A few years back at the Baker’s Factory I met Jeff Crutcher. Although we didn’t know it at the time, our Midwest roots were very close through the AMA District 18 region and the Missouri State Series and we had many mutual acquaintances. Quickly we developed a tight friendship thanks to our attendance at rounds of the Monster Energy Supercross Series, me on assignment to cover the races and him to film the “Inside Track” video series. Crutcher is no slouch on a motorcycle, as he was a quick and well-supported amateur that had a few things go awry as he neared the switch to pro racing, which has led to his full-time occupation as a delivery driver for FedEx. Because he still has the speed and passion to race, he decided that a run at select rounds of the 2018 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on his KTM 250 SX would be a good idea for the summer.
As quick as Crutcher is on the bike, his wit is even faster and he wrote a very interesting op-ed about the challenges he faced on his way to making it to Muddy Creek this past weekend. Dude looks and writes a bit like Hunter S. Thompson, but doesn’t have the hardcore drug use, so the story has been left in its pure Gonzo style. Part two of the tale is in my inbox and will hit the site later today, but for now, you can get acquainted with Jeff and his style.
All opinions are Jeff’s, by the way. Not that anything bad is in the article, but you know, I just don’t need to get lit up by anyone that takes offense to this somehow.
As a summary, 2018 started practically junk in the context of training for a string of outdoor nationals. The Kansas City area is essentially offline during the winter months given our oftentimes brutal cold winters, which can frequently be dry, antropic lifeless days strung together. Typically riding can resume on a very lucky February day just as we had on the 5th of that month. The high was forecast the low 40s, which is February riding weather- and an overzealous me forgot one small detail to prepare for this day. If you've never ridden a two-stroke you'd not know best practice of running a fatter main on cold, lean (air pressure is high on cold days causing the bike to burn more air after it's sucked in and mixed with fuel through the carburetor) day will yield optimal power. Apparently, I didn't know that either. After maybe 10 minutes on the only sandy track in our locale, I roasted my top end by running my bike way too lean. I just… I just screwed up and didn't think about my jetting on the cold, lean day because my brain was checked out on getting to ride for the first time since Thanksgiving weekend.
I am a Wiseco sponsored rider and I firmly believe they are the leader in aftermarket top end product. However, upon my initial diagnosis after tearing down my engine it seemed to be a rare part failure of a wrist pin needle bearing letting go mid-moto, and it playing Mexican jumping bean inside the newly dubbed El Cilindro club that I was unbeknownst as the formal host of the party. I packaged up my cylinder, head, and broken piston parts and overnighted them to Ohio where Wiseco calls HQ. This is where the real dance began. Someone in the shipping department mislabeled my RMA number, tagged it incorrectly, and shelved it in the wrong location. At this point, my parts were wearing an invisibility cloak inside their warehouse. All of this information came to me later on when they diagnosed my problem but we will get to that later. Time to crank the music up: the man in charge of my RMA was on vacation… for a couple weeks. I thought to myself, "Okay it's February, the temperatures are sub-freezing, I can afford a few weeks." Two weeks pass and I phone in again, he's back but swamped. Let's jump forward a few more weeks when it's discovered my parts were hiding in a home of dust bunnies, and within half an hour Wiseco engineers perform the metal hardness test and conclude I burned the piston and the ring hung on the exhaust port causing the wrist pin to stretch open the bearing housing. No worries mate. Forward that shit to Millennium an hour north and gitt’erdun.
A fun tidbit: the day my cylinder arrived for repair at the Millennium factory it was accompanied by 700 other cylinders. Wow. Had I been a cheater, my cylinder would've not needed replating- just a quick bore to 285cc's and back in action. I didn't know I was being a martyr by choosing to stick with the OEM bore, as the replating department was four weeks behind at Millennium. At this point, it would be 10 weeks before my engine was back together. I knew I needed a stock bore fire breather, so I stayed the course. In the meantime, I was riding again but now on my friend Nick Peterson's 16 RMZ 450 that was completely stock with 140 hours on it. Majority of the riding (and by majority I mean all) on the mint condition RMZ was woods riding in our only open to the public area just west of me in Topeka, Kansas.
My engine came back to me ready to be ripped on. In what was the coldest April on record, the only consistent place to ride was still Oakland Park in Topeka. Back into the woods I went. Pro tip: if you ever want to be motivated to ride 30-minute motos just connect with a local pro woods racer like I did with Harrison Helmick, who is a very talented XC2 GNCC racer. Harrison obliterated me any time we rode in the woods, and would often lie to me about how long we were riding as he held he time on his heart rate monitor. An inspiring guy to ride with. Having someone who was used to racing for a few hours at a time, be the lead for a 30 plus two as your go-to man for solid motos is a great friend to have. Always connect with your local woods guy.
The weather began to warm, I began to ride moto again. At the end of April, my longtime bro of bros Scott Gebken and I hit the pavement for a two day riding weekend in Texas. We didn't exactly have a plan until we got on the road Friday night, barreling down I 35 and discussing all factors life, moto, the teenage years, and occasional ideas on where to ride the next two days. Through much searching on Instagram and discourse, we had decided to sleep in the van Friday night in north Texas and ride Oak Hill on Saturday. Upon arrival, we were greeted with an absolutely National caliber prep, of which the new ownership team was very proud to display for us and the 5 other souls who came in the gate that day. Of course, Scott and I couldn't believe our eyes all day with such a phenomenal prep job and such few riders. "If this was in Kansas City we would have 600 entries!" was said in about 10 different ways between motos.
I want to touch on an app called LapKing right now. The moniker for their platform is claimed "the home of social racing". Imagine a bare-bones LitPro app for your phone but with Mad Skills MX game-like leaderboards and lap time charts. Half of the team creating the app is an old schoolboy rival of mine, Vince Monteleone. Vince was on hand and we started banging out harrrrrd laps between the three of us. All pro riders, jockeying to see who had the quickest time. I ended up walking away with the top spot, but as the day went on we started filming. Vince found himself in a corner with the camera that I was particularly fast in, and just as he pushed record I ended my day with a hard slam into a dirt wall. As I crawl back to my bike, doing the post crash check list of "Does this work? Check. Can I lift my arm? Nominal. Is my wrist broken? Can't decide." I regain my composure, pick my bike up, start to examine and see my exhaust is mangled against the frame of my KTM. Remember that cylinder I paid top dollar to have rebuilt, causing me two months of non-ride time? The impact of aforementioned dirt wall caused the flange which connects to the cylinder to bust off. I felt like I dropped and shattered grandmothers heirloom china. Disappointment of all the money, all the time, the satisfaction of having such a firey engine that will rip me every holeshot I can desire being cracked into pieces came over me with a deep sinking feeling. Here I was, riding all time best at all time comfort and a rut gives out on me sending me down into the dumps.
Rut gave out on me, dropped my foot and kicked to side saddle, rode directly right into sand wall, pipe punched wall, exhaust flange went bye bye. Thanks to @ktmusa for engineering the bike to take a beating and not making me buy an entire cylinder. Whew. @v_gianni927 vid @lapkingmoto motivation to send. #moto #motocross #mx #twostroke
At this point, I'm thinking "I can't afford another new cylinder, and it will be a stock bike again. I'm fucked." My whole plan of doing the initial Southwick and Millville run was shot. There was, as with all complex situations, a stipulation toward receiving my pro license. I had to race twice, and one had to be a pro-am.
Let me elaborate: The last pro national I did was in 2009. In 2017, I didn't have any aspirations of racing any professional races so collecting my points again to renew my license was not on my radar. It wasn't until late January of this year when I was looking into the future and planning on doing these races, forecasting what I was going to do with myself that I decided I'm mentally ready and more financially fit than ever.
I started the approval process for my card again in February, the same week I melted my piston. When I spoke with the AMA they diverted me to MX Sports Race Director Jeff Canfield. After a few quick discussions of my plans, he instructed how to go about getting my card again with insufficient pro-am points: the discretionary approval process. He outlined that I needed to get on the gate a minimum two separate events this year before he would approve me as an eligible racer at any MX Sports promoted events. Given that I've held my card for many years in the past and my references, thats what he saw fit.
I was pushing my bike back to the van at Oak Hill, thinking of all the time money and worry invested into being where I'm at right now with a jacked wrist, my "good" shoulder feeling like I got shot with a nail gun, and a broken cylinder. My plan to race the next weekend at round two of the Missouri State series was G.O.N.E. Pro card approval- toast. Vacation time that I strategically put in front of races, wasted. All the 50-60 hour work weeks and saving every dime of overtime I could to pay for the traveling to come, spent. Longest push back to the van ever.
After loading the bike and texting Nick Peterson about what happened, he informed me KTM build the exhaust flange off the cylinder as a bolt on part. I'm sitting passenger seat as Scott drives us out of the Oak Hill facility, feeling that really murky grey area in disbelief as you're double checking the numbers on your lottery ticket. I pull up the parts fische and HOLY SHIT!!! Rejoice!!! Can you imagine how high I felt when I realized my broken cylinder was actually only a $90 replacement part? It was worth that agonizing push back to the van to remember all the things I had invested into this year.
Without flexing my results too much, I'll just note that my performances at the Missouri State race and the Pro-Am in Iowa at Riverside were enough to satisfy Canfield and he gave the green light for his office to approve the pro racing license. In the same weekend that his penstroke checked the approved column, Gebken and I had a big moto camp scheduled in Wichita at Bar2Bar to further finance the racing program. At this time, I added in Muddy Creek to be my first pro race in 9 years given that it's practically on the way to Southwick. The mega camp was a huge success, and on the third and final day in the last hour of the event was a scheduled "coach’s ride" where myself, Scott, and our third coach Brad DePrenger were riding with our students as a fun tip of the cap to their efforts and a neat play to ride with mini bikers and novices. It's almost as if 2018 has turned around and things were now at a steady bar. I was riding exceptionally. My body was feeling great. My bike was dialed. The rollercoaster was gone and my program was locked in for Muddy Creek.
I was doing laps with a little 65 rider who was sending all the doubles on the track. I'm following him, adding a little pressure from all angles to see if he holds technique under fire. This is the end of the weekend and I'm shot from three eight-hour days lugging around my gear and giving instruction. 2018 luck wasn't through with me yet. I routinely landed off a small double and a SHARP pain sent up my left asscheek and locked up my lower back. I pulled off the track and leaned up against a fence and fell off my bike. "What in the actual fuck?" I'm yelling as I'm pounding the sand. The strain loosens a little, and I begin to do a little track side yoga in full moto gear. The three days in boots caught up to me. I was smoked. Scott and Brad loaded up my bike and packed up my gear as I sat in the cab of my Dodge, sweating my balls off with a broken A/C (I'll replace it after the Nationals was my plan). My left ass cheek and lower back is locked and on fire.
Two strokes, man. #twostroke @oakhillmx If you want to learn how to wheelie on the gas coming into a corner like a savage throttle jockey then you're going to need to sign up for the @innovativemx mega camp. Three pro riders, three days of training, one fantastic facility, it's the can't miss moto event of the summer.
When I get home, I try to stretch to no avail. I call into work and tell my manager unless he wants me to deliver packages at the speed of baby's crawl, I'm not coming in. It's Memorial Monday, so I schedule a visit with the local sports chiro on Tuesday. She gives me the Jazz about my back being out of line- which I already knew. I'm a damn motocross racer lady, just diagnose my ass cheek! Through a series of stretches and some trial and error, she diagnoses me with a strained piriformis. It's a small beef jerky size span of muscle that conveniently wraps around the sciatic nerve in the pelvis. She claims I should be off the bike at least 4 weeks. I have a week I can spare to go full yogi and stretch this shit back into place, but I need to be back on the bike at least ONCE before we leave for Tennessee. The days are long when I'm doing nothing but research on how to rehab a pulled piriformis, and listening to this hippie YouTuber named Adrian whom has the number one yoga vids. She guides me back into alignment and my chakra has never been more centered. Also my butt and back came back to me, and back to work I went after a week of this woo woo nonsense. Side note, I am a regular stretcher. Now I am a 4 times a day heavy duty stretching machine.
As I write this, I've ridden once (last Saturday, same day as High Point) since Memorial Day. For a whole week, I was hands and knees crawling around my house, two weeks ago. The bike is together. The air filters are prepped. It's 10am and I'm suiting up to head to work for my 12 to 8:30pm shift tonight. I have a vacation day off tomorrow, Wednesday, to load all of my things up into my truck and shuttle them over to Nick Peterson's house in the morning. Some more last minute details of new Mika brake pads, wheel bearings, and Pirelli's will be performed at his house in the for-hire race shop. Thursday is a 12 hour shift at FedEx (I am what's called a swing driver, so my schedule consists of filling in for guys on vacation- hence the varying work times) on the KU campus as Peterson skips town to follow the mishmash of interstates to East Tennessee.
On Friday, as Nick is in Tennessee setting up the pit, installing my hats off device, taking our bikes through Tech Inspection, I'll be at FedEx delivering packages somewhere in west Lenexa, Kansas. I'm very, very low in seniority at our local station so I'm more likely to be struck by lightning underwater in December than getting a summer Friday off. My shift ends at 3pm, and my flight leaves MCI at 5:30pm with a layover in Atlanta. I'll be landing in Tennessee at 11pm local time, with my best friend Keith picking me up from the Tri Cities airport. I'm hoping for 6 hours of sleep, a fresh coffee when I pick up my credential at 7am, finding my rent-a-mechanic who's driving in from VA Beach, and I'll be ready to make some memories which will last a lifetime come green flag of 450 group B practice 1.
If you are at Muddy Creek, come by the privateer pits and find my number 681 FedEx KTM 250sx. Please come introduce yourself, let's take a photo for my scrap book, and shoot the shit about motocross. I'm just like you guys, live and breathe moto with a full time-and-some regular job.
My 250sx assault weapon for Muddy Creek, Southwick, and Millville. If you're into it, buy a 2 stroke sticker pack in my store and get something in return for helping me. I've sold enough to pay for the Muddy Creek natty. Thank you to my sponsors: @fedex @freedomcyclesofgrandview @mikametals @pirellimx @twin_air @foxmoto @webiginc @wisecopistoninc @innovativemx @bikeworksllc @twmxdotcom #twostroke #twostroketuesday #thisismoto #ktm #250sx #yestofedex