Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - The Easy Rider in Valentino Rossi

MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.


The Easy Rider in Valentino Rossi

The nine-time champion hasn’t just changed his riding style to stay on top; he’s changed his whole lifestyle

I watched Easy Rider on the plane home from Sepang and thought about Valentino Rossi. There’s more than a tenuous link here, honest. Rossi would do almost anything to have been born thirty years earlier, so he could’ve been racing and generally having a good time in that wildest, most excessive of eras.

He may have disagreed with Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper on matters such as steering geometry, riding position, front/rear balance and handlebar angle, but I’ve not a shadow of doubt that he would’ve dropped whatever he was doing and happily joined them on that road trip to end all road trips. Barry Sheene, who also knew a bit about living, hopped on a Harley chopper at Daytona in 1972 – that’s him in the photo looking all young and innocent (ish) with the bike’s owner, Carlos Romero – brother of Gene Romero, who won the Daytona 200 in 1975, the year of Sheene’s 175mph smash.

I can see Rossi chugging down some Stateside freeway astride Easy Rider’s legendary Captain America chopper, exchanging peace signs with sidekick Uccio, who would make a perfect stand-in for Hopper, and getting up to all kinds of mischief. And I can see Sheene riding pillion with VR, standing in for Jack Nicholson.

Rossi was only just born in the 1970s (16 February 1979, to be exact) but he is very much a child of those times. His dad is a hippy (bless him), his favourite band is The Doors and he has huge admiration for other icons of the age: Johnny Cash, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen and so on. He appreciates the music and the style of that era as the real deal, but most of all he adores the freedom people had in those days, mostly the freedom to have a riot of a good time.

Back then Sheene and the rest didn’t spend their lives pumping iron in the gym, frying their pupils in front of computer monitors and meeting and greeting press and sponsors. As soon as they could they got the hell out of the pits and spent their off-track hours getting up to no good in the bar, the disco and the bedroom.

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

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Comments

Good read, though it sounds a little bit like a swan song.... it would have been interesting to know more about the physical aspect. I think it's Mat who posted a couple of days ago a picture of VR and MM (in another life almost) back in 2014 I think standing by a pool wearing some beach shorts and commenting that maybe VR needs some bodybuilding given that he looked dangerously thin next to MM fully muscled body. From what I've read MM is 1,68m tall and weighs 59kg. JL is 1,71m 66 kg and VR is 1,82m but weighs just 67 kg ! Forgive the analogy but this kind of ratio height/weight is the standard for modeling in fashion! Basically VR has to almost starve himself to stay that thin and cannot afford to build any muscle in order to keep that minimum weight. What does that mean in terms of riding and taming the bike on a long race when proportionally he lacks about 10 kg of muscles? Does that affect his performance? How does he compensate? I would like to know.

... I would suggest it's more about muscular endurance than muscle mass / power.

As a huge fan of cycling as well as MotoGP, all you have to do is look at the likes of the top climbers on the World Tour. They look like walking string beans (even their legs), it's a little scary!

BUT, these guys are capable of sustained average power output of between 400 - 450 watts for a ridiculously long time when climbing to the top of mountains. Insane muscular endurance, but not absolute power. (Won't get into VO2 max. because that isn't really an issue in motorsport)

And just as a comparison to the Aliens, Two time Tour de France champion (and arguably the best climber on the planet right now) Chris Froome is 6'-1" (1.855m) and weighs 147 lbs (67kg) when in top competition form!

Meanwhile more muscled top sprinters put out between 1500 - 2000 watts (with bulging quads) in finishing sprints, but it's usually for less than a minute. Massive absolute power, but much less muscular endurance. Obviously these guys get crushed when the road tilts up.

So... as long as Rossi is getting super lean the "right" way (not JUST starving himself), he really shouldn't have a problem physically handling his bike over the course of a MotoGP race.

And just for fun comparison, your average MotoGP bike puts out about 185,000 - 190,000 watts.

Article, I think the majority of us would prefer a world more like the eras mentioned here, however impossible it may be these days.
Particularly in Motogp, characters are what sells, and when those great characters are also supremely talented and determined we have an enthralling spectacle.
Rossi is a great character, and an unmatched talent, which is primarily why motogp is still hugely popular. Many have forgone the ridiculous technical regulations imposed by Honda in the past 5-10 years designed to stifle the competition, to still tune in to see if man could still conquer and prove more important than machine or tyres, sadly in recent times it is very difficult to tell, however we still watch anyway.

It's grating to see misconceptions thrown around by punters who really don't even know why they dislike a rider, a bike or a team.
Honda doesn't impose rules, there is a very clear process by which rules and regulations are imposed and Honda as a single entity to NOT have the majority vote.
It's time to educate yourselves instead of carrying on with unfounded opinions, sure Rossi is an enduring talent but he hasn't 'conquered' anything since 2009 despite having the world at his feet.

Racers do not have the freedoms of that time. And Rossi seems to be the one of the last authentic "Characters". That can be seen in not just Motogp, but in all sports in this new age. It is nice to reminisce of a different time, but all things change as time keeps going waiting for no one. Will miss Rossi who I will forever look at as the "Trickster" when he retires. BUT not this year. Looking forward to see just how many he tricks he can pull out of that hat of his.

on the chopper… what makes that picture SO great is that Carlos Romero…. Gene's brother and the chopper owner… is wearing a David Aldana t-shirt… For those that don't know, Gene Romero and David Aldana were AMA/flat track racers in the '70's (watch On Any Sunday)… and to this day, still are, HUGE rivals… For context, imagine Vale's brother wearing a Marquez t-shirt…