Dirt Bike History 101

Discussion in 'Old's Cool' started by kittycactus, Jan 21, 2008.

  1. El Hombre

    El Hombre Banned

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    '73 is when it really took off, the Elsinore, (I had 2 of them, the tranny was good for about 50 hours. Then the shift dogs would round off and it would pop out of gear) was the first Japanese bike that could and did put it to the Europeans.

    In a drag race, a 250 Elsinore would just walk away from a Husky or CZ. Nothing had what would you call 'handling', except for a Maico. And the Maico was so good because they had figured out you needed to be sitting as far forward as possible. Super Hunky described it as 'The forks seem like they're coming out of your crotch'. Getting the weight on the front tire made it able to carve a turn.

    Elsinores didn't turn for shit, I cut 1 1/2" out of the frame to try to get it to turn. Another Dirt Bike mod. They did it and used a CR 125 gas tank, because it was shorter. We just cut the front of the seat off and did it cheap. The tank was $150 or so.

    I think the 150, 160, 175, was a marketing gimmick. It didn't cost any more to bore it out, but they could get 10% more for it. Back then Honda built in-line fours of 350,400,500,550,650,750,900 displacement. Other than the amount of metal used, the labor and machining time was the same for all those bikes. But you could buy the 350 for $1100 when the 750 was $1900. So you can see it cost about $500 to build all those displacements, they just made a ton of money on the bigger ones.

    They had the same thing at the bottom of the line, you could get 50, 55, 75, 90, 100. It was really different back then.

    Where is Wolvertucky? I was thinking Allen Park, Southgate, somewhere down there. But you have dial up, so it's got to be out in the boonies, like me.
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  2. Valleyrider

    Valleyrider I Survived The '60s

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    My contribution. My first bike was a 1966 Yamaha 80 YG1. This is it after I bobbed the rear fender, added a J&R pipe, GYT cylinder, Pirelli MT53 tires and a fork brace. Bought it at Long Beach Triumph on PCH. Raced it a couple of times at the Elsinore TT races and found it wouldn't keep up with the 100cc bikes.
    [​IMG]
    I also drag raced it a bit at Lions Drag strip in Long Beach and Irwindale. This is it in drag race trim.
    [​IMG]
    When I got out of the Coast Guard, I went to work for Dale Brown Motors on Long Beach Blvd. They let me ride the "Shop" racer at Trojan Raceway in South Gate. I was hooked. Bought my second bike, a 1968 Suzuki A100 and installed the hop-up kit. Raced Elsinore, Perris, Adelanto, and South Gate a lot.
    [​IMG]
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  3. Valleyrider

    Valleyrider I Survived The '60s

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    During the time I worked for Suzuki, I built a TT bike from a 1971 TS185. The Suzuki "Race" kit reduced the displacement to 175cc. I ran good enough to beat the Bultaco 200cc Sherpas most of the time!!
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
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  4. nachtflug

    nachtflug infidel

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    most definitely.

    and once again thanks for starting this thread, it has the makings of a classic.

    the first 1973 silver tank down pipe elsinores were from the start designated CR's.

    [​IMG]

    Honda only offered (to the public) the 125 and 250 however until the 1982(?) 450 which was only one year, then the 480 for a couple of years, maybe only 2(?) and then the mighty CR500 which had a very long run.

    but as others have stated the first CR's really changed the game.

    I'll disagree with one of the posts in as far as the Suzuki TM's and the 1972 Yamaha DT2 and RT2 MX's were pushing the euro's around and even winning, but the Elsinores blew them out of the water for a few years. But in 1975/76 they went to an up pipe on the 250 and slipped back a bit in terms of their place at the top of the heap. The 125's were for the most part neck and neck with each other from the big 4, though the sheer numbers of the Elsinores gave them an edge if for that reason alone. Back then 125's could and were ridden by a lot of skinny wide eyed teenagers WFO. Just keep shifting.

    It was a matter of who backed of first, and some just never did. :huh

    But no matter the brand if you could keep it pegged in the 125 class you would get results.

    The riders of the mid 70's era 125cc bikes may have been the only riders who ever could truly keep a legitimate motocross bike pegged virtually non stop. You weren't doing that on a 250 or open class bike, and you certainly couldn't do it (as much) on later generation bikes. There was and is just too much power and tractability on the later bikes that the speeds would dictate a little prudence.

    as Dice Clay would say, "thats what I think anyway"...:D

    great thread for all who are pitching in!
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  5. dan-c

    dan-c Back

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    That's the way I remember it too, except the '75 YZ 125/250 were killing everyone because of the suspension travel (and power). I think the Elsinores were faster but Yamaha's monoshock kept them hooked up better. They really closed the gap with the Europeans because of suspension technology. I guess '74 was the end of the classic age :dunno
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  6. kittycactus

    kittycactus Banned

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    Here's an unlabeled bike from nachtflugs motorcycle thread, fifth page in, what year and model is it, was it any good?

    Edit: I&#8217;m guessing this is late 70&#8217;s early 80&#8217;s since it still has the twin rear shocks, it&#8217;s a two stroke &#8211; obviously it&#8217;s a Kawasaki &#8211; what other features are a give away as to what it is? It&#8217;s got a low slung pipe which is odd looking. It has the older style front forks (telescopic?). I haven&#8217;t really got that figured out entirely though (difference between the forks). <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
    [​IMG]
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  7. kittycactus

    kittycactus Banned

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    Thanks for your info El Hombre, very good reading. This is the kind of history you don't find every day!

    We live about 40 miles from the Mackinaw Bridge. Our town's name is Wolverine, but I call it Wolvertucky because there are some real characters that live around there. Love being out in the country next to state land, hate dial up.
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  8. Trailing Jack

    Trailing Jack Dr. Acula

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    Maybe because of where I lived or because I owned a 125 Elsinore, :wink: I recall that it was the 125 more than the 250 that really had an impact. The Maicos, Huskys and CZ's still seemed to rule the bigger classes in our area up untill the Japanese stuff really developed the suspension technology.
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  9. El Hombre

    El Hombre Banned

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    From the size of the cylinder, I'm guessing a 450, '74 vintage. The rear shocks are moved a little forward, they really got into moving them to the middle of the arm the next year. I saw Brad Lackey and Jim Wienert riding those in Ohio that year. They didn't win, Heikki Mikola on the Husky was faster. And DeCoster on a 370 Suzuki.

    That being the official Kawi display, I'm sure it's the 450. They never sold them to the public that I'm aware of.

    They made a 250 that year, looks the same except for the jug.
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  10. El Hombre

    El Hombre Banned

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    That's a Rickman Metisse, with a Triumph 500 twin. You bought the frame for $600, it was nickle plated, and added the suspension, engine, controls, etc. Metisse is the french word for 'mongrel', and since they would/could build it to fit almost any engine, it was.

    Whoops, the picture didn't load, it's the green bike leaning against the pole.

    My cousin had one 30 years ago.
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  11. motu

    motu Loose Pre Unit

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    The time period is the late sixties - the first Motocross bikes were the big British 4 strokes,then came the first 2 strokes from Europe,the Japanese entered in the early '70's.If you look at Joel Roberts career he did his early Championships on CZ's,he later moved to Suzuki.So the first 2 strokes to knock the big 4 strokes from the top were from Europe,not Japan.

    The bike in my picture is a Rickman Metisse,a hand built British motocrosser - they made frames from Reynolds 531 tubing,Ceriani forks and whatever engine the customer wanted....most often a Triumph twin.That bike is a 1964 with a unit 500cc Triumph engine.I got it in 1974 and it had been uncompetitive for at least 5 years.I made it into a road bike,or really a gravel road bike as that is what I rode on then.
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  12. Valleyrider

    Valleyrider I Survived The '60s

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    Well, with the emphasis on 4 strokes and British Iron, here's my 1972 BSA B50 in a Cheney frame at the Dinosaur race at Perris California held May 1, 1977. The bike was originally built for and owned by Paul Smart.

    [​IMG]
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  13. Valleyrider

    Valleyrider I Survived The '60s

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    Another classic, Joel Roberts RN71 in my living room.

    [​IMG]
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  14. Trailing Jack

    Trailing Jack Dr. Acula

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    Wow! How did you acquire that bike?
    Do you still have it? :ear
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  15. Valleyrider

    Valleyrider I Survived The '60s

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    I worked at Suzuki Motor Corp. at the time. I had been to an advertising shoot for Champion Spark Plugs. It got done late and instead of leaving the "Priceless" bike in the back of the company van overnight, I put it in the house. Do you blame me?? We had several "Factory" bikes stolen from the company parking lot around this time.
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  16. RocketJ

    RocketJ Been here awhile

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    These are my opinions, and memories of the time.
    While definitley running paralell, the two are not exactly the same. both from the consumer standpoint and that of the manufacturer.
    The Japanese did popularize dirt bikes and 2 strokes in general by making a affordable, reliable and useable product available to the general public.
    Edison Dye brought the Europeans and MX as we came to know it to the huge U.S. market.
    In the late 60's and into the 70's, what the europeans raced, you could buy. When the Aisians got involved, the term works bike got popular, mainly because their race bikes only had a passing resemblence to what you or I could buy.
    Up until 73/74 in the U.S. we could spend big bucks and buy a CZ, Husky, Maico, Bultaco or the like and go racing.The other option was to go cheap, buy Asian then crash and get beat a lot or spend big bucks trying to make them as good as the euros.
    The CRs changed all that. Honda did not build them to a price point, as had been the case. They built them to flood the market and win local races at any cost. They figured, correctly, that they could make more from the PR than individual sales. Everybody else had to follow suit or lose market share and glory.
    The next big event happend in mid 74. Yamaha had recently come out with the mono shock. Ake Johnsson a Maico rider was frustrated with it's success (losing). The story goes, he asked an old factory guy what could be done. This guy said it was simple, move the shocks foward and get more travel, duh. They did that, so said in a hotel parking lot, at night, mid series, he won the next day and the rest as they say is history. The next week, all the factory guys had some version. The next month all the local guys did it also.
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  17. Trailing Jack

    Trailing Jack Dr. Acula

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    :thumb :bow
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  18. dan-c

    dan-c Back

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    As a side note to moving the shocks forward for extra travel, Harley had been doing that for years, prolly not for the same reason though.


    And some of the early mono shocks had Maico forks grafted on. Maico was putting ~ 7.5 inches of travel on the front since the late 60's.
    #38
  19. RocketJ

    RocketJ Been here awhile

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    Very true. That was actually how the original story went ( the Duh part). That is where the idea came from.
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  20. nachtflug

    nachtflug infidel

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    I think it might be a little misleading. things were either 125-250, or open class, sometimes referred to as the 500 class.

    but anything bigger than a 250 went there and they all knew the deal. there were few real 500's except the thumpers, BSA's etc, but then again it all depends when you were talking about. For me, starting point of reference 1970, the 500 class was an endless procession of 350's, 360's, 370's 380's 390's, 400's galore, 420's, 440's, 450's, 480's, 490's the legendary 501 Maico, and then the big boys on the BSA's and even Triumphs.

    You run what you brought in the 500 class. too bad they killed it.

    and we're talking more MX here. In scrambles there would be also a 200 class chock full of Bultaco's with a few stragglers thrown in on Pentons or hotted up Jap.

    and of course lets not forget the 100 class chock full of Hodaka's and more hotted up Jap with the Kawasaki Centurion as a bonafide race bike circa 1970. the 100 class made the 125's sound like thumpers in comparision. :D

    then of course in enduro's there would be a 175 class....:doh

    and of course todays 250 class where you can run a 450. :ymca

    and the 125 class where you can run a 250 :ymca :ymca

    but they've finally changed it to legitamize the cheaters. :D to "lights" :snore
    #40