Tuesday, September 16, 2014

StarCrossed 2014

Hit the annual StarCrossed event over the weekend for some 'cross spectating and photo snapping action.  Been a few years since the last visit, this being a cool stop on the Pacific Northwest cyclocross calendar.  Usually a big crowd, big names, beer garden, cowbells, and noise a plenty.

Racing throughout the day with the elite level Boys 'N' Girls hitting the course under the lights - velodrome lights - at Marymoor Park in Redmond.  That be Washington, as in the USA.  We arrived just before the start of Elite Women's gig at 7:00 PM.  Crowd seemed smaller then previous years - parked in the velodrome lot itself - not the field overflow.  First time for that.

In any case, event run by the fine folks at MFG Cyclocross, so all went well - with a decent amount of spectators heckling, handing out dough and beer to the racers.  Cyclocross is always a good scene.  (Ex) Racer Boy (son Ian), hasn't raced 'cross in two years - so cool to run into some former teammates and other folks at the race.

Setting sun, darkness and artificial light on the photography front.  I still don't own a flash unit, so goofed around with various ISO and other settings.  Some photos a bit grainy and play with the blur.  All good fun though, been awhile since I've shot a 'cross race…

Setting sun and rising dust.

RCR Pan 'N' Blur.  RCR for Recycled Cycles Racing, as sponsored by Recycled Cycles in Seattle.  Good folks there, I know the owner a bit via the school team I coached a few seasons ago, his son on the team.

Barrier a go go.

King of Cyclocross handing out the dough.

Sprint past the beer garden.

Full tilt boogie.

RCR Pan 'N' Blur Part II.

Full flight.


Smile, you're on Candid Camera.

111 = Go Go Go.

Jump into the party.

Barrier action in progress.

Beards make you faster.

Evan in action, fast high school kid in his first elite level race.  Teammates with my son back in the JL Velo days.

Theo, another fast kid and former teammate.  After being away for a season or two, cool to see these kids mature and become seriously fast.

Infield of the velodrome turned into 'cross course - including the surrounding areas and parking lots for more terrain.

Into the mayhem.

Pavement to dirt transition shortly.

Cyclocross ain't easy.

Not a bad night out, all good clean fun.  I don't even remember who won - lame, eh?  Soaking up the scene, chatting with folks, shooting pics, and some Father 'N' Son time included.  Bonus.

As the night ended, I asked Ian if he missed racing cyclocross.  At the moment no, seeing folks in action reminding him how hard it can be. That indeed be true.  For now, some recreational mountain biking is enough.  If he's happy, I'm happy.  Any time spent on two wheels is good...

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Fat Chance is Back - Hello and Good Bye

The bicycle interwebs are a buzzin' with news that Fat Chance is back in action, Chris Chance at the helm.  How cool is that?  Fat Chance still fresh enough - and missed enough - that a launch of new bikes could be successful.  I'd hope so anyway.

Details are sketchy, with mention of Yo Eddy staging a comeback.  The new website features a polling option on what people want see in the returning model.  Vote early, vote often, operators are standing by.  Also appears to be proof the return currently in the early stages.

Me?  I'd vote for the steel hardtail with modern geometry to run a 140mm suspension fork and dropper post, 27.5 wheels, old school colors and graphics.  Bit of old school and new school combo.  Yes please.  Curious to see what develops in the next few months.  My guess is the niche batch of frames to start, manufactured by a higher end US builder.  Time will tell.

Ironically, after 20+ years of ownership, I just sold my Yo Eddy.  Bike was boxed and ready to ship to the new owner, while I read of the Fat Chance relaunch on Facebook.  Mixed feelings about that chain of events.  A deal is a deal however, PayPal account already sporting the transfer of dough.

Freshly washed before the official boxing ceremony.

To add the irony, my Yo Eddy then spotted on the new Fat Chance site, plucked from a Facebook post.  Super cool to see it there...

Bike sold to recoup funds used to supply son Ian with his new rig.  And that's okay.  I'd rather spent time riding with him, then hold on to some old bikes - even my Fat - as its been collecting dust for a few years.  I sold the bike via the FatCogs forum and hope the new owner in Maine is happy with it.  In any case, I also have my '86 Fat Chance that I've owned since new, so still officially in the cult.

As the old school Fat City fan, cool to see Chris Chance involved in the industry once again.  Who knows, maybe this was fate and I'll replace my vintage Yo Eddy with the new modern Yo Eddy.

That story would bring it all full circle with a cosmic spin of knobby tires...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Back in Action - We Ride Again

Even though the ol' blog has been under radio silence for the last few months, there's been a bit of good ol' bicycle activity percolating in the background.  My favorite riding pal - that be my 15 year old son Ian - mentioned some interest in riding again.  This after a year or so of barely riding at all, following many years of riding and racing.  Cool, no pressure - let's get you set up equipment wise once again.

I should mention he's had a crazy growth spurt over the last two years and now stands around 6' 2" tall.  That meant new everything - bike, shoes, shorts - the whole enchilada.  My previous trick of moving parts over to ever larger frames ain't gonna cut it.  Time for something new. To give you some perspective on the recent growth curve, he was racing a 52 cm 'cross bike in 2012.  Welcome to Crazy Town, I'll be your Tour Guide.

On top of the garage full of old Bikes 'N' Parts being too small, he wanted to try full suspension after only experiencing hardtails and 'cross bikes.  Fair enough. The search began with much bike shop cruising and test riding.  Kudos to many Seattle area shops we visited and talked with over the phone, all of 'em super friendly and customer service oriented.  I wanted to buy a bike from a few different shops, just because they treated us right.  Bike shop folks are cool folks, but you already knew that.

Mixed in with this was the 27.5 verses 29er debate.  After numerous test rides, Ian not fully digging the 29er wheels.  No problem, 27.5 it will be. 26" wheeled higher end mountain bikes now on the endangered species list.  And of course, the Trump family we're not, so budget constraints eliminating carbon frames and XTR dreams.

Long story short, Element Cycles scored us a killer deal on a Santa Cruz Bronson.  XL frame to now match his XL frame.  Aluminum model, mix of Shimano Deore and SLX to keep the cost down.  Nice Fox suspension still included.  Six inches of travel front and rear, VPP design for pedaling efficiency.  Cool bike and it rides fantastic.  Ian is psyched and digging it.  He's not the materialistic kid at all, so fun to watch him enjoying this.

Since we picked up the bike a few weeks ago, been hitting our local riding spots.  Saint Edward/Big Finn Hill and Paradise Valley a few times. Besides the occasional noodling around on my 'cross bike, also been a good excuse for me to ride more often.

Video above from recent after work ride, Ian demonstrating some new trail features in our local woods.  Photo below from the same ride.  Some quality Father 'N' Son time via two wheels.

I think we're now officially back in action, will hopefully crank up the blog reports along with it.  Thanks for reading...

Monday, June 23, 2014

Giving Back via Photography - Remembering Don Matthews

Back in 2011, armed with new Nikon D7000 in hand, I ventured down to Chehalis - that be Washington - to witness and shoot a vintage motocross race.  First motocross race I attended since 1983 or so, after being very involved with dirt motorcycles as the teenager and young (alleged) adult.

Event was a stop on the AHRMA national race series.  Also the first time shooting an event with a DLSR camera.  Being the (ex) old school motocrosser and (re) born photographer, turned out to be a fun day and I scored some decent photos.

Shortly after the race, I posted the photos here on the ol' blog and to Facebook with some nice comments from folks.  Cool.  Then late in 2013, I dug through the Pile-O-Pics and posted a few to various vintage motocross related sites on Facebook.

Folks recognized one of the racers as Don Matthews, who had recently passed away. Two different people contacted me asking to use the photos for upcoming commemorative events.  

Of course, I agreed...

This event in California used one of the photos for event t-shirts.  To add another old school motocross twist, Brad Lackey's shirt company produced 'em.  Folks sent me one of the shirts, turned out pretty cool.

This event held in Oregon, my photo used for the trophies.  Nicely done.  Folks involved sent me a few examples.

For reference, the original photos.

I didn't know Don Matthews personally, but feel honored to have contributed to his memory in some way.  From the comments on Facebook and my emails with the folks involved, Don appeared to be the well loved figure in the vintage motocross community.  I was glad to play a part in the celebration of his life via photography.

Life can be short.  Ride on, have fun, keep things in perspective...

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Hammer and Tongs Round 1 - Vintage Motocross Action

The Hammer and Tongs race series officially kicked off last weekend, that be June 1st if you're sporting a calendar.  This being a four race series for vintage motocross aficionados and hanger on types - like me - who was involved with motocross, back when these bikes were the latest two wheeled weapons of berm destruction.

Ah, the memories of riding and racing with friends.  The sound of two-strokes and the smell of pre-mix in the air, a mere 35 years ago.  Time flies when you're getting old.  Back to reality...

My involvement now revolves around spectating and pointing a Nikon D7000 at these blur of memories and the people involved.  Fantastic to see folks restoring and putting these now vintage bikes to use on actual dirt.  Cool grassroots scene of folks involved.

This race series held at Pacific Raceways located in Kent, Washington.  I've been to Pacific Raceways for previous car and motorcycle road racing events - first time visiting the motocross area - nestled behind the road course, complete with large fir trees as the backdrop.  Nice.  Welcome to the Evergreen State.

To give you the brief primer, bikes are basically broken down into two race classes.  Vintage class for pre 1974 models.  This being before the long suspension travel revolution.  Evolution class for long travel bikes, '75 into the '80s.  Specific details on the Hammer and Tongs website, if you're so inclined.

Due to work commitments, I had only had a few hours to attend and grab some photos.  CJ who runs this moto shindig, recognized me and officially deputized my access behind the fence.  Full access to the course as Joe Photographer.  Awesome.  CJ previously used some  of my photos from his vintage show last January on his site (additional photos on my blog).

Enough babbling.  Even with the limited time, I shot the insane amount of pics.  I attempted to narrow 'em down to something semi-resonable.


Upon arrival, quick walk through the pit area - this restored and obviously used Maico caught  my eye first - very nice.  Maico manufactured some serious and well respected machines for the era.  They still look very capable and fantastic to old school me.

I get a huge kick out of this bike, Yamaha XS 650 twin motocrosser.  Welcome to Crazy Town.  Incredibly well done construction.  I've photographed this bike at other events, first time seeing it action today.  Dude was super fast and must be Superman to throw this thing around - fun to watch.

Clean Hodaka waits patiently for some track action.

Very nicely turned out Kawasaki KX.  Aluminum swing arm, Works Performance shocks, black rims - all adding the updated touch.

Early Yamaha MX 250 time capsule.

Race ready CZ ready to roll.

Great looking pair of '74 Suzuki TM125 models.  Closer inspection of the one on right, reveals Webco head and trick looking reed valve kit.  As I've mentioned in previous posts on my ol' blog, I owned a '74 TM125 back in the '70s as the teenager.  I have a serious soft spot for these bikes. 

Can-Am resting on what we all seemed to use in the '70s, the old milk crate.

Let's move on to some vintage class racing, shall we?  The shorter travel bikes in action...

Kawasaki KX lays down the roost and smoke trail.

Red on brown.  Old school CZ and rider styling on the course.

Eye on the next corner.  Racing 101 - vintage, modern, cars, bikes - racing is racing.

Minus the modern safety gear, this could be 1975 instead of 2014.  Vintage Husqvarna chases down the vintage Kawasaki.

Yamaha MX 400 blurs the senses and camera.

Yamaha XS 650 twin power at work.  As previously mentioned - Crazy Town - but fun to watch.

Yamaha MX 500 throws down (up?) the roost.

Vintage corner carving in progress.

Husqvarna CR chases down Suzuki TM.  Film at eleven...

Berm panorama.

CJ enjoying the spoils of his work.

Last corner dash to the checkered flag.

Now on to some Evolution class racing, Evo for short.  Longer travel suspension, more power and faster speeds.  Still vintage era racing, but a bit closer to modern motocross...

Honda CR rider clears the table top.

Yamaha YZ roosts out of the corner.

Trick looking '79 Suzuki RM 400 with equally nice Yamaha YZ in pursuit.

Bultaco rider WFO.

Sweet looking circa '77 Suzuki RM 250 in action.  I dig the older metal gas tank, changed to plastic from '78 on.  Technical tidbit to amaze your friends with. Or maybe not...

Super clean Husqvarna and kitted out rider mid slide.

Husqvarna rider catches some air, while course marshal seems unimpressed...

Welcome to the Pan 'N' Blur department.  Honda CR and ATK pilots demonstrate.

Yamaha YZ frozen mid jump, monoshock at the ready.

At the later edge of what's considered vintage, water cooled and disk braked Kawasaki KX shows modern performance.

Maico 490 rider lays it in.

Power wheelie out of the corner.  The Kodak moment.

Suzuki RM 370 berm shot. 

We now interrupt Evo class action for the kid's race.  Some on vintage bikes, others on modern steeds.  As long as they're having fun, who cares what era of bike they're on - it's all good...

Young rider styling on the vintage Honda XR 75.

Future of the sport in action.

Round 'N' Round we go...

Blue skies above and brown dirt below.  Great childhood memories being created.

We now return to Evo action, already in progress...

Color coordinated Yamaha YZ 125 and rider square off the corner.  Note the Simons fork, the stuff '70s dreams were made of...

Later era Maico 490 points in the right direction.

Racing is racing.  Vintage era bikes or not.

Husky rider airs it out, greenery as the backdrop.

There you have it, a glimpse into the day's events.  Cool gig, had a blast even with my limited time.  Next race is July 5th and I plan to attend, camera in hand with memory cards waiting to be filled.

These vintage events click in my defective mug - mixture of visiting the past, living in the present, gawking at vintage iron, chatting with like minded folks - combined with photography interest.  Not a bad combo.  

See you next time…