The final push: Six Ways to Sunday racing begins this week
One lesson that has cemented itself into my lizard brain: the stress of building a race machine is unending. At every step in the process I expected my blood pressure to ratchet down, even if only in small increments, as I chipped away at my to-do list. Not only has that not been the case, the opposite is happening. Despite six months of prep time, I’m feeling the punch as my deadline gets down to the wire and everything has to come together for my first race of this long-running Six Ways to Sunday project. Let me get you up to speed, point by point:
I dreamt up the idea of racing six different disciplines on one machine about a year ago. Opening the garage door and seeing this bike over the last six months has been a lot like ordering the same sandwich for lunch, every day, from your favorite restaurant. It brings me great joy, but the thing has worn me down. I entered the final stretch last week excited but equally anxious.
The bike’s first start eased some tension as the engine broke in and heat cycled a few times. Following a front to back nut and bolt check, I tossed the XR into the back of my truck and headed for the single-track trails about 15 minutes from home. It was a perfect 67-degree day for a shakedown, and despite a small oil leak popping up on the banjo fitting that supplies oil to the valvetrain, everything passed checks after an hour of trail riding. The Race Tech tuned suspension was everything I wanted it to be, and the engine ran smoother and stronger than ever thanks to the fantastic work done by Millennium Technologies. In all, the bike was confidence inspiring.
A regular-cab, short-bed pickup is a pretty rare sight in the pits of most races, and before even leaving the driveway headed for my first event I learned why. Space is simply at a premium, and when packing spares, camping equipment, and the bike itself, space runs out in no time. Everything I need will fit, though a few things I want will have to remain at home. (A detour I’ve got planned on this 2000-mile trip might improve that situation, though. Stay tuned … )
Bringing my truck up to spec for bike hauling has instilled in me a strange desire to restore this 22-year old Chevy workhorse. Everything connecting the chassis to the ground has been improved in the last few months, along with the brakes on all four corners. Following some suspension work, the alignment shop gave it a clean bill of health and the truck has never driven better under my care. An oil change last night, along with a quick road trip once-over, confirmed the fruits of my labor.
This whole Six Ways to Sunday project was my brainchild, and I thought I knew what it would entail. Since then it has been day after day of learning all the ways in which I was overconfident. That might make it sound like it’s been a bad experience, but the truth is it’s been plenty fulfilling. My personal sanity is still intact, for one. And somehow I’m still reveling in the fun of diving headfirst into this sport and soaking up all the new experiences that come with it—and I haven’t even gotten to the fun part yet.
Following my time at American Supercamp, my expectations for what I’ll face on course or track became focused. I am registered for all my events in the Novice category, because that is where a rookie like me belongs. For this first upcoming event (the Heartland Motofest in Topeka, Kansas) and all the others to follow this year, I will be training my sights on the latter half of the famous Juan Manuel Fangio phrase “to finish first, you must first finish.” Safe, injury-free riding is my goal and thankfully I’ve got a fair number of trail rides under my belt that helped hone my off-road skills this spring. Of course, most of them were on my loaner XR200R that shares very little of its attitude with the XR250R I’ve built up for this project. My shakedown ride assured me that was nothing to worry about though, as the XR250 is a much better bike after its rebuild than the tired XR200.
The AHRMA Motofest at Heartland Park in my home state of Kansas is shaping up to be a great time. A few fellow Kansas friends are meeting me there and bringing bikes of their own to race, and a Hagerty colleague is splitting the drive with me and borrowing my XR200 to race with himself.
The event will encompass two of the six racing disciplines on my project docket: cross country on Friday afternoon and motocross Sunday morning. In between those two competitions I will be perusing the paddock and picking the brains of racers for tips on how to succeed at the four other motorsport genres I will be braving this summer and fall, hopefully collecting knowledge and a few phone numbers to ensure my forays into dirt track and supermoto road racing are not so embarrassing. I don’t expect to win, unless it’s by scoring the best deal at the swap meet. Fun, however, is all but guaranteed. Look for a race recap with all the good, bad, and ugly details next week, or come find me in the campground at Heartland to share a cold drink and a good story. I packed an extra chair.