Suzanne Howie

Off road correspondent, online editor and sometimes racer, Howie is best known for her role at the races taking pictures and handing out big checks to Ryan Graffunder (the other face in the picture), but sometimes throws her hat into the ring, so to speak.

“When riding through tight trees at speed, do not think about anything other than riding through tight trees at speed.” - My words of Wisdom

Okay, so it’s been a while since I’ve done a “5 things” but I think last night’s showing of Canadian skill at the X Games Enduro X. Now, I know a lot of you weren’t able to watch it, but I’m hoping you were following us on twitter, @MXandOffroad; I stayed up all night just for you guys! Oh, and to watch two Canadians bring home bronze. Who? Well, you’ll have to wait.

So I got my first win this past weekend, on the Saturday of the Offroad Ontario 2 Days in June event. It felt good, really good. And want to know what felt the best? PR, the girl who finished second, and I had a bit of a battle, and while there was a bit of rubbing, it was left on the track. There were handshakes and congratulations after the event. Same went for Sunday when roles were reversed and I ended up in second with PR taking the win.

So, my first race is officially in the books, and I achieved one of my goals: I finished better at the Mini Pine this year than I had at the Great Pine Last year. I went from a 3rd to a 2nd. Yeah, it's still Ladies' B, and I didn't get a trophy, but it's still something to be proud about. And I got a pretty nasty scratch on my back, probably from rolling onto a stick while stuck under my bike. (You did read the "B" part, right?)

After the Toronto Supercross there was a lot of question about Canadians racing. Now, I won't say what we've got is perfect, but I'm just saying if you want to see Canadians racing in the States, you have to know where to look.

So, we've got another weekend without our live Supercross races, so I've got to come up with something to talk about. There is the topic of Villopoto, but really it's been done by many people so far, better than I could do it.

Because we needed more?

Andrew Short, in my opinion, is one of the most under rated riders out there. He's got great style on the bike and, unless he's been out injured, he's a constant in the top 10, but coming back from his latest injuries in New Orleans no one thought he'd be taking home the win in the very next race, except maybe him and buddy Ken Roczen, the unsuspecting Lites rider who threw his leg over a SX 350 and rode the wheels off it for a 2nd place over all in his first big bike main!

The two were so excited, for themselves and each other, that soon as the race was done there were hugs all around. It's nice to see such a great show of sportsmanship, of good sportsmanship, especially when so often we focus on bad behaviour. It doesn't need to be a bro-hug; a hand shake or a high five between the top three riders shows the fans that while they can be fierce competitors on the track, that is where it is left.

Often times we focus on the poor behaviour of a few riders, who shall remain nameless. This season, however, we've seen some great instances of riders riding aggressively, but letting it stay on the course. No one could argue that Roczen wasn't trying to pull every extra ounce of speed from that 350. Right out of the gate the German was charging, and when his good friend Short got in front, well, he wasn't going to stop pushing to win his Supercross class debut.

You can be aggressive without crossing the line into what is unacceptable behaviour (dirty block passes, purposely taking out riders, "team tactics" and the like). These riders, especially on the highest levels, are seen as heroes, role models, for the younger generation. When they act badly, and win, and nothing comes of it because they win, it sets a bad example. When the AMA fined Justin Barcia for his poor behaviour after the Huston event, it was a start. These riders are heroes for the younger generation of riders; it is very important the example the set.

Here's to Andrew Short, and Ken Roczen, and to all of the other fantastic models of good sportsmanship! Congrats on a well deserved win for Short and an amazing Supercross debut for German transplant, Roczen. Gute Arbeit, Ken!

                So, the Supercross season down south is pretty much wrapped up - Villopoto sealed the deal in Huston and Barcia secured the Lites East title this past weekend. The Lites West title hasn`t been secured, but with the snow in much of Canada gone, the season is starting to heat up north of the 49th parallel.

 NEW ORLEANS (April 14, 2012) – A crowd of 33,392 filled the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Saturday night, as Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, hosted its 14th race of the 2012 season in a return to New Orleans. One race after capturing back-to-back Supercross Class Championships, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto, of Poulsbo, Wash., won his ninth win of the season with a convincing effort. In the Eastern Regional Supercross Lites Class, GEICO Honda’s Justin Barcia, of Ochlocknee, Ga., secured his second-consecutive title with a fourth-place finish, while Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Darryn Durham, of Butler, Pa., raced to the first victory of his career.

So there is no Supercross this weekend, so my "5 Cool Things" is kind of out of place, so I was left wondering what on Earth I could write about.

                There's always something special about the first ride of the year, especially when it happens to be on a fresh motor, totally redone suspension and new tires (thanks to B! He's the best!).

                My first ride of the year was last Sunday, which really made it a great weekend. I got to watch Supercross from the press booth (which really are great seats but then again, the beauty thing about the Roger's Centre is there really isn't such a thing as a bad seat - especially when you're in the 200 levels) and I got to for a ride. And on top of that... it was an awesome ride! Even B felt that I did really well, and as I've mentioned before, he's not one to dish out the compliments lightly.

                We went to a friend's place, where there are some good trails and some technical stuff, not that I really get into the super technical stuff. I kept to the "easier" side of things, but had a lot of fun. B led me around on my first lap, just to make sure I knew where to go, and after that I was on my own.

                I did pretty good, and after a while I was feeling quite comfortable. We did some set up, lowering my brake pedal and fiddling with my levers, and it was a dream. My suspension has been given a full upgrade; it's super plush and works awesome in choppy trails.

                After the ride, all I could think was : Man, I love my bike, and how much I missed it through the winter.

                The worst thing to happen to me: I snapped the buckle off my boot! So I guess I'll be needing a new pair! Any suggestions?

                There are a couple things I wish I could say I saw here at Toronto on Saturday night, but alas, not all dreams come true. I was really hoping I’d get to say I got to see Cole Thompson make his first Lites East Podium, but alas, he suffered a bad crash and was forced to pull out of the event. I also can’t write about Stewart chipping away at Villopoto’s lead because he wasn’t cleared to ride either.

                So last week I wrote about the five coolest things I saw at the Daytona Supercross, and there were some pretty cool things that happened at the Indy SX too. It wasn't a mud race, but it certainly was an intense race that didn't turn out at all the way anyone expected.  

5) Barcia's Perfect Season Broken -

                Blake Wharton broke the perfect season. What more is there to say about that? I like Barcia; I like seeing him win and he's great on the podium, but I mean, it's always nice when a challenger comes up, right? When there's no challenge, the excitement isn't as high as it could be for the fans, and for the riders. You don't push yourself as much.

                Though, there is something to be said for a perfect season. But there's always next year for that, right?

4) Roczen "throwing it" away - LITTERALLY! -

                Did you see that bike go? He was leading and then there was a bobble and... Whoops! The bike was gone and Kenny was left standing in the dirt like a country kid late for the bus.

                I like Roczen; I think he has a lot of a talent, and seems quite sweet and genuine on the podium. I so want to see him win a main this year. I was kind of hoping he'd be the one to break Barcia's streak, but in Daytona it looked like Baggett was the man for the job.

                Roczen had the lead in the staggered restart, and man was I cheering for the German, and I'm sure I'm not alone. Judging from how his home country fans cheered for him in Euro GP, I'd say most of Germany was up front there with him.

                But you know what, it proved Roczen could get out front. If he can do it once, he can do it again. And hey, maybe he'll do it here this weekend? It'd be nice to see him take home a win in Toronto.

3) Brayton pulling a huge lead in the SX Main -

                He didn't make it easy for RV to pass either, did he? That was pretty awesome. In years gone by the SX class has gotten, well, boring. I mean, don't get me wrong, I LOVED watching Ricky race; the man had style, commitment and talent, and it was epic to watch him lap SECOND PLACE in the outdoors, but really, as awesome as that is, it's not really a race. It's a race for second place, and sometimes a race for fourth, and that's only so exciting.

                This year we started the season with 4 riders who could definitely take the championship; only one of them raced on Saturday, but that didn't stop another rider from getting out front early. My favourite saying is "sometimes it's better to be lucky than good," and Brayton was lucky enough to be both. When RV put the gears to him, he didn't back off. And really, to see someone (outside "the big three" of Reed, Dungey and Stewart) challenge Villopoto like that... It was awesome.

2) The Staggered Restart -

                There's a first time for everything, and this was a first for the staggered restart. It was surreal to see the bikes lined up like that, but it certainly helped some of the riders, Barcia for instance. The restart was done as per the book, it's just never been the issue that the race had been stopped in the 3 to 12 lap range.  

                It was odd to see all three commentators at such a loss for words about what it was all about. It was by the book, which was fine, and certainly helped close the pack back up nicely, which helped Barcia bust his way back onto the podium nicely.

1) Supercross Survivor -

                How many people are on the injured list now? There are over thirty confirmed injured riders, including Ryan Dungey (who is still seated second in the points standing, so you've got to be able to imagine how well the season had been going for him) and Chad Reed, who had been in third when a broken tibia, fibula, ribs, T6 vertebrae and a torn ACL in Dallas put him on the side lines for the remainder of the season.

                In Indy we saw Stewart and Windham get together, with Stewart not competing in the main due to a possible head injury. KDub pulled out but is planning to race at Toronto this weekend.

                It's been a weird season, that's for sure, with many injuries highlighting just how dangerous the sport we love can be.

                Next week Supercross is in Toronto, and I know I'll be there. I'm kind of hoping Roczen and Windham bust out and take their first wins of the season on Saturday; I think that'd be just amazing to see. Windham has a big following in the circle I run in, and to see him win at the RC would be pretty cool.  

                So, was it me, or was this year's Daytona absolutely spectacular. I mean more so than usual. There were easily a dozen or more super intense moments that had me on the edge of my seat, or standing, shouting at the television. I could talk endlessly about it, but really I shouldn't, so I've pared it down to my own personal list of 5 awesome things I saw, from my couch, from Daytona.

5 - Marvin Musquin breaks the top 5 on his 350 SX.

                It wasn't until Dungey took home his first win of the season that KTM got a win on the SX450, but no one's had much luck on the 350. A lot of people site the problems of being 100 ccs down as a major disadvantage, but I guess Musquin didn't get the memo. The Lites West rider had an amazing ride, qualifying fifth gate pick for the main before ending up fourth.

                I'm glad to see more of the west riders trying their hands out in the big bike class, and receiving some level of success too. Cole Seely, who came out and made a statement in the Lites class in Anaheim, has been tearing it up too.  

4 - Seeing not one, but TWO 2-strokes make the night events.

                I'm a two stroke fan, but like most I have come to accept that in the world of moto and supercross, two strokes just can't compete with their four stroke cousins. Or can they? Two riders line up on 2-strokes last night; one YZ125 and the other aboard a YZ250. Both two strokes succumbed to the mud, but Renner, the pilot of the 125, was in a transfer spot when his bike gave out. It was pretty awesome to hear that YZinger screaming in the mud and much.

                Bonus points: I got a reply from Tim Ferry himself, one of my favourite riders, when I commented that one of his tweets about 2 strokes broke my 2 stroke loving heart. It's always cool when someone famous like that replies to your tweets.

3 - Having Reed up in the booth with Fro, Goat and Sheheen.  

                I like Reed, and I've grown to like him more as the years go on and he matures. He's got great style, on and off the bike, and has come a long way from being all the things young, talented riders tend to be. I'm am happy to see that he has grown into a very respectful, well spoken team front man. He's gone from being a role model based solely on his talents, to being someone riders of all ages can look up to for the way he carries himself, on and off the track, and the way he takes new challenges on with, what from the outside at least, looks like a wry smirk and a positive attitude.  

                He was filled with insightful comments and a few good one liners at the expense of his hosts. While I'd be happier watching him race, I do hope that they invite him back into the booth.

2 - Bam Bam gets to keep his perfect record, but not without some challenging from Baggett.

                Justin Barcia got to keep his unmarred record, but not without some serious challenging from Blake Baggett. The mean, green machine came through the mud to challenge the red rider when pretty much everyone, except Baggett, had accepted that Barcia just might walk away with a 4th victory.

                In the end, Barcia did get a 4th victory, but it wasn't without some hard work. He had a comfortable lead at one point,

1 - Kevin Windham. He's the man.  

                He won his first heat race of the season in the muck and got his first podium of the year in the mud. Race #202 was pretty good to Mister Kevin Windham, not that it was a surprise. Even the commentators were talking about it. Going into the day everyone knew Windham would have a good night. He's a class act on the podium and on camera, and his riding style is just amazing. He's a big, tall guy and man can he ride the mud, and watching him ride through the puddles towards his first heat race win of the year was like "poetry in motion."

An honourable mention: Cole Thompson

                The kid from Canada is getting a lot of press down south these days, some of which is coming from fellow ex-pat Steve Matthes in the way of a Privateer Profile. I've got to say I am incredibly proud of Thompson for representing in the US. It seems every week he's getting better. In Daytona he broke into the top ten with a 9th place finish, improving on a 13th place finish in St. Louis and tying his best finish so far from Arlington.

                I'm looking forward to getting to see this fast Canuck race on home turf. Nothing beats the roar of the Roger's Centre at the Toronto when a Canadian is racing.

                I'm not that big on snowmobiling. I hate being cold. The sleds, even new "lighter" ones are really heavy and not nearly as nimble as a bike, and I don't turn all that swiftly on a dirt bike. But, never the less, if I'm given the opportunity to  break away from the winter blues and go for a motorized rip, I'm game. The opportunity came last weekend when we received a good dumping of snow.

                Growing up we all have our heroes; favourite riders, our parents, older siblings, fictional characters from movies, television shows or books.

                After my Dad and Mom, and the girl down the street Alison, who was super nice to me, my biggest hero was Wonder Woman. This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise to those who know me. I'm almost never without my Wonder Woman belt buckle, regardless of the situation (award ceremonies, motorcycle shows, in the field or at the post race party; you'd think it's my only one,where in fact I have 6 other buckles, but WW is my favourite).

                A little preface to this one: I’m a comic book junkie, and it's all Wonder Woman's fault.

                To little six to eight year old me Wonder Woman was awesome! She kicked butt, played with the big boys, Batman and Superman. As a tomboy that was really important to me; I didn't have a lot of girls to play with, most of the kids my age where I grew up were boys, so having a role model that said "Yeah, of course you can do that!" was pretty stellar.

                Wonder Woman was powerful without cashing in on her looks, or at least that’s how I remember her. I’m sure the male audience remember her for something entirely different, but as a girl watching Wonder Woman reruns with my mom on Saturday afternoons I remember thinking: Wow. When I grow up, I want to be like that.

                I'll admit that my memory might be just a little heavy on the rose coloured glasses, but I always think of Wonder Woman as this tough, "Anything you can do, I can do better!" type of woman.  

                I guess where I’m going with this is as a girl it was hard to find stable, strong and independent role models. Maybe what I like the most is that Wonder Woman, and her Amazon Sisters, support each other. They are fierce competitors, but they leave it on the field and live a rather peaceful life on Paradise Island.

                Let's face it, we don't get a lot of that in popular media these days.

                I'd like to challenge all of the women who read this, the mothers, the daughters, the sisters, the friends, to support each other; let's drop competition, the rivalries between each other, and just for once be supportive. No more Mean Girls. I'm certainly going to try, and I've got something up my sleeve for the month of March to go along with it.

                Who were your heroes growing up? Let me know at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

                - Suzie

                I get that... a lot.

                "Oh wow, you take pictures of dirt bikes. That's so cool. But isn't it dangerous?"

                Long story short: Yes.

                So, the winter blues are totally in full swing. Not that we've had much of a winter here in Southern Ontario. There's no snow. Everything is brown and dead. No ice to go ice riding. No snow to go snowmobiling. And the ground is frozen rock hard and the air just a little too chill to make riding, at my level at least, any fun. But the winter weather does have one benefit: I get a lot of time to think and come up with some goals for the upcoming riding season. I think I've come up with a pretty good one, but I'll let you be the judge of that.

    Okay, so all throw backs to the old horror movies of the past (the above being from Frankenstein), the new Inside MotoX & Off Road website is up and running. I’m so relieved.

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