Excursion: Heaven VMX Vintage Motocross Bulahdelah April 18
Its called Heaven VMX for a very good reason, because racing vintage dirt bikes around an immaculately prepared natural terrain grass track, certainly makes you feel like you have left the earth for a better place.
I had been invited to Bulahdelah by VMX enthusiast and proprietor of Northside Motorcycles Carl Blecher. He had kindly agreed to let me ride some of the bikes in his amazing collection for a story on Motorsport Retro.
Carl brought a smorgasbord of classic machinery along, which were eligible to run in many of the different VMX classes. The line up was mouth watering: an air cooled, mono-shock 1981 Yamaha YZ250 H (Evo 250cc), a 1984 Honda CR500 (Pre 85 263cc and over) which was also air cooled, but sported a front disc brake , a 1983 Suzuki RM250 (Pre 85 250cc) equipped with drums and a single rear shock, an iconic 1981 Maico MC490 (Evo 263cc and over) and my personal favourite, a 1965 Triumph Metisse 6500cc twin cylinder. That bike easily wins the award for best sounding dirt bike in history. It was simply glorious.
When I arrived I was amazed at the setting and the number of people who had camped for the weekend. I wandered around the paddock talking to friendly enthusiasts and snapping shots of the vintage machinery on show. There were families and lots of riders who had brought a couple of bikes. Many of these guys tended to be brand loyal and had a line up of their favourite Husky’s or Honda’s or KTMs.
The usual riders briefing for the 70 participants marked the official start to the day, before kicking into a massive 48 race program. There was a class for just about every conceivable type of bike including racing for juniors and the ladies. The morning races were four laps with three laps being the distance in the afternoon, which was just as well when you aren’t very fit, like me.
After a brief practice, which wore me out, I put me gear on and jumped onto the Suzuki RM 250 for my first race. I must confess to a few nerves lining up with 20 other riders having not raced a motocross or ridden a two stroke since 1988. However once the rubber band starting system had flung away, I was off flat stick into turn one with the sound of buzzing two strokes everywhere. I ended up at turn one somewhere towards the back of the pack with riders going all in all directions and roost pelting me from spinning rear wheels as everyone jostled for position. I began to get the hang of the RM and remembered the art of fanning the clutch to keep it in the powerband and generally had a complete ball. I was utterly toasted by the end of the race, I had arm pump and I thought my heart was going to pop out of my chest.
I did another race on the Suzuki, but I think I was supposed to ride the Yamaha, but being a Vintage MX meeting, nobody seemed to care. It was all just good fun and Carl set me straight about which bike I should ride next.
I raced the YZ250 and like all the bikes I rode on the day, I was impressed at how well it steered, handled and how much usable power it made. It simply didn’t feel like a 29 year old bike. The Yami was a fun bike to ride and was a little easier to keep in the powerband than the RM.
Because we were in Heaven, it rained during lunch time, just keep the dust down and make the track perfect for the afternoon races.
Now that I had caught my breath from the mornings three race and was full of energy from a Kit Kat, I was looking forward to the afternoons events. I had warmed up and was feeling a bit more confident. Then it rained again as I was sitting on the start line on the Suzuki and I was unsure whether to push or take it easy in the slippery conditions. I told Carl I was starting in second gear and he suggested I try first, this worked a treat and I found myself about fifth into tun one. Adrenalin is a wonderful drug and all thoughts of taking it easy evaporated and I just went for it. I passed a few guys around the outside on a turn before an uphill straight and settled into second position. I could hardly believe it and spent the rest of the race looking ahead, too afraid to see if anyone was behind me. I crossed the line in second place wondering what type of bike I should buy so I can keep on doing this stuff.
Carl seemed pleasantly surprised at my finishing position and then entrusted me with the magnificent Triumph Matisse in the final “pre 75 All Powers race”. I had never ridden anything like this bike and I gotta tell you, its a gem. First of all it sounds simply incredible, a big deep four stroke growl that you could hear over in Perth. It’s low, the pipes are hanging out the side, its got twin shocks, its heavy. Just Perfect. The gear shift is on the right hand side where the brake normally is, but Carl and his mate (and previous owner) Gavin Martini, told me not to worry I could probably ride the whole race in second or third gear if needs be, it has that much power and torque. That was the end of my instructions and off I went to the start line.
I selected first gear, gave it some and rocketed off the line. For the first 30 meters or so I had the holeshot, but I couldn’t shift it up into second gear to save my life. Carl later told me that you need to use the clutch, back right off, wait for an eternity then make the shift. Despite my delay, I still managed to enter turn one in about third or fourth place (there weren’t many of us in the race!) . I made my another pass around the outside of my favoutite turn 3 and then it happened. I wound on the power and BANG I hit warp speed. The 650cc’s of twin cylinder British power were unleashed and this thing churned dirt and flung me up the back straight so fast I could barely hang on. The power was smooth as silk, it revved forever and was simply one of the best moments I’ve ever had on a dirt bike.
Then I remembered I was in a race and somehow in second place again and slowly catching Noel Lewis on a 1968 CZ 360SP. I was inching up on Noel, enjoying the Metisses’s well balanced chassis and muscly power and doing all I could, desperately trying to finish my day in Heaven on Cloud 9. In the end however, I didn’t have enough, and Noel took a well deserved win.
Quite simply it was a super day, riding classic dirt bikes on a brilliant track.
Many thanks to Carl for the bikes and all the flaggies, scorers and officials from the Heaven VMX club who made the event possible. I think you will be seeing me again!
Now….. what sort of bike to buy?
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