the finished product’s appearance.
If everyone is treating the oil with their own additives, does it matter what base oil they start with?
-    Base oil selection is important no matter what additives are being used. I’ve always likened it to coffee beans (additives) and water (base oil). If you have some great coffee beans there is going to be a big difference between the coffee made with them using clean spring water or dirty sewer water.
Starting with a subpar base oil immediately puts a product at a disadvantage. Likewise, starting with an excellent base oil immediately gives the product a head start. The base oil’s performance is the performance base line and the additives being blended in build on that baseline performance. 
There are performance differences within the petroleum base fluid range and there are differences within the synthetic base fluid range. The distinction between base oils is not just between petroleum and synthetics either. There are wide ranges to choose from in both mineral and synthetic base oils with varying quality levels. A well formulated mineral oil will compare very favorably to a poorly formulated synthetic product, so the total formula is important. Focusing on a single component does not give you a full picture of the oil’s performance.
Thanks for the info guys!