Monday, January 31, 2011

The Truth May Hurt - As Per Floyd Landis


I read this interesting and detailed interview with Floyd Landis earlier today. This link is already populating around the official Bike Blog-O-Sphere. It's long, but worth a read. Pull up a chair and click here.

If you're anything of a cycling fan, you already know the story. I believed Floyd was innocent up until the LeMond incident - that I'm not going to repeat here. I then started to doubt his camp and the whole story. The fact he published that book pushed the doping lie way over the top, especially after coming clean now. The whole chain of events just stinks and embarrasses pro cycling on a whole new level.

Reading this latest interview, it's obvious the dude's been though hell; of course, much of it his own doing. You don't have to be a pro cyclist, nor do you need to dope. Then again, maybe at that level it becomes expected - it appears that way - sadly.

Besides being caught doping, losing the Tour title, and getting divorced - his best friend committed suicide two weeks after the Tour. That's a lot of baggage to deal with, especially after the short euphoria he experienced after winning the Tour. Mix in hip surgery, then watching your livelihood slowly disappear. Man, that's a lot of issues to deal with in a short time. If you don't know, Floyd has also recently announced his retirement from pro cycling. No real surprise there.

I'm not defending his actions, some of 'em were just plain stupid. I do think Floyd's been thrown under the bus a bit though. All of us have done something stupid, just not under this much of a spotlight. If what he's saying is true, much of the underlying doubt of how widespread doping is in pro cycling - is unfortunately true - including some very big names and so called heros. And that would be a sad fact indeed.

The peloton secret appears to be slowly cracking over the years - exposing how things really are - like it or not. It may wind up, people who have outwardly spilled the beans - like Landis and LeMond - may eventually be proven right all along. That remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, it's business as usual - deny, deny, deny.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Birth of Big Air - Mat Hoffman Documentary





I caught the Mat Hoffman documentary, The Birth of Big Air, over the weekend. Freestyle BMX guy I'm not, but I will watch some vert action during the X Games or similar clips, amazed at the skill involved. I remember seeing pictures of BMX kids riding skateparks in magazines during the '70s and '80s - thinking it was pretty cool. So, even though I've never done any kind of riding remotely like that, I'm a little familiar with it, and give the people that pull it off huge respect. I've also read Mat Hoffman's book, The Ride of my Life, years ago. Even though I live in a completely different bike subculture, the scene interests me some, from a spectator point of view. My personal version of big air is about two feet off the ground.

This documentary shows how talented, driven, and brave/nuts/insane Mat Hoffman is. The air and tricks he pulled off defined and pushed the sport of BMX freestyle. The amount of injuries he's sustained and came back from is mind boggling. In one scene he's stitching up a huge gash in his shin - by himself. Multiple broken bones, concussions, shoulder injuries and related surgery. Mat became friends with Evel Knievel and you can see why. What they did was similar and maybe the reasons why also were - who knows. Most normal folk can't fathom why they would push such boundaries and take on that risk.

Mat does differ from Evel in the fact he did most of this for pure love or obsession for the sport. Many practice sessions and huge risks taken out of the limelight, just to push himself to new limits. Evel was all about the being the showman and risking death for money.

The film gets really interesting in Mat's quest to grab the most air possible off a vert ramp. A sketchy 20 foot mega ramp is constructed in his Oklahoma back yard. They discover the huge ramp is beyond pedal power, so he starts being towed in with a dirt motorcycle for the required speed. Yeah, pushing the BMX thing a tad out there for sure.

All this adds up to 20+ feet of air off the ramp. That's 40+ feet off the ground for those keeping track. This goes beyond BMX freestyle and into the stuntman category of risk. Mat winds up crashing and rupturing his spleen, coming close to internally bleeding to death. Afterwards, the ramp is destroyed by high winds - or so say his circle of friends. In the film, you obviously get the idea they tore it down in an effort to keep Mat alive.

Later in the film, another mega ramp is constructed in Mat's final quest to grab the most air and hold the record. This initiated after another BMX rider and related company make that claim - of 19 feet of air. Mat knows he pulled off 26 feet in his Oklahoma back yard and is shooting for 30 feet. Now we're talking 50 feet off the ground - on a BMX bike. That's beyond comprehension in scope, risk and reasoning.

The day of the record attempt is slightly windy, with the added pressure of cameras to record the event. After multiple attempts and few scary crashes, things get a little uncomfortable, as Mat continues to go for it - with wife and young daughter watching. Eventually a huge crash renders Mat unconscious with a serious concussion and related after effects. Game over.

Watching this makes you really wonder about the mind set of people like Mat. It's impressive and unsettling at the same time. Is it worth risking death or serious injury for something that in a sense is meaningless? Race car drivers, Moto GP riders, big wave surfers, and other high risk athletes all have to answer that question. In Mat's case, there isn't even any money involved.

Still, in some ways you admire people who can face that risk. It's complicated and a little strange. Maybe because its so unlike the usual safety filled world most of us live in. Maybe it's because as cyclists - you get it and admire overcoming the risk - though our scale is microscopic compared to what he's pulling off. Our 20 foot vert ramp is the local log section you can bunny hop on your mountain bike. Maybe its the twisty 45 mph downhill you bomb down on your road bike. You've built up your skill level to push these personal boundaries and take joy in overcoming them - and coming up with new ones.

Mat Hoffman does the same thing. Except his limits and skills are light years ahead of the average cyclist - BMX, mountain biker, roadie - whoever. And that's why we watch and can relate on a certain level. True?

I caught the film on cable, though it is available on DVD. It's also available on the iTunes store for download. Check it out.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tainted Beef - Tainted Tour


I heard the news yesterday - yet another lame slap in the face for pro cycling. All of this has gone beyond comical now. I’m even losing interest in the Tour. I may start watching pro wrestling instead.

If true, great – caught as he should have been. If so, I still can’t believe they take these chances doping at this level. Then again, maybe not so surprising. My gut tells me these guys can’t compete at that level without something extra, and plenty of pros still do it. I hope that’s not the case. If they did cheat and get caught, they should fess up and admit it – like David Miller – who still has respect with fans (maybe even more so). That’s better then the other crazy excuses over the years: Tainted meat, drugs meant for other people, was
thinking about doing it, the beer I drank, unborn twin – the crazy list goes on.

I read today the one year ban for Contador is not finalized – don’t know what that means. I thought it was a two year ban for doping. Schleck said he won’t consider himself the ‘10 Tour winner – Contador won – and he wants to beat him on the road in 2011. “Winning” the Tour after something like this leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth – just an all around lame situation.

Unfortunately, I think Floyd Landis is correct – despite his whacked out method of crazy accusations and finger pointing – which kills his credibility. Same with LeMond, who gets shouted down as the cranky, bitter guy – though I think that’s a bad rap. It may eventually turn out they were correct all along. Or things will continue as usual, with certain pros getting bagged occasionally. If the UCI or whoever is checking the test tubes is wrong, that’s another story. But you would think those folks would be 110% confident in their findings before pulling such a heavy trigger.

Even Sir Lance has once again been put under the microscope with the recent federal investigation. If something is proven, catching Lance would be like taking down Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. Ugly indeed.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fixie Documentary - Sorta




Any town sporting fixie hipsters has seen a few guys like this - no?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Washington High School Cycling League - Leadership Summit




Today I did something a little out of the ordinary - attended a seminar or Leader's Summit as titled by the folks running the event. This little shindig was all about launching high school mountain bike racing here in Washington State, as patterned by the successful programs running in California and Colorado - thanks to the National Interscholastic Cycling Association - or NICA for short.

I've been reading about the high school racing scene in California and Colorado for a few years and always thought what a fantastic idea. We need more kids on bikes and this venue is one great way to accomplish this. Where these programs were launched, there's now hundreds of kids racing against each other on a high school level. I vowed to somehow be involved if and when it arrived in Washington. Well, through a few mountain bike contacts, I knew this was heading our way, so attended the event to get more info and see if and where I'd fit in. Lisa Miller is the Executive Director of the Washington chapter of NICA, who I know from her running the Indie Series a few years ago.

Matt Fritzinger who started NICA in Northern California was one of the speakers, as well as a few other folks. They've built an entire high school sports program that just so happens to revolve around mountain bike racing. It's documented and packaged to allow folks to launch it in their own areas under the NICA umbrella. Washington and a few other states are in start up mode. NICA provides the guidance, insurance, and know how to assist in getting the wheels rolling. This summit was the incentive and knowledge transfer to get people out and sell this program to local high schools, then run the show. The first race is scheduled for April, with no schools or kids yet to be involved. An ambitious schedule for sure. With the knowledge and passion of the people attending, I think it will happen. The first year will be more of a "exhibition year" for Washington, with just two events and no state championship. That will come later, I'm sure of it.

Today was really focused and geared towards future coaches - lots of great info advised. In the back of my mind, I considered getting involved on a coaching level - that would be huge fun and really rewarding. I also thought maybe 11 year old Ian, my racer son, could tag along on training rides and be involved a bit. That's not the case, non team members cannot participate - due to many reasons. Seeing what's involved is also an eye opener and involves a lot of time (obviously). I can't see abandoning my own kids during the racing season to focus on this. I want Ian involved somehow, as well as the rest of the family if interested. Still, there's plenty of other opportunities to assist - training ride leaders, assisting running the races, etc. I'll keep in contact and do something to help launch this project, just on a lower time requested set up. In a few years, my kids will be in high school and I'll be psyched to be fully involved.



Break time at the summit. Many passionate bike people involved. Very cool indeed.



This summit is a two day event, tomorrow planned to go over teaching basic mountain bike skills. There's also some riding and social time scheduled. I elected to just participate today and still picked up plenty of knowledge. I act as Ian's race coach and we basically just ride and wing it. I have a pile of documentation from today with great advice on coaching kids. I plan to use some of this to assist Ian with the upcoming race season. Ian elected to skip Little League (after trying it last year) to race more this spring. I also made a contact at the event that may wind up getting Ian on a junior race team.

Plus, I talked to some other folks about another program that gets younger kids together for fun mountain bike rides, not racing. I'd dig getting involved with that as well. I'm all for getting kids riding and always have been, especially since I now have kids myself. So, an informative and fun day for me - even if I probably won't be involved with the high school scene as much as I anticipated. It's all good.

Oh yeah, this event was held at DirtFish Rally School, a pretty cool place that offers rally car training. There's even a pro rally car sitting in the lobby. Nice facility in Snoqualmie, Washington. Interesting setup for (fading) gear head me. That's okay though - I'll stick with bicycles.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

From Steel - Soulcraft

FROM STEEL: The Making of a Soulcraft from michael evans on Vimeo.



Short film displaying the frame building talent of Sean Walling of Soulcraft at work. I've admired his bikes via the website for many years. When I hit the NAHBS a few years ago in Portland, the Soulcraft Dirtbomb was my favorite bike of the show. If I was in the market for a custom steel bike, Soulcraft would be towards the top of the list. I like the no nonsense approach they take in design and aesthetics. No frills and made for riding and racing.

Sure, production bikes are better then ever. Carbon bikes are fantastic to ride. Still, nothing beats the art and history of a handmade steel frame - especially from a smaller builder. There's an intimate coolness factor, that just can't be found from a bike straight off the sales floor. If you appreciate such matters and have the dough to burn - worth every cent.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Performance Mountain Biking with Ned Overend - Video Review


During a trip to library, noticed this DVD hanging out in the rack next to all the Tour de France DVDs, so grabbed it for a look see. Appeared to be pretty dated, but hey - Ned Overend - so worth a spin. Gave it a whirl tonight with 11 year old son Ian as the copilot.

Yeah a bit dated, circa 1996, so hardtails and Bar Ends-O-Plenty. That's okay though, since XC riding techniques haven't changed that much, even with full-suspension now the norm. And with the rise in popularity of 29er hardtails, all of the techniques and tips shown still apply. Plus, did I mention Ned Overend? The man is a legend and even today at 55 years old, still can place in the pro class.

The video covers climbing, descending, cornering, switchbacks, bunny hopping, jumping and other useful skills and drills. It's really a supplement to Ned's book from that era: Mountain Bike Like a Champion, which I recommend. The DVD and book are XC riding and racing focused, but those skills are the building blocks for any off-road action. If you're a beginning mountain biker, you'll pick up plenty from both resources. If you already have many dirt miles under your belt, still hard not to pick up something from watching. There's always something to learn when it comes to riding mountain bikes.

For me, the coolest part of the whole show was the guest instructors Ned brings in to display some tricks. If you're the old school NORBA XC racing fan, you'll dig watching John Tomac, Greg Herbold, Daryl Price and Julie Furtado in action. All icons from the heyday of XC racing during the '90s.

The Bonus Chapters: Trailside Repairs and Suspension Set-Up were added to the original DVD a few years later, since Ned is now post-famous-moustache and the bikes magically appear with disk brakes and full suspension. That's okay though, since Ned does a decent job of describing some suspension basics.

Overall, dated or not, still a fun watch for me due to the famous names involved. Son Ian mentioned he learned a few things, so we give it two thumbs up.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Vintage Motorcycle Show - Motocross a Go Go


My mental vacation interest in vintage motocross cranked up a few notches today with a visit to a nearby vintage show. The show featured many old school motocross and other dirt bikes that remind me of my era of involvement "back in the day" of riding every weekend with like minded friends.

The show was held at a large motorcycle dealership in Renton (that be Washington) - Harley, Japanese brands, indoor track, pub - big complex. I learned of the show after poking around a vintage motocross site I frequent occasionally. There appears to be quite the vintage motocross scene here in the Pacific Northwest.

No one else in the family was interested in looking at "old motorcycles" and elected to stay home. My neighbor who also is interested in two wheeled moto devices was out. Another old two wheeled pal, pedal and moto powered, already hit the show earlier in the day. So I visited the show solo, which turned out to be kind of cool and I enjoyed some rare time to myself.

Some pictures and notes from the day.....



1974 Yamaha YZ250 that appears to be set up for current day vintage racing, though from super clean appearance - not sure if actually ridden. This thing is impressively clean and well done. Modern aluminum swingarm and Work Performance shocks in the rear. Newer, undamaged expansion chamber, perfect tank - very nice.



1968 ('69?) Suzuki Twin Pipe 250. If my history is correct, the first production motocross bike for Suzuki and pretty rare to find one today. This one completely restored. Some old school history in the flesh, uh - metal.



Hodaka Road Toad 100 - either completely restored, just unsealed from secret basement, or arrived via time machine from the '70s for the show. Looks brand new. Hodaka started many on their dirt bike adventures starting in the late '60s and up 'til 1980 or so, when they folded up shop. The company was based out of Oregon and is still fondly remembered to this day. I've never owned a Hodaka, but knew people that did back in the heyday. I always thought they were a cool, underdog, fun company - with model names like Super Rat, Combat Wombat, Thunder Dog and yes, Road Toad.



1976 Bultaco Sherpa T 125 looking as it did in '76, not restored, but ready to ride. During the '70s dirt bike boom, the sport of observed trials was reported to be the "next big thing". That never happened, but for awhile it was growing in the U.S. with many bikes available, the best from Spain - Bultaco, Montesa and Ossa. I dabbled a bit with trials at the time, so I'm pretty familiar with the old iron. Been decades since I've seen any of these bikes up close however.



Mid '70s Bultaco 250 Pursang. The blue paint, the down pipe, the old school stance - yes please. During my riding days, a local rider named Greg owned a '75 Pursang just like this. Very fast smooth rider, I can still picture him battling my old pal Todd on his '76 Suzuki RM125A at our local practice track. This is probably the first time I've stood next to a Pursang since those days.



Very clean, nicely restored - and currently raced - Ossa 250. I spoke to the owner for a bit and he gave me the lowdown on vintage motocross racing. It all sounds very tempting to old school me. However, time and money won't allow such festivities for the foreseeable future. He mentioned a three moto race day is possible with a single bike - by displacement size, age of rider, etc. He also mentioned riders 70 and older race for free. That gives me something to look forward to...




Early '70s Husqvarna CR400 in perfectly restored state. It probably didn't look this good off the showroom floor when new. Insanely clean, right down to the custom stand cover. My old riding pal Don rode a '75 Husky CR250, similar looking to this one, years ago.




Honda 50 memory flashback machine. A few of these buzzed around my neighborhood during my childhood. Bumming the occasional ride was always a thrill.




Frankenstein BSA with Harley-Davidson motor. You gotta wonder what this thing sounds like. The cool thing is the recent dirt and vintage racing plate - meaning it's ridden and raced.



Another Harley-Davidson dirt bike, though this one a bit more capable. During the '70s, the Harley AMF years, they put out various dirt bikes, including this full motocross model in '78. The dirt bikes were actually manufactured in Italy by Aermacchi, that Harley-Davidson owned at the time. This one appears to be the super sano museum piece, first time I've seen one for real, though I remember reading about them during that era. The '77 model (if I'm not mistaken) used front forks for the rear suspension.



The CZ days were basically over during my involvement with motocross. You'd occasionally see one at the track, usually super modified with laid down shocks, longer travel fork, snail pipe and other mods. I've never ridden one, but they always fascinated me with their cobbled together look, aluminum coffin tank and MX history. I always wanted a CZ - and when I visit Fantasy Island, where time and money allow such tomfoolery as vintage motocross racing - that would be one of my main choices of machine to hurt myself on. A boy can dream can't he?

I didn't catch the year, displacement, or why a rubber weapon is affixed to the front fender of this fine example of CZ.




One area, of a few, from the show. Many examples of old school iron to gawk at. Impressive number of bikes and people showed up.




There were a few nice Elsinores on display, including this very clean 250. Yes please, I'll take it.



More vintage trials bikes to observe, including this Montesa Cota 172. During the '70s, a friend of mine and his family were very into observed trials. In their garage was a Montesa Cota 123, very similar to this one, that they loaned me at times. It was cool to see this one today.



1981 Maico 490 looking capable as ever. Air cooled two-stroke, drum brakes, yet serious suspension. Call me crazy, but with a talented rider - I think something like this would still be competitive today. And if not competitive against modern motocross technology - still damn cooler looking.




Nicely set up 1978 Suzuki RM250 - sweet. I'd dig riding one of these today, no question. Reminds me of my '79 Suzuki RM125N that I rode and raced years ago.



1978 CZ 125 - a rare bird indeed. By '78, CZ was totally out of the picture, for production bikes anyway, especially for smaller displacement models. That be a really interesting bike to own today.



1978 Bultaco Pursang 250 in the familiar blue color. By '78, Bultaco motocross bikes were no longer as competitive as previous years, but I've always dug 'em. Their observed trials bikes were still world leaders during that era however.



1977 Can-am 250 MX in orange and black. Back in the day, Can-ams were known for serious power, but sub-par handling. I still wanted one. During high school, my school bus would pass a small boat dealer that carried Can-am for a short while. They'd have 'em lined up outside in front of the shop. Every trip home I'd have my face glued to the bus window checking 'em out.




Fantastic looking '75 Kawasaki KX250 with aluminum swingarm, Works Performance shocks, black rims - wow.



1974 Yamaha YZ 125 twin - yes, twin cylinders. I've read a few million magazines back in the day, but have no memory of anything like this. I'm not sure what the history of this bike is. Something I've forgotten about? Some home brew special? Whatever the story, probably the most interesting bike of the show.




See? Would I lie? Two, count 'em - two. It almost looks like a mini RD motor. Amazing. So, depending on actual displacement - two 60cc cylinders. What does this thing rev to?




Dual expansion chamber set up. Wild stuff. I'd love to hear this thing run.




1974 Yamaha TY80 looking new. Mini observed trials bike for kids, very cool at the time. My friend Todd owned one during that era. I still remember riding it to this day.



My personal favorite bike of the show - super clean '74 Suzuki TM100. I am biased though, since I owned a '74 Suzuki TM125 back in '76. Just seeing that yellow tank and green graphics clinches it for me.



Another Hodaka, this time a 125 Combat. Once into the mid '70s, no longer competitive racing wise, though that didn't stop some people from modifying 'em and giving it a go. I'd like to own one of these now, just to keep saying "Combat Wombat" over and over.



The kids may not know that during the '70s, KTMs were imported under the Penton label - as in the famous Penton family - that contains much dirt bike history, especially in the enduro and ISDT arena. This 250 a great example of '70s euro motocross goodness.



1974 Maico 400 looking vintage race ready. Also really similar to a '75 Maico 400 my old pal Kevin rode back in the day. Maico, similar to CZ, at least the older ones, always looked a bit crude to me - but they worked well.



1972 Maico 400 ready for old school action. Man, look at the pipe and silencer. This was a just a few years before my era, but I remember reading about 'em in magazines, from a pile given to me from a riding pal's dad. I wish I had that pile of mags now, would be cool to thumb through 'em again.




Museum quality restoration of a side pipe CZ. I'd bet it didn't look this shiny when first shipped from Czechoslovakia in 1970. Still fun to look at today however.



1966 Matchless - now we're really talking old school. This was the tail end of the four stroke era, before the lighter and faster two-strokes took over the world of motocross. Of course, now that four strokes once again rule the world of motocross, things have come full circle. However, as us old school dudes know - the modern game is rigged for various reasons, all but eliminating two-strokes from the scene. That debate for a different time and place.



This now concludes yet another trip down motocross memory lane. The show was not a bad way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon. There were many bikes on display, more then I pictured and described. I haven't ridden dirt bikes since 1981, but still get a kick out of seeing and talking about this old era of motocross and other dirt bike action. It truly was the golden age of the sport, even if we (or I) sounds like old dude saying so. It really was a great era with many good memories.

Thanks for reading and checking out the pictures. Smell the Bel-Ray. Let the two-stroke sound ring in your head forever.


P.S.  Update - attended 2012 version of this show.  If interested, click here.  And also 2014 event here.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Welcome to the Machine

Welcome to the machine.

1991 Bridgestone RB-1 attached to '80s vintage wind trainer from SuperGo. It is loud. Steel roller presses against 28c tire. A small brick elevates the front wheel. It sits in a cold cluttered garage. It is a torture rack.

Torture rack kit breaks every roadie styling faux pas imaginable. High top mountain bike Sidi shoes. Long non-cycling socks, folded over. River City Cycles logo shorts complete with gaping rips and holes. Ramones t-shirt.

First generation iPod that somehow still holds a charge powers the torture. Metallica, Clash, Gas Huffer, White Stripes, AC/DC, Nirvana, Motorhead, Ramones provide the soundtrack.

One hour on the torture rack I spin. Sweat drips, ears ring, trainer fan roars.

Welcome to the machine.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Roosting Down Memory Lane


Over the last few weeks, I've been reminiscing about my former dirt bike days quite a bit. Even though those days were over thirty years ago, many memories remain burned into my aging mug. Rides, races, people, trails, practice tracks, various bikes, magazine articles and photos - all stored in my defective head, like some sort of crazed mental filing cabinet. Sometimes while falling asleep, I'll retrace various riding areas like a movie, with me behind the handlebars of my Suzuki RM125 on New Jersey trails I've haven't rolled on since 1981. Yup, call me loopy.

The memory machine has been revved up more then usual lately, with old friends posting photos from that era on Facebook, along with a few phone calls this week laughing about old times. On top of that, I connected with a vintage motocross site on Facebook with a treasure trove of photos from our era of the action. Through that, some comments sharing with new people as well, including one rider from New Jersey who rode the same areas as me, back in the day. I don't know this person, but we may have ridden at these places at the same time. Pretty wild.

Sounds corny, but I treasure those old photos now, since we didn't take many shots back then. We just never bothered to carry a camera. So rediscovering 'em now is very cool, for a historical view of the sport, plus a look back when we were basically kids. Teenage years into our early twenties.

Crank up the time machine. Here's a few people oriented shots from back in the day...



This be me, circa 1980 or so. I owned a succession of dirt bikes, this was the last and best of the bunch - my 1979 Suzuki RM125N. Two stroke motors were the norm, as was twin shock rear suspension and drum brakes. Long travel suspension was in full swing by then however, with close to 12 inches of travel front and rear. My plastic Scott boots and bolt on "Iron Jaw" face guard, trick at the time - also now scream vintage. I did race some motocross and hare scrambles events back then, hence my official District 6 race number of 267. I received a royal ass kicking in actual races, but still glad I participated. You haven't lived until you experience a motocross start with the mad drag race to the first turn, in a sea of noise and roosted dirt.

This picture was taken at Stanhope Pits, as we called it, near Stanhope, New Jersey. It was one of the many practice motocross tracks we had in the area - all linked together via a network of railroad tracks and wooded trails. I could leave from my driveway and ride for miles to connect various riding areas together - all on dirt. Considering this was densely populated New Jersey, mind boggling to me (now) that this all existed. We were damn lucky. Later, when cars and motorcycle trailers were part of the scene - we'd drive to some of the spots, park and then ride - with no hassle from anyone. An amazing open era of land access. Well, up until '81 or so, then things began to change and the police would arrive to chase riders off. It was the beginning of the end.

Stanhope Pits has since been covered by a huge office park. The people now sitting in their cubicles have no clue of the fun that once took place on that acreage.



My old friend Don roosting his 1975 Husqvarna CR250, circa 1978, through a sandy turn at Mine Hill Pits - another riding area for us. Mine Hill Pits was located in Kenvil and bordered Mine Hill, New Jersey. And it was just that - a mine hill. The area was previously mined many years earlier, leaving various levels of elevation changes, laced with sandy trails through new growth trees. This was our home spot and we spent many weekends roosting around it. At times it was too popular, with many riders sharing the fun - and occasionally crashing into each other. From when I discovered it in the mid '70s, and I'm sure earlier then that, through '81 or so - this was a free-for-all with no hassles. That began to change with gates being put up and police patrolling the area. The end of an era. My New Jersey pals tell me a large recycling center now sits on the spot.

I've known Don since high school and we're still in contact with 3000 miles separating us. His dirt bike days were over by '81 or so. Later, he picked up the bicycle bug and road raced for a few years - toss in some mountain bike racing as well. After a back injury sidelined his road race "career", he become the hard core commuter on a recumbent. How's that for the culture shock change? His back now in order, he rides normal bikes once again, including a new 29er mountain bike. He's also the kayak and ski nut, and a family man as well. Super nice guy.



Here's Frank sitting on Kevin's crashed Maico after a failed test ride. Note the completely twisted handlebars. It was a pretty healthy crash following a tank slapping session down one of Mine Hill Pits whooped out sections. I've lost contact with Frank since the dirt bike days, but hear about him via other New Jersey friends. I remember him being a good rider with a really fluid style and having a sense of humor. One of the many cast of characters from those days. I hear Frank races mountain bikes now in the Expert class. That doesn't surprise me.



Old pal Kevin on his '75 Maico 400, complete with new handlebars courtesy of Frank. Same era of Mine Hill Pits action. Puch jersey reflects his previous bike, a '75 Puch 175, that the Maico replaced. Later, a spanking new '79 Maico 450 was added to the mix. After that, the '81 Suzuki RM125 - plus modern bikes to this day.

I've known Kevin since elementary school and we're still in contact, even though I'm in Seattle and he's rooted to New Jersey. Kevin has remained the gear head with piles of motorcycle, cars, snowmobiles and other forms of fun in his many garages. He also rides mountain bikes, including 24 hour races solo. His wife Beth has raced mountain bikes as well. They have a young daughter now, who's already riding around the yard aboard a Yamaha PW50 with training wheels. Super cool old friends.



Another old New Jersey pal, Todd - here launching off a snow covered hill on a borrowed Maico, circa 1980 at Mine Hill Pits. Out of all of us, Todd was the most talented rider by far. Back in the day; Kevin, Todd and I would travel to races together and race the 500, 250 and 125 classes respectively. The full day of motocross action. Todd always had a few bikes in the garage, all purchased himself as a teenager, thanks to cutting lawns and a huge paper route. Early Yamaha TY80, '74 Suzuki TM125, '76 Suzuki RM125A, '74 Suzuki RL250 and the '78 Maico 250 to fill out the impressive list. Let's see a kid try to recreate that today, don't think it's possible.

Todd now lives in Connecticut with his wife and collection of sport motorcycles - the dirt days are over. He also does some serious mountain climbing. There was a gap of at least 10 years since I heard from Todd, but I'd hear about him via other friends. About a year ago we chatted on the phone. The 10 years felt like 2 weeks - the sign of a true friend. I've also known Todd since our school days, many many years ago.


My dirt bike days were over in 1981, though I owned a string of sport motorcycles right up to 2006, so did a fair amount of street riding. At times I daydream about riding dirt bikes again, something modern like a KTM 150, or getting involved with the vintage motocross scene. With my current state of time and money, being family guy - that remains a pipe dream. When it comes down to it though, in today's world, bit of a hassle to ride dirt bikes now. Need to drive out to specific areas, which dwindle down every year, plus it's become insanely expensive. Add in the environmental aspect, though I feel certain areas should be set aside for this type of activity, and compared to the millions of cars idling in traffic everyday, the amount of pollution from dirt bikes is minuscule.

Lucky for me, my obsession with bicycles parallels my obsession with motorcycles. Mountain bikes have replaced dirt motorcycles - since 1984. Looking deep, I dig the bicycles more for many reasons. Bit of a different culture that matches my style and interest. Add in the fitness and health factors as well. No contest. In ways it reminds me of my dirt bike days - cast of characters get together and ride around the woods, lots of laughs involved and being outside. There's the shared spark and camaraderie of doing something a little out of the mainstream with a crowd that gets it. Two wheels, moto or pedal powered are the ultimate catalyst for that.

Still fun to look back however, so I'll enjoy my little trip down memory lane awhile longer.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Ice Ice Baby




First ride and post of the new year. Happy 2011. Nothing epic, just a quick spin through the local woods right before darkness hit. After plenty of rain, a bit of a cold snap here in the Seattle area - below freezing temps, but clear skies for the last few days. The ground is f-f-f-frozen like a rock, with patches of crystal ice everywhere. Super fast conditions - like riding on pavement.

I was in cruise mode for the first half of the ride, with Ian actually loosing me on a twisty downhill section. He has these trails wired and can cruise pretty quick at times for 11 years old. Even with the icy patches only one crash today, performed by Ian, as he attempted a elevated log skinny - coated with ice. Boom, slow speed crash - no problem. Those Fox knee/shin guards have paid for themselves many times over.



Some friendly runners grab a shot of Ian and I during our official Clif Bar stop. We stop at this spot every ride for a rest and a little chocolate flavored boost. Good excuse for some father/son chat time as well.



Local school yard covered with ice crystals, requiring a quick detour to crunch through with fat tires.



Don't fence me in, man.


Nothing earth shattering or mind pondering to report. Just chalk up another pleasant ride on our local singletrack. Some close by afternoon adventure by bike. Many more to follow. Adios for now.