For those unaware, I will give you the Coles Notes version of the difference between DTX and ‘framer’ flat track bikes. A DTX machine is a motocross motorcycle that has been turned into a flat tracker via suspension changes and the addition of 19-inch wheels and tires, whereas a framer utilizes a purpose-built racing frame fitted with a motor, wheels, tank, etc.
The debate about a DTX machine being a legitimate flat tracker started the instant the first one hit the track many, many years ago and shows no signs of slowing down. At the running of the Daytona AMA short track event, where the AMA states that competitors must ride a DTX bike, the discussion seems to hit a fevered pitch.
Traditional flat trackers (dare I say old school) feel that a motocross bike has no business on ovals. Going hand-in-hand with this, they also feel the riders look silly in their multi-coloured MX gear that may double as pajamas at night. Flat track, to these people, means framers and leathers—nothing else.
I imagine when the DTX idea started it was in hopes of manufacturer support. As we all know this hasn’t happened, but there is change on the horizon. For 2015, Yamaha and Honda have posted contingency for the AMA and the money that Yamaha is promising is actually quite decent.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, there are a few advantages to riding a DTX. Parts are usually much easier to acquire, and they’re an easier way for most people to give flat track a try rather than shelling out cash for a framer. Also, as seven-time AMA champ Chris Carr mentioned in Daytona, A DTX bike generally crashes a little better than a framer. This translates into less money and work after a get-off.
I was told that a DTX bike could never win an Expert No. 1 plate here in Canada, but I beg to differ. Last year we had an Expert who, in his first eight rides at Welland County Speedway, won six of them and had a second and a third in the other two, all on a DTX bike. With the CMA schedule basically consisting of eight races at Welland and a race in Belleville, it only takes some basic math to figure out that an expert No. 1 plate could easily be won on a motocross-based machine. The question is, would this diminish the legitimacy of that title? Would there be a notation in the record books? Would that rider feel shame?
At the North American International Motorcycle Supershow in January, Flat Track Canada had Tyler Seguin’s DTX machine parked beside the beautiful framer owned by Doug Lawrence. While the Seguin machine had admirers, flocks of people drooled at the precision and beauty of Lawrence’s bike. One month later at The Toronto Motorcycle Show in February (yes we have lots of bike shows here), we saw the John Parker DTX machine parked in the Kawasaki booth, also drawing its share of praise.
An important issue for a manufacturer wanting to get involved is how easy is it to identify what brand each rider is on. Does the average fan in the stands know what Lawrence is riding, or is it easier to recognize the Seguin and Parker machines? Those in the flat track world will say that if you want to be an AMA Expert then you have to learn how to ride a framer. While this statement is indeed true, it is also an unrealistic goal as only the most talented riders will ever make it to that level anyway. Some of those diehards will also tell you that a Kawasaki 650 has no business being on the track with the Harley twin, but that is a different argument altogether.
In 2009 the AMA introduced the Pro Singles class (now GNC2), which was meant as a stepping stone to the Expert division but based on 450 DTX machines. The past two seasons has seen the AMA change the rules, so now GNC2 riders must ride twins on some of the larger tracks. Does this speed up the transition and learning curve to enter the Expert ranks? Absolutely. Does it increase the racing budget of the rider who aspires to win a GNC2 title? Absolutely.
Much like the Coke/Pepsi thing, this whole debate will continue as long as people have choices and preferences. Will the youth riders of today decide the future because they are all starting on MX-based machines? Perhaps. Maybe Ohio flat track guru Kevin ‘Chew’ Larcom put it best: “A framer with knobby tires on it still looks like a flat tracker, and a DTX bike with flat track tires still looks like a motocrosser.”
Me, I won’t choose sides. I’ll just continue to be a fan of whatever bikes are out there going in circles.
– By Todd Vallee