Conversations with Big Rich

Jimmy Lewis, off-road motorcycle racer extraordinaire on Episode 168

June 22, 2023 Guest Jimmy Lewis Season 4 Episode 168
Conversations with Big Rich
Jimmy Lewis, off-road motorcycle racer extraordinaire on Episode 168
Show Notes Transcript

King of the Motos, Rebelle Rally, Dirt Bike Test, Dakar, and the Jimmy Lewis Off-Road Riding School… there are a lot of balls in the air for a self-proclaimed washed-up motorcycle racer. Take a trip around the world with Jimmy and Rich while they talk about the evolution of motorcycles in off-road.  It’s a great listen, be sure to tune in on your favorite podcast app.

4:15 – I was only interested in school because it kept the motorcycles coming

11:18 – the original deal was we would ride once a month; it wasn’t going to become a thing              

20:20 – I want to do this, how can you race and make money? 

30:11 – I was really enjoying what I was doing, basically living in my box van, traveling around the country, and racing

34:10 – “Hey, do you want my job?”

38:54 – “We might be able to put something together for Dakar” – so, it was game on!

48:19 – you train and you focus and you do the right thing

58:03 – The way I like to put it is I ride the race, I don’t race the race

1:06:14 – I understood our audience, I knew who I was talking to

Special thanks to 4low Magazine and Maxxis Tires for support and sponsorship of this podcast.

Be sure to listen on your favorite podcast app.

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[00:00:01.060] - 

Welcome to Conversations with Big Rich. This is an interview style podcast. Those interviewed are all involved in the offroad industry. Being involved, like all of my guests are, is a lifestyle, not just a job. I talk to past, present, and future legends, as well as business owners, employees, media, and land use warriors. Men and women who have found their way into this exciting and addictive lifestyle we call offroad. We discuss their personal history, struggles, successes, and reboots. We dive into what drives them to stay active in offroad. We all hope to shed some light on how to find a path into this world that we live and love and call offroad.


[00:00:46.150] - 

Whether you're crawling the Red Rocks of Moab or hauling your toys to the trail, Maxxis has the tires you can trust for performance and durability. Four wheels or two. Maxxis tires are the choice of champions because they know that whether for work or play, for fun or competition, Maxxis tires deliver. Choose Maxxis. Tread Victoriously.


[00:01:13.000] - 

Have you seen 4Low Magazine yet? 4LowMagazine is a high quality, well written, 4WD focused magazine for the enthusiast market. If you still love the idea of a printed magazine, something to save and read at any time, 4Low is the magazine for you. 4Low cannot be found in stores, but you can have it delivered to your home or place of business. Visit to order your subscription today.


[00:01:39.470] - Big Rich Klein

On today's episode of Conversations with Big Rich, I've got Jimmy Lewis. Jimmy is an American motorcycle racer, a four time international 6 state enduro gold medalist, Dakar podium finisher, has Baja 1000 and Dubai Rally overalls. He's a teacher of motorcycle skills, Rebelle Rally course director, and might have had something to do with the King of the Motos. He's a podcaster and actually a really funny guy. Once you get to know him and he will talk to you. So, Jimmy, thank you for coming on board and spending some time talking with us today.


[00:02:21.250] - Jimmy Lewis

Yeah, thanks for having me. I'm really just a washed up motorcycle racer. Some people think I'm an a hole, but that's... Maybe they do know me.


[00:02:37.560] - Big Rich Klein

No, I don't. I think I know you fairly well after working, what, it'll be eight years this year on the Rebelle.


[00:02:46.700] - Jimmy Lewis

When I met you, I was doing King of the Motos. You were out there in charge of, I think it was Chocolate Thunder. I didn't want you to talk to me because if you talked to me there, I was probably doing something wrong. And believe me, that still carries on to this day when we are out on Rebelle doing stuff, I don't want you to have to come talk to me.


[00:03:16.380] - Big Rich Klein

Don't worry about that. I'm just there to do what I'm told by yourself. And whatever Emily wants me to do, that's what I do.


[00:03:25.990] - Jimmy Lewis

I just do what my boss tells me. That's it.


[00:03:28.080] - Big Rich Klein

That's it. Okay. So let's start off at the beginning. Where were you born and raised?


[00:03:34.320] - Jimmy Lewis

I was born in Ventura, California, and grew up there by the beach when I was about eight or nine years old. My dad was a fireman, and he always had other jobs, other things other than being a fireman. He wanted to be a rancher. We moved out to Somus, California, and that's when the motorcycle thing started. So yeah, Ventura County, Southern California.


[00:04:05.390] - Big Rich Klein

Very good. And were you interested in school or did you just want to be out doing other things?


[00:04:15.680] - Jimmy Lewis

My only interest in school... I was always interested in learning stuff, but in reality bored me. But I was only interested in school because it kept the motorcycles coming. I had to have a certain level of grades for my parents to allow me to ride the motorcycles. And that literally progressed into I got good enough riding motorcycles to where I was making little contingency monies and things like this. And the motorcycles stopped costing us to race, to compete. But then it got to the point where I needed medical insurance. So I stayed in school for that reason more than anything because I could live at home. My mom said as long as I was going to school, I could live at home. Then I got medical insurance because of it. So I managed to graduate college on that program.


[00:05:17.810] - Big Rich Klein

Did you have a field of study?


[00:05:21.470] - Jimmy Lewis

Yeah. I took the path of least resistance. It was called communication arts. I learned how to basically TV news production and edit on three quarter inch VHS and on a Betamax. And we had a crazy machine that cost the school a lot of money that took 35 minutes to render a couple of clips together and maybe do a fade or a wipe. It was back in the old days, I guess. Now my iphone does more than I was ever capable of doing.


[00:05:53.530] - Big Rich Klein

Isn't that so true? It's amazing. I don't know how we ever got to the moon with technology that, with the Texas instrument calculator, had more processing power than what we had going to the moon.


[00:06:09.120] - Jimmy Lewis

I'm fascinated by the exponential rate of just everything. It goes so quick to where you thought was the future, and now it's where we walk around with our magic rectangle in our hand that consumes all of our time and does everything.


[00:06:30.840] - Big Rich Klein

That's true. So growing up, not say in Ventura, but out there, I forgot the name of the town. Yeah. Okay. It was pretty rural, all farming community. Your dad decided to get into ranching, you said, or farming?


[00:06:48.750] - Jimmy Lewis

Yeah. So he bought an avocados ranch, and just behind our property was just cattle. They ran cattle up in the hills. And so I had unlimited riding as far as I was concerned. When there's a couple of thousand acres behind your house, that's huge as a kid. And we were a little bit free range kids. Once we got on our dirt bikes, we were able to go ride around and yeah, it was just from the first time I ever slammed my friend's motorcycle and decided it was mom's car, I knew what I was supposed to do with the rest of my life. There was no there was no confusion. It was like, I like this a lot.


[00:07:33.840] - Big Rich Klein

So crashing into cars was considered what you wanted to do?


[00:07:38.350] - Jimmy Lewis

Well, just riding. I had to lie to them and I had to tell them that I knew because I didn't have a motorcycle, but I wanted to ride it. And they're like, Do you know how to ride it? I'm like, oh, yeah, I knew how to ride it. It's a Honda Mini 50 that has a three speed transmission. It's automatic clutch. And you have to lift the shifter up to put it in the gear. And I get on it, I knew that if you turn the throttle, it would go. But I turned the throttle and it didn't go. I paid attention enough to know that, oh, I have to do something else to put it in gear. So I clicked it up in the gear and then I turned the throttle and it didn't go any place. T hen when I let my foot down, it went right into the side of the car. I don't know if I actually crashed or I just deflected it off of it or whatever, but then I was a motorcycle rider. I was ready to go ride dirt bikes.


[00:08:39.580] - Big Rich Klein

Back then, how many hours a day did you get to ride, do you think?


[00:08:46.270] - Jimmy Lewis

After school, I had to do at least 30 minutes of work when I got home from school. I'd literally get off the bus and I'd run up. Our driveway was a half mile long. I'd run up the driveway, I'd pretend to work for 30 minutes. It was rather raking leaves or pulling... We're on a ranch, so there's all kinds of stuff to do, pulling weeds or doing stuff. But yeah, I rode until it got dark. I mean, literally, you couldn't see anymore. Or on the weekends and stuff, I got one tank of gas. And on a little Honda XR 80, that's a lot of riding. And in the beginning, it was just trail riding just for fun. We'd bank little tracks up in the canyon behind the house and on the hills. I'd see pictures in the magazines and I'd say, Hey, I want to do that. So we'd see a guy going around a berm with his leg out and dirt coming up. So we'd go out with the shovels and build a berm and do a berm shot and be like, Yeah, look at us.


[00:09:50.890] - Big Rich Klein

So is that how you learned to ride is just by experimenting?


[00:09:57.460] - Jimmy Lewis

Pretty much in the beginning, for sure. My dad had a... At one time, he had a Montessi and he would ride me around on the back. But he really wasn't a motorcycle guy at all. It was just something I think... Knowing him, he was a fireman, somehow he finagled a deal on this bike. It was just something he did once in a while. I knew even when I was just a kid riding around on the back, I'm like, I like this. But it wasn't until I was riding that I did that. But I think you just learn by doing at that point. He didn't really give us any classic instruction on stuff. But from doing it so much, we actually got pretty good, me and my brother and progressed. Then we wanted to race. That was a whole another hurdle that my mom wasn't really ready for. But that was where we went.


[00:10:51.430] - Big Rich Klein

And how did you overcome that obstacle of mom?


[00:10:55.620] - Jimmy Lewis

I think my grades started going down, and then I said, if I get better grades, can I race? I don't know if I manipulated it or not, but it ended up working out. We've gone out to Indian Dunes, which was about an hour away from our house, and we'd gone there and watch races. We'd been out riding where there were... We'd go up to like Gorman, California, which was a OHV park, still is. We'd go out there and there'd be kids that had had racing numbers on their bikes. I guess they raced and my dad had talked to them. We knew a little bit about it. It was like, Yeah, we're going to go try to do this. That ended up working.


[00:11:44.030] - Big Rich Klein

What was the first race for you that you were in?


[00:11:48.210] - Jimmy Lewis

It was just a Friday night Motocross at Indian Dunes. They used to have this. It was super popular back in the early 80s. The original deal was we were only going to race maybe once a month. It wasn't going to become a thing. It was just like we were going to race once a month. We went to Friday night Motorcross at Indian Dunes. We were back on Sunday at the other race that they had on Sunday. Then it just spiraled from there. My mom really wasn't into it or anything, but my dad, my brother, for sure, we liked doing it. We were pretty good, I guess, for the 80 novices or whatever. We were getting trophies. Next thing you know, we're racing a series. Then you win a series and you get some handle bars or something like that. It was fun. It was really cool.


[00:12:52.260] - Big Rich Klein

How long did you do that racing?


[00:12:56.880] - Jimmy Lewis

Go ahead. That was Motocross. I progressed to move it up to riding 125s. I got to be a pretty fast, we'll call it 80 intermediate. Then I grew a little bit. I wish I would have stayed on mini bikes a little bit longer, but I grew a little. We got a 125. Then started doing series. They had the TransCal series and the Golden State series, which are big regional series that at the end you could win a motorcycle or win a pioneer stereo for your truck. We were going to these races and I ended up winning a stereo and a motorcycle. They had contingency money that you'd get $250 for winning the 125 novice class and doing the 125 intermediate class and same thing. I became what would be considered a professional intermediate. So it's like you're getting groomed to go race professional. And with Motocross, I really stagnated there. I was doing really good and I raced against a lot of guys that went on and made careers of it. The Mike Khodrowski, the Jeremy McGraths, the Ryan Hugheses. These are all guys that I banged bars with in the 125 class and 250 intermediate class.


[00:14:22.100] - Jimmy Lewis

But I started getting worse. Motorcycles were still fun to ride, but to race, not so much.


[00:14:30.850] - Jimmy Lewis

And then a couple of my friends that I knew, they did this off road racing, this enduro. They'd go out and they'd ride enduros. They'd tell me, it's like, oh, yeah, we show up and we ride all day long. I'm like, oh, you don't just sit and wait for your four or five lap race and go back and sit for another two hours and go. They're like, no, you ride all day. I'm like, I want to do this. That led me into the off road arena.


[00:14:59.160] - Big Rich Klein

Was your brother you're mirroring, you guys taking the same steps along the way?


[00:15:06.020] - Jimmy Lewis

He started doing more high school sports and got out of it, really. It was me and my dad going to all the Motocross races and stuff at that time. He was on a different path.


[00:15:22.220] - Big Rich Klein

Once you got into the enduro racing, where was your first enduro?


[00:15:29.730] - Jimmy Lewis

It was out at Red Mountain, California, in one of those open areas that we use, Tingle Wash. It was the Chaparales district 37 enduro. I had an XR 200 so it was just that I couldn't at the time, my Motocross bikes were Motocross bikes but I had this XR 200 that I don't even know how we got it or acquired it. But it was like, Oh, this is an off road bike. I'll take this. I didn't really understand the format of an enduro, which is a time keeping thing. You're prescribed speeds to go through sections. But I was still the fastest guy wins. I won. I got more points than anybody, but you don't really want points. I just took off in a hall of ass, had a great time. And then it was like, I want to figure out how to do this. This racing or whatever it was. I got to ride a lot and it didn't cost that much. You're only entering one race and you go out and you ride. Didn't even have to pay to get in. You just parked and loaded your truck and went over to sign up and it was game on.


[00:16:44.860] - Jimmy Lewis

So I quickly educated myself on how to ride an enduro, how to time keep, went to another race. And I think because I learned how to do it, I had the speed to be able to go fast when I needed to. I ended up, I think, winning my second enduro that I ever rode. It was pretty cool. The Leaping Lizard enduro in Ballinger Canyon.


[00:17:14.790] - Big Rich Klein

I've been to Ballinger Canyon. Just was up there last year.


[00:17:18.990] - Jimmy Lewis

First time. Back then, that area was probably five times as big, the area that they had to work with and stuff. It was crazy how even then it was like... A lot of these areas were limited where we can go, but now you see how limited a lot of the places are. It's amazing. I'm really blessed to be able to race some of the places I got to race and ride and all these things.


[00:17:44.990] - Big Rich Klein

I would imagine that's one of the things that drives me nuts is when you have an open area that's state controlled or even BLM, and for you to have the open area, then they have to give a certain amount or equal amount to environmental protection groups so that they can restore. Even though you're not riding in all the areas outside of that area, they take the riding areas and cut them down in size. They did that at Prairie City.


[00:18:20.270] - Jimmy Lewis

Yeah. If you saw the footprint, the size of Prairie City, how big of an area it is, and how much is used as buffer zones and all this stuff. I understand the reasons we need this, but I got pretty involved in a lot of the land use stuff as I became more educated about it. It's a tough uphill battle. California, as strange as it sounds, has done a pretty good job of being able to have these open areas. In fact, I just raced at the Hanging Town Motocross Classic, the national. I got invited to an invitation race. I just raced there last week. I don't want to call it racing, what I do now. It's more of a show pony. I'm just riding around.


[00:19:10.830] - Big Rich Klein

You don't have to wear a unicorn.


[00:19:13.870] - Jimmy Lewis

Outfit or something. No. I know how to dress the part, and I still know how to operate the motorcycle at a decent level, so they let me go out. It was half kids and then half of us were old washed up guys that they said, Hey, come out and ride. We were riding 125 two strokes, so it was cool. The crowd loved it. It's an intermission thing. But for me, like I said, I still get that excitement that I get to go ride. Especially around a prep national Motocross track, you get to ride on the best course on the best day. I still love doing it. I'm stoked when I get those invitations.


[00:19:59.450] - Big Rich Klein

How old were you when you did your first enduro?


[00:20:04.030] - Jimmy Lewis

I would say 18, 17. No, about 17, I guess.


[00:20:11.870] - Big Rich Klein

Then from the enduros there at Red Mountain, what was the progression?


[00:20:20.940] - Jimmy Lewis

When I realized how much I liked it, and then I'm like, I want to do this, it was like, How can you race and make money? How can you be a sponsored rider at this? And so I started just paying attention to a little more. I was just all Motocross focused on Motocross, Motocross, Motocross. And then it was like, Oh, there's this whole offroad world that I didn't know anything about. But I saw things like the International Six Days Enduro, which was six... And this is what I thought. Six days of trail riding with a Motocross race at the end. Okay, that's perfect. I stumbled across this thing called Paris to Dakar, where they were riding from Paris, France to Dakar, Senegal, Africa. I'm like, That seems like a good ride to go on. Oh, the racing? Yeah, I want to do that, too. I put these little nuggets in my head and I'm like, I'm just going to figure out how I can do these. Luckily, at the same time, I had run into some guys who were the... From all the Motocross racing I did, I knew a lot of the guys that were doing the photo modeling in the magazines and then test riding for different magazines, dirt bike magazine.


[00:21:35.010] - Jimmy Lewis

At the time, Dirt Riders had just started up all these different things. I would try to hang around with these guys and go do the stuff that some of the... Especially the guys that were getting the pictures in the magazines. I want to be one of them. But back in the day, you had to work at it. You had to know how to ride the bike and make the bike do all the crazy stuff you see in the photos. But it's a real protected group. They're like, You're not going to get to ride in front of the camera if you're going to knock one of your buddies off that doesn't get his picture in the magazine. And so I was dabbling in all these different things, like, How can I call this motorcycle riding a job? And yeah, through changing a lot of tires and cleaning a lot of air filters for the magazine guys, the guys that were the editors of the magazine, I finally got a chance to ride in front of the camera, have the photographer shoot photos of me. And since I watched it and studied what these guys are doing for so long, I knew what to do and I was good at it right away.


[00:22:40.100] - Jimmy Lewis

And then then the photographers wanted to work with me because I'd make their job easier and then maybe wash the bike when I was done, which most of these guys just hop off the bike and just, Okay, here's the bike. I'm going to go back to doing whatever I was doing. I did that and then started concentrating on, Okay, how do I get myself to this ISDE, which was in the first year. I'm trying to think of the first year. I didn't make the team in the first year because my bike blew up at a race in Idaho and you had to finish at least one day and my bike blew up on the first day of a race in Idaho. So I didn't get to go even though I was really good at it. I was winning. Anytime that my bike didn't break, I'd pretty much win, but it only broke once. R ight.


[00:23:31.100] - Big Rich Klein



[00:23:32.440] - Jimmy Lewis

Yeah. It was actually probably a good thing because literally through doing some of this magazine stuff, I did a test with Dirt Rider magazine down in Mexico and I met a guy named Al Baker. Al was a famous racer in his time. Won Baja was heavily involved in the development of the Honda XR motorcycle line and had a company called Al Baker's XRs Only. And we did this test and the XR 250 at the time was more of a trail bike. But they built one up to compete with some of the 250 2 strokes and all the other top of the line enduro bikes at the time. And when we did this text down to Mexico, they were timing us through this time section and I was pretty fast on this XR 250. And roll back to that in drill, remember I told you I rode this XR 200? I had this I had experience with XRs. In fact, I blew my XR 200 up more times than I care to admit because I just ride the wheels off the thing to practice and to train. And so I was good on these bikes. I knew how to ride a four stroke at the time, which was weird because everything was two stroke.


[00:24:44.940] - Jimmy Lewis

Al, I didn't even know who he was. He came up to me at dinner and said, Hey, what's wrong with you? I'm like, What? This is Alex, who I learned from. He's like, Everybody else said that XR 250 is a pile of shit, and you hopped on it and went fast. He's like, What's wrong with you? I'm like, No, the bike's good. I didn't know he was the guy that built it. I didn't know it was his company. I said, No, it's a four stroke. It gets really good traction. When I let off the throttle, the compression brakes helped me set up for the turn. Yeah, the suspension isn't this. I just went through and I broke down what the bike was doing, why it worked for me, where it could have been better, all this stuff like that. Anyways, he introduced me. He says, Hey, my name is Al Baker. I'm really impressed with how you rode that bike. And do you want to race one at the ISC? I'm like, Yeah. So he got me. It was my first factory ride or supported ride where somebody was giving me a motorcycle that wasn't mine.


[00:25:47.780] - Jimmy Lewis

I didn't have to buy it and helped me go to the races on the thing. And I did really well and actually went to the ISC, got a gold medal, finished second place in the 3 54 stroke class on a 250 motorcycle, which was nutty at the time. Then race and trajectory was looking pretty good.


[00:26:10.660] - Big Rich Klein

How did it pick up from there? Did you stay with Baker?


[00:26:16.710] - Jimmy Lewis

Well, I wanted to. Al had all these big plans. He was going to build this company called Cross Country's Only, which Al had really good foresight in where markets were going and stuff. This is before the manufacturers actually built their own specific type cross country bikes. He was going to take their Motocross bikes and modify them into cross country bikes and make kits for them. He wanted me to be one of his main riders and do all this stuff. But unfortunately, he was severely injured in an airplane crash. Who? Al liked planes and I guess he flew planes like he rode motorcycles, which was pretty wide open and clipped a power line out in Arizona. And so that stymied that whole process. But yeah, I'm still really thankful to Al for this day for just giving me that opportunity in the beginning. Like I said, doing that, going over to Europe, racing there, opened up my eyes. And it's pretty cool.


[00:27:29.680] - Big Rich Klein

With riding Baker's bikes, that's when you got to go to Europe? Yeah. That's the IS...


[00:27:37.850] - Jimmy Lewis

I went to ISC in 1989. It was in Germany. I was on a club team, which is like... They have a trophy team and a junior trophy team. Those are the two big ones. It's like the Olympics. So you're racing for your country. And then I was on a club team for the United States, and I was on a team with Danny La Porte, who was a 250 World Motocross Champion, and then there was a guy from Southern California named Grant Plansky. And we were literally leading the club thing, which is actually I didn't realize what a big deal it was at the time, but Danny was almost winning the 250 the regular class. I was doing the small four stroke, and so we were doing really well. Then Grant had a problem with his bike or something, so it moved us down in the standings. The next year, I was set up to be on the junior world trophy team, or the junior team is called, because I was under 23. But I did so well, they actually put me on the trophy team, the main, main team, I think, the next year. And we went to Sweden, I believe.


[00:28:50.270] - Jimmy Lewis

And back racing in the states, I got a factory ride from KTM, which was a little unknown. They were known, but it was a risky move to race a KTM out in the desert. Everybody was riding Hondas and Kawasakis. Huskies were at the time, Husquavarnas were This is Swedish Husquavarnas were slowing down a little bit. They weren't as popular, but everybody was hopping on these Japanese brands. T here's this little Austrian brand, and they offered me, essentially, a factory ride because I was mostly riding Yamahas at the time. Yeah, that turned out really good because especially if I wanted to go over and race in Europe. Now I have a really good connection to be able to get bikes and do stuff over there. That led to the I guess that phase of my racing was mostly I was racing in the American desert racing stuff in the Western United States. National Hare and Hounds, I was winning the 125 national championship in that. I think I just started dabbling and going to Baha. I rode a 125 down there with a good friend of mine, Tim Morton, who runs a company called Baja Bound. They do motorcycle tours and UTV tours down there now.


[00:30:11.890] - Jimmy Lewis

He's been there forever. It was just like... I mean, it was wide open. I had the opportunity to be able to go where I wanted to. At this time, I was still in school. I had to convince my professors in school that I was actually in school because I would manage to get the work done. I just wasn't there that much. It was a really cool time. I was really enjoying what I was doing, basically living in my box van, traveling around the country here, going to ISC qualifier races and national enduros and national heronhounds. It was like living the dream.


[00:30:58.760] - Big Rich Klein

How long did that last? It says you were a four time international six day enduro gold medalist. How many times did you race that?


[00:31:11.380] - Jimmy Lewis

I only did it four times. I went back, got a gold medal in Sweden, was on the trophy team, but our team didn't do that. Well, the next year they decided, hey, we're going to build the best junior team because they noticed all of our fast guys were young. They said, let's not do that. not try to win the main trophy. Let's try to win the junior world championship, which we actually did the next year in still called Czechoslovakia back then. In '91, I was on the junior team. We did that. Won some championships in the states. I was actually making okay money racing motorcycles. Plus, I was doing a ton of photo modeling for the magazines, and I was getting jobs doing running footage for manufacturers, for brochures and stuff. Somehow I was in a... I think I graduated college somehow during this time period. Then it was like, Hey, I can make a living being a full-time motorcycle racer. I was doing okay. I didn't even get kicked out of the house because I was working on my own bikes and doing my own mechanic for the most part. I was also fixing the tractors in my dad's ranch and keeping everything running so they couldn't kick me out because if they kicked me out, everything broke down.


[00:32:37.870] - Jimmy Lewis

Now I was able to stay at home. I was paying a lot for medical insurance. That was my biggest expense, besides maybe fuel for driving around places where we were going. But yeah, I was all going really good until I'm trying to think, in '92, KTM went bankrupt. The company I was racing for went bankrupt. I was teamed up with Danny Hamill at the time and I started doing the Baha races with Danny Hamill, who was a legend. We were doing okay there. He would have done a lot better if I wasn't his teammate, though. I don't know. I wasn't the fastest on the 500s and stuff on the big bikes, but my job was just to get the bike back to him. Hop on, ride this section and just bring it back. I did what I could. But KTM went bankrupt. I got a real hand me down Kawa Saki ride. It wasn't very good at the time. Then I had a pretty good foot injury, smashed my foot up that year. So I was in... Things weren't going great. I still really wanted to ride motorcycles and race motorcycles. A friend of mine that was the offroad editor at Cycle World magazine, Ron Greillie, I used to test ride for him all the time.


[00:34:10.710] - Jimmy Lewis

He basically came to me at a hare and hound in Utah and said, Hey, you want my job? Really? He basically sold me on it. He got more brand new dirt bikes than I did. He was getting a regular paycheck. He could do it. He was like, That sounds like a better deal than racing. Because at the time, as much as I liked racing, I feel like I plateaued a little bit, and I didn't want to hang it out. I didn't want to get hurt anymore. So I'm like, How can I support this bad habit? And sure enough, I went in and gave myself a job interview. Went in and told my soon to be boss that I was going to be his new off road editor. Started a 12 year stint at Psycho World magazine testing dirt bikes.


[00:35:06.340] - Big Rich Klein

Did you give up racing at that point, or did you continue racing as well?


[00:35:10.990] - Jimmy Lewis

I gave it up on a professional level. I still would race I'd go race pro or the highest level of the classes I would take. But now I would take a brand new magazine test bike and go out and race that. I think I ended up winning another national championship in the hare and  Hounds on the 125 class while I was at the magazine. But that wasn't really my job anymore. So I could just pick and choose the fun races that I wanted to do. But I was riding. I was still getting to ride a fair amount. It was a real job. I was supposed to be there nine to five like a regular person, but I managed to make sure I got to ride every brand new dirt bike that came out and still doing all the same things without the pressure. Way less money, this is for sure. But yeah, it was, again, just supporting the bad habit.


[00:36:09.010] - Big Rich Klein

Right. When in your career did you start racing, or did you finally fulfill that dream of going to Dakar?


[00:36:20.900] - Jimmy Lewis

Yeah. I'd done the six day thing. When I was at six days, it was like the guys with the best bikes and the best looking team and gear and stuff, they weren't the fastest enduro riders. They were these Dakar riders. That was always in my head. At that time, you'd get a VHS tape about the Paris of Dakar, you'd see something. It was usually a picture of a guy flying off of a dune on a BMW with the highlight reel that you see about Dakar. But I'm like, I still want to do this. And it was this rally racing. Franco and Chirby, it's a plastic company from Italy, Franco and Chirby he decided to do this thing called the Nevada Rally. And he built a six or seven day, with the help of Casey Folks, loop around Nevada. And it was this Mapbook navigation style thing. I'm like, This is how I'm going to get there. This is what I'm going to do. Because they brought over a lot of European guys and I'm like, I'm fast in this desert. I can beat these guys. And then maybe it'll give me the opportunity to be able to go.


[00:37:30.050] - Jimmy Lewis

So I took the magazine, Kawasaki had this new KLX650. It was their new XR Honda killer bike they were going to build. So I built one of those up, showed up at Nevada Rally. I'm going to smoke everybody and basically just kept smoking my clutch on that bike. I didn't know the capabilities. I basically overcooked the motor a little bit. So I would do really well while the bike was working, but I didn't finish. They helped me finish because they wanted a good story out of it. So they allowed me a lot of leeway and reimpounding the bike and putting the bike in the truck when it shouldn't have been in the truck. But I rallied my way to a finish, and I was really disappointed. But what happened that year is I got to, for the magazine, I got to ride a couple of Yamaha Francis Dakar bikes. One was a single cylinder that they were thinking about bringing a version of it to the United States. And then I got to ride stuff on Peter Hulsel's twin cylinder 850 factory rally bike. It was interesting because I thought I was doing it for the magazine, more or less.


[00:38:54.840] - Jimmy Lewis

That's what I was really doing it for, me. But they were using it as a try out because they were looking for a, quote, a water boy for stuff on Peter Hansel. Okay. Another really helpful guy in my career is a guy named Eric Pinaud, had set this up. I'd been trying to go to Dakar. I'd been figuring stuff out. Well, just through the middle of KTM heard that I got a tryout on the factory in Omaha. A ll of a sudden, now they're going, Hey, well, we might be able to put something together to help you go and be able to go to Dakar. And so it was game on. And so it took a little while because there was another year, another Nevada rally that I finished third overall. And I should have won that one. But dumb, Jimmy, won a stage by eight minutes, which means you should win the rally now. You just go into management mode. And no, I didn't go into management mode. I was going to win the next day. And I got myself a little bit lost, and then catty wampus, and then crashed, and then it wasn't a good showing.


[00:40:07.690] - Jimmy Lewis

So I don't think that helped a lot of things along. But like I said, it got the ball rolling. And through me being an American, and I went to every time Dakar did a presentation out here, I would ride a bike to wherever it was in Nevada, where I could find Hubert Hoel, who was the race organizer for Dakar. And he got to know me. And so between ASO and KTM and the fact that I was a journalist and they were looking for publicity for this Dakar rally in the United States, I managed to get to go in '96.


[00:40:51.960] - Big Rich Klein



[00:40:52.850] - Jimmy Lewis

That was, like I said, dream come true. I'm able to go do this and then I land over there and basically realize it's like, I don't know the first thing about what I'm doing. And so every day I learned something that basically saved my life right until I almost died from dehydration because I got diarrhea. Oh. Yeah, pretty stupid. I mean, you want to talk about a novice rookie move? That was it. I was in the top 10. My bike was perfect. Everything on my body was perfect except for the exit. I tell you what, when you have a bug in you and I call it the Welcome to Africa, your stomach's never going to forget you were here bug, you can't drink enough water to keep it down. And there was a day it was 124 degrees in Mauritania, and that was it. All my water was gone and I was in a world of hurt. So it didn't go very well.


[00:42:05.120] - Big Rich Klein

So you didn't finish that race?


[00:42:08.600] - Jimmy Lewis

I did not. No, I got a helicopter ride back to the Bivouac and an airplane ride of shame back to the United States. I was never going to go back because I tell you what, the real Dakar begins when your Dakar ends. Getting out of that country was sketchy and difficult. It cost me and my mechanic a lot of money to finagle flights out of Zürat, Mauritania. But yeah, I was like, Okay, that's sketchy. It's over. But then two months later, you're sitting at home and you go, Man, I have unfinished business. And this is where Daniel La Porte rolls back into my life. He, as a world champion Motocross guy, can get a lot of money to go do Dakar. He knew he really wasn't up to going and running at the front. But here's this kid that has enough of what it takes that maybe with a little bit of help. So we were an American team, and KTM wanted him and me back as Americans and a little bit of exposure. And so the next year in '97, I was back there as a real privateer rider. Danny had a factory bike, but we shared a mechanic, and I had the production bike that you could get.


[00:43:39.490] - Jimmy Lewis

And yeah, this year I did my research. I was way better on a lot of things. I learned a lot the first year and managed to get fourth overall, first single cylinder. The bikes in front of me are all twin cylinders. I was the highest placing KTM rider, even though I beat all their factory riders because most of them didn't finish. I was still a magazine editor. Luckily, because the story was so good last year, the year before, they said, Yeah, you can go back because it makes a good story even though you're going to be gone for a month. I threw a podium away. I had a big crash and it was, again, my fault just getting a little bit too wound up in the moment. I won a stage. I won my first stage in the Dakar Rally. The next day, I had a big crash because my front Moose was dead. The crash was because the Moose was dead, but I knew it and I should have been riding the way I was riding. I should have had a new tire, but my tire budget only called for a new tire Moose every other day on the front.


[00:44:53.830] - Jimmy Lewis

They actually had a new wheel fitted on my bike, but one of the factory guys, we're named nameless now, but I didn't care for her very much and he didn't care for me, especially as I was beating them, made them because it was essentially a wheel out of their budget, like their team, even though they were just sitting there because all the guys were out, I couldn't have that wheel. So I took it back off and put my old one back on it.


[00:45:17.150] - Big Rich Klein



[00:45:18.200] - Jimmy Lewis

I had one of those crashes that you would make the highlight reel, but except there was no camera, where the gas tank came flying off the motorcycle.


[00:45:26.480] - Jimmy Lewis

Jesus. Luckily, it was close to the finish, so I was able to pour all the gas out of the side tank into the back or out of the gas was left in the front tank, into the side tank and run into the finish on the... But that cost me a podium. Again, stupidity, but I learned a lesson or two.


[00:45:44.340] - Big Rich Klein

Was that factory rider that will remain nameless, was he a European?


[00:45:53.030] - Jimmy Lewis

French guy, yeah.


[00:45:54.400] - Big Rich Klein

That makes sense. Gang French.


[00:45:59.360] - Jimmy Lewis

Nothing against him. Actually, I don't think in the grand scheme of things, it made a whole lot of difference, third or fourth or whatever at that point. That was my first Dakar finish. And to finish that high and to do that well, I'm like, okay, now I can go do this and be a factory Dakar rider. I've achieved a place that I wanted to be. But what was interesting is I was a magazine editor and I was not getting paid to go do these races. I didn't have a bonus structure in place. I wasn't on a salary. Danny, I'm sure, had a pretty good set up to go do it. But he gave me the opportunity to be able to go and do it. But it ended up costing me money to finish fourth overall. And all the other riders and stuff knew it, and they were pissed. And they didn't like that a guy that was riding for free was now getting in the way of their big salaries and stuff like that. And KTM literally offered me a contract straight away for very little money. And I'm like, no, I'm not going to do this for free, basically.


[00:47:20.390] - Jimmy Lewis

I have a job and I like my job, and I'm just going to keep doing my job. And they kept... They literally, the next year, they literally had a bike on the ship going down to... I don't even know where it started, Granada, Spain or something like that. They had the entry form all filled out. I hadn't signed it or done anything. I didn't sign a contract. And that last minute they called and said, Hey, what are you doing? I'm like, You need to put some zeros on that contract or I'm not showing up. And I didn't show up. I didn't go. Of course, they called the panic like, You know another American rider you can send over here? Because we made all these deals. And I'm like, Well, yeah, I knew a guy, so I didn't go.


[00:48:03.960] - Big Rich Klein

Did you give the other guy the opportunity?


[00:48:08.200] - Jimmy Lewis

Yeah. American guy, good friend of mine, Paul Kraus, got to go be a Dakar factory rider. He got my factory bike.


[00:48:17.930] - Big Rich Klein

Without the zeros.


[00:48:19.750] - Jimmy Lewis

I know he did it for free because I guess he did it for free. But anybody would. That's just a dream opportunity. But at that point, it was like, look, I'm out there. My goal was to go finish Dakar. That was my goal. Now I wanted to go race Dakar and I wanted to be a professional rally racer. Next chapter, next thing. At that point, it really does become a job. You train and you focus and you do the right thing. So yeah, I expected it to be paid. And in my head, I knew I was going to do really well. You never know. But I expected this. So I wanted to have a good bonus program and all that stuff. And it just didn't materialize yet. And when I say yet, because I think I went... My good friend of mine, Johnny Campbell, actually lived at my house at the time, needed a partner for Baha. And so in '98, we rode the Baha 1000 and ended up winning overall, beat the trucks and everything, which was on a Peninsula run with two riders. That's a pretty good beat.


[00:49:36.670] - Jimmy Lewis

I was still relevant at that time, even though I went right back to being a magazine guy, not racing very much. But then BMW came calling in '99. They had these big... I didn't really know it at the time. They had these big aspirations to come back in the Rally with the Boxer, the twin cylinder bike. They wanted to have a British rider and an American rider on those bikes because those were the big markets for that GS, the BMW GS. I went over and did a... Well, I thought, again, I thought I was doing a thing for the magazine where I was riding Richard Sank's single cylinder BMW Rally bike for a magazine article, which I did a magazine article about riding the Dakar winning bike. But the whole time I'm riding that, stopwatch is on me. And then at dinner, I'm sitting with some of the guys in the team who I knew. And my buddy Oscar got out, I was like, Hey, Jimmy, you ride the boxer. I'm like, What? Oh, yeah, you're the boxer. I'm like, Huh? He starts telling me stories about he tested this twin cylinder bike because it was a single sided swing arm.


[00:50:52.490] - Jimmy Lewis

He tells me stories about the wheel coming off and passing him up while he's riding it. I didn't I didn't know much about this. I heard a lot of the stories afterwards because when they found out I signed the contract, they think I'm nuts. But it was a really good contract. I had plenty of zeros on it. I was happy. I actually remember calling Heather from... And then it took a little while to figure it out because they kept sending me contracts. I'm like, oh, no, I'm a magazine editor. I can't race for you guys. When they finally sent the contract, they asked me if I wanted to race. I said, No, they finally sent a contract. I saw the contract call Heather say, Hey, there's a lot of zeros in this thing. I'm going to quit my job today. Luckily, they wouldn't let me quit my job. They said, Hey, BMW makes only street bikes. You're the off redder. You just test dirt bikes and go do this rally racing thing. And so it was the best of both worlds. Frankly, the bike was amazing. It was a 100 % handbuilt factory bike for me.


[00:52:00.110] - Jimmy Lewis

Any change I wanted, they made. And yeah, it was the pinnacle. I finally got to be one of those guys that had the best bike and the best gear on the team that everybody wanted to be on. It was super cool.


[00:52:19.520] - Big Rich Klein

That's awesome. Then how did you finish that year?


[00:52:26.560] - Jimmy Lewis

That was the... They call it Paris to Car, Cairo. And that was the year that the rally got interrupted by terrorism and stuff. I ended up finishing third overall. Then that was my best finish, won a few stages, won the twin cylinder class. So I like to tell people I'm the only guy that's ever won the twin cylinder class and the single cylinder class, but not the overall. They don't have those classes anymore, so it doesn't matter. But BMW got the top five positions that year. So as a team, it was really cool. And the unfortunate thing was I actually at one point during the rally had it... I want to say it was up to a 14 minute lead because it was during a stage. I passed a lot of guys and got out front. And then I had a problem with the bike the same day that we call it the rally got hijacked. We literally got stopped mid stage. And it was lucky in one way because I had a problem with the bike, which we had fixed, but I still lost a lot of time. But if we had to ride the whole rest of that stage, it could have been worse.


[00:53:40.000] - Jimmy Lewis

But it was real interesting. But the stuff they took out, and at the time, I was the only twin cylinder bike, really in the rally. My teammate on the British guy, John Deacon, had crashed. I don't know if he was out. Yeah, I believe he was out at that point. But the Tenere Desert, which we were going to go into, I remember the organizer, Hubert Oriel going, Jimmy, just wait for the to use the legs of the boxer. And it was like these days, which I learned also in Egypt, there was places where my bike was 20, 30 miles an hour faster than any other bike in the rally. And there was plenty of places to use it. You're just riding across seas and oceans of sand. And evidently, after we went out and we had to go to, we had to go to Libya to avoid terrorism. So there was some deserts that we missed in the tenere that he basically said there's two stages that were just the pure twin cylinder stages. The roadbooks were very small, just one direction, point and shoot. But anyways, we went to Libya, rode through Egypt, got a podium.


[00:55:07.540] - Jimmy Lewis

I was pretty happy. Then I was for sure going to win it the next year. And that didn't happen.


[00:55:17.620] - Big Rich Klein

The next year didn't happen?


[00:55:19.430] - Jimmy Lewis

No, the next year... Because it was going away from these twin cylinder bikes. The organization was a little worried about how fast they were and stuff. So the next year, they made the rally much more technical. O f course, we didn't know this. I was, again, on the BMW factory team. We had four really high level riders on the twin cylinder bikes. I had a crash on the third stage s age or something, and it was a big one, a really big one. I really injured my wrist, but I kept going. But at that point, I didn't realize how bad my wrist were, but I was I was over it. I did ISD four times and this is my fourth deck car and I don't know if you put all your eggs in one basket and you can't achieve your goals. And really, I should have maybe put a little longer time frame on it. But when I crossed the finish line and I broke my collarbone on the last stage just to add injury to insult.


[00:56:21.960] - Big Rich Klein



[00:56:24.430] - Jimmy Lewis

I finished the race with a broken collarbone and I'm like, I'm done with this. I just was I was at that point, I think in my head I retired from professional racing.


[00:56:39.460] - Big Rich Klein

That was the end of your professional racing?


[00:56:45.950] - Jimmy Lewis

Yeah. Well, it took me two years to figure out what was really wrong with my wrist, and I could have had operations on him, but I was going to lose a ton of mobility and things. I just rolled right back in the being a magazine editor, doing my motorcycle testing stuff and just doing more stuff for fun. We actually had started up the riding school at that point. I was getting a little bit older. I don't even know how old I was at the time. I probably had a good five more solid years if I really wanted to put the work in, but my risks weren't going to be right. When I finally started trying to ride at a high level again, I realized that they didn't work. They didn't work properly and it was risky because what happens is that some nerves get pinched and then my hand opens up. And if you ever impacted, landed on a motorcycle with a high impact and your hand opens up, it's not a good thing. Generally, bad things happen. And again, I don't like getting hurt. I don't like going to the doctor. And so I'm like, I'm going to ride at a level that's safer, which means no more racing. I.


[00:58:01.440] - Big Rich Klein



[00:58:03.600] - Jimmy Lewis

If I raced, the way I'd like to put it is I ride the race. I don't race the race.


[00:58:11.270] - Big Rich Klein

Okay, that makes sense. You're not the first one to the crash.


[00:58:18.010] - Jimmy Lewis

Right. I still don't want to crash. The reason I don't want to crash is I want to go faster, but I just don't want to have to go to a doctor and not be able to ride tomorrow. That's the hard part.


[00:58:32.110] - Big Rich Klein

I get it. I totally get it. So then after your professional racing career stops because of the injuries, you go back to the magazine editor job and you got the school going. At what point did you meet Heather? You mentioned Heather earlier, that's your wife.


[00:58:57.720] - Jimmy Lewis

Yeah. So my wife, Heather, I met her when I was... Got to be careful about statute of limitations on this one and stuff, but she was pretty young. But we were just buddies. We used to go her dad was a desert racer, Ned Rests His Soul. And she was always out hanging around. And I used to hang around with some crazy people in the desert. These guys like having great bonfires, loud music, blowing things up, doing all the crazy stuff. I just happened to be I wasn't part of it. I was just really close to it. Unless my motorcycle was jumping through the fire, but then that was me. But Heather was always around her and a couple of her little friends would hang around. And we used to just go trail riding a lot. We'd go put trail riding a lot. And she lived up in Wrightwood, California, by Mountain High, which was a ski resort. I used to like to go skiing and snowboarding and different things. So we'd pick up Heather and we'd go over there. We were just hanging out a lot. And I don't know. Because I asked her how long we'd been together just yesterday because I forgot.


[01:00:07.180] - Jimmy Lewis

And she said something like 33 years. So it was early on in my desert racing, I had number one place. So I was a cool guy and she'll get really pissed off when I say she was a racer chaser. But she wasn't anything like that. She could literally care less. And the funny thing is, most of the time when we were racing, when I was doing this the desert racing all the time, she was always there. Sometimes she'd race. She had a number, I think, I don't remember what her lowest number plate was, a 3 W 3. But she was racing on and off. But everybody thought we were brother and sister because just the way we would hang out and bicker at each other. But she would take care of a lot of this. She would make sure my goggles were right and my pit stops were on point. She would help out with my dad a lot to make sure that everything was in order. S he just enjoyed the whole scene of racing, enjoyed the people. Still to this day she does. She doesn't want to race anymore. She still rides at a pretty high level.


[01:01:12.110] - Jimmy Lewis

I think we've been married 25 years, 24 years. But we were dating for... We practiced for 10 years before that.


[01:01:24.360] - Big Rich Klein

Nice. Okay. Want to make sure you got it right.


[01:01:28.220] - Jimmy Lewis

Yeah. Well, I have to ask. Luckily, I asked this yesterday.


[01:01:35.300] - Big Rich Klein

Let's jump forward a bit. How many times did you race Baha with Johnny? You said 98.


[01:01:47.750] - Jimmy Lewis

I did it in 96 and 98 with Johnny on the factory Honda. And it was basically because he was short of partner or one of his partner, the guys in his team, one of his guys would get hurt and he's like, Hey, Jimmy, can you ride the 1,000? I'm like, Yeah. Every one of my things has some weird magazine thing. We were riding XR 600. We were supposed to ride the brand new XR 650 that nobody had seen yet. I knew they were developing it, and it might have been on the start line. Actually, we knew pretty quick it wasn't going to be on the start line in '96. In '98, I literally didn't know what he was going to ride up on. I'd never seen the bike, but John told me it was good. He goes, Hey, we may race this in Baha. That would be the premiere of the bike. He showed up and it was the same old XR 600. I'm like, Okay, hop on and ride it. Bike a bike. There was that. I did Baha a couple of times. I'd done it a few times earlier on a 125 and then a couple of races with Danny Hamel back in the early 90s.


[01:02:52.910] - Jimmy Lewis

But actually, I went back... I forgot about this. I went back with a BMW. We helped develop this BMW HP2. Bmw wanted to win Baha, which I told them from the get go, You're ridiculous. This bike will never do it. It wasn't the right thing. But they had a pretty good budget to go down and race a twin cylinder bike in Baha. So I did that for a few tours also.


[01:03:16.870] - Big Rich Klein

Amazing how.


[01:03:17.680] - Jimmy Lewis

Much stuff I forgot.


[01:03:19.890] - Big Rich Klein

The bike didn't win?


[01:03:22.470] - Jimmy Lewis

No. We finished on the very first year in a prototype. We finished a Peninsula run. We had four riders on the team. Then I think I did it once. We did a couple of 500s and a couple of thousands on it. The bike was actually really good, but everybody was going to these smaller lighter 450CC bikes. The trucks were getting bigger tires. They were digging bigger holes in the hoop dees. You can't go fast on a 400 pound motorcycle through those bumps like you can on a lightweight 300 pound motorcycle.


[01:03:59.110] - Big Rich Klein



[01:03:59.910] - Jimmy Lewis

Sense. I was doing magazine stuff, doing schools. I'm always wanting... And I think I actually moved at that point. I moved from cycle world, right around this time I moved from Cycle World magazine, where I had this really cushy offroad editor job where I had to do one page in the magazine, to Dirt Rider magazine. The editor in chief position came up with that magazine and they recruited me to do that, which was a big honor, but I had no idea what I was jumping into as far as running a whole ship myself.


[01:04:39.480] - Big Rich Klein

From one page to all the pages? Yeah, one page to.


[01:04:45.420] - Jimmy Lewis

All the pages, every spot of ink that went onto that thing from the binding to the last page, I somehow had to have my fingers in on it and making sure it was getting done. That was a whole new thing. We're really cool, though, because we assembled a team there at the magazine, and for a while there, we were the world's largest dirt bike magazine. We were killing it. This is when digital was just really getting rolling. We had one of those websites. Luckily, I had some younger guys working for me that were into these things called My Space and Facebook thing that was they got through their college. We were early adapters on a lot of those things. But the company that I worked for, whichever Alphabet soup company was buying and selling us at the time, because that was the whole publishing was really changing at the time. They didn't really have a grasp on it. And then, fortunately, they started killing their cash cow and started selling advertising that was worth way more for pennies on the dollar because they didn't understand it. And they didn't understand where digital content and things were going.


[01:06:14.320] - Jimmy Lewis

Neither did I. But I had a... Actually, I just understood our audience. I knew who I was talking to. I was a dirt bike rider in a gear head and loved this thing. And you know it, too, from your people. We know our people. Guys that look at spreadsheets and wear suit and ties, and their aspiration is to sit in the corner office on a building in Wilshire Boulevard, he's not going to go get his fingers greased, greasing a shock linkage or something like that. He has no aspirations that he just looks at the numbers. And those two things didn't line up very well with digital at the time, I think. That's where my business career... When I started seeing all this stuff happen, that's when I started thinking about things like King of the Motors or how do I take my riding school to the next level, or what other skills do I have that I can... I mean, I still had the editorial skills, and hence I found dirt bike test, which was... And to prove you that I don't know what I'm doing, we've been doing it for 15 years now. It hasn't lost the cent, but it hasn't made me money either.


[01:07:39.030] - Jimmy Lewis



[01:07:41.120] - Big Rich Klein

Break even is okay.


[01:07:43.110] - Jimmy Lewis

Yeah, it's better than most people. Most people go upside down doing these things. But yeah, I built the motorcycle race that I wanted to compete in with the thing. With the king of the motors, it was one of those things where... And you have to ask Dave Cole, which you'll get Dave Cole's side of the story. He called me and asked me if I wanted to put on this race. And I blew him off. But then literally the day I was leaving my office job at De Rider when I was relieved of that position, I called him and said, Hey, I want to put on this crazy motorcycle race. And he told me no. And then 45 minutes later, literally, I was one-off ramp away from where I needed to get off to meet him. He called me back and he said, Hey, we're going to do this. And that was how that whole king of the motors thing was born.


[01:08:53.350] - Big Rich Klein

And how did you meet Dave?


[01:08:58.680] - Jimmy Lewis

Actually, at Shannon Welch's house someplace in Riverside. Like I said, I called him and said, I have this crazy idea because I rode my motorcycle across Johnson Valley and ran into Hammertown probably the year before. And I thought it was a military operation because they were just setting it up and whatever. And it was close to military base. I didn't know what it was. A couple of my friends told me about this crazy thing they do with these cars. I'm like, They drive cars up there? Spooners Canyon? I promise you, I'm the first person to put a vehicle through that Canyon. It was a YZ 125 when I was 17 years old. I used to go ride those stupid canyons on my motorcycles. I remember running into Jeeps. They were literally just Jeeps. Old Willys like things that guys from some of those clubs were winching up these canyons and blowing up rocks and filling up holes and trying to get there. So I'd been riding there and it was like... And my friends knew this and they're like, Yeah, they have this big car race. So there was a lot of... It was meant to happen in a strange way.


[01:10:13.400] - Jimmy Lewis

But yeah, I met David at the thing, told him where I knew where a motorcycle could go. He thought I was crazy. He said he'd like to see it. And that was... We managed to finagle it in with his permits within the constraints of his permits to be able to get the first race in. And he threw up a bunch of money and we got some good riders and the rest is history.


[01:10:32.680] - Big Rich Klein

Yeah. And I don't think those guys, those riders that showed up, had an understanding of what you had set up for them. Am I correct on that?


[01:10:42.880] - Jimmy Lewis

Well, the first one was Invitational. Dave had about five or six of his friends that wanted to ride it. And then he gave me the opportunity to put 30 other guys or something in. And so I sent out at the time some emails, put a little bit of stuff on some social about, Hey, we're going to do this. This is the purse. Do you want to do it? Nobody knew what to expect, but there was definitely a wide range of guys signed up. And it had a lot more desert back then because we basically ran the Ultra 4 course. And I threw in just a couple of little extra credit sections for the motorcycles. But I remember guys coming up, I don't think we completely filled up our thing and there was no entry fee to show up. And guys, I remember I was sitting there at the sign up table, I think it's probably with Shannon or something, guys coming up, he was like, Hey, I have my motorcycle. It's like, How hard could this be? And I'm like, Oh, it's going to be hard. And they're like, Well, how will you explain it to me?


[01:11:49.030] - Jimmy Lewis

I mean, the classic guy is like, Dude, I just did the Baha 500. I mean, how much harder could it be? And I looked at him straight in the face and I said, My start will be harder than the entire Baha 500. And he just went, Yeah, right. Where do I sign up? I remember seeing this guy, his bike smoking and just knocked his bent his disk motor and stuff halfway up my start line, halfway up this little hill that we did at the start, which is now a little hill. It's not a big deal. I said, Baha 500, huh?


[01:12:29.470] - Big Rich Klein



[01:12:31.570] - Jimmy Lewis

My non racing end of my racing career, my thing was going over to Europe and to places to ride the Jules Lake Classic, the Ersberg rodeo, the Roof of Africa. I got the opportunities to go and do these races that I love because some of them would have high speed fast stuff. R oof of Africa was the one because it was like you race a Baha 500, but they'd throw extreme enduro sections. It is very much like what King of the Hammers is to cars, fast, fast, but gnarly, gnarly. That was the I want to make a race like that. I want people to get to experience this.


[01:13:16.660] - Big Rich Klein

And you did.


[01:13:18.150] - Jimmy Lewis

Yeah. And then the best part is when I quit. I mean, I didn't quit. I retired. No, I finished. That's what I told Dave. I told him I'm finished. I finished the year. And I'll sit at the promot of Extreme Enduro's table and I'll sit there at the head of the table and I'll go, Yep, I had a race where we had one finisher. Because this is Extreme Enduro. It's really easy to make a race where a lot of people finish. And it's really easy to make a race that nobody finishes. But it's really hard to have a race. And I lucked into it in all honesty. Well, I don't believe in luck, but I worked my way hard to work to get to have one where I had one finisher and I said, Well, that's it. Throwing the hat in.


[01:14:08.360] - Big Rich Klein

How many starters were there in that race with one finisher?


[01:14:12.800] - Jimmy Lewis

Do you remember? I think we had close to 100. Wow.


[01:14:16.940] - Big Rich Klein

That's some gnarly attrition rate.


[01:14:20.320] - Jimmy Lewis

Yeah. We learned how to shape the race to make it progressively get harder and harder and all these things. It was interesting because we mixed a lot of navigation and they were all on GPS navigation, which that comes from my rally background, which you don't really get to use GPS, but you're navigating. Like I said, it was a really fun time. I destroyed a lot of motorcycles setting that course up. I learned a lot about where my skill level was, which was not very good. Rolling on to the next chapter, that's where I met Emily Miller for Reveal Rally.


[01:14:58.480] - Big Rich Klein

Okay, that's where you met Emily. That was my next question.


[01:15:01.870] - Jimmy Lewis

I love it when somebody comes up and says, Hey, Jimmy, I have a stupid idea. E milie knew me from doing King of the Models. I didn't really know of her at the time. She just said, I have this stupid idea I'd like to run by you. She told me the idea of the rebel rail. I said, Man, that's a great idea. You'll never be able to do it. She's like, Why? I explained why with land use and my experience with doing cross country, trying to permit things and stuff like that. She goes, No, I'll handle that. I can figure out a way around that. Not in a cocky way or anything. I said, Well, good luck.


[01:15:43.760] - Big Rich Klein

That's motivation for her, though.


[01:15:46.680] - Jimmy Lewis

Yeah. Well, I have the same problem. People told me I could never do Dakar or win the ball 1,000 or any of that stuff. Race motorcycles for a living for Lisa. But yeah, she calls up a couple of months later and she goes, We're doing the rebel rally. I'm like, What? S he goes, Yeah, I want you to be the course director. Because I gave her an idea of where... She's like, Well, where could you go if I wanted to start here and finish here? Where could you go? I'm like, Oh, man, you'd go. I think I went back to my truck because I always have maps. I went back to my truck and pulled out a California and Nevada book and I just started with my finger going, Oh, you go here? This is really cool. You go here. Here. She goes, You can go all those places. I'm like, Oh, yeah, we can go here or we can go over here. You don't like that one? Let's go here. Then I guess I was a good fit for a course director.


[01:16:33.980] - Big Rich Klein

There you go. I remember that first year very well. That's probably the one that's burned into my memory the most because it was so new. It was on paper how it was going to work, which rarely equates in a first time event to how it actually works. And we were throwing a lot of challenges on that first one.


[01:17:06.640] - Jimmy Lewis

Oh, yeah. And I didn't understand. I didn't understand exactly how it was going to work either. I understood it. I understood in concept how it was going to work. Because we're permitting routes that we're not even going to use just in case someone goes the wrong way. And trying to explain that to the land use agencies and different things. And okay, we're not for speed, we're in street legal vehicles and all this stuff that really does make sense. It was such a cool... I mean, to have that whole concept and to figure this, what Emily has done with that has just been amazing. The event for me was literally life changing. Just watching the women go out and do stuff that they didn't think they should be doing, maybe didn't think that they were capable of. But just adding the whole navigation level to it was super cool.


[01:18:14.110] - Big Rich Klein

Yeah. It's for me, it's watching the development. The girls that have been, the women that have been on the team that have been competing for a number of years, they understand what they're getting into. They've got it dialed. But watching the new teams come out that don't... They may have gone through some trainings. They may have watched all the footage that's available, talked to everybody they could, but they have no idea what's actually going to happen to them.


[01:18:49.520] - Jimmy Lewis

Kind of like the whole crew and competitors on the.


[01:18:53.430] - Big Rich Klein

First year.


[01:18:54.020] - Jimmy Lewis

Yeah, exactly. Chasing rogue cars out through the.


[01:19:00.280] - Big Rich Klein

Desert, Rich. Oh, yeah. For hours and days.


[01:19:05.520] - Jimmy Lewis

Yeah, with semi spotty communications, whether we were going through cell phone networks or early satellite stuff. I mean, that's what's cool about that staff and then that whole event. It's like everybody's there to adapt and make it happen. The combination of just how deep you get beat down in doing that and then the highs that you have when you... I just remember that it was one of the first years just sitting out at this remote area where there was a black checkpoint. And for those that aren't familiar, black checkpoint, it means there's nothing there. They're going to triangulate or use distances and the maps and stuff to figure out the spot. They take the tracker that's their scoring device and they walk out into the desert. And you see them say a small prayer and push the tracker and it sends a signal up. And at that point, what the tracker does is it shows them the Lat long that they're at, which was what they're trying to get at. And then they look at the number and you see them realize that they got a bull's eye on it, they nailed it. And you see the emotion and the satisfaction that you see it.


[01:20:25.030] - Jimmy Lewis

It's like, Well, I hope I got this right. Because nobody knew how this was going to work. And you watch teams, they're out in the middle of the desert jumping up and down and celebrating. It's like, Cool.


[01:20:35.460] - Big Rich Klein

Exactly. The things that they go through, that the ladies go through to do this event, the amount of stress, the lack of sleep, because they're going from super early in the morning. The cowbell starts at five, is it? I think.


[01:20:56.720] - Jimmy Lewis

It is.


[01:20:57.500] - Big Rich Klein

And most of the staff is up by then. And we're getting ready to go do what we have to do for the day. And those ladies are out there going through that until dark, some of them, and sometimes after dark, even a couple of hours after dark. And then they've got to put it all together, get past their disappointments. Then you throw in weather, and then you throw in weather, and then you throw in getting lost.


[01:21:32.840] - Jimmy Lewis

But then you throw in really good food, insane food. You also throw in that there's no mansplaining going on.


[01:21:42.320] - Big Rich Klein



[01:21:43.370] - Jimmy Lewis

There's zero to none mansplaining. This is how they always like to bring that up.


[01:21:49.030] - Big Rich Klein

To me.


[01:21:52.180] - Jimmy Lewis

They get to figure it out in their own terms, which is awesome. It's funny because you probably realize it because you've been on the event. I realize it now too. But just my impulse to go in and help. And it's really I want to help, but then it becomes mansplaining.


[01:22:13.340] - Big Rich Klein



[01:22:15.230] - Jimmy Lewis

So the rebel has taught me so much about just take a step back and let it happen. And if for safety, I'll jump in. This is what we do on the rebel. The only time we actually interfere in any way is for safety. When we see something that's like, okay, that's dangerous. Stop.


[01:22:34.350] - Big Rich Klein

Like the use of a high lift.


[01:22:38.980] - Jimmy Lewis

Yeah. Some of the mechanical techniques that were used for the tire changing things, or I've seen some cars get pretty catty wampus on the course, trying to run something that may have been above the vehicle's capabilities or the driver's capabilities. And it doesn't matter whether it's a man or a woman at the wheel. I've seen dudes do just as many stupid things. But what a cool learning experience and proving stuff to yourself. And even I'm in charge of the course on the ground. Where does it go from how do we get from point A to point B and stuff like that. But the whole time I'm thinking globally about how much challenges can we deliver with this course. And then at the same time, I want to have beautiful scenery and places that are fun to drive as well as places that are not fun to drive. You got to get your vehicle through this. Right. Awesome. Yeah. And kudos to Emily for coming up with that whole concept and then assembling a good team that I get to work with. Like I said, I didn't want to talk to you, Rich, because if you were going to talk to me, I was doing something wrong.


[01:23:54.920] - Jimmy Lewis

And I'm like, Oh, cool. Rich is going to be here. And if something goes wrong, he can handle it. Then I met Shelly.


[01:24:05.250] - Big Rich Klein

Who can handle everything.


[01:24:07.940] - Jimmy Lewis

Yeah, well, my right-hand woman. Right, there you go. It's like, Jimmy's screwing up again.


[01:24:13.640] - Big Rich Klein

No, Shelly will fix it. No, it's not that you're screwing up. You got enough to do. It's just like she's your rally support out there. That's all.


[01:24:25.080] - Jimmy Lewis

Yeah. With Chris Wu, with his planning and oversight, between just the fact that when I have a shortcoming or anything, if even stuff starts to falter a little bit, even with Heather. Heather's on our staff also. My wife, she communicates to the media drivers where to go. So she's like a little Jimmy whisper. She understands when's the right time to talk to me about things and when's not. Man, what an awesome staff we have of courseworkers and just people that know how to get stuff done without any drama.


[01:25:06.030] - Big Rich Klein

True, very true. And everybody out there is a problem solver. That's the great thing is that there's nobody out there that will just sit there and go, Well, I don't know what to do. If something comes up, they just figure it out and get it done.


[01:25:22.820] - Jimmy Lewis

Or they're not back the next year. True. It's hard to stay on that stuff. I keep asking Emily when I'm going to get clipped.


[01:25:35.030] - Big Rich Klein

That's all right. So do I.


[01:25:40.220] - Big Rich Klein

I'm looking forward to this year. That's for sure. Shely and I went to a training out at Ridgecrest a week ago, week and a half ago. And it was very enlightening doing the navigational skill part that I hadn't done any orienteering in a long time. It was a lot different than what I did as a scout, but the basics were there, so that was pretty good. Shelly learned how to read terrain from the map to the terrain. She'll be able to look at the map and say, Okay, this is where we're at based on what's around us. And that was big for her because she can do the math and she can figure all that out. But looking at the map and then looking at the windshield and saying, Okay, this is where we're at, was something it was difficult for. And she's gotten much better at that. When we went to pick up all the blues on Sunday after the girls, the ladies had run the course, the training course or the test course, I just sat there as the driver and said, Okay, where am I going?


[01:27:01.560] - Jimmy Lewis

How far? She finally got to tell you where to go.


[01:27:04.370] - Big Rich Klein

She does that all the time anyway, trust me. But we hit three out of the four just dead on.


[01:27:15.290] - Jimmy Lewis

Nice. The cool thing about that event, for those that are listening, you do a little research on the rebel rally. Just take a little time to see what it is. Of course, if you're a guy, you can't do it, but your wife might want to do it. And it's so cool. But now that you've had that little bit of training, wait until you watch in the morning when they're all doing their maps and plotting their points and stuff like that, that you when you have this little understanding and then you watch the level that they take it to, like some of the short cuts they've learned as far as plotting it out in the maps. And then when you start watching them drive and you see them pull over and they do something, and now you're starting to understand from the training why they're doing what they're doing, getting out, reading the terrain or siding some things in. Okay, here's a point where we have to start measuring our distance on the odometer so we know when we get to that spot that that's the right spot. It's pretty cool. It's a real unique event and format.


[01:28:19.660] - Big Rich Klein

I agree 100 %. So the school's going good?


[01:28:26.080] - Jimmy Lewis

School? Yeah. We do it in the cooler months of the year out of Nevada. We still do a little bit of private stuff here and there. Our rally training stuff for the Dakar style, we'll call it Rally Raid stuff. I've picked up a few more people on the 4 Wheel side that have started to do some of the programs. I'm actually at Ricky Brubak's house right now. We're just goofy off at the river this weekend, but we're getting ready to start, basically, we'll call it boot camping for Dakar because it's like the Tour de France. There's one bicycle race in the world and if there's one rally, it's Dakar. He wants to go back and win that thing again. So we're going to hunker down and get some training done.


[01:29:16.410] - Big Rich Klein

Awesome. Because when he did win, was it two years ago?


[01:29:21.570] - Jimmy Lewis

In 2020, I believe. 2020. 2019.


[01:29:25.050] - Big Rich Klein

You helped train him that year as well.


[01:29:30.310] - Jimmy Lewis

I've been working with him for 4 to five years before that.


[01:29:34.390] - Big Rich Klein



[01:29:34.990] - Jimmy Lewis

Wow. Excellent. It takes a long time. This is the thing is people want to just come and they want to put in their 45 minutes of training and go dominate. That doesn't happen anymore. Any level of whether it's sports or motor sports or things like that. There's people that have been training for a long time and whether it's just by doing it, doing it. I think this is what's changing now is there are people that are doing very specific training for certain types of tasks. And so if you're just going to roll into it, let's say you're naturally talented or you have a really big budget and you think that you can just roll that into winning. Well, there's somebody that has the same budget and the same level of talent that also trained.


[01:30:22.620] - Big Rich Klein



[01:30:23.210] - Jimmy Lewis

Worked really hard and worked with someone that knows what they're doing. Not that I knew what I was doing when we started because I'm not even aware. Ricky said something last night. He was telling me a technique that he uses, a thing that he does. I'm like, I didn't even know you did that. But it's all a reflection on some of the things that we worked on because basically the level he's at, he comes back and says, Hey, we need to work on this. They've changed this style of navigation. I think I can be faster at these guys than doing this. And everybody at his level, they're all training. They're all doing different kinds of things, and we're just trying to stay... In 2019, we were just one step ahead of everybody else. I think they realized that real quick and then started trying to figure out what we were doing. So we're just the same thing, trying to stay one step ahead on the training. And then it's also anticipating what they're going to do with the rally. And now I think they're so on the fundamentals and stuff like that. I think now it becomes more about strategy.


[01:31:36.480] - Jimmy Lewis

It's almost like Formula One, there's like tire strategy, and that's going to determine everything. It may look like these guys are racing around the track, but they're actually managing tires. I think in Rally right now, it's this point where everybody's so good at doing that. They all can ride fast. They all have really good bikes. Most of them can navigate pretty good. It's just like, what position do you want to finish? Because you don't want to lead out. You don't want to be what we call opening the stage because you're going to lose X amount of time. Now they're giving the guys to open the stage bonus time for clearing CPS early. They're trying to make it into more of a race, but it's a... I don't call it that much of a... We get frustrated when the race is to finish fourth every day.


[01:32:26.340] - Big Rich Klein



[01:32:27.210] - Jimmy Lewis

Then win. Not very exciting, but yeah.


[01:32:32.490] - Big Rich Klein

It's not about how many stage wins you get unless you get them all.


[01:32:36.880] - Jimmy Lewis

Yeah, it's usually win stage one day, finish way back the next, win the next day. And so you're leapfrogging, but then you lose so much time on the days that you don't win that you can't make that up. A lot of it is just jockeying for this position. I don't know. The organization is really working on trying to make it better, and everybody's trying to figure out the game. Cool.


[01:33:00.340] - Big Rich Klein

What's on the future for you?


[01:33:04.530] - Jimmy Lewis

I'm going up to Washington to do some trainings up at the TourTech Rally, which is an adventure bike riding rally thing. Actually, I think Emily's up there doing an overland event, or in tearing up in the same place in Plain, Washington. Then I start doing a lot of adventure bike, trail bike riding back and forth between Nevada and Idaho and Washington and Montana during the summer, learning new places. But then we're also going to go in full speed into Rebelle Rally, going out, verifying the courses, figuring out where we're going to put the CPs, all that stuff. So that's generally my summer.


[01:33:50.440] - Big Rich Klein

Excellent. Any long range plans?


[01:33:53.850] - Jimmy Lewis

No, I have no idea what I'm doing. Depends on what jobs I get fired from and which ones I get hired. Like I said, I think I'm still on for Rebelle. I don't know, maybe you too, Rich. We're on for Rebelle. That's October. Then after that, yeah, that's when school started up again. I'm my own boss at that point. Perfect. And we'll be just diving in with Dakar stuff, I suppose.


[01:34:22.850] - Big Rich Klein

Excellent. Well, Jimmy, I want to say thank you so much for coming on and sharing your life and your history with us. I hope you enjoy the river today.


[01:34:38.780] - Jimmy Lewis

It's boring because it only goes one place. You can't really get out of it. And it goes like one one direction. I like a little more variety, but it is nice when it's hot to go out and spin around on a watercraft or goof around in a boat.


[01:34:53.760] - Big Rich Klein

There you go.


[01:34:55.140] - Jimmy Lewis

I'll tell anybody, if anybody wants to let me drive their car for about 10 or 15 minutes. I like doing that.


[01:35:03.320] - Big Rich Klein

There you go.


[01:35:04.060] - Jimmy Lewis

I tell you, you have a lot of cars. I want to go riding in one of the rock trawlers, the we rock stuff that you guys used to do. I'd like to see what that's like. Luckily, Dave Cole gave me the opportunity to drive the Legends car at the Hammersmith one year, which now led me into... Heather and I go out in the UTV all the time. I've used every side of my UTV, not just the four tires that touched the ground.


[01:35:33.040] - Big Rich Klein

Top and bottom sides?


[01:35:35.820] - Jimmy Lewis

Front and the other. Yeah, I've used the sides. I've done most of the Hammers trails in my UTV. Everybody's pretty amazed, especially some of the guys I met, a lot of the 4WD guys that they're like, You took it where? Yeah, it wasn't easy. But I still like doing that. Every once in a while, I just don't like racing. I like driving. I can drive fast for 15 minutes, then I get bored and I want to just enjoy it.


[01:36:02.450] - Big Rich Klein

We'll have to see what we can do. I know that there's a couple of guys at the Hammers that have property that they race and they rock crawl, like Cody Wagner and a couple of others. So we'll have to see what we can do.


[01:36:22.420] - Jimmy Lewis

I'm fascinated by what they do with those cars. I'd like to see what it feels like and watch someone that's really good. I got a chance to ride with a couple of guys out there and learn so much about it's a skill. What these guys are doing on those cars is a ridiculous. But then you watch the techniques that don't even make sense to a motorcycle guy. Some of the things they do with those cars, it's cool.


[01:36:48.080] - Big Rich Klein

Well, one of the guys out there that's friends with Cody is Craig Allen, and he's always got extra cars and stuff. I'll see what I can do. Put something together for you.


[01:36:57.350] - Jimmy Lewis

Cool. Hey, Rich, well, thanks for having me on and we'll.


[01:37:00.830] - Big Rich Klein

See you soon. Okay, Jimmy, you take care. Bye, Heather. All right, have fun.


[01:37:07.340] - Jimmy Lewis

Okay, see you. Bye.


[01:37:09.520] - Big Rich Klein

Well, that's another episode of Conversations with Big Rich. I'd like to thank you all for listening. If you could do us a favor and leave us a review on any podcast service that you happen to be listening on, or send us an email or text message or Facebook message, and let me know any ideas that you have, or if there's anybody that you have that you would think would be a great guest, please forward the contact information to me so that we can try to get them on. And always remember, live life to the fullest. Enjoying life is a must. Follow your dreams and live life with all the Gusto you can. Thank you.