Ok, here I am sitting at my computer on a truly beautiful day in Southern California wishing I was out riding my motorcycle instead. Such is life for all too many of us. Doing research for a story about Vintage Triumph 250’s, I open up my Thumper Talk Newsletter email and am glad I’m only riding a keyboard today and not a Honda in the sand dunes.
Ok, back to work…you too. Thanks to Thumper Talk (www.thumpertalk.com) for a well needed laugh…even if it is at someone else’s expense.
Have you ever seen one? Do you even know what a Winnie Wasto is? Well, set right down and let me tell you. A Winnie Wasto was the preferred mode of race transportation for one of the biggest stars in Motocross racing. Every week, legions of fans would follow this star’s exploits on the track in the nations favorite weekly motorcycle newspaper, Cycle News. This racer wasn’t a legend because of his success on the race track, quite the opposite, he was legendary for his perseverance in the face of absolute disaster. Broken bones, broken motorcycle, dead motorhome…it didn’t matter, this racer was at the track every week racing as if he stood a chance of winning. Who is this legend of motocross? It could only be Motocross Cat himself.
I started reading Cycle News in 1967 or ’68 when I started racing. My step dad got us a subscription when I got into racing and from then on I kept renewing that subscription for the next twenty years. Each week when Cycle News would show up Michael (my step dad) and I would fight over who got to read it first, he would always pull the old “I paid for the magazine so I’m first”, or “if it wasn’t for me you wouldn’t be looking for your name in there” and of course there was, ” I’m faster than you, that’s why I get it first”…that one only worked for about a year, maybe. We finally came up with a plan that was fair and it made reading Cycle News more interesting.
Instead of reading it all at one time and then having to wait a whole week for the next one to arrive, we picked certain segments to read each day…kind of like those people who read one bible passage a day? Hey, Cycle News was our bible. The first day was to skim the paper for two things, a story about the race you were in last weekend and then any other stories you might want to read later. The second days passage was ‘The Latest Poop’ by Papa Wheelie. Day three was Motocross Cat. The rest of the week was reading the other stories, feature articles and looking at all the ads for stuff that you knew would make you go faster. Every real racer knew everything in Cycle News every week.
Cycle News was one of the pillars of Moto Journalism for nearly five decades. There are a great many racers and journalists who owe the Clayton family (founders of Cycle News) a debt of gratitude for being instrumental in their careers. The list is long, loaded with names that are legendary both behind the handlebars and the typewriter. Cycle News truly was the window into the motorcycle racing world that we all looked through.
As I was thinking of how to write this story, I decided I wasn’t going to head down the path of why Cycle News succumbed, plenty of others have already done that. I want to remember Cycle News as something I looked forward to every week and while I would sit there in my garage staring at a broken Bultaco or a beat up Honda I could always read Motocross Cat, get a smile on my face and be thankful I didn’t have to work on his bike.
Thank you Cycle News, I will miss you.
It was a beautiful fall Saturday afternoon in the San Fernando Valley made all the more beautiful because I didn’t have any yard work to do. I had already gone for a good street bike ride and was now sitting in my garage with my ‘a little less than trusty’ Bultaco Pursang wondering what to do. A year ago, almost to the day, I sold my faithful Matador to a fellow enduro rider because he wanted a Bultaco Matador and I wanted a Pursang. Good enough reasons don’t you think. The man that bought my Matador was an interesting story in itself. I first met him during the overnight at the Greenhorn Enduro a couple of years earlier. A buddy of his drove up to Ridgecrest to meet him, help him with anything he needed to do on his bike and drink beer. It was long night for those two.
I woke up the next morning with frost on my sleeping bag, it gets cold in the desert at night! I climbed out of the bed of our truck heading to the porta john and here were these same two guys passed out next to their truck still in the clothes they were wearing yesterday. The rider was still wearing his boots. On the way back I went over and did my best to wake the guy up but after 15 minutes of shaking, yelling, poking and prodding, this guy was still dead to the world so I gave up. And besides, I had to get ready to ride.
Two hours later, this guy on a beat up old CZ pulls up next to me at a checkpoint, asks me if I was the guy trying to wake him up. I said yes, he looked at me and my motorcycle and said, “nice bike, next time try a little harder, thanks” and off he went.I saw him at the end of the Enduro, walking along with a beer in each hand looking for something, or someone. Turns out he was looking for me. He thanked me again for my efforts that morning, handed me a Lucky Lager beer and then asked if I wanted to sell my bike? I told him no, I liked it too much. This little “do you want to sell your bike?” scene happened at almost every Enduro I rode for the next two years.
At the end of a particularly grueling District 37 Enduro, I was sitting on the tailgate of the truck too whooped to take my boots off and here comes Mr. ‘You want to sell your bike yet?’ carrying the usual two Lucky’s. He hands me one and asks the usual question. This time I shocked him, “Sure, how much you give me for it?” “I got three hundred in my truck, I’ll be right back”. Half hour later my step dad and I are driving home with only one bike in the back and three hundred dollars I didn’t have that morning.
So, here I am sitting in the garage staring at the Pursang that the three hundred dollars, along with some help from the guys at Steve’s Bultaco in Van Nuys , California got me. There are no desert races this weekend so maybe I’ll just go trail riding, even though a Pursang is not what you would call an ideal trail bike…I wish I had my old Matador back. I call a couple of friends about going riding but everyone has plans, oh well, I didn’t really want to go trail riding anyway.
Two beers and a bike wash later, my friend Tim wanders into the garage carrying two beers that I swear he got out of my refrigerator, and parks his butt on my BSA. “Whaddya doin’ tomorrow?” he asks. I told him I wanted to go riding either up Angeles Crest on the Beezer or maybe dirt riding somewhere. “You ever ridden Motocross before?” he asks. “No and I don’t have any plans to”. Two more beers and enough badgering by Tim, I’m changing the gearing on my bike for motocross.
Sunday morning as the sun is coming up, Tim and I are heading to Indian Dunes, a cycle park about 30 minutes from home. Indian Dunes is a big place, two motocross tracks, a flat track, and miles of trials in the surrounding hills. I had been to the Dunes a couple of times before to watch motocross and ride the trails but never to race. To say that I was a bit apprehensive would be an understatement. I had been racing in the desert for years, even rode a TT race a couple of times, but the push, shove and knock you off your bike world of motocross was going to be new and I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it.
Tim spent the whole time driving to the track telling / convincing me how much fun motocross was and how I was going to do great. On and on he went, giving me tips on the start, the first corner, the jumps, using the berm…etc,etc. After a while I tuned him out and started thinking of ways I could gracefully get out of this. I couldn’t use the old “the bike won’t start’ or, ‘ I think maybe it’s seized’, Tim’s too good a mechanic for those excuses to work. I couldn’t even pull off the ‘I’ve got a hangover’, he’s ridden with me when we were both hungover. I was doomed, I was going to have to race.
After signing up for the race, Tim in the expert class and me in the novice group (Novice??…how humiliating…I’m an Expert in the desert…) we had an hour or so to practice before the official practice sessions started. Off to the ‘easy track we went, and so did everyone else. I got bumped, knocked down, stalled my bike twice coming out of a corner, and run into a tree. If this is what they call practice what’s the race going to be like?? Now, I’m thinking maybe I could go ride off on one of the trails into the hills and come back after the race and say I got lost, or maybe I could crash and break something important so I couldn’t ride like, say, my arm…Ok, that last idea wasn’t such a good one. It looks like I’m still doomed to race.
Back at the truck, Tim starts right in giving me more tips and encouragement. Start in second gear, don’t get caught on the inside of the first turn, take the second jump on the outside and use the berm for the next corner, stay wide on the last turn ‘cuz that’ll give you a good run down the straight and into turn one and watch out for the guy on the Maico he worse than you…Thanks Tim. I’m sure he said a lot more, but after the first five minutes all I could hear was my poor motorcycle saying “I wanna go back to the desert…I’m not having fun…”.
Walking back from the outhouse I heard those dreaded words over the loud speaker…”Novice class to the start, novice class to the start”. As I was getting my helmet on I decided that my only goal in the first moto was to not fall down. Probably easier said than done I thought, but that was the goal.
As the starter was getting everyone lined up in position I couldn’t help but notice the kid next to me had to lean his bike way over just so he could put his foot down. Ok I thought, I can at least beat this kid off the line. The flag dropped and that kid was gone like he was shot out of a gun! And me…I stalled the bike right there on the starting line. Ok, I’m last but I haven’t fallen down…yet. A couple of kicks and the Pursang lights off, so do I. Turn one is littered with bikes from a pile up…uh, guys, there’s only room for two bikes to get through the first turn side by side. After picking my way through the tangled bikes I’ve got clear track in front of me. Let’s see what was it Tim said about the first jump? Too late, it’s behind me now. Hey, guess what, I’m actually catching up to someone!! Here we go, second jump…stay to the outside, use the berm, it worked, I passed the guy like he was standing still…well actually, he was laying still. Who cares, it wasn’t me on the ground. Two more laps, passed two other bikes, they were were still upright, hey this motocross stuff isn’t so bad after all.
After fifteen minutes of this pounding my body was screaming at me. My arms were pumped up, my thighs were burning and I think every filling in my mouth had been bounced out along with the teeth they used to be in. Only five more minutes in the moto, I can make it?
As I rode over to the truck, Tim was standing ready to catch me as I fell off the bike completely beat up. “ Wow…you did great!! Did ya have fun? Motocross is way better than desert racing yeah!?!” I couldn’t even answer. Tim leaned my bike against the side of the truck, handed me a canteen full of cold water and just started laughing . “Man I can’t believe you stalled on the line?!, what gear were you in? Second like I told ya? and you should have seen yourself over that first jump…I thought for sure you were gonna do a ‘flying W’…” Now he was laughing so hard that I couldn’t help but laugh too.
I watched Tim’s first moto to get some ideas on how to do it. I watched the leaders, of which Tim was part of , and, I watched the guys in the back of the pack, figuring that that would be where I would be racing. At the end of his twenty minute moto Tim rode over to the truck, parked his bike against the fender and instantly started planning his next moto. All I wanted to do was wash two aspirin down with a cold beer.
An hour after my first moto was the second one, I had to beat myself up one more time today before I could go home. I was lined up next to the kid that was too short for his motorcycle again but this time he was leaning the other way? I thought he was just trying to psyche me out..it was working, I almost blew the start again. The flag dropped, the kid shot off and I actually got a decent start. Remembering the melee at the beginning the first moto, I backed off just a bit and sure enough, five or six bikes got all tangled up and I went right by..ha ha, I’m getting the hang of this motocross stuff. Or so I thought.
About half way through the moto I was in a heated battle with two other riders including the guy on the Maico that Tim said was worse than me. This battle went on for three more laps before I was getting just too tired to fight. This is a bad time when you’re a racer, your race mentality (read ego) takes over and good sense just goes freewheeling down the track without you. Coming to the second jump I was on the outside (like I was told) planning my attack on the guy in front of me, when out of nowhere comes another racer with the same plan as me but he was going a lot faster.
When I finally opened my eyes and mentally counted all my body parts, there was my buddy Tim looking down at me with a big grin on his face…”man, you should have seen you fly!! I wonder if anybody got a picture of you?” and then as an after thought, “oh hey…you OK?” Without waiting for my answer, he picked up my bike and said “How good of friends are you with those guys at the Bultaco shop?” Not what I wanted to hear at that moment.
Tim went on to place second, I think, in his moto and combined with his first moto finish, gave him third place overall for the day. Not bad considering he spent a lot of his time babysitting a novice motocrosser.
We drove home that evening, me licking my wounds and Tim just going a mile a minute telling me all about how funny I looked flying over the edge of the jump heading right for the tree, legs over my head and still holding onto the bike with one hand. On and on it went and I don’t think Tim stopped laughing all the way home.
When we got to my house Tim headed straight for the fridge and returned with two cold beers, “beer before unloading, that’s the motocross way”. When we finished our beers we unloaded my beat up Bultaco, dumped my riding gear in the corner and opened up a couple more beers. We didn’t talk much during that second beer, I was too beat up and I think tiredness finally hit my friend.
Tim hauled himself out of the chair and made his way to his truck. I stayed in my chair because I couldn’t move. As Tim drove away, waving his trophy out the window, he yelled out, “I’ll call you later this week about going again next Sunday!!” Fortunately when Tim called on Thursday, the broken parts of my motorcycle were on back order, as in I hadn’t ordered them yet back order, but I didn’t tell him that.
When my parts did come in, I promised my Pursang that there would be no more motocross for us, the desert was our home. And there friends is the story of my first, and last, motocross race.
One note here, I don’t have any pictures of Tim and I from that day as a matter of fact I don’t have any pictures of Indian Dunes Cycle Park so I got these from Elrod Racing at www.elrodracing.com. Thank you.
The last Motoworld blog post was all about getting friends together to watch the season opener MotoGP, do some bench racing, eat, drink and plan our spring road trip. While everyone was arriving with pots and plates of food, boxes of beers and good munchies we had a great motorcycle movie on in the background. The movie going was ‘Riding Solo To The Top Of The World’ by my friend Gaurav Jani from India. Riding Solo is a wonderful travelogue that I believe every traveling motorcyclist should watch, it really put’s ‘Long Way Around’ to shame.While waiting for racing to start, enjoying all the good food and visiting with friends, more and more friends became captivated by the movie to the point of ” hey, record the race, let’s watch the movie, then the race”. After watching the races, we finished the movie. After the movie was over and everybody headed home a new idea was hatched…a way to get motorcycling friends together, and another good reason to consume mass quantities of food and beer, wait, who ‘needs‘ a reason for the last two?
Most readers of this blog are probably old enough to remember Drive-In’s and most of us who did go to Drive-In’s can’t remember the movie we ‘watched’…because the windows were too steamed up. The Drive-In in my town was $5.00 a carload… including Steve and Artie in the trunk along with a couple of six packs. So I got to thinking, with Drive-Ins extinct how can we motorcyclists recreate that wonderful piece of Americana, but on motorcycles? Welcome to the Ride-In Theater.
Here are the rules, you have to ride your motorcycle, no cars. Admission is cold refreshing beverages and your company. The Fillmore Ride-In Theater has popcorn, hot dogs and lawn chairs. But now, what to show? I went through my collection of motorcycle movies and came up with a selection that I’m sure will please everyone. We can’t show all of these on one evening so it gives us a nice summertime of motorcycling entertainment.
We start the Ride-In season with the best of all time motorcycle movie, ‘On Any Sunday’. If this movie doesn’t stir your soul, you should trade in your motorcycle for a minivan and call it quits. Next would be Peter Starr’s ‘Take it to the Limit’, truly the greatest motorcycle racing movie made. From Trials riding to Roadracing to Drag Racing, Desert racing and MotoCross, this movie is nothing but pure excitement and a great Saturday night Ride-In movie date.
About mid July, we bring out ‘The Worlds Fastest Indian’. A great feel good movie about a real legend in Land Speed Record Racing. Having been to Bonneville with a race team, ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’ brings back a lot of good memories and feelings. You have to watch this movie every once and awhile…just because.
August brings to the big screen…actually my barn door…Robert Redford and Michael J.Pollard, also known as ‘Little Fauss and Big Halsy’. There’s just something about this movie that just plain works. You’ve got Robert Redford at his hunkiest, Michael J. Pollard at his quirkiest, throw in some good racing…you can’t go wrong on a warm summer evening at the Ride-in. Oh, and Lauren Hutton doesn’t hurt the movie either.
Labor Day weekend we wind up The Ride-In Theater season with ‘Faster’. A good look at the inside of MotoGP racing. Excellent racing footage along with some great behind the scenes filming, interviews and commentary. Just in time for the end of the MotoGP season.
So, come on all you motorcycle movie fans out there, drive-in ‘s may be extinct, but Ride-In’s are alive and well. Oh and by the way, that little screen in the picture above isn’t what we’ll be using, I just couldn’t find a big ‘ol white sheet to cover the whole door for the photo, but I promise I’ll find one before Ride-In Theater season starts, but you get the idea anyway.
Steaming up the windscreen on my BMW could be a bit challenging but a lot of fun. I think I smell popcorn…see you at the movies.
I’ve been around motorcycle racing for far too many years than I care to admit sometimes. From desert racing as a teenager to showing my AARP card while signing up for a roadrace. When you love racing, it stays with you for life.
Over the years I have learned that motorcycle racing, no matter what the form, is a community. We all help each other..” I need a clutch lever for a Bultaco Pursang..anybody have one?” …someone shows up in about five minutes with it. Over the PA system comes “rider number 112 needs a clutch pulling tool for a GSX-R750..if you can help he’s behind the garages in a green Dodge truck”…five minutes later, you got a tool. Racers are good people.
The generosity of racers towards one another is a beautiful thing, but I think there is something that binds us together even more closely. No, it’s not the risks of racing, it’s not the kind of bike we ride or the type of racing we do and it’s not sharing tools and parts…it’s our pit bike.
Yes, the lowly pit bike. Never washed except when it’s left outside and it rains…at the track it’s always left laying on it’s side outside the trailer, hasn’t had new tyre’s since the Truman administration, the gas in the tank has been in there since your dad was a kid and it was his pit bike and when somebody asks you what it is, you say..”Uh..I don’t know”.
The late comedian Rodney Dangerfield epitomized the ’Pit Bike’…” I don’t get no respect”…but what would we racers do without our pit bikes? How would we go get new tyres mounted at the Dunlop truck? How would we go visit friends almost a half mile away in the desert?…and most importantly…how would we go get lunch???
So today, go out to your barn, garage, shed, under the plastic tarp…pick up your little pit bike and give it some love. Wash it, you might want to even think about checking the oil…we’re going to call Oct 22nd official pitbike appreciation day
Time flies when you’re having fun..or…How did I get from there to here..
I have a birthday coming up soon, at this point in life they seem to come pretty quickly, and I’m sure like most of us we reflect on our lives. What have we done and what haven’t we done. What did we want to do and what did we actually do. Where did the time go?
I have ridden nearly three quarters of a million miles on a motorcycle over the past forty years. From riding around the town I lived in, to desert racing, enduro’s, roadracing, cross country trips, commuting to work..and I have loved every mile. I have photo’s and memories, service bills and maps…but things have changed.
Now I ride shorter distances for fun. I hang out with my other rider friends, we talk about the good old days, the Bonneville I rode, the Norton Mike rode, the trips Jeff took on his old BMW, how fast we were on the race track, rebuilding a bike over night in a hotel room…those were great days or as Bruce Springsteen sang,,,”the Glory days”
I still hang out at the biker bars, play some darts, enjoy my Guinness, talk story and compare broken bones. Yes, being a motorcyclist is a wonderful life..but again, how did I get here from there???
If you have never seen the movie ‘On Any Sunday’, you really need to. If you were riding or racing motorcycles back in the early 70’s you are right now having great memories…the glory years. If you have not seen the movie, go rent it, buy a six pack, find an old motorcycle racer to watch it with and enjoy a great piece of motorcycling history…the movie, not the racer.
During the segment about desert racing, there was a scene where a racer stopped, actually tipped over, in order to not run over a desert tortoise. The racer picked himself up, walked over, picked up the tortoise and moved it off the racing line. “desert racers are good people” was the commentary. Well, I want to expand that statement, “motorcyclists are good people”.
Recently, a friend of mine, Dan Lo of Corner Speed Photography www.cspeedphoto.com, connected me, and a lot of others, with the ‘Riders For Health’ organization, a quick click and there I was at www.riders.org. I spent a good deal of time going through that site and learning all I could about ‘Riders for Health’. I’ll give you the ‘Readers Digest’ version here…if I can.
The ‘Riders for Health’ program started over twenty years ago in the UK. Founded by Barry and Andrea Coleman along with Grand Prix racer Randy Mamola. They wandered through the GP paddocks raising money for the ‘Save The Children’ fund. On trips to Africa to see the fruits of the fundraising, a new focus came to light. You can get all the medicine and medical workers you want, but if they can’t get to the people that need them, why?? Traveling through rural African regions, vehicles for medical services were just sitting for lack of service…sitting for lack of a $3.00 part and nobody to put it in. Riders For Health was born. Develop a program that can maintain the existing vehicles, get more vehicles and get the services that are needed to where they are needed.
I could write more, but instead, I’ll send you to the website, there you can see what this program does, why it’s so valuable and why to get involved. Take a few moments of your time and look into ‘Riders for Health’ this is an organization that does so much for so many in so many ways. www.riders.org
I have participated in many charity bike runs, donated to organizations, reported on many events and know that they are all valuable and do good works, Riders for Health just struck me a bit deeper than most.
To finish this up, this coming weekend there is a fund raising event at MDK Motorsports in Redwood City, California and July 2nd in conjunction with the MotoGP event at Laguna Seca is a fantastic event ‘Day of The Stars’..both well worth participating in.
Take a few minutes of your time and listen to my podcast interview with Adam Silver of Riders for Health at www.themotoworld.libsyn.com he has so much to say and he says it so well.