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Old 02-12-2011, 09:53 PM   #1
DolphinJohn OP
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Joined: Mar 2007
Location: Nature Coast, Florida
Oddometer: 3,963
Not ANOTHER middle-aged n00b racing thread?!?

Yup, it's all the rage.
I have been seeing some great threads about guys getting in to racing in their local areas. I thoroughly enjoy reading them and I credit Tbone in particular with giving me the final push I needed to finally give it a shot.
Tbone is Troy, and I have gotten to know him and his family a little because he is a fellow Floridian and we now race in the same club, Florida Trail Riders (FTR). Troy and his family are genuine, great people who made me feel welcome and eased my nerves before I started racing.
Here is Tbone's father/daughter thread:

Since I've now managed to survive a few races myself, I decided to share my story.

I had a few dirt bikes in my late teens/early twenties then didn't ride at all until buying a dual-sport bike in '06 at 41. (sound familiar?) I did some cross-country rides, Alaska, TAT, and started remembering the old dirt bike days. Living in Key West, there is just no place at all to ride a dirt bike so I was stuck dreaming of the past.

That started to change when the guys I ride with here introduced me to another Key Wester who rides named Brent. Brent and his friend Ivor then started joining Steve, Greg, and I on our weekend rides in and around the Keys. On one of these rides Brent mentioned that he had done a couple of hare scramble races at the end of the 2009/2010 season. He said it was a blast and that we should try it when they started up again in the fall. (FTR doesn't run in the summer because it is too hot, but winter is perfect weather).

I did not know what a hare scramble was so Brent explained it to me and one day he brought his KTM 450 EXC over for me to look at. I had recently bought a 640 Enduro that to me was like a street-legal dirt bike compared to my BMW F800. When Brent came riding up on the 450 I thought "now THAT is a street-legal dirt bike!"

I was more intrigued now, but still unsure if I could actually race. Brent told me that Ivor had raced in the Evolution class with his early 80's XR200, and that I should check it out.

So... jump to a few months ago, Brent calls to say that he has done a couple of hare scrambles in the new season, and I should really go to at least see one. He said his wife could not go and she didn't like him driving so far alone to get home at night after racing. I agreed and went with him to Myakka City, Florida.

I don't know about other clubs, but the whole FTR scene is a very friendly atmosphere. They are very family-oriented and while there are some very,very good riders in all classes, they look out for each other and never make anyone feel like they don't belong because of their skill level.

My overall impression was great, I met Troy and some other racing families and had a really good time. I had read Tbone's story here on ADV and to meet him and talk to him gave me a lot of encouragement. I was still not 100% but I was really considering giving it a try.

The next hare scramble was 2 weeks later (FTR also does enduros as well as mx), and I agreed to go with Brent again and possibly rent a bike to race in the beginner class.

That race (my first race) was in Samsula, near Daytona.
To really complete the in-over-my-head experience, the bike I rented was a full-on, race ready, tricked out 2010 KTM 250 2 stroke. I hadn't ridden a real dirt bike in 20 years, and technology has advanced a bit since then. To complicate matters, I was told the bike had a Rekluse. "a what?"
An auto-clutch.... "oh, yeah I totally know what that is....."

Here it is with the number I chose after watching a David Knight video. I was surprised it was available. So I got that going for me, which is nice...

"where's the start button? I don't see a start button"

I took a few slow laps around the parking/camping area and came to the conclusion that this could be a lot of fun if I don't kill myself. I was thinking it could go either way.
I would later find out that the Samsula course was very tight and technical compared to most of the other FTR hare scrambles. It was all woods, with no open fields or anything but trees and palmettos. And sand, mustn't forget the sand. I had ridden in a little sand on my F800 in Ocala NF, but that was my only experience with it.
The practice lap went fairly well, following other riders through the trees and berms. The course hadn't been ridden too much at that point so the ruts weren't too deep yet. I managed to make it around the 7 mile lap without going down, but I was fairly tired and wondered how I would go for an hour and a half without stopping in the race.

When race time came I was so nervous it was hard to breathe. I tried to tell myself it was just a ride through the woods but I was getting caught up in the race atmosphere. Standing at the line waiting to run to the bike I was light-headed. When the horn sounded I ran and jumped on. It didn't start on the first kick but another kick and it was running. I excitedly twisted the throttle (no clutch,wtf?) and the front tire was immediately 3 feet off the ground. I eased off and hit second and I was racing. I got to the first turn about mid-pack and tried to relax and just stay with the other beginners in my line.

The first few turns were in a field and flat and muddy, so I was a bit tentative and a couple people passed me. I was going to have to go a little faster if I didn't want to be dead last going in to the woods.

The course had changed since the practice lap, and the soft sandy spots were really difficult. There were some ruts at least knee-deep, and it was not long before I was down. The bike stalled and was tough to restart, so now I was hot, out of breath, and my confidence was shaken. I got going again and was doing well as long as it was hard packed and not soft deep sand. I was getting through the trees and leaning in to the berms.
A mile or so later there was more deep soft stuff and I made the mistake of slowing down because of lack of confidence. People say "throttle is your friend", but putting it to practice was hard for me. Down again, stalled again. Kicking was killing me, and the bike really was tough to start after being on it's side.

I got going again and managed to catch a couple riders but went down a third time. My mouth was so dry I had to drink a little from my camelback before restarting the bike. I should have rested more but I was in race mode, thinking I had to go, go, go.

My arms were now fully pumped and it was hard to grip the bars. The lap seemed like it was 27 miles instead of 7. When I finally got to the start/finish chicane I had to pull in to the pits. Brent was there and thought I pulled in to change goggles. I told him I had to stop and he looked disappointed but I really was afraid I might hit a tree at that point. I decided That was enough, I got a taste of it and had survived. I didn't want to push my luck.

It was a great learning experience. The parts I did well on were confidence inspiring, enough to make me want to try again.

We are fortunate in FTR that we have a couple of great photographers who provide us with photos for free because they enjoy doing it. They are Mike Belle and Glenn Gardner. They are both riders who race on Sunday, and take photos on Saturday, when the beginners, juniors and evo and vintage bikes race.

Throughout the thread I will post more photos taken by Mike and Glenn, as well as some taken by my friend Greg who came to one of the races, and some pics and video taken by my friend Steve who came to another race.

A couple more from my brief but very fun (especially in hindsight) first race.

More to come. Thanks for reading.

If you haven't yet, check out Neduro's thoughts about racing:


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