By Dennis "Ketchup" Cox
My lifelong quest of off roading has been a long, circuitous exploration of many levels of two, three and four-wheeled fun. Ever since I was youngster, growing up in Austin, Texas, and bought my first motorcycle, a Honda S65, I have had an addiction to motorized vehicles.
I think I got it originally from of all people, my older brother Mikey. Like a lot of brothers, we fought quite a bit, and as the younger sibling, I was always getting the second hand used stuff, while Mike got almost everything new. No big deal, as it made me come up with imaginative ways to revamp, rebuild and reengineer stuff. That first Honda, even though it was a street bike, was used for transportation to school and such, was also my first foray into off road riding. My good buddy, Ed Blocker, and I would ditch classes and head out to our favorite off road ride area and put in laps on our quasi-dirt, beater street bikes and have nothing but fun.
Of course, as a responsible parent now, I would never condone that sort of thing, but hey, I CAN understand it. I digress. My brother Mike had indeed left me with a bike that had been thrashed and trashed. Didn't matter, as it was all mine, after I had paid him a princely sum of $200 (a lot of paper route money in my day) for that S65.
From there, my relationship with bikes, blossomed into a full on love affair with a plethora of vehicles that have run the gauntlet from a Yamaha Enduro 360 to a, Ossa Pioneer, a couple of CZ's, a Suzuki RM370, and finally a gig with MXA, where we tested every motocross bike built, from 1977 to 1988. What stands out the most from that period is when we got to test Johnny O'Mara's Works RC 125, and RC250's , in 1986 when I was doing MOTOcross magazine.
Following that, I spent the next 20 years riding, testing, racing and relating to almost every sport, utility, and recreational three and four wheeler ever produced, as part of my job as Senior Editor at Dirt Wheels magazine. This was during the critical juncture in that sport, where the transition from three wheelers to four wheelers occurred. Can't say I was sad to see the three wheelers disappear, as I, and almost every one who ever rode one, drove over their legs at some point in time…..something you don't want to do a lot of. Especially with old motocross syndrome knees.
The other major development in off roading came with the introduction of the UTV, or Side by Side vehicles. These unique mini- offroad cars have exploded in popularity, and have only been around a few years now, but have become increasingly popular.
Now you were able to take someone with you on your off road excursions, sitting right next to you, and explore the dirt world behind a steering wheel instead of a set of handlebars. Like everyone else that has discovered how much fun these machines can be, I like to enjoy my off road outing inside these cocoon-like vehicles whenever I get the chance. Now however, I find myself coming full circle in the sport in which I originally started out. My enjoyment of off road vehicles has once again turned to the two wheeled variety.
While the machinery has changed somewhat, with a wide variety of choices for moto and trail use, one thing remains the same. The fun factor. All off road vehicles are fun. From the lowliest lawn mover powered go-cart ridden in a dirt field, to the state-of-the-art Motocrosser on a supercross jump filled track. All of these vehicles offer their owners something not readily available anywhere else.
It is an opportunity to forget about any problems, predicaments, or picadillo's (or armadillos for that matter). You can get that visceral feeling of punching that pedal to the floorboard, twisting that throttle to the stop, or jamming your thumb throttle wide open….its called off road recreating. It's in my blood and fiber and thanks to my brother Mikey, I get to do something I have loved doing all these many years….. Which got me to thinking. While you are not here with us anymore, your spirit still lives on. Thanks Mikey, for selling me that bucket of bolts, and introducing me to a way of life that has meant so much to me over the years. God Speed, Bro.
KETCH YA LATER