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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Round and round we go .......

Have you ever gone shopping and found just the right item? The perfect thing that you have always wanted? Maybe it was that pair of shoes you could not live without or a shirt that was the exact color to makes your eyes just pop. For me it's stuff that's on sale.

Like when I sort of need a new pair of gloves, but not really because only some of the fingers in the current pair have holes in them. Right? I know that means those gloves are still good, but then I see a pair on the closeout sale rack and realize that I really do, in fact, at this moment, need a new pair of gloves. Those gloves, right there, the nice ones that nobody else wanted so they're cheap.

Whatever it is, whatever the consumer product, everyone knows that feeling of "I must buy this to make my life perfect. If I do not possess this item I will be unhappy". So we reach for said item, we know what it is and we know we want it. We know we need it. We know that our very happiness for at least the next few moments depends upon the successful acquisition of this, this, this thing in front of us. Grab it we do and gleefully, giddily we try it on.

And it doesn't fit.

It's not even close.

And, no, they don't have a bigger one.

We walk away. Unfulfilled, unhappy, unsatisfied.

But sometimes stuffing yourself into something that's way too small can have benefits. Sometimes it can even be a whole lot of fun. Sometimes something that you thought was too small for you is actually a pretty good fit. And, no, I'm not talking about those skinny jeans you've been eyeing. They really are too small and fit like a like a cheap hotel (no ballroom. Ba-dum-bum).

 I am talking, of course, about the singular pleasure that is mini-bike racing.

ever worn a thong?
ever ridden one around a track?

This past weekend marked the first event on the 2011 M1GP calendar; the time trials. Time trials are a way to figure out which class people will race in for the coming season, "expert", "novice", or in my case "old and slow". For those of you who don't know, and I'm assuming that's just about everyone, the M1GP is a dedicated group of people who get together at a prearranged place and time to stuff themselves into suits made of dead cows, sit on children's toys, and go around in circles as fast as possible.

Sound like a cult? Sound like a group of lunatics? Sound like fun? It is, well ok, it's not really a cult. Maybe.
Young Lee, M1GP president, dices it up with Josh Tootell

More specifically, the M1GP is a Southern California based mini-bike racing organization. Don't be confused, though, these are not the mini-bikes once available from Sears. Those weedy old death traps with a Briggs and Stratton lawn mower engine which, when ridden, would usually result in some kid being launched through the neighbor's hedge. No, these are a completely different animal. These are purpose built from the factory race machines, which, when ridden will sometimes result in a kid being launched through the neighbor's hedge. So there.

The most popular mini is the Honda NSR 50. It's a single cylinder, 49cc, liquid cooled, two stroke. It has a modern six speed transmission, front and rear disc brakes, decent suspension, twin spar frame, and in my opinion it sucks. Mostly because I have Yamaha YSR 50's which despite being cooler in every way and not being a Honda (always a plus), are a lot older and slower. The YSR may not have all of the NSR's modern parts or fancy good looks, but it does have something no Honda ever has; a soul. Yes, a soul, and no I'm not at all biased. It's a known fact, ok, Honda's are perfect and have great fit and finish and run really well and, whatever, they're soulless.
The YSR was last sold in the US some 20 years ago making it a lot older than some of the little pipsqueaks I have to ride against. Not only are these kids younger and riding faster bikes, but  they also cheat by having loads more talent than I do. Jerks.
yours truly. almost looks like I know what I'm doing. almost.
That's not to say there is a shortage of adults racing minis. In fact, the majority of people at the time trials were fully  grown men and women. And even though it is a great deal of fun, minibike racing is no joke. These things are real motorcycles being ridden at the limit and will spit you off in a heartbeat if you're not careful. Everyone wears the same safety equipment as "big bike" racers; full leathers, quality full face helmets, gloves, boots, and back protectors. The machines are all maintained to the standards expected of their bigger kin (except mine because I'm lazy) and must pass a technical inspection before going out on track (except mine because I bribe the officials).

Once I got out onto the warming track I gave the tires a lap to get up to temperature before really putting my head down and trying to put in some fast times. I would have really shown those other folks a thing or two if only they would have stayed behind me for a minute. But, no, they had to just keep passing me like I was standing still. Always in a hurry to rush off to the next corner. Nobody had time to just sit back there and learn how to do this stuff properly, no, they just wanted to be all fast and stuff. Eventually, I remembered a little bit about how to ride a motorcycle and the previous night's sampling of some questionable meatballs had given me the world's first methane powered turbo boosted YSR, I was still unable to get my times anywhere near the respectable level. Even so, it was some of the most fun I've had on a racetrack.

Grace Chiplinsky (#44) and her hubby Adam (star on the tail) are Roo Racing (they're from down under). He's slightly faster than her (for now), but she looks a whole lot better doing it.

The time trials were held at Willow Springs which is a famous racetrack (to people who already know about it). It has been the scene of many a motorcycle racing legend and just as many motorcycle racing legends have been there. They come to test their mettle on the "fastest road in the west" as the sign out front says. Yes, it is a storied race track that demands respect and punishes the unprepared and out in the back of it's overflow parking lot were only those who come late dare to park there is another track. A much, much, much, smaller track. It's tiny, in fact, a track far too small for a normal sized motorcycle. A track that not that many people know about (even those who have been to Willow) and that my friends is where the minis rule.

Willow Springs is situated in an area of the California high desert. An area that sounds a little like Fran Drescher when it says, "so this is what the world would look like with no water or people". Which is why on a February day when most  of the rest of the US was digging out from under a pile of snow there was a group of people enjoying a sunny day at the track.

It was nice to get one more roundy - round with the minis before mothballing them in storage while we head off to yon European continent in search of more moto-related shenanigans. Thanks to Young Lee and everyone at M1GP for all their hard work and for keeping mini racing alive and well in SoCal. 

And for anyone who wants to check out the fun first hand go to 
this kit contains everything needed for two adults to enjoy a day of mini-bike racing (some assembly required).

All pix by Mix, words by Josh. See you all next time I'm off to bed.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The beginning

Ok, so you're probably wondering what this is all about. Right? You're surfing the net while waiting for your friends to comment on your latest witty facebook status update and stumbled upon my blog. Now you're thinking, "oh joy yet another blog by an American and Finnish couple who left California to live in and travel through Europe so they can go to motorcycle races. And blog about it. I bet it will be full of opinions masquerading as facts, questionable judgements, and ridiculous or even fake racetrack interviews with whoever they can talk to. I'm sure the authors will attempt to be funny and the writing will be full of bad grammar and spelling mistakes".
Well, dear reader, allow me put your mind at ease and assure you that we here at Klaus und Hammer will make every attempt to use the spell checker.

Who are Klaus und Hammer (pronounced with a heavy and very fake German accent)?
We are Josh Steinberg and Mixo Kallionalusta. We do not know which one is which, but what we do know is that one day in the not too distant past while driving along "das autobahn" while on holiday we started speaking to each other as the natives did (the natives of course being Germans as we were in Germany at the time if you didn't pick up on that). Maybe it was the long hours on the road, maybe it was the scenery, maybe it was the combination of shnitzel and Black Forrest Cake from roadside venders, we may never know, but everything that came out of our mouths sounded like Germans in a Mel Brooks film and Klaus und Hammer were born. As for why the blog is named after them? Well, we suck at naming stuff. Ok?

So enjoy the blog. We will be posting a new one when ever we have something of interest to, uh, post.
Oh and pictures.

Next up; Grown men and women who pay good money to go in circles in the California desert while riding motorcycles made for children.