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Racing: "Just for Fun"

By Simon-Pierre Smith

For the majority of my racing life I took the whole game rather seriously, a bit too seriously for my skill level. Once a season had started and a few points were earned, it seemed wasteful not to do my best to continue and improve. This led to the inevitable Friday night rebuilds with red-labeled parts. If the bike couldn't be made 100%, or even 75%, or the weather was atrocious, I rode anyway. There were points to be earned. Anyone who sat out a race, even a better rider, would fall behind in the points. This is how season trophies are won.

Above: span style="mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt; mso-fareast-font-family: Times New Roman; mso-ansi-language: EN-US; mso-fareast-language: EN-US; mso-bidi-language: AR-SA">Other than the KTM Supermotard bike, the entire front row of FZR400s costs less than one GSXR 1000.

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Then in 2000, after racing three bikes in four classes, and traveling to Daytona, I was burned out and broke. I made a change. For the first time I scaled back, lightened up, and started racing "just for fun."

Racing for fun is the heart of the club scene. Bragging rights are earned not by race finish or at season's end, but rather corner by corner, one pass at a time. The requirements are simple: a reliable and cheap machine, and other bikes of a similar speed to race with. Head-to-head, wheel-to-wheel racing is what sends you back to the pits with a big grin on your face.

Above/Left: span style="mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt; mso-fareast-font-family: Times New Roman; mso-ansi-language: EN-US; mso-fareast-language: EN-US; mso-bidi-language: AR-SA">When they're this close entering the front straight anyone might be leading into turn 1

There are two bikes that have seen a surge of growth due to their capacity for fun racing. The first is the Yamaha FZR400. This little screamer was last sold in the U.S. in 1991. It stayed at the pinnacle of small displacement racing until the Suzuki SV650 demolished it. In the last couple of years they all but disappeared. Then people started to see the opportunity. The bikes are still nimble, fast enough to command respect, bullet proof, and very inexpensive.

font class="auto-style2">The second bike that has risen as a poster child for fun racing is the CB160 . A vintage Honda from the 60s used mostly as a college kid runabout or back yard scrambler, these bikes can be found in alleys and sheds for essentially nothing. A clean up and rebuild can produce a functional race bike for under $1,000. For $1,500 you get a good looking machine capable of winning races, if you can ride well enough. Competition is fierce. Packs of swarming "angry bees" draft in chains down the straights and scoot by in the corners anywhere a door is left open. A gentleman's agreement not to spend money on hop-up motor parts keeps things cheap and reliable. A fist full of 100-dollar bills would guarantee an easy win, but what's the glory in victory without the risk of failure?

A side benefit of the "race for fun" attitude is the camaraderie that develops. Crashed or broken? Ask around and boxes of parts are laid at your feet. Those in the know give advice and spin wrenches. Is it broken beyond repair? Your bike becomes the donor, stripped of parts for those in need and reassembled at day's end. Tow rig in the shop? A few phone calls hook you up with the caravan. Everyone goes out of their way to get competitors on the grid.

Above/Left: span style="mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt; mso-fareast-font-family: Times New Roman; mso-ansi-language: EN-US; mso-fareast-language: EN-US; mso-bidi-language: AR-SA">Professional chef Jeff McChesney prepares to fatten up the competition while cackling, "Seven pounds is one horsepower!"

Another aspect of riding for fun is the desire to try new tracks. Without any special goals to win points for a championship, the schedule is much more open for an occasional road trip. Mission in British Columbia, and Thunder Hill and Sears Point in California offer

Podiums, trophy girls, and Canadian hospitality finish a great race day at Mission, BC.

 fun tracks at a reasonable distance. Of course, anything further east requires more determination. A new track gives a handful of curves for the mind to piece together. There are lessons to learn about what you can do, what you can't do and what you don't want to do. So if you're ever out at the track and see a bunch of racers fighting for position like a life and death battle when there's no appreciable prize, or if a group is racing on bikes that make you wonder "Why are they riding THAT?" just remember, they're racing for fun. SR!


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