All images by Eddie Marak.
The now-annual event known as Ballzapallooza held its fourth gathering this past weekend and once again there was endless laughs, ball busting, broken handlebars and drinks for the house. Texas’ own Team AllBallz came up with the idea to trek around the former sight of the Last Man Standing extreme enduro [2005 thru 2007] and put on a free event for friends and family—that is of course, with a twist.
Spearheaded by local off-roader and trials rider Jennifer Franklin, the loose plan [for Ballzapallooza] has been to travel from section to section in a group [like a trail ride] and give the riders a crack at some really tough terrain that would challenge even guys on trials bikes.
Jenn explains: “We have a max of 20 riders do up to 10 extreme sections (as time permits) while fans follow along. Each rider has three minutes to complete each section and they have one mulligan to take on the section of their choice. The fastest time wins the section. An AMA points system is used to tally the sections for the day’s total to determine the winner.”
This year Team AllBallz stepped up its game and created a one-off perpetual trophy that would be passed on from victor to victor. Additionally, each winner gets his own engraved set of ʻballzʼ to keep in order to commemorate their win—or survival at Ballzapallooza.
Sitting out this year after surgery Texas racer Todd Slavik was handed the announcing duties at B4 and he gave us the in-depth scoop on the carnage that ensued on a windy day on the banks of the Red River near Muenster, Texas.
DB: First off, why did you not ride this year? We like to start off interviews with a solid excuse.
TS: I had major surgery on my left leg to straighten it up about two months ago. I broke my Tib/Fib about six years ago and my poor leg looked like a kickstand on a girl’s bicycle. I still have about another month of rehab before I attempt to throw a leg over a bike. My duties [this year] were on the microphone.
DB: Jenn kind of broke down the format for us. To the outside fan reading about B4, what is it really?
TS: Well in a big nutshell, it all started when a couple of us would go out for a day of riding and we would try to clean a section with feet on the pegs, no dabbing. That led into who did what first (then how many times we did it) to well, no one saw it, so it didn’t happen [laughs]. The first Ballzapallooza was just a little group consisting of myself, Haydn, Laneʼr, Jaybird, Dean Lane and our buddy Guy Cooper. We had about 35 family and friends that just started following us around to watch. It was all about bragging rights and the party that followed. To see a structure and format change has made B4 that much more enjoyable and even more fun to watch. Ballzapallooza 5 might have to adhere to a stricter time schedule if it gets any bigger. I like the fact that the fans can watch every rider at every section, that’s what it is all about. That and laughing your ass off when your buddy eats shit!
DB: The terrain at Red River Motorcycle Trails is not for the meek. Outside of the B4 sections made famous by Last Man Standing, is there some good trail riding in that area?
TS: By all means, Red River Motorcycle Trails sits on around 3,500 acres. There are trails that go from mild to wild. The park is open to ATV, UTV and motorcycles. Billʼs Woods is a part of the property that is for motorcycles only.
DB: How important is the fan base and spectator jeering to those who are giving it all they got regardless of the parts bill on Monday morning?
TS: Huge. In off-road racing [or riding] our families and friends really don’t get to see us ride. For them to be able to see and participate is a massive plus. It’s just awesome to hear them yell and then laugh their ass off followed by huge gasps when carnage starts to happen. Did I happen to mention that partying is mandatory?
DB: Last year’s defending champ Haydn Franklin is your long time good buddy and a Texas Off Road Hall of Famer. Did anyone [this year] have a shot at taking down the man on the #28 KTM?
TS: Haydn, aka “Boy Wonder,” did not win this one easily. There were four or five of the Ballerz riding quite well. With the new change in the format, if you won a section, that rider was the first one to start the next section. The riders were given only one mulligan for the entire event. They could use it if they fucked up and wanted a re-ride. Having said that, you had to use your one mulligan wisely. I believe that four riders used theirs at the Widowmaker hill. FAHQ Racing sponsored the section re-naming it “Meat Crotch” for a day. The winner got a killer swag bag from FAHQ.
[Eight people DNF'd Meat Crotch, three of them used their mulligans to clear the section. Pinto won it by using his mulligan—Haydn had the section win prior to that.]
Low and behold, our buddy Rich Pinto reached the red ribbons first with the fastest time to get the goodies. Section after section I seriously had no idea who was leading and how close the competition really was. In the end, Haydn Franklin just edged out Lane Conaway by the smallest of small margins. Adam Iglesias and 17-year-old Bren Griner rounded out third and fourth with a three-point cushion between them. One little slip up by any of them would have changed the end results.
DB: To do well at a Ballzapallooza event, does a trials background help, or just a brave heart and a sip off of a tequila-filled drink system?
[This is a joke—no one was drinking and racing. Drinking and watching? … yes.]
TS: A few of us guys have been riding trials since 2008 [this all started after watching Knight and Blazusiak ride the LMS) so yes, trials chops help, and at B4 it helps a lot. There were several guys that have no trials background at all and they still did well. I will say, there were some brave hearted SOB’s going for it all day. I do not like to push my bike up a hill so I tend to use a lot of trials riding to keep my physical exertion to a minimum. But when the clock is ticking, you do whatever you can to get you and your bike through those red ribbons.
DB: Were there any notable mishaps or destined-for-bench racing tales you would care to share with us?
TS: I think everyone had a huge get off that resulted in great carnage … some were more spectacular than others. I could keep going on-and-on about the ghost rides, the sky launches, and the ‘oh-shit-hold-on-for-dear-life’ moments. To really appreciate the true meaning of Team AllBallz, just watch the video.
But who won the ballz?
By days end it was Haydn Franklin mimicking the one-two punch of inaugural winner Jay Novero with repeat victories. [Novero won back-to-back in 2009 and 2010.]
“The AllBallz crew and I have a lot of fun putting on our version of an extreme off-road event,” Franklin begins, “I won again this year with some tough competition. I just do what I always try to do in my racing: I try to minimize mistakes and ride smart. I try to use my trials skills on a big bike and that isn't always easy. I have to give most of the credit to my wife Jenn—she did most of the hard work for the event on behalf of our family. I want to give thanks to my sponsors: Cycle Town South, KTM USA, Moose Racing, Kenda Tires and FAHQ Racing.”
DB: What is in store for B5?
TS: For one, I will hopefully be healthy and be doing my 12 oz. curls while prepping for B5. It all depends on the turnout next year. I can see us using this format again. I would love to have more sponsors that could supply refreshments, and reward sections like the swag bag that FAHQ provided. If it gets any bigger it will need to be tightened up on the down time to allow the riders to get through all the sections in one day. When Saturday night hits, it’s pretty much “Hey, fuck everyone else—we’re having a party!” You can quickly go from hero to a big old DNF by midnight. One thing you do have to understand, is that this is all about the fun. We have no [nor allow] drama or crying like you just got pulled off your momma’s tit. Down here in Texas you can’t be thin-skinned. We are going to laugh at you when you bust your ass, but we will pick you up when you can’t and open your beer because you’re too sore.
That, my friends, is the Team AllBallz way!
Ballzapallooza 4 Photo Gallery:
Click to view full-size images. All images by Eddie Marak.