So long, Silverado, and a return to the garage
There are people who profess to be “lifelong learners.” I am not one of them, but I do subscribe to a theory that whether we realize it or not we learn something new every day. In the last month or so, what I learned was boring, really unsexy stuff. After the thrill of racing wrapped up, it meant it was time to head back into the garage and spin wrenches again. The bike needs to transition from the dirt-slinging form to a slick-shod roadcourse machine. It was also time to take a step that traveling to that first event showed me was not luxury, but necessity.
The first big update is that my beloved regular-cab, short-bed Chevrolet Silverado, which I mechanically restored over the last 14 months, found a new owner. It served me so well on my trip from Northern Michigan to Topeka, Kansas, but that trip reinforced that if I wanted to get serious about traveling to events and races, that a six-foot pickup bed is not be the best choice. Lacking space, security, and weather protection, a pickup was never the right option, but I thought I could make it work.
So the short list of vehicular needs included space, security, weather protection, and enough power to tow my projects around the country. A couple types of vehicles fit those requirements, but none of them does it quite as well as a van. The search narrowed down quickly because I am a Chevrolet guy at heart, and the LS-series of engines have been so kind to me and my family that there really was no other option other than an Express. However, the van market had been ravaged by the #vanlife folks and the trades, who after an odd year were holding onto their machines due to the difficulty of purchasing a new van.
Then the ad appeared. My daily scroll through a half dozen or so sites was beginning to become a slog, but the Red Hot paint flashed proud in a sea of Summit White boringmobiles. Packing a 6.0 V-8 and the beefy 6L90 six-speed automatic transmission, this beast had all the items on my shortlist and even a few from my nice-to-have list. The factory inverter is going to enable me to charge laptops or tools while on the road without needing to lug a generator around (though it can’t do tire warmers, so a genny might be on the horizon—depending on where this racing bug takes me) and the whole package is on the 155-inch wheelbase chassis rather than the regular 135-inch wheelbase. This gives me a full 12 feet of space from the back of the captains chairs to the closed rear doors. My Honda XRs are about six foot in total length, meaning I will be able to easily sleep in front of the strapped down bikes on long trips.
The van looks downright massive, but the bumper-to-bumper length is only a foot or so more than the pickup it replaced. The whole package is not sexy, but function is trumping form right now. My wonderful fiancée needed some convincing, but I think she has come around to at least not hating this big red beast. It only took one trip to change my direction of hauler, but now its time to change direction of the bike.
The XR250R served valiantly in the events at Heartland Park, but those were the events closest to the XR’s designed use. I will now swing the bike to the furthest. The whole concept of the Six Ways to Sunday project is based on a definition of adventure I heard years ago: Adventure is taking unprepared equipment to out-of-the-way places. Even with all the research I can do, this is still me trying most of these events for the first time, while also for the first time building a bike for it. This next discipline is one I have dabbled in very slightly—not from the racing aspect, but the street aspect.
Supermoto or motard is an interesting proposition on paper. Take your dirt bike and put on little 17-inch wheels and street tires. Why remove the “dirt” part from a machine and add “street” when there are specific machines that already exist for that? Well, the answer is that the fun factor of these bikes is huge. A supermoto often weighs hundreds of pounds less than even a light streetbike and has tons of ground clearance, traction, and torque from the single-cylinder powerplant. You want wheelies? Supermotos do that in spades. You want a bike you can ride on a tight and twisty kart track and have fun on without ever going faster than 40 mph? Supermoto does that too.
You can also take them out on the big road courses and play with the full-sized street bikes. That is what’s next for me, as I will load up the Big Red Express and head for Gingerman Raceway in South Haven, Michigan, later this month to run in AHRMA’s road-racing school and get my license to compete. Between now and then it’s going to be a thrash of preparation, both physically and mentally. Next week, I’ll lay out everything I’ve done and have to do to get the XR250R road race ready, because there’s a lot more to it than just bolting on a set of wheels.