By Rowan Page | Published on 2020-11-29
The premise is simple; buy and fix a motorcycle for less than R5 000 then race it in a team enduro for 4-hours. I joined the chat group for the event and was greeted by Mr ‘Petrol Sniffer’, the evil genius behind the event. I was soon bombarded with pictures of bike builds in progress, adverts for what could generously be called scrap, and some great banter. The excitement was building, we had our three-man team, and now we needed a bike.
Despite the laughable budget, there are actually quite a few options out there. To make things a little more interesting there are different racing classes based on the type of motorcycle. Since our one teammate had only ever ridden a motorcycle once, we opted for the most interesting sounding “roadies class”, where all the bikes have road-based chassis. It had nothing to do with us finding a road bike in budget and less than 5km from our offices.
The little Suzuki was in need of some TLC and wouldn’t even start when we went to pick her up. But with our budget, this was honestly a selling point. Some bargaining got the price down and most importantly a knobby dirtbike tyre thrown into the deal.
We cleaned the carburetor and bypassed the rusted fuel tank with a plastic bottle and she was a runner! Our gamble had paid off and now we could focus on getting her race-ready. We pulled off every bit of metal and plastic we deemed ‘not useful’ and were then left with a birds nest of wiring hanging all over the place. Our tactic was simple; start the bike and unplug things. If the bike stalls it was obviously useful, and if it didn’t it could be thrown away! This soon left us with a very manageable few wires which got shoved into a plastic bag, taped up tightly and zip tied to the frame.
These bikes are designed as low-cost commuters which meant a nice cushy seat to make up for the lack of suspension. Being a two-stroke, it also meant that there was separate oil reservoir which metered in engine oil with an interesting split throttle cable. We opted to ditch this and just premix the fuel. Good practice for our rookie teammate who had just bought his first bike; a Kawasaki KDX 200.
We realized that no amount of Pratleys would be able salvage the leaking carburetor but found a very cheap Chinese replacement with a great looking mesh filter. A small wood screw needed to be drilled into the barrel to stop the slide moving out of alignment but after that she was running beautifully. It even had some intake noise!
With about two weeks to go it was onto cosmetics. Lots of cleaning, dodgy engine paint removal, a fresh coat on the tank and a brilliant material seat cover had ‘Greta’ looking seriously fast. Some DIY brake and throttle cables meant she was actually rideable too!
All the while our bike was coming together our team was falling apart. Jaco broke his ankle and was obviously out of contention. His willing replacement then got stuck in Cameroon on a work project. With less than a week to go an old friend ditched his planned cycling race to join our shenanigans. We had our bike and we had a team.
We were constantly being reminded to “keep it cheap” during our builds, yet when we arrived at the race venue this was quite obviously not the case. Designated pit lanes, a marque with coffee stand and registration area, braais, a TV timing board and speakers everywhere. Our bikes might have been half-arsed, but this event certainly wasn’t.
After a mandatory track walk, the teams got busy with last minute preparations ahead of qualifying. Each rider needed to do at least three laps, including one ‘hotlap’ to determine starting positions. We landed up 12th with the only casualties being some bent foot pegs. We bent them back and added some strapping to support them from bending again. This meant we couldn’t use the kickstarter and saw me running in the wrong direction trying to bump start during the Le Mans start. Things went from bad to worse when less than half a lap in the fuel cap went flying off. I was soon passed by the entire field and stupidly drove past the pits thinking I could spot the missing cap on lap two. After failing to do so we stuffed a used coffee cup into a bag and plugged the hole like a cork. It worked a charm and we were racing.
Surprisingly the bike held up very well. Our DIY foot pegs kept bending, we often had difficulty getting the bike started and we even lost our rear axle nut but she kept on going. The track was just challenging enough to keep things interesting and there was some really great racing. It was honestly some of the most fun I have ever had racing.
In the end we finished up in 12th place overall from the 20-odd teams which started the race and 3rd in our roadies class. Our bodies were beaten but not broken and the day provided everything we could have hoped for. Last minute bike fixes before qualifying, first lap drama meaning you need to fight through the pack, and even the emotional rollercoaster of thinking we would not be able to finish. After a crash we thought the frame was bent beyond repair as the rear wheel wouldn’t even turn. It turned out we had just lost the rear axle nut which we salvaged from another bike which really was beyond repair. This camaraderie, these emotions, and the spirit of competition is why I love racing. And this event showed it could be done on even the tightest budgets. What a great way to spend time with mates and get people interested in motor racing. I truly hope there will be more to come, and if there are you should definitely consider it!
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