The Spoken Wheel: An Introduction

October 26, 2010
Gavin Trippe
Gavin Trippe
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Gavin Trippe is an AMA Hall of Fame member and racing promoter. Currently Mr. Trippe organizes the Monterey Classic Bike Auction and relentlessly campaigns for a new road racing class based off 450 motocrossers. In his spare time, the industry insider pens his serial column – The Spoken Wheel.

spoken wheel
Gavin Trippe, pictured left of Roger DeCoster, was one of the influential race promoters during the ’70s and ’80s.

In the immortal words of the Rolling Stones ‘Sympathy for the Devil’…. “Please allow me to introduce myself; I have been around for many a year”…

My name is Gavin Trippe and I have been lucky enough to have lived the ultimate motorcycle odyssey from participant to journalist, and on to publisher which then morphed into race promoter and ultimately my induction into the AMA Hall of Fame. As the only living promoter in that elite band of racers – a sort of fox in the chicken coop – it was entirely unscripted, but at the same time a distinct matter of pride. I mention this not in an egotistical vein, but to give some justification and/or credibility to my being allowed to script what I hope is an ongoing column in Motorcycle USA. For me it has come full circle from being a young columnist at the UK Motorcycle News before coming to America, and having the privilege of living the American dream while having next to nothing in the bank. With my old partner, Bruce Cox, we launched Motorcycle Weekly in competition with the now defunct Cycle News, and went on to promote the historic Ascot half-mile and the Carlsbad US Grand Prix, taking Rayborn, Roberts, Spencer, Lawson and many young road racers to the UK every year in the US Team versus Britain at the Transatlantic Match Races in England. Ultimately, that led to the Superbikers and the creation of what is now known as Supermoto and the introduction of motorcycles to Laguna Seca in the early seventies, vicariously resulting in what is now Superbikes.

spoken wheel
In 1969 Trippe along with his friend, Bruce Cox, started Motorcycle Weekly in America.

Having got that out of the way, I live for the present and don’t tend to dwell on the past and the ‘good old days’, which indeed they were. Most who read this initial introduction weren’t even born then, so my first stab at this was to go visit another old and good friend of mine for some 45 years, Roger DeCoster who, like me, lives very much in the moment and who’s going through a redirection as he sadly leaves the cradle of the Suzuki competition department. He led them to five US Motocross Championships, added to the five World Championships he owns himself, and now flies off to Austria to join KTM as their new U.S. head of competition.
We had a philosophical, wine-induced conversation on the art of being able to change with the times and living in the ‘now,’ a sort of necessary need to reinvent and recharge the mind with new challenges, he from a competitive side of the equation and myself from the promotional side. So as he heads to Austria, I return to my beginnings by penning, I hope, a mixed perspective on this fascinating sport we love. Not just as a self-centered pundit, but more observations from all sides, participants, rule-makers and you, the intrepid fans and readers that make the sport tick. Vicariously you, the fans, are the financial backbone, whether by subscribing to a magazine, buying a ticket to an event or loving the enjoyment that only a throbbing motor between your knees can give! It is the ultimate and most affordable way of getting the freedom and adrenalin rush that your forefathers got from the horse, just you and it – the modern iron pony – which no other form of transportation can come close to, not to mention the cheapest adrenalin fix for any man!
Motorcycle USA: Back to the business at hand. I actually researched the changing trends of information and magazines and singled out Motorcycle USA as the new wave of media for the future. The demise of Cycle News signaled the end of an era of information as we know it. They, and magazines such as Cycle World etc., sold hard copies at the newsstand

match race
See if you can identify any members of the John Player Match Race Series in this photograph from the 1970s.

and in dealerships, then belatedly decided to add a website and online version to join the ‘now’ generation. So here I am, back where I started in an exciting new age of information on the fly and hopefully to get your interest. More importantly involve you, the readers, in terms of feedback and comments on what you want, agree or disagree, that will mold the direction it takes. This is not a bully pulpit but hopefully a column that is a creative dissertation…“The fickle finger of fate, having written, moves on.”
Finally, I would like to add now and again some tidbits from the past and, as a start, attach a picture from the early ‘70s taken in England of the US team I managed and took over as the first American invasion of Europe. The John Player Match Race Series, three races in four days over the Easter holidays, at three different tracks, Brands Hatch, Mallory Park and Oulton Park, against the Brits headed by Barry Sheene. Check it out and see how many members you can identify…
Gavin Trippe