Before I get into this, let me get into a short intro on why this is going to be interesting! I’ve been involved in motocross since I was 3, as most of the people who ride motocross. I got my first Italjet 50 when the Belgian version of Santa Claus came by, it’s my first living memory and I’ll never forget the day. Unfortunately, I only started actually riding motorcycles when I was 21, bought my first KX 125 after I was working for 2 months – and never stopped since. I’ve been involved with it all my life, watching my cousin, and hero, race as a GP privateer in the good old days but also cheering on riders like Stefan Everts, Marnicq Bervoets, Tortelli, Beirer, etc.watch Let It Fall: L.A. 1982-1992 2017 movie online now
Myself, I combined motocross with Belgian enduro racing and endurances the last couple of years, aboard a Husaberg TE 300 – up until today, probably the best bike I’ve ridden yet. But, I got this chance to follow my dreams, on of them, and move to the US, to Houston, TX. Even though I’ll have to work hard to make the best out of my professional career, this is a racing opportunity I have to take. I’ll be riding, training and racing in the US, and this sounded just amazingly awesome to me, my own little American race dream. With the help of a great friend in Houston, I bought a used YZ250 that I’ll share with his son who’s in college, it was an awesome deal, a simple Paypall transaction, and the bike is ready!
I’m not the fastest guy on any track at any point, but I know how to ride for sure! Riding these enduro races gave me so much more technique, I wished I would have done that when I was 23. I have finished 2nd in what would be the C championship in Enduro, and was battling for top 5 positions in the B class last year, so I can ride a bit. Enduro thought me to work on my bikes, and how to ride a bike in such a way that you keep it running for a few hours during the worst conditions in endurance motocross races. You have to feel what the bike does while you’re riding, and I believe I have a good grasp of that. My main goal is to make sure I use my bike for what it’s intended (racing and going fast), but also make sure it gets to the finish… next week as well. My main and proudest accomplishment is probably finishing 24th and 13th the last 2 years in a 12 hour race, followed by all the manufacturers that bring pro teams to the starting line. There’s a total of 105 teams at this event, and my team, on my bike also came in as first amateur team both times. We’re looking to three-peat this August!
I arrived in Houston on February 14th, so the following Sunday, we had to ride! I already knew that the sprocket and chains were almost at the end of their lives, and the 14×52 was also a weird combination to me. The wheel was all the way pushed to the end of the tolerance, which gave gave the bike a really loose feel on the track. I hate to refer to my old blue Berg, as I’m trying to build this relationship with the new blue Yam, but the Husaberg really felt super stable all the time, and I wanted to have the same confidence in the new bike. Besides that, the grips were a bit old, the handlebar position different, but hey, I’m in the US, I’ll ride pretty much anything and have a blast! But this time, and it’s still setting in, I’m going to ride and prepare for at least some racing… The bike has Enzo suspension, but I decided to worry about that later as I’ve always ridden stock.
The bike felt jumpy and unstable, the front felt very loose accelerating, so that needed to be addressed. Of course, we are all a bit mental, probably even more so at a lower level, and we’re going to feel stuff that isn’t really there by just thinking of it, but still, the sprockets needed to be different. The engine is the good old YZ 250, so plenty of power, it sounded great, I just need to make sure I can bring it to the dirt! So the goal of the week: make sure the bike feels good, and come back to this awesome Rio facility next week!
Ordered some Renthal sprockets and a chain from BTO, 13×49 combo, got it delivered and got started. It needs minor skill to change a sprocket, but cutting the chain, and removing the front sprocket bolt is always a bit nerve wrecking. It took us a bit of time, but we succeeded, the rear wheel was in a normal position again, I added new grips, and she was ready to rip. The Yamaha looked so good, I had not been this excited to ride in a while. I also started looking at races to participate, but I hope some people will guide me there, there’s so much choice. It’s like buying detergent over here in the US, I don’t know where to begin let alone which one’s the best.
Back to Rio Bravo, and even though I’ve been here a couple of times, I can’t believe how well this track is prepped every time. You drive up, everything is well organised, everybody’s friendly, this is what motocross should be and I think many people have forgotten this.
As of the first run, I could feel a major difference on the bike. She wasn’t jumpy anymore, I had power in the lower rpms, it was an instant change! Kinda like coming home, you know where all the light switches are and stuff – I had the same feeling and knew what the bike was going to do. In Dutch, we have this saying: “make meters, not noise” – simply meaning that you want to move forward fast without sounding too fast, and that’s what I was able to do again. It allowed me to keep my speed up in the turns, accelerate faster coming out of them, going to the jumps having better momentum and being able to accelerate full throttle when landing. The Renthal 13×49 and the golden oRing chain made a huge difference, I simply had a blast – 120 USD well spent!
Building a race bike really does not have to be expensive. To make a last flashback to my Husaberg, I only spent 400 euro tuning the suspension and gearing, and I had an FMF pipe and silencer, that’s it. But at that 12 hour race last year – where I was lucky to have an ex World Champion, who happens to be a good friend, on my team – we put the fastest lap of the race, during the last lap of the race on the board. Just to confirm the above, building a good race bike does not have to be expensive.
The next thing on my list is checking the suspension. I’ve never set the sag on my suspension myself, so we had to figure it out with the help of Youtube. Easy enough, we all have the world in our hands when we pick up our cell phones. It’s such an easy procedure to do, but after the check up, the setting seemed to be just perfect – 100 mm of travel. I then started playing with the clickers, also something at which people used to help me out back home. I checked and wrote down my rebound setting on the front forks (people, keep a notepad at hand when you do this, this is such an important thing to have!) and decided to test going 2 clicks harder. What a huge difference this made, it was not the right direction, but I did not know 2 clicks would make such a big difference on this Enzo! This is going to allow me really to fine tune this bike!
Anyway, 2 clicks harder is not the direction I felt better on, so we’re going the other way next week – and then we’ll have to test with damping and rear suspension as well. Look forward to it!