Siege does a lot for vintage motocross in the northwest, one of the most dynamic vintage motocross scenes in the whole country.  The website builds community by hosting a chat room and displaying loads of pictures.  Unlike most vintage motocross websites, the Hammer and Tongs website clearly explains the bike classifications.  The organization seems to live up to its admirable goals of making vintage motocross fun, easy, and cheap.

At nine o’clock the track comes to life with the simmer of two strokes.    Practice is well underway when I put on my helmet and grab the bike.  I turn on the gas, push the choke, and stomp on the kick starter.  It fires.  It always has.  I ride slowly down to the entrance and on to the track.

Practice is chaotic, but it’s fun to be finally riding on the track.  Bikes zip past me at daredevil speeds, but I pass a bunch of riders, particularly on an off-chamber corner on the dirt section and in the grass section while braking after the long straight.  I ride just three or four laps and exit the track.  It’s a strategic decision.  I’ve seen enough of the track to know that I can ride it, and I want to conserve my energy.  Motocross is a tough, physically demanding sport; Olympic decathlon champion Bruce Jenner says it’s one of the hardest things he’s ever done.  Todd has his finger on some wisdom when he says “Everyone rides like a twenty year old on the first lap.”  I know that my skill probably exceeds my stamina, so I take it easy. 

I’m in race number four in the 250cc amateur class, and everyone else is lined up at the starting gate when I arrive.  I find a place three or four spaces to the right of the start house, which sits in the middle of the starting line.  I’m relieved just to be here in the right race.  I kill the motor, turn off the gas, and look up.  I’m amazed.  The first turn, a leftie, seems like it’s out there in front of me like a wide-open door, absolutely straight ahead with no one else around.  Through dumb luck I seem to have gotten a great spot.  The far left of the starting line—the classic inside line—seems longer because of its angle with the first turn.  Even though it favors the outside line, the far right is better than the left, but still seems a bit longer than the middle.

The previous race winds down and riders around me on the line begin to fire up their bikes.  I turn on the gas, kick, and it fires.  When the track clears, the starter, dressed in green and white motocross gear, walks down the line and points his flag at each rider.  I nod my head when he points to me.  Everyone’s ready.  He walks briskly to the start house and drops the gate. 

I’m off the line cleanly and a little behind the bikes next to me, but not for long.  I feel like I’ve been shot out of a slingshot—I have no perception of shifting or anything.  I ride on pure instinct and suddenly I’m in front.  Todd tells me later that I hit the first turn one or two bike lengths in front of everyone.  I’ve accomplished the equivalent of a bases-loaded home run in my first at bat—a holeshot in my first race.

Holeshots are great, but they don’t win races.  I ride as fast as I can and stay in front for a while.  On the first lap, I round the corner next to our campsite and Dan and Todd stand by the track and wave me on.  Somewhere in the race, a Honda and Yamaha, clearly the two fastest riders, get around me and leave a big gap between themselves and me in third place.  But I’m not leaving much of a gap between me and a Yamaha in fourth place.  Rough doesn’t bother me, but I don’t like that fast back straight in the grass section with the slight curve and the mud puddle.  And some of the rutted corners in the grass section don’t agree with me.  Late on the last lap, I get passed by the Yamaha.  But I get around it on that downhill off-chamber where I passed people in practice.  We’re close to the finish line near the last tabletop jump, and the Yamaha passes me again. I finish fourth.