Monthly Archives: May 2008

No Sparta – local race instead

So this weekend is the Sparta KY. race. My oldest daughter is graduating tomorrow, so I am not at the race. I love racing my motorcycle, but she only graduates once, so I am not there. No other explanation necessary in my book. But, it does feel like I am missing something.

Right now Scott and I are in the van, as we can often be found on a Saturday morning, heading to a local D16 race. It is a bit far, 4 hours of driving each way, for a 2 hour race. But, I don’t think either one of us can resist. I had to do some big negotiating at home to be gone for the day. My mother is in town for Ali’s graduation, and I really probably should be there. But, it is a race in Wi… Rob will be there… Jim will be there… there will be mud… I just cannot stay home.

Given our usual level of prep this year, it feels as if I am just going for a local ride. I mean the van loading to 5 minutes at 6 am this morning. We didn’t even have to put it all in there like a jigsaw puzzle. Just stuff it in and go. Wow. When we are going to a GNCC race, the van is completely stuffed . Weird.

This race was supposed to be an early start with all classes on the course at the same time. When we decided to go, that seemed to work as we would both want to be home early for various reasons. The format got switched at the last moment back to the standard format. It means the race doesn’t start until 12:30. I guess the course was shortened or something and that is why we have gone back to the standard format. Too bad. But, we had already mentally committed that we were going,

So here we are. Cruising down the road at 75 as usual, thinking about when we will stop and get gas and to poop. The usual stuff.

It is always fun to do local races. The guys at Dirt Bike magazine have made note that you always enjoy your local races the most. That is where you know the guys on the start line. You know who you passed in the woods, or who passed you. The guy pointing you to the best line in the mud you can trust, because you know them. The dirt feels familiar. The guys in my class all have to go to work on Monday, so they race sane. Etc… They are right. I cannot wait.



Local races

This past weekend was the first local D16 race that I could do this year. It was actually the 2nd race of the season here, but the first one fell on the Loretta’s GNCC race weekend.

I took the girls up to the UP with me to stay overnight in the camper (Ali, Hanna and Lisa our foreign exchange student who is part of the family now). It has been a long time since we have been camping, so I was really looking forward to it.

We did the normal camping things when we got there. Cooking dinner, walking around the campground, making a campfire, making smores, rushing inside the camper when it started raining etc… It was really fun. I am glad they came. Here are a few photos from the night.

The campsite

Ali and Hanna, being well… as normal.

starting to rain

going out in the rain

bored in the camper
Local racing and GNCC racing are a lot different. At a GNCC race there will be about 400+ racers on the course at once. Because of that, the course can only be so narrow. It needs to accommodate all of those rdiers on the course at once. At a local race, there might only be 60 or so racers on the line at once. Therefore, the course can be a lot more challenging from a technical standpoint. There were just 72 at this one. The course here was less than a 10 minute lap, and at a GNCC race the lap is closer to 30 minutes loop. At a GNCC race the race is 3 hours long, and here it is just 2 hours long.

It does not matter though, local races are just as hard fought as GNCC races. The start is frenzied, and the course is challenging. Damn it was fun.

Jim Blau got the start and I took 2 kicks to get it going. I was last going into the first turn, but made up 5 spots before we left the MX track. In the woods, I caught up to Rob and he was not going that fast, so I went right past him. After going pretty hard for a bit, I realized that he was completely gone behind me. I spent 2 laps in what I thought was 1st place (it was really 2nd, as Jim had checked out at the start). At about lap 3, I bobbled on a steep uphill with a bunch of mud at the bottom, and fell over. As I was getting restarted, I saw Rob go by and he was going hard. He put a minute or so on me, and I could not make that up. Rob ended up catching Jim and going through him, but I did not catch Jim. I ended up 3rd out of 13 riders.

It is really good to be racing at home. I have not done a local race since early Sept last year. Before I hurt my knee. I am not convinced that I am as fast as I was last year yet, but it feels good to race near the front of a race again.

The girls did take a couple of pictures though. Here they are.

at least they got me on the gas!


No Ohio

Ohio is today. That would be the John Penton Ohio race. I am not there.

Scott was never going, as his wife was due this past week. She lived up to that due date as well.

But, I was supposed to be going. I got so burned out with the van thing after Loretta’s, that I did not want to go all by myself. I could not get any of my family to go, they had work and soccer games. I could not get any of my local racing buddies to go, as they did not want drive all the way there to do a mudder. So I wimped out. I decided that I just could not do it. That is not a good sign.

Talk about a mudder. I looked at the pictures on the website from the ATV race, and OMG. Wow. It has been raining there for days and days and it is forecast to rain again on race day. I would not have enjoyed that much mud.

Yesterday I rode my practice bike at Dyracuse. My practice bike and my race bike are almost the same, but there are a few subtleties that make them different. I think the main thing is the jetting. My practice bike is still set up for when it was really cold (170main and 4th clip on the needle). That makes it kinda rich for 60 degrees, but I like the power better like that. I remember Shane Watts riding a YZ250 for a few races last year. His comments were that the bike just had 5HP too many. I think he was doing things like multiple base gaskets to get less power. Scott feels that in effect, that is why I like the rich jetting. I get plenty of grunt out of it, but I do not get the power hit. It makes me feel more comfortable on the bike. I feel that it takes less effort to ride my practice bike than it does to ride my race bike.

But, other than that one thing I am still working through, my bike is fantastic.

The RM 250 is just such a great bike. I let my friend Tyler take a lap on my bike at Dyracuse when we were done riding. He rides a CRF250, and is getting to be pretty fast. He said it took a while to get used the a 2 stroke again, but he could not believe how much better my bike handled than his and how much easier it was to horse the front end around. He felt that it was just way way easier to ride the 2 stroke, than it was his 4 stroke. I remember making those exact statements. On the way home, he said he thought that was an expensive test ride for him, as now he feels that he needs a 2 stroke. I for one hope that I am never forced to ride a 4 stroke. I am sending weekly letters to Suzuki asking them to continue to develop and market the 2 stroke.

The Vesrah brakes are just dynamite. I cannot say enough about Mark and the gang at Vesrah. They have been super super helpful to Scott and I to get this season off the ground. We could not have done it without them. The Pirelli tires never fail to impress me, Vortex bars and sprockets are super durable. I love my G2 throttle tube and how it helps to mellow the power. AJ at Victory Graphics sent us enough decals to keep the Cycra plastic and Bell helmets looking spectacular. And of course I just cannot get enough of my Magura hydraulic clutch.

There is a local race next weekend, I am going up with the kids to make a camping night of it.  We will stay at the race site, and have a campfire and sleep in the camper.  It is a 2 day race, but I can only do the Saturday race as there is a scholarship event that my older daughter and I want to be at on Sunday.  Doing the local race will be fun.  It has been since early last September since I have done a local race.  I hurt my knee just after that, so I had to bail on the rest of the season.  It will be really fun to see all the usual suspects from the past few years there.


The big rebuild

After 5 races and 10 weeks in the van, away from home. My race bike is finally home, and can get a complete rebuild. If you are a regular reader, you will recall that we were commuting to those first races. If you are not, well be aware that we were flying down to the race on Friday, picking up the van and gear, working on the bikes on Saturday, racing on Sunday, then cleaning bikes and gear on Monday morning and flying home on Monday night. It was a tough schedule on our bodies and our family lives and jobs, but what we all forgot about was how hard it was on the bikes to be ridden that hard and then receive just a Monday washing and a Saturday pre race prep amount of TLC for 10 weeks.

They are in haggered shape. Scott’s bike will not hold fork oil in one side. My bike had a piston that was completely burned looking. Both bikes need new plastic and graphics. My bike had not had the bearings repacked since the winter, and they were bad. Grips were gone, radiators were tweaked, clutch plates were gone, sprockets were worn etc… We were doing our best on the road, but the best you can do with our schedule is just not enough to keep up with the damage done by a 3 hour GNCC race.

My gear is bad. The helmet that I had on the road with me took quite a beating from trees etc… All of the spoilers needed to be replaced and the graphics needed to be replaced. I had 2 sets of riding gear with me on the road, the red set was the set that I rode in the first mud race and since it was looking bad I made that my mud gear for the road trip. Since all the races turned out to be muddy, I ended up in that same gear every time – and that set of gear is ready for the dumpster. 2 of the 4 pair of goggles that I had with me are also ready for the trash heap. 1 pair of the gloves that I had with me are worn through, and the 2nd pair is going to be kicked down to mountain bike usage only.

So, the race bike got stripped down to the frame and motor.

– a complete new top end went in.

– of course all fluids got changed. Fork oil, brake fluids, radiator fluids, oil…

– the pipe needed a dent or 2 popped out and to be polished back to a shine

– the bearings (head set, swingarm, linkages, wheels) all needed to be repacked.

– the clutch plates, and springs needed to be replaced.

– new grips, plastic and graphics applied.

– complete new drive parts installed.

– brake pads replaced.

– wheels trued and spokes torqued

– new tires on both sets of wheels

Here is a photo below of the finished product, with my local D16 number applied. It is back to feeling like a new bike again.


After Loretta’s

The 24 hours after Loretta’s turned out to be just about the most miserable I have had, certainly in a long long time.

I left Loretta’s and followed the Candi’s directions (our stripper voice GPS unit) towards home.  She sent me home on little roads north and west through Tennessee and Kentucky.  It was pouring down rain, but nonetheless it was a spectacular drive.  The van acted up a little bit on that drive, doing it’s cutting out above a certain speed thing.  But, the roads were small and the pace was not to fast, so it was not to bad.

In Kentucky, I hit the interstate and that was when it got bad.  The van decided that 60mph was as fast as it wanted to go.  Around Paducah it decided that it did not want to run at all.  I pulled over at a rest area, and let the thing rest – thinking that stopping and letting it reset somehow was making it better – as it seemed to a month ago in Florida.  I somehow managed to get into Illinois, but at the border there is a pretty decent climb after the river.  The van barely made it up that.  I was on the shoulder with the flashers on struggling to maintain 35-40mph.

Down the hill and into Marion, and the van maintained 55-60mph with just an occasional stumble.  But, in Marion I planned to grab a hotel room and then make the rest of the drive the next day.

When I left Marion, the next morning, the sun was shinning and it looked to be a good day on the road.   40 or so miles later, and I was back into the torrential downpour.  That was when the van decided that it was done fooling around and it was time to really really run poorly.  It began to cut out, stumble and die every 10-15 miles.  Every 15 minutes I would stop on the side of the road and turn the van off to let it rest – again, thinking that it was an electrical problem that would reset itself.  But, by now it was just running poorly all the time.  It would only go about 45mph, it would stumble and struggle on overpasses or in a big headwind and I was stopping constantly.

Somehow I made it to Champaign Illinois, but that was as far as the van would go.  I sputtered into the Ford dealer there, and they put it up on the stand.  They changed the fuel filter, which was completely clogged, and while doing that discovered that the fuel sensor in the tank was gone as well.  That part they did not have in stock, that would have to be delivered the next day.  Although I was more than half way home, I was not going to make it that day.  I was stranded 5 hours from home, at a crappy hotel in Champaign.

While I was there, I tried to make the best of it.  I found a bookstore with a coffee shop and wireless access.  I camped out there and tried to do my job from that spot.  The next day, I made my way back over to the Ford dealer at about noon, and they were already working on the repair.

After about 4 hours of waiting in the waiting room, they finally found the real culprit.  Apparently the lining on the tank is coming off, and that is what is damaging the fuel filter and the sensor.  The managed to get it all put back together and it runs, but they warned me that it is just going to do the same thing all over again,  over time.

$896 later, thank you very much, I was back on the road at about 5pm.  I drove like mad to make it home to see my daughters playing in a varsity soccer game.  Although I have been home in between the races so far this year, since this is the first time the van, camper and race bikes have been home since February it feels like I have not been home in a long time.  It is good to be home.

We will be holed up here in Wisconsin for a while.  I have a lot of work I want to do on the trailer, each of our race bikes needs a complete overhaul (top end, clutch, bearings packed, wheels trued, tires, brake fluids, radiator fluids, my pipe is bent so will be replaced, Scotts fork has lost all its fluid on one side, sprockets, plastic, graphics, grips etc…)

We will be missing Ohio.  Scott’s wife is having a baby, and I am just a bit burned out after the Champaign and van fiasco.  Hopefully we will get the tank replaced on it before we head out of town to another GNCC.  I cannot make Sparta as that is the same day as my oldest daughters High School graduation.  There are a couple of local races in there that I will be able to do, and I will post up some stories from those.  But, Yadkinville is when I will be back at it with GNCC racing.

See you then,