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ADV RidesJohnny Campbell Takes On SoCal’s Toughest MX Track on Africa Twin

Johnny Campbell Takes On SoCal’s Toughest MX Track on Africa Twin

 Here's what it's like racing a dirt legend after stacking the deck in our favor!

Published on 08.29.2018

“Is that a Dakar Rally Bike?” One of the locals at the track asked Johnny Campbell as he rolled his machine out of the JCR Honda race van. “It’s an Africa Twin” said Johnny. Entering the track for his first sighting lap, several riders looked on slack jawed with phones out, not sure what they were witnessing. For many it was their first time ever seeing a bike with a plate at the motocross track, let alone an Africa Twin. And this was Southern California’s toughest motocross track for that matter — Glen Helen — with some of the gnarliest jumps of the year just weeks after a national race.

He’s the King of Baja with a record 11 overall wins in the Baja 1000 and a top 10 finisher in the Dakar Rally, but even Johnny Campbell looked a little apprehensive on that first lap. Who would blame him, the Africa Twin weighs twice as much as a motocross bike and has about three inches less suspension travel. With huge whoops, deeply-rutted turns and triple jumps, it would be a challenge just to get this big 1000cc adventure bike around the course. But Johnny didn’t rack up all those wins in his career by being reckless. After getting a feel for the bike and the track on a few practice runs, he gradually began to show some of his championship form.

Johnny Campbell races the Honda Africa Twin at Glen Helen Motocross Track


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It was just a few weeks earlier when we had this crazy idea and contacted Johnny to see if he’d be up for racing us on motocross bikes… with him on an Africa Twin. Johnny has been semi-retired for years, and now manages the American Honda Factory race teams for about 40 to 50 events across the country. We were pretty sure he’d laugh at the idea and say “no way!” but to our surprise he said, “I’d be up for it!”. Next thing you know we’re lined up side-by-side with Johnny Campbell at Glen Helen!

Johnny Campbell races the Honda Africa Twin at Glen Helen Motocross Track

So what’s it like racing a legend? Just to be clear, we’re just a couple of average guys on a motocross track. With a huge advantage in machinery, we figured we could give Johnny a run for his money. Check out the video and see what went down. Johnny also gives his take on what it’s like to ride the big twin around Glen Helen. And if you’ve got your own crazy ideas for what Johnny should do next on his Africa Twin, leave them in the comments below!

Author: Rob Dabney
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11 thoughts on “Johnny Campbell Takes On SoCal’s Toughest MX Track on Africa Twin

  1. I can only imagine the spin this will take on here. I think it’s great that you guys would do this and I believe the authenticity but can’t imagine in a community made up of mostly BMW and KTM riders this won’t get juuuuuust slightly criticized. LOL.

    Being an AT Rider one things for sure, I know how the KLR community feels like when you show up on anything but the two main staples and people give a slight stink eye. Not all bikes are for all people and that’s ok but the AT is a fantastic bike in its own right. Thank you guys for doing this.

  2. I did Glen Helen on my Klr a few months back when Troy Lee Designs did a night race.
    It just takes a bit of skill…in my case stupidity

  3. This was cool. Johnny is a great rider handling such a big bike on a track like this. I think his next challenge should be using the Africa Twin as it was meant. A motorcycle touring machine. Do some self sufficient moto camping on the beast. No support vehicles. Just bikes. Do a variety of terrain to showcase the bikes abilities. Climb high mountain passes, cross deserts and open rivers. Johnny’s the king of Baja, do a loop down the peninsula and back up through copper canyon. That would be great.