Things change…very quickly. It’s cliché’ until it isn’t. Ask Robert Haydon (@lastmoto )…ask Korry Fitzpatrick (@k_fitzpatrick_ ), who had their bike stolen, and motor seize respectively, immediately prior to the final race of the season: the championship race! They both had legitimate chances of besting points leader Cory Churchill (sorry, no link, Cory keeps himself free of social media burden) in the final race, and taking home the season points Championship trophy. As it turned out, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, Korry would not race (after spending all day Saturday unsuccessfully attempting an engine swap), and Robert would race on a CL 125 he hurried together after losing his prized Elsinore to thieves.
I picked up my bike from Cycle Heap (@cycle_heap ) the day of the race after asking Casey Him (@gandhcycles) to “go through the front end, and get it sorted out,” the week prior. This request came after meeting my new neighbour. I’m not implying that I changed my address recently, or that this person did either. What changed was my motorcycle’s address...and my tools’ address...and my junk’s address. I had to move everything not residing within my home, into a new space. As it turns out, storage space in Portland is nearly as expensive as a place to live in the Pearl District (see: hip and expensive neighbourhood in Portland, which used to be an old warehouse district until gentrification. Now, it’s “Alimony Flats,” rife with plush condominiums, coffee shops, and boutiques specializing in “finely crafted, artisan” things you don’t really need. I digress. The reason for my request to Casey to “go through the front end…?” That’s where my new neighbor comes in. And, he literally came in...to the garage I’m renting to ask me “is this your flat tracker?” After I affirmed that it was, he proceeds to tell me all about hearing me unload the bike at 2:00 am (who...me?) and recognizing a flat track bike anywhere.
His name is Steve Hust, and has knowledge of all things racing, stories of his days flat track racing at Sidewinders and every other track in the region back in the day, and a keen eye for mechanical improvement. By looking at my bike for four minutes, he could make out that there was something significantly askew regarding the front end of the trusty RD200. He had me hopping around, performing numerous troubleshooting tricks to determine the problem…
I’d suggested to Casey after the previous race, that I’d like to put some bigger bars, and higher risers...giving the bike a different stance, better geometry, and me, a better chance to go faster. As I ogle the bike, celebrating it’s new appearance, Casey hesitantly explains everything he discovered while “sorting things out” on the front end. He proceeds to tell me that one of the fork tubes was badly bent, as was the front axle, which when placed on the floor and rolled (much the same method one would employ selecting a pool cue in a dive bar by rolling it on the table. The axle resembled the cue no one ever selects at the bar...and that was after his attempts to straighten it. Casey turned a new axle for me from a hunk of stock which he found laying around. He then told me he’d taken it for a spin, and that I’d be very pleased with the way the bike feels now.
I was beginning to get really excited about the races later that evening, and couldn’t wait to get to the track. Robert was at the heap trying to get some last minute horsepower via tuning and a 19” wheel onto the front end of the Honda CL125 he’d been working on since the day his Elsie got pinched. To no avail the wheel didn’t fit, and Robert raced it in the best condition he could muster, within the time he had. See his blog for his story…
With that, I gladly pay Casey for his time and efforts, load the bike up, and point the car south for Salem. I’d but one little detour to 98th and SE Division for some Ethanol free gas for the pre-mix. I feel myself going into a little bit of a funk as I climb the onramp to the 205...why am I feeling like this? There are a couple of reasons: I’d just received the text from Korry “No racing for me.” It surprised me, as he’d enlisted the help of Todd Hill, a former racer back in the day, and father to Michael Hill, who races in the 450 singles class...and is really fast. Between Korry and Todd, I thought for sure they’d get it together in time...Alas, with the motor complete and back in the frame, they discovered transmission issues which were insurmountable in the limited time until the races. It really gutted me. The guy really worked his ass off on that bike throughout the season...tuning and improving, swapping a motor, performing an emergency clutch overhaul at the track, new suspension, wheels, brake system...he was really get the most out of the bike, and while going faster than he has all season while practicing the night before the race...Bam! Change happened. The engine seized, leaving him less than 24 hours to have the bike ready for the final race of the season. A race he’s set himself up for all year, wherein, he’s sitting in third place for the points total, and with a really good ride on his part, a miscue hear or there by the two riders ahead of him (Corey Churchill, and Robert Haydon, 1st and 2nd, respectively), he’s got a shot at the title for the season...the news of Robert’s terrible circumstance came weeks prior, and as of race day, he wouldn’t be on his trusty 250 Elsinore, so that left Churchill. Corey is a great rider and a better guy. His smile is matched only by his enthusiasm for the sport. He would compete for the title in not only 250 Vintage, but two other classes, as well.
The other reason for souring mood…? The rain. It began to rain. For stretches of my drive, it really rained...like, biblical rain. For those of you reading who do not know me personally, I can’t effing stand the rain. I know, I know...it makes everything so greeeeen! Blech. Enough about my personal psychosis. As I make my way down the soggy freeway in traffic compounded by the weather and the typical mobs of autos headed south to shop at either Clackamas Town Center, Bridgeport Villiage, or Woodburn Outlets, I try my best to lift my spirits by the thoughts of the difference I may notice from the new front end on my bike. It worked...a bit. It rained all the way to the track, culminating in a lovely rain/hail mix as I pulled in through the gates of the fairgrounds.
While I was signing the waiver at the shack trading my $10.00 for a wrist band, my phone rang. It was my pal Sean Moran (@yabollox), who’d just raced his first race ever last month at the One races. He was headed out from Portland at that moment, and had intentions to race. “Do ya fink I’ll make it in time?” His English accent makes me smile, and I tell him “Of course, but you’ll not be here in time for practice…” “That’s fine,” he says deadpan…”I don’t need any practice.”
I settle on the south end of the Livestock Pavilion which houses the track (right next to the famed Poultry Pavilion) at the fairgrounds. Bonus: this is indoor, and the rain doesn’t work in here. It’s still cold, so when you come, bring your parka. I unload the bike, get it on its stand, and walk over to the sign up shack at the opposite end of the track. I greet Cory and Robert on the way, and get Sean signed up while I’m there. The rider’s meeting is brief, if not a little melancholic as man who runs the races along with his brother and the team of volunteers they’ve amassed, tells us of the work that will commence immediately after the last race is over...Everything must go. All 6,000+ yards of soil (about 600 truck loads, give or take), all of the concrete jersey barriers, the fencing, the grandstands, the announcers perch, the snack shack...all of it...GONE! By Thursday. Change.
On this night, I’m wearing different gear. Gone are the full, one piece leathers, the modern moto X boots, and the visible race jersey. On this night, I’m wearing my custom Langlitz jacket...because it’s green, and it’s cool, and it’s St. Patrick’s day. So there. I’m also wearing my new See See moto pants created recently as a collaboration between Fox and See See, designed by Thor Drake, himself because as soon as I caught glimpse of them, I knew I had to have ‘em. So there. They’re comfy as PJ’s, and cool AF, as the kids say. So there. I also wore a pair of Thorogood moc toe boots, and only had to grind off about 3/16” of the sides of the sole at the heel to shoe horn the left into my hot shoe. My hot shoe, by the way, was repaired beautifully by @wallacejg, who is yet another lovely guy I’ve become friends with through the See See community. See his fantastic XS 650 build featured in Sideburn 20.
With that, the rest of our posse has trickled in...Eric from Cycle Heap with his trusty Suzuki TS, Nick (@dinojesus_) on a Honda 4 stroke, and Chris DeSanty (@theironsociety) with his boss, newly finished DT250...the pink lady is a cunning little ripper, complete with another beautiful custom saddle by Roxan of @rangeneedlework. It should be mentioned that she surprised me by subtly personalizing the seat she so wonderfully crafted for my bike, by stitching one word on it…”Dig.” She took a vote with the fellas at Cycle Heap exploring whether or not she should do it without asking me...It was unanimous and swift “Absolutely!” Good looking out, Cycle Heap crew...it warmed my cockles. She did another seat for me, but didn’t like the way it turned out (I thought it was magnifique’!) and insisted I give her another shot. She got her way.
Practice was fun and too brief. But...things felt different. So much different. How could they not? I had real handlebars, with enough rise to get them off of my knees, the forks had real life in them, I could actually feel my foot controls, enticing me to actually try the brake...what a difference! And, I had my green Langlitz on. Changes.
Racing was a blast. I got mediocre starts in both heat and main (gotta work on that) and managed to end up third in both races. I was thrilled to wait in line for my third place trophy while all of the top finishers for the season in each of the classes hauled away their big hardware. Out of curiosity, I asked where my third place showing for the night left me in the total points score for the season...4th overall! It wasn’t until I returned to the pits with my prize, that Robert’s girlfriend mentioned “hey, I think I saw a trophy in the shack for 4th place in the class. You should probably go check it out…” So, I beat feet over there, and sure enough, I have a trophy for “Salem Indoor Winter 4th Place Vintage 250.” Who’d of thunk it? The old dude on the mini bike in his first year racing...I need to renegotiate my sponsorship deal with @seeseemotorcycles...3 more cups of coffee, 5 more stickers, and a hat. Dig.
The photo shows L to R, the winners 1st through 4th place of the 250 Vintage class: Cory Churchill, Robert Haydon, Korry Fitzpatrick, and yours truly.
My lovely girlfriend Jenny came down and had in tow, a bottle of Jamison, some Ginger beer, and a stack of solo cups. One celebratory shot was in order before we headed back to Portland to really celebrate, as not only was it St. Patrick’s day, but at midnight Mr. Fitzpatrick would turn 30. Oh my…
We dropped off our bikes at my storage garage, left his bike and three motors in plastic bins, locked up, left his truck, and headed to the Trap to meet the rest of the gang...a storied neighborhood dive in SE Portland which hosts Karaoke 7 nights a week. We sang songs (“Jackson” by Johnny and June, “White lightnin’” by George Jones, and Jenny killed the crowd with “Nothing compares 2U” by Sinead O’Conner), danced, ate tavern snacks and some members of our crew got just a little too far into their cups…”Happy Birthday dear KOR-reeeee…”
I got to talk with Scott Rounds (@scott_rounds) who is fairly new to the mob, but what a great fit. You see, Scott is a racer...like, a real racer. He’s been doing it a long time, and it shows. His form is classic, and evokes visions of the racers I first admired as a kid. If you squint, his red leathers with white trim might remind you of Jim Rice whizzing by. He rides a built Yamaha 500 single in the Vintage 500 open class. This is a fast class, loaded with guys of varying skill levels, all going much faster than we do. On this night, Scott has 4 really good laps after what looked like the hole shot in the main...then he got bumped off his line, and by his own admission, was just too gassed to keep it up at the pace he started. “I’m out of shape!” He doesn’t seem it. He’s a great guy with a smile as wide as the Willamette. He’s a professional photographer with a keen eye. He’s a New York guy, and has a sharp wit about him. He ended up in the group of the last four standing that night: The birthday boy, Jenny, and myself included. We gave him a lift home and he was glad for it. I gave Korry a soft place to land in my spare bedroom, and a proper English Breakfast at the Toffee Club with Jenny on hand to start of his official Birthday. He was bummed he didn’t get to race, but all in all, he said it was a fantastic capper to a great indoor season. I concur.
Bring on the Summer. Eff the rain.