Maybe I was born a generation too late. Maybe it is because I am able to accept change. Maybe it is just because I am a fan who doesn’t care what style of bike the racers are riding. Whatever the reason, it baffles me when ‘fans’ bad mouth flat track when the riders are on DTX bikes instead of framers.
A ‘framer’ is a custom built flat track racing machine which is completed by installing an engine (these days the modern 450 seems to be popular while back in the day the Rotax powerplant was the engine of choice). A DTX machine is basically a motocross machine that is purchased off the showroom floor and then modified for flat track racing while still looking very much like a motocross bike.
A few years ago there was a Singles race (450 DTX machines) that was one of the best I had ever seen. The last six laps there were four riders swapping the lead multiple times every lap, and despite the high speeds at the venue there were a few occasions where slight contact occurred between the riders. Luckily for fans, three of the riders happened to be carrying onboard cameras which only enhanced the coverage of the intense competition. When the four riders crossed the line, you could have thrown a blanket over them (announcers cliché inserted) and one of the riders actually had his hand on another rider’s leg just to let him know he was there.
The race was shared numerous times over social media and there were hundreds of comments. I guess where I got confused and maybe even a bit angry is when people started downplaying the race because the riders were on DTX machines. One unimpressed fan even had the nerve to comment with, “Just think how much better that race would have been if they were on framers.” Pardon? Did you seriously just say that? I can only imagine this race would have been that much better for that fan if they were watching it on their black and white television, while sitting on their old school aluminum lawn chair, and wearing their open face helmet that they wore when they raced in 1973. Remember when Sidney Crosby scored the golden goal at the 2010 Olympics using and old, straight, hunk of ash (I said ash…) stick while skating on tube skates? Me either. Things change. That doesn’t diminish from the accomplishment.
There seems to be a common theme among many of the framer fans as well as they seem to be against any kind of colour splashed onto a rider’s leathers. They think the whole field should be sitting on framers while all of them wear basically the same all-black leathers. As a fan and an announcer I could not disagree more. Whether watching a race on tv or from up in the booth, there are numerous occasions where number plates can’t be deciphered but I know who a rider is because of the colour of their bike or the colour of their leathers. I can’t imagine calling a race where everybody was wearing the same black leathers as I’m sure the only time I would be able to actually talk about the race is when they came down the front straight and I could see their numbers.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not against framers. I am also not necessarily pro-DTX. I am just for good racing no matter what weapon the rider happens to be on that day. Framers are a slick racing machine and they look mean and fast even when sitting idle. They seem to have a time and a place though, and that isn’t every single track on any given night. I rode a framer once, for about eight laps at the Shannonville short track. I’m not going to lie, it felt amazing. When I hopped off the bike the bike’s owner pointed out that the track was smooth as glass at the time but if it was bumpy I might not have enjoyed my ride quite as much. To take this a step further, in the Open Expert class in the Flat Track Canada series, you can basically ride anything with two wheels. Many of the Experts have both framers and DTX machines at their disposal, and there have been numerous times when riders have chosen to ride their DTX machines over their custom built flat track machines due to track conditions and the forgiving nature and set-up capabilities of the DTX machines. The old school fan would most likely be very disappointed to know that on these occasions, not only did the riders have a very good showing but many times they were the first to cross the finish line and grab the checkers. Now a racer is a racer and is very unlikely to give away money or glory when there are options available. So I guess the question for the old school fan is why was the DTX bike chosen over the framer on these days? Did the guy who won the race on a DTX machine think the racing would have been ‘so much better’ if he was on a framer?
Another thing that the DTX machines bring to the racing game is money. With DTX machines looking very similar to what the average person can buy at your local motorcycle shop, manufacturers have got involved and offer contingency cash for good results on their respective brands. Maybe if all the custom frame makers could do the same then American Flat Track would change their rules, but I have a funny feeling we will never find out.
I am a fan and just want to see a good race. Framer or DTX I really don’t care. I just want some of these old school guys to be able to admit a good race is a good race, even if the winner wasn’t on a framer wearing all-black leathers. Last season the AFT changed their rules making front fenders mandatory in the Singles class. Don’t even want to start that discussion with the old school guys…..
- From Todd Vallee