Native Delawarean – and now Austin, Texas resident – Matt Seiler recently competed in The Mexican 1000, an endurance motorcycle race down the Baja Peninsula, scoring second place in the “open bike” category. Seiler’s exploits have earned him a rare TSD honor: after being featured with his brother on TSD last year for the success of their all-natural soft drinks company, Maine Root, he now becomes the first Delaware guy to be interviewed twice. This time, Seiler helped tutor TSD in the distinctions between “motocross” and true “off road” crazyness.
Town Square Delaware: Congratulations on your second-place finish. What is the “Mexican 1000,” where does it take place and why did you do it?
Matt Seiler: The Mexican 1000 is a four day off -road rally that starts in Mexicali at the northern tip of Baja, Mexico and ends in San Jose Del Cabo at the southernmost point of the Baja Peninsula.
Not only is the NORRA (National Off-Road Racing Association) Mexican 1000 the original Baja race, it was the very first off-road race in the world. Founder Ed Pearlman and his son Mike were the first to coin the term “off road.” In other words, the Pearlmans and their original partner, Don Francisco, had invented the sport of ‘off road’ as we know it today.
The course is unmarked and competitors rely on a road book to navigate more than 1,000 miles of off-road terrain.
After moving to Texas from Maine, I just wasn’t able to go surfing and snowboarding very often. So I started to ride off-road dirt bikes. One of my friends invited me to join his crew for the Mexican 1000 rally. A very generous character named Ben Greenwood from Dana Point, CA. provided the bikes and support crew for us. Without Ben, none of this would have ever happened – thanks Ben!
TSD: How long have you been involved in motocross?
MS: I got my start on motorized two wheel vehicles at age 8 in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. I worked at a moped shop-for “moped” Charlie Pollard. We washed his rental fleet of mopeds. Soon after my father bought a moped for mom for her birthday. My brother and I immediately took it over. From then on, I was hooked. Mom is a nurse and was not too happy to see her boys on motorcycles.
This type of racing is not considered motocross. There is a big difference in that motocross is on a closed course that involves jumping and racing short (typically a half hour) “motos.” Where Rally racing is a point to point race on an unmarked course that requires use of a navigation aid called a roadbook. In the trucks and buggies – the copilot reads the roadbook to the driver, helping him navigate the course and avoid obstacles. On a motorcycle – you must use a roadbook reader mounted to the handlebars. No copilot! So not only do you need to keep an eye on the ground – but also navigate and scan for obstacles – all this while covering about 100 feet a second at race pace.
TSD: What kind of training goes into completing a race like this? And do you have some kind of support team?
MS: It’s an endurance sport at the core. You are required to keep a very intense focus for very long periods of time at very high speeds, for days on end. You get on the bike at 6am, and do not get off until four or five that afternoon. There is no time to eat all day, so you immediately eat ten tacos, maybe have a beer or two, then work on the bikes until midnight. Get up and do it again for another three days!
Losing that focus can lead to very bad things happening. In order to become prepared for this, a regimen of long runs and bicycle riding help with endurance. Nothing compares to actual seat time on a motorcycle, so there has to be plenty of that.
TSD: Great picture with Sarah Palin! Looks like this race draws interest among a pretty broad range of characters…
MS: Yes, we met Governor Palin on the second day after racing. Sarah and Todd Palin [featured with Matt, at right] were not officially entered, but were down there following the rally, hooked up with Walker Evans’ race team.
The event draws a crowd of “Baja Racing Royalty”- ranging from off road legend Malcom Smith, to Dakar Rally racer Robbie Gordon in his 800 horsepower Hummer. He passed me on a dry lake bed at about 140mph. I was going 80mph or so, and it felt like I was standing still. There was also a crew racing and documenting the event for a film called “The Baja Social Club” that included Bandito Brothers Mouse McCoy (Ironman Baja 1000 winner and film Dust to Glory fame) and Greg Tracy (6 time winner of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, and Professional Stuntman). I met some really great folks.
This was my first time competing in this type of racing. I quickly realized the consequences of breaking down or getting lost are life and death. While still competitive, everyone is out there to have a good time and look out for each other.
TSD: So what’s next for your motorcycle adventures? Is there a cross-country Maine Root ride in the works?
MS: There is a plan to get back down to Baja for the Mexican 1000 for 2013. After hearing our story, we were approached by a film maker to follow our journey. They are documenting our group of over 40 year old dirt bike riders who have always wanted to do this type of race. We have received sponsorship for parts and supplies and riding gear in support of the effort. The film makers want to document the build and preparation of the specialized Rally bikes, Rally navigation training in the desert of Nevada, chasing a few stages of the famed Dakar Rally in Chile, Argentina, and Peru this winter, and finally the actual Mexican 1000 race this spring. The project is tentatively called “Mid Life Rally.” Wish us luck!