• Sarah Merrell

Small Bikes, Big Fun

Imagine this: You're inches from the ground going 45+ mph down a back straight heading into a 90 degree turn with a bike right in front of you you're looking to pass. You hold the throttle open just the tiniest bit longer and there's no space to the inside so you dive into the corner on the outside--the pass is so close you rub elbows but maintain your position as you navigate a tight chicane, knee down, right, left, right. But as you head into the final corner before the front straight and checked flag, you forget that you're on squirrely 10" wheels and you're in a parking lot that sometimes has debris so smoothness is key--you whack the throttle coming out of the turn and BOOM. You're down and take a handle bar right in the gut. But you grab for the clutch before it dies, throw a leg back over and keep going. Because you know the pain is worth a podium finish and it's nothing a few post-race beers won't fix. That right there is pit bike racing in a nut shell with Fiddies 4 Life, the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort pit bike race series.

The Race Series

Fiddies 4 Life started about 10 years or so ago when a few guys with pit bikes thought it would be fun to race each other. As more people became interested and wanted to race, the races increasingly became more organized and incorporated rules and a point system. A twisty track is set up in the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort parking lot marked with cones, tires and hay bales. Typically there are anywhere between seven and 15 racers that compete each race. It's conducted just like most motorcycle races. Each race starts with a practice session followed by a 5-lap qualifying race and then the final 10-lap race.

The Bikes

All bikes are given a tech inspection to ensure they meet the guidelines. Bikes must be 88cc or less and have 10" tires. When it comes to racing, it's an inexpensive way to do so. You can get a used Honda XR or CRF 50 for around $300 to $500. The bikes typically have modifications like a big bore kit, taller handler bars, after market exhaust and stiffer springs, but the parts aren't pricey, so between the bike and the mods you're looking at about $1,200. Which for a race bike is pretty cheap. The race series also requires racers to wear full leather suits, full face helmets, gloves and boots.

How Does It Differ From a Big Bike?

We often have people who race sportbikes come out and race and they assume that if they're fast on a sportbike, they'll be fast on a pit bike. But they find it to be surprisingly different. It takes a lot of practice to get the starts down. There's a lot of power and torque packed into these little bikes so controlling the bike on the starts isn't always easy. Then there's the 10" tires. Having a knee on the ground in corners is a must since it helps provide stability--it's like creating tripod. Also, the track is small and the turns are very tight, so for those not used to super tight turns, it can be a real challenge.

How It Can Help Your Riding

A lot of what I've learned while racing the pit bike has translated to riding my DRZ 400 Supermoto and my R6 sportbike. First of all, it's helped me get more comfortable with passing on the track. When someone passes me closely, it doesn't bother me because I'm used to it. And then it also helps me have the confidence and knowledge to know how to make good passes myself. It's taught me the importance of choosing good lines and looking ahead to where I'm going and preparing for the next turn. It also teaches smoothness. If you romp on the throttle or brake too hard, you'll very easily lose traction. These bikes are a constant battle between speed and traction, and the racers who do well are the ones who are smooth and refrain from overly abrupt throttle and brake inputs. I think the most important thing I've learned from pit bike racing though is tenacity. It's not easy to get back on when you've had a bad wreck. So in a lot of ways, it's made me a stronger person.

How to Get Involved

The Fiddies 4 Life race schedule is posted on the Facebook page. It doesn't cost anything to come out and watch. The races typically start with practice at 8 p.m. and races at 9 p.m. The track is well lit so headlights aren't needed. New racers are welcome to come race. It's $20 per race or $60 for the season. As long as your bike and gear meet the requirements, you're good to go!

Whether you're a spectator or racing, pit bike racing is a fun sport you won't want to miss. I mean, what's not to love about a bunch of adults battling it out on mini bikes?

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