Our list is ridiculous. We know that, and we know you know that. Any time you publish a top 10 (or top 12)
list of anything, it’s like diving into the piranha tank at Sea
World with lots of open cuts. The list of America’s greatest
off-road riders is what happens when we take a long lunch
and feel like arguing. The story in this issue is a combination of opinions, records and facts, not to be confused with
anything that matters. My personal list of off-road riders
I admire the most has some different names, as well as
many of the same names, but not necessarily for the same
reasons. I’ve been lucky enough to meet almost all of my
heroes. Some of them, as I discovered, don’t deserve that
status. Here are some who do.
Malcolm Smith. If you ever get the chance to ride with
him, do it. And, pay attention; you’ll learn something.
Malcolm is truly good-natured and funny, but have your act
together when you put on your helmet. He doesn’t tolerate goons, and almost everyone is a goon by comparison.
You’ll disappoint him if you get a flat. You’ll disgust him if
you don’t have a tube. He’ll shake his head and walk away
if you pinch a tube. Conversely, getting Malcolm Smith’s
approval for something well-done is a trophy that you’ll
treasure for life.
Jeff Fredette. This man is the most accomplished ISDE
rider in the world and an icon among off-roaders. He
also relentlessly makes fun of me, and I enjoy it. Unlike
Malcolm, he’s delighted at my sorry tire-changing skills. He
laughs at my racing history. He still claims I called in sick
on day three of the ’ 98 ISDE and got away with it. The
truth is, I can’t get away with anything around Jeff.
Gary Jones. Okay, he’s known more as a motocrosser,
but he still has some awesome off-road credentials, ranging from Baja to Mint. But that’s not what I admire most.
By Ron Lawson
Roger DeCoster. Here’s another guy who’s known
for motocross, but he actually rode a little of everything,
including events like the ISDE. He was one of my biggest
heroes when I was young. Years later I worked with him on
a daily basis and learned that he really is the man I expected him to be. In fact, he’s still my hero.
Ty Davis. Up front you need to know that Ty Davis is
sort of a kook. I’m pretty sure he’s been abducted by
aliens, and he’s always coming up with some Zen technique to intensify my personal aura. He’s chock-full of
crazy, holistic advice. The really bizarre part is that it all
works. Everything he says turns out to be legit. But, I don’t
like letting that get around. People will think I’m the kook.
Scott Summers. Scott was the ultimate maverick. He
rode a 300-pound vintage bike on the most difficult racecourses ever conceived. Part of Scott’s formula was salesmanship; he knew that riding that Maytag of a bike earned
him attention and respect, and so he didn’t even consider
riding anything else. His charisma helped elevate a semi-local race series to world status, and along the way he
changed the sport forever.
Danny Hamel. You have to have been a desert racer in
the ’90s to appreciate Danny. He was freakishly good at
going freakishly fast. But, he never seemed to think it was
a big deal. In fact, he once scooped me up when I was
laying on the ground at the Tecate Enduro. For him, it was
more important to get me back to the pits than win that
Bob Rutton. Back when racing in Baja was literally the
Wild West without laws or rules, Bob was the one guy who
always took the high road. He was honest and decent to a
fault. Bob always did the right thing. Still does.
Kurt Caselli. I first rode with Kurt 15 years ago, and
that started a long relationship that involved riding, working, photo shoots, laughs and fights. In that time I saw him
grow up into the ultimate professional, and he came to
define what an off-road racer should be. We’re still waiting
for someone to take over that job. ❑
I’ve been lucky enough to meet
almost all of my heroes. Some of
them, as I discovered, don’t deserve
It’s his junky motorcycles. You would think a man of his
stature would only ride gleaming, perfect dirt bikes. Not so.
Gary hates pretty bikes. He has a collection of junk that
only he can keep running. Gary loves riding motorcycles
dearly and long ago learned the truth. It’s not about the
Paul Krause. I’ve never met anyone who will do anything
to ride the way Paul will. I’ve known him to ride two different races in two different states on the same day. Frankly,
he’s a little sick. Paul Krause once gave me his last morsel
of food when we were stuck on the side of a cold, muddy
hill in a Washington rainstorm. I repaid him by throwing up
in his general direction. He smiled and offered his last gulp
Malcolm Smith’s approval for something well-done is a trophy that you’ll
treasure for life.