It could come as a result of age, size or even ability, but one thing is certain in our sport. For those who start racing as children and continue with dirt track racing, at some point you are going to have to move to a bigger bike.
Looking back now, the biggest transition at our house seemed to be when my son went from a Yamaha PW50 to what seemed like a fire-breathing Kawasaki KX 65. As well as the obvious huge increase in power, there were also lots of new things to learn such as clutch, gears, brake pedal and so on. I can remember riding on the back with Braden in front of me, trying to teach him one operation at a time. For the first while I would do the throttle and the gears and I let him try the clutch. Next round he did the clutch and the gears while I still managed the throttle. Third time out was a bit of a surprise as at one point while he was trying to master all three components I just decided to jump off the back of the bike and let him have at it. Worked like a charm (please don’t call children’s aid…).
A few years back I remember talking to Tyler Seguin about the transition from a small bike (85 cc or under) to a 450. I thought the change to the bigger bike would be imposing, but Tyler set me straight pretty quick. He said more power made it easier to ride and it was much smoother then riding the small bikes, because getting it to slide was so easy.
To see if his theory still holds true, I caught up with a few young guns who have recently made the transition to a larger machine.
Trent Pickle moved up to a 450 last year and was able to pilot it right into a Novice championship. Trent is a bit on the smaller side, so I thought his opinion could vary quite a bit from Seguin’s. The answer I guess would be yes and no. “I’m really light so it makes it harder to control the bike,” Pickle offered. “The bike does go faster though because of my weight. I like being on this bike because it handles the ruts way better and is way faster.”
Logan Wilson made the jump to a 450 this year and had lots of input when I approached him on the subject. “The only scary part of moving to the bigger bike was the thought of it,” Wilson admits. “My first time out I got major arm pump and my arms felt like rubber, but it is cool. The 450 seems to handle the ruts a lot better (maybe Pickle is onto something) than the 85 did. On that thing you would have to hang on for dear life. The power is smoother as well so it is easier to feather the throttle. The starting line is a bit of an issue though because my back tire just spins because I am so light.”
Dustin Brown made the jump to a big bike at the last race of the season last year and the transition has been seamless. As of this writing Brown has won every CMA and FTC race he has entered this year. He shared a couple of the thoughts that the other two riders had as well. “I love the 450 because it is so much faster and there are so many more people to race. I do get arm pump sometimes (maybe Wilson knows what he’s talking about as well) and I never really got that on an 85. I like doing the half-miles on it because we have a bit of time to relax on the straights.”
The conclusion I got out of talking to these young riders is that they all love it now that they have made the jump. Racers love speed and there is no shortage of that on the bigger bikes. So dads are going to have to stop worrying about the extra costs and work, and moms will have to try not to worry as their ‘baby’ gets on a bike they can hardly touch the ground on.
For those with a child moving from a 50 cc to a 65 – I’m available for lessons for the right price…
– Tumblin’ Todd