Friday, July 31, 2015


For every problem, there are myriad solutions, none of them come easy, or cheap.  Racing presents us with problems in legion.  Experience helps the racer to know which of these need to be dealt with sooner rather than later, which can be worked around and which can be kicked in the balls and sent to skulk in the corner for a while.

I tired of push-starting the FZR.  Even after a thorough going over of the carburetors, replacing of the spark plugs (whereupon two spark plug boots were found to be barely attached to their wires) and general tune-up, the machine was a bear to start, and should the ambient temperatures drop below 60 degrees F, nearly impossible.  It would putt putt putt on one cylinder, sometimes two for a few seconds before becoming flooded.  Rumors that a cover and electric heater underneath the motorcycle are required before attempting to start on cold days were confirmed by another FZR racer I will be competing against.  It was reassuring to know I wasn't alone..

Under optimum conditions, push-starting a motorcycle is a pain in the ass.  Doing it in full leathers in 100 degree Road Atlanta heat five minutes before a race seemed like pure sado-masochism, not to mention risky.  The modified crankshaft on this particular 400 could no longer accept a starter gear.  It seemed the only option was to push.  Or roll.....

My Blake Perry Roller Starter

Roller starters have been popular with the well-heeled vintage crowd for years.  Many a reluctant British single has been coaxed into life on the small steel drums of these machines, usually run by a car battery attached to one or two car starters driving rollers hooked together via gears and chain.  They are not cheap, running in the neighborhood of $1,200 to $1,500 when all's said and done.

The cost is a tough pill to swallow for the budget racer, hell, that's three sets of race tires!  Experience was whispering quietly in my ear that the starting problem would not skulk in the corner long, likely to show its nasty teeth moments before a race start.  It was time to dig in, pony up and solve the issue instead of ignoring it.  Exhaustive research led me to Blake Perry, a vintage flat-track racer in Texas who built his own starter and then started offering them for sale (see YouTube Video) Perry Roller Starter.  After purchasing the battery, all-in cost including shipping was just under $1,000.  Six months of use later, I can say it was truly worth it.  Instead of dreading the ol' run and bump I simply had to back the FZR up the short diamond plate ramp and onto the rollers, step on the pedal and ignition!

One problem down, 9,999 to go.

Friday, July 24, 2015

How Much Longer?

'I'm getting too old for this', I think, as I wheel the motorcycle up the ramp into the back of the van, being careful not to bump my head, yet inevitably doing so.  Not the first time that thought has flashed through my brain, usually preceded by it's sallow sister sentiment, 'This used to be easier'.

What once was 'How Fast?', is fast becoming 'How Long?'.  The fact that it is harder makes it all the more desireable, and every nanometer of improvement a huge victory, sun shiney new ass on an old dog's sleeping tricks and all that shite.  Some days every shift, every corner, every wheelie feels like an obscene gesture directed squarely at maturity, at the "norms".  If you can't join 'em, to hell with 'em I guess.

For some, any type of life is enough.  For others it is the quality of life that really matters, and for the oddball few that quality is tied umbilically to two-wheels while for the truly insane it is racing on two-wheels.

Due to the inevitable vagaries of life, every racer reaches a breaking point, a come to god moment, a quiet realization, the day arrives, that they will not race any longer.  Some bow out gracefully, others drift slowly away in pursuit of other passions, some meet their fate harshly and violently while others hang on as long as they can.  And for a very select few, like the man in the picture below, they continue to thrive and win, seemingly laughing as the years pass by, apparently guardians of Ponce de Leon's secrets.

Roper.  Probably older than you..... and a whole lot faster

On a personal level, I'm not sure where my breaking point is.  If you asked me today, "How much longer?", I would probably say, "As long as I goddamn well please."  As long as I can.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

My Church

The woods are lovely, dark and deep..... yeah, yeah, but can I ride there?

Each Sunday morning I can be found preparing to enter, like an aged and awkward Alice, that small opening in the picture astride what has become a trusty old friend during the last year, my 1989 KDX200.  On most occasions I am alone, and while this is more dangerous than being accompanied, I generally prefer it.   My arrival occurs just past dawn in order to beat the others and the Virginia summer heat.

The thoroughfare to this undisclosed plot of wild, overgrown heaven sandwiched in between toll booths and big box stores leads me by a still sleeping church, parking lot empty, not yet ready for the day's worship.  But I am.  I have come to give a two-wheeled obeisance to the well worn single-tracks, trees, mud, roots and small creeks that comprise my cathedral of green.

I could wax poetic about the inherent, quiet, enveloping beauty of this place or point out the irony of its existence amid the asphalt and concrete temples of consumerism, but I won't.  Instead I will mention the moments, the ones where the engine is silenced briefly, when there is a pause in jumping over logs and skidding around corners with the raspy cacophony of a richly jetted two-stroke engine howling behind, everything becomes still enough and silent enough that you can feel truly alone.  Sharing this with some other grinning dipshit on a motocross bike would be sacrilegious.

I don't know if god can be found in this dense chunk of land between the tracks and the highway on a Sunday forenoon, but so long as the bulldozers are kept at bay, I will be there looking.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Ten Things I Learned In 10 Years Racing

1.  Racing is difficult, and it never gets any easier (or cheaper).

2.  Do not argue with the officials, you will most likely lose.  (however, I have found that if you can present your concerns in a calm and logical manner, many are willing to at least hear you out)

3.  No one, not your co-workers, wife, girlfriend, parents or fellow racers, care as much about your racing as you do.  Eventually you just stop talking about it so much.

4.  Most people, including those listed above do not understand racing or think it is a dangerous and juvenile way for a grown man to spend their time.

5.  What people think and say means absolutely nothing on the racetrack, it's the results that count.

6.  You are never as fast as you think you are.

7.  There is always somebody faster.

8.  There is no time for regret on the racetrack, only improvement.

9.  While everyone needs some help from time to time when racing, the ultimate responsibility for everything lies with the racer himself.  Handle your own business, lest someone else handle it improperly for you.

10.  You are entitled to and furthermore guaranteed absolutely nothing in racing (aside from a lighter wallet and maybe a few good stories).   Luck plays a part.  Want your luck to get better? Work harder.

And because ten just isn't enough:

11.  If you are going to race, you damn well better love it.  And I mean really love it down in your soul, because in a fraction of a second racing can snatch away everything.  And I mean everything.

RIP Marco Simoncelli

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


As the FZR makes its transformation from trash heap tootsie to virtuous virgin, one thing is proving certain, the damn thing is hard to start.  To begin with, the crankshaft nose on the starter gear side has been lopped off, which means no electric start and of course the bike is too modern to have been designed with a kickstart, so that means bumpstart only.  Please read this earlier post if you are uncertain how this is performed: Things That Go Bump In the Heat

The procedure is difficult enough in the race paddock with people pushing you, but trying to do it on a quiet cul-de-sac with a bike sporting choke-less Keihin FCR flatslide carburetors in cold damp weather is a recipe for one of two things:

1. Nasty slip and fall resulting in a 350 pound paperweight landing on top of you, leaving you moaning in the street, "I've fallen and I can't get up." while mouth-breathing bystanders ask if you are ok (of course I am ok, I have chosen to lie here on the wet pavement underneath this two-wheeled coffin lid slowly crushing my internal organs and now leaking gasoline onto my testicles, it's the coolest trend since Hot Yoga!)

2. A heart attack from pushing the damn thing over and over again and a visit from the local constabulary replete with flashing blue lights because your ever vigilant neighbor thought someone (that looked exactly like you) was trying to steal your motorcycle (by repeatedly pushing it back and forth up and down the street and jumping up and down on the seat, a well-known theft technique!).

*Disclaimer: while the above scenarios are based on true events, the names and weight of the motorcycle in question have been changed to protect the innocent and obese.

This just wasn't going to work for me.

Monday, July 13, 2015

100 Foot Paint Job

Go to a motorcycle race and you might see them, race bikes, jewel-like near museum pieces of eye candy, no expense spared, bristling with exotic metals wrapped in lavish paint jobs.  True works of art.  When they get crashed a team of mechanics armed with all the spare parts required put Humpty Dumpty back together again, better than new.

It doesn't work like that for most of us in the real world.  For a financially strapped club racer the rules are simple, make it as fast as you can afford, safe enough that it doesn't kill you or anyone else and finally, make it presentable.

The last rule is open to a wide range of interpretation.  You can see everything from the jewels mentioned previously to junkyard refugees that appear to have been dragged from a warzone behind a tank.  Far be it from me to judge anyone's taste in aesthetics for their race motorcycle, (as long as it isn't leaking oil and everything is working properly).

The hard truth of the matter is that if you race any motorcycle long enough, you will crash it.  A wise racer once said, "Don't put anything on the race track you aren't willing to watch sliding down the race track."  And slide they do, the majority of race machines bear scars, the hard won patina of a rough and tumble life at the track.  We patch them and repaint them and the process starts all over again.

I try to follow what is referred to the 100/100 rule.  If the bike looks good from 100 feet out at 100 miles per hour, you are doing well.  Most of these things aren't going in museums, and as a racer I know recently referred to them, "They are tools.  Tools for winning races."  I like that.  You maintain and take care of a tool, you don't primp and preen it.

Don't get me wrong, if somebody wants to race a show machine so clean you can eat off the bellypan, that's fine with me.  My broke ass will be spending the money on tires and track time.

The FZR, a few steps closer to presentability.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Checkers and Chess

An ex-racer who followed me around at a track day said, "You are playing checkers with these guys when you should be playing chess."  He was referring to my inability to pass riders on faster machines, despite being quite a bit quicker than them in the corners.  In my frustration I only half-listened, but eventually the wisdom sunk into my concrete cranium.

Now, not one day out of the 365 in each year doesn't involve racing in some aspect or another.  Be it hours spent in the garage prepping the machines and the van, or the hours in the gym preparing the body, even weekends are reserved riding dirt bikes for training.  Down time is spent searching the internet for parts, comparing lap times, planning the events.  And thinking.  All the damn time.  Even sleep offers no respite from racing brain.

Gone are the rose-tinted halcyon days of throwing a race bike and cooler in the back of a pickup truck, hauling ass to the track and trying to win some races.  This chess game begins months before a machine turns a wheel on the track.  Don't get me wrong, there are lots of guys at the track with a bike and a truck having an absolute blast, but in motorcycle racing at any level, be it road, dirt, vintage, flat track, if you want to win, to be at that pointy end, you've got to step up your game, or change it entirely.  It's the difference between chess and checkers.

Hoping to become the king, still looking like a roughed up pawn, the FZR has a long way to go.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

2014 Final Tally

The 2014 WERA Grand National Finals are soon over.  I prepare to make the drive to VA from AL with one more motorcycle and one more championship trophy than I arrived with, also leaving with a little less skin on my elbow, but I can live with that.

The final points tally for the 2014 season:

Mid-Atlantic Region:

Clubman Novice 1st place
D Superbike Novice 1st place
V5 4th place,
V6 Lightweight 2nd place

North Central Region:

Clubman Novice 1st place
D Superbike Novice 1st place


1st place Clubman Novice

Not a bad comeback season for a 1974 vintage rider on a 1990 vintage motorcycle.  Only one crash and no mechanical problems from the Kawasaki EX500 all season.  I am left with an overwhelming sense of gratitude at being able to participate in such a sport and to those that helped me do so over the years.  I have said it before and will probably say it again, but without those special people I would have ended up broke, broken or dead.  As a result of their wisdom, assistance and patience, I have learned what it truly means to work for and cultivate a dream.  I hope to continue 'chasing speed' for many years to come.  Thank you.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Top Five Dumb Questions To Ask a Road Racer

1. Can you make any money doing that?

Short answer: No.

2.  Why do it if you can't make any money?

I equate it to sex.  Most of us will NEVER get paid to have sex, but that doesn't stop us from having it as regularly as possible.  Both activities really are their own reward.

3.  Do you ever crash?  I love to watch those guys crash.

Yes asshole, I crash, and I understand the risks every time I put on my helmet.  I've lost friends to this sport, seen debilitating injuries and worse.  So maybe you ought to think before opening your mouth making light of crashing.

4.  You mean you race motocross?

No.  It is a sport called "road racing" done on paved closed-course circuits with left AND RIGHT hand turns.  We even race in the rain.

5.  My buddy has a Hayabusa with a Stage 3 and bored out to an 1800.  He did like 200 mph at Barber's.  Think you could keep up with him?

At this point, just walk away.  Maybe you can't fix stupid, but you can sure give yourself brain damage trying.

This is road-racing.  Subtle, calculating and faster than you can imagine.