It’s big to be small. Mini dirt bikes aren't just for kids anymore. No matter your size, it’s the most fun you’ll ever have a motorcycle, I guarantee it. Riding a minibike on a dirt flat track is technical riding experience that focuses on your riding style, with little about the bike's power or performance. Also, its just pure fun.
This was one of Brian Bartlow's students and the most enthusiast, most-fun-to-ride-with dude the entire weekend.
We recently attended the Feel Like a Pro dirt school in Northern California, which houses a flat-out, open facility with every type of turn you can imagine. The instruction was limited to that of 140cc Kawasaki dirt bikes. After a day of schooling and riding, we had our first flat track race at the local track on the same small bikes. There, we ran into a dozen serious racers on 150cc and under bikes.
Nope, we're not talking about these.
Now, hear me out, I’m not talking about pull-start minis. Those are fun, but… comically fun. We’re talking about a real mini: 100cc-150cc. Remember Jen's story about how she learned to ride better thanks to mini bikes (see below)? Kind of like that.
So after the Feel Like a Pro school we decided to take the bikes to the track ourselves. We picked up a Honda CRF125F and a CRF150F to run at last Saturday's Hell on Wheels Hot August Nights race last Saturday. The turnout of minis was like nothing we'd seen before, so we decided it was time to justify our addictions.
It’s Not Just for Kids
Hi, my name is Jesse and I like minibikes.
First off, a small bike is not something reserved for just your kids. Most the minis you’d find at a typical flat track event are piloted by adults. Most sanctioning bodies have classes for 150cc and under bikes and most are serious business.
1. It Makes You a Stronger Rider
Now you can experience the limits of a motorcycle in a controlled environment… Well, more control than the street that is. Yes, your street bike probably doesn’t weigh 200 pounds like a 150cc does, but you can still learn what it feels like to wash out the front tire and save it… also, what it's like to not save it.
Remember our "11 Reasons Why You Don’t Want a Liter Bike" story? One of the reasons: A liter bike can make you a lazy rider, because you're often relying solely on the power of the bike. Sometimes, you don’t have to take that corner the fastest because your pure power can get you caught back up to your buddies.
2. Can’t Get Hurt
Okay, well you can’t get that hurt. The biggest limiting factor in mini racing is speed. You aren’t going as fast a pro-bike racers or even some of the vintage class racers, so there’s a lesser chance of a serious accident.
3. It's Cheap
Cheap? Well no racing is cheap, but this is the cheapest I’ve found. The race weekend at the Hell on Wheels Hot August Nights at Perris Raceway cost me about $150. That included gas, water, food and admission for both my wife and I.
I’d pay more than that on a typical weekend getaway for one night. No, I’m not factoring in the cost of the bike itself or the gear, but if you already have that stuff or you’re a swamp-meet connoisseur like myself, you can save some pennies there too.
4. It’s About the Rider, Not the Bike
I grew up auto racing, running a mini-stock Mustang at Bowman-Gray Stadium. I love auto racing, but honestly, if you’re a damn good racer in a crappy car, you won’t get far. Guys like Jimmy Johnson are amazingly skilled drivers, but they aren’t winning on hopes or just the desire to win more than the other guy...or shifting. They win by a combination of skill and multi-million dollar Wheaties’ sponsorships.
I’ve been on the same bikes before, went flying past certain riders, and had others fly past me like I was sitting still. On identical bikes!
At the Feel LIke a Pro dirt school the owner, operator and instructor, Brian Bartlow, would occasionally join us on the track riding identical 140cc bikes. At one point he blew past me mid-corner and still managed to maintain that speed through the corner. The next lap, I blew past someone. It’s all the about the rider, little about the bike.
This means that every time you ride, you not only have a chance of winning, but you’re guaranteed a chance of improving.
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5. Laying it Down
My late uncle was a flat track racer who used to say, “You never know how fast you can go until you spin out,” or in this case, lay it down. I’ve laid down enough in my short career of flat tracking little bikes (make that three races to date), and it’s often more fun than it is painful. Now high-siding...well that’s just painful.
So, you want to flat track race? Search Craigslist or find a friend with a small bike. Unfortunately, guys like Meatball and Bartlow are scarce in the U.S. There are also sanctioning bodies that are all equally as unorganized and probably have terrible websites with little information. As for us, we attended one, maybe two races before showing up with our own rig. It's a lot of word of mouth and hard to get started without knowing someone.
If you’re still intimidated, try out a school. Read Jen’s story on finding the right motorcycle school for you.
Also check out: RideApart 6: Flat Track racing for beginners | RideApart