Monday, November 05, 2007

The Ol' CZ

I grew up riding motorcycles with my dad and brother. My dad's brother (Uncle Herb) owned a Suzuki/CZ motorcycle store down in Cottage Grove, Oregon. My first bike was a Suzuki Trail 120, followed by a Honcho 90, followed by a Duster 125 which I stripped down and raced a few times and then purchased my first (and only) factory race bike: The CZ 250. CZs were made in Czechlosovakia, weighed a ton, but had mountains of torque and a near indestructible gear box. I had my uncle Herb modify the bike pictured above giving the suspension a whopping 7 inches of travel, front and rear (today's bikes, routinely have over double that!)

There were three riders who rode/raced CZs at the Puyallup Raceways Motorcross Park in the early seventies. During the winter months, all of us would pray for the starting gate to freeze in the ground, forcing what is called a hand-on-helmet start. When the starter raised the green flag above his head, all of the riders were required to place their left (clutch) hand on their helmets. When the official dropped the flag, (non-CZ) riders would grab their clutch levers, stomp their shift levers into first gear, pop their clutches and try to outrun the other riders to the first corner. We three, we happy three, we band of CZ brothers would skip the clutch-grabbing part and with the engine screaming at 3/4 throttle, stomp the bikes directly into first gear, and accelerate noisily to the "hole-shot" in the first corner. Frozen-gate races were the only races that we were first into the corner, and we savored every opportunity we were given to out-scramble the much quicker "Jap bikes."

It's kinda fun to think about the Lord of Creation "fixing" races with a wave of His frost-bestowing hand, and thereby enabling the fat and slow ones to have their day on the track. Well, at least every once in a while...

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