The View From the Cheap Seat

Motorcycle racing for the masses, with AHRMA.

| November/December 2013

I always thought of racing as one of the most entertaining ways you could threaten your existence. Or so I imagined, never having set tread on a track as a competitor.

As amazing as it is absurd, the idea of throwing life and limb around a track in order to be “first” is probably something you either get or don’t. Childhood thoughts of racing Formula 1 and Group B rally cars are comfortably just that, childish thoughts. The cost and time commitment to even the most basic levels of professional racing make it an impossibility for all but the most dedicated and delusional. I’d never given much thought to any sort of racing, much less motorcycle racing.

But then the subject came up at a party over a few too many beers. I said “no” a lot at first, but every time I said it, I meant “yes.” And then I finally said what I meant. Yes, let’s do this. I’ll spend a few hundred dollars to sort of do what I’d dreamt about as a kid. How could I not? The person guiding me in this mission was Jason Koschnitzke, proprietor of Motto Motorcycles in Chicago. Having built quite a few race bikes and helped a number of novices onto the track, he‘s a good ambassador for the sport.

“You’ll have an amazing time. It’s easy, and you can use one of the old Hondas,” Jason says. “I don’t know, I wouldn’t want to mess up your bike,” I reply. “Nonsense,” he retorts, “the bike’s already been crashed many times.”

Pulling in favors from the greater Chicago Vintage Motorcycling community (known as ChiVinMoto), I buy race leathers that smell like the bunker they’ve been stored in for the last two years. I score cheap boots, use my old winter gloves and finally buy a new helmet. I register for track day at Michigan’s Grattan Raceway, and sign up for Team Chicago’s race school. Though moderately pricey, I soon find out why this track day is cheaper than most — Michigan is cold in April.

Three days before we pile into a van and head to Michigan, I head to Motto Motorcycle’s garage to actually ride the bike. It’s a 1972 Honda CL175 with scrambler pipes. It was built about 10 years ago, specifically to compete in the CB160 and GP200 class. The stator’s been removed and the bike has half a Dyna ignition instead of points. Per AHRMA rules, there’s no kickstarter. It must be push-started. It’s a pure race machine in an educational sense. I’m the third guy who’s ridden it. This bike’s gotten around.

Ride 'Em, Don't Hide 'Em Getaway

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