After a week in the Texas heat the AMA Motocross paddock hit the road to Colorado. The change of scenery meant transitioning from the humidity and blistering heat to the fighting for air in the “Mile High” state. It was to be the next challenge for this privateer.
Having raced Mammoth Mountain MX before, I had an idea of what to expect from the altitude. We arrived on Thursday, nice and early to get everything set up and finally relax a minute before the show came. But this week we had to do some bike prep to the sexy CRF450R before I could race her. Plus all the fans would be walking by to see it, so first we pressure washed everything to get our ride looking nice and shiny. Then we got to work with maintenance, putting brake pads on the rear and changing the oil. We changed the clutch thanks to some spare parts Honda was kind enough to give us, and then we spooned on some fresh rubber from Dunlop. A clear coat of silicone spray to shine her up and bam she was looking better than ever.
I walked the track late Friday afternoon to check out the conditions. With cooler temperatures, cloud cover and a lot of water, it looked like it could be a soggy mess in the first practice on Saturday. When we returned from the track walk to make a few adjustments to the bike, we stiffened the front fork compression two clicks and did the same to the shock thinking as the bike got weighed down with mud it would still stay up in the stroke. We also added some foam pieces behind the brake pedal and under the skid plate, but the Honda is a tightly built machine and there isn’t a lot of extra space for too much foam.
First practice was upon us. I loaded up my EKS Brand goggles with tearoffs because the track crew had gone extreme with the water and the track had standing water in the corners. The first practice was insane, with bikes getting stuck in corners and people going down everywhere. I was struggling, having never ridden muck like that before and at times it felt like my bike had no power to pull me through the mud. I was going down straightaways looking for more gears on a 450, something that a guy like me doesn’t do.
Finishing up Practice 1 in 30th position was an improvement for me over the weeks past so I was happy, but I still needed to make big adjustments to myself and a few to my mighty scooter. I wanted to go up on the rear sprocket to get a little more grunt out of the corners, so we went from the stock Honda 48 to a 50. Then on to the fork; it was good down the straightaway but was too stiff when I wanted it to dive in the corners, so we went back softer one click. We considered raising the fork, but with the long ruts I didn’t want it to become unstable.
I loaded my goggles back up with what seemed to be a whole pack of tearoffs and was back in line for Practice 2. Boom! Just like that we were off, the track filled with ruts just waiting to grab you. With about two laps to go everything was coming together nicely… Then I caught my foot on a rut going up the face of an uphill triple, throwing me into a no-air nac-nac.
Missing the main in Thunder Valley offered a greater appreciation for what it takes to make it big in the national series.
Going off the jump scared me out of my mind, but guess what? I saved it landing sidesaddle rolling to a stop, but as I got back on the bike to take off, my knee was sending sharp pains down my leg. I finished this practice one position better than the last, so it was back to being the LCQ specialist. After finishing the LCQ my knee was feeling like a burning cattle prod. Missing the main event again by a small margin and feeling like I was letting everybody who has helped me down, it was time for a new plan.
So my crew and I went and got a U-Haul loaded up and headed home to let my knee heal and regroup. After learning so much in the first few weeks, and what it really takes to race Nationals, I wanted to go home, put in the work and come back out in a few weeks healed up and ready to start swinging.
My attempt to roll with the MX pros brought new appreciation for what it takes to race the Nationals. I have a lot more respect for those few who qualify every week. Even showing up to qualify is much harder than it looks. I will be back in a couple weeks to give it hell and make it in the show.
I would like to thank some people again – my dad, my girlfriend, Kyle Lewis, Bill Savino, Honda, Axo, Motul, EVS, Shoei, Justin Dawes, MotoUSA, Motorcycle Superstore, Torc 1, FMF, Jett, Eks Brand, Flu Designs, Dunlop. Thanks to all these amazing companies and people, I owe a lot to them. I promise when I come back I will be a whole new rider.