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Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming:
"WOW, what a ride !!!"

Carnegie AHRMA VMX Oct 16, 2005

It was a stretch for me to be able to attend the second to the last AHRMA race of the season on The West Coast, and I didn’t really know if I could get away until the last couple of days before due to various activities surrounding my business. But, get away I did to drive south from the Seattle area where both my old high school and racing buddy Darryl Weinkauf and I live.

This event was going to be at Carnegie this year, near Livermore California. It would be the lead off event on this track for AHRMA as far as I know. I had never raced Carnegie back in the day or saw any of the exciting Trans AM’s that were held there. This event would be the 15th Mike Lightfoot inaugural event.

I graduated high school in 1973 and back then was spending my life racing with my many dirt biking friends, riding and racing anywhere we could in Southern California. I was very fortunate to attend consecutive Trans AM’s at Saddleback and Carlsbad for many years. Carlsbad went onto become an event in the World Motocross Championship tour by the time my friends and I were seeing our 3rd event there.

We arrived at the Carnegie track around 9:15pm on the Friday night before the Saturday Post vintage event. Lucky for us, the promoters were letting someone out and just happened to be at the closed gate and they let us in for the night.

After finding a spot for the night, we popped up his VW camper’s top, grabbed some flashlights and a cool brew and went out to walk the track in the moonlight. The two steep uphill/downhill combinations looked rather intimidating in the dark, as they were difficult to climb up or down on foot. I made up my mind right there to hit these steep hill climbs fast and under heavy power. These up hills would not be a place where I wanted to run out of steam because I didn’t get enough speed up to climb them.

Satisfied after seeing the track up close and personal, we turned in for the night.

Robert Loveless leading the PVMX bikes
off the line with his Classic 125 CZ.
Photo by Giles Nelson.

The Post vintage races on the Saturday’s before the vintage national’s on these weekend are always a lot of fun to watch. One of our vintage racing friends, Robert Loveless, lives near by, but he was only going to be able to race on Saturday. I know he has some mono-shocked 125 YZ and an Evo 125 CZ to boot, but he brought his Classic 125 CZ to race. “What a great idea thinks me,” race my vintage CZs on Saturday with the EVO bikes for practice on the track and some warm-up in riding before the Sunday vintage races!!

Dave Coupe. Photo by Giles

The highlight of the day for me was watching and filming Dave Coupe. The guy pretty much is in a class by himself when it comes to racing VMX and PVMX. I was watching him in one of his races where while lapping another expert in his class, he would pass him, then slow down and let the other guy pass him back. Then he would re-pass him again at will only to slow down again. He was showing the slower rider different lines and methods to ride, encouraging him on in his evolution as a racer. Coupe really is a great sportsman and a joy to watch.

The rest of the day was spend wandering around looking at all the stuff for sale, and getting in a couple of rides on my 250 CZ. I had just finished installing a DH 4 large peddle reed valve on my bike right before leaving and had not even started it up before coming here.

On the Cousinweedy CZ discussion group that I’m part of, Mark TheGoat Skarpohl had offered up a GEM reedvalve unit for auction and the proceeds would go to the hurricane victims in New Orleans. I did put in a bid on this unit as far as I felt I could afford but it went much higher then I could really bid on. J.D. Morris was the winner of it but then posted that he really didn’t have a use for it so it was available to someone who had a real need for it.

Well, I had purchased an extra reed valved 250 engine a while back from my friend Steve Superman Clark. I had sent the barrel to Charlie Richardson of CR High Performance to bore it out and get a piston drilled out to match the reed valved porting scheme on the cylinder. He told me that the porting on that barrel was pretty progressive, but the small 4 peddled reed valve that came with it was pretty bad. It held the pedal cage almost two inches away from the cylinder in some clunky homemade looking manifold. Well, to make a long story short, I wrote JD and explained my situation and that I really could use the better reed valve. If no one else had a need, I would be very grateful to get it since he was giving it away. Well, him being the cool dude he is, he wrote me back and said it was mine and he would tell Mark to send it to me. I donated the dollar amount to the Katrina victims that I had bid for the unit to complete the transaction.

Well, Mark ended up bringing it to the premiere event at Chehalis and gave me my choice of either the GEM 6 peddle unit, or this large DH 4 peddle unit. After carefully evaluating them both back at home with the cylinder, I liked how the DH unit held the reed cage really close to the mounting plane of the intake. The 4 peddles were as large as the 6 on the GEM so what the heck. I went with the DH.

Oh my God, what a difference! I took my 250, The Road Warrior, out for a couple of rides up one of the fast trails heading up some canyon in the riding park near the track. This reed valve was on my stock barrel still but what a difference it made to the power band. It pulled like a tractor now from low RPMs but once I started revving it up high, it just wanted to keep going. Before this, the engine would come to a definite place where you felt trying to rev it higher was a losing proposition. But now, it would just keep building more and more power the higher I revved it. I can’t wait to finish my porting on the progressively ported barrel with the Swiss cheese like holes in the new piston and get another boost of power!

After waiting and choking on bikes fumes while staged to go for practice, the starter finally let us out. On the first lap of practice, I didn’t really know how fast to hit these imposing up hills. There was this guy ahead of me I had been following so on the straight away leading up to the first uphill I let off and let him pull away before I gassed it hard to attack the hill, going rather fast in 3rd gear. Well, all was fine and dandy, but the guy ahead of me ran out of speed near the top and bobbled it, almost coming to a stop. I closed the gap between us really fast and when I was trying to quickly downshift as I cut under him to slow down, I hit neutral instead of 2nd gear. I tend to use my transmission a lot to slow down and when I hit neutral, it made me go way too fast to make the sharp left hand turn to lead into the steep downhill.

I ended up riding up onto the hard packed side of the downhill section, fighting to get a head lean to the left so I could ride it out, back onto the tracks surface. As I started to ride further up onto the side I had visions of a really nasty crash coming my way if I didn’t get the bike leaned back to the left and pointed back onto the track and the down hill. My right foot got pinched out between the engine and the steep side I was running up onto before I finally regained control and got back onto the track surface. This would have been a really crappy place to drop it. As I had said earlier, on foot, these sections were very difficult to negotiate and crashing here would not have been a fun experience. I practice the head lean thing a lot when I’m mountain biking all the trails near my home in Washington. It’s really magical how your instincts will follow your inner ear. Using a head lean when you get into these tight situations and you have to make a turn or make a correction can really save your butt. It saved mine here.

With no further incidents I made four complete practice laps before being flagged off. I really didn’t have too many people pass me in practice as is usual and I actually passed a number of people. I guess I’m slowly getting a bit better at this sport I love.

I really liked the track as it reminded me of Saddleback where I mostly raced as a kid in southern California where I was raised. The up hills and down hills were not as intimidating as I first thought them to be and I really like charging hard on the climbs and gassing it hard coming off of them. While I’m still the Novices Novice, I do know and have experienced one thing: when you do go faster, the bumps all tend to smooth out. The down hills are an easy way to get going fast quickly.

Like Saddleback, this track had a high percentage of clay in the soil and I was sure that not too far into our 21-moto schedule, it would get hard packed and blue grooved in places.

In my first moto, 250 Sportsman Novice, Darryl’s 500 Sportsman Novice class would be second gate to us. I usually get to experience him passing me at some point in my races when he’s starting in the gate behind me, as he’s really good at this sport. He’s currently leading both that class and 40+ Novice in the AHRMA series. I set a personal goal of riding faster so he didn’t catch me.

Well, here I was on the starting line, right next to the guy in the middle who stomped on the release mechanism to drop the gates. One less person next to me to deal with I reasoned. I have yet to get a decent start on my 250 well into my second year of racing vintage. I think I over think the situation but today it was going to be different I said to myself with newfound determination. Put it into second gear, hold it full throttle, find that point in the clutch where it’s almost starting to grab and then slip it for a bike length or so without bogging the motor.

It shouldn’t be that difficult but I’m living testimony that I can repeatedly screw up this aspect of racing. It’s really rather frustrating to me as I was the hole shot king on my 73 250 elSinore as a kid almost always getting first into the first turn, only to be passed by anywhere from 3 to 5 people usually before the end of the race. I never finished better then a 3rd in the junior class back in the day, while most of my friends were really quite good. But oh well, fun was had each and ever time I swung a leg over my various bikes.

So revving the motor like there’s no tomorrow I actually got off the line without bogging the motor too much and away we all went towards the first right hand turn about a hundred yards off in the distance. The video that one of the guys in our group captured, Gary Coleman who rides a Greeves, of my start showed me closing the gap on the guys in first and second place right up to the point where I locked up the motor by over braking with the rear brake.

I had put a motoplat electronic ignition on this bike a while ago with a much lighter flywheel. Well, I really like the elSinore like power band it produced, but the rear brake locking up the motor has been a reoccurring problem.

So here I am now with a dead engine. I let off the rear brake and it fired off but a husky rider passed me on my right and a Bultaco passed me on my left side. Crap! I got by the husky guy before a couple of turns but I couldn’t keep pace with the Bultaco and he slowly build up a lead on me.

On the last lap I saw Darryl coming up behind me before the last up and down hill combination. Back a while in the race, another rider in my class had gotten by me so I was running in 5th place out of 11 starters in my class. I thought about my goal of trying to finish in front of Darryl, but I let it go as I took the left hand sweeper high that led to a straight away before the final two turns and left the inside line to him. This turn was my favorite one on the track and was a lot of fun to take fast and power slide.

After he got by me I turned it up a bit and stayed on his tail over the jump and into the last left right sequence before the flag. What a blast that race was for me and not too shabby of a finish. I managed to push hard the entire race and never got out of control.

Giles Nelson: Photo by Reese Dengler

Darryl Weinkauf:
Photo by Reese Dengler

Darryl also raced his 40+ Novice class and our other old high school racing buddy Brian Larsen and another friend of ours Gary Coleman would be racing in 50+ in the second gate to them. I filmed their event so they could have some footage to evaluate after I was done processing it. Darryl won again. Hole shot and win. Hole shot and win. Ho hum, he’s getting so boring to watch.

Brian Larsen on his 125 CZ
Photo by Giles

Gary Coleman on the Greeves
Photo by Giles

In my second moto I reverted back to form on the start and totally bogged the motor by not holding it full throttle as I started to slip the clutch. Second to last off the line, I managed to get a 7th place finish for a 6th overall. Darryl came up on me again in this race but a bit earlier and he had someone hot on his trail.

He passed me on the first steep uphill on my left. I didn’t know he was there until I saw a wheel out of the corner of my eye, but it was a clean pass and he was gone quickly. The guy behind him got by me within a couple of turns, but I held off their 3rd place guy for the rest of the race, picking up my pace as best as I could.

Well, this weekend was just an awesome event for me. I really liked this course with its challenging terrain.

Before the races, Darryl told me to watch the experts in the turns and see just where they turn on the throttle. Through the PV Saturday races and then the VMX on Sunday, I was amazed to see just how soon into a turn they start to gas it, and in essence, start the exit of the turn. It seemed to be about 1/3 of the way into the turns for the most part. Wow, what a realization. I worked to start rolling on the gas earlier in my turns through out the day. I can say with certainty, I at least did it a couple of times right and got through those turns with much greater speed and with less hassle.

Another thing I learned was about hitting spots in corners on my CZ. It is becoming real apparent to me after the race just how good it is on this bike to pick specific targets in turns and do the billiard ball routine into and out of the corner. Helps to keep the all important speed up through the corner and is the most natural way this bike likes to be ridden. When I was successful at doing this, I could hit those spots and transition into and out of the corner quickly, pivoting around the corner in this manner, hitting the gas with a burst upon contacting the spot.

The only time I got out of shape during the whole day of racing was on one of the right handers. The inside lines had some nice small berms build up, but outside of those, it was loose pea gravel like clay pellets. Over shooting this one turn by going into it too fast, I took the loose outside line. Well, here’s the key I learned there: do not try to steer the bike around these slippery corners. That’s what led me to get into trouble. It would have been better to roll on the gas about 1/3 of the way into the soft slippery corner and let the rear end of the bike go into a nice gentle power slide. This would have taken the load off of the front tire by the rear starting to bite and would have straightened out the front end. Trying to steer the bike through the corner by turning it more to the right led me into trouble.

Well, another AHRMA national under my belt and by my own standards, I won. If I get to race and walk away without injury, I consider myself a winner. This sport is such an indulgence for me. While its not cheap to make these events, there’s nothing else like this to make me feel like a kid again. The people from the Santa Clara’s riders club who put on the event were to be commended. It ran smoothly and considering they had to run 21 motos, they did a great job.



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