I have owned motorcycles for 24 years. I bought my first dirt bike eight years ago, a fire breathing beast of a Yamaha YZ426, set up for supermoto, and tuned to near “grenade” status by its original owner. Over those eight years, I have learned my chops with a wrench because of that bike – having taken it completely apart, and restored it to running order to cure the failures it endured from its previous high state of tune. It’s a better bike than when I bought it, and I’m a better mechanic and rider now too.
In 24 years, the one major thing I’ve never done was ride at a motocross track. I have raced TT scrambles and supermoto on the big YZ. I’ve raced in the woods on my smaller Yamaha. But inevitably, when people hear you race motorcycles, they light up and ask “Do you go over those big jumps?”
It’s deflating to see their faces fall when you say “No, I race real fast on asphalt, or dirt, or between trees…”
They don’t care. Everyone wants to see the jumps.
So, for the last few months, knowing that my big old Yamaha is more reliable and easier to ride than ever, and knowing that I’m at this juncture where my riding skills are getting better, but my physical fitness has just barely passed its peak – I decided this was the year to try motocross.
My friend, and dirt riding rock star, Matt Pursley texted me a few weeks back to see if I’d like to go to a motocross practice day. Matt’s five year old son, Colton, and my seven year old daughter are at the same stage in their motorcycling – skilled enough to make it around a track, interested enough to learn new things, and slow enough not to put themselves in any real danger. Matt wanted to take Colton to the MX park for hist first ride, and suggested my daughter Helen would enjoy it too. Helen and I agreed it was a great idea.
We went to Archview MX in Washington Park, IL for a Saturday practice day. The weather was hot. The staff at Archview were fabulously friendly, more so than at any other racing venue I’ve ever been to. Helen signed up for the “Youth Junior” practice class, and I signed up for the “Big Bike Novice class”
Helen and Colton went out on the track first, and found the deep ruts in the loamy corners challenging, with their small wheels. But they both figured it out, and circulated the track, obviously concentrating.
I went out for the first time with some trepidation. The jumps look HUGE when you first encounter them – like walls. But I quickly realized that the jumps were very well built, and well prepped – As long as I hit the jump face with an even throttle hand and squeezing the tank with my knees, the jumps were quite easy.
Not that I was jumping very far. Each big jump is built to allow three easy ways to clear it – First by rolling it, as the kids like Colton and Helen were doing. Second by doubling it, that is, jumping to a next little lip at the top of the table top. And third by tripling it, jumping to the far down face of the hill. I spent my day working on cleanly doubling the jumps. A few were easy to double. Some I didn’t get until my third time out. I would “case” them every time – land with my front wheel over the lip, and the rear wheel behind. Casing the doubles over and over in the heat, was quite a workout. At the end of each session, I would tiredly wend my way back to our pit, struggle to pull off my sweaty gear, and then pour icy water on my head and get a drink. I usually only had a few minutes to recover. I had to get Helen ready to ride, and then go back out on the track on foot to assist her if she got stuck or had a crash.
Helen had a great day. She experienced jumping her motorcycle for the first time – something she has wanted to do ever since she was four years old. I was very proud of how she dealt with the heat and the difficult track.
My wife, owner of Speed Of Life Photography, came out to the track too. She brought her camera, and took all of the pictures in this post.
I am blessed. Blessed to have a smart, coordinated daughter who shares my enjoyment of motorcycles. Blessed to have friends like Matt and Colton who encourage us to try new things. Blessed to have the health and resources to go throw a 240 pound motorcycle over big dirt jumps on a July morning. And blessed to have a wonderful wife who supports my silly hobbies, and can take a mean picture too.
My neighbor Shawn Buckingham and I rode to the July Vintage Bike Night at the Saint Louis Moto Museum. The turnout was less than last month, due in no small part to the extraordinarily hot weather we’re having in Saint Louis. It’s a good thing they have an excellent (air conditioned) restaurant and motorcycle dealership at hand. Shawn and I had a nice dinner, toured the Moto Europa Ducati, Triumph and KTM dealership, reviewed the vintage bikes gathered outside, and then took a tour of the Moto Museum itself. It was still terribly hot on the ride home well after dark. Not the best night to be out on a bike.
Helen and I rode to the first ever STL VBN (Saint Louis Vintage Bike Night) museum tour. Organized by our friend Doug Scronce, it was a morning ride to vintage bike hot spots around the Saint Louis area. The meeting point was the Kickstart Café, conveniently located in the Classic Motorcycle Company’s showroom. What a fabulous place! A biplane hands from the ceiling, comfy couches are all around, and the showroom is packed with mind-blowingly cool motorcycles. The café itself makes a wicked iced tea or espresso. Helen and I fell in love with the place right away.
We met up with a few of our friends, the afore mentioned Doug Scronce, and another of my old racing pals, Kris Williams. Kris and I once rebuilt a warped YZ head in the picnic area of the Road America infield. True story. Kris is an affable guy who can’t help but tease you like a little brother, even if you’ve only just met. Helen found this out to her surprise and delight. Helen also found out she loves iced passion tea brewed fresh and served in a mason jar.
The next stop on the tour was Donelson’s in St. Ann. Donnelson’s is a great old dealership with a couple of rooms full of vintage bikes and historic race bikes. Helen and I left the Classic Motorcycle Company kind of late – we were enjoying our drinks – so we lost track of the rest of the tour. While we were at Donnelson’s, Helen took the opportunity to try a Honda CRF70 for size. She says it’s nice, but just a bit too big. Perhaps next Spring?