The Inverse Proportion - It's just not fair.
I got my first motorcycle in 1977 at age 12. Paid fifty hard earned dollars for a clapped out Yamaha Enduro 80GT that didn't run. Little did I know this was the beginning of a life long passion. I spent a few weeks getting it running and starting to learn bike mechanics.
I rode that little Yamaha EVERYWHERE I could. I was fortunate enough that the town I grew up in, McAllen, Texas was full of alley ways and orange groves.
I started racing motocross back in the early 80's. I came into the world of motocross just as some major modern era changes started to show up. Travel was reaching 12 inches, water cooling and single shock rear ends were new, amazing technical works bikes marvels that actually made it into production. Penton had become KTM, Maico was still making the best open class bikes, reed valves were becoming the norm and Kawasaki was "Letting the Good Times Roll".
Here I was 135 lbs, young, dumb and on the world's WORST head shaking monster - a 1979 CR250, my first real motocross bike. Twin shocks, LEFT SIDE kick starter, drum brakes and a power band that was about 200 rpm wide.
To make matters worse, I suffered from three main problems:
A) Being a fairly inexperienced rider and on a nasty 250 to boot.
2) Major lack of adrenaline control - the flag would go up, I would pretty much just loose it.
III) Just being a teenager.
But I had some things on my side too:
1) Youth! Endless energy and appetite - three burgers was just a snack.
II) Youth! Strength, agility and endurance.
C) Youth! Hurt from a crash - Nah. Scraped up a tad but it'll heal.
4) Youth! Sore after riding - What do you mean? I didn't crash.
V) Youth! Lack of sense - I can make that jump. Sometimes...
E) Youth! Didn't have enough seat time to understand fear.
At our local track (please use the word loosely), in the bottom of a sun baked, concrete hard, South Texas floodway I'd meet my buddies after school and every weekend and we would ride for hours (ah the days of endless energy and no soreness), chasing each other, honing our skills and attempting to get faster and better.
It seemed that I never had any problems with nerves on those practice days. I never had that serious case of the jitters where my hands shook, got knots in my stomach, the sweats; any of those dreaded adrenaline surges. (Well, except when I came close to "the big one" - that dreaded near crash that scares the Hell out of you.)
Then race day would come.
I lived for race day.
We had, maybe, four or five races during the summer at the real motocross track in Harlingen - another South Texas floodway but it actually saw a disc once in a blue moon, so it was hard AND lumpy! The local stock car track also held motocross races for half time entertainment twice a month. Anybody with a bike was at the races.
This was what it was all about - racing!
That quest for the checkered flag
To pull the hole shot
To be the first into and out of the first corner
To be the first one across the finish line
To dominate over the guys I rode with every day after school and on the weekends
To beat the competition that showed up on the line
I had dreams!
Too bad for me, I suffered from serious adrenalization. I became a total flounder as soon as I lined up at the gate.
I'd pull up to the line with the other racers, wait for the rubber band (yeah, you read that right, rubber band!) to snap clear so I could launch my machine towards the first corner and I would just plain loose it.
My hands would shake so badly that I couldn't control the clutch. I'd get the sweats so badly that my goggles would fog and drip into my eyes. I'd get stomach cramps so badly that I'd be doubled over on the bike. Sure, it looked like I had my body in the launch position but I was just trying to hold myself up!
The rubber band would suddenly disappear from view and I'd dump the clutch with little finesse or control and get a great view of the sky. I'd fight and claw to keep the bike pointed more or less in the direction everyone else was going. Slamming through the gears, accelerating towards the corner and then reaching that point of "OH NO!! I'm going TOO FAST to make the corner!" By this time, most of the other riders were long gone. I was now fighting with the other guys that suffered from the same dreaded adrenaline surge running through their bodies. I'd grab the brakes - which would put the 250cc monster into a full lock to lock tank slapper - and just pray that I'd slow down enough to make the corner. If I was lucky, I'd settle down a bit and break into some sort of rhythm with the track and wait for the fast guys to come on by and lap me on the way to the checkered. Like I said, Flounder. A complete and total Flounder.
I just found these pictures of me racing at Harlingen. They're dated September 19, 1982. The beginning of my Senior year in high school.
Racing at the MX track in Harlingen, TX
And so went my racing days for the first few years. I still had fun trying to race and loved going out and riding, but the reality of it all was I just couldn't control my nerves. I was in the best physical shape of my life, but the worst mental state for racing. Bummer!
My last bike of my early years of racing was a 1988 CR125. I raced at Natalia, a local to San Antonio track a few times, then got married and sold the bike. (two really stupid moves)
Then comes along 1996. I'd been playing with a heavily modified Honda Pilot for a couple years. The idea of racing off road had been a dream for years. I was once again in the dirt, practicing and playing as much as possible. Hoping one day to race my Pilot.
My buddies are all motocrossers. We'd go thrash the tracks together, me in the Pilot, them on the bikes. I was back at the motocross tracks, but in a different light. The problem was that there were few places that would let me run and most of the bikes didn't want a six hundred pound machine flying through the air with them. I was down to only being able to run at Haspin Acres in Indiana and then they banned "off road cars" on the track. I was out of luck. No place left to ride.
On the way home from a snow skiing vacation with my motocross buddies, I decided that I'd had enough. I wanted to get back on a bike. Sitting there on the plane, reading 'Dirt Bike' I read the latest edition which had the annual shoot out among the bikes. Enter the 1996 Suzuki RM 250 - Bike Of The Year.
I bought my RM on a Friday and entered an Arenacross race on Sunday. I had a total of about five minutes time on the thing. I'd not been on a bike in six years but there I was, sitting on the starting line wondering what in the world I was doing. I took dead last in practice. Stalled the bike in the whoops and kick, kick, kick, kick, breath, huff, puff, kick, kick, kick, brraaappp. Time to head back to the pits and pass out.
Race time came and I rolled up to the line. The gate dropped and I promptly stalled the bike. Kick, kick, kick - I was away.
WOW!!! Where did all this power come from???
WOW!!! This suspension is amazing!!!
WOW!!! Look at all these guys passing me. I was a lap down in less than a minute. I came in dead last in my heat race BUT I noticed something strange: I wasn't shaking. I wasn't sweating. I wasn't doubled over in knots. I was having FUN! Gee, this is a new feeling!
Through out the day I stayed consistent and finished dead last in every qualifier and heat I was in but at least I was racing again. The following weekend we headed up to Indy for the Supercross race and on Sunday - amateur day - I proceeded to keep my record intact. Dead last in every race I was in. But that dreaded adrenaline surge was missing. I was also experiencing something new - Arm Pump. Gee, why can't I hold on to the bike? Why do my arms hurt so bad? Why can't I pull the brake lever hard enough? Man, I'm outta shape! No, I just wasn't in my early 20s anymore.
I kept up my racing through the summer and actually begin to get the feel for the bike and break my streak of dead last finishes. I ended up fourth from last at Treaty City. Things were looking up! No more "Pre Traumatic Stress Syndrome". This was great!
I also noticed that if I raced on Sunday I couldn't move on Tuesday. This phenomenon of arm pump kept rearing its ugly head and seeing the white flag was the "I Think I Might Make It" sign. ONLY one more grueling lap to go.
I finally got to chase my dream of racing off road. In 1998, Pace Motorsports (the Supercross people) decided to bring indoor stadium racing back to the public. It just so happened that I had a Honda Pilot that was set up for this sort of racing in a class called Stadium Lites. I headed to St. Louis for the first race and ended up winning! I raced against other Stadium Lites from all over the country and by the end of the season I was in a points battle for first place overall and a real shot at winning the championship. I ended up loosing by two lousy points.
I ended up taking second place overall again in 1999. My racing mentality had changed one hundred percent. In fact, I was so relaxed before a couple of the races that I actually fell asleep in the staging area. It was pretty rude too - "whap whap whap" on my helmet - "Hey, wake up, you need to head out to the track." No longer did I get so pumped up that I couldn't function. Instead, I was so relaxed and focused that I was able to go out and do battle and do it well.
To this day I still feel very relaxed out on the starting line for a motocross race. I still get a good dose of adrenaline when I manage to screw up and come close to "the big one", but I'm not in it to win it anymore. I know that there are other guys out there that are a LOT faster but I always end up with the same group of guys that are my speed and we have one heck of a blast battling for some position in the latter half of the pack.
I find it quite funny now that the original weakness and strengths of my younger years seem to be just the opposite now.
Things against me now:
1) Being 35 Strength and agility and endurance - yeah, I was in shape - 12 years ago.
2) Being 35 Endless energy??? What??? We have to run FOUR LAPS???
3) Being 35 Hurt from a crash - I CAN'T BREATH! Oh, what was that snapping sound?
Sore after riding? - What do you mean after riding? How about during riding and for the week that follows.
Lack of "sense" - "I can make that jump." - Definitely not a problem any more. It's more like "Man, that looks like it would be bad if I missed!" even though you know you can make it, that little twinkle of doubt keeps you from scaring the snot out of yourself and trying it.
Things on my side now:
1) Being a fairly experienced rider. "Sure, I've done that - it HURT". See the lump on my collarbone?
2) Adrenaline control - the flag goes up, I yawn and wait for the gate to drop. Huh? Did we leave the line?
3) Looking at the 16 - 24 and school boy races thinking "Those guys are CRAZY!" Glad I'm not out there with them! Ever watch a 125 C race? Talk about carnage...
There's a scenario of sorts that wanders around the 30+ racers in comparison to the younger guys.
Ever notice that when a kid gets off a bike, if he's physically able (meaning no bone is poking though the skin anywhere) he'll be up and back on the bike before the corner marshal can even begin to wave the yellow flag? They hit, bounce and are often back to the bike before it's finished crashing.
Then there's the 30+ers. We hit the ground and if we're lucky, we'll get rolled over enough so that our face isn't still in the dirt. About this same time the corner marshal will have made his way to us and always seems to mutter the same phrase: "You all right?"
Usually, you've had enough time to do the "nothing's broken" self check and reply back "Yeah, but I think I'll lay here for a while."
"What's a while?" the marshal will query.
Time to catch up a bit
I wrote the stuff above the separation line in this page almost 22 years ago. I was 36 years old. Since then I've included a lot more aspects of motorsports into my life.
I continued to race motocross until about fifteen years ago. I've raced a single seat stadium lite, raced in the desert from grass roots style stuff all the way up to racing the Baja 1000, navigating in a Trophy Truck. I've raced on pavement in the Chump Car series and even done a few go kart endurance races and league races. I'm now a certified Porsche and Audi High Performance Driving Instructor so I can go play on the track and teach you how to also.
I rode every weekend I could whilst still in Ohio. I met my buddies at the local track and put in three thirty minute motos every Saturday and Sunday that weather and my life's schedule would allow. I loved having a 450 under me, flying through the air over the jumps and railing the corners to the best of my abilities. The group of guys that I rode with and I would head out west to Glamis, Ocotillo Wells, Dumont Dunes or Little Sahara every year. We rode all over in the woods of the Mid-West and Georgia. I loved being on two wheels, riding new terrain and exploring everywhere I could.
All the time, though, the desert called my heart and I wanted to go play in the land that I'd been reading about in Dirt Bike Magazine since I was 12.
I'd gotten a taste of it in 1999 when the Stadium Series brought me through Phoenix. The YZF lived in my van and traveled with me everywhere. While in Phoenix, enjoying hanging out with the crew from ATV Racing (they supplied most of the work on my Stadium Lite), I was asked if I wanted to go ride in the desert with them one afternoon.
OH YES, YES, YES!
It took that one ride and I turned to Neil (head honcho of ATVR) and said "I will live here." Never have I had anyplace speak to my heart like the desert did that afternoon (and continues to do so).
Dirt bikes were and continue to be a large part of my life.
Playing at the MX track
A few MX videos
When we finally moved to Arizona in 2014 (at 49 years old) I came to realize that motocross was no longer going to be part of my life.
The tracks out here are brutally rocky, hard packed, dry, dusty and in general really similar to what I learned to ride on but with a lot more rocks. I have to admit that I was spoilt (not spoiled, spoilt - Midwestern speak. You can't live there 25 years and not pick up some of the colloquialisms) by sandy loam, wet dirt, minimal rocks and basically ideal MX dirt of the Mid-West. Plus, I had to travel quite a bit to get to any track around here provided they were open.
I laugh about giving up the high impact riding for low impact riding. MX tracks beat you up compared to the desert. I do miss the flight time over big jumps, though.
I've had an off road bike since 2003. It didn't take long for me to realize that a motocross bike was not the ideal weapon for off roading so I converted my YZF426 for off roading and kept it out in Arizona to play with in the desert and I had a 2005 CRF450X that I used off road back east. I knew having the correct bike for the terrain was essential. A motocross bike does NOT work well in the desert (it's kinda scary) just like an off road bike has no business on an MX track.
When I moved here I was on a CRF450 for the track and a 2010 Husaberg FE450 (the one with the funky rotated engine mounting). It didn't take me long to realize that a 450cc bike was getting too much for me to deal with. The thing wore me out. I do have to admit that the bike was a blast to ride, though. It handled amazingly well, felt a lot lighter than it was and was absolutely SCARY FAST but it was time to look for something else.
June of 2015 I made my decision on what I wanted to try next. Enter the KTM 350 XCF-W. I wanted 250 handling and I still wanted power just not the arm ripping off power of a 450. This fit the bill perfectly.
I still have the old gal. She's got (as I write this windy tale) 7,467 miles and 314.7 hours on the clock (23.72 average MPH - not bad for an old fart) and is hands down the favorite motorcycle I've ever owned.
The Katoom's been dragged all over the country. From the Glamis Dunes in SoCal (it needs more HP and suspension - gimme a 450 MX bike for the sand) to Georgia and lots of places in-between.
Most of its time has been spent running through the desert seeing the scenery. It gets me places we'll never see from two track (in the RZR). It's bitten me a few times - broken a few ribs on it, fallen over a lot (usually once a ride), got temporarily pinned once, have hit LOTS of cacti and have just enjoyed the Hell out of it.
Comment on the cacti - I have yet to tangle with the Teddy Bear Cholla. It's a BAD MO-FO consisting of tennis ball sized spheres of some of the sharpest and stick tight thorns on the planet that lay in wait to attack. I've been on the removing side of this particular cacti from friends. Always carry a old school black barber's comb and a utility tool for needle removal.
I do, quite often, find other types of thorns embedded in my fore arms and thighs. I'll not even realize I've managed to nail one and a few days after a ride I'll get a bump. Scratch it and out pops a thorn. They can be anywhere from just a little tip of one to almost an inch long. Weird how a little sticker in your sock will drive one nuts but half an inch of thorn stuck into the muscle of your arm doesn't bother you a bit. I think just about every plant out here wants to kill you.
One of the absolutely wonderful aspects of Arizona is that they'll street legalize just about anything. My bike's fully road legal. Who would have ever thought you could get away with riding a dirt bike on the street? I was chased on South Padre Island by the cops often, given a stern warning for just turning around in the street in Ohio, etc.. I can ride to our local spot without even a glance by the po-po. Regardless, I generally use the van it lives in to get there, which takes all of 20 minutes. It's so incredibly convenient to have some of the absolutely best terrain I've ever ridden in just down the road.
I've been tracking my stuff with an app called Relive since Dec of 2019 and have over 5,000 miles and 160+ rides (both bike and RZR) recorded on it. I refer to myself as a SOSR - pronounced "saucer" and stands for Stupid Old Solo Rider, which can be as dangerous as it is freeing. A bit more on that in a minute...
|An example of the scenery
||One of many failed hill climbs
||Our beautiful desert
My KTM and I are best of friends.
Back in December of 1999 I treated myself to a new Yamaha YZF 426 for my birthday.
I was not a fan of the genie in the expansion chamber of the two stroke bike.
He's not tame
He's out to hurt you
He comes out of his bottle with a vengeance
I was tired of being spit off of a bi-polar female RM250.
"Ride me! Ride me! GET THE %^$* OFF OF ME!!!" -This move was usually followed by two lock to lock bar slaps and ejection.
We didn't get along.
The four stroke revolution was upon us and I happened to get a chance to toss a leg over one of the new four bangers.
Ooooohhhh, I LIKE this.
Power to spare and controllable across the rev range; not just a genie release.
I was hooked on this new valve filled powerplant. My riding improved as did my confidence. It was a huge step in the correct direction for me and my riding style.
Over the years the YZ lead to another couple of Yamahas and then onto Honda land with the CRF450R. My stable was doubled when I picked up the 05 CRF450X, the off road version of my MX bike. As mentioned, that lead to the Husaberg FE450 and then on to my beloved KTM350 which is the only bike I've owned for quite a while now.
It had been 21 years since I'd owned a two stroke and the trend for off roading around here has been to head back to the two stroke platform. In particular the 300cc two stroke. They're technically as advanced as any bike out there. Fuel injection, a magic button (electric start), oil injection, the latest in suspension and frame technology.
It got me thinking that it was time to give the two stroke a try again. My old KTM was getting tired and used so I got stupid and went to the dealership and looked over a Husqvarna TE300i. The reviews were rave and a couple of the guys I rode with loved theirs. I decided to bite the bullet and add to my choices of rides and ended up coming home with it.
This next few paragraphs have been stolen out of my broken stuff page. It's my last entry and tells a tale of that damned two stroke.
It was a cool bike for certain stuff. Gnar, technical, slower crawling type of terrain (you know the stuff that wears and old man out) is where it shined. Sit down on it (I'm a LAZY rider, I sit all the time), get in deep sand or get into faster stuff and it became skittish and unpredictable.
I'm ripping through the main wash. It's FAST, flowy and a lot of fun provided it's on a week day so it's not filled with rental UTV tards (been hit twice now).
I come into a fast left hand turn that's followed by a similar right hander. It's two track and the turns are both nice deep bowls that let you carry a lot of speed.
My last memory prior to lights out was that of my front wheel over the top of a rock that's about two feet wide, a foot deep and sticking out of the ground in the middle of the two track about six inches high. I shouldn't be in this position - I should be looking at my fender and in one of the two tracks. Nope, it's a blink of my front wheel being a tad off and hitting the rock.
My next "memory"(?) is standing there looking at the GoPro (no, didn't catch the crash, damn it) in the sand, I've already removed my helmet, goggles and gloves and the bike's laying sideways to the trail in the right hand turn (about forty feet or so from where the rock was).
I knew I was hurt. Walked over to the bike and tried to pick it up. OH GOD NO!!! That's not happening. I've realized I've snapped my left clavicle and a lot of stuff in my left side hurts badly.
Not sure how long I was standing there trying to figure out my next move when along comes an elderly couple in a UTV out for a morning cruise. They stop, talk to me (I don't really recall the conversation) and I must have convinced them I wasn't in as bad of shape I was in so off they went.
Awhile later they come back by.
"Oh, you're still here." was the opening to the conversation.
What 'still' covers as far as a time frame to this day escapes me. Not a clue how long I was there. I do recall telling them that if they'd help me get the bike up and pointed in the correct direction (part of the reason I couldn't pick up the bike was that it was ninety degrees to the trail so I couldn't get on it) I'd be able to ride out. The man graciously offered to get the bike up, pointed in the right direction and then follow me to my van.
It's a 4.5 mile ride out. Most of it sand so I was able to ride one handed and just bear down and deal with it. There's one rocky section on FR2124. As I came upon it I can remember thinking "Man, adrenaline is good right now!", took a deep breath, clenched up my upper body and picked my way through the rocks.
We got back to my van, they helped me load up and home I headed for a few weeks of couch surfing.
I called my doctor, got a prescription for X-rays and the following day got a bunch of pix taken. I was moving really slowly and the world wasn't quite right. Couldn't remember things, repeated myself, was irritable - all the classic signs of a concussion.
It took me close to nine months to recover from it.
This is my brand new 6D helmet. I'd worn it four times and during the fourth time I think it probably save my life. Shattered the back left side of it quite well. It's supposed to be the latest in helmet technology so I'll assume it did what they said it was designed for.
X-rays come back, radiologist gives them a look over and says "Broken left clavicle and five ribs. Two ribs have a section knocked out of them (broken in two spots)."
Yup, that's what it feels like.
I go in for follow up X-rays a couple weeks later and the report stands corrected. I've broken seven ribs, not five.
What I did find interesting was the bruises and the locations of the breaks down my side. It would appear that the bike pitched me over the bars and I landed on my left side with my arm tucked up against me. That explains the collar bone break - shoulders don't take being pushed in at high speed and the rib break line runs directly from my arm pit to my hip. I pretty much took them out with my upper left arm.
I went down the end of April '21 and stayed off of two wheels until the end of September. It gets hot this time of year anyhow so it wasn't a bad time to take myself out. My first time out was once again on the Husky way out on the west side of town in an area known as White Tanks. Great riding, lots of terrain.
I'm with a two others and we're having fun. Time to drop into the wash and move to a different area. We get to the end of the wash section, I go to turn left and get out of the wash and the &%#$ Husky tosses me off to the right.
Breath leaves body. No fun. Ouch. Doh!
As I picked up the Husky I whispered to it "You're up for sale when I get home."
It took about 45 minutes from posting it to getting a phone call from the new owner.
BYE BYE TWO STOKES!!! (where's the little middle finger emoji when you need it?) Never again!