James 'Leftie' Smith reports from this week's Have Fun Flat Track!! event and Mooneyes HRCS in Japan. Thanks James!
After ten years of annual pilgrimages to Japan for different reason from work and BMX trips, chopper shows and hangovers from hell. Felt good for this years agenda being Flattrack and eating awesome food with seasoning of those others things.
Left London with only a carry-on backpack filled mostly of riding gear and in stark contrast to a sensible person taking adequate amount of pants/socks and T-shirts for the 7 day stay. Great times were had before the Mooneyes show, yet managed to regain the ability to be compos mentis enough to take a zillion pictures on the Sunday at the show. Got to see many the bikes I had followed on the internet being built by builders around the world in the finished fleshy metal states and appreciate all the nerdy details up close.
Mooneyes Hot Rod Custom Show as name implies is exactly that, though the last two years the 'Have Fun' guys have been among the bling hot rods and crusty choppers with a stand showing off all flat track bikes that feature the same if not better skill and quality gone into making of them than choppers and hot rods at the show. So for people that walk around a show seeing £30,000 to £500k bikes and cars all day to then stumble upon a section of bikes that look just as impressive, but likely costing mere 0.5% total cost to build, with the purpose to be raced versus hidden away only to be rolled out couple of times of year to be shown and not used, is a pretty convincing argument for any bike building enthusiasts.
Most of the Have Fun bikes are built around cheap stock 160cc horizontal engines, some feature very tasty frames built from scratch with more thought and engineering going into them, than any of the top race frame builders in the states, Ducktail, Buddy customs and Cheetah to mention a few.
That said this year they have taken to building bikes using accessible (more so in Japan) stock mini/monkey bike frames such as Honda Dax or CD, making an inspired shed builder less intimidated by the ideas of needing a frame jig/welding and more bolt on and go approach. Very counter to most businesses/industries making you lust after things made by them opposed to something you could source yourself. Hopefully they are smart and offer some of the neat clever parts for sale that allow larger wheels/tyres such as swingarms etc for sale so we can do it too.... hint hint...
Show out the way the Have Fun flat track party loomed. Drinking with friends into the night was replaced by leaving them to it in favour of sleep. Despite the practice day on the Monday being rained off, I used strong will power and behaved yet again...
Tuesday morning 4:30am wake up alarm Hotel > Tokyo subway > Train > Taxi > Track. Upon arriving circa 7am, was met with the familiar sight all the vans parked up. Instead of the sea of DTX bikes with a few thunder bikes mixed in being rolled out, it’s freshly built 160 horizontals that were at the show days earlier to the other extreme and some also being at the show on their own chopular merits, certainly one of the most impressive and expensive line up of 1930-1950s side valve Harley and Indians you will see in any pits in the world. I'm very proud of the British and European vintage bikes we have enter and race, but, much like most things, Japan is just another level.
Due to the heavy rain the previous day, they had to work hard to sort the track. At first it was a lonesome tractor, then seven vans plucked from the car park doing laps to help pack and level out the track. 11am They started letting people on for practice, while I was booting up I saw Shaun and Aaron of Suicide Machine Co slipping and sliding on the ice-like track and getting bounced about a fair bit on some 500s they borrowed. The alchemy that is mud, by the time I got out it was sound as a pound and gripping to the point I wasn't even putting my left foot down which made getting use to the bike I borrowed from Buddy one thing less to worry about.
As often happens, class sessions turns into a free for all of bikes and classes, but it kept things flowing nicely and was great to see how 160cc vs 1200cc and modern vs vintage, which actually made it an experience in of itself. Practice continued till about 1pm when they started doing a few races. Thankfully grid positions weren’t needed as you could get 8-12 rider front row starts.
Even after the race, while sat on the plane back to London still don’t fully know what class I was in or they were running, not to say due to a lack of organisation, far from it, just the obvious language barrier.
So if I was to guess:
125 > 160cc have fun class
250 > 500cc
Great riding all day, though it wasn’t all out war racing with elbows and bar bashing for the win, but every class yielded riders going down, says they were riding harder than a trip to the shops. All classes had amazing battles at the front, middle and back.
Japan’s very own Alan Birtwistle skid wizard Masatoshi Ohmori Put on a bit of a demo and also in the pro class him and his next closest rival put quiet the show, With the leading position changing every corner in a under/over speedway manner which made for exciting watching.
In my class Scott Jones of Noise Cycles despite a crash and stalled start I would say easily strongest rider of the day on Ducktail mini bike, another day in the office for him. By the end of it Cheetah got all the international riders out on the mini/Have Fun bikes for a race, the hardtail Magnum of Cheetah’s got the better of one of the SMCO boys with a bump on the track giving his kidneys a punch before hitting the ground. I managed a 3rd/4th in a stacked heat and 2nd behind Scott in last race of the day but as the vibe I got certainly wasn’t a final as such or the day about places. Everyone had fun/everyone won!
This is Takashi who drew the SB39 colouring book
The Japan riders maybe don’t have the race series structure or tracks we have in other parts of the world, but what they do, they smash out the park, hunger to get it low and slide with buckets of style, this isn’t to say they aren’t fast, they are! They love the riding and building some of the most rad unique bikes.
The Have Fun crew have built an amazing collaboration initiative. independent builders and racers coming together to make a inviting movement that's growing flat track in Japan with humble strong roots, with the fruits that seen and inspire riders round the world.
Massive thank you to all the “Have Fun” crew
Read about the Have Fun crew in Sideburn 36