Clymer Goes Minibike Racing – Glen Helen, CA

minibike checkered flag

Just like Ricky Bobby, most of us here at Clymer want to go fast. In the past we’ve raced all sorts of bikes, starting way back with our founder Floyd tearing up the tracks and hill climbs on Indians and Harley-Davisons before the war. Because of the way things go and changes in how we do things, there are not typically bikes back in the shop we can borrow for a club race (our author Ron Wright has his own shop hundreds of miles from HQ).

Instead myself, Bryan, and our technician Mark who does most of the shop work for Haynes on the car side of things, have been working on some inexpensive, low impact race bikes. You have seen the Project Bike Project: Mini Bike before, and the Monster Moto 80cc mini we got for Christmas, but we also scored a very serviceable 1979 Honda XL75.

Living in Southern California means that there are motorcycle events going on nearly 12 months out of the year. A local bike club/motorcycle shop by the name of Hell on Wheels puts on all manner of dirt races about once a month, with classes for everything from tank shifted classics, to British desert sleds, to pull start mini bikes, to modern stuff. The important thing is, to have fun, with no one taking them too seriously. So, one Sunday in June, we met up with the club at the famous Glen Helen Raceway, on the track typically used for the huge stadium trucks.

We geared up and went out for practice, but even after just a few seconds it was obvious that we were outclassed. The introduction of cheap 212cc OHC Honda clone motors early in the 21st-century had changed the game; the Harbor Freight Predator motor is the Chevy LS motor of pull starts. Our Monster Moto 80 now had a Honda 190cc OHC motor in it, and the Bird Thunderbird ran a Tecumseh 4hp flathead, but the other minis left us for dead at the start like we were on pedal bikes (part of that may also have been because I easily weigh more than 250lbs). But we were determined to have fun!

Mark on the Monter Moto Mini

Practice itself was a blast, even without the heat of competition. On the big wide truck track (abbreviated so a lap would not take us all day) these minibike were pretty much flat out the whole time. Unfortunately, my vintage mount was not carburating very well, with some residual crud in the 40 year old gas tank, plus a float needle that barely sealed; it was both flooding and staving, alternately. Mark’s bike was much better, though he nearly high sided at one point, a bike with tiny wheels can’t throw you very far.

After practice I activated “plan B” – ditching the Bird minibike for a Honda XL75. This put me in a different race than Mark, but on the plus side it allowed us to take more pictures. We both still finished last in our respective races, with Mark’s mini throwing its chain in the last lap to make things worse. In the 100cc race I lined up against 4 or 5 other guys on similar bikes, but they all had upgraded to XR100 swing arms and forks, for a mini that was much better suited to adult riders.

What follows are some pictures of the faster, better riders on their Harleys, and desert sleds. Thanks to the magic of GIFs, some of them are animated too (if you click for the full size version).

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