Six Ways to Sunday: The garage fridge saves the day
The garage fridge is not a tool. It does not actively assist in the completion of a project. If anything, the cooler in the corner often conspires to defeat productivity. For me, recently, it did just the opposite. The faux-woodgrain insulated box doesn’t hold parts—it contains exactly what you think it does—and yet it was a critical factor in getting my XR250R ready for ice racing.
My garage is full at the moment. Really full. I’ve got projects piled on projects, and at the top of my to-do list for January was prepping the XR250R for a frozen flat-track. This proved both the easiest and most difficult conversion of this whole Six Ways to Sunday adventure. Taking the one motorcycle out to compete in cross country, motocross, flat track, road racing, trials, and finally on ice requires a lot of time in the garage. So much that I was getting burnt out. Luckily this final conversion only required three items: studded tires, over fenders, and a tether kill-switch. Simple, right? I thought so, too.
The refrigerator inside my home holds no adult beverages, for two reasons: There are too many tasty leftovers packing the shelves, and I found myself gaining a little belly in the last few years. Therefore, I make access to unhealthy drinks marginally less convenient by storing them in the garage. With each trip out to the garage fridge since I returned from the Barber Vintage Festival in October, I saw the XR on the lift, ready to get a service and in need of parts. It wasn’t cold yet, however, and the thought of ice strong enough to support a motorcycle was comical.
I’ll get to that when the weather turns.
This was my mistake.
Of all the hard-to-find parts or creative solutions demanded by the XR250R, tires have never been an issue. It runs pretty standard sizes, at least for a vintage machine: a 21-inch front and a 18-inch rear. (Modern off-road machines are typically fitted with 19-inch rear hoops.) I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to find a set of studded tires ready to mount. I didn’t even need the nicest tires, just ones that would get me out on track. Surely a used set would be available for reasonable money.
I thought I struck gold when I ventured to an ice racing event to spectate and found an 18-inch rear tire. Bought the set on the spot for cash. Only when I got home and attempted to mount them did I discover just how dumb I was. The pair I had bought in such haste were an 18-inch rear and 19-inch front—like an odd flat-track setup. I put the tools down and walked to the fridge, grabbing a koozie from the catch-all shelf on the way.
Then it hit me like a bright yellow 1933 Ford pickup. Just call Jeff.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that prepping a set of ice-worthy motorcycle tires involves nothing more than a drill and a bag of screws. Problem is, a lot of physics is involved. The slight angles placed on the screws have a critical impact on how the bike handles and puts down power. We aren’t talking sheetmetal screws, either. There are specially made screws for ice racing, including ones specific to the event I plan to run. Since the race I’m attending is an AMA (American Motorcyclist Association) sanctioned event, the screws can have heads no taller than a quarter-inch. I could go about studding my own tires, but it really didn’t make sense if I wanted to get on the ice this year. So I picked up the phone to one of the best ice-tire guys in the U.S.: Jeff Fredette.
Jeff and I got to know each other on The Great Race. When my navigator Brett and I were struggling through our first run, Jeff and his son would give helpful hints at the end of the day. When we broke an axle, they offered anything and everything they could in hopes of getting us back on the road—and they were leading the race. The Fredettes went on to win that year, but the more immediate reason Jeff came to mind during this motorcycle project was his status as an AMA Hall of Fame inductee. He’s known as Mr. ISDE because of how many International Six Day Enduros he has competed in—and he’s performed extremely well in them, too. His prowess on a motorcycle is astonishing, so when he answered the phone and I started asking for help, I was further humbled that he offered to help my dumb self at all.
Once past the pleasantries, Jeff had bad news. I had called at the wrong time. He had 50 tires lined up to stud and orders through his company FRP Offroad were running about two weeks behind. Then it hit him that I was riding the vintage XR250, which has that 18-inch rear wheel, and he lit up. By accident last spring he had studded an 18-inch rear tire after reading an order incorrectly, and it had been sitting in the corner since. The 21-inch inch front was no problem, since that is still the current standard. I rattled off my credit card information and he got the tires boxed and shipped. The call done, it was back to the garage. Back to the fridge.
Each trip to the garage cooler, I forced myself to do some task. Could be a one minute “stand and think” about the design for the over fenders, or completing a larger item, like mounting up one tire. No matter what, progress had to be made each time I was in the garage. I sourced the over fenders from the shelf of misfit parts, and gathered the aluminum stock to hang them during a hardware store run.
The tether kill switch is borrowed from a snowmobile and shuts the engine down should I become unceremoniously disconnected from the bike mid-race. It’s a two-wire install that replaces the push-button kill switch already on the handlebars.
It was the last piece of the puzzle, which meant one last trip to the garage fridge to celebrate—but not too much. Ice-racing is the last of the six disciplines I set out to try, and now the bike is ready. I think I’m ready. Time to load up the van and find some ice, since that’s the only way to know for sure. Will I regret all those trips to the garage fridge? Perhaps … or perhaps not.