The engine on the heavily modified CR500 barked beneath me as I looked up the hill, the phrase ďbe careful
what you wish forĒ ringing in my head. I had said several times, in more than just passing, that Iíd like
to try a full-on hillclimb bike sometime. That time was now and I was genuinely scared on a motorcycle for
the first time in many years.
Hillclimb was sport I had read about over the years, but I had never been to an event or even seen anyone
practicing. The machines always looked so trick and exotic, I couldnít imagine ever being a good enough
mechanic to set up or maintain one, let alone build it, so I never really gave trying the sport much thought
until about fifteen months earlier. At that point in time, I was, in an oddly George Plimpton-like manner,
trying other forms of competition and writing articles about my experiences. The next one I was going to try
was Hillclimb, but the timing didnít work out until almost a year later.
The original plan was to use my 2003 YZ250 with minimal modifications, but earlier this year, Blair Schmidt
of Marystown Minibikes, told me that he had a 1985 CR500 in his inventory that was originally set up for
hillclimb. He had never ridden it with the hillclimb set-up and expressed interest in trying it. When I later
told him about the Kato Cycle Clubís upcoming Saturday Night Hillclimb, he told me heíd be there with the bike
and that I could ride it, assuming the standard buy-what-you-break terms.
Like many of the 500cc or smaller bikes that I saw at the event, the primary modifications to the CR were the
stretched swingarm (helps keep the front end down), the wide rim and tire, and very aggressive tuning. Earlier,
Blair put the stock swingarm back on and tried riding it around a motocross track. He described the motor as,
ďa 500 two-stroke tuned like a 125Ē and "unrideable (sic) on a moto track". If I wasnít nervous enough about
riding it already, that grim assessment didnít exactly leave me brimming with confidence as my date with
the bike and the hill approached.
Working my way back to my eventual pit space, Iím sure my driving suffered as I was becoming mesmerized by all
of the trick bikes. Upon closer examination, most of the really radical ones were in the 600cc, 750cc, or
Open class. Most of the 450cc and below entries, as well as many in the 600 class, looked like they were
modified motocross bikes. I would later find out that the class structure for the smaller machines was
similar to AMA motocross.
You got a love a sport where 250 motocross bike and a Buell can both compete.
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