You’re not Ron Lechien. That’s too bad really because the rider who was nicknamed “The Dogger” was one of those guys that was a prodigal son type. Read on...
He was born and bred to be a motocross star, but like in a lot of those cases, something went awry. The fact that he won as many races as he did still amazes the native of El Cajon, California because there was many weeks when he wouldn’t touch his bike all week until it was time to race. The excesses are legendary as you can imagine involving a kid with time on his hands and a lot of money. What’s also legendary, as he’ll tell you, is that he survived and around to talk about those days. This is a twenty-three minute, 7 second conversation that I had with him yesterday.
If you want to hear a real epic podcast with Lechien, HERE is the old Racer X Canada show.
Me: Dogger, we’ve had quite a supercross season so far, how much have you been into it?
Lechien: Big time, I follow it every week and I’m excited to be able to watch it the next day. It’s been interesting, there have been some runaways and boring races but theres definitely some races that have stood out for me, that’s for sure.
Like which ones?
The Travis designed track, what was that St Louis?
That one was awesome, that was really good. Y’know Chad is our guy here at Maxima so I’m pulling for him as I’d like to add another title to our wall. He’s our guy and I’d like to see him bring down the titan! (Laughs) Anaheim one and Daytona were great also. It’s been a real good series.
People are making a big fuss about Reed putting his hand on the back of the neck of Stewart to get his attention after the race but I imagine any rider from the old school probably thinks that’s hilarious.
Yeah, I didn’t see the whole deal but someone told me there’s more then what I saw on the internet. I just saw whatever they showed on TV, I mean c’mon though. It’s amazing how big of a deal they make out of everything these days, if some of those people knew what went on back in the day. It was bad. If I didn’t like someone, I was going to lay them out you know what I mean? Back then you could take people out so you don’t have to worry about them anymore but nowadays people make a huge deal about it. It kind of takes the fun out of it for me, sometimes I would have races where I would just be riding along and someone would take me out, then the adrenaline would kick in and we’d have a race!
I’m guessing in 1984, you and RJ were doing a little worse than putting a hand on each other’s necks.
Yeah for sure, that’s for sure. Like I said you had to watch out back then and ride defensive sometimes because if anyone got a chance they’d clean you out at any time.
I know that some long time watchers of the sport like to compare Jason Lawrence to you back in the day, what are your thoughts on that and his season?
Yeah, I’m not sure about that one. I think his season is typical, he’s had some good rides here and there. He looks like he’s got the speed but whether he can hold it together, I don’t know. I just don’t know, it seems like he’s all over the map. One week he wants to ride, the next week he doesn’t. I don’t know. I guess this year is a learning process for him in that class, it’s not like he’s going for the championship or anything like that. The truth will be told next year when he has to run the whole series and we’ll see how it works then.
There are some similarities between how he conducts himself and how I did back in the day. You know, people see the partying and the wild child stuff I did and make that comparison but it’s a totally different deal with a little of the same thrown in there.
This shot probably gives Ronnie nightmares, it's Daytona '89 and he was checked out when his power valve broke. Cost him the win and some cash for partying later that night. Photo by RXI Archives.
What was the reaction to your MX-Files show?
I got a real good reaction, Todd (Huffman) told me it was the number one rated show of the second series. I knew it was going to be some good and some bad. I don’t think you can tell my story without telling the bad and I think he did an excellent job with it. I got tons of emails and calls about it. It’s amazing how many people watch Speed channel these days, back in the day there was just a little bit of motocross coverage but now we have the internet, TV everything and the sport is so big. I got a really good response, my family was happy and it turned out real good.
Someone told me that was the first time you would’ve found out that your dad turned you in one time when you were on a plane, is that true?
That was the first time he ever admitted it on camera, that’s for sure but I always kind of knew. It was too obvious because when I would get pulled over all the time, you just knew. It wasn’t too obvious then but now looking back on it it’s like, dude, I didn’t even do anything and I would get pulled over! I know one of his best friends was the head guy at the court so he definitely had some connections and when they wanted to take anything from me that had wheels on it, they did a good job of it.
Have you had anyone that was blown away by the show because maybe they didn’t have any idea about how deep you got into it?
Yeah, I did have some people that told me they learned some things because they had no idea it was that bad. My parents got some calls and emails from their friends that never really knew how bad it had gotten. I read a couple of emails my mom gave me from some people that were kind of touching. People were like, I can’t believe what you went through with him and I’m glad you stuck it out with him (Ronnie) and it was worth it.
My wife knows you used to race and cause some trouble but she had no idea and because I’m someone that’s never touched any drugs or even took a puff on a cigarette, she was like-How are you friends with this guy?
It is amazing even for myself to look back because now I’m clean and just to think back and how hard it must have been. To be honest, I have no idea how I did it either Steve, it’s just that once you’re in it and it’s an addiction and you’re functioning-you don’t’ see anything. I look back on it now and think, shit I must have been a mess! I don’t even know how I made it three laps never mind win a race. How did I have the strength to win a race when I was partying all week?
There was a story on there that one of your mechanics dropped off a KX500 with all these parts and at the end of the nationals he went to pick it up and the bike was still brand new, how close was that to the truth?
I’m not sure, I guess it probably was! They would know better than me, there were definitely some weeks that went by where the first time I got on the bike was for practice for that next national. I had the mentality that I didn’t want to wear myself out, I better save myself for next weekend. Some kind of crazy thinking or me manipulating my mind as to why I didn’t need to ride.
The story you told me where you purposely forgot your boots one day while testing because your new boat was done and you wanted to go to the river was told by Denny Stephenson on a recent podcast I did with him.
That was a good one, Turner had Chicken drive me so that he could vouch for me that they either had or didn’t have boots for me. I remember we drove into some shop in Corona looking for boots and they might’ve had my size. I told Chicken, I don’t wanna ride man, just tell him there weren’t any. I want to get my boat.
When we came back Roy said I had to pee in the cup and yeah, I told him that wasn’t going to happen. Somebody told me that Denny said I was flipping them off when I drove by, but I don’t believe that I would’ve done that. I’m sure I honked the horn and waved when I had my new boat though.
Denny said he was this kid from Nebraska and there you were, Ron Lechien and when team manager Roy Turner asked you to pee in a cup, you said F—K you Turner, fine me and drove off. It was quite a shock to him.
(Laughs) Looking back on it now, I wish I had stayed at the track and did a little more testing and a little more riding. There would be a whole lot more wins in my column, I’ll tell you that.
Here's The Dogger holeshotting some 250 national somewhere ( I think Mt Morris) in 1989. Photo by RXI Archives.
You have quite a bit though in the record books, twenty-eight total. Don’t you think that had you buckled down and took it serious, hired a trainer and all that that you might not have done as good?
Yeah, probably. I have a few different theories on that because I had guys that tried to train me and stuff but I just wasn’t into that. There were times where I would take a couple of weeks and really work on it. Then were times when I would party all week and chase the girls and then go to the race and win, there were the times when I chilled and rode a bunch. Then at the track I would get fifth or seventh or whatever and I’d be, that didn’t work. So then it was back to the old ways, that was my theory anyways. When I took it nonchalantly and didn’t make a big deal out of racing, didn’t treat it like it was anything. I just had a good time and didn’t take it serious and I was looser and would wing it. I would show up, ride as hard for as long as I could and what came with it, came with it. That was the way I approached it.
What is it like for you when you go to the races now? Do the present day guys know who you are and everything that you’ve accomplished and went through?
I think I get a good response. I think I have respect from the riders, and they know who I am. Obviously the Moto-X Files helped me out in that. Some of the younger guys know who I am now. Working here at Maxima helps me keep in contact with the younger guys, I’ve been doing the support program for about four years now so some of the guys I worked with at the beginning are turning pro now so that helps. Everybody realizes that I’m in the industry and we’re a big part of that now here and people respect the race wins and championships that I have. At least I think so!
Some riders of today just don’t care about the older riders and don’t know all the things that you guys did. Hell, some of them were born when you were already retired.
Well, I don’t really go out there and start telling the guys what to do or try to get into the back of the trucks or anything. Some of the guys that used to race try to get all up in there now and that’s not really my place or anything. I’m still a fan, I was a fan when I was young and I was a fan when I was racing. I’m just like everyone else, I don’t feel super comfortable getting into their shit when they’re racing or whatever. Maybe on a press day or whatever, it’s a little different but that’s not for me.
There’s a Google image on the net of you on a 1990 KX250 with number 3 on it. I have no clue where it would be from because you took that year off after breaking your leg. Any idea?**UPDATE** After seeing the picture Lechien said it wasn't him, it was Hughes.
I don’t know man, you would have to send it to me. Maybe it was in Europe because Kawi gave me a bike to ride after my leg healed and I went to do some European supercrosses but I didn’t do a whole lot of riding in 1990 so I’m not sure. I had practice bikes and stuff and maybe MXA did a story on me that year. Yeah send it to me and I’m sure I’ll know exactly where it’s from!
It looks like California in the background..
Yeah, like I said I’m a fan and I’m also my own fan cause I can look at a picture and know exactly where it’s from or whatever. I’m good at that. I can remember a race, a shot or whatever.
Yeah that’s funny because when I went to your office, you had a story behind everything that you had there. A lot really fast guys like yourself don’t have an idea about what they did or what they wore, you know? You’re different that way.
Yeah, when I was a young kid I’ll never forget going down to my buddies garage and his dad had Montessa’s and he had all these Dirt Bike magazines and everything and I was just like man…I remember thinking that if I could ever get on the cover of a magazine that would be it for me. Maybe I should’ve set some of my goals higher! (Laughs) I accomplished what I wanted to do, I achieved my goals in the sport. My goal was to win the 125 national championship and I did that and I thought I’ve arrived and now I’m going to have some fun with this.
How was your relationship with the magazines back then? They probably didn’t report everything they saw I’m sure.
I don’t think there was as much of that stuff going on back in the day as there is now actually. I remember when I did get arrested in Japan and when I came back that next Cycle News let me have it. I guess Cycle News and my dad, I found this out later, kinda had some bad blood or whatever. So they really went after me that next week, in the reader letter section they had like five letters from people in there saying I should be fired or whatever. I was like whoa..so that was that. Motocross Action I always had a good relationship with, I got along with Jody and he respected my dad and me. Hey, if you put yourself out there that are going to be talked about like trashing rental cars and chasing girls and what not then they’re going to have stuff to write about. Like I said, I think there is more covering up now then there ever was back then.
You’re also known for your stylish look back when you rode with the JT gear, was there a favorite year for you?
Probably 1985, ‘89 was cool because it was my gear but in ‘85 the Honda stuff was good. The red bike with the red and blue JT gear was great. The works bikes and the gear went together, some of the photos I have and the covers that I have look cool. That was right when the ALS helmet came out and they were new and cool also. All my stuff looked great, the Dalmatians gear was good, I wasn’t too hip on the Bad Bones stuff but it was different.
In 1985 you and Bailey looked the same in a lot of photos, it’s hard to tell you guys apart sometimes.
Yeah a lot of photos I’ve seen were his picture and my name or vice versa for sure.
There’s a picture in the Primm museum that I’ve been told is Bailey but I swear it’s you, the guy looks tall in it.
Hey, I’ll be compared to Bailey anytime of the week for sure, he’s an icon in the sport.
Was the 1985 HRC Honda 250 the baddest bike ever?
Yeah or maybe the 500 that year. I rode the USGP at Carlsbad that year on the HRC 500 and man, that thing was insane. That bike you couldn’t ride in supercross though, all the bikes were awesome that year. The 125 that year was probably the best 125 I have ever ridden and the supercross bike was amazing. The 500 was the fastest son of a bitch you ever rode so it’s a tough call.
That USGP you only lasted like, five laps or something in first before you cartwheeled…
I don’t even think it was that many! I put some distance on those guys though in the first few laps though didn’t I?
Yes, you did. The helicopter couldn’t even keep up with you on the number 16.
I think I passed David in practice and he wrote about it saying that if he had to go that fast to win, he might as well just go home. I should’ve backed it down a couple of notches and I would’ve won easy but I don’t know if I had forty-five minutes in me. I might’ve died.
How’s your job at Maxima and working with the support riders?
Yeah, it’s great and going super well. I’m just working with the riders and making sure they’re handled and we signed Factory Kawasaki this year with Villopoto and your guy Timmy so that was a real nice add to our program. Obviously we work with Reed and factory Suzuki and we have a long standing relationship with Mitch and the Pro Circuit team. My dad started with Mitch a long time ago and they’ve worked together now for a while and I think we have some of the best oils out there for the four-stroke.
Yeah it must be good because over the years there have been more than a few high profile teams that are sponsored by one oil company and just buy Maxima afterwards. That must make you feel good.
I guess have to watch what I say but you’re right, some teams buy our stuff that are sponsored by other oil companies. The Kawasaki thing kind of fell into our lap this year really, sometimes these other companies come in and pay a bunch of money out but then we end up getting them back because of our quality oil and the relationships we set up here at Maxima are long lasting.
Oh that’s another guy that was blown away by your MX-Files, Red Dog never really knew the stuff that you were into back then.
Yeah, I mean if you’re like yourself and not into that or never done it or partied much, then it’s a shock. I’ve come so far from that stuff that it’s a shock to me to look back and realize what I did and how I’m still alive to be honest with you.
How’s the riding going, last time I talked to you about it you were motoing down a bunch.
Yeah I’ve been riding my ass off and been on a diet for the last few months and lost thirty pounds or so and it feels so much better on the bike. I’ve been out there every week for the last few months, I took a pretty good header there last week and got some handlebars in my ribs and stuff. Like I told my friend that if you’re not crashing you’re not pushing hard enough, it comes with the territory.
Alright Dogger, thanks for doing this.
No problem Steve, nice talking to you and see you around.
Here is Lechien in '84, he just missed the 250 National title and won a few supercrosses this year.
photo by RXI Archives