The Chronicles of an Old Fart Racing 50s...
Saturday Night - 50 MX Racing:
Over the past few months, I've been playing around on a web page called Thumper Talk (TT). It's biased towards four stroke off road bikes. Got a question, comment or what have you? It's the place to take it. I've also had the pleasure of meeting a few of the people from TT and over the past couple months I have been in touch with another guy - Woodsrat, as he goes by on TT, concerning the disease of riding 50s. The Rat talked me into giving some real 50 racing a try a while back and, because of him, I attended my first 50 race this weekend (10/29/05) at Thomas Racing Service which is located just south of Indianapolis, IN - WHAT A BLAST!!!
Originally, the whole K-fab50's Factory crew was planning on attending, but in the end only one of the crew, Gary, made the trip with me. The other four were hurt (Greg with his broken collar bone and ribs), chickened out (Larry, you Weenie!) or had previous plans (Brian & Dave).
Since I wasn't sure what I was getting into, I took three bikes with me:
1) My old reliable 88cc #258 Thursday Night Racer
2) #58, the 88cc bike Larry rides every Thursday night as a backup bike, since it and 258 are pretty much clones of each other
3) The 124cc K-Fab Factory Bike. I figured that I would run what ever classes the bikes would be allowed in.
What the heck, right? Short races - five laps each, short track. I should be able to hang...
At sign up Gary and I were informed the 88cc bikes would be legal in the 50 Modified, 110 Stock and the 35+ (Old Farts) classes. The Factory Bike was legal in the 110 Modified class, the Old Farts class and a couple of the bigger faster (not for me!) classes. I signed up for the 50 Mod, the 110 Mod and the Old Farts and Gary signed up for the 50 Mod and 110 Stock classes. Time to practice..
The track was impressive. It would have been killer if they understood that the face of the landing jump of double jumps are supposed to be nice, round and SAFE, NOT have a vertical face that you're gonna pile drive into when you come up short. It bothers me when track builders make a track for the three or four fast guys and then let the rest of us (90% of the racers) deal with poor design. They had enough dirt to make the doubles safe and fun for everyone (table tops). Oh well. What was really frustrating was that the double jumps (actually, a double, double) were no larger or harder than the table top (25'er) we run on here at the K-Fab Track, but once you take the dirt out of the middle and screw up the face of the landing - well, it becomes a penalty bump if you don't make it and that's just no fun. I never even tried them. Making a track everyone can do will keep the racing closer and better... Supposedly the first track layout that TRS had at the beginning of the year was perfect, but as they got more, and faster people, they got that "gotta step it up mentality". I heard this comment through out the evening from a lot of different people... Okay, 'nuff of that.
The track layout was pretty cool. The Finish Line was a small jump to no-where. You then went into a large left hand 180 bowl - nice and wide. You could run the bowl, you could run the inside line. From here it went straight for a short shot and then up a small rise and drifted to the left about 45 degrees. Over a small double, then another small double/triple (if you had a bigger bike or balls) into a tight 180 bowl. Out of this corner we went over a Hershey Kiss shaped Table Top - 8 feet high and only about a bike length on top. Down the back side of this silly thing and into another tight 180 left hander. From here you had the speed run - up a fairly long (for the track) hill. At the top of the hill was two line choices. On the left was a large double jump. On the right was a launch out to space. It was actually really fun and not a bad landing. From the jump you went fifty feet or so into a very long fast 180 bowl that lead to the down hill double-double. Jog to the left a tad, then hard right and you're back at the finish line jump.
The first practice was the 170 sized bikes - bigger bikes based on the TTR150s and CRF150s. Gary and I watched them and realized we were in trouble - these guys were fast!
Second practice group was the 110 Mod class. Off I go on the Factory Bike.
The Factory Bike is a Monster. I built it as a 40th Birthday Present to myself. I didn't go lightly when I pieced it together either - you only turn 40 once... It's heart is a Kitaco 124cc SE engine. It makes just under 18 hp. Now, this bike is a blast on a large, full sized bike MX track (I don't do many of the jumps on it, though). I've also had a blast on it at the dunes. It just flat rips. But throw it on a small track with fairly large jumps and it SCARES THE SNOT OUT OF ME! There, I said it - I'm afraid of it! (I ride a CRF450R - so I'm not afraid of a BIG bike with power) It's a beast. It's too quick, I'm not comfortable jumping it, and on this track, I knew it was more than I was ready for. (I must get more seat time!) I came back to the truck and promptly put it back in it's stable. I think I'll change classes....
I ended up running good the old 88cc #258 in 50 Mod, 110 Stock and Old Farts classes.
While I was trying to get my classes figured out, Gary goes out for practice.
Gary's a competitor (former road racer). He doesn't like getting beat. I was worried for him too... I get finished with my class changes just in time to get back out and watch the last lap of Gary's practice. The pair of double jumps down the front straight had been taunting him since we arrived at the track, so as I'm standing there watching him go around the track here he comes. Roll over the first double and pin it for the second. I gotta give him a lot of credit. It was one of the best dismounts I've seen. Gary just sort of stepped over the bars in mid air, let the nose of his 50 plow into the face of the landing jump and casually slid down the back side of the jump on one knee and one foot. I wish I'd had the video camera. He walked back, picked up his bike and came off the track. "Well, that does it - I had to prove to myself that I can either do them or I can't. I CAN'T!"
The Heat Races
I was in the first heat race - 50cc Mod. Wow, what an eye opener! It's been at least a year and a half, if not two years, since I raced bikes. I'd forgotten what it was like to sit on the staring line with a bunch of other guys, 8 in this case, all hopped up on adrenaline, looking to beat the next guy to the first corner (or off the track, into the hay bales). The rubber band (yes, a rubber band start - Classic 70's!) went boing and everyone launched off the line. I think I was mid to back of the pack into the first corner. My main thought was "Please don't hit me!" I was really nervous and pretty much just wanted to make it though the race w/o incident. I know that there were at least two people behind me at the end of the race, so at least I didn't finish last. I'm not sure where Gary ended up.
The second race was the 110 stock class. Once again, my main goal was to survive. I got a decent start - ha, decent start... try that w/o a clutch... My bike still has the auto clutch, while the majority of the guys Gary and I were running against had manual clutches. They were able to launch with control. Me, I have to just drop the hammer and putt off the line. Fortunately, there were other guys running the same thing I was, so yea, I was a mid-packer and I consider that decent. Gary was in front of me going into the first corner, but I think he got tangled up in the next left hander. I sort of remember seeing him get squirrely and tucking down low in the corner. The first lap was a sorting lap. Fast guys moving forward, slow guys moving backwards and a couple of us moving no where. Half way around the course from the starting line is a large up hill jump. Hit it on the left and it's a large double, hit it on the right and it's a sort-of-large jump that lands on a flat right next to the landing hill for the double. It's actually a cool jump and I was able to fly off it pinned in 2nd gear (ran the whole course in second). Anyhow, during the second lap, the guy in front of me decides that he's gonna do some sort of unintentional free style MX move and lands sideways up against the side of the double jump landing mound. That wouldn't have been too bad, but right after he separated from his bike and landed on the ground, in an effort to get off the track, he decides to do the dreaded crawl right into my line!
I'm in the air and coming down when I see him start for the edge of the track on all fours. I guess he couldn't hear me yelling "NO!!! NO!!! NO!!! STOP MOVING!!" I hit the ground with both wheels locked up and then drove right into his right side rib cage. We slid along for about 6 feet or so with him hanging onto my front wheel. I managed to keep it on both wheels and not go down. Talk about feeling bad! The LAST thing I wanted to do was hurt somebody! I made sure he was off the track, ran over and got his bike off the line and then sat there with him for a lap or two while he caught his breath back. He was a damn good sport about it, saying "Hey, that's racing." - no, it's not racing to me, but I am aware this sort of thing does happen. (I've been on the receiving end before). I guess it really wasn't a crash for me, but I was definitely down a lap or two by the time I felt good about leaving the guy there in the grass by the side of the track - other people were there by now too... After this, I went back on the track and for some reason it made me ride better. Dunno if I was riding with anger that I'd hurt the guy or what, but I definitely stepped up my game. Still, I was down on laps. It was a fun couple of last laps.
I don't know why, but every time I run two or more classes at an MX race, the promoter ALWAYS seems to put them back to back. I finished the second race and went right back to the starting grid for my next race.
During my third race - the 35+ combo class, I got a surprisingly good start and was up in the top three or so. I was tucked in on the tail of some guy running a KLX of unknown engine size and I was doing everything I could to catch him. After the double double, you make a slight left swing out and then turn in to the right and go over a jump and then into a big bowled 180 left hander. It's the finish line corner/jump section of the track. Naturally, this is right in front of everyone - staging, the starting gate, the crowd, the guy with the microphone - everyone. I'm tucked in behind the guy on the green bike and trying to carry corner speed to see if I can get a run on him into the next corner. The plan was to get a drive out of the corner, cut across the track over the jump and dive down inside him in the 180 left hander and steal his line as he left the corner - slows his momentum, lets me keep mine and if done right, it will give you a good lead coming out of the corner. Well, it all looked good on paper (in my head). I set up wide on his left side after we rolled the last double, so I could cut down close in the corner, got on the throttle and well, I screwed up. I tucked in too hard and managed to catch the tough block (hay bale covered with some sort of banner) with my right foot peg. Instant High Side! I went off the left side of the bike, landed on my left shoulder at the top of the jump and somersaulted down the back face of it. I pretty much just let the momentum stand me back up. The people in the crowd were yelling and cheering (they do this EVERY time someone eats it), so I raised my hands up to the skies in that good 'ol victory stance, gave the crowd a bow, grabbed my bike and went back to racing. I have no idea where I ended up, but I sure did have fun.
So, to sum up the first two motos - I pretty much got my ass handed to me in by the young guys - but that was cool. Kids have reaction time, BIG BALLS, they bounce better than me and they just go faster, the third race was fun too.
A quick note on the video clip hyperlinks below: I'm still learning how to do this stuff. I recommend that you use Windows Media Player to view them. Your best bet is to right click the link, copy the link location and then drop that in Media Play (ctrl-U). It should bring them up. They are fairly large files, so please be patient. Thanks.
Unlike regular motocross racing, where the finishing positions of each moto goes to figure the final standings for the day, the first round of motos at this place were used to assign starting positions of the second moto; the Mains, as they called them.
The first main for Gary and myself was the 50 mod class. I think there were 10 or 12 riders in it.
Now the reason I say "I think there were 10 or 12 riders in it" was that I don't know! I MISSED the first lap! DOH!!! I got a new helmet cam earlier in the week. Here I sat screwing with it, thinking I had one more race to wait on before we went up to the line and Woodsrat comes running up "Hey, we're up!" I was surrounded by wires, trying to pack stuff in my camel back, get my crap together and get going. As I'm trying to get my chest protector strapped on (you can NEVER find the darn straps when you're in a hurry) I hear the announcer going down the line up. Crap. I now have my helmet in hand and am getting ready to get it on my head. "Riders ready, thirty second board's up!" DOHHHHH!!! The camera is dangling on it's cord down by my chest. I grab it and stick it to the helmet (not well either, it's pointed sort of down - as you can see in the video link below). "Ready" One glove on "And they're off". CRAP!! Two gloves on and off I go through the pits. As I get to the starting line, here come the first group of riders around the start finish line.
I get out on the track with the end of the crowd as they finish their first lap. (in the video, you can see the tough block that bit me earlier right as I enter the track. I go between two of them - it's the one on the left). Sorry that the video's view is pointing downish - rush job to get it attached to the helmet in the pits kinda sucked. It's also pretty grainy. I had the recorder set on long play, not gonna do that setting again.
I don't have a clue where I ended up - probably last. I still had fun, though - and since I managed to come in at the tail of the first lap, I did get to dice with some guys for a few minutes. Other than that darn double-double section, I was really starting to enjoy the track and the racing.
The second race went MUCH better. It was the 35+ combined class and this time I made it to the line with room to spare (with the camera in long play mode and pointing the right way). I got a pretty darn good start and ended up fourth in the pack - in the video, the guy with the orange triangle on his back is Woodsrat. After the Hershey Kiss Table Top, I tried to make a move on the inside of the Suzuki 110, but he had more grunt out of the corner and I wasn't able to pull it off. I hung with him pretty well for the next lap and then he has to go and ruin it by clearing the double-double and going from third to first, just dusting the two guys in front of him. Then again, he wasn't in our class, so it didn't matter anyhow! I kept the two guys in front of me in my sights and kept trying to keep up. I was as fast as they were, but I didn't have the grunt out of the corners they did. Half way through lap three, the guy running second flags me by. (I discovered later that this was the guy I hit earlier in the evening - he said he just couldn't catch the guy and hoped I could.) I did everything I could to catch the leader and actually got right on his back wheel in the corner before the double-double on the last lap of the race, but in the end, he just had more than I did and took the win. It was a total blast.
Once again, I'm bitten by the back to back race scenario. I get off the track after finishing the Old Fart race and get ready for the 110 Stock class - or should I call it the "Get my butt handed to me class"? I know that there were at least eight bikes on the line. There may have been more - not sure. I got a better start than I expected (especially since I was on the second row) and ended up fifth or so going into the first corner. Problem was that I'd lined up outside and got pushed wide in the turn. I ended up, what looks like seventh in the video. This is pretty much where I stayed the whole race. I just could not get around the guy on the 110 KLX in front of me. I'd gain on him on occasion, but in general, he kept his distance and at the end of the race, started pulling away. Hell, I was tired. - yea, that's it... I was tired...
Once TRS posts the results, I'll try to remember to come back here and update the finishing positions that Gary and I got. And I may have the 110 class named wrong - not sure if we ran stock or mod class. There were a bunch of classes and we were having a hard time keeping up with them!
I'm looking forward to getting back to TRS next spring and trying the 50 racing again. I'm sure the rest of the K-fab crew will enjoy it too.
The Big Ten Inch Hare Scramble
As much fun as I had on Saturday night, racing the 50s on a track, the highlight of the weekend was running Woodsrat's Big Ten Inch Hare Scramble on Sunday.
I left TRS about midnight and headed down the road a few miles to Martinsville, IN. There I was able to find a nice quiet, dark parking lot (next to a Starbucks!! - okay, so I have a problem with needing my morning drink) where I could put the Big Blue Beast in park and let it idle all night while I slept. Nothing like having a diesel truck in cold weather. Let it run, leave the heater on and sleep like a log. I had another thirty minutes or so to get to the Hare Scramble local, so it was a no-brainer stopping when I did. There'd be plenty of time to get up and go find the race course in the morning.
I arrived at the Woodsrat compound, a.k.a the "Weaver White-Trash Estate", about 8:30. He seemed surprised I was there so soon. The race didn't start until 12:30. I have to say, Woodsrat is one hell of a great guy and I'm glad I met him. Hopefully he'll drag a couple of his buddies to the K-fab facilities next spring and get some bar banging in on our track. After all, he's another one of us poor bastards with the dreaded 50 disease.
About 10:00 or so, people started showing up. The schedule was registration (pic on right) around 11:00, get down to the starting area around noon and then the race would start at 12:30. We were going to go for one hour and one lap. By noon there were eleven racers ready to tackle the woods on our miniature machines. This was going to be INTERESTING!
1 hour and 1 lap on a 50 is a new experience (my thighs are telling me all about it this morning: "STOP going up and down the stairs!") I can go forty five minutes on the big bike on a motocross track and out in the dunes or the desert, I can ride two to three hours. I can go twenty laps around the K-fab track - probably about 25 minutes or so. But an hour in the woods? An hour in the woods on a 50??? Hmmm...
The Big Ten Inch loop was somewhere between 3 and 5 miles (I'm guessing here - it FELT like 20 and nobody ever measured it.) and offered everything from long off cambers, to down hills with holes, to creek crossings to up hills and switchbacks - pretty typical GNCC type terrain that the Good Ol' Mid-West has to offer. The course covered the gammet and it was a blast (and it made me realize that even though I live in Ohio, I'm a DESERT rider... - I love the desert and fortunately get to ride in it about 4-5 times a year).
There were 11 riders in attendance for the Big Ten Inch. Three stocker 50s, three 110 class bikes (17" wheels) and five of us on 50 mods.
Our Race Official.
We go that way!
Stock Class Start
The stockers left the line first. One minute later the 50 mods would leave the line and then two minutes later the big bikes would go.
We had a dead bike start: Bike pointed the wrong way, rider straddling the front wheel facing the rear fender. I got the bike turned around and positioned over it pretty quickly, but muddy boots and a kick lever not quite in the right position make for a near face plant. I got off the line last, right behind Woodsrat.
The Rat and I battled hard for a while. We started up a long off camber uphill - SLICK - about a hundred yards into the loop. I gained on him, he'd get some room between us. I'd sneak back up on him, he'd bobble, I'd pass and then slip. He'd make the pass again I'd get past him and then discover a nicely hidden something in the leaves, bobble and he'd pass me back. Not long after the start, I managed to hold the lead for more than a couple feet. Naturally, since I'm NOT used to woods riding, I go blowing by the course markers - with Woodsrat right behind me.
"Where the hell are you going???" I hear from behind. "I don't have a clue! YOU marked the course - and then you FOLLOW me off line?" I heard some sort of mumble behind me in response. Now I'm worried...
I blew another corner pretty badly with him behind me yelling "Hey, you MISSED THE CORNER". Doh... I think I'll follow him for a while...
I tucked in behind him and off we went. I soon discovered that was fun talking to him when I was tailing/dogging him - Rat can't ride and babble; I can. I would occasionally hear some sort of wheezing, heavy breathing attempt at an answer from him. I don't think he appreciated the singing from me... We did this for a lap and a half and suddenly his bike started popping and making bad sounds. We pulled over and he informed me that his bike decided it didn't want a head gasket anymore, so I went on alone. It was sad to see our promoter drop out due to a mechanical.
After completing a couple more laps, I came up to the finish line and there sat Rat, looking sad. I pulled up to him "Hey, I have a spare bike in the truck - go get it and RIDE!" I was impressed at how quickly he jumped up and went off to the truck. I'm really glad I'd brought a spare.
After Rat dropped out, I ran three or four laps by myself. Managed to come across one of the stock 50s (running one of the new TTR50s - pretty cool little bike) and put him a lap down - well, I caught him in one section of the woods, he caught me back in a technical section - so I let him back by, and then I finally got past him again after that and didn't see him until the end of the race.
Woodsrat on His 50
Now on K-fab #58
"The tree was THIS big"
One of the many switch backs
Stocker getting passed.
I think I ran 8 laps - but don't hold me to that... Things get blurry after about 2. I got lapped by two of the front running 50 mod guys (they're used to GNCC style racing and I'm NOT) somewhere around lap five or six. I could hear one of them coming up. I kept waiting on him to catch me before we got to the creek drop in. This was a nice slick 10 foot or so slide down the side of a creek bank into the rocky bottom. It was pretty cool - just ride the back brake down the hill, drop in and run. He catches me just as I drop in so I pull as far off to the right of the line as I can and stop to let the guy buy. Instead of making a nice clean pass, the poor guy slides down into the creek beside me and promptly falls over into the water (it's only about 2" deep). "That's not how you were supposed to pass me!" I tell him. He looks up at me, gives me a big smile and says "Yea, I know..." He picked himself up and off he went. I went back to my first gear crawl down the creek.
I just kept plodding along at a pace that didn't scare me too much. I only fell over once (WOO HOO!). One of those nasty rocks that Rat warned us about leapt out and bit my front wheel. Fortunately, I was pretty much just crawling along when I went down. It was more of an inconvenience than anything. I also I stopped four times during the race: 1) To see why Rat stopped when he blew the head gasket, 2) To tell Rat where the spare bike was and to go use it, 3) To talk to two of the 50 stock guys that were suffering from the total lack of suspension & 4) To check on Rat while he was helping one of the other 50 mod guys with a messed up chain. I have no idea where I finished in the race order. I was just happy to finish and enjoyed the hell out of it all.
I can't wait to do it again next year! (and if you're anywhere near Indianapolis, you should do it next year too.)
A few things I've discovered running a 50 Hare Scramble:
1) A New Breed of Monkey Butt. It's quite a bit narrower than Big Bike Monkey Butt and I think it's a bit more intense. Honda has the best seat foam in the industry, but after a while, I could feel every bit of the seat base on my bike. (high seat foam's a must next year)
2) 12" front wheels don't go over rocks like a 21... They deflect, bounce and beat you to death.
3) When the promoter tells you that there are large flat moss covered rocks by grass, BELIEVE HIM! They sit in hiding at the edge of the trail, waiting for you to go by and then they lunge out at your front tire. I found many of them, but only one managed to win.
Here I am celebrating the end of the race (right). It was the ONLY wheelie I pulled intentionally....
THANK YOU WOODSRAT for a killer time and thanks to your wife for the food and support too.
For more great pix, go to Woodsrat's web page.