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ADV NewsThis Couple Racing Two-Up Is Racking Up Wins In Baja

This Couple Racing Two-Up Is Racking Up Wins In Baja

 Duo takes 2-up adventures to a whole other level on their Honda XR650R.

Published on 02.13.2020

Rally racing, and off-road riding in general, can be a daunting task even for experienced riders. Kevin and Michele Busch, however, are taking it to a whole other level. The adventurous couple not only rides the trails together on their Honda XR650R, but also does cross-country rally racing… two-up. And if you think they’re merely doing this for fun, think again: being fiercely competitive, Kevin and Michele regularly place in the top five among the rally racers. So how are they pulling this off, and why are they racing two-up in the first place?

From Hobby to Passion

According to Michele, she and Kevin have been riding together for sixteen years now. Kevin had always been an avid rider: he began riding motorcycles at an early age and got a Yamaha GT 80 when he was merely six years old. His whole family would ride the mountains of Colorado, and motorcycling was family fun growing up. “Kevin would be responsible for hauling Grandma Busch or any other relative who wanted to go for a ride, so it started for him there. He also rides trials bikes and has been in the top five close to 30 years now in Colorado,” says Michele

When she and Kevin got married in 2004, Michele didn’t know much about motorcycles. Eventually, Kevin got Michele her own bike, a TTR125, but she felt she just wasn’t made for riding.


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“I really tried, but I knew my ability was limited. Kevin would go on rides, and I wanted to go along so Kevin put on some buddy pegs on our Honda XR650R and off for a picnic in the mountains we went. Well, I have not gotten off since then,” Michele explains.

Racing motorcycles two-up

Together, the couple rode single track and forest roads in Colorado. Little by little, they got into other events, organized rides and, eventually, rally races.

“In 2011, we went on our first AMA ride with the Arizona Trail Riders. We wanted to ride the hard route and were told we couldn’t do it two-up. Kevin had to beg for us to tag along, and finally, they decided to let us go. After a few miles of riding they all gave us thumbs up, and we were in. We have ridden that ride for 8 years now,” Michele remembers. A little later, in 2014, the couple took part in a five-day, 1000-mile ride in Baja together with the Arizona Trail Riders and the legendary Bill “Rock Man” Nichols. This was their first serious off-road adventure together, and the road to rally racing began.

Into the World of Rally Racing

Racing motorcycles two-up Honda XR650R
Photo courtesy NORRA

Little by little, the couple began contemplating rally racing together. In 2016, they signed up for their first rally, the NORRA Mexican 1000, a five-day rally race held in Baja California. Michele says that initially, they weren’t sure they would make it from Ensenada to Cabo. However, not only did they make it, they placed first in class and eighth overall – an impressive result for any rider, let alone a couple riding two-up. “We are such oddballs and most single riders can’t believe how fast we really are. They call us Dos Locos! When we saw the results, I couldn’t believe it. We’ve been hooked on Baja ever since that first ride,” Michele laughs.

The undaunted couple have raced the NORRA Mexican 1000, their biggest rally race, for four years in a row now. They have two first-place wins, one second-place, and one fourth-place trophy. In addition, Kevin and Michele raced the NORRA 500 last year and finished second, a mere 7 minutes behind the first rider.

Training, Safety, and Bike Mods

When the couple first started doing serious off-road distances and races, Michele remembers she struggled to hold on. Being 5’4” (Kevin is 5’10”), she needs to work hard to stay on the bike. “It was tough for me and my hands. I would hold on to the lip of Kevin’s chest protector and felt like a rock climber! We have since designed a harness that Kevin now wears for me to hold on to. It works great and helps with the fatigue in my hands and comfort for Kevin,” Michele says.

Racing motorcycles two-up Honda XR650R
Photo courtesy NORRA
Photo courtesy Fotosol

To be able to hold on and keep her endurance up, Michele trains with kettle bells and says regular gym time has helped her become stronger and improve her stamina. “Racing two-up is not easy, and I work my tail off just to hold on. Kevin is an excellent rider and doesn’t fall or crash much either so that helps me in knowing he is always thinking of me, and if we do go down he protects me first. We really enjoy riding together, and work hard as a team. Kevin has made me tough, and I feel so happy when we are riding,” Michelle explains.

In addition to the training and the special harness Kevin wears to help Michele hold on, the couple has modified their Honda XR650R, too. ‘Rockhel Welts,’ the couple‘s racing bike, has a custom seat, custom rear shock made by Pro Circuit, custom passenger pegs, and Kevin has tirelessly worked on the engine to make it perform better.

Left vertical bar helps reinforce subframe and tool pack.

Racing doesn’t come without risks, however. Michele remembers that although they have never had a life-threatening accident or any serious injury, there were a few close calls during the races. She has had the wind knocked out of her when she landed in a tree after a crash in an AMA ride in Ohio, as an example.  “One other near-disaster was our second Mexican 1000. We hit a jump way too fast, and it took Kevin’s breath away. I pressed my arms around him until I felt him breathe. I asked him if he was OK, and he just kept going. That was a scary moment for me! There were some other “oh sh*t” moments and plenty of excitement, too, but generally, Kevin is always looking out for me. He’s not a selfish rider, and we work as a team,” Michele recalls.

Racing motorcycles two-up
Kevin and Michele have had a few close calls during the races.

Although Michele is 60 and Kevin is 54 years old, the couple has no plans to stop racing any time soon. “We have entered the NORRA Mexican 1000 again this year. We plan to take it easy this year, and give more stickers to the kids of Baja.  We have proved ourselves to other racers, we’ve shown that we are no joke and are fierce competitors. They all shake their heads in disbelief! I am not sure what drives us, other than we really enjoy each other‘s company and I love to hold on to my husband. We are a team!,” Michele says. 

Michele and Kevin Busch might be the oddball riders at the races, as she says, but they are nothing short of inspirational. Proving age is just a number, the couple continues enjoying off-road riding and rallies two-up, even into their sixties.

What’s your excuse?

Follow Michele and Kevin on Instagram here.

Author: Egle Gerulaityte

Riding around the world extra slowly and not taking it too seriously, Egle is always on the lookout for interesting stories. Editor of the Women ADV Riders magazine, she focuses on ordinary people doing extraordinary things and hopes to bring travel inspiration to all two-wheeled maniacs out there.

Author: Egle Gerulaityte
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9 thoughts on “This Couple Racing Two-Up Is Racking Up Wins In Baja

  1. Love to know what the passenger peg mods are . Looks muh more substantial than some bolt on stuff. Love to two up with my kid or wife dual sport.

  2. You guys are such an inspiration – My wife and I are totally loving what you do. Would also love to know what your footpeg modifications, are. On most of our bikes the passenger, when standing ends up too high and too far back. Maybe you can post pics of it on your IG page. But more than that, keep on doing this and sharing your exploits – you will encourage lots more to try it out!!! RESPECT!