From Racer to Recreational Rider—Ricky Johnson wants you to Ride Your Best

Ricky Johnson aboard his 1986 Factory Honda CR250 at the Motocross des Nations in Magiorra, Italy. RJ was part of Team USA, which won its sixth consecutive international title against the world’s best riders.

Taking  Motorcycle Safety Foundation courses won’t make you ready to be a competition rider, but it will help you build foundational skills needed to earn your motorcycle license and prepare for more advanced  training and skills development.

To look at how a rider can expand on foundational riding skills, we sat down with Hall of Fame Motocross and Supercross racer, Ricky Johnson. Johnson earned six national titles and won multiple international races and titles while riding for Team Yamaha and Team Honda. 

After motorcycle racing, he went on to compete in multiple truck and car racing efforts, again capturing major event and series championships. Additionally, Johnson developed several rider and driver training programs for racers, enthusiasts, and military personnel.

ABC television’s Superbikers event pitted the best motorcycle racers from multiple disciplines against each other on modified open class motocross machines. Here Ricky Johnson, racing for Team Yamaha on number 17, attempts an outside pass on competitors Jeff Ward, Broc Glover, Danny “Magoo” Chandler, and Kent Howerton.

MSF: What value is there in formal/consistent training for new riders? 

Today Ricky Johnson enjoys teaching performance riding and driving techniques as well as hosting riding events.

RJ: There is so much to learn from someone who has made the mistakes you will make learning on your own. When you work with a trainer, they can see and help you fix what you are doing wrong and confirm when you are doing it right. This will educate the rider to know right from wrong.

MSF: Is it important to keep practicing, even for non-racers, after mastering skills?

RJ: Absolutely. I would practice braking, cornering and jumping on a weekly basis when I was at the top of my game. You have to have a small toolbox of fixes when things go wrong. If you don’t practice, you will guess when your life might depend on it.

MSF: Has your riding evolved from your time as a racer? If so, how and why?

RJ: Yes, I have evolved to suit my body, age, and ability. It is important for riders (including myself) to do a reality check on where they are today. Not just think you are at the top of your game all the time. I had to do this when I was a professional. Some days I wasn’t at my best (injury or sick) and would have to manage with what I had. Today I have to think about a fused wrist, lower back issue, and a replaced left knee. It is important to my survival to know my limits.

Ricky Johnson, former teammate David Bailey, and motorcycle journalist Mike Webb enjoy an evening with friends watching the iconic 1986 Anaheim Supercross race. The battle between Bailey and Johnson (eventually won by Bailey) is considered by many to be the best Supercross race ever.