ONE PHOTO & ONE STORY: THE UNMENTIONABLES

_1046161By John Basher

Don’t feel bad for riding an old bike. Be proud of your thriftiness in order to enjoy a sport while paying the mortgage and saving up for retirement. Motocross is an amazing avenue for exercise and thrills, but in no way should it make you bankrupt. If you’re riding a “vintage” bike, feel a sense of satisfaction for doing what you love. I kindly ask that you do not fall into the trap of keeping up with the Joneses or feeling shameful about not riding the latest and greatest. Motocross tracks know not what you ride.

As a part of MXA, it’s my obligation to share new bikes and products with you through print, online and social media. Try not to confuse that obligation for a beckoning call to pony up and shell out hard-earned cash for new toys. I don’t get paid by manufacturers or aftermarket companies, but instead by you. Thanks, by the way. MXA is not in business of lie to you or shield you from the truth, because in the end our commitment is to our readers. So when the 2017 Kawasaki KX450F press releases hits my inbox, I disseminate the information, but with the caveat that it’s merely marketing mumbo jumbo. Businesses are in, well, business to sell their product. Kawasaki’s brain trust might label the 2017 iteration as the best KX450F ever, but I don’t believe it; at least not until I ride the bike. The same goes with every other bike or product press release that comes my way. The proof is found in testing.

“FOR WELL OVER A DECADE I’VE HAD TO RIDE ILL-HANDLING BIKES, TEMPT FATE BY WEARING HELMETS THAT WOULD BETTER SERVE AS FLOWER POTS, AND GENERALLY PUT MY LIFE ON THE LINE IN ORDER TO SEPARATE THE WHEAT FROM THE CHAFF.”

I won’t toot my own horn, but I’ve been testing motorcycles for the past 14 years. For well over a decade I’ve had to ride ill-handling bikes, tempt fate by wearing some helmets that would better serve as flower pots, and generally put my life on the line in order to separate the wheat from the chaff. Several concussions, a broken wrist and a lacerated spleen were the tolls I had to pay in order to aptly describe the nuances of nearly every motocross bike build since 2003. I happily admit that some older bikes, like the 2009 Honda CRF250 and 2012 Kawasaki KX450F, are still as good, if not better, than what’s currently on the market.

This past year I helped my childhood friend, Eric Carr, rebuild a 2006 Yamaha YZ250F. The bike was very good in 2006, as it placed second in MXA’s 250 Four-Stroke Shootout that year. A quick look on Craigslist shows the turnover of the 2006 YZ250F, which explains two things. First, the ’06 YZ250F was popular. Second, it can stand the test of time. When Eric Carr found a smoking deal on a well used one, he asked for my opinion. I screamed “Pick ‘em up!” in a similar tone that Lloyd Christmas squealed when he approached some hitchhikers in the all-time classic movie “Dumb and Dumber.” I saw a pretty good MXA project bike in Eric’s expenditure—and wanted to get started.

Eric races once in a blue moon and rides a few times a month. He’s your stereotypical weekend warrior. Knowing that, I didn’t go overboard ordering a smorgasbord of hop-ups. Instead, we focused on improving long-term durability and making modest performance gains. Most of the investment capital was geared towards replacing worn out parts–the bike was 10 years old — after all – in order to prevent catastrophic failures. When all was said and done, the total bill was a few thousand dollars. For around $5500 we turned a roached-out Ford Festiva into a new-used Toyota Corolla. It was money well spent. Eric has a competitive bike, his wife didn’t throw him to the curb for maxing out the family credit card, and he can ride with confidence knowing the YZ250F won’t grenade as long as he keeps up on service intervals.

What’s the best part about this story? My old buddy, Eric, lined up at a local race shortly after the bike build was complete. He beat evenly skilled riders on bikes that were 10 years newer and $5000 more expensive. So while newness is largely desired, it doesn’t win races. And that, my friends, is one of the infinite reasons why motocross is so dang cool.

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