I had a special treat this morning. I got to ride with Jo Wottowa, a friend and competitor from “back in the day” when supermoto was a thing. It’s been twelve years since I last rode with this guy. We met up at Ride Organic, Jo on his sharp and zippy KTM 350, me on my Be Em Husky-You.
Jo and his buddy JJ showed me the way around the Ride Organic GP track. JJ is fine throttle jockey, ripping through the woods like his hair is on fire. Jo and I agree that a more stately pace is the dignified way to go – we prefer to savor those fine moments on the trail when the temperature is a perfect 70 degrees. To keep things interesting, Jo devised a challenge for JJ – try to lap Jo and Bill more than once in 10 laps of the GP track. JJ was all over it, and ripped off into the woods in a cloud of dust and fine four stroke noise. In truth, when JJ passed me, I was pretty happy about it – my throttle arm had “pumped” to the point where I was accelerating unintendedly at unfortunate moments. JJ claimed he was experiencing the same thing, but I suspect he was just being a good boy and humoring an elder.
Before our morning was over, we made plans to ride together again. Reconnecting with an old friend and finding you still have all those things in common leaves you with a really happy feeling.
This makes two days in a row that I’ve taken my Husky to Ride Organic – beautiful weather, and another opportunity to reacquaint myself with dirt riding. I worked mostly on rutted corners, finding the right rolling speed at the beginning to motor out without standing the bike up and getting cross-rutted. I’m certainly not in riding shape – I got pretty tired pretty fast.
I’m hoping to do lots more riding, get those skills and stamina back…being off the bike for so long has been a bummer.
This post is late in coming, and I didn’t get any pictures of this ride, but my wife and daughter and I spent a great afternoon trail riding at Coyote ATV Riders in Coulterville, IL
As is her style, Helen, my eight year old daughter was the first one geared up and riding, and the last one to come in off the trail. She tackled some tough stuff, and motored right through it.
My wife did really well too. It had been almost two years since her last trail ride, and at the end of the day, she was catching air off the jumps at the practice track.
I’m really glad my daughter has her awesome mom to look up to.
First Monday of the month – Vintage Bike Night at Moto Europa! I wouldn’t miss it. This month they had a DJ spinning great summer jams, and food and beverages served on the sidewalk. The atmosphere was great, the bikes were beautiful, and the riders were happy.
I met up with old friends Doug Scronce, Kris Williams, and Walter Bass. It was great to see them. I’m looking forward to riding with them again.
Enough chit chat. Where are the pictures?
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.
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?
Sunday was my birthday. I spent the whole day with my wife and kids, doing mostly non-moto stuff together. My big present from them was a new full face helmet, a SparX S07 in the “Nemesis” graphics. My experience with SparX helmets has been excellent. I wear a SparX D07 for dirt riding, and it has been the most comfortable helmet I have ever owned, including some that were four times more expensive. Also, in a wicked crash at a Supermoto race at Road America last year, I hit my head hard enough to visibly crush the expanded foam in my first D07, and was mobile and lucid immediately afterwards (so they tell me). I replaced it immediately with another D07 of the same design.
So my new S07 helmet is really handsome – photos don’t do it justice. And it fits perfectly, maybe even better than my D07, which was the most comfortable helmet I ever owned. Did I tell you that? I repeat myself a lot ever since the crash. Sorry.
Did I tell you I repeat myself sometimes?
Anyway, I got to try out the new helmet when Helen and I went out for an afternoon snow cone together on the Z. I love that girl. 🙂