By Bones Bacon
Mammoth Lakes, California, is my all-time favorite place. It’s a place where I can go to relax, hike up into the mountains, sit by a lake all by myself and just forget about time. It is peaceful and quiet. It’s just me and my fishing pole. Oh, wait, what is that noise? Oh yeah, it’s the roaring sound of motocross bikes, which I can hear from my favorite lake.
Once a year this quiet little town is filled with motocross bikes as people head to Mammoth for the town’s annual event, the Mammoth Mountain Motocross, which has been going on since 1968. This year would have marked marked its 5qth anniversary, and although I haven’t been going there for that long (33 years for me), it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was parked under a big pine tree in the back of the pits with my 1984 Husky on one side and a nice little creek behind me—one that I have caught trout out of before.
IT DOESN’T SEEM THAT LONG AGO THAT I WAS PARKED UNDER A BIG PINE TREE IN THE BACK OF THE PITS WITH MY 1984 HUSKY ON ONE SIDE AND A NICE LITTLE CREEK BEHIND ME—ONE THAT I HAVE CAUGHT TROUT OUT OF BEFORE.
Riders from all over the world come to Mammoth Mountain to blend vacation with a little motocross fun, but they sometimes forget to come prepared. It’s practice day at the beginning of the week, and riders try to get their bikes dialed in for the high-altitude track.
This year a nice family came up to the Pro Circuit pit area pushing a little minibike. They hadn’t noticed in the days or weeks leading up to the Mammoth Mountain Motocross that the fork seals were leaking. I pulled the forks off the bike and tore them apart. Once inside, I realized that these forks had never been apart—and the bike was several years old. The oil was black, thick as tar and smelled really bad. The fork tubes were full of rock dings and obviously had been neglected all of their lifespan. I couldn’t help but think, as I fixed these roached forks, that this nice family could be out on the lake fishing instead of watching me work on their forks—if only they had come prepared. Heck, maybe I could have been out on the lake fishing myself. It was as simple as doing some preventive maintenance over the last three years. Showing up at a race unprepared is bad form. It’s stressful to have to do emergency surgery on your bike the day before the big race.
OPEN YOUR TOOTHPASTE AT A SKI RESORT AND IT INSTANTLY BLOWS ALL OVER THE PLACE AND YOU MIGHT EVEN FIND THAT THE BAG OF POTATO CHIPS THAT YOU BROUGHT UP TO THE MOUNTAIN WITH YOU IS READY TO EXPLODE.
The Mammoth Mountain Motocross comes with its own specific set of problems that pop up each and every year, many caused by the unique challenges of racing at high altitude. Pressure builds up in everything when traveling up into the mountains. Now, the actual scientific explanation is not that the air pressure is building up inside of things; it’s that there is a lack of outside pressure to hold it in. Open your toothpaste at a ski resort and it instantly blows all over the place. Your tire pressure increases, air builds up in your forks, nitrogen pressure in your shock goes up and you might even find that the bag of potato chips that you brought up to the mountain with you is ready to explode.
This may be a special once-a-year event, but in many ways it is just like any other race. We see problems ranging from a rider bringing his bike to us for help with his rear suspension (only to notice that his rear axle is loose) to a rider who tells me that his forks are so stiff on the big downhill that they are hammering him in the braking bumps. So, I stiffen his forks, even though he told me that they were too stiff. He later comes by to thank me for making his forks feel better by softening them. I just smile and resist the urge to explain what really happened.
So, the next time you’re planning for a big race, try to prepare ahead of time for all the things that may pop up. Don’t wait until you get there and try to act surprised. That way, both you and I could be relaxing next to a lake, dreaming about the next day’s race.