Oklahoma has produced many very fast motocross racers over the years - as of late Trey Canard and Justin Bogle quickly come to mind - but one of the first to make the OK state proud was Guy Cooper, aka "Airtime."
Cooper was a hard-working racer that wasn't afraid to jump anything. He competed in both Supercross and motocross, reaching his zenith in 1990 when he won the AMA 125 National Motocross Championship for Suzuki. Up until that year, Cooper's name was synonymous with Honda, but Honda chose to replace the "older" Cooper with the younger Jean-Michel Bayle after the 1989 season. Airtime retired from Supercross and motocross in 1993 but went on to represent the United States well and proudly at the ISDE a few times.
Cooper, now 50, is still a big Supercross fan and, along with Steve Wise, was honored by the Legends and Heroes of Motocross organization at last week's Dallas Supercross. At every round, the Legend's group recognizes one or multiple riders of the local area and this time Cooper got to share some of the spot light.
Cooper's championship-winning 1990 Suzuki RM125 was on display as was his 1989 Honda CR250R Supercross bike.
"It feels good to be here," said Cooper. "I've been out of the loop of the motocross and Supercross scene for quite a while, but I haven't been out of the scene from riding. I still go out there and play. I don't go to too many races anymore, but I watch them on TV, but since this is my local one... I was planning on going to St. Louis, too, but I have to build a track in Amarillo, so this will be my only one I'll be able to watch in person."
"Airtime," as he was so accurately nicknamed, retired from pro racing in 1993. Photography By: Kit Palmer
Cooper say he still keeps plenty busy, especially building motocross tracks, something he's been doing for quite a while, and he still lines up for a vintage motocross race every now and then.
"I'm retired but I still seem to be building more tracks than ever. There are a lot of fast kids in Oklahoma - I work with Trey [Canard] a little bit, and Justin Bogle, I made his track a few years back. It's good to see those kids out there now, but I guess they're no longer kids, they're grown-ups."
He's also been busy with his family.
"I've been raising a family, I guess. Kaitlin, she's seven now, and that kind of changes your whole life around, raising a family."
But what's really been on Cooper's mind a lot lately are bicycles.
Cooper's championship-winning 1990 Suzuki RM125 was on display at the Legends' rolling museum. Photography By: Kit Palmer
"I have my dad's collection of bicycles and it's overwhelming," he says. "My parents retired in 1987, and my dad took a lot of his old motorcycle stuff [he used to own a motorcycle store] and took them to a big swap meet and would trade for bicycle stuff. They've passed on now and I've got their collection and it's over a thousand bicycles! Over a hundred of those were built before 1900, so I've got a pretty neat collection of bicycles. I've got a museum started, you can go to CoopersAntiques.com and you can see the different bikes. It's been a very slow process, if people have been watching for the last three months they know. Man, I thought this winter I'd get a lot done, but you walk into the shop and there are thousands and thousands of parts and it's just overwhelming. Sometimes I just shut the door and walk away. I've got a lot of work to do to get it organized.
"At least the bicycles are covered and are not out in the elements, but I'd like to do more research on them. I went to Schwinn school in 1977, so I know a lot of history on the Schwinn bicycles and we have quite a few from that era, but the stuff that have wood rims and go way back to the early 1900s, the guys that rode those bikes are all gone. Everything is passed down - my sister who has a bicycle shop, between the two of us, we argue about, 'dad told me this bike was built at this time,' and she'll go, 'oh no, it was built at this time,' and you go to the Internet and you get a third opinion. So it's not all accurate, but I'm just trying to get the best information I can and try to be as accurate as possible."
Cooper says he enjoys watching the new crop of riders coming up in Supercross.
"I like watching Barcia, he's a fun guy to watch."
Makes sense. Cooper did ride a lot like Barcia in his day.
"And the bikes are so good now," he adds. "When I rode, well, one of the magazines had me ride test all the bikes in '06, and I rode all the four-strokes in '06 and those bikes out of the crate where the best things I've ever ridden. Far better than my works bikes. And it's gotten way better since then. The new bikes out of the crates are fantastic. I know that the level the guys that Trey Canard is on, that bike their bikes are a lot better, but the average rider couldn't ride Trey's bike any faster than he could ride a stock bike."
Cooper's 1989 Honda CR250R Supercross bike. Photography By: Kit Palmer
As mentioned, Cooper enjoys watch Supercross on TV and isn't one to hold back on his opinions, especially when it comes to the tracks.
"I understand how tight it is on the tracks now and how the tracks are - everyone is doing everything [all the obstacles]. But my personal opinion is that I'd like to see the tracks get a little easier so they're not racing the track as much as they are banging bars. I'd like to see a bit more elbow rubbin'."
And that's coming from a guy who was never afraid to swap a little paint.