Lee Likes Hare Scrambles

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.

10 replies
  1. Brian Buell says:

    Yo lee, that sounds like a ton of fun. Would it be smart to participate in such an event with a XR400? What bikes did you see most out there? Appreciate your imput, take it easy!!!

  2. leelikesbikes says:

    Hey Brian.

    It was a mix of 2- and 4-stroke motocross and trail bikes. I don’t remember seeing any XRs; most bikes were more racy (Honda CR, CRF, CRFX; Yamaha YZ, YZF, WR; KTM EXC, SX, etc. But a rider like you can rip on anything; what you might give up on the big jumps and whoops you’d make up with cornering, top speed and fitness.

    It’s worth trying — Dec. 10!

  3. jason smith says:

    Dont forget lee the national hare scramble series will be at hollister in Jan. Very cool last year we had 1200 riders mixed over 2 days of racing. Its very addicting “I told you so”

  4. Matt says:


    Not sure what goggles you are using, but you might want to check out the Utopia Slayer Moto goggles. I have used Oakley, Smith and Zeal goggles, but Utopia blows them out of the water when it comes to visibility and reduction of fog.

    Hope all is well. When are you making you next West Coast swing?


  5. mike coleman says:

    Great web site !
    Ah, another cross training program that might end up being “the” program.
    Looks like fun, where are all the trees ????


  6. Jay says:

    I had a chance to ride with Lee and some of his pals at Berthoud this past Sunday Dec 10 for another Hare scramble. Fun was had by all.
    What I love about a Hare Scramble is that the atmosphere around the race is to just have FUN. Unlike a full on motocross race being I do both is you feel like you have to go for broke on every lap. You can have a full range of riders there from young moto racers to dad and son and even mom racing. One of the great things about it is if you feel you can’t ride the full two hour race you can run as a team with another rider.
    So for all of you who have been thinking about it just try it you might be quit surprised how much fun you have.

  7. Ben says:

    Yay! I love hare scrambles! How’s that 250R? I’ve been rocking the track on my 250X, and it’s great, plus green sticker!

  8. leelikesbikes says:

    The 250R is awesome. Light, tight and quick. It’s even getting me to jump on the big boy track.

    The 250R is like a dirt jump hardtail; the 450X is like a 6″ trail bike. Both excellent, just different.

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