MR Interviews Phil Ketchum, Moderator of the premier Hodaka discussion group and Vintage Racer
By Rad Randy Smith #24
What is your first memorable moment that involves a minibike, motorcycle, scooter?
That would have to be when my oldest brother Johnny, who was in Vietnam flying Huey's at the time, sent a
Bonanza mini-bike w/ 5hp Tecumseh engine, as a surprise Christmas present to my next oldest brother Christopher.
Within 5 minutes of uncrating it we'd setup a makeshift jump using a board and a couple of red bricks, and were
jumping the septic tank in the back yard.
Who was the biggest enabler that helped you get your first machine?
My stepmom recognized that I needed a bike to try to keep up with my older brothers, and they bought me a
used blue1970 Honda Trail 70 for $300. I pounded that poor thing into the ground, eventually cracking the frame
under the seat, trying to out-jump my brother Christopher on his 1970 Yamaha DT250.
|Phil at age 18 on his Yamaha DT400
Did you race in your younger years? How old were you and tell us about your early racing experiences.
My very first race was one my Dad/stepmom took me to in Joplin, MO when I was about 13 years old. I was going
to race my CT-70. But during practice I somehow managed to break the ceramic surrounding my spark plug. As young and
experienced as I was, I didn't know enough to bring a second spark plug with me and Duct tape wouldn't work.
My first REAL race was in SoCal at the Adelanto MX track at age 28 on a '82 Suzuki RM125. Although I'd been
practicing regularly at Saddleback Park I was woefully unprepared to race. After the 1st moto I was so physically
exhausted that I knew it was foolish to even think about riding the 2nd moto. I could hardly get off the bike it was
so bad. During the race I can vividly remember almost wiping out my pit crew (my brother and my wife) as they stood
close by to cheer me on.
| Phil racing his 82 Suzuki RM125
Have you ever been involved in other forms of motorized competition? (raced Cars, ATV's, Boats)
No, but I've always imagined myself having a blast as a vintage road racer. Trouble is I don't have the courage to drag my knees!
What CD or Tape is in your player right now and what kind of music do you like best?
This may sound pathetic but I don't listen to much music any more. My favorite is National Public Radio (NPR) talk
radio. I prefer to be educated as well as be entertained. However, in my younger days my favorite band was Pink Floyd,
especially their lead guitarist David Gilmore who ventured out with albums of his own. The Doobie Brothers, Jethro Tull,
The Eagles, stuff you could listen to the words to if you wanted. None of today's music really appeals to me except the
MTV-type video's with all the hot chicks prancing about. Now that's what I'm talking about....
| Phil in 1986 'The RogaineŽ Years'
Have you ever been arrested (OK, just kidding on that one. It would be interesting though:)
Sure, haven't you? I was a teenager during the early 70's. Need I say more? I had one older brother (Christopher) who we all feel is the Devil's spawn. I can tell you stories for hours about his exploits. If it weren't for him I would probably be a priest somewhere. He's personally responsible for ANY of the trouble that I got into when I was young, but I still love him dearly. He taught me everything sports related, and was my mechanical mentor when I was but a teenager.
Besides Motorcycles, what are your other interests?
I don't need no more stinking interests. If I did I think my wife would leave me. Motorcycles & all forms of hunting
(muzzleloader & archery) are perhaps my favorite hobbies. I've been a remote control airplane pilot, a tennis player,
a golfer, a fly-fisherman, a baseball player, a high school wrestler, a trap/skeet shooter/reloader, a wildlife
photographer, and still actively participate in checking out the pit tootsie's at the race track.
At what level are you capable at doing your own motorcycle modifications and repairs?
My parents sent me to an official Motorcycle Mechanics School in Kansas City, MO one summer back in 1972 when
I was only 15. After graduation I worked at a motorcycle rental shop in town. When school started again in my hometown
of Clinton, MO I found a part-time job at the local TV Repair/Hodaka shop in town.
When I got back into vintage racing I'd forgotten a lot of what I'd learned. "Rad Randy" Smith sold me his
'72 Super Rat which he'd tricked out/beefed up the frame and such for an adult. He became one of my best friends &
mechanical mentor. Now I'm able to rebuild complete engines easily. Some stuff I still outsource like crank rebuilding,
lacing wheels, or recovering seats, or re-bushing shift cases. I'd rather leave these items to the experts. My other
best friend in the vintage world is Andy Lippert. Andy helps me with all things electrical. Since he's an Engineer by
trade, he's a Wiz at that stuff. I owe a large debt of gratitude to both of them although my bank account would be
substantially larger if I'd never met either one of 'em!
If you could own any one motorcycle (street or dirt) and money is no object, what would it be and why?
Oh, you can't hold me to just one bike. This could be a long list, lessee....
1999 Bimota 500 Vdue
The ultimate in 2-stroke technology combined with the ultimate combination of ultra-trick components. They spared no expense in
outfitting this bike with the best of the best components. Unfortunately this bike never actually entered production due to restrictions
1977 Yamaha TZ750
Wicked good looking, and the bike to beat for many years on the track.
1969 Yamaha DT250
Because this is the bike my oldest brother Johnny started out with and it piqued our interest.
1968 Bonanza MX1510 http://www.strictlyhodaka.com/museum/museum21.html
This is the bike that I LUSTED after in the mini-bike magazines. I'd love to race one of these in the 100cc Vintage Nationals sometime.
What a hoot that would be, huh?
What are your plans involving motorcycles for the next up coming year?
I have two immediate projects. One, is that I'm finally going to complete my wife Nancy's 1970 Hodaka ACE 100A.
The frame's been repainted and the engine's been rebuilt for over a year. I bought it so that she might take a more
active interest in motorcycling. She's seen all these other people riding around the pits with smiles a mile wide
and said, "They sure look like they're having fun". I bought it but never finished the project due to
other bikes I was interested in.
Two, is I'm going to rebuild my other '80 KTM 250 GS so I have a backup bike to my '79 KTM 250 MC that I outfitted
to be a GS.
If you could thank one person (alive or dead) that has had a large impact on your life, who would that be and why?
My Dad probably. He was a strict disciplinarian but he let us three boys all ride motorcycles all the time. He would
even make big sacrifices to find our parts after work (he commuted 60 mi. each way). He believed in us and taught each
of us to believe in ourselves. In death I suppose he's become larger than life in some ways, but his memory frequently
comes to mind.
|Phil and Randy in the heat of battle
What was it that sparked your interest in Vintage racing?
When I first came back to Kansas City I drove over to the Grain Valley MX track one Sunday to watch. They had a 40+ class that I watched very closely and for several days afterward I was tormented by the idea that I wanted to race again, 10 yrs. after having shoulder surgery. The logic of my decision came to me several days later. It was simply "I was faster than at least 1/2 of those riders, and they didn't know it". In my mind I was determined to show them though.
What is your favorite track and why?
It would have to be Saddleback Park, although I never actually raced there on Sunday's. I watched the pros (Jeff Ward,
Ron Lechien, Bob "Hurricane" Hannah) race there on Sunday, and again watch them show up in their factory box
vans again on Monday with only their mechanics on Monday. I started out trail riding there at 15 years of age, riding
one of their rental Suzuki TC-90's with a 4-speed hi/low transmission. I came out to California from Missouri to visit
my oldest brother Johnny. He lived in Pasadena, CA at the time. I convinced him to ride with me at Saddleback Park which
was around 2 hours south, one way! The clutches on both bikes were slipping madly but I had the time of my life that day.
I was in heaven!
When they would have the Nationals at Saddleback they would block off the parking along the spectator terraces on the
west side of the MX track. They'd reroute the track UP those terraces, make a 180 and then back DOWN. Hoooo-boy, was it
fun watching them jump past those terraces on the way up and launch themselves pell-mell down the hill again. No mere
mortal in their right mind would even attempt such a feat until the National guys were faced with this obstacle. It was
mind-boggling to me at the time!
2001 ISDT Reunion Ride
Tell us about your current stable of motorcycles and of those which are your favorites.
1996 BMW R1100RT
1994 KDX 200
1981 KTM 250 GS (running project bike)
1979 KTM 250 MC turned GS
1975 Yamaha RD250
1974 Hodaka Super Combat
1971 Hodaka ACE 100A (Nancy's project bike)
1970 Rickman Hodaka w/Super Rat engine (professionally restored by Vintage Iron)
Right now I'd have to admit that the 1979 KTM 250 is my favorite. I love the looks of this bike, and the power
delivery is amazing for a piston ported engine. Several of my friends said, "Fix it up and ride it, you'll fall
in love with it". They sure knew what they were talking about. I doubt that I'll race this much at all in the
MOVMX Series because, truth be known, I'm really more of a trail rider than an MX racer. Sure I like to test my mettle
against others, especially my friends, but a day on the trails with them is more fun than 10 laps around the track.
Rad Randy? I don't see much of him anymore with that tricked-out Super Rat he's built. It's way smooth, and FUN to ride!
He won't sell it to me though. Some friend, huh? <grin>
|Phil competing in MOVMX
How do you physically prepare for a race?
Gettin' outa bed is the hardest thing besides my morning pee. Then I gum my Malto-meal breakfast bars and head for the starting line.
What gave you the idea to start your discussion group?
I joined Andre Ming's Vinduro group on Yahoo almost 4 years ago today. I saw how much help it was for others with
similar interests to associate with each other using the Internet as the medium. I've loved frequenting Paul
Stannard's http://www.strictlyhodka.com website but always felt something was missing. There should be a forum, or
area, where Hodaka enthusiasts could easily communicate with each other, sharing pictures, technical advice, and
using it to learn more about their bikes. After the 2001 ISDT Reunion Ride, where I got to meet many other Vinduro
members whom I'd only met electronically. I came home determined to give the Hodaka group a try and see if it would
work & evolve. The Hodaka group on Yahoo was formed in Nov. 2001. The very first month we had 112 posts, and now
only 3 years later we have almost 500 members, and average almost 400 posts per month.
When you created this group, did you ever think it would be as large as it is now and still growing?
No, I figured there would be a core group of posters and quite a few lurkers (those who only read and not contribute to the group). However, because of the kindness/compassion/friendliness of the group as a whole, I find that more people feel free to share their thoughts and ideas without fear of ridicule or repercussion.
I started this group with the idea that it would be a family oriented group, that even 13 year olds could come and ask questions about their bikes and learn. That's about how old I was when I started getting into bikes, I wanted this forum to reflect a respect for others, and to refrain from using profane language. I'm not a minister by any stretch of the imagination. Heck, I used to be in the Marine Corps for crying out loud....but somehow seeing profanity in the written form has always been more intolerable to me than hearing it out loud. Sometimes people walk to the edge of this line though. Those that do receive a polite e-mail from me. I feel that a public forum isn't the place to air such matters.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of our current members for their continued civility and respect for others, It's each of you that make the Hodaka group on Yahoo as great as it is! Thank you for keeping the Hodaka marquee alive and growing again!
Shameless plug follows:
| At Park Hills with his Rickman
What do you do for fun besides Motorcycles?
Hunt mostly. My favorite game animal is the turkey. It can fly as fast as a goose (65mph), runs as fast as a greyhound, and can
see as well as a hawk. The only advantage you have over a turkey in the woods is that it doesn't have a sense of smell. Harvesting
one is like winning the Super Bowl. Quail hunting would be next but in Missouri the population has been in decline for perhaps 15
years. Instead a group of us travel to South Dakota to go pheasant hunting on opening weekend. It's a blast!
What would be your Dream Job?
Race mechanic for a top rider. Either that or an Indy/CHAMP car driver. Breathing all that methanol sucks, but either one gets
all the hot chicks.
If you could change anything in your life, what would it be?
I would have cashed out when I was Internet-rich instead of loosing over $350,000.00 of potential profit. It would have
made a nice down payment on McLaren F1 wouldn't it?
Boxers or Briefs?
Tighty whities of course. I can't hang loose, 'cause I gotta very large package.
and on that note...
Phil and his wife Nancy reside in Lee's Summit, MO
Many thanks to Phil Ketchum for his time and participation.