Riding my carburetted, six-speed long tranny EXC 200 two-stroke at the motocross track is hard work but that’s been half the fun of it. Over the past few months, I’ve rediscovered my teenage love of motocross. I’ve ridden more motocross over the past six months than I have since I stopped racing competitively at 18. I love all types of riding, any riding really, whether it be enduro, rallying or adventure but my there’s just something about riding a closed circuit that pumps my gas. It’s my first love is motocross and I’ve missed it!
I feel like a kid that’s got no cash riding what I was able to get my hands on. I’m riding the wrong bike at the track with the wrong tranny, the wrong suspension, the wrong tyres and yet loving it. I must admit that now after months on the 200 I do have designs on buying a 2020 Husky TC250 and either a 2019 KTM SX125 or a 2016 SX125. The TC250 so I can have a bike to ride and continue having fun on and working on refining my riding technique. The 125s are a little trickier and I remain undecided on whether to just buy a later model 125 (2019) and mod it or buy a 2016 SX125 as a project bike. It’ll depend on the price gap and the hassle factor, but I do like pottering, so I’m flip-flopping on this one. If I do end up going for the 2016 as a project bike, I plan to transfer the EXC 200 motor into the 2016 SX linkage frame along with nicking the 2016 125’s tranny and replacing the EXC’s six-speed tranny with it. I also want to replace the crank, piston, and head with VHM parts and pair that with a Pro-Circuit works pipe and R304 shorty. The beauty is that I’ll probably be able to by a low-hour 250 (<40) and either of the 125s and all the parts for less than the cost of a new 2023 KTM 250F.
Having ridden a six-year-old bike for the past six months I’ve come to realise just how good modern bikes are. If it’s good enough for Yamaha to recycle their YZ125 and 250 without changes besides BNG from 2008 to 2021, who am I to argue – I’m no pro and I don’t feel the 200 is hindering my track speed that’s for sure. So, I’ve come to appreciate that you can have loads fun riding a six-year-old bike totally unsuited for the track and I don’t need a new blingy model every year. If I couldn’t afford to splurge on my newly coveted but used toys, I’d be more than happy with what I have – I already am. My point is that our own egos and bloody good marketing sometimes create an illusion that makes us buy what we don’t need when we could get away with a lot more for a lot less.
So why motocross at this late stage, and why the hell did it take me so long to venture back onto an mx track? Fear, perhaps? Believing that I was too old for that type of malarky? I suppose it was convenience that prompted me to have a go on the mx track – only because my local enduro practice track has an mx track right next to it. It took me a month to pluck up the courage to give it a go – funny when this is what I was good at as a kid. I raced schoolboy mx at a national level and loved it so why the trepidation? Well, I didn’t own a motocross bike for starters and given that I finished racing before the four-stroke era, jumping a four-stroke wasn’t an exciting prospect so my EXC-F 350 was a non-starter returning to the motocross track as a novice. I remember four-stroke engine braking being so brutal back in the day that it took serious skill to jump them properly. I had a bad crash at Reedy Creek motocross track in Australia back in 2000 on one and I think that’s been a constant contributor to me staying off the mx tracks for so many years. So, I’m at my local one day and I’ve got the little 200 with me and I’m thinking well, it’s the closest thing to a 125. I’m comfortable jumping two-strokes so why not spin a few laps?
Fast forward a couple of months and I’m at the track at least once or twice a week, just having a ball. While the PDS on the 200 is not ideal for motocross it holds its own better than I thought it would. What I’m really loving is the ability to focus on my technical skills on a repetitive loop which is something you just can’t do on an enduro trail. I’m just hitting my braking marks, working on my corner speed, improving my jumping technique, and doing drills – I’ve gone back to basics. I have new purposes and they’re not competitive ones – who said old dogs can’t learn new tricks. Now, every time I go to the track I have a real sense of joy in riding again. The consequence of the Covid restrictions is that I’d lost a large amount of my fitness and put on about 6kg (85kg on a 200 smoker is not ideal). For the first time, rather than approaching training from a preseason standpoint or some type of desire to improve my riding from a competitive standpoint I started off-bike training because I realised that my technique on the bike suffered from being a little bit overweight and unfit. As a result my riding enjoyment suffered because I could only really ride a few laps at a time.
There seems to be a sort of symbiotic cycle because the more I’m enjoying riding the more I’m enjoying training off the bike and what I’m enjoying most is not being driven by some type of time pressured end goal but really training because the results help me have more fun riding. I ride safer, better, and longer and I’m aware that my decision making and cognitive thought on the bike is greatly improved. Best of all, though, is that I’m just smiling all the time under my helmet. I’m riding a two-stroke again and my little 200 just brings back all the joys of my teenage years racing. It’s so different from riding a four-stroke which I’ve been doing for years. Four-strokes make you a little bit of a lazy rider. Riding a carburetted two-stroke there’s no such thing as being able to lug the wrong gear out of a corner or missing your braking points, there’s no being helped by engine braking so you’ve got to be precise to ride a smoker well. I’m a long way off where I would like to be but happy that each hour I spend in search of improvement is in joyful awareness of the fun I’m having.