• Aaron Hansel

Race Report: Muds and Suds 2010

Photos are missing from this article. It us up for archival purposes only.

Alcohol and motorcycles are two things that don’t mix, and if that’s true, then one should certainly never, ever drink and proceed to race motorcycles. With that in mind, you’d have to be insane to even consider drinking while racing, especially in the snow through semi-frozen mud pits, and over sinister manmade obstacles, like compact cars and gigantic log piles. But that’s exactly what takes place in November every year in a small town in the hills above Chico, Calif., in a small race known to the locals as, Muds and Suds.

The event first got started in 1986, when a man named Mike Collins grew tired of listening to his group of friends argue about who had the best skills on a dirt bike. Collins put a course together on his property in Kelseyville, CA, invited his friends, and Muds and Suds was born. Since then, the race has seen a few different locations, but the basic format has remained the same. Racers navigate a 2.5 mile long circuit through the woods, and whoever has completed the most laps in an hour and a half is the winner. Sounds simple, right? It’s not.

Frank Ekblad escapes one of the course’s many perils

When racers come through the main checkpoint, they are required to gulp down a beer before beginning their next lap. To make things even more interesting, the course always has a few outrageous obstacles that look like they were yanked straight from an twisted endurocross track. The most difficult obstacle, dubbed, The Man’s Trail, usually consists of a compact car, a gigantic pile of logs, or whatever obscure blockage the event’s promoter, Marty Luke, can come up with. Racers can choose to bypass The Man’s Trail by taking The Wimp’s Trail, but if they do, they are required to stop at another station and guzzle an additional glass of liquid courage. Luke says the racers usually end up doing roughly 10 laps, so at two beers a lap, well, you do the math.

It’s one or the other at Muds and Suds!

This year, there were four obstacles; a narrow, 10-foot high bridge spanning a mud pit, the mud pit itself, and a 1960s Fiat, which constituted the official, Man’s Trail. The weather itself was the fourth obstacle, as freezing temperatures and steady morning snowfall had left nearly a foot of fresh powder on the ground. As you can imagine, the conditions made for some pretty spectacular action for the spectators, and most of them gathered around the gigantic mud pit, which was nearly four feet deep and had trash can lid-sized chunks of ice floating in it. The bravest riders charged the pit, but it was a strategy that only worked about half the time. One rider went over the bars and was nearly trapped underneath his bike before onlookers quickly jumped in to save the day. Another rider even braved the course on an RM65. Between riders, one spectator entertained the crowd by performing back flips off of the bridge and into the freezing mud pit. It’s a good thing booze helps you feel warm.

If you look closely, you can see a rider underneath this bike

The hero of the day was Jim Turner of Walnut Creek, who led every single lap on his 1990 CR 500. I tried to give him a high five after the race, but he was so sore he couldn’t even raise is arms above his shoulders! Turner finished fifth last year, and was ecstatic over his victory. “It was crazy, I had to cut the first groove in the snow for everyone,” Turner said. “That was definitely the gnarliest race I’ve ever been in.” Turner’s victory gives him the right to add his name to the long list of previous winners’ names already engraved on the first place trophy.

Eventual winner Jim Turner roosts his way to the winners circle

Jim Turner took home top honors at Muds and Suds 2010

After the race, the real party was just getting going in a barn next to the course. Incredible barbecued food, kegs, live music, dancing and a great crowd made for an epic post race party that went late into the night. Amazing music from the bands, Swamp Zen, and, Electric Circus kept everyone energized, and I spent a ton of time in that barn. Another reason I stayed in the barn was because of an ongoing snowball feud I had foolishly started with some kids who turned out to be little league pitchers. Every time I stepped foot outside, I would immediately lose my cup of beer to a flying snowball, or take one directly to the ear. If any of you cannon-armed kids are reading this, laugh it up and enjoy yourselves now, because next year I’m coming back with some more friends and a potato gun modified to launch snowballs.

It was a great event. The extreme weather definitely cut down on the attendance, but the hardcore racers still raced, and a good time was had by all. By the end of the night, I realized that this is more than just a crazy motorcycle race; it’s a group of good people coming together to have a good time.

The pits at Muds and Suds differ slightly from those of an AMA National

“Next year will be our silver anniversary,” Luke says. “It would be great to get to 25 years. Every year we’re just going on one year at a time. I’m getting to the point where I’m ready to retire as the promoter, and I’d love someone else to step in and take it over, so we’ll just go with one year at a time and I hope we make it to next year.”

Big thanks to the Promoter, Luke, and the property-owner, Dan, and everyone else involved, for putting this amazing event together.

Aaron Hansel can be reached at: aaronhansel@sbcglobal.net

Interview: Muds and Suds Promoter, Marty Luke

How did Muds and Suds get started?

Well that’s an interesting story, I’m glad you asked. It started as an event with a group of people that was up in Kelsyville, near Placerville, and a guy named Mike Collins, who was actually Magoo’s first sponsor, and owned the Dirt Factory in Concord, decided that all of his friends were bragging about who the baddest ass dirt bike rider was, and he said, “Well, let’s just find out.” So he invited about 20 guys up to his house, to his private track at his place, and it was very similar to how we do it now. We use the same format that he started, back in 1986. We are in our 24th year of doing this, and we’ve had only one cancellation because of being snowed out. We’ve had really great successful events. Some really talented riders have won over the past years, and the beautiful thing about our event is when you create extreme conditions, and add a little alcohol and a little fun, it kind of evens the playing field, and a good B rider can do just as well as a top A rider because there is a lot of luck involved. The top ten guys are usually good riders, and the rest of the racers are just here for fun. Anyways, Mike Collins up in Kelseyville did it for nine years, and then he lost his ranch and was going to cancel the event and asked me if I wanted to take over as the promoter. I was very excited about that and agreed to do it, and I’ve been doing it for the last 15 years. This is my 15th year as the promoter, and we have had Muds and Suds in four different locations. Kelseyville, here, at a friend’s ranch near Woodland. We did that there for four years, it was perfect. It had lots of room and paved access, and Cache Creek ran right through the middle of his property. Then he sold that ranch and we had nowhere to go, so I approached Dan Salmon up at Scooters Café on highway 70 just outside of Oroville. He had 25 acres of private property, and said, “Yeah, you can rent the restaurant for the weekend and have your race here.” So I made a little mile and a half European circuit and we had it there for three years. We outgrew that place, and it was also quite costly. As everyone knows, we don’t make any money at this event.

If anything, you lose money, right?

Yes, definitely. In fact, the years we did it at Scooters it cost me roughly $2000. We only had 10 or 15 riders in those years and we barely recouped some of the cost for food and beer. After that fizzled out, the owner here, Dan, said to come back up here and we’ll do it. This is our sixth year doing it here, and it’s been truly great. We’ve doubled our attendance every year, and last year it was just truly spectacular. We had probably close to 400 spectators. The spectators are what truly make this event great. Everybody jumps into the mud pit, it’s just a really great time. All these last years have just gotten more and more fun. And here we are today, in extreme weather conditions, especially for November, we’re sitting here with a foot of fresh powder, and people are still coming out and having a great time. We’ll definitely not have the spectators today that we normally have, but the racers will still have a good time, and we’ll still be able to put on a great party after the race.

What motivates you to keep putting the race on year after year?

It’s definitely love of the sport. I’m very passionate about motorcycle racing in general, but especially when it’s a close knit group of people. These guys count on me year after year to put it on, and it’s the one race of the year where they can be themselves. They don’t have to go by any rules, and a matter of fact, that’s one of the things we pride ourselves in at Muds and Suds, we don’t apply normal rules. That’s how we get away doing what we do up here. Everybody enjoys their holiday spirits, everybody fits in, and I don’t mind losing a little bit of money for everyone to have a good time.

Marty Luke stands with some of the people that braved the weather to come to Muds and Suds 2010

Give us one of funniest moments of all time.

When we were at the ranch near Woodland, we had a lot more room to work with. One of the funniest things we did was the boot start for the riders and spectators. All the riders line up like a normal race, and they have to run about 100 yards away to their bikes and go. Well we made them all take off their right boot and put it in a big giant pile. One of those races we had 72 riders, so there were 72 boots in a huge pile, and it was a fiasco. People were in stitches laughing. People got the wrong boot, and a guy wearing a size 13 boot had to try to squeeze his foot into a size 8, and the size 8 guy is wearing a boot that wouldn’t even stay on his foot. We don’t have the room to do that here, so we just line up like in Virginia City. Another thing we do, is we have the Man’s Trail and the Wimp’s Trail. When the riders come around on a lap, they have a choice of going the man’s way or the wimp’s way, and the Man’s Trail usually consists of some horrible obstacle, like a three foot tall log. We’ve done a car, mud holes, and only the capable riders are actually able to get through the man’s way, everyone else goes the wimp’s way. We put a keg of beer on the wimp’s way, and they have to drink a beer for going the easy way.

And they have to drink a beer every lap no matter what, right?

That’s true! Every time you come through the main checkpoint, there’s a keg and everyone has to chug a beer. It’s hard to do with a helmet on, and we expect a lot of the beer goes down the rider’s shirt, but that adds to the funniness of it too. Believe me, the riders that spill a lot of beer, still consume enough that they’re getting a little bit of a buzz on, and that’s kind of funny too.

How many laps is the race?

Right now the racetrack is approximately 2.5 miles long, and it’s an hour and a half race. We’ve been doing about nine or ten minute laps, so that’s about 10 laps.

So someone could potentially be about 20 beers deep by the end of the race?

It’s true! I’m a witness to it, and it’s happened to me and many others. Unless you’re actually here and participating in this, it sounds crazy, but we have a great track record! To date, we’ve never had anyone hurt, nobody has ever been injured, and nobody has ever left in an ambulance. I got a bruised rib a couple times, and other people have twisted their knees, but that’s the extent of any injuries. Maybe it’s partly because when you’re intoxicated you seem to slow down and fall a little more gracefully than you would if you were in competition mode.

What’s the obstacle this year?

It’s a car! We towed an old Fiat, like a 1960 Fiat, and put that in the trail and put a big log in front of the hood and you have to try to ride over the car.

How many riders come out?

Typically 30 to 40 riders.

And it’s by invitation only?

It is. However, we’ve never turned anybody away, and I welcome strangers, but we keep it technically an invitation event, because it’s so politically incorrect, that we can’t really open it to the general public. I don’t send out flyers, but with the word of mouth, if a guy has a buddy he thinks would do well, great, bring him along. We just don’t want people to come and thing that they’re going to… Well, we just don’t want any trouble.

Do you plan to keep this event going in the future?

Well, next year will be our silver anniversary. It would be great to get to 25 years. Every year we’re just going on one year at a time. I’m getting to the point where I’m ready to retire as the promoter, and I’d love someone else to step in and take it over, so we’ll just go with one year at a time and I hope we make it to next year.

Thanks Marty!

No problem, thank you.

NorCal Motocross in no way promotes or condones operating a motorcycle while under the influence of alcohol. Riding a motorcycle while impaired puts you and those around you in danger, and could easily result in death. Be smart and don’t do it!