I have always had a fascination with motorcycles, but I never had the opportunity to ride one until I turned 28 years old. Some may think this is too old to start a new sport or that I am going through some sort of mid-life crisis. Well maybe that is true, or maybe I just finally had the opportunity to try something I have always wanted to do.
But it started with meeting the right person...
In 1998, I met Jason. He stopped by my house to meet up with one of my roommates for a night out in San Francisco. Jason was visiting California, from his home state of Washington, on a vacation with some of his friends. I wasn't overly impressed with him at our first meeting... he was here to party.
I did not see Jason again for several months after that, but when I met him again it was under much different circumstances. He had decided to move to California and was now living in San Rafael. He called up my roommate, Scott, to go rollerblading in SF, but Scott already had plans to go rock climbing with me. Then, I learned that Jason also like rock climbing, tada, suddenly he was more exciting to me. We all decided to hang out and made a day of doing both activities in SF. Soon Jason and I were rock climbing together and a few months later we started dating.
So what does that have to do with motorcycles? Well Jason is a motorcycle mechanic and was employed at Factory Pro Tuning, working on race bikes, but having recently moved to California he could not yet afford to have a bike of his own. Anyone that knows about motorcycles, knows that working in the business does not usually pay enough to play in the business. Jason and I soon got a condo together and Jason found employment that was no longer "in the business" and he immediately bought a sexy, (ha ha) CBR600F "Hurricane," crappy, commuter bike.
One day, he brought up the suggestion that we should get quads and start doing some trail riding, we had already been doing a bit of four-wheeling and this seemed like it would be even more fun. So we searched and we found me a Honda 300EX, not quite a motorcycle, but I was pretty excited. Then apparently, Jason just could not find another good deal on a quad (mmm hmm) so he came home with a dirt bike for himself. A big, heavy, Honda XR600. Now that I had my new, shiny red quad, there was still the issue of me not knowing how to ride it. At a vacant dirt lot not far from our home, Jason put me through a rigorous skills course.
I learned to use the throttle, brakes, and clutch, timing was everything. I learned to ride over obstacles, rocks and logs and maneuvered through a course of cones. He bought me some really sweet riding gear and I was ready for our first adventure. We headed to Carnegie OHV Park for our first outing on the new toys. For those of you who have never been to Carnegie, let me describe the terrain; HILLS, HILLS and, well, more HILLS. I have never done this before, but Jason is a good coach and very patient. He tells me, "The quad has a short wheel base, to get up the hill you need to stand up, lean over the bars and stay on the gas up the hill." He went first... and I did well, sort of, I stood up, I leaned forward over the bars, and I stayed on the gas, and I made it 2/3rds of the way up. But then suddenly, with no warning, the quad reared up and threw me off its back. I did not let go of the bars, no, no, I held on, pressing the thumb throttle just a little bit more, flipping the angry little beast over on top of me. And I was pinned. Then the 300EX rode on top of me all the way back down to the bottom of the hill.
I was scratched and bruised, but worse, I was stuck. That little thing felt like it weighed a ton and I could not get it off of me. There was no one around and Jason was at the top of the hill patiently waiting for me. I let out a couple little shouts requesting help, but to no avail. I don't know how long I actually laid under the little 300EX, but it seemed to be about 20 minutes before A) Jason realized I would not be joining him as his "Queen of the Mountain" and B) Jason made his way back to the bottom of the hill via the one way loop. When Jason got back to me I was not excited about my quad anymore. In fact, I was quite angry... and Jason was thinking, "Well there goes this idea" as I said to him, “This was not fun, I hate this thing."
"Do you want to sell it?" Jason replied.
I answered very quickly, "Yes. And I want to get a motorcycle so I will not get pinned again."
Jason, smartly, decided not to point out my flawed logic at that immediate moment. Within two weeks the quad was gone and I was learning to ride a dirt bike.
I was not a natural on the dirt bike. In fact, teaching me must have been both annoying and comical to Jason. I stared directly at my front tire while riding and crashed over and over again. I would get back up and try again and laugh and stall it and laugh and fall and try again. I loved it and I sucked at it.
One of the three well-known California road racing clubs; AFM offers a place where you can participate in races, watch as a spectator, or even take part as a turn-worker on the course. There are competition classes for almost all motorcycles; you can race what you own, build a bike specifically for racing, or maybe even pick up a pre-set-up bike through member want ads. Competing in expert club racing can be used to qualify for a pro racing license. Explore the website for further information.
Women race with the men?
Yes, races are structured by bike size. Women race in the same classes as men that have the same sized bike. However, there is a growing interest among women in racing , so many racing clubs have added a women’s class to encourage the ladies to give it a try.
Formed in 2001, SMUSA is now the premier Pro/Am supermoto series in the country. Many of the well known American road racers such as Bobby Fong, Joey Pascarella, Cameron Beaubier, Elena Myers, Tyler O'Hara, Garrett Willis and others all competed in Supermoto USA's Nor Cal Championship where they developed their skills.
PC Dirt Track in Sacramento, Ca holds a series of the oldest and most traditional type of motorcycle racing, flat track - sometimes referred to as “dirt track” racing. A uniquely American type of motorcycle racing. Riders finesse their machines sideways through the turns, just inches apart from each other.
Since 1924, the AMA has protected the future of motorcycling and promoted the motorcycle lifestyle. AMA members come from all walks of life, and they navigate many different routes on their journey to the same destination: freedom on two wheels. The AMA sanctions more motorsports competition and motorcycle recreational events than any other organization in the world. No one who has ever seen an AMA Pro motorcycle race ever forgets it.