Friday, November 2, 2012

New Oklahoma Off-Road Race Series

We have always felt that the best way to learn how to ride a motorcycle is out in the dirt. It teaches you a lot about the bike moving around underneath you, how to fall (and get back up) and how not to fall. With that said our roving reporter, Jason Hubbert, participated in an Oklahoma racing series after gaining a little confidence with his KTM dirt bike. Here's what he learned from the..

Great Series with an Odd Name
Jason loves playing in the dirt

The ATV Motion series is quickly becoming Oklahoma’s premier dirt bike racing series. As a dirt newbie, I’ve talked with several fellow Oklahoma dirt bikers about racing, asking where to get started. The answer was, consistently, ATV Motion. Since then I have attended ATV Motion races as both a spectator and a rider. Even though I don't ride an ATV, making this race my first event was wonderful advice.

Kevin O’Laughlin is the owner and series promoter of ATV Motion. I talked with Kevin and found out that the ATV Motion series will be getting a new name in 2013: “The Oklahoma Hare Scramble Championship Series.” Scroll down for a link to their website. There you can find information about classes, race fees, rules and event schedules.

I quizzed Kevin about ATV Motion- and the new Hare Scrambles series...

Jason: The ATV portion of the name would seem like it would be primarily 4 wheelers or side by sides. Did the series start out as an ATV only event?

Kevin: We started ATV Motion in 2009, really just to have some fun one off events. It was quad only and the events were 3 hour team races. In 2010 we decided to make it a series and ran 7 races, including a night race. In 2011 we expanded our series to 9 events and added dirt bike classes. We also held our first awards banquet in Stillwater which really helped legitimize our series. For 2012 we kept the 9 event series and added a few more classes. Our rider count continues to grow and we're planning another awards banquet on November 10th.

Jason: The name is changing from ATV Motion to Oklahoma Hare Scramble Championship Series for 2013. Would you like to expand upon that a bit?

Kevin: We're excited about our new name for 2013 and it is already being well received. It better represents what we're about and people will no longer think we're quad only! For 2013 we'll be adding a couple of new locations to the schedule and we're also investing in a RFID system that will score you automatically via a RFID tag. Our reputation and the new name has helped bring in new sponsors so that we can continue to grow and expand our series.

Jason: Thank you Kevin. From what I have seen so far the series is doing very well and hope to see it continue to grow. Any additional information you would like to add?

Kevin: Sure, our goal is to provide fun and affordable racing for the whole family. We do our bests to keep our costs down and keep the racing affordable. We’re looking forward to 2013 and hope that everyone will come out to see us.

JT Powersports with the basics
As an addition to the ATV motion series, Jeremy Thomas of JT Powersports is bringing a parts truck with various gear and parts for the racers. The selection is expanding as Jeremy fine-tunes what he needs to provide in case a part breaks or a rider forgets something. As a bonus, JT Powersports has now added concessions for thirsty and hungry spectators and racers.

After watching both of the Wolf’s Den races, I decided it was finally time to stop being a spectator and enter my first race. In preparation, I talked to various racers and people directly involved with ATV Motion. It is a very welcoming series, even for a super new, super slow guy like me. I received a lot of pointers on the what/how/why of hare scrambles, as well as general knowledge and tips from all of the more experienced racers. If you are looking for a series to get started racing in, this is THE ONE to try out.

I decided I would ride in the Stillwater round. I have ridden that track before so it wouldn’t be totally unfamiliar territory. The nerves kicked in around Wednesday. I was going to ride in a race. What was I THINKING?? I kept a lid on the nerves and just kept reminding myself what other racers had told me: “Don’t stress, if you need a break, take a break, you’ll see a lot of people doing the same, you won’t be alone”.

Jason's first start
Race day!! Nerves have kicked into high gear. I have only set one goal for myself today: to start the race. Anything after starting the race is a bonus. If I make it three turns, bonus; if I make it half a lap, bonus; if I make it a full lap, super awesome bonus! The most nerve-wracking part of the whole day was standing in line to sign up to race. This is it, I’m signing up to race, I’m going racing! I calmed myself by repeating, “If you went to the MX track you’d be paying 20 dollars to ride on a race track. This is the same thing; you’re paying 25 dollars to ride on a race track.” It helped a bit.

Lined up in the very back of the pack, I newbed it up a bit as I sat there revving the bike to keep it warmed up. This got me the stink eye from about 15 riders and I was told to “TURN IT OFF” because Kevin was talking. Woops. The race starts and the lines of riders start off. Finally, it gets to the trail riders line and here we go. 30 seconds. 10 seconds. GREEN FLAG!! The KTM starts on the first kick, I drop it into first gear and try to make sure I’m one of the last riders off the line so I don’t get in anyone’s way. After keeping up with the pack and passing a few stalled riders, I’m by myself. That’s ok by me - if I’m by myself then I’m not getting in the way of fellow riders. The course is awesome, probably the best I’ve seen the dirt at Stillwater. I’m racing and having a great time!

Staying upright in the woods
Coming out from some single track, I toss the front and drop the bike. After I get it back up and going again, the back tire feels like it’s gummed up with mud. I pull off the trail and find the brakes completely locked. I had adjusted the rear brake travel the day before and somehow it has worked its way all the way up so that the rear brake pedal has no travel. I lose time trouble-shooting the issue but get it lined out and I’m back on the trail. The only problem is that it took enough time that the expert riders have caught up to me. I pull over and the fast guys are barreling through the section I’m on. My goggles start to fog up so I decided to take a break. With the pace that riders were coming by, I would have been pulling off the trail for someone every 15-20 seconds anyway. As I was sitting it out and letting people by, I had more
than a few of the riders ask if I was ok as they were passing by. Nice show of camaraderie there.

After I had been passed by basically everyone I was back on the track with a clear trail. I was having fun, was super tired, and had yet to complete a lap. As I’m coming up on a tall hill I notice a rider on the side of the track. Her bike has locked up and won’t turn over. I’ve already been lapped by everyone so I stop to take a look at it. A quick try at kick-starting it and I can tell there’s something wrong. The young lady advises me that she has already told people to let her dad know she is stranded. She asks me to help push her bike to the top of the hill. “The bike is light weight, so if I can get some help getting it up this hill I can probably just push it back to the start” she says. I oblige and we get it pushed up the hill. As I was gearing back up to see how far it was from the open fence section to the regular road, her dad comes walking through the woods and finds her – he had headed her way once they found out she was having bike issues. I said good luck and then headed on my way.

At this point I’ve dropped the bike, I’ve worked on the bike, and I’ve helped someone else push their bike up a hill. I’m absolutely tired. But, the race is still going, bike is still going, and I’M GOING TO AT LEAST FINISH ONE LAP! Determination sets in. I know this section of Stillwater, I can feel that I should be close to the finish line. I’m cruising right along, moving off trail for faster riders who come up on me. Then the back tire feels gummed up again. I pull over and yes, the nut has worked itself back up so that it’s locked the rear again. This time I know what it is, I hardly even take off any gear, just dive into my tool kit and get the tools to fix it.

He finishes!
If determination was in the mix before, now it has absolutely taken over. I would have pushed my bike to the finish line from where I was if it meant finishing the lap. It was somewhat of a zen moment riding that last bit of trail to the finish line. Hitting what I know is the very end part of that section and knowing the finish is SO close just makes me ride faster. It’s a wonderful feeling. Then FINALLY, there it is…the finish line. I get to see the checkered flag, I get to hear the beep as my helmet is scanned, and I’m done.

I did the 11 mile lap in 1 hour, 52 minutes and 44 seconds. I was in absolute last place, but LOVED it. Rode back to the truck and heard shouts of “Great job” and got several pats on the back from my buddies. It was truly a great time and experience. Even with the mechanical issues and coming in last, I would definitely do it again. ATV Motion is set to soon be the “Oklahoma Hare Scramble Championship Series”. Its definitely a great series, no matter if you’re an old school veteran racer, a newbie like me, or a full blown hare scramble addict that runs every race they can find in the area.

Learn more at Oklahoma Hare Scramble Championship Series

Words and photos by Jason Hubbert, Two Wheel Oklahoma correspondent.

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