The morning started well, a good breakfast, followed by loading up the truck and getting off on the road. The weather reports showed that rain wouldn’t be a factor until the later evening, and the sky seemed to echo the same. We arrived at Fox Valley Off-Road in time to see my friend head up to the starting line for his earlier race. Just as the flag was dropped, the rains came.
For the next 30 minutes, the rain poured down. I made the hike down to registration, and despite my better judgement, thought “this is gonna be fun”, handed over my AMA\District cards and money and get signed up. About 40 minutes into the rain, it let up a bit, so I got myself geared up, thinking it’d be raining for the rest of the day. As I finished gearing up, I saw my friend riding up to my truck. I thought it was odd, as it was only 45 minutes into his 90 minute race. He looked spent, and said the hills were terrible, and it seemed they were cutting some of them out.
My time came to fire up the bike. The sun was beginning to show itself, and the rain had all but subsided at this point. I did some practice loops on an oval next to the pits. The XR felt good, but definitely wasn’t the Husky I would have rather of been on. Starting an older 4-stroke is a little different than it’s newer 2-stroke counterpart, but it was what it was, and I was glad I was able to make it to the line.
The starting line was just slop. As soon as I set my feet down, the mud caked onto my boots. It was more of a soft and squishy clay than a wet dirt type mud. I knew it was gonna be hell, and really wished I had the Michelin S12XC tires over the tires the XR had on it. I knew the tires wouldn’t shed the mud as I needed, but it was what it was. I got my game face on, and when the flag drop, was thrilled to have the mighty XR fire up first kick and pull me off and away. From what I gathered from the start, I managed to take off in 2nd or 3rd place.
Things got more and more sketchy as the course went on. My tires instantly caked in with mud. No matter how much I spun up the rear, the tire wasn’t shedding the mud. I did my best to keep the tips Shane Watts gave me in mind, but it grew more and more difficult. There were really only 2 real hill-climbs in the race, and they were pretty mellow. Unfortunately, if 1 person gets hung up on one, it messes you up pretty quick and its just a domino affect. Each time this happened sapped more and more energy from myself.
First lap wasn’t pretty at all, and the 2nd lap wasn’t getting any better. In normal conditions, this track woulda been easy, far too easy. Unfortunately my bike was going all over the place. No matter how fast I’d push myself, the front tire wouldn’t shed the mud and slipped around like a sportbike tire in the slop. After running through timing and scoring, I found myself coming to an off-camber section. Earlier laps I went high and shoulda stayed a bit lower. This time I messed up, went low and upon doing so, spun out, casing the bottom of the bike into a tree. Nothing major, but by now, the sun was out and me & the bike were feeling the heat.
My body was over-heating sitting on top of the air-cooled beast. The bike for some reason was being a royal PITA to start, and I was stuck in an odd precarious position on the trail. I managed to push the bike into a position where I could kick the thing. Unfortunately due to all the mud, the kick starter would continually stay down after each kick. Suffice to say, I was at my witts end. I saw my buddy who raced earlier standing on the trail by where I was. He was getting a good chuckle out of my situation. I set the bike down (gently mind you), and walked off a couple feet to cool myself from the bike. I needed energy to get the bike going and get up and running.
Unfortunately when I got back to the bike, it was no easier to start. This seemed odd, as normally even when hot, the bike would start 1st or 2nd kick, every time. After plenty of kicks, I finally fired it up, only to hear an awful tick coming from the head. At this point I cursed the day 4-strokes were born, assessed my situation, and realized at this point I wasn’t having any fun. I was frustrated with the bike, myself, and the mud. I knew I had to just call it before I hurt me, the bike, or anything else.
I rolled back to the pits, feeling defeated, but better as soon as I got my gear off me. We loaded up, and made our way home. I accepted the day for what it was, and looked to ways I could improve things. So despite the race itself being a bit of a letdown, it was at least a continued learning experience. So things I learned:
1. If there is ANY chance of rain in the forecast, bring the enclosed trailer. Gearing up in the front seat of a truck is a pain. No thanks.
2. Invest in some mud tires. It’ll cost a little bit to have them on hand, but they really could change the outcome of a race.
3. Warm weather gear needs addressing. I need to find an alternative to the pressure suit. I like the protection, but it’ll make me over-heat in a hurry.
4. Don’t invite family to first Harescramble of the season…..especially if it’s gonna be a wet\soupy one. They got to see me get tossed from the bike as I crossed over a tall log by the timing\scoring section. I’m sure plenty amusing for them. haha
All in all, not a terrible weekend. I got to inspect the XR, and it was good I stopped when I did. One of the tappet nuts came off and was floating around in the head. Thankfully it caused no damage, and I was able to fish it out of the head. I’m ready to go back for another one, but will feel much better being on my Husqvarna.
I’ll post up pics when I get them from my Dad.