I had a pretty good idea of what this Editor’s Letter would be about, and then Rick Sieman died. Better known as Super Hunky, he was an early editor of Dirt Bike magazine, and I grew up reading his From the Saddle columns. They were usually hilarious tales (tall or true), and occasionally he dabbled in poignancy. Whatever the topic, Hunky provided insight into life and motorcycling compellingly and entertainingly.
Hunky also revolutionized motorcycle journalism. He was not someone to beat around the bush when finding fault with a motorcycle. Instead, he would run over the bush with a combine.
Almost 50 years ago, with Hunky at the helm, Dirt Bike reviewed the Honda XL-175 dual-sport bike. The lead photo was the hapless XL in a pen beside a pig. A cartoon voice balloon with the word “Oink!” was emanating from the muffler. The headline: “At $2.89 a pound, this is expensive pork.” The review went on to say you had to downshift to get over a cigarette butt. Ouch! It was funny, and it got the point across quickly. Suffice to say, manufacturers were often infuriated, but Hunky stayed the course. Readers, including me, loved the brutal honesty, and the humor in it.
Between his columns and editorial direction, Super Hunky was a superhero to off-road motorcyclists, and that included me.
I finally got to meet Hunky when he was forming the Sahara Club with The Phantom Duck of the Desert (aka Louis McKey) in the 1980s. Hunky was constantly at odds with the government for taking away riding areas and opportunities. In the late 1970s, the Bureau of Land Management violently crushed his and McKey’s Barstow-To-Vegas protest ride in an effort to discourage dissent protected by the 1st Amendment. California Senator Alan Cranston’s infamous anti-recreation Senate Bill 8 was the last straw.
Hunky found his way onto 60 Minutes, where the “news” show maliciously edited his responses to questions, to the point of putting the response to one question after a different question. Intended as an opponent to the Sierra Club, the Sahara Club quickly learned that getting dirt bike riders to work seriously together on anything other than motorcycles is akin to herding cats. Still, meeting Hunky was an unforgettable experience, as he was larger-than-life in real life.
When I got hired by Lyndon Luhmann to be the editor of Feet Up!, a very niche magazine about observed trials, I had dreams of replicating Hunky’s greatness. Of course, that’s like being in a garage band and thinking that you can be the next Elvis, Beatles, or Rolling Stones—the chances of that happening are exceedingly slim. While I could never reach Hunky’s heights of brilliance, the next best thing happened.
In 1997, Hunky reviewed nine motorcycle publications for Off-Road.com, titling it “Dirt Bike Magazine Shootout! A No-Holds Barred Look At What You’re Reading”. I was shocked to see Feet Up! on the review list. Hunky was going to be critiquing my work, along with the work of many magazines I enjoyed monthly.
Hunky went on to lambast, while faintly praising, all the more prominent magazines that I read and enjoyed every month. I held my breath as he prepared to tee up on Feet Up! Here’s what he wrote:
Trials riders have limited choices in reading material; you can get several English newspapers, or subscribe to Feet Up!
While not a trials expert by the longest stretch of the imagination, I nonetheless enjoy reading every issue of the quarterly.
Tests are brutally honest, and it’s obvious that the bikes are ridden hard under actual competition conditions before opinions are formed. Editor Don Williams is an Intermediate level trials rider, but solicits input from riders of all skill levels when doing a test. This is good, because a bike that works for an expert, might be intimidating for a beginner.
Williams understands that trials competition is not for everyone, and goes to great lengths to explain how a test bike will work as a fun or trail bike. His column, Section 8, gives you some good insight to the sport, and is worth reading even if you’re not a trials buff.
Tech tips and how-tos are thorough and well-written, and Matt Hilgenberg’s Vintage Voice column takes you back in time.
A slim magazine (usually less than 40 pages), Feet Up! has plenty of photos of riders tackling sections that look nearly impossible. Riders standings, events listings, a riding tips column by ex-champ Lane Leavitt, and real-world products tests all add up to a solid package.
This was akin to a garage band getting a fan letter from Paul McCartney. I was incredibly honored to get a review like that, so I sent him a note thanking him and explaining that Hunky-era Dirt Bike was the inspiration and blueprint for Feet Up!
Hunky continued to write into the 2000s, finding homes on various websites. Though generally vintage-focused, he still had the fire and humor, making him worth reading wherever he went. He also authored several books, the most essential being Monkey Butt!, which is the literary equivalent of On Any Sunday, though a bit more rough-edged through its 600+ pages. You can snag Monkey Butt! for $29 on eBay, straight from the Sieman family. Buy the book, if you don’t already have it. If you don’t like it, sell your motorcycles.
Inevitably, his health started declining, having suffered a heart attack in 2009. Hunky was never what you would imagine a Dirt Bike magazine editor to look like. He had a flamboyant waxed mustache, wasn’t exactly in shape (hence the nickname), and wore glasses with thick black frames. However, he was strong in muscle, purpose, and will.
In the last few years, Hunky was selling off many possessions on Facebook—things like a toolbox full of vintage carburetor jets. As he was selling off tools, it seemed like maybe the checkered flag would be flying soon. Hunky was in his 80s, after all, and had been fueled by fast food, beer, and cigars—at least in his heyday.
His daughter Cindy wrote on Facebook on December 9, “Dad has gone on his last ride.”
I feel privileged to have enjoyed the rides he shared over the last 52 years.