I’m Rick Sieman…yeah, that Rick Sieman, and Sieman says, Don’t Ask!
Go ahead, but if your question is stupid, you’ve been warned…
If you choose to email a question to this forum, then you must conduct yourself accordingly. Therefore, the following rules are in order:
1. Do not write your email to me IN CAPS. If you do so, I will print out your question and do terrible things to it.
2. Do not request a personal e-mail response. Since I get thousands of questions each month, trying to answer them all would cut deeply into my leisure time, which I value more than your current state of confusion.
3. Try to spell at least in a semi-correct fashion. If you choose to mangle the English language, expect no mercy from this quarter. You might be mocked severely.
4. Do not ask for me to send you copies of my many manuals and literature. I am not in the library business, nor do I want to spend the bulk of my day at the copy machine just because you’re too lazy to ask your dealer, or look around a bit.
5. Don’t bother me with truly stupid questions, like how to get 50 more horsepower for a buck and a half
6. Now that you know the rules, think carefully and have at it!
SUBJECT: REMEMBER BIG DADDY ROTH?
Dear Mr. Sieman:
I hope my e-mail finds you well. I’m publishing a Harley and British bike-oriented magazine in Finland, named Kopteri. I’ve been doing this since 1992. I read many years ago your very interesting book Monkey Butt. From that I remember that on your early career you worked for a while for Ed Roth’s Choppers Magazine.
Now we are making an Ed Roth story in Kopteri. I came to think, do you happen to have any photos of late Mr. Roth or his motorcycles, or other staff working for the Choppers Magazine or “Roth Studios”?
If any photo material of that kind exists, I would be interested in publishing in Kopteri magazine.
Your email sure brings back some memories. Let me fill in some blanks for you. In 1969, I was working for Big Bike magazine, at the time as an ad salesman. One day I told the boss I was going to go and talk to Big Daddy Roth about buying some ads, and he told me not to waste my time, as he had guys down there repeatedly trying to sell him, and all they got was a hard no. I figured what the hell, I was going to try anyway, plus I always wanted to meet Roth.
He turned out to be a real nice guy, but wasn’t going to buy any sort of ads. I kept pounding away as politely as I could, and I think he got sorry out of my efforts. So he put his big hand on my shoulder and said: if you can beat me at arm wrestling, I’ll buy an ad.
I figured what the hell. Even though he was a big guy, I used to be an Olympic weightlifter. So we got down on the floor on this photo paper, grasped hands and went at it. He was quite strong, but I was able to bench press well over 300 pounds, and my arm strength was greater. The back of his hand hit the floor, he got up, grabbed a pen and went over and signed an ad form. Success!
About six months later, I got a call from Ed saying that he couldn’t make any more payments on the ads, as he was going through a nasty divorce and was going to lose his company. So he made me a deal. At the time he was doing a small digest size magazine called Choppers, and he told me that I could have all the photos and all the rights to the issues that he had done in exchange for me calling it square on the ads. Even though I didn’t have the power to do it, I went ahead and made the deal. This included about a year and half worth of Choppers and a huge box full negatives with great pictures in there of the original Hells Angels and Satan’s Slaves.
As it turned out, Bill Golden, the owner of our publishing company decided to make Choppers a regular full-size magazine, based on the fact that Big Bike was selling so well. So before I knew it, I was the ad salesman for Big Bike and Choppers magazine. Never did work for Ed, though.–Rick Sieman
SUBJECT: BOOK REVIEW!
You have a new product review waiting.
Product: MONKEY BUTT!
Author: Rick Sieman
Reviewer: Mark J. Palmeri
Review Text: Hilarious truths! In an era of abstract fluidity, simple progressive innovations like folding brake and shift levers or 1-inch lift improvements to motorcycle suspensions were enough to keep a young dirt biker like me away from a consuming world of new-age depravity and keenly focused on the trails and tracks ahead of me. If you rode a dirt bike in the ’60s ’70s, ’80s and beyond, this book is a MUST READ!
Sincere thanks for all the good words. Monkey Butt encapsulated all those early years so you know what really happened. I have a feeling that long after I’m gone, people will want to read that to find out what happened during that period of time.–Rick Sieman
SUBJECT: HODAKA SPECIAL
Long time no see! I trust you’re well. I need a favor if you don’t mind.
After 30+ years of searching, I finally located and bought the bike. I’m told you did a couple articles on it. One for Dirt Bike and another for
Old Bike Journal. I could sure use copies of both to get the restoration right. Can you help?
Thanks and a Merry Christmas to you,
Found what you needed in a 1974 Dirt Bike. A disk is on its way.–Rick Sieman
SUBJECT: YZ SWINGARMS
Read my first Dirt Bike mag back in 1971 and have been a fan since. A question I have long had is, were the swingarms on pro=level works
bikes for ’80 & ’81 YZs extended a bit in length? Was Hannah’s arm different than stock, and Mikkola’s? What about the frame rake? Any difference here? Maybe they had custom T-clamps.
Can you shed any light?
There were any number of swingarms available for the works YZs. When Paul Clipper and I went out to Holiday Hills to photograph with the Yamaha team and Bob Hannah, they had two semis full of bikes and innumerable swingarms. During the day, Bob had a chance to ride with all sorts of swingarms and frames on the various bikes. This was normal on factory bikes.–Rick Sieman
SUBJECT: THE GOOD OLD DAYS
This is a letter of thanks and gratitude in appreciation of the writings of Mr. Rick Siema, former editor of Dirt Bike magazine.
Rick’s professionalism, compelling comic writing and wealth of personality which he brought to Dirt Bike during his editorship have in it’s genre, in my opinion never been equaled!
Additionally, the book’s colorful characters: S. Hunky, Clipper, the Wolfman, and Mr. Know-It-All, (all interlocked in competitive rivalry) added a comic and charmingly personable dimension to what might otherwise have been just another dryly written motorsports magazine.
As a boy I read every word of each publication of several years, dating from November ’81, and became familiar with the R. Sieman style to the point where I could identify it in writings not containing his byline. I feel it worth mentioning that I Xeroxed my own “compendium” of Ricks editorials as well!
His creative similes, ironic juxtapositions, and observational wit had me laughing, reading a second time, and laughing again! His writings are peppered with tickling lines such as “Even the least experienced riders preferred it in “high performance mode” as with the exhaust restrictor in place, it puts out less power then a clogged shaver.”
Nor was the reader himself ever safely outside the fray of Rick’s humor, with the intentional misspellings (Dirt Bique) incomplete sentences (“it looks like it was designed by a” )! and bogus articles now and again; effectively placing the joke on the reader and generating a good laugh for the most of us, not to mention a spate of angry mail (which when reported upon had me laughing all the harder!).
This fresh style of cheeky, practical humor, where the joke was as often on the reader, I’d never seen in a mainstream mag before, but once I “got it,” I was hooked, and in retrospect laud D.B. for their daring to affront some to create the best humor in any magazine I’ve hitherto read! Memorable examples included the Greeves article, or the Harley touring bike in a dirt test, along with running gags such as the renown of the “incredibly accurate Dirt Bike scales” (plus or minus however many flicks per BIC) and where a new description of its legendary accuracy was offered up with each every reference to it! Or the haughty “Mr. Know-It-All,” whom pushed the boundaries of reader offense to new heights; to the equally heightened amusement of the book’s readership!
Some of the more subtle of the magazine’s touches, too, such as the small cartoons found in the margins of a limited number of editions are noteworthy as well. They were tiny enough to go unnoticed by some, yet noticeable enough to disconcert others! There was a delightfully inappropriate quality to their presence, quite in keeping with that brand of sly, yet kind-hearted humor I’d come to appreciate from the magazine. Too bad they were only a temporary feature, but when it comes to humor, transience is a sterling virtue, as humor is a perishable that spoils quickly under routine!
Thank you Mr. Sieman and staff for all the good fun you brought to me and my friends! Plus the best in motorcycle journalism, editorials and photos ever to find their way into print! Yours will forever remain, unequivocally, my favorite magazine of all time!
(a lengthy Post Script)
Dirt Biking with me started at age 9, when a neighboring cousin was given a brand new ‘79 Honda XR80. He lived a mile or so down the road, and I’d frequently visit to watch him ride around his parent’s farm; wherein being flatly denied permission to ride myself, I’d run after him on foot, imitating the engine noises, complete with the bad gear-changes of his riding. Or I’d give chase on my banana-seated bicycle for a few yards until he blithely sped away, frequently leaving me pedaling though a cloud of dust and after his tire tracks for what seemed like a long time…and probably was!
Over that winter I proceeded to nag my dad to get me one, so as to ride with him, and to my ineffable joy, he finally yielded to my request and took me to town the following spring to “The Wheeler”, put down eight hundred 1980 Canadian dollars, signed a paper or two, and made the biggest dream of my childhood a confirmed fact! Then with great pride (and fresh knobbies making that curious popping noise they do on a showroom floor) I wheeled the big, shiny, red, machine awkwardly out the dealership door. I was now the proud owner of an immaculate brand-new 1980 Honda XR80! What a lucky boy!
Soon thereafter I joined my older cousin in his biking exploits of trampling the alfalfa, chasing wayward milk cows, making “jumps” out of milk crates and plywood, and riding up forestry roads in the neighboring hills ‘till dark, or down to our “reserve tanks.”
However, my cousin’s bike at this point, following a year’s neglect, unsheltered storage, and its borrowing by unscrupulous older brothers, was somewhat the worse for wear; his pegs were loose and stripped from the cases, bars lop-sided from too many drops, forks bent, seat ripped, grips torn, underslung muffler cracked, shifter bent, brake lever half broken off and, but for the inner rear fender, pretty much all of the plastic had ether ripped off, cracked (off) or simply fallen off. It also started leaking dirty oil from the cylinder after one of the older brothers put car oil in the engine.
It was so bent out of shape that by that point it was like riding an orange day-old pretzel.
My bike, by contrast, with clean fender undersides, factory warning stickers still in place, its red metal tank lovingly turtle-waxed and tires still sporting their sprue, was now the current grail of grade 6 admiration, and I reveled in the unaccustomed attention from my classmates when I rode it (illegally) down to the school field to show it off at lunchtime! I was officially now the cat’s meow, and former bullies who used to wash my face with snow or chase me up trees, were now “good buddies”! So with the shoe now on the other foot, and the bloom of his machine now faded, I gloated in my older cousin’s muted envy! Now for once, he was the one pedaling the banana seat!-ha ha!
My mom, perhaps as a ploy to get me reading, bought me a subscription to D.B. as a birthday present! My first copy (Nov.‘81) arrived in the mail shortly after the snows had come, and with the bike now retired to the basement for the winter, and the snowbanks rising to eye-level, I took to reading each copy from cover to cover and eagerly awaited its monthly delivery. For an 11-year-old boy stuck in the snowy wastes of rural B.C. over the winter with a maximum of two TV channels in fair weather, the mag was a lifeline to the exciting, exotic world of sunny, palm-treed California, its motocross racing and desert runs, plus the muddy eastern enduros and European events. I would hole-up in my bedroom and pore over each issue’s tests, “shootouts” and editorials; immersing myself in the Dirt Bike firmament, while The Love Boat, M.A.S.H or Three’s Company continued to occupy the living room!
Some years later, in my mid-teens, I picked up a guitar, and the sound of small-bore four-strokes with loose mufflers gave way to that of Led Zeppelin and AC/DC! So by the spring of ‘84 the little Honda of mine that was once my turtle waxed pride and joy was sold for $375 to fund rock albums and a set of tower speakers! It was clearly the end of an era.
By that point, however, my bike, too, had become a sorry sight, as it now had its share of bent bars, forks and footpegs, along with a broken steering stop, the inevitable loss of most plastic, a dent in its metal tank, a drilled airbox (done following a D.B. article!) and a cough at high rpm. Much of the damage however was done in lending it to “idiot” friends; two of whom ended up in plaster! But how I now long to find that old bike, or that of my Cousin’s, (which also was sold), Where might they be now? Neglected and in pieces in the back of someone’s barn, their pistons serving as ashtrays? Or painted black by some miscreant kid and running ratty on pre-mix from the lawnmower? Or perhaps lovingly restored to the last nut and bolt with N.O.S. parts, plastic and reproduction decals by a serious hobbyist with a soft spot for old Hondas! Hmmm, God only knows their fate! But wherever they are, to this day, a piece of my heart remains with them!
Your email makes all of the years of writing worthwhile. In those early days, I invented something called conversational journalism. That was nothing more than writing just like you are talking to a friend. I guess we made more than a few friends going those years. Sincere thanks.–Rick Sieman.
SUBJECT: ONE WAY TO GET A TROPHY
Got your cactus decorated yet?
Went to this second hand store today. Overpriced crap like a board for $2, old 50-cent antique bottles for $10, that kind of crap. But, the sky cleared, the planets aligned and everything fell into place. Sitting on a shelf with other junk was a tiny, 4.5-inch tall motorcycle trophy marked “$10.” I picked it up and read: “MAMC English Trials 2nd Place 12-19-54”. Wow!
Why the “Wow!”, Rick? Well, 12-19-54 is the day I was born! What are the odds?!
I did some quick research and the MAMC is the Mid Antrim Motor Club Ltd.(now motorcycle club) It was formed by a bunch of motorcycle riders at the Royal Café on Wellington Street in Ballymena in December of 1944. The War was over, let’s form a club! I got an email in to the current president, asking if the club might still have records on who won the trophy, where and on what bike. I hope to hear from the Prez with any information. I’ll keep you updated.
Have great holidays, Rick, and I’m saddened by the passing of Brother Brown. RIP.
David “I’ve Only Seen On Any Sunday 18 Times” Fruhling
Well, that’s one way to get a trophy.–Rick Sieman
My new book, THE LAST RIDE, is now out. It’s fiction and starts in 1969, when an 18-year-old kid just out of high school gets a chance to ride his Yamaha 250 DT1 from Pennsylvania to Los Angeles … all off-road. His adventures are truly amazing. The book then jumps 40+ years where the same person, now in his 60s, wants to get that old Yamaha back in his possession and return it home by riding it all off-road across the country again. The book is $15 plus $2.75 for mail anywhere in the US.–Rick Sieman