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VINTAGE MOTOCROSS: TAKING OUR SPORT BY STORM!


MXEditor

Everywhere you look these days you see vintage motocross machines…on the web, at the track for practice days, in museums and especially at vintage racing events. Once the territory of old-school 3” suspension machines, times have rolled on and now vintage bikes can include monoshocks and 12” suspensions.

So why is it so popular?

First off, many of us who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s riding are yearning for nostalgia, a way to recreate those good old days when even the pros raced out of oversized vans. This harkens back to the old days for many riders who moved on after their brief riding and racing careers and hung up their old Jofa mouthguards and JT jerseys, but now have the financial freedom to pursue their old dreams of glory, using the machines they owned or raced against in the wild and wooly days of off-road motorcycle racing.

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(Photo Credit: Tom McKelvey)

And around this new found passion for old time fun was formed a loose group of promoters, racers and restoration specialists who have risen up to meet the demand. And this support is helping propel this unique section of our sport to new levels of acceptance as well as providing the much-needed technical support and reproduction parts essential to expanding the ranks of both racers and spectators.

In terms of spectators, these vintage race events have a much more hands-on feel and are generally more intimate affairs than most big race meets, offering up close and personal viewing of both the exotic machines and the riders who raced them. Many of the enthusiasts involved would have no problem explaining in detail how a laid down shock or boost bottle was supposed help their machine back in the day, and most machines are on display during the day for all to see and admire.

Many parents who are riders want to show their offspring how the sport started, what Dad (or Mom) raced on, and seem to want to impart how hard it was to go fast on these older machines with their narrow powerbands and marginal suspensions. This can give the younger generation a chance to appreciate where the sport started and how far we’ve actually progressed since “back in the day”.

We’ve assembled a lot of insight and some available resources for ThumperTalk readers so if you want to get a good idea of what’s going on in the vintage motocross scene, read on.

We spoke to the experts at the AHRMA (American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association), MX Rewind (UnadillaMX), CALVMX (California Vintage Motocross Association) and restorers like ECVMX (East Coast Vintage Motocross) as well as a host of riders to see just why vintage motocross taking our sport by storm.

AHRMA (AMERICAN HISTORIC RACING MOTORCYCLE ASSOCIATION)

Different organizations recognize different standards when it comes to vintage motocross motorcycles. The AHRMA, which has emerged as the defining authority when it comes to vintage motorcycle racing, has two distinct categories:

Vintage Motocross featuring motorcycles built before 1975 and according to AHRMA:

“This time period may not be the very beginning of the sport, but marks the period of international recognition after WWII. It ended in the mid-1970s, and is considered to many around the world as one of the greatest eras of the sport.”

They continue: “At the beginning of this time period, the machines raced were basic transportation-based models with slight modifications. They were raced over farmland settings with natural challenges. Higher speeds, terrain and off-camber turns provided the main challenges on these tracks that are typical of those used into the early ‘70s. Our era ends with the advent of specially designed racing machines on specially prepared tracks”

Post Vintage Motocross featuring machines which are post-1975 and according to the AHRMA:

“Purpose-built motocross racers which introduced many technologies, from the very first long-travel suspension through to the advent of water-cooled engines and linkage-controlled rear suspensions found at the end of this exciting time in motocross.”

So “vintage motocross” actually encompasses many different eras of motorcycles, from older 4-stroke off-road twins to 2-stroke water cooled rocket ships, and really it has something for everyone. If you look at the classes just about every type of older off road machine has a place to race.

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(Photo Credit: Tom McKelvey)

MX REWIND (UNADILLA)

We spoke with Jill Robinson at the holy grail of outdoor tracks, Unadilla, and she gave is the following insights into the MX Rewind event that has gained immense popularity over the last few years, making it the premier vintage motocross meeting in the Northeast US.

Jill said “MX Rewind is a full weekend event which celebrates dirt bike racing and its history. We start Friday morning with AHRMA vintage cross-country racing and segue into the afternoon with AHRMA post-vintage cross country racing. This year, we added a new event, AHRMA vintage trials to Friday’s line up. Saturday begins two solid days of vintage and post vintage motocross racing.”

She continued: “The weekend is structured to not only be full of vintage racing but to also recognize and celebrate the history of the sport. Our legends also really help bring the history to life. We wanted the weekend to certainly highlight racing but to take it a step further. To that end, we have displays, a swap meet area, and night-time activities that concentrate on the past and how we got to the present. Meet and greets, autograph time, and bench racing with the legends is also a big part of the weekend.”

“MX Rewind always amazes us. For the whole weekend, we are surrounded by racers and their families who love to keep the historical side of the sport alive. They treasure their bikes but love to show them off and ride them. They work hard to make sure that they are as close to, if not, 100% authentic. That isn’t easy for bikes that are over forty years old. But they are dedicated and put their heart and soul into it. They walk up to the legends and say “remember when” and get into racing discussions and, depending upon the legend, technical discussions that are certainly not superficial. They help each other out and they are serious about what they are doing but with a lets-have-fun-and-enjoy-ourselves attitude.”

TT: Who are some of the big names participating at MX Rewind?

According to Jill Robinson, some of the big names that have attended the MX Rewind event are: Brad Lackey, Danny LaPorte, Trampas Parker, Ron Lechien, Donnie Hansen, Barry Higgins, John DeSoto, Tony D, Guy Cooper, Jeff Stanton, Gary and Dewayne Jones, Mark Barnett, Mick Andrews, Jimmy Weinert, Warren Reid, John Dowd, Doug Henry, Larry Maiers, Gunnar Lindstrom, Carlo Coen, Bruce Stratton, John and Jack Penton, Sonny DeFeo, Pat Maroney, and Gary Bailey.

She continues: “All but a small number of our legends have raced either as a team captain in the Team Cup Challenge or raced as individuals in several of the classes. Honestly, Guy Cooper can still ride the wheels off of anything you put him on!”

So, if you’re looking to get it all in one place, MX Rewind at Unadilla is a great place to introduce yourself to the vintage motocross scene. With racing, displays and vendors coupled with one of the most historic AMA national tracks as the backdrop, MX Rewind at Unadilla is a mecca for vintage motocross fans.

AMA VINTAGE MOTORCYCLE DAYS (MID-OHIO)

Another cornerstone event in the vintage motocross world is Vintage Motorcycle Days held at Mid-Ohio. This is the big daddy of these types of events in our minds and is billed as “North America's largest motorcycle swap meet”. I’ve never seen so many antique and vintage to present day motocross machines in one place before, even the swap meet portion is mind-blowing, with every brand and model bike you ever remember is represented.

According to the AMA: “Every year, tens of thousands enthusiasts join the AMA and the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, and nearly 1,000 independent vendors at vintage motorcycling’s biggest bash. The event includes racing, the country's largest motorcycle swap meet, seminars, stars from the sports past and present, bike shows and more, all designed to recapture a simpler time and remind us what's fundamentally cool about riding motorcycles.”

We would have to agree with that. The show area is amazing and the Motorcycle Hall of Fame tent and the Classic Club displays are always incredible with some of the country’s best restored machines on view.

Racing at Vintage Days is the focus and there is a lot of friendly competition. The off-road courses consist of many disciplines, including motocross, flat-track, trails and hare scrambles so the variety of racing machines is immense.

If you’re looking for a place to start learning (and maybe even racing) vintage motocross, the AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days would be a great place to start.

CALIFORNIA VINTAGE MOTOCROSS (CALVMX)

CALVMX is a huge vintage motocross club based in the southwestern US and they race at some of the most revered tracks from back in the day…today.

Tracks like Carlsbad, Cahuilla Creek and Glen Helen to name a few.

We took some time to talk to Frank Vrettas from CALVMX about how the organization works and what they do to help further the sport:

TT: Why was CALVMX formed and how many members are there?

FV: CALVMX was formed to offer a venue for racers of all ages to have an opportunity to compete in a more relaxed atmosphere and the emphasis on having fun and preserving the sport of vintage racing. It was our goal to showcase bikes made from the 50's on up and let younger riders see how motocross machine evolved over the years. Many of the racers are ex racers from the 60's, 70’s and 80's.

CALVMX has over 250 members and among them are moto-legends like Marty Smith, Bob Hannah, Marty Tripes, Preston Petty, David Bailey and Malcolm Smith.

TT: What are the most popular classes raced?

FV: Vintage 250cc bikes (pre 1975), then GP 1 class (pre 1980) classes are among the most popular. (To see the class listing, click here: CALVMX classes – Ed.)

TT: Biggest event of the year?

FV: That would be the AHRMA National which is two times per year and sees over 300+ entries. ThumperTalk readers may want to note that this year we are hosting a very large event, the 40 year anniversary of Women's Motocross event on September 6th in conjunction with AHRMA National at Glen Helen, and we expect well over 400 entries for this event.

EAST COAST VINTAGE MOTOCROSS (ECVMX)

Vendors such as East Coast Vintage Motocross (ECVMX) are helping lead the charge in the vintage restoration arena. ECVMX is owned and operated by Chris, Jim and Jason Weaver and the vintage moto restorations are performed by their house restorers Jim Pennington and Michael Baker.

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Photo: ECVMX Facebook

We spoke to Jason about what was going on at ECVMX and his thoughts on vintage motocross racing:

TT: Why would someone come to ECVMX to have their vintage bike restored?

JW: Our family has been involved in some sort of motorsports activity since the early 70's. We have motocross, flat track, and even sports car racing backgrounds. Like most of you out there we have owned the CR's - KX's - Bultaco's - Maico's and Husky's that we wish we would have held on to! Our passion is now finding these bikes, bringing them back to life, and letting their new owner's enjoy them for years to come.

Jim Pennington has been with us since we started as a hobby business back in 2010. He has grown as we have grown - and his expertise has followed suit. He can handle pretty much anything need on any make off road machine and Michael Baker has just started with us as our second in house technician - is a graduate of Wyotech - and has an extensive 2 and 4 stroke background. He has quickly gotten up to speed on the "quirks" of 40+ year old motorcycles and we are glad to have him onboard.

TT: What is the most popular bike or class/size of bike restored?

JW: We restore more 1983 Honda CR250/480's than any one bike. They are a very dependable and popular model in the AHRMA classes - and are easy to obtain parts for as well as being very competitive. The European bikes are popular as well - many vet riders lusted over that Maico or CZ back then but couldn't afford it - but now have the means.

TT: Why do you think vintage racing is so popular?

JW: “I think there are a number of reasons that Vintage MX has stayed strong and is continuing to gain popularity. One being is the relative affordability of the sport. If you compare the overall spend to sports car racing / collector cars / boats etc - a $2500 vintage bike looks very affordable. Not to mention the fact that most of these bikes are actually appreciating or at a minimum holding their value. We are in a prime era of the guys who rode in the late seventies early 80's now getting interested again in riding the 40+ and 50+ age classes.

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Photo: ECVMX Facebook

In conclusion, vintage motocross racing is becoming a big part of our sport and seems to growing every day with the meets getting larger and the classes expanding to accommodate almost all the older machinery racers may have stashed in their garage. If you’re ready to explore more of the vintage racing scene, visit the links below.

AHRMA (AMERICAN HISTORIC RACING MOTORCYCLE ASSOCIATION)

MX REWIND (UNADILLA)

AMA VINTAGE MOTORCYCLE DAYS (MID-OHIO)

CALIFORNIA VINTAGE MOTOCROSS (CALVMX)

EAST COAST VINTAGE MOTOCROSS (ECVMX)



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I love the look, sound and ride of these classics. I am 50 now and started racing at 15 years old on a Montessa 250. I am now riding a 2010 KLX 331,m but would love to go old school again.

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American Vintage Dirt Racers Association also has a series in the western US and Arizona.  www.avdra.com

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Graham Gower,

 

It's never too late to get back into MX via the vintage route.  If you're already riding regularly, so that's half the battle.  Just go find a bike that fits what you want....or better yet, what you were familiar with 35 years ago!  They really aren't as expensive as you think.  I raced 1966-1981, but then work, life, etc got in the way.  I retired three years ago and bought a 72 CZ 400 and a 73 CZ 250 the following year and went right back into it.  I ride the Pac Northwest AHRMA series and love it.  I just wish there were more races in the series!  

 

I'm 68 now and although I'm not real fast, the smiles are even bigger than when I was younger.  There are guys out there at ever event who run in the over-70 and over-80 classes too, so you're definitely not too old to start!

 

C'mon out and play.....you won't regret it.

 

This is the start of the 'old guys' moto at Bellingham, WA a few weeks ago.  Ignore the guy on the far left, because I don't know who it is.  However, the other four guys have a combined age of 298 years!  No that's not a typo.....the average age of those four is 74.5.  Really, try it....you'll have a great time.

VMX_zps0f5415a6.jpg

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