Off-Season Training -or- You Really Should Have a Tiny Bike!

Just get yourself a little bike and put road tires/wheels on it. Use whatever excuse you need, such as, “I need a pit bike”, “I want to bond with the kid(s) doing something we will all love”, “It may lower our overall insurance bill” (this was true for me with my Allstate policy). Just DO IT!

For the last couple of years I’ve been taking my 2004 Honda CRF100 equipped with 16″ wheels and Bridgestone tires, BBR front and rear springs (and heavier fork oil), and a BBR frame brace to the kart tracks in the off-season. I don’t bother with warmers or any of the usual stuff and it’s a breeze to load/unload. I don’t do it as often as I should but I love it every time I do.

There are 2 tracks I usually go to (Sonoma SIM Raceway and Dixon Kinsmens) and the beauty is that it’s nowhere as formal as a regular track day. There is no riders’ meeting so you don’t need to be shivering or stumbling to the meeting area at 8:00 AM. The headcount on a mixed kart/moto day is usually pretty low, it’s cheap (I used 1 gallon of fuel all afternoon and you can barely tell the tires have been used, and track fees at the two I frequent are $40-$60.

Little bike training on a kart track is really no different from big bikes on a big track. For me, I pick one or two things I want to work on and it’s really easy to focus on those things. Sometimes I’ll run a lap timer and/or camera.

A few of us went out together around noon on a relatively balmy 60F sunny and wind-free day to the Sonoma kart track in early January. I brought my CRF100 (same as an XR100) and my Grom. The Grom is bone stock and the CRF has a small handful of mods. I went out wanting to first try out the Grom on the track, though I can tell you ground clearance with the stock footpegs is a serious impediment. The feelers on the pegs are really short so removing those would have made little difference. Maybe I could have hung off more but when you start grinding the pegs, it kind of gets your attention and I’m not sure I want to do that while I’m aping Marquez.

The CRF100 stole the show though. With the 16″ wheels (12″ on the Grom), the CRF was more stable and the only thing it really lacked was more gearing, though with its drum brakes, going much faster may not be prudent. Despite being nearly 20 years old, the CRF100 had the advantage in acceleration, likely due to its lighter weight and it destroyed the Grom with ground clearance. Going from the Grom to the 100 was always a little sketchy the first few corners because you never really realize just how little braking you have with those tiny drum brakes. It does kind of force your hand to muscle memory to trail brake deep. I’m not sure there’s enough braking power to even cause you to lose the front on the brakes short of a sudden grab or stab.

Even though our big track winter break in Northern California is relatively short, once you’re used to going to the track a couple of times a month, at 6 weeks there are painful withdrawals. Getting out on the kart track doesn’t completely scratch the itch but it helps a lot. Catching up with good friends at any racetrack is a good time too.

2004 Honda CRF100, setup for mini-moto