Diamond Don's Vintage National & my YZ465 Debut
If you aren't familiar with Diamond Don’s, this event it is billed as the largest vintage dirt bike race in the country. Located in Jefferson Texas, it’s about a hour south of Texarkana & only a 5 hour drive from where I live. I went to DD’s about ten years ago but with the military, broken bikes and body I hadn't made it back until this year.
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Like I said DD’s is about vintage dirt bikes, the people and back in the day stuff gone by. Here are a few old bike pics:
There were Macios
There were Buls
There were old race bikes from the pros. Here are Jammin Jimmy’s & Steve Wise’s old Kaws.
Your basic Mugen Honda. See that white 9R Yamaha? That’s an old OW model that former British 250cc Motocross World Champion Neil Hudson raced. The current owner rides it but due the unobtainium stuff used when parts die (like the mag triple clamp that cracked) they get replaced with more conventional parts. Factory bikes were trick & fast but fraglie.
If you wanted to buy a bike there were plenty to choose from:<o:p></o:p>
Here are some other Pics:
Lots of big names were in attendance like Lackey, Hanson, Wise & Bailey. Guy, Wanda and Chuck Cooper came with their entourage and were loaded for bear. Guy got bit by the vintage bug a couple years ago and hasn't been able to shake the sickness.
Coop went 6 for 6 MX class wins Saturday including winning the Cross Country event where he rode that big Penton 400. During the CC race, his fork cap came off letting the spring come out. He caught the spring and tossed it to someone, and continued riding. His pit crew gabbed another cap and stopped him a couple of laps later to put it back together. Probably won everything he entered Sunday also. Here is a short clip of Guy playing with the Penton 400: <o:p></o:p>
See that little RM100? Guy blew that up during practice for the Marty Tripes 100 Revenge Series race. Someone offered Guy a tired, clapped out YZ100 to ride in it’s place. The bike still had it’s OEM shocks on it. Guess what? Yup, he had to work for it, but Cooper won both moto’s on it. I don't think that little YZ had a tuffer day in it’s life.
My ride for this race consisted of an Yamaha YZ465G model. I used to ride one back in the early 80’s. I had bought this bike about six weeks before DD’s. I figured it would be a fun Post Vintage race bike and might workout for Cross Country too. Supposedly the bike had been gone through and the motor was completely rebuilt. It had new tires, chain, sprockets, chain guides and plastic etc. In short the bike looked in great shape. Well passion got the better of me. Money was exchanged and the bike was loaded up and taken home without so much as starting it up. But once I started taking a closer look the passion faded. It seemed everything under that new plastic was never touched. The steering head and swingarm bearings were completely shot, the carb float bowl drain was glued in place with epoxy and the air filter box looked like it had never been cleaned since 1980. I was now faced with completely tearing down the bike and rebuilding it. Crap. Even worse my wife was already PO’d that I bought the bike and now I had to explain to her that it needed another major cash infusion. I guess the bright spot was although it needed work, the 465 was in original condition & hadn’t been butchered much other than the float drain.
DD’s – 4 weeks: Without even bothering to try and start the bike; it gets completely torn down. The shock was sent off to Sage Suspension (www.sagesuspension.com) for a rebuild. Dozens of nuts, bolts, grommets, bearings and associated parts are ordered. The seller at least had new rear wheel brake shoes & bearings installed and the forks had new seals. http://img545.imageshack.us/img545/9998/1001027c.jpg
DD’s –3 weeks: Parts start coming in. I would have liked to have the frame and swing arm powder coated but time and $ dictated that spray paint would have to do, for this year anyway.
DD’s – 2 weeks: Frame gets cleaned/bead blasted and painted. Steering bearings are installed. Same with the Swingarm. Shock is back and it’s time to start assembling.
DD’s – 1 week: Confirm spark. That’s a good thing. I had ordered a new carb...it hasn't shown up. That's a bad thing.
DD's - 1 day: Carb arrives. No time to put it on. Number plate back grounds never made it in time.
5 am Thursday morning: Without a carburetor installed and several chassis parts yet to be put on, the bike is loaded and I'm literally throwing gear, parts & stuff into the back of my van. I still have yet to try and start the YZ.
Shoot I'm ready! What could possibly go wrong?<o:p></o:p>
7 am Thursday morning: I stop at Conway Arkansas to pick up my buddy Jim, hook up his trailer & we are off to Tejas. The forecast is for rain Friday afternoon in Jefferson.
1 pm Thursday: After lunch in Jefferson, we pull into DD’s & get a great camp/pit site. Time to establish our base camp. Our neighbor is Frank and Savanna is our pit pup.
Diamond Don built some nice shower houses this year!
Jefferson has some neat shops:
3 pm Thursday: It dawns on me that it might be a good idea to finish putting the YZ together and see if I can get it started. Everything takes longer than expected but by 4:30 I pour fuel into the tank and begin the ritual of starting a big bore 2 stroke. First, turn on fuel, choke on, hand off the throttle and kill button pushed & I kick it over slowly a few times to charge the cylinder with fuel. Then I push it thru just past the compression stroke & kick it over, then some more…and more. Twenty kicks later we start trying other methods including this one:
Then 20 kicks later, out of no where the motor fires up. We fuss with the idle and air screw. Turning the air screw doesn't make much difference…it’s running lean. Dang, no richer pilot jets eithier. We get it to idle, yes, it’s loud. My wife calls the YZ the Yellow Bee but she has never heard it run. I think now she would call it the Angry Canary. I have other stuff to mess with so for now I'm happy it just runs and shut the motor off. Tomorrow I will put it in gear and ride it a little before I race it in the Cross Country event. I check out the some of the trail and it looks great; nice and wide & I won’t even need bark busters. The YZ might be able to get out and stretch it’s legs on this course.
5 am Friday morning: I wake up and look around. Suddenly there is a flash of light. I thought it might have been car lights or a bright flashlight beam. Then I look off into the sky and see lighting; the rain is coming early. I spot a unopened box of Jelly donuts that Jim bought and eat two.
The rain comes and goes all morning but it stops long enough for me to take another 20 kicks at the YZ and take it for a spin through the pits. The motor feels crisp and snappy down low. Of course it is a little tuff to do much more than that with a 465 but it does run and it has at least the first three gears working in the transmission. I pull back into our camp and shut it off, then try to restart the motor, it takes another 20+ kicks before it fires.
So let’s recap. I'm riding a 30+ year old, 40+ horsepower MX bike in a muddy woods race. A bike I've never rode before, that was just put together & started yesterday. The race has a dead engine start format and my bike takes 20+ kicks to start. Then it starts up raining again. What could possibly go wrong?<o:p></o:p>
The vintage class goes out and reports are the course is holding up and the trail is good. But just before the end of the vintage race it starts raining heavy and the trail starts getting nasty. The vintage class gets in about 4 laps in on the 5-6 mile course which is not too bad. For energy I leave Jim half a Jelly donut and eat the rest. Then I get the YZ started (20 kicks) and ride to the line and then reluctantly shut off the motor. People are looking at me funny. Just before my race the rain tapers off, then while we are on the line it picks up again. I try to start the YZ as each class before me leaves the line. The YZ doesn't even think about starting. I'm on row four and as my class takes off; I'm still kicking. I push the YZ off to the side and continue to kick in the rain. There are ten rows of classes and just as the tenth class get waved off, the YZ fires up. I look behind me and I am the only bike left. Oh well no where to go but up from here. The problem is now I'm in back of the last row…and generally the slowest classes. The course is already a one line trail (rut?) & it’s hard to pass except in a few open spots. I'm so hot from kicking the bike I can't see out my goggles…my prescription goggles. I hate to do it but I have to ride with out the goggles. This could be a plus though because now I'm not intimated by the stuff I would normally be able to see. With the rain falling harder the course is now really nasty but surprisingly the YZ is working well. The motor has great low end snap and I rarely even get into the midrange. The front fork spring are so soft they work well over the roots and trail junk. Soon I catch up to and start picking off riders. Many riders have pulled off the course and some have just quit. I'm just trying to survive and not crash. The course has a bunch of steep, rutted 15-25 foot climbs many leading up, over and back down railroad track beds. The YZ is working good, with a blip of the throttle it shoots up the little climbs. There are short open areas but everything is full of ruts and the mud. The chain is jammed with mud and I can hear it binding up and popping. At least there are no rocks and the roots are not too bad. I only get two laps in before the end of the race; a few riders made three laps. The rain stops just minutes before the end of the race; go figure. I get fifth in my class out of nine, not to bad considering I started dead last. Oh yeah, the YZ developed a major oil leak coming from the clutch cover. The best part was bike and rider were still functioning. Jim and I gathered up our muddy gear and go to the car wash, then the coin laundry and finally dinner.
Saturday was my day off then Sunday I get to play MX’er. While Jim sleeps in, I get up early Saturday to take the bikes to the car wash and get them cleaned up. I came back in time to watch the vintage bikes race Saturday on the MX course. Diamond Don's is one of the prettest tracks I've seen in a long time:
The track workers pushed the thickest of the mud off but things were still very gooey in spots. This feller had a nice get off:<o:p></o:p>
<o:p>This is a shot of my buddy Jim showing pretty good form as he launches his IT175 against a gate full of 250's. Always a gamer, Jim doesn't back down against the bigger boys on the block.</o:p>
I went out for practice and right away I knew I was going to have issues. First the YZ was knocking, pinging & vibrating like crazy at 1/3 to wide open throttle. Did these bikes always run this way? Second, the forks that felt decent in the woods were beating me to death. The suspendion was totally unbalanced. I had bought some Race Tech Gold Vale Emulators but didn't have time to install them. Race Tech had a tent set up to work on bikes but I decided their labor rate was more then I could afford. The third and most important problem was that I hadn't ridden a MX bike on a real MX track in years. I guess I've spent too much time riding KLR650’s on back roads and my mind just wasn't moving fast enough out there to be competitive. I should have spent half the time in practice just working on starts since I wasn't used to the bike or how to launch it. We got one five lap practice then it was race time. During practice the track was neat, going into the woods and snaking around but the motos before mine chewed it up badly and by the time my moto came up (race #5) it was a different track. I got a lousy gate pick & the motor is leaking oil like the Exxon Veldez. Consequently I got pretty much got schooled by everyone out there. My second moto went a little better as I got a decent gate and start but half way thru the moto my right hand went numb from the vibration. I couldn't feel my fingers to reach for the front brake. Thankfully it was soon over & it was time to go home. The weekend was a blast but I’ve got a lot of work to do.
Awesome! Thank you very much for sharing!
Pete: sounds like the valves tightened up if it's that hard to start... better load up on the Hot Cams shims and go to work on that baby before the next vintage race! :rofl I liked the picture of the '78 RM400 with the original tank stickers (plastic tank). My RM250's didn't make it home from the dealership before they bubbled off. Great report except I'm a little angry you didn't tell me about this race... it's not too far from my parent's place.
nice write up. i really want to go to diamond don's - haven't been able to find the time - are you doing other vintage cc races? i'm going to an ahrma regional this weekend and axton, va in a few weeks.. trying to hit 8 rounds this year..
Lots of big names were in attendance like Lackey, Hanson, Wise & Bailey./QUOTE]
Lackey and Hansen seem to be the real troopers. can't imagine Lackey will keep it up forever but I still can't used to being able to actually walk up to and talk to him. when I was a kid in high school he was god. end of story.
the whole crew will be at Unadilla this June for VMX, Lackey, the Jammer, Smith, Hansen, Tony D, Leichen (can do without him), looking forward to it.
what does the Texas VMX community hear of Kent Howerton, I recently heard/read that he is not well?
1. Bring a friend to act as the Devils Advocate.
2. Bring a flashlight.
3. Remove the seat or side covers & have a peek.
4. If the owner says it runs but you can't get it started, subtract at least $500 from the price.
That 360 looks nice but it must be heavy since it needs two jack stands to support it. :rofl
Oh the illness of 2stroke fever :lol3
Very nice write up and great pictures :clap, I know where a 78-79 IT 400 is sitting, I may have to get that, next :evil
Been there the last two years and had a blast both times! Unfortunately, I was not able to make this year's event. Diamond Don is a hoot and he puts on a heck of a spread (actually I think it is really his wife who puts it on)! I've ridden both the cross country course and the motocross track on vintage bikes - CZ 125, Hodaka Combat Wombat, and Honda Elsinore. The mud can be something else there...... Glad you enjoyed yourself. AHRMA rocks! SuchesRider #5B
To make myself feel better, I think about what I have spent on my bikes relative to my daughters tuition bill or my taxes, ha, a drop in the bucket:norton.
Plus it gets us off the couch so thats worth something too!
Thanks again for your post. I will be looking forward to your next event and report!
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