The news is as shocking to write now as it was when I first heard about it: On Thursday, May 20, 2010, Rocky Cutsforth (42) of Cohasset, Minn., died from injuries sustained in an ATV accident near Nemo, South Dakota.
Rocky is the guy behind ROX Speed FX, and who imagined and built wickedly-cool stuff for snowmobiles, ATVs and motorcycles. His talent for design, craftsmanship and ergonomics was unique in the motorsports industry, and the niche he carved was deep.
Rocky also built many, incredible “concept” ATVs and Snowmobiles for Arctic Cat.
If you didn’t know Rocky for the products he sold, you probably saw his amazing skill and machines on display in the pages of snowmobile and ATV magazines, as he was often featured in both during the past half-dozen years. Rocky’s stuff was always dialed-in perfectly. His bikes, sleds, clothing… everything was mint.
If you’re an Arctic Cat fan, you’ve seen Rocky for several years as one of the riders featured in the company’s advertising photography for both its snowmobiles and ATVs. Rocky, along with his good friend and legendary Team Arctic racer Aaron Scheele, are two of the riders who do the amazing maneuvers that you see on Arctic Cat’s Website and printed brochures and such.
In fact, it was during an Arctic Cat photo-shoot that Rocky crashed, sustained internal injuries and died. At Rocky’s funeral this week, Aaron Scheele spoke of the accident, saying that Rocky was on an ATV when it happened; that he’d crashed while being filmed riding on a trail; and that he died without much pain.
Sheele also talked about how he and Rocky were fueled by the sensation of riding at their limits and the limits of their machines. I’ve had the great fortune to ride with both these guys, and I’m here to tell you that Rocky was one of the most calculating and capable riders I’ve seen. He was the consumate professional, able to do things on a vehicle that most of us would never dream of, yet be perfectly in-control at every moment.
In fact, during the four years that I’ve known Rocky, he always struck me as being in control at all times, no matter what the situation. Even when he was goofing around, like two years ago at Snow Shoot when five (yes, five) of us rode “Bob” the Bearcat for 40 miles one afternoon, Rocky was in control as the driver.
For many who have learned of Rocky’s passing, myself included, it’s difficult to understand how someone so talented at riding could have crashed doing something as “routine” as riding a trail. But I think what we’re really questioning is our own mortality… our own very thin thread that each of us hangs from.
When someone we know dies at too young an age — especially when it happens during an activity that we ourselves participate in — it gives us pause to consider our own lives, our own close calls. There but for the grace of God go I…
Death also moves us to think of the living, and many people have thought much about — and prayed for — Rocky’s wife (Lynn) and children (Colton and Makenzie). Their grief is immense and their challenges are daunting, but it warmed my heart to see the hundreds of family and friends embrace them during Rocky’s funeral, and to see the strength of their faith in God. Tough times are ahead, for sure, but they’re equipped with a love and strength that are greater than life itself.
The last time I saw Rocky was during the WOBLE vintage snowmobile ride from my house to Waconia this past winter. Rocky spent the night at my house along with our friends Kale Wainer, Scheele and Rusty Eichorn. While getting our gear ready the night before the ride, Rocky donned the old helmet and jacket his mom used to wear.
He looked so… goofy. We were all rolling with laughter, in part because he looked so different than the everything-is-dialed-in-and-perfect Rocky that we were accustomed to seeing.
Rocky rode a ’75 el Tigre for half the WOBLE, before an untimely burndown meant it had to be loaded onto the trailer and swapped for a loaner sled, which he rode for the remainder of the day.
Wearing an open-faced helmet with his name written on duct tape and placed upside-down on front… a dorky face mask (that had snotscicles hanging from it)… his Team Arctic poncho flapping in the wind as he bounced along the ditch…
…that’s a good memory for me and one I’ll cherish.
Godspeed Rocky Cutsforth.