Meet A Reader – John Foster

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John Foster is a man who knows what he wants – and what he wants are vintage motocross bikes. A member of the Low-T-Race Team, John currently maintains a fleet of about 65 classic MXers with a passion for 4 specific marques: Husqvarna, Maico, CZ, and OSSA. The best part? When he’s not out getting air, he’s sharing his work of preserving these bikes on his website, VintageMXBikes.com.

From the Low-T site: “John can be usually found nursing sore/broken ribs from crashes he blames on those “damn young kids on the track”. He constantly tells, anyone that will listen to him, about “these are the hardest bikes to ride on this track, we don’t have all of that suspension these young kids do, they don’t get it.” I tried to get him in between crashes so he could answer the usual questions.

How did you get started with motorcycles – how did you learn, and what was your first bike?
I first started on a 3 wheel go kart (Dune Cycle) that had a 5 hp Briggs and Stratton engine.

Dune Cycle, photo from http://www.collectorsweekly.com/stories/18375-1970s-dunecycle

All of my buddies had dirt bikes and I would try to keep up with them on the local tracks. I think my dad finally felt sorry for me while watching me on the 3 wheel go kart trying to go over jumps and bought me a 1972 Yamaha 100 MX LT2. I first raced in 1972 and there is a picture on my website of me in lineman boots, blue jeans, no silencer on my expansion chamber, full face helmet and a T shirt – all of the appropriate gear for a 1972 motocross racer.

from http://vintagemxbikes.com/photos-5/files/page4-1007-full.html

I was so slow that they had to hold up the next race to wait for me to get off of the track.

We can easily tell what bikes you own – but why the focus on Husky, Maico, CZ, and OSSA?
I had a Husqvarna 125 in 1973 and thought it was the coolest bike in the world. I had read all of the magazines and the European bikes were still dominating the sport of Motocross, so I just knew that I had the coolest 125 on the planet. So, Husky was “my brand”. When I was younger, I would ride my bicycle down the street to stare at an Ossa Stiletto parked in a open carport, and wish for one to ride.
OSSA Stiletto - Right Side
When I started getting dirt bikes again in 2013, after a 38 year absence from Motocross, I wanted to make sure I found one to race. Mostly it was the memories of the starting lines in 1972, 1973 and early 1974 of the European bikes filling the starting lines. I watched the local “hot shoes” fly around the tracks on their CZs and Maicos. I feel fortunate to have been racing prior to the Japanese domination later in the 70s.

Assume for a moment that money is no object, and importation laws aren’t a problem. What’s the next bike you’d buy, and what would you do with it?
LOL, I just did that! Money is definitely an object, but I found a 1976 CZ Falta 125 in Canada and had it shipped to the US.

Photo from http://www.jonesmxcollection.com/Bike/cz-125-falta-1976

Photo from http://www.jonesmxcollection.com/Bike/cz-125-falta-1976

Those bikes are very rare and were not imported into the US. According to the CZ expert Bertus, there are less than 10 of them in the US. I now have 2 of them, 1 in original, almost mint condition, and this latest one that is in very original, almost complete condition, very restorable core bike. The “baby Falta” pipes on those bikes are simply unobtainable. If I could find another Ossa Phantom 125 somewhere, I would import it, or any more CZ twin pipe 360s. I really like the Twin Pipe CZs. I was fortunate enough to have met Bill Cappel and he had done the legwork of getting some rare bikes collected in the US, that he later sold to me.

What’s the most memorable motorcycle trip you’ve ever taken?
It has to be any of the AHRMA races for Vintage Motocross. I discovered AHRMA in 2013 and have been actively criss-crossing the Nation racing in several Vintage Motocross classes. My buddies now call me a “points chasing weasel” because I try to make as many races as possible each year chasing a National Championship. The people are fantastic, the events are fun, the atmosphere of the whole weekend is a brief chance for me to relive my youth from the 70s, once again. If you want a real thrill, pull up to the starting line on a 1960s CZ Twin pipe along side of a Maico, Triumph, BSA, or Bultaco, breath in the smell of burning two stroke bean oil, and try to convince yourself you are not in a time warp back to 1972.

And, if your bike breaks down, someone will either fix it for you, or loan you theirs so that you won’t miss the weekend’s racing. Best group of guys I can recall ever knowing, held at some of the best tracks in the United States. For some reason, the tracks love for us old guys with our old bikes to show up and race. So, to answer your question, most memorable motorcycle trip would be to any AHRMA event.

Do you listen to music while riding? If no, why not? If yes, what are some of your favorite tunes when you’re on your bike?
Not while racing, but definitely between races. I used to listen to Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins to get worked up before a race. “Revvin’ up your engine, Listen to her howlin’ roar, Metal under tension, Beggin’ you to touch and go” has helped me with more than one holeshot, I believe.

Editor’s Note: OK, this makes two Archer references in as many days, but I can’t mention Danger Zone and not share this:

What’s your favorite piece of gear?
Used to be anything that was cool looking, now it is the safety gear. My, how priorities change with age. I would say my combination chest protector and neck brace, with the additional body armor that I wear underneath them. It is very hot to wear, but I am trying to protect my ribs….busted them up too many times, already. It looks like I have a turtle shell on backwards because I have so much protective gear on while riding. And, of course, the size of my stomach has nothing to do with that.
John Foster - Chest Protector

You have $25,000 to spend on anything in the world of motorcycles – 1 new bike, several old bikes, track days, a trip, you name it. How do you spend it?
I would fly a couple of buddies of mine to Europe and we would race the ECMO (European Classic Motocross Organization) races there. Henry Gref has invited me to race this year in Germany and I would take Bill Fenner, Hugh Pouncey, Bill Cappel and Wyatt Jackson with me for two weeks to practice and race. And, of course, my wonderful wife and pit tootsie, “babycakes”.

What’s your weapon of choice on a MX track?
My CZ side pipe 360. It flies! I have a Maico square barrel that I am trying to get used to, but until then, my CZs. The twin pipe 360, side pipe 360, or the Falta 400. Really, really like those. But, I must admit, whenever I get off of my Husky, or my Ossa, I think that they are my favorites, as well. But, the CZ side piper is fast.

Photo from http://motocrossactionmag.com/news/classic-motocross-iron-1965-cz-twin-pipe-250

What do you expect from the future of motorcycling, good or bad?
For me, I hope to race in the 70+ class in AHRMA. I am 12 years away from that now, so I have a goal to achieve with the age classes. In addition, I hope to keep my bikes and help preserve the legacy of the European bikes from their glory days of Motocross. I think the new bikes are very cool and I hope that the offroad sport continues to grow, but I don’t see the grass fields full of kids on bikes riding like when I grew up.

However, there are lots of classes of 65s, 80s, etc. at the local tracks so I take that as a positive indicator of the future of dirt bike racing. I have a plaque at home that says that the only other one that can understand how I feel when I ride my motorcycle is my dog when he sticks his head out of the car window. I think that feeling will always be around, so I think it looks good going forward.

John Foster - Off The Bike

If you like what John’s doing, check out his site here!

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