I am finally recuperating from our wild trip to Baja to race the Mexican 1000. Here is a recap of the event.
After tons of preparation we were finally getting the last minute details all wrapped up to head south. It was just Neena and I for this trip, so we invited Davey Kamo to come along to help with the driving. As it turned out I had taken a hit in the ribs two weeks before the race, so I drafted Davey to help with the riding also. This would leave Neena to do some of the driving by herself.
Regardless of how much prep I did leading up to the race, there were some last minute issues that popped up, such as realizing that some of the front wheels I had did not fit the bike. Then there was the nagging issue of a sticking throttle that gave me some scary moments.
Davey and I did some last minute testing in the desert before leaving and he was quite impressed with the bike, both the handling and power. So with everything loaded we headed for Tecate to cross the border and drive on to Mexicali where the event would start.
It was great to see the wide array of bikes and trucks that showed up for the race. Most of the really cool machinery was of the four wheel variety. Various Honda XR600’s along with a few 250 and 500’s mostly represented the motorcycles. There were two Huskys, a 390 and 510, both of which would get clear to the finish. I hope in the future to see a broader spectrum of old iron to fill out the field.
My buddy Mike Garvin came down to help support us for the first day. Neena drove straight to Laguna Chapala and we needed a chase truck to get through the first few sections.
At the start of the race, Larry Roseler led all the bikes off the line. Larry was not really racing; he was participating in the exhibition class on a new Husky 511txc. I was the first race bike off the line. Right off the bat, I made a wrong turn. About a mile later, I realized my error as I could see the trail of dust off to my left on the Laguna Salada lake bed. I cut cross-country to get back on track.
Once on the long lake bed I immediately knew that I did not have enough gearing. The 250 KTM topped out pretty quick. The surface of the lake was very soft so I had to stay to the road. The road develops along a dry line each season depending on the conditions. So it sort of meanders along. Fortunately, this kept the speeds to something more reasonable that “flat out”.
I kept expecting to get passed by one of the Hondas, but no one ever came by. Once I looked back and saw the huge dust cloud I was raising and figured it would be difficult for anyone to get too close. I was very fortunate to be first of the bikes off the line. At the end of the first section I was all alone, not another bike in sight. It had taken me 66 minutes to cover 73 miles on a twenty-year-old 250 two stroke.
After a 60-mile transfer section, I started into the second test, Laguna Diablo to San Felipe. Here the lake bed is smooth and flat, but only about 10 miles long. I could have used far more top speed. Things were better once I hit the whoops sections. The KTM was handling great and was super fun to ride. I had a couple of big swaps but kept it upright. I did have the throttle stick once and that gave me a scare. I just put the bike in fifth gear and cruised through the rocky whoops into the garbage dump. So I lost a little time but not too much.
The organizers allowed the motorcycles to be loaded up and hauled through the transfer sections. Therefore, once I hit San Felipe we took advantage of this and drove it down the road to Puertocitos to start the 3rd test of day one. I felt a little bad about not riding it the entire route, but with a two stroke I knew the challenge to get it all the way to the finish line in La Paz so I wanted to conserve it as much as possible.
Davey got on for the last section and I knew he would do well on it. Much of the road past Gonzaga Bay had been recently graded and was very fast. Again, we needed way more top speed. Davey was the fastest bike through this section by some 6 minutes. I used the chase bike, my 450 KTM, to follow along later. I caught up with Davey and Neena at the overnight stop in Bay of Los Angeles.
We had a flawless day of riding and I knew our result should be good. Other than LR we never saw another bike the entire day. We did a quick service and check on the bike before turning in for the night. I could tell the bike was a little down on compression, but it was running well so I decided not to worry too much about it.
I checked the results to find that we were leading all the bikes by about 15 minutes, with Gabe Williams in second place. Gabe had gotten lost on day one and had some tire issues. It would have actually been easier if we had not been in the lead. We could have chosen just to cruise and conserve the bike. However, as it was we just decided to go for it and try to keep our lead.
I had a long section to start the day, Bay of LA to Vizcaino. I carried an extra gallon of gas to make sure I had enough range to get to the Baja Pits location at about 80 miles. I was 15th off the line, our overall position, and had to suck plenty of dust behind buggies as we headed towards El Progresso.
I got some clean air around mile 60 but I then had to stop and pour my gas. Once going again, I start to back off the throttle just to make sure I can make it to the pit. Now, typically the sign for Baja Pits is posted about a mile before the actual pit. I see the sign in a corner and flash by, expecting the pit to come up soon. About a mile later I begin to wonder if I had made a mistake and perhaps the sign was at the actual pit location, although I had not seen anything, there were plenty of people around that area.
At that exact moment, I feel the bike run out of gas! I cannot believe I had made such a mistake, totally rookie move. Gabe had started 5 minutes behind me and after a few minutes he comes by. He stops and I explain the problem. He offers me some fuel and I have two stoke oil with me. So a few minutes later, I cautiously make my way backwards to the pit as Gabe continues on.
Overall, I lose about 15 minutes with my gas fiasco before getting going again. About the same amount of time I had been leading by to start the day. I ride well to finish the section. Again, as it opens up past El Arco, I need way more top speed. The 15/46 gearing on the wide ratio KTM gives me 72 mph at ¾ throttle, but on a big sand road that hardly feels faster than walking speed.
At the end of the section we load up and head for San Ignacio where Davey will ride the longest stage of the event, 175 miles past San Juanico and La Purisima before ending the day in Loreto.
Neena and I watch him leave the start and then we drive on south to meet him at the stage finish at Rosarito. As we arrive there, Gabe had just come through and LR is sitting at the finish. As I had lost time earlier, they were both physically ahead of us on the course now. Oh yes, and by this time LR had decided that he really didn’t much care for the idea of someone else being faster than him. So he was sort of back into race mode.
I expect Davey to arrive at any time, but as the minutes go by and he does not show up, I soon know that something has gone wrong. In racing old motorcycles, it is just something that you have to expect. The next rider through is Keith Webster and he tells me that he saw Davey working on the bike near San Juanico. So that is it, we have broke down and the bike is about 70 miles of bad dirt road away.
After most of the vehicles have passed, I decide to take the chase bike and head out to find Davey. Otherwise, he is looking at spending the night out there. I find him at the Mag 7 pit at just about dark. The top end has seized and lost compression. It is nothing major and we have the parts to do fix that so I suggest we tow him out and attempt to make repairs.
The first section is new pavement and easy going. Once we hit the dirt, I realize that towing 60 miles of bad dirt in the dark is not going to be very practical. We decide to head for Ciudad Insurgentes. I have not been on that section of road before, but it should all be paved. As it turns out the pavement is in ugly condition, full of potholes and dirt sections. It takes us three hours in the dark and cold to get into Insurgentes and we are both exhausted.
That is all we can do for one day. We grab a quick taco and inquire about finding a room for the night. We end up finding one room with one bed, but it will have to do. It is 11pm, we have been up and racing since 5 am. I have tried to get in touch with Neena, but cell service is poor. She finally calls about 2am, as she gets back to Loreto after waiting for us much of the night. She is exhausted too, but we make a quick game plan for her to come to us in the morning.
Check out all the pictures in the Gallery
I don’t think any of us got more than a couple hours sleep all night, Davey and I sharing a bed in Insurgentes and Neena by herself in Loreto. When she catches up with us in the morning, we have already grabbed some breakfast and are ready to tear into the bike. I have a spare piston and cylinder; both are used but still look fairly good.
It took us about an hour and a half to do the top end. We were already missing the first test of the day, so there was no real hurry to get things done. We would incure a huge time penalty, but at this point, the only real goal left was to get to the finish line.
Once back together, the 250 fires to life on the first kick. A quick run up and down the street and I pronounce it ready to go. We head off to start the final test of the event in Ciudad Constitution.
I start the section slowly, wanting to make sure the bike would make it the whole way, but I soon decide that the bike was good to go so I put my head down and get into race mode. At about 70 miles, I meet up with Davey and fuel the bike. I let him hop on and take the KTM to the end of the section while I ride out later. As it turns out, we almost win that stage, finishing about 2 minutes behind Keith Webster.
When we roll into La Paz we are all pretty exhausted. It is nearly 100 degrees out and we were feeling the effects of a couple of very long days. Regardless, we are ecstatic to be there at the finish line. I would have liked to win the whole thing, but getting to the finish was the first goal.
I am disappointed about breaking down. I think I have some ideas about how we can minimize that chance next year. This includes; drilling oil holes in the piston, taller gearing, richer jetting and a bar mounted choke to richen the mixture on long runs. Other than that, the bike was so much fun to ride that I am more than ready to give it a go again.
After taking some pictures at the finish line and enjoying a very cold Tecate, we both strip down and take a dive in the ocean. It feels great to get cooled off and enjoy the end of the journey. By choosing not to ride a Honda XR, we certainly took the more difficult route to get there, but I think it was all worth it.
I want to give a shout out to all the great competitors that made the journey so much fun. Riding with LR was great, hope to see him on a race bike next time. The bike overall win went to Gabe Williams who was followed very closely by Keith Webster. For complete results see the Norra Website
I have to give big thanks to everyone who helped out with this project:
Javier Gonzales at Trail Tricks, Tom Moen, Neena, Fastway/Pro Moto Billet, Fasst Company, Scotts Performance, No Toil, Mike’s Cycle, John Moore, Ebay, Ron Bishop, Craigslist, FMF, Sicass Racing, Vintage Speedy, Baja Pits