Thumpers were not something people raced before I quit. There was a Four Stroke Nationals once a year, but those were all one-off custom bikes,
and still not as quick as a two-stroke. The rave reviews of the 426 had me considering one. I had a lot of experience with Open bikes back in
the day and thought it would feel like a lighter, nimbler CR 500. Sadly, I made two miscalculations there. The first was that the bike would
feel fairly similar to the old Open bikes, but with modern suspension and ergonomics. That was not the case. It was noticeably heavier, and
it didn't work well riding point and shoot style. The other problem is back when I rode Open bikes, I was much stronger and the tracks were
less physically demanding
South Metro Motorsports (RIP) in Burnsville had a nearly new 426 on the floor late in the year. It was a trade-in. I was looking at it for
quite a while, probably over a month and no one bought it. As mentioned in the previous installment, I was unexpectedly offered a trade-in
deal. Shortly after, it was in my garage.
There was an eight year gap from when I originally wrote the last chapter to when I finally faced writing this one. I think the reason writing
these last chapters was delayed for so long was because of writing about this particular bike. The exact details of the "starting troubles"
are cloudy, almost like my brain is trying to protect itself.
Because I had the bikes on the list, but had no stories linked to them, a few people had asked me when I was going write about those. Finally, motivated
by what I then called "a need to continue this sequence of pointless recollections and be done with it", this already large collection of stories
began growing again, starting with this painful chapter.
Hereís what I recall, keeping in mind that my memories may be partially inaccurate.
After getting the trade-in during the week, the next Sunday was a race at Mankato, one of my favorite tracks. The bike was in good shape and ready
to go, except that the springs were sprung for someone 80 pounds heavier than I was. The reason I liked Mankato was because of the steep hills.
On this day, I found the breaking bumps at the bottom of the first big downhill were not nearly as fun with a "hard-tail". That only got worse
as the day wore on.
I made it through practice OK, but then on the start of the first moto, I either hit the gate or stalled it by dumping the clutch too fast.
I don't think I'd ever done either of those things at a race, even when I was first starting out. Like I said, the memories are a bit vague.
Anyway, the bike stalled, the gate dropped, and I couldn't get it started. After hearing a bunch of four-stroke derogatory terms and
anti-cam-etic phrases the whole time, this was 2000 after all, I got it going in time to drop in behind the guy in third as he was coming
around for his second lap. My main memory of the second moto is not stalling, and trying not to get bucked off the bike on the big braking bumps.
This would become a common theme. There would be one moto where things went OK, and another that included a lap or so of kicking the bike to the
point of exhaustion. I did get the correct springs in it after that first race, but the bike always felt heavy to me and I didnít have confidence
jumping it. I stopped racing and started riding a near jump-free grass track (the Kettle River property mentioned in the previous chapter). It was
a great bike for that. Unfortunately, that wasn't the kind of track they had races on in 2000. So I went into the end of the year thinking
about selling the bike.
I placed an ad in the local web classifieds with the ahead-of-it's-time phrase, "Willing to trade for good condition two-stroke 250". I
immediately got a phone call from Darwin in Iowa. On a cold day, shortly after New Year 2001, the 426 was gone, replaced with what would become
a long-time member of my garage. A bike that would finally take me to the glory of a year-end award. A bike that would live in infamy.
The bad experience with the 426 soured me to four-strokes so much that I stubbornly clung to the premix-burners way past when that was
fashionable. There are no pictures of this bike. Thatís all I have to say about that.
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Revised October 2017