For years, the late Big Rich Thorwaldson, a nationally ranked racer in his younger days, was a driving force promoting motocross in our region. Now his son, Rich Thorwaldson is keeping the family tradition alive as he not only races but also, along with his wife owns Moto Source.
Like many motorcycle racers his involvement began at a very early age.
"I was 3 years old when I got my first bike and I remember it vividly," he said. "I got it for Christmas and it was a little 50cc Indian my dad built as a replica of his factory Suzuki. And this was back in 1974."
At a young age he and his sister had a lawn mowing business when they lived in Gardnerville. Thorwaldson mentioned his father gave them both a good work ethic so just hanging around wasn't something you did in their house.
"I got in the motorcycle business back in 1986 when my mom and dad, my sister and I, as a young kid, all started Big Valley Honda," he said.
Eventually his parents sold the dealership in 1999 but he stayed on as a General Manager. The buyer stipulated that Thorwaldson and the staff were to be retained.
"So I stayed as a contract employee all the way through 2007," he said. "After I left Big Valley Honda, I had a two-year no compete clause so I couldn't work in the motorcycle business in this area."
After leaving that Honda dealership, he traveled to California and consulted at dealerships for the next year and a half. Returning full time to this area, he did marketing for a construction company.
"Then my wife and I decided we were going to open up our own place. We actually got the keys to this building two years to the day of when my no-compete clause ended," he said.
The name Moto Source was chosen as it lets people know the business has everything to do with motorcycles.
"It's been challenging just in the business climate that we have. But that's always going to be a challenge," he said. "I was very fortunate that when I was at Big Valley Honda, I had built quite a reputation for myself and for that business."
His reputation helped as once Moto Source opened word spread quickly, which aided building and developing a customer base.
"I can get and do anything any other dealership can do," he said.
The front of the store is full of suits, gloves, helmets, tires, chains, fluids and other accessories a rider, especially one that competes in motocross, would need. And the shop in the back can service all types of motorcycles and quads.
While he doesn't sell new motorcycles, Thorwaldson has contacts he can send a prospective buyer to if they want to purchase a bike.
"We are heavily, heavily involved in the off-road community and specifically in motocross," he said. "We go to all the motocross races in this area, we sponsor and support a good portion of the kids and adults that are racing. And we do a lot of engine building and suspension work for the sport."
Thorwaldson's racing background began early as he followed his father into competition, then at age 23 switched to road racing.
Racing for fun, he started at the club level but this soon changed and eventually Thorwaldson raced all across the country, even at Daytona International Speedway.
During this eight-year time, he rode Honda CBR 600 and a CBR 929 and 924 bikes as well as the RC 51. While he visited Daytona several times, Thorwaldson only raced on the high banks in 1996.
Asked about racing Daytona's 34 degree banking he said, "You don't really notice the wall, what you notice is the G forces pushing you down and driving you into the gas tank. I had bruises on my chest because you're tucked completely behind the windscreen and going as fast as you're comfortable with. And your neck is stiff and sore from trying to hold your head up, it was quite an experience."
After ripping around the high banks, riders sit up as they slow down and prepare for a left hand turn that brings them onto the infield. Then, while acting like an air brake, the air wants to push them off the bike so hanging on is a must.
A big get off during a race and night in the hospital convinced Thorwaldson there were more important things in his life. So he finished that season, won a class championship and hasn't road raced since 2002.
Another family member keeping the family's racing tradition is his wife Shalie, who comes from the racing Stillmock family. She was a latecomer and only began racing after they were married 20 years ago.
Although their two daughters don't race, their 10-year-old son Dylan does and has been working his way up the class ladder in motocross.
"It's pretty neat. I get a lot of enjoyment out of watching him, kind of coaching him and bringing him along," he said. "But it is hard and now I kind of get where my dad and mom were when I was a kid racing. Because I want him to go faster and tackle all the obstacles but, as a parent, don't want to see him take risks and get hurt."
Many times during a motocross event all three of them, father, wife and son will be racing in their respective classes.
Asked how the sport is doing, he said, "Locally I'd say it's fairly strong, all things considered. However, he added that depending on what's going on, rider counts can vary quite a bit.
"People are stretching their budgets for sure but they are able to still have fun," he said. "So maybe they aren't getting a tire as often as they like but they're still riding."
He added that motocross is pretty cost effective.
"It's an inexpensive sport to maintain once you're in it and have your equipment. The reality is that you can spend more money sending your daughters to competitive gymnastics, soccer and cheer as you could buying them a motorcycle and racing. I know as I've done it," he said.
While he doesn't have a least favorite part of the sport, Thowarldson is clear about what he likes.
"Absolutely, I love it. I enjoy the people, I enjoy talking the talk, I can walk the walk, I like bench racing and hearing stories of people riding, helping them with their motorcycle and helping different kids," he said. "I enjoy all aspects of motocross, I enjoy the competition as I'm a very, very competitive person, you can ask my wife, I enjoy the risks that are involved with it, I really enjoy the camaraderie and the people that are involved in racing. It's very family oriented, which maybe a lot of people don't know that."
He also enjoys it when a younger rider will call him and relate how they did at various events. Thorwaldson feels some of our local riders have a lot of promise.
Each spring Exit 28 Motocross Track holds a Dealer Challenge series and Moto Source has won both of those. He related that many years ago when Robert Hansen had a Dealer's Challenge series in Carson City, Big Rich Thorwaldson's Honda dealership won all those.
"So as many years as there has been Dealer Challenge a Thorwaldson has won it every year," he said.
Looking into the future he's seeing things pick up despite the current economic conditions.
"In 2012 we had our best year of the three we've been open. We've grown each year but I attribute that also to people maybe making sacrifices and still wanting to have family fun and that family fun they're having is going to the races or not going to the races and just going riding," he said. "And we have a large customer base that doesn't even race motocross, which is perfectly fine as they just ride."
Once secret to his success is his shop offers additional services that other don't such as micro finishing and deburring transmissions, programming fuel injection to a full suspension re-valve specifically for a rider.
"It's little things like that that we do or I do here that set us apart. We're very competitive when it comes to pricing as we are selling a tremendous amount of product," he said.
Like anyone in a motorsport Thorwaldson is very appreciated of the support he's gotten along the way. And he credits his father for being both a mentor and supporter of his racing.
"And of course my wife, she's here every day, she's the one that pushes me to take risks business wise but not on the track. And I have a great group of close friends for sure," he said.
For Thorwaldson, being in the motorcycle business and racing his is just following his family's tradition.
For further information about Moto Source go their website at, www.RRMotoSource.com.