I’ve been trying not to become a motorcycle racer, but I suppose it was inevitable. Today, almost a year after I bought my Honda trail bike, I raced a hare scramble. And I liked it.
At the end of each lap, you stopped at a chute. One woman marked the sticker on your helmet, and the other logged your time. After that, you braaaped over this log for another lap. Photos by Mark Lund.
The deal. A hare scramble is a mix of motocross and trail riding. Today’s course used both of Berthoud’s motocross tracks and several miles of trails. We rode big jumps, little jumps, tricky whoops, wide open straights, bump fields, sweepers, slaloms and hairpins for two hours. Each lap was about six miles; I rode nine.
Taxing. Both physically and mentally. Imagine riding downhill for two hours with 300 people on the same course. Lots of violence: rat tat tat! I am struggling to focus right now. I hope this all makes sense.
New bike. I got a crazy bro deal on practice bike ridden by Billy Laninovich of the Factory Connection motocross team. This 2006 Honda CRF250R is crazy light, crazy fast and crazy sweet. More details soon.
I’m not nervous. At the start, surrounded by 300 roaring motos, it was tempting to get tense and worried. No, I told myself, just enjoy the experience. My Sportsman (beginner all ages) class had 54 riders. We stood next to our running bikes, facing backward. When the starter waved his flag, everyone hopped on and took off. I let them go, so I’d have a relaxing tour of the facility.
Racers position gas cans and assistants for quick pit stops. A nice guy named Don poured gas for me.
Sheep everywhere. Dude, the track was so balled up! I thought I’d be timid, but Race Day Lee came out. I started working through the traffic. Once things spread out, the speed and the aggression escalated. One guy tried to sneak inside, all handlebar and elbow and footpeg, and I said Forget it! It was like a non-stop 4X race: low-high pass, high-low pass, rip the inside, rip the outside. There are so many ways to pass someone. (And there are so many ways to get passed.)
Bad visions. A while back I cut holes in my goggle foam to prevent fogging. Not so great when tires are spraying dirt and rocks right at your face. Tons of dirt got into my goggles — every time I jumped, little pebbles floated in front of my eyes. When sweat streamed down my glasses, the dirt stuck, and I was blinded. I had to stop a few times to clean the mess. That cost serious time.
Random violence. I usually try to ride precisely and perfectly. This is fine when I’m teaching bike clinics and practicing drills, but it really limits my speed. That’s why I’m trying to un-coach myself for 2007. Well, a lot of random things happen on a moto — sliding, catching, bouncing, flying — sometimes all at once. Today, as I recovered from many random acts of violence, I realized control isn’t perfection: It’s adaptability.
The next lap starts … now!
Hero moments. In 50-something miles today, I watched myself do a few extraordinary things. Like seamlessly out-braking a guy into a corner, pivoting on my foot and launching down the straight. Passing two guys on the inside, buttering a double and blocking the next corner. Hopping a big hole. Looking way ahead. Keeping my hands relaxed.
Hubris. It seems like any time I think, “Dude, I rule!” I crash. Today: 5th gear pinned, passing a couple guys down a straight, I thought: “Dude, I rule!” I reached the tight left sooner than expected, initiated a slide and lost it completely. My knee brace took the impact. Dozens of riders passed. Tick, tock. Oh well, I had to clean my glasses anyway.
External validation. I set out to finish safely and have fun along the way. I DO NOT want to become obsessive about motorcycle racing (good luck). I thought about leaving before they posted results — it was a great experience; why ruin it? But it’s a race, and races have winners. Out of 54, I finished 18th, just one spot out of the trophies. I’m trying not to obsess, but when I fix the goggle/glasses issue, I’ll be in the top 10. Then I’ll move up a class, and when I get all the jumps I’ll be in the top 10 of that class, then I’ll move up another class, and then, and then … STOP! It was really fun. Can’t that be enough?
Jumpy-jump action on the main MX track.
Flowy flow state. Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihaltyi describes the feeling of flow in this groundbreaking book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Performance. “… Concentration is so intense that there is no attention left over to think about anything irrelevant, or to worry about problems. Self-consciousness disappears, and the sense of time becomes distorted. An activity that produces such experiences is so gratifying that people are willing to do it for its own sake, with little concern for what they will get out of it, even when it is difficult, or dangerous.”
Has it been two hours already? When can I do this again?
More info about the Valley Dirt Riders Hare Scramble Series.