10 Things I Learned At My First GNCC

An Off-Road Racing Adventure At The Limestone 100

Coming from a background of 70+ mph, dust-filled bomb runs in the wide open California deserts, I couldn’t wait to race what I thought would be a slower, tamer discipline of motorcycle racing: the Limestone 100 GNCC. East coast Hare Scramble racing was something I always read about in the magazines and had always wanted to try because it looked like perfect traction and perfect weather. The weekend before I left for Indiana to race alongside the N-Fab AmPro Yamaha team, I raced one last Local D-37 enduro in the dry California desert. This was my private farewell to the loose dirt, large rock gardens, and beat up race courses that I grew up competing on. Little did I know how far I would be from my proverbial comfort zone, and how much I would be doing the lesser-known “dust dance” in an attempt to dry up the dark skies when I finally arrived in Indiana.

After a fun weekend of being pushed outside of my comfort zone, I am pleased to bring you this list of 10 things that I learned while racing my first GNCC:

1. Believe the weather forecasts when they call for rain if you're east of the Colorado River. Being from drought-ridden Southern California, I laughed when I saw that the weather report called for rain. Well, to my surprise, I was wrong—very wrong! It not only rained like it was supposed to, but the skies opened up for about 12 hours longer than scheduled.

2. Following the theme of #1, I would advise anyone who, like myself, has never traveled (this was actually my first time on a plane) to pack for all weather conditions, even if your buddies tell you not to worry about it and that winter is over. Since I didn't pack warm clothes in my travel bag I often found myself rummaging through my gear bag trying to find thick riding socks, or my folded up raincoat in my fanny pack. Yes, I was "that" Californian!

3. On the east coast, unlike the west, dark brown dirt does not equal traction. When we arrived for the test day, I was thrilled to see that the rain had left a freshly tilled private track chocolaty brown. Using my California state of mind, I charged into the first corner, grabbed the brakes and, to my surprise, not only did the bike not slow down but as I looked over I saw the rear end of the bike starting to slide past me. From that point on I learned that in Indiana, dark dirt was more reminiscent of an oil slick than traction-filled chocolate cake.

4. Going fast is almost as important as minimizing mistakes. While racing through the sloppy woods I realized that just because the actually mph wasn't high, keeping speed in the sloppy, tight, east coast conditions is its own kind of fast, one that comes from riding well. Although I never got out of 4th gear in the 2hr 19min I was racing, I felt as though I was speeding along at a blistering pace, but I was hampered by silly mistakes. I have never ridden so fast with my feet dangling off the pegs like a ballerina! The bike felt vaguely like a trenching machine, going through ruts deep enough to catch the swingarm and lose all forward momentum. Lesson learned: Don't just ride fast: ride well!

5. I will never complain about desert rock gardens again after riding mossy, muddy rocks. I figured that the rocks would be muddy and slippery but to my surprise they felt more like small, icy igloos than rocks!

6. As with #5, I will never complain about the dusty desert again. Although it's hard to see through dust, at least you can wipe your lenses. I learned that wiping your goggles in a mud race is a horrible, horrible idea. Luckily, I still had some tear offs left. I had done a good prep with a small, folded, duct tape visor over the tear offs and an old goggle lens duct taped to my visor, but part of me wished it was dusty!

7. Randy Hawkins is the man when it comes to taping hands, I have some decent calluses built up but Randy warned me that because of the wet weather I should tape my hands. His patented technique worked wonders and I was blister free after two hours of racing! See how he does it at dirtrider.com/hawkins-hand-taping.

8. Respect all disciplines of motorcycle racing; it's not that I thought racing a GNCC would be easy by any means, but I have a higher level of respect for east coast riders after this experience. After two plus hours I was tired of holding my feet up through the ruts; I'm sure doing it for another hour like the pros (who race for three full hours) would not be pleasurable.

9. Just because you're out of your comfort zone doesn't mean you can't win. Being that this was a Yamaha press race for the 2015 YZ250FX, I was pre-entered in the sportsman B class, which is where all media outlets were entered. My main competition were the other outlets, and after being lucky enough to get the holeshot, I was able to distance myself from the pack, win the class, and finish 15th overall in the morning race. Who knew?!

10. No matter where you are, off-road racers are good people. As I always do before a race, I shook the hands of the racers on either side of me at the starting line and they both struck up friendly conversations (even if they did ask me if we had enough water left in California to shower). From the race officials to the fans, everyone at the race was friendly and willing to throw in a helping hand...which I may or may not have taken advantage of in a few mud holes!

Read the race test of Michael’s AmPro Yamaha YZ250FX in the August 2015 issue of Dirt Rider Magazine.