It’s finally here – the start of our 24 hours of foolishness. My plan is to keep updating this page throughout the day, so please keep coming back for updates!
With that said, there’s a chance that I will not be able to get internet while I’m at the track, in which case this page will be very boring. If that’s the case, I’ll update the story tomorrow when I get back to civilization. I’ll also offer you this amusing non-motorcycling video/social commentary as a potential consolation prize in advance:
Or, feel free to catch Day 4 of the trip Vy and I took to the UK. It features a visit to the Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum and a veritable smorgasbord of classic British bikes.
I’m able to get internet service, you’ll see stuff below this line:
Moderate success! I have internet, but it’s slow. Let’s see how this goes:
8:00am – Arrive at the track, where some of our team is already at work. We get our area set up while the bike gets a new front tire. Thanks again to this crew (Team Goon Squad) for allowing us to join them after our last ride fell apart.
9:00am – After the initial rush, we’re now settling in a bit and the water chugging has commenced. The rider’s meeting was supposed to be at 8:30am but there was a typo or everything’s running late. Doesn’t matter either way – it’s now scheduled for 9:30. I took a quick walk through the pits and at first glance, my favorite ride so far is this Yuma scooter:
I also discovered that Boggytown just drew up a cartoon of Nathan and I, which I love. It’s only 90 degrees right now, but the predicted high is 102.
9:35am – I’ve been staring at the track for a bit but I don’t see our bike out in the practice session at all.
9:40am – The bike comes back to pits – it never made it on the track. The new spark plug is foul already, but even after we replace it there’s still obviously a fueling issue. Brody pulls the carb out and thankfully the diagnosis is quick: the main jet has fallen out (and the pilot jet is loose). A few minutes later and the bike starts up with a healthy roar.
11:30am – Those of us that needed practice time got a little bit. The bike’s getting a fresh set of tires and some basic maintenance right now. The team is eating some pizza and we’re about to get the bikes lined up on track for the start! The race hasn’t even started yet and I can tell that the next 24 hours are going to be a series of lulls punctuated with panicked madness…
12:00pm – We’ve begun! Over the entire race, this is the only time that everyone’s bunched up together and you get the best battling. Though we were lined up in 2nd place, the XR required a couple of kickstarts, meaning our first rider (Andre) was starting from the middle of the back. He was able to quickly work his way up to 4th but we’re in a slow class and it was inevitable that he’d be passed on the main straight. A few laps in and we’re hovering around 6th place overall (of 11 bikes).
12:09pm – First issue on the grid. The 1st place bike (a well-built Honda Grom) stopped running. Not sure what happened but the rider was able to get it going without having to stop by the pits. I assume they’ll be back in 1st very soon.
12:20pm – Well, that was quick – the first bike has gone down. Didn’t get it on camera but it was a simple lowside. UMRA rules require that any crashed bike must come back in and go through Tech Inspection again before it can go back out. They came in, cleaned some shrubbery out of the front wheel spokes, and were able to get back to racing.
12:56pm – First rider change done and everything is settling into a rhythm. I’ve been talking to the organizers and I can confirm that there’s 11 bikes in this race (3 teams fell out in the last day) and there’s 3 bikes in our class. So all we have to do is finish and we’ll technically have earned a spot on the podium! Our class is Thunder Bike, which is basically stock Honda XR100s and Yamaha TTR125s. A Yamaha dropped out this morning so our competition is just 2 XRs, one of which is an all-girl team!
1:45pm – As if there wasn’t enough motorcycle racing going on, Andre has busted out a generator, television, and a Sony Playstation so that he can play MotoGP 17. We now have the most popular pit space for little kids.
2:25pm – Almost 2.5 hours in and we’ve done 109 laps. Turns out our closest competitor might actually be the scooter, as we’re currently neck and neck with it as we trade between 5th and 6th place. What’s more relevant is that we’re holding steady at 1st in class. What’s even MORE relevant is that there’s somehow a team here called “Bike Curious” and they’re in 1st place! I’m sure it’s solely due to their team name and it has nothing to do with their talent.
It’s 101 degrees and there’s an “Excessive Heat Warning” out. I feel like the dog in the “This is Fine” comic:
3:30pm – We’re in 7th place as Nathan wraps up his stint – that means I’m about to hit the track! See you on the other side, assuming I don’t melt in the process.
He was fine but the bike needed a new clutch lever. But this team is experienced and they’ve got plenty of spares, so the lever was replaced in a few minutes and I hopped on for my shift. First, the bike had to go through technical inspection. I quickly explained the situation and Mike (the Tech Inspector) checked the lever and for leaks. Time to race!
My first few laps aren’t great but I’m soon settling into a decent rhythm. I have two goals – don’t crash and don’t get passed by anyone in our class. My bonus goal was also to not get passed by the scooter!
Classes exist for a reason but it’s still hard to not get discouraged when I nail a turn only to be passed on the following straight by someone with a bigger motor.
About 30 minutes into my shift, I fail at one of my goals – I get passed by the scooter!
4:25pm – My shift ends and while I’d love to do more laps, I know that a.) I’m a last minute guest on this team so everyone is sacrificing their time so I can ride and b.) I’m not as fast as the other guys so they’re potentially losing time the longer I’m in. Still, I feel pretty good about my time on the track and my teammates have pleasant things to say when I pull in. I’ll assume they weren’t just being nice to me!
4:45pm – We are alerted to the presence of an Italian Ice truck that has shown up at the track.
4:46pm – Half the team gets Italian Ice. I cool down with a Pina Colada flavor and am rewarded with a lei that may make a cameo later.
5:15pm – Race marshals notify us that they’ve discovered a kick stand. After our next rider comes in, we discover that the kick stand was ours. Oops. It’s OK – now we’re just lighter and faster.
7:00pm – Team Senility, who is in first place (I think, the internet-based timing system stopped functioning for me a couple of hours ago) went down and dumped oil all over the track. The staff takes about 15 minutes to clean it all up while everyone else stays in the pits under a red flag. We do a little team bonding.
7:15pm – Nathan goes out for his second shift while some team members go to get some food for everyone at Apollo Burger. That might be a needless detail, but Apollo Burger has a special place in our heart because it’s where Aaron, Nathan, Ellen, and I all got a meal while we were filming our Indian Scout video.
8:00pm – While we were watching Nathan on track, one of us notices that the required-for-nighttime taillight has somehow turned itself off. It wasn’t until Nathan got into the pits that we found out what happened: in the last turn, another rider cut him off and made contact hard enough to knock off the taillight and jar the front wheel such that the handlebars no longer lined up with it. He’s apparently getting all the action today! We don’t have a replacement for the taillight so we end up using some glowsticks instead. Now this is budget racing!
Nathan and I swap positions and I head out for my first night shift. It is fantastic – the temperatures are down to the low 80s so I’m more comfortable and the motor is running better, too. The company in charge of lighting the track donated a few units to the relief efforts for Hurricane Harvey so the main straight isn’t well lit but every corner is fine. My first few laps, the lights are actually distracting because I can occasionally see shadows of other bikes behind me that weren’t visible during the day. Because each light post has multiple bulbs at different angles on it, I can’t tell where the riders behind me are, I can only see that they’re close by.
I’m not the only one that feels this way. Apparently the medic on staff went to speak with the race organizers because he was confused that “the racing got much more intense after the sun went down.”
8:45pm – I’m on the tail of our closest XR100 rival with the possibility of lapping him for the second time when my time runs out and I’m called back into the pits.
10:30pm – Team Senility is still working on their motor. Turns out that they somehow sheared the crank! It took a while to diagnose, but they’ve got two spare motors and they’ve been working tirelessly to get back out on track. I ask them how it’s going and one of the team members responds by saying, “the last time this happened, we placed 2nd overall.” Turns out in a previous race one of the motor mounts failed and the motor actually fell out of the frame. They had to drop the engine and reweld the mounts but it didn’t stop them from getting on the podium!
11:00pm – While Team Senility seems to be in an “all hands on deck” situation, most teams are splitting up so that some members can start to get some rest. Nathan decides now is a good time for a nap, but he’ll only be able to get about 2.5 hours of sleep at most.
12:20am – We are past the halfway point and for the first time since 5pm I’ve been able to tap into the live timing so I can tell you that we’ve completed 530 laps so far. We’re in 7th place: 7 laps behind my nemesis (the Zuma scooter) and 4 laps ahead of the KYMCO “factory effort” that’s running a sponsored K-Pipe 125. Our bike is still putting along strong and enjoying the cooler temperatures – team captain Joey Alves has just turned in our fastest lap of the day with a 1:11.590.
Team Senility is still working on their bike but for the first time in 5 hours we’ve heard the engine fire up. One of their riders is suiting up so hopefully their hard work will be rewarded with some more track time. They’re nothing if not dedicated.
1:30am – I pass out in a chair for 30 minutes. Joey tells me that I have an ugly face when I sleep. At some point in the last few hours, the kickstand fell off our bike. No one knows when it happened. Again, it just means we’re lighter and faster.
2:30am – Nathan’s up again, but he notes how surreal it is to sleep for a couple of hours, wake up, and then immediately get your mind and body into ‘race mode.’ My solution for this is to avoid sleeping. As Nathan wakes up, he knocks off a second per lap for the first 5 laps until he settles into a steady 1:24 pace. That’s sufficient to keep us in 8th place.
3:15am – I start my shift and I’m feeling alive thanks to a surge of adrenaline and, weirdly, the moon. It’s so big and colorful that it’s almost distracting. If I go down in this shift, I’m using the moon as an excuse.
But I don’t go down. Instead, I have some of my best laps of the day and I’m passing more than the usual suspects – I finally pass the scooter, too! Most of the team is asleep so I end up doing a slightly longer shift of 1 hour and 15 minutes, and by the end of it I’m excited to see that we’ve just snuck into 6th place:
5:30am – Dawn is breaking, we’re now 28 laps behind the scooter, and we’re back at the top of our running order. The XR100 is objectively slower than everything else out on the track but Andre proves that it’s the rider, not the bike. He carries tremendous speed through the corners and he’s smooth – it’s really a joy to watch. Nathan and I do just that for 20 minutes and we’re continually stunned by the passes he’s making.
6:30am – By the end of Andre’s shift, he’s cut down the 5th place scooter’s lead to 8 laps. A Kawasaki Z125 in 4th place ends up having a lowside that’s accompanied by a shower of sparks, and they have to go into the pit to fix the exhaust which has been separated from the bike. They stand still while the rest of the field accumulates laps.
By the time they’ve finished, the scooter is in 4th and our next rider (Joe) has given us a one lap lead in a new battle for 5th place with the Z125. Unfortunately, there’s a reason why this bike was ahead of us in the first place – they’re faster. Within a few laps it’s clear that we won’t be in 5th for very long.
9:00am – The checkered flag waves at noon so we’re all about to do our last stints. Nathan starts his shift with the team in a distant sixth. Looks like the Zuma scooter is going to get the best of us when it’s all said and done.
9:45am – Joey preps me for my last stint by saying something along the lines of, “the motor is running lean, so don’t go max throttle or the engine will sputter. Also, the left side of the rear tire is on its last legs.”
At this point I just need to bring the bike safely back to the pits in an hour for the last guy to finish it all up. We have a comfortable lead in our class, and the only thing that can change that fact is a crash.
10:00am – Here I go…
The race pace for most teams has shifted. By this point, most teams know what place they’re going to be at come noon. A couple of teams are battling but others have backed off what they were doing a few hours ago. I’m still trying to stay fast because it’s fun, but the condition of the tire means that there’s a couple of left turns that I’m now taking at 80%.
Come take a tour of one lap at Grange with me on a rear tire that should be replaced – I apologize in advance for the sounds of my breathing. Coming into Turn 2, I get passed by Dan Oprea on the Team NRGY1 Racing Honda Grom. They would eventually win the 125cc class and place 3rd overall. I’ve hung out with Dan before and I know he’s faster than me, but my exasperated sigh at the end is because I got a good drive on him on the last corner but the XR100 just doesn’t have enough motor. You’ll see how much distance Dan’s able to put on me over the main straight even though I had a higher exit speed on the previous corner. Now just multiply that by 1,000+ laps!
I haven’t had a chance to write enough about the other members of our team or racers on different teams. But there’s some serious talent all over the place – a couple of Suzuka 8 Hour veterans, some MotoAmerica racers, and even the next generations of champions. One of the little guys is named Rossi Moor (of course his first name is Rossi) and he’s part of the NRGY1 Grom team from the video above. Just look at that form!
Also on that team as a rider and as a mentor for the little guy is AMA superbike racer Mark Miller. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s won the TT Zero class (electric) of the Isle of Man TT races!
11:00am – My hour-long shift is over so I pull off the track. My work here is officially done.
Nathan and I celebrate the end of our shifts with champagne. Sorry, I meant the Champagne of Beers.
12:00pm – It’s finally over. We end up in 6th place after having completed 1,043 laps.
The overall champion is Team Cagica – from what I understand, these are the fine folks that have done the Suzuka 8 Hour before. They were fast, consistent, and had no mechanical issues. For all their trouble, they got to do a lap with the checkered flag. Congrats to them!
After everyone has a moment to relax, the man in charge (Ryan O’Neill) starts the award ceremony. The first award goes to Team Senility for suffering through nearly 6 hours of mechanical issues. They ended up using parts from 4 different motors to make one engine that would work, thought he final result was much less competitive than their original powerplant. Lesser men would have just quit and gone home, but they worked for hours to make sure they could keep competing with everyone else. Maybe they can use pieces of the trophy in their next motor.
I don’t know why I started joking about the Zuma scooter as my nemesis throughout this story, but I feel like I now owe them a special mention. Turns out two of their team members flew out from Taiwan to participate, and they even ended up picking up a rider who showed up the morning of the race without a team. I got to meet a couple of their team members and like the rest of the minimoto community, they were very nice. The team ended up placing 3rd in the Production 125 class alongside Groms and Z125s.
When I decided I was going to do this race, I tried to talk to a lot of friends that had done it before. Almost all of them said a variation of “you’ll hate it while you’re doing it but a few days later you’ll want to come back again for the next one.” I wish I could agree, but I was having a blast even while it was going on and I think I might have to go back next year…
No matter what I do, I highly recommend that you try this out for yourself once. The community is incredibly friendly and there are always teams looking for riders, so check out the UMRA community on Facebook and get involved. You won’t regret it.
I’d like to take a moment to thank Arai, Alpinestars, and Sidi for the protective gear.
Lastly, I have to thank our team. As you probably saw in a previous post, our original ride fell through. Team #GoonSquad was nice enough to let Nathan and I join them just 25 hours before the race was supposed to start. Letting us tag along meant they all had to sacrifice a few laps for themselves, and I sincerely appreciate how Team Captain Joey Alves let us join his ragtag group of comically inappropriate jokesters masquerading as a race team. Our teammates were:
Hours after the track had cleared out and nearly everyone had left for home, Nathan and I took our Polaris Slingshot test unit out for some laps. A review will be coming soon. UPDATE: Here’s that review.
Thanks so much for following along. I sincerely hope you enjoyed reading it and I insist that you let me know if you have any interest at all in participating going forward. I’d be glad to help make it happen for you, because I enjoyed myself tremendously and I want you to be able to say the same!
Now I’m going to go sleep for 15 hours.