Backpacks vs fanny packs, boots vs shoes and a whole lot more
Photos by THE James Lissimore
As any listener to the Pulpmx Show knows, one of the things that drive me nuts is the mechanics of the sport getting more and more loaded down with crap that doesn't matter. I was a mechanic for 11 years for various teams and have seen this evolution just get weirder and weirder. There's nothing you can do to a bike in a supercross race that you need a backpack full of tools and parts for. Bring the basics in a small simple fanny pack and you're good.
Same with the wearing of these boots that are hugely uncomfortable and ridiculous looking. None of this stuff is needed but what happens is one guy does it and the rest of the sheep follow for fear of looking like they don't care or "want it" bad enough. Simply ridiculous and I just can't just stand there and let this travesty happen without getting to the bottom of this. Last weekend I walked around and interviewed some new school mechanics and some old mechanics and got to the bottom of things. Surprisingly, it seems that a lot of guys are for the extra crap-even some of the older guys I thought would be on my side. The answers are really all over the board. Here read for yourself and try to figure out what in the hell we're doing to ourselves.
Backpacks and boots man, it's just another example of our society's downfall.
Tony Berluti- mechanic for Broc Tickle, former mechanic for Ezra Lusk, Robbie Reynard, Damon Huffman among others.
Me: How do you feel about this stuff in the mechanics area?
I think the A-Star boots definitely get a better pack but the backpack, you can carry a lot more stuff but you don’t need it.
I don’t carry a backpack, I have the old-school fanny pack.
Do you feel the boots affect the starts your rider may or may not get?
I don’t know about affect it but by the end of the night, my feet and shins don’t hurt as bad from the kicking. It’s easier on my feet and legs and I think you get a better pack with the boots than the sneakers.
How many titles did you win with sneakers and a fanny pack?
That’s my point. Do you think that you packing the gate with these boots is going to actually help the starts?
I’m curious as to where you’re going with this...
What's in the backpack Patty? A dead hooker?
Pat Barker- mechanic for Justin Brayton
Patty, we already know you love the boots, you love the backpacks and all that- we already know this.
Oh yeah, I’m a big fan of the boots, its nice to prep the gate so your feet doesn’t hurt at the end of the night. It’s a lot easier if you’re rider doesn’t want to help you to make a nice rut and the backpack, that’s a must have. I know Jeremy Albrecht and yourself, both great mechanics used fanny packs but times have changed. Spare goggles, start buttons, rags, all of our tools all fit in there. You’re screwed either way in a supercross but in outdoors, it will work out. For mud races it’s awesome.
Do you feel like the little notches you put in the ground with those street bike boots are enough for the knob of the tire on a 55-horsepower 450 to grab hold of?
Patrick opened up his backpack for us to take a look in. Yep, that 10mm allen wrench is definitely needed on today's bikes. FOUR SCREWDRIVERS??? Really?
J Bone knows what's up.
Jeremy Albrecht- JGR Yamaha team manager, former factory mechanic
Backpacks versus fanny packs, it’s a little ridiculous what’s going on here right J-Bone?
Yeah, I saw Patrick dig around in his backpack for a tool the other week and the thing is so big that he couldn’t find it. The little socket was buried, if he had a fanny pack it would all be right there. We did have Mechanix Wear make us a special backpack but I’m a fanny pack guy.
That’s a tricky part, it used to be that we all thought that we’d be done. But we’re all taking wheels down there now- that one race where Reed has his spokes taken out is what changed things.
You’re diverting off the topic…
I am, but yeah I’m a fanny pack guy! I’ve never not had everything that I need in a fanny pack. I always had what I needed.
What about these boots?
I never wore them, I get it though.
Did your rider get a lot of holeshots with you wearing normal people shoes?
They did over the years and I like to think it was because of my packing (laughs).
I feel like Mike Alessi could have a guy in bare feet pack his gate and he’d still get the holeshot.
I think Mike Alessi’s dad might make his mechanic go barefoot if he thought it would work. I get the boots because I used to get blisters on my toe back in the day. The rider could certainly help but nowadays, the riders don't want to help. They’re selfish. I feel like every year we overdo something and we’re all getting carried away.
Better pack that dirt down my man, it's so key.
Dave Osterman Team Manager Two-Two Motorsports and former factory mechanic
Ozzy, what's up with this stuff these mechanic's are using?
We didn’t have that stuff back then. It’s easy on me because the new age is here and I trust it. I like it, all my guys are good. They have my back and I have their back and I’ve never felt more comfortable. (Thanks Dave, but I’m more confused than ever by your answer)
Goose was a trail blazer when he was a mechanic.
Mike Gosselaar, Team Two-Two tech and former factory mechanic
Goose, you're one of the greatest mechanic’s of all-time, here’s the question- are you disturbed by the mechanic’s nowadays wearing the boots and the backpacks that make them look like they’re going to Everest?
I don’t mind the boots, I always wore the boots but not the motorcycle boots because they’re not comfortable. I would wear a lineman boot or a hking boot- something. I can’t see putting a skate shoe to pack the gate.
So maybe you were a pioneer in the boots?
No, I looked like the odd man out because I wasn’t wearing skate shoes! As far as the backpacks, if it makes them feel more comfortable then I’m all for it. It’s hard to pack a whole motorcycle in the backpack.
But just to be clear you won a lot of races with a fanny pack?
Well, I never won one race but my rider won the races. I never wore a backpack though.
I think the boots are overkill though.
Cause I just feel like a whatever you’re doing with your feet won’t matter when a bike is at 9000 RPM’s and is ready to explode off the line.
Yeah, but sometimes you have to move little rocks or make a ledge or whatever and the dirt is hard. It doesn’t work too well to do all that with skate shoes.
Oscar Weidman-Suspension for Two Two
Oscar, how do you feel about the boots?
They’re very uncomfortable but they do the trick.
Do you think they’re needed?
I don’t think they’re needed but the rider has boots, they can help out. If you want tot help the rider out, then you must wear uncomfortable boots to help them out.
I looked in Patrick’s backpack at JGR and it looks like he can split cases with everything that he’s got in there.
I guess too much is better than not enough.
I really liked Donk until I saw this picture.
Shane Drew-Factory Honda chassis guy and former factory mechanic
Shane, these mechanic’s nowadays seem to be overdoing it with backpacks and dirt bike boots no?
That’s a tough question, it’s a little ridiculous especially for a supercross race where you don’t have time to change anything anyways. I think a little fanny pack with a dry erase marker is all you need.
And the boots?
Actually I think the boots are a good idea and I wish I’d thought of that when I was a mechanic. Better than smashing your feet into the ground anyways. My riders always helped me with the gate with their boots.
But you won with shoes and a fanny pack right?
Yes but riders used to also win motos with two shocks and air-cooled motors.
You’re not really helping out my point here Shane.
I think that the big Alpinestar boots are ok, as long as you don’t have a shovel attached to the front like some people have tried to do. The backpacks are a little silly though.
Pit boards in practice- here's my tip to you riders, if you don't see yourself on the board out on the track inside the top five-go faster."Sand" and "Need on/on" written on these boards. So insightful.
Mitch Payton- I don't have to explain this do I?
Have you noticed the last few years that the street bike boots and huge backpacks have infiltrated the mechanic’s area?
The boots I think, was something that evolved from guys wearing tennis shoes. The old school mechanics used to wear work boots and those went away cause the cool guys got shoe deals. The A-Star boots are a great idea, they’re safer and kicking a fourstroke is hard- you could have some kick pack. And the backpacks, you’re right, the fanny packs seemed to be good enough and now we have these backpacks and I don’t even know what’s in our guys packs (laughs).
I feel like kicking the start with a boot doesn’t really matter all that much when you have these bikes that have so much power?
Yeah but if you’re kicking a rock out of a rut. If you have that you don’t want to start with that and you’ve got to kick it out of the rut. I agree with the boots but the backpack, you might have to do a story where they lay everything out to see what in the hell is in there.
Wiggles would love to wear tennis shoes but he just can't. Others would whisper that he doesn't want it bad enough.
Dana Wiggins- mechanic for Jake Weimer and former supercross racer
I’m doing a story here about mechanic’s and all the stuff you guys carry. When you raced, it was a pit board marker and Etnies.
I kind of feel the same way but since it is available and it is legal for now, that I feel like if you don’t wear all that stuff- you’re a step behind. Personally I won’t wear a backpack, I have everything I need in a fanny pack. We do have a cart that goes down there that has the wheels and the tools and it’s easier to get the tools out of the toolbox rather than the fannypack. If you don’t have the steel toed boots, then you’re going to lose your edge. Some of the dirt down there is so hard that your tennis shoes won’t break it up.
I feel like Mike Alessi could start with anyone or anything packing his gate.
Yeah, I think you’re probably right but I just think as far as a riders concerned, it’s a mental thing like everything else. They’re not very comfortable. I would love to be able to wear tennis shoes but I just can’t.
Dean Gibson is old school.
Dean Gibson- factory Honda motor guy and former factory Suzuki mechanic
As a former mechanic, no doubt you’ve noticed the influx of boots, carts and backpacks in the mechanic’s area. How do you feel about this?
I think these guys are spoiled. Back in our day we didn’t have this stuff or people to do our work for us. It’s a different era now than when we wrenched.
What do you think those guys have in those packs?
The riders water bottles, hats all that good stuff for them on the podium. They didn’t have that stuff for our riders.
What about the boots?
Super uncomfortable, guys like us we could pack that rut with tennis shoes. The rider makes the start not the boots. Some riders pack their own gate while their mechanic is just sitting there with his own boots on.
Schnike didn't need boots to win Phoenix this year.
Schnike- Justin Barcia’s mechanic
What do you think of these boots that guys are wearing nowadays? Do you wear them?
I don’t wear the boots.
Holy crap, I wonder then, how does your gate possibly get packed?
With what I’m wearing now, just some hiking boots.I think Justin gets a good start that we’ve proved you don’t need a boot. Backpacks, more tools and more parts and it doesn’t hurt to be prepared for anything.
Did you used to wear a fanny pack?
But now you feel like you need a backpack jammed with shit?
Yeah, jammed with shit like goggles and water and more things than I could ever imagine.
Brent is a newer mechanic with old beliefs.
Brent Presnell- Trey Canard’s mechanic
Do you wear the boots?
No boots, I felt so bad for the way you trashed all of us for wearing them that I still wear the fanny pack. I’m an new school mechanic with old school stuff.
Have you felt any pressure to use the boots from your peers to start dressing like a Sherpa?
A little bit but Trey’s starts have been so good that it hasn’t been a problem as of right now.
And you like the fanny pack? Feel like it does everything you want it to?
Yeah, I feel like if you can’t fit it in the fanny pack, you didn’t do that good of a job in the first place.
Upon the advice of one Jason Thomas, I tracked down his dad Frank who JT says started the backpack revolution to get to the bottom of this. Turns out, Frank may have been responsible for all of this which saddens me to no end.
Frank Thomas- former mechanic for Jason Thomas
Frank, I hear from some reliable sources that you claim to have invented wearing the backpack in the mechanic's area?
I did. I got in trouble for it because Jason was on Subway when I started running it and Chuck, the team owner just thought he could tell me what to do for no reason. He had some younger guys on the team he could psuh around but not me. He said it covered up sponsors but it was just because he wanted to be the man. You need all this stuff and you cant put it around your waist. I always wanted to carry extra goggles, which you know could break or whatever at the last second. I really do believe I invented wearing a backpack in the mechanic's area.
Like many pioneers, I'm sure you were mocked by those that didn't get it?
No not at all. As a matter of fact, I got hit up for tools because I had that one elusive tool that no one had. People would just unzip my pack and rummage through for the right tools while it was on my back. Factory guys also, you know how it is, there’s always something you don’t have. I guarantee you I was the inventer of that. Another thing I did was having wheels on a gear bag, we invented that also! We complained to every sponsor we had because we would wear them out and our gear would fall out so they put wheels on'em.
Amazing stuff Frank.
Darrin “Rookie” Sorensen- former factory mechanic
Rookie, I traced the start of the boot wearing to you while we were at Yamaha together. Do you think you were the first guy?
I think I started that- it was outdoors 2004. It took Thor two months to make me a set of those, they made them with the steel toe. They were totally cool with it and said they could do it. I just wanted to kick a better gate and they sucked for everything else. I was pumped to make a good gate, better than tennis shoes?
So you're to blame for this, anyone look at you weird?
A few mechanics thought I was onto something and some, like you, called me names. Then A Star started making a half boot for like pit bikes. I just wanted a consistent gate for Reed whether it was Mt Morris or Steel City or whatever.
I was part of the revolution of the boots and I didn't even know it. Stupid Rookie.
Lee McCollumn- mechanic for James Stewart
Do you run the Alpinestar street bike boots for packing the gate?
Sometimes I do but I don’t feel they do so good because the toe is too rounded and you can’t really move the dirt with them. I just run these work boots here and they work well.
Backpacks or fannypacks Lee?
Backpack, the fanny pack is too small. The riders want goggles and gloves and you have your tools. Its easier to keep it in the backpack, paper towels and rags ans all that that. It’s a lot of stuff
But you won a lot of races with Etnies...
No Etnies shoes, I was never a cool guy to have a shoe sponsor. I was never that cool like J-bone. I was lucky to get some sunglasses.
Mike runs i/2 of the dreaded boots/backpack combo.
Mike Williamson- mechanic Ryan Villopoto
I feel like the mechanics are overdoing it with all this crap like boots- your thoughts?
I run the boots because there could be a rock stuck in the dirt down there and it’s a lot better.
What did all the mechanics do in the old days?
They probably used tools but you’re not allowed to use those.
One boot or two? Some guys do the Michael Jackson thing with one boot.
Both boots, they’re not great but they’re not super uncomfortable.
What's with these backpacks and what do you use?
I use a fanny pack, it’s a lot of stuff in a backpack, I have no idea what those guys have in there. I fit everything into a fanny pack and I’d like to see what they have in there. And I have a pitboard in the timed practice also and we only use it to show him the different between him and another guy. Saves him the time in pulling in and asking us the questions.
You don't need a pitboard, that's ridiculous. But glad to see you're a fannypack guy now.
We call it a tool bag now Matthes, not a fanny pack.
Dan Betley- Honda team manager, former factory mechanic
I can’t help but notice that these mechanic’s have a lot of crap with them nowadays. How do you feel about this?
I think you need to talk to the mechanics that are in the trenches, I’m not down on the floor anymore. I don’t have a problem with it.
You won a lot of titles with Nikes and a fanny pack- are we overkilling it?
My feet were sore at times from kicking with the Nikes, I don’t see it being a problem as of right now. It’s in the rules so why not. It makes your job easier in preparing you gate so then that’s good. The backpack thing, if a guy gets on the podium you need all this stuff to promote sponsors and we didn’t have that back in the day. There are a lot more stuff you have to be aware of than we did fifteen years ago.
What about the pitboard in the mechanic’s area for practice, my thinking is if you’re not on the top five than it’s simple-go faster.
Yeah but you’re also telling the guy where he’s off, a lot more things
You’re supposed to side with me.
Have I ever sided with you on anything? Look, if you’re writing breathe and go faster than that’s ridiculous but if you’re giving pertinent information than that’s fine. If I were a mechanic today I wouldn’t bring a board to the mechanic’s area.