It’s a tricky business, putting together an extreme off-road race. You want your course to be tough… tough enough to give a challenge to the best off-road riders in the world, but not so tough that it becomes unrideable. You want to present obstacles that are unique and daring, without being unnecessarily dangerous. You also want these obstacles to be where spectators can see them. After all, what good is the best race in the world if no one can see it?
It appears the Prairie Dogs MC have become pretty good at finding this elusive equilibrium, as the 2015 Last Dog Standing seemed to be an ideal balance of all those factors. The fifth running of the AMA District 37 event at Glen Helen Raceway was unanimously called the toughest ever. Obstacles proved to be difficult enough to separate the pack, while still being rideable (albeit only by the best), and spectators enjoyed an up-close-and-personal view of the chaotic action.
Of course, no event is without its critics, and there are those who consider the Last Dog Standing’s unique manmade obstacles too contrived or downright silly. But back-to-back winner Cody Webb had all good things to say about the 2015 edition (though it’s not hard to have a favorable opinion of a race where you utterly demoralize the competition).
We chatted with two-time LDS winner Cody Webb, who gave us his thoughts on the recent 2015 edition. Webb talked about his machinery and accessories of choice for extreme enduro events, and explains why tougher obstacles mean an easier race for him. We also caught up with the defending EnduroCross Champion on his “extra-curricular” activities, which includes his pervasive passion for trials – the sport that started it all for Webb.
Talk about the 2015 edition of Last Dog Standing
They definitely made it tougher this year. It was pretty fun and they put on a good event. For Last Dog Standing being at Glen Helen, I feel like they’re really limited with what they can do with an extreme event there, for what the riding has available and the terrain. So they do a pretty good job of laying out a decent course and this year it was definitely tougher. They had that tire mountain that scared everyone, which was definitely pretty nasty.
Speaking of the tractor tire mountain, what did you think of it?
The tire mountain was definitely really hard. Not everyone can tell from pictures, but all the holes were still left in the tires. The ones on the second level had hay bales in them so you wouldn’t drop your bike all the way in and lose it forever, but the holes were there and they made it really difficult. I think the first time we came through it was actually still a little wet so it was really slippery, too. It was definitely tough, but the last time through, I was able to ride up it without ever getting off the bike. So it was possible if you were really on your game and were patient. But in a race with other people, you never have that patience. Luckily I was out front and used my trials techniques to save energy and ride up the whole thing.
Well, it was obviously tough, but you made it look easy, and put a pretty sound whooping on the field.
Yeah I was hanging out [at the finish]. I did the podium interview and I was still hanging out and I didn’t know what to do and I started to leave to go take a shower and right when I went to leave, Taylor showed up. Honestly last year the course was a little bit easier and the race was tougher for me because I was doing a little more battling. This year I got out front right away and did my own thing and it made life a lot easier.
Limited as they are with terrain, that’s why they come up with a lot of manmade obstacles. What do you think of those?
I think the manmade obstacles are a great addition because the spectators can actually see some of the stuff we’re doing. Because no one’s going to want to hike out to those canyons.
Some of the racers feel that the manmade stuff is a little too contrived. Did you have any complaints at all?
That tire mountain, they should have had dirt in the middle of them so some of the other people could have been able to get up it. But the EnduroCross track was a good little addition. I didn’t see anything wrong with that. I mean, it’s an extreme race so it’s supposed to be tough, but the tire mountain was pretty far beyond everyone else’s skillset. Me and two of the other riders tried telling them they need to put dirt or something in the middle so everyone could get through it. But they assured us it was an extreme enduro so they wanted to leave it as is. A lot of the other manmade things, they weren’t that… The worst part of the whole race two years in a row I’ve done are the hanging tires in the bridge.
This year they even turned the sprinklers on!
Yeah [laughs]. That would have been good if it was at the end of each moto but it was right at the beginning. That was a little unforgiving with getting your goggles wet right off the bat. But it is an extreme event, so it makes sense.
In the final race, there’s so few of you and you’re so spread out, and especially in your case, you were so far ahead. Did you even need goggles?
I ran them the whole first moto and the second one, right off the bat there was a hill that they added in – it was a total sleeper. They thought it was not going to be a big issue, but it ended up being where I got stuck the most all day. I had to take the goggles off there and I basically left them off the whole race. I know Taylor and those guys – no one else finished with their goggles on.
With such unique obstacles that are manmade like the tractor tire mountain, how do you prepare for that?
I don’t know. You just don’t prepare for something like that. The first time through I would just get my front end high enough and then luckily I got some leverage and I was able to heave the whole bike up on each little step of the tires. Fortunately enough I rode trials my whole life and I skipped out on years of what it would take a dirt biker to learn those technical skills. I rode right up them the last time through. It’s definitely possible, but the average Joe is going to really struggle with that kind of stuff. And no one is going to want to build a tire mountain [to practice on].
Situations like this where it’s all about finding traction, do you recommend an auto-clutch or do you just run standard?
I run standard. I actually run the Rekluse TorqDrive; it’s like their manual version clutch. But I’ve done a lot of testing back and forth. The auto-clutch is definitely good for bikes like the four-stroke or for bikes that don’t have the e-start in extreme races, but I’m just so used to using the clutch. I grew up with so much emphasis on the clutch that it’s hard for me to train my mind to ride with the auto-clutch. But I think for the average person going out and doing extreme enduros that would be a huge lifesaver for them.
Do you feel the 300cc two-stroke is the ideal bike of choice?
Yeah, it definitely seems to be the ideal weapon for me the last couple years. It’s pretty much an all-around bike. You can go out and ride the moto track – the LDS qualifier was the moto track with a couple little obstacles in it. And then the extreme stuff, the bike is really good at not overheating, not needing to have a fan on it. They’re just so much lighter and versatile and easy to work on. Trailside repairs are easy and super reliable. So I think the 300 or the 250 is the ultimate choice.
Right now the KTM 350cc four-stroke is all the rage. Would you ever try it?
Yeah, I actually did. I thought I was going to race the 350 this year in EnduroCross but I instantly went to the Super Enduro series [only days after the 2014 EnduroCross season finale] and I was on a two-stroke the previous two years so I stayed on a two-stroke for Super Enduro – the FIM championship. I had a 350 and went to ride it on EnduroCross and I was just getting arm-pump and sliding it and I just wasn’t accustomed to it. I figured I wouldn’t have enough time to test and get ready so I stuck with the 300 for another year. But I really like [the 350 four-stroke]. It was a great bike when I was riding it but it took a little time after being on the two-stroke for two years to feel really comfortable on it in the technical stuff. I got to ride the new bikes at the [2016 KTM] dealer meeting and they’ve definitely taken a huge step in the right direction. The bikes are awesome. I’m not making any promises but I definitely think I’ll be trying out the four-strokes again, for sure, possibly racing EnduroCross next year. But extreme enduros are two-strokes all the way.
On a side note, right after the Last Dog Standing, you headed straight for the airport for the National MotoTrial in Nebraska. How did that go?
Yeah… that did NOT go as planned. I had high aspirations, and lack of sleep – being 6’3” on a plane is not that comfortable – and I had just raced an extreme enduro the day before. I showed up and the first lap I think I was in third, but definitely wasn’t riding very well at all. I wasn’t really feeling it. A couple weeks before X Games I hurt my ankle so I had been fighting that, and I wasn’t on the bike for a while. Then I hurt it again at the last lap of Last Dog. I tweaked it. I was hurting the next day in the trials boots. The trials boots aren’t as protective as the moto boots, so I was not feeling it. The second lap I just had a weird mishap and crashed and ended up DNFing my first trials event in, I think, 17 years. I had to go to the ER.
And you ended up with stitches in your face. What happened?
Yeah, a little laceration next to my eye. I was pretty lucky I didn’t take out my eyeballs. Nothing broke. It was just a bummer, but I think the lack of sleep and everything kind of added to that one happening.
What happened? How did you crash?
It was a really weird situation. It was a dirt bank and I kinda got up and the dirt gave way a little bit and I basically high-centered on the skid plate and I fell to the low-side. It was just a skinny dirt ridge so I had nowhere to put my feet and I just kinda lawn-darted headfirst into a pile of jagged rocks down below. I had enough time to turn my head so I had quite a bit of big bangs on my helmet and I didn’t even know I had hit my face. The initial impact of my helmet really shook my head… it didn’t knock me out but I was definitely a little dingy. My palm was bruised and shoulder and leg, and next thing I know I had blood pouring everywhere so I figured something wasn’t good. It was a weird freak deal and it shouldn’t have happened.
That’s a very humbling experience after your dominant performance just a day earlier!
I had even more bad luck the next weekend. There was another trials national in Ohio. The first day I did really well and I felt like I was finally riding like Cody of old in trials. Then I woke up with the stomach flu the next day so I didn’t ride. I missed two events two weekends in a row and I never missed any before. I’ve had a bad string since Last Dog, it seems like. They always say bad luck comes in threes, so I sprained my ankle, had stitches on the face, and stomach flu so I think I’m good for a while.
- Eventual second-place finisher Taylor Robert pilots his Factory FMF/KTM through the final water pit.
- Mike Brown makes his way through the water pit while in the background, amateur riders still tried to find a way over the tractor tire mountain.
- Cody Webb creeps over the teeter totter on his way to a dominant win.
- All riders agreed this tractor tire “amphitheater” was the toughest obstacle on the course.