Henry and I spent Saturday morning riding our dirt bikes. Henry brought both the 2-stroke PW50 (which he learned on, and loves) and the bigger 4-stroke TT-R 50 which he is learning to operate. Henry rode the PW50 for about 4 minutes before switching to the bigger bike. He stuck with it for the rest of the day and made big strides in in his shifting and braking on the more complicated machine.
I got to ride a little on my bike, but spent most of the day tagging along behind Henry. He’s really building his confidence, and his initial reaction to most tricky situations seems to usually be the right one.
Henry got to ride with his buddy Jayden yesterday after school. They zipped all over the place, riding on the flat track, the pit bike track, and even taking a lap of the GP track. Henry had a great time despite a minor crash on the flat track, hopping back up and continuing like it was no big deal. He’s getting more proficient and more adventurous each time we go ride.
Helen and I went dirt track racing again at BET. We set up our pit with our friends the Pursleys – Helen and Chloe were delighted to see each other again – but this time, Chloe had a surprise – her parents bought her a bike, and she was going racing too, for the very first time! The girls had a ball. And the parents had a great day too.
Helen finished 8th in her main event out of 10 riders, and I finished 10th in my main out of 12 riders. The track was soft, the roost was outrageous, and the racing was fast.
Helen was pleased with her trophy. I was thrilled to see her have so much fun.
Helen and I went to Coyote Trails near Coulterville, Illinois this evening. We rode both on the practice track, and in the woods. It was Helen’s first time in the woods. She was fantastic. I could see the apprehension on her face when we approached the first creek crossing. Helen had never ridden across a creek before. But she watched me do it, then she followed, and she made it across cleanly. Each 2.5 mile lap of the woods has four creek crossings. By Helen’s third lap, she was leading me through the woods, and hitting the creeks at a run with her feet up. She is one brave little girl. Helen handled the steep hills very well too. I had a heck of a time getting her off the bike at 7:30 pm. On the ride home, she told me that she liked the creek crossings the best.
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.
I had a motorcycling day so momentous that I probably can’t do it justice in this little blog. I took my daughter racing for the first time. She asked me if she could do it. We put together the things she needed, and I gave her every opportunity to back out gracefully, but she had made up her mind. She was going to race.
At the track, there was a significant rain delay. Helen had lots of time to make new friends. Finally, the track was prepped for racing, and the kids got to go out and practice. Helen had a ball, and rode around waving at her parents and other people she had just met – She was having fun, but only taking it so seriously.
Then she had her first heat race, and something happened: She realized everyone was ahead of her. So she picked up the pace. And kept picking it up. By the last lap, she was gaining ground on the bike ahead of her, and she succumbed to the “red mist”. She blew through the corner after the downhill part of the track with more speed than she expected, and she lost her nerve – she target fixated on the outside of the corner and drove herself right off the track and very nearly into a straw bale.
To her credit, she popped right up, got on the bike, and finished her last lap. But she was furious. Nothing we could say would make her happy – she was determined to beat somebody.
She got her wish in the main event. She caught and passed one of her new friends, and was very proud of herself for the rest of the day.
Helen was awarded a trophy, and she was delighted. She retired the day with great satisfaction.
My day had just begun. I stayed at the track for the night racing, and raced in the Open C Class, which had the largest field of any class that night.
I had done a bunch of work on my bike in the week since the last TT Scramble: I put on a new hard terrain rear tire, rebuilt the front and rear brake calipers, replaced the brake rotors, and installed a 14 oz oversize flywheel – the goals were to have better traction, better brake feel, and to avoid stalling the motor on corner entries with too much rear brake. It all worked – I did not have a single stall all night, and my lap times came down consistently. I placed 4th of 7 riders in my heat, which qualified me for the last slot pick on the front row, and I finished the main even a very honest 8th place out of 13 riders. I don’t think I have ever had that many riders behind me before. It may not sound like much, but It was an improvement in my racing, and that’s the kind of thing that makes a bad racer like me very happy!
I contacted my congressman’s office by phone this afternoon to express my hope that he would support this legislation. I got the number by using the AMA’s rights watch portion of their website.
Please contact your congressperson to ask for their support on this issue as soon as possible.