Our friend Larry of New York City Motorcycles now lives in Japan. He reports from his first opportunity to ride with the Have Fun!! Flat Track club, that took place yesterday.
Kawagoe, Japan 6 February 2022
It’s been a fair few years (in fact exactly a few years) since the stars aligned and I was able to get around an oval. Correction: a doughnut.
The last time, on 4 December 2018, was on this very track – for the oddly-named, immensely fun and wildly-successful Okie Dokie race, organized by Bratstyle founder and Go Takamine, now of Long Beach California.
Coinciding with the Yokohama Hot Rod & Custom Show (Mooneyes) that Okie Dokie race brought together a who’s-who of leading Japanese riders as well international racers including Dimitri Coste, David ‘El Solitario’ Borras , Suicide Machine Co, Scott Noise Cycles, Roland Sands, a plethora from the Deus universe as well as Sideburn Magazine Editor and Publisher, Gary Inman, on the podium of course.
It’s worth noting that even short tracks are typically in the shape of an oval – not a circle. With good reason. An oval affords a two straightaways and two turns. A circle is a constant turn. Different style. But plenty of style.
Off-Road Village in Kawagoe, Saitama prefecture, located just south of Tokyo, is the 38-year project of a former Japan national 250cc motocross champion who raced with Roger DeCoster. The vast ‘village’ he built and maintains is set next to a busy highway, wedged between rice fields and farms. It features beginner to intermediate-level short and long motocross tracks, a small dirt riding school area, lots of parking and an approximately 1/8 mile donut flat track.
Learning how to ride an entire lap sideways requires unique skills. Unique skills are not a problem for the Japanese, in all walks of life. Flat track racing included. It’s logical to conclude that if you can ride a donut well you’ll do just fine on an oval.
My highside crashes three years ago (on a Bratstyle-built SR400 tracker) and again yesterday (on my own Champion frame, Rotax 250, two-stroke CanAm) affirms that regular practice is a good idea.
My CanAm (above) arrived in pieces beginning a couple of months ago. The bike was a complete running bike in the US however to be allowed into Japan without documents, typical of a race-only bike, meant shipping it dissembled as parts. I spent the prior week putting the bike back together. But I hadn’t tried starting the bike before setting off for the 2.5 hour drive from the Shonan Coast in Zushi, Kanagawa Prefecture where I live. The bike is too loud. My humble Japanese neighbours seem pleasantly and reasonably understanding of the regular cluster of motorcycles parading through our quiet hamlet. Firing that two-stroke chamber exhaust would make them aghast.
But the bigger reason for not starting the motor until I was at the track, was to avoid cancelling the trip if it didn’t start up. I figured that if it didn’t start when I was at the track, I would:
A) Have some expert guidance available to troubleshoot any problems.
B) Still have a cracking time catching up with friends and watching them practice.
Vintage road racing for eight years has taught me to be the master of low expectations. If I leave an event in last place but no injuries, the bike didn’t explode and I was able to run my races – that’s a win. Anything on top of that is a welcome bonus. Hearing that Rotax motor crackle to life after a few spins of the starter rollers made me utterly jubilant.
Nothing needed fixing or tinkering. It was the first motorcycle I’ve ever assembled myself without help and it worked great. I did receive some long-distance guidance about oils and setting up my carb but that doesn’t count!
Yesterday’s event was a practice session. No starting lines, just enter and exit the track for as many laps as you like, when you like. I was able to meet and catch up with lots of friends, some I’d met at Okie Dokie and since, such as Kazou from Buddy’s Custom Motorcycles and also Instagram, such as Cheetah and Uribou, Have Fun!! Flat Track and lots of new friends too.
Can’t wait to do it again…and again!