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!|