Down and Dirty in Arizona

A vintage AHRMA racing weekend with two of the cruelest and most medieval bikes ever devised: the OSSA Stiletto and Yamaha MX125.

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by Seth Dedoes

In the smash documentary, Free Solo, about climber Alex Honnold, researchers performed an MRI on Honnold’s brain to see how his hippocampus alighted when Alex viewed stressful imagery. The minimal activation revealed why he might free climb Yosemite’s 3,600-foot vertical El Capitan alone, and without ropes: Some people just need more stimulus to feel fully alive. Coupled with nostalgia for the golden era of motorsports, this surely drives many vintage racers — car and motorcycle alike. Myself included.

There’s no comparing a 1970s Porsche 911 and a modern Carrera, or a solid-axle Corvette and a C7. They carry the same nameplates, but are worlds apart in character and capability. The same is true with vintage motocross bikes and their modern fuel-injected counterparts; the former often derived from period street bikes, while the latter are bespoke, CAD-CAM honed, competition dirt machines. Around my garage lurk both, including various vintage race bikes built up over recent years for events. And with several of them nearly race-ready, I decided to take a shot at the season-opening American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association (AHRMA) Vintage Motocross national in Buckeye, Arizona.

Vintage race cars have numerous fluid systems that require careful maintenance, namely hydraulic brakes and clutches, fuel pumps and cooling systems. Vintage bikes (generally regarded as 1974 and earlier) blissfully escape this, allowing even a long-moldering bike to be put right with a change of gearbox and fork oil, fresh fuel and tires, carb and air-cleaner service, some spot lubrication (e.g., cables and brake cams), and fresh rubber. It’s a genial day’s work if nothing goes wrong and no oddball parts are required.

The bikes

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