Ken Roczen: Is he the new Hannah, Johnson or McGrath?

2017 A1 Monster Energy Supercross: Roczen puts style back into the sport

Photos: Scott Hoffman

With the first round now in our rearview mirror, for the most part there were no real surprises. The riders who we all figured were going to be up front, were up front. The most outspoken and talked about rider, not to mention the rider with the most style on and off the track, also won in pretty convincing fashion. The defending champion, wore his number-one plate very proudly and rode his way to a very strong opening round runner-up finish.

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So why even recap or talk about the race? Why not! Ken Roczen is exactly what the sport of Supercross needs, a bad boy with style and a slightly cocky attitude. In the history of American motocross there have been a handful of riders who helped elevate the sport not only on the track but also off. The first probably being Marty Smith. From there we had the legend Bob Hannah before Too Hip Ricky Johnson took on the role in the mid ’80s. The big change occurred when Jeremy McGrath took the stage. It’s not even sure if he was trying to be the bad boy of SX at first but his nickname from the get-go said it all, “Showtime.” McGrath changed the sport and gave it a sharp corner and style. MC had it going both on the track as well as off. His BMX riding style started to change the game.

Since then there were amazing riders on the track and some attitude off but nothing like the McGrath era. Yes, Ricky Carmichael elevated the sport on the track but he didn’t have the image off the track, even though he earned the title “The Goat.”

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James Stewart, on the other hand, had some swagger but not always the mass appeal that took over the sport like MC. His antics and wild riding style made a huge impact on rider style with the Bubba Scrub. Perfecting that move changed motocross to this day and JS can take that credit. Stewart helped fill the empty gap with style points but the cup was never running over the top.

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So the big question is, is Ken Roczen the rider that will give Supercross and Motocross that infusion of cool like Hannah, Johnson, and McGrath did in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s? Honda is betting on his prowess on the track and the industry is betting on both.

time to go to work boys! @honda_powersports_us #NSX

A video posted by Ken Roczen (@kenroczen94) on

2017-roczen-fd-2The kid changed the game by showing up to the media press conference at A1 in a suit and tie and a promo spot that had the internet wanting more. Was it a bold statement, yes! Did it work, yes. Has he backed up pretty much everything he has said, so far yes. Can he continue his quest to be the rider that everyone wants to hear what he says next, can he put Honda back to where it once was over a decade ago? And can he inject some of that bad boy attitude that might bleed its way outside to the surrounding motorcycle industry to bring in more new fans and riders into the sport? Honda hopes he will sell motorcycles and Feld and MX Sports hopes he will sell more tickets and attract more ad revenue dollars. The answer is, only time will tell but for now people are talking about Ken Roczen, including myself, so the machine must be working. Does Roczen want to be the next McGrath? He must be trying to channel “Showtime” of the ’90s after videos of him riding MC’s 1996 Honda Factory CR250R two-stroke and wearing replica MC gear from back in the day surfaced on the internet. It looked like they were doing a remake from scenes of the original Terrafirma video but instead of McGrath, it’s Roczen. It’s pretty cool and only Roczen could pull it off right now.
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What about the rest of A1? Go watch the rebroadcast if you missed anything. Eli Tomac looked strong but faded, KTM/Husqvarna would have killed it if not for Roczen racing at A1. There are probably five riders that might win a race this year but it might be Roczen’s year if he stays the course. The elder statesman Chad Reed rode strong before he was sidelined with a broken side case and oil dripping all over the ground. Rookie Cooper Webb looked tight and we will see if he can turn his 250 skills over to the 450 as the season continues. There is a solid field of fast riders but sadly only the top dogs get all of the glory. Another vet, “Believe the Hype” Mike Alessi had one of the nastiest get-offs after massively shorting a triple, good to see he did not break anything. Good to see Dean Wilson in the main as well as a few full privateers in the 450 main including So Cal local Nick Schmidt. Too bad for Trey Canard, he once again crashed and even though he made the main event, he chose not to ride due to a sore shoulder.

So for 2017 the talk is focused on Kenny “Rockstar” Roczen. He may win the title but it’s not done in one round. When it comes to consistency, Ryan Dungey can never be discounted. It’s going to be a Roczen, Dungey, Musquin, Tomac, and maybe Anderson season.