THE BIKE THAT “BONES” BUILT: A STORY OF FRIENDSHIP ACROSS THE AGES
By Ron Watmore
It was 32 years ago that Bones Bacon built my 1985 YZ250. This story starts on August 18, 1985. I was headed to a race in Gorman, California, at Hungry Valley track. It was the last race of the CMC Summer Series. I wanted to test my skills against the famous local Southern California Pros. That was the measuring stick for us racers from Arizona. I grew up in Tucson racing against Carlos Serrano, almost always losing to him at every race.
Bones, known as “Bacon” back in his Arizona days, grew up in Tucson racing Husky 125’s. That is where we became good friends. And later when he moved to SoCal and started working for Mitch Payton at Pro Circuit we stayed in touch. Mitch Payton loved giving everyone a nickname, so that he didn’t have to remember their real names. He called me “Harley” and Jim Bacon “Bones.” My nickname never stuck, but I guess “Bones” sure did.
On the way to the CMC Summer Series race at Gorman, Bones had a proposition for me. He said, “If you beat all the local pros today I will take your bike (a stock 1985 YZ250) back to Pro Circuit and get it ready for every race in the upcoming 1985 Trans-Cal Series.” All I had to do was make the 460-mile drive from Tucson to Anaheim every weekend and my bike would be in the Pro Circuit van ready to race. That may seem like an expensive trip today, but when you want to race against the good guys and gasoline only costs $2.00 a gallon, you go for it. I said a meek, “Okay.” Bones said, “Just get the holeshot.” At Gorman I got the holeshot in both motos and beat alI the local Pros. It didn’t hurt that the series leader crashed the night before in the Rose Bowl and was knocked out for 5 minutes or that Ron Turner did not show for the last race. Bones kept his promise and I drove back to Tucson with an empty box van to get ready for the start of the Trans-Cal series.
LOOKING AROUND THE SHOP I COULD NOT FIND MY BIKE. I SAID, “BONES, WHERE IS MY BIKE”? HE JUST SMILED AT ME. I NOTICED A BRAND-NEW, WHITE-FRAMED 1985 YZ250 IN THE BACK CORNER OF THE SHOP, BUT IT DIDN’T LOOK LIKE MY RED-FRAMED, BEAT-UP YZ250.
I arrived a few weeks later at the Pro Circuit shop for the first race of the Trans-Cal series. Looking around the shop I could not find my bike. I said, “Bones, where is my bike”? He just smiled at me. I noticed a brand-new, white-framed 1985 YZ250 in the back corner of the shop, but it didn’t look like my red-framed, beat-up YZ250. It dawned on me slowly that it was my bike. I looked at Bones and said, “No way!” He just kept smiling. Bones arranged to build me an exact copy of Danny Storbeck’s YZ250—including the white powder-coated frame. It turns out that Mitch was letting Danny’s mechanic, Pete Steinbrecher, work on Danny’s bike at the shop. Bones had Pete help on my bike too. Bones thought that it looked really good, I agreed!
I flew out to all the races of the 1985 Trans-Cal series and at each and every race Bones had my bike ready and waiting. I finished 4th in the 250 Pro class. Thanks to Bones and Mitch for putting so much effort into making a so-so rider from Tucson, Arizona, feel like a factory rider for a few months.
Fast forward 32 years to 2017. I attended a vintage race in Tucson with Carlos Serrano. That’s right Carlos is still in the industry. His son was racing a 1981 Maico 490 that day. After seeing all the vintage bikes I thought I needed to find an 1985 YZ250 to restore. It was the favorite bike of my racing career. A few weeks later a local shop owner asked me, “Would you be interested in getting a 1985 Yamaha YZ250?” I said, “I sure would.” Then he repeated the question and asked, “No, would you be interested in getting your 1985 Yamaha YZ250?” He said that someone in town had my 1985 YZ250 and it was for sale for $250.
I was excited at the once in a lifetime shot at getting my 32-year-old YZ250 back. However, when I went to pick it up and saw the red frame I knew it was not the bike Bones built. It was not my Danny Storbeck replica. It was too much to really expect my old bike to fall into my hands that easy, but still wanted as 1985 YZ250, so I took it home for $250.
After a few months of restoration, with a lot of help from Carlos Serrano and “I could not have done it without you” help from Ken Saunders, who was the service manager at Eastside Cycle from they 1970’s to the 2000’s. Eastside Cycle made it happen for a lot of riders in that era, including me.
We finished the bike 32 years later almost to the day Bones handed me my Danny Storbeck replica. I know what you’re thinking. This story would have been so much better if it was my original bike. Well if anybody out there knows of a white-framed 1985 YZ250 with the last four digits of the VIN number being 3445 let me know. I’ll make it right.