MX Bob Bike History - Portion 9
1980 KTM 250
1981
Bailey School on a Budget

In what was my first motorcycle swap, I traded even-up for this bike. It was a year older, but a good bike for its time, and most importantly to me at the time, not a 125. This bike had a lot of power. The only 250s that would pass me on a straightaway would be the 81 Yamahas. Many people did not like how KTMs handled, but I thought it turned quite well once I got used to it, and it was quite stable at higher speeds.

Late in the summer of 1980, the bike and I attended a four-day, Gary Bailey Motocross School. It was at his home in Axton, Virginia, the storied Lake Sugar Tree motocross track. David was still helping at the school. That was the year that he was getting factory Kawasakis, but wasn't actually on the factory team. He had shown glimpses of raw speed, and always picture-perfect form, but I donít think too many people would have predicted a string of championships, starting two years later.

The week turned into more of an adventure than I thought it would. I had managed to get leave for a week in order to go to this school. I had just cashed my check and had over $200 in cash on me. I had paid for the four day school, but not the food and lodging. I was going to pay for that when I got there.

The first pitfall was my wallet falling out of my pocket while I was in the bathroom on the ship. (I guess head would be the correct sea-fairing term for such a room, but not using Navy terms was my little, immature in retrospect, protest). By the time I discovered the wallet was gone, (about 2 minutes later) and went back, it was gone. Someone in an adjacent stall had his monetary dream come true, but I was now broke, with my vacation scheduled to start in about three hours.


SME Motocross Park, Dilwyn, Virginia   1981 Photo by Doug Burba
I think I'm in second early in this 250B race. The jearsy was from a shop in Minnesota. Check out all the yellow in the background.

After only two hours of filling out forms and waiting, I was able to get a partial advance from my next paycheck. The budget for the week had gone from a rather robust at the time, $240, to a very tight $70. Instead of staying in the Bailey's comfortable rooms, eating their food, and hanging out with the other students, I was now going to have to sleep in my van and live off of peanut butter sandwiches and Gatorade for most of the week.

The school went pretty well the first day. I few people were giving me a lot of grief about riding a KTM. The white machines were pretty rare back then. I would always be the only guy in my race with one, and there would maybe four or five other riders of the white and orange racing total, all of whom I knew.

Towards the end of the first day, the kick starter stripped and would not stay on. It needed to be replaced and that wasn't going to happen. From that point on, when I stopped, I would have to park close to wherever I left the kick starter, or towards the top of a hill. Sometimes, I would be the last one with my bike still running when Gary was getting ready to explain something. This irritated people and only gave them more ammunition for the "KTMs are junk" crusade. (You know who you are you New Jersey-living, 1981-Gary-Bailey-school-going, Italians). The other bad part of this was that I would often miss the first few seconds of what he was trying to explain and would be the last one out when we started riding again.

On the last day, we were doing our morning trail ride. It was single file, and the rule was that if you touched the ground with your foot, you were supposed to go to the back of the line. I was in the back (I think I may have been self-enforcing the rule more honestly than other people) when someone in front of me ran over a yellow jacket hive. By the time I got to that section of the trail, they were swarming. At least two of them flew inside of my full face helmet and stung me. They were all on the same side of my face, but instead of distinct lumps, the whole half of my face was swollen. It wasn't immediately noticeable. People that knew me would kind of look at me puzzled, knowing something wasn't quite the same, and then finally ask, "Is there something wrong with your face?"

The school ended Thursday and from there, I was going to a race. SME was near a little town called Dilwyn, about halfway between Richmond and Charlottesville. They had races Saturday and Sunday, but I was going to get there Friday, so I wasn't sure how that was going to work. Thursday night, I couldn't sleep at the Bailey's anymore and I thought that I couldn't camp at the track until Friday, so I slept on the side of the road (inside my van obviously).

I had never had to sleep in the back with my bike before. It was taking up a lot of the space in my usual bed, but at least it wasn't stealing the covers or snoring. Sleeping alone and unarmed in that isolated stretch of back-country road did bring back memories of scenes from the B-grade, horror movies I had seen way too many of at Lucky Twin Drive-In. So I had that to occupy my mind, at least.


SME Motocross Park, Dilwyn, Virginia   1981 Photo by Doug Burba
The famous SME "Mound". This was quite a bit of air for how steep it was.

After a few hours of somewhat unrestful sleep, I drove to the track, SME. I can't remember what SME stood for, but it's called something else now. They didn't close the gate, so I probably could have slept there Thursday. I just kind of hung out and watched them to do a bit of track maintenance Friday. As it turned out, "just a bit" of maintenance was all they usually did.

I was kind of tired from sleeping in my van all those days in a row, from riding four days in a row, and playing Kill-ball four days. (Not so little known fact - Gary would cheat so that his team would always win. As the luck of the week would have it, I was on David's team every day.) I had a lot of new habits to develop, so when I raced Saturday, I struggled mightily. I finished behind guys I normally beat. I still didn't have a kick starter I could ride with, which meant if I crashed or stalled during the race, I had to bump start it somehow.

Sunday, they over-watered the track before practice, and the week's frustrations finally got to me and I just decided not to race that day. I think that's the only time that I didn't race when I was at a track on race day and there was nothing seriously wrong with me or my bike.

On the way back, another rider was following me through Richmond because he wasn't sure how to catch the road towards Norfolk. I'm not sure if I ever had anyone follow me back from the races before or after that, but it was very fortunate that he was.

We stopped at a 7-11 on the outskirts of Richmond to get something. When I went to leave, my van would not start, despite our efforts at jumping it. We knew someone that raced that lived nearby, and my friend had their phone number (which was a big deal pre-cell-phone). They picked us up, took us back to their beautiful house, and fed us. We couldn't get my van running so I caught a ride to Norfolk with my friend. I got in at about two in the morning and I had to get up at five. Nothing like getting back from your vacation four hours before you have to work, with a malformed face, broke, and your van 90 miles away and broken.

So what happened to the van, you ask? I got a ride to Richmond the next weekend and my van was fixed. The person who helped us owned a trucking company and sent a work truck over to fix it. I guess it needed a new battery and alternator. He didn't want any money for fixing it. I'll always remember his generosity. It was no big deal to him, but I didn't know how I was going to pay for it. If Eubanks Trucking is still in business, you should do business with them. If someone from there is reading this (like that's real likely), I'll gladly put a link to your web page on my site. Iím sure those 4 hits a day this site gets is really going to make your business take off. This wasn't the first time I had experienced an act of kindness when my low budget got me in trouble. Looking back, I was very blessed.

Back to the supposed subject of this chapter, the bike. Eventually, the techniques that I learned at the school started to sink in and I got faster. Back then, most amateurs didn't use the clutch all the time like I had learned to do, even A-Class guys. I was ahead of my time in clutch abuse. The bike handled it fine. I never had to change the plates. Towards the end of the season, I started earning trophies fairly regularly in B class. I stopped riding it when I got my new bike. I don't remember much about selling it other than the usual take a big loss, get less than I was hoping, experience.

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Revised May 2017