Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Dog Days

Been slacking, no racing until August.  Here's a picture I found.  Cynical?  Maybe.  True?  Hell yes.  Enjoy!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

From Dead Last To Almost Fast (HillBilly Hare Scramble Part II)

I'm not last for long.  As we come to the woods section of the course I pass five riders.  Great, that leaves only eight guys in front who have quite a head start.  I know the slick, rocky hell that we are all about to descend into.  This is scheduled to run five laps, but I have a feeling it will be more like four once the track deteriorates into a rutted mess.

If there is one thing I've learned in the eight hare scrambles I've raced prior to this one, it's that trying to go fast will get you into trouble quick.  Instead, I make myself relax and focus on riding well, not making mistakes and not falling down.  So many times some hot shoe with a fire under his ass hoots and hollers by, then goes sailing down the trail and bounces off a tree at the next corner.  I've also learned to stop being nice.  In the woods the law of nature rules and he who can make his own way waits for no one.  I no longer queue behind stopped riders hoping for them to find a path, I am coming through.

I pass two or three more competitors in my class on the second lap and find myself behind 39p, Juan, my arch nemesis.  I can see he is trying hard, too hard in fact for the conditions.  I let him wear himself out.  We exit the forest back into the grass track section.  Time to see if this 300 has any legs.  I am all over Juan for the first couple of turns.  It feels like roadracing to me, 6th gear pinned, bike headshaking as we hit braking bumps.  Finally I've had enough, run a tighter line into a second gear left hander and blast out of it, wheel aloft, passing Juan.  It's a satisfying moment, but I stifle my joy, because this is usually when I fuck up and crash.  It doesn't happen, in fact I pull out a decent gap and never see him again.  The digital scoreboard tells me I am in 4th place at the end of the lap.  Gaining, but 4th still sucks.

Into the dark of the forest again, back to the suffering and pounding at the hands of these damn rocks.  I stall once or twice, but the Gasser lights quickly.  I have not crashed yet.  Taking my time, picking my lines, going fast where I can and slow where I need to, all the while telling myself to breathe, sitting down on smoother sections to save energy.  I take no chances and force my mind to stay sharp, avoiding stupid mistakes.  Steady, solid, try to light the world on fire and you will only burn yourself.  Next lap I am up into 3rd, scoreboard says 2nd is ten seconds ahead.  This is more like it.  Time to catch him.

And catch him I do.  It's a KTM rider who is going blisteringly fast, but keeps falling down.  I unintentionally smack his bike as I go by, taking his handlebar in the left radiator.  He falls on the side of the course, I continue, and in trying to put some distance on him, make a dumb error and fall.  Nothing major, my left hand is quick on the clutch to keep the Iberian Enchantress from stalling, but it gives him just the opening he needs to get by.  And he his off again, like a pumpkin rocket from hell.  Then he really is off again, bouncing into a small tree and landing his bike directly in the singletrack.  He is trying to lift it up, blocking the only line.  I have a choice to make.  I can either stop and wait for him to remount, or I can go over.

I opt to go over.  I loft the front end slightly, just bouncing it off his rear wheel, and then proceed to ride over the entirety of his bike, from stern to stem, noticing briefly the really trick looking expansion chamber on the KTM.  I feel bad for about three seconds.  If you are going to lay that thing down in front of me, I am going to treat it like trail debris, no matter how shiny.  I would expect no less from my competitors, which is why my bike looks like it was pulled from a dumpster.  This ain't no beauty contest, and remember, "Rubbin' is racin'."  The tactic seems to have worked, because I don't see him again.  But there is a new wrinkle.

The earlier tussle with his handlebars has damaged the filler neck on the left radiator and the cap is no longer sealing.  Coolant is puking from the cap and I have another decision to make.  I can relinquish and give up this second place finish, or we can find out just how tough the Spaniards build these things.  After my aggressive hop over the KTM, my blood is boiling along with my coolant.  Screw it, I've got a few weeks off after this race, I will rebuild it if necessary.  It smokes from the antifreeze hitting the scalding pipe, tone of the motor changes.  Keep going until it quits, then push it.  Must finish.  The Gas Gas loses power and starts to idle funny, getting hotter, but it finishes the race in one albeit overheated piece.

I never catch 1st place and finish in second about a minute down.  I am duly impressed with the machine's performance.  I look forward to many more races with the EC300, but let's start winning, shall we?

Gas Gas making a splash splash.


Friday, July 1, 2016

Work Your Ass On The Gas (Hillbilly Part 1)

The Hillbilly Hare Scramble, Rural Retreat VA, Round 8 VCHSS Series

June 26, 2016 10:45 AM

This will be my first race on the 2004 Gas Gas EC300 purchased from Craigslist.  I've spent the last two weeks preparing and riding the bike, trying to sort jetting and suspension, both of which are an abysmal mess.  The previous owner has a high altitude jet kit installed, which means it's lean throughout the rev range. Changing jets is no easy task.  The airbox boot rubber has hardened, which makes it nearly impossible to pry the carb out or get it back in.  The shape of the gas tank means you can't simply rotate the carb in the boots without removing it.  You can't remove the tank without removing the radiator shrouds.  You can't remove the shrouds without removing the seat.  Are you getting the picture?

Three sizes up on the pilot, a clip position change and two main jet sizes bring the beast somewhat into line, but not perfect.  Unbeknownst to me, Rural Retreat is at an elevation of 2500 feet, well above the sea level testing area where I am doing my jetting.  Oh well, at least it won't be so lean!

There was a two hour "pre-ride" of the course on Saturday, which showed me just how bad the suspension is set up.  Actually the rear Ohlins is not bad, but the front Marzocchis are a disaster.  I spend much of the day spinning clickers.  A tire pressure adjustment helps tremendously as well.

It's like a tale of two courses.  One a rocky hell-hole trail with slick mud and treacherous off-cambers strewn with small boulders that just beg to smash pipes, cases and bones.  The other is a fast grass track with a couple of spots where we are hitting 6th gear pinned.  I make a mental note to be sure and rest up on this section, because the other is exhausting.

The bike is a bitch to start hot.  Cold it lights in two kicks, but warm the engine and the story changes.  Usually I can get it in about five, but I know if I stall during the race, this will exhaust me.  I think it's a combination of jetting that is still off, a gargantuan piston and the compression that comes with it, a weird angle on the kickstarter, boots that seem to always hang up on the footpegs, and a right leg which has atrophied from only kicking over KDX200s for the last few years.  The dead engine start at the beginning of the race has me worried.

In the end, it's my own nerves that get the best of me.  When the flag flies I give it a furious kick and immediately start to give it another.  The second kick is met with absolutely no resistance, just a horrendous grinding sound.  It takes about three seconds for my febrile brain to suss out what is going on.  The engine is already running.  Son of a bitch...

You see that rider to the left of your screen, way in the back?  Yeah, the one in dead last?  That's me!