A Season Riding In the Pullstart Racing League


Minibike race winners

Becoming More Official, Sort of

When I pulled up to Duke’s Indy Honky Tonk on the south side of Indianapolis on October 27, I saw cones sitting where I usually park. They’d expanded the track. 

By they, I mean the organizers of the Pullstart Racing League. By track, I mean the dirty, cracked, and ugly parking lot that surrounds the bar. 

I wrote about the first race I had in the Pullstart Racing League. I showed up with a green battered machine and lost horribly. But it was wicked fun. 

Over the course of the summer and into this fall, I raced once a month (except for September due to my meeting with Al to test the Quiet Ride Helmet) and slowly watched the racing league evolve. 

It went from a bunch of guys not knowing what they were doing and not having much of a plan to a bunch of guys still not really knowing what they were doing but with a plan. 

The track evolved, getting bigger each race, and the organizers got more organized as the summer moved along. They did a vintage race, a beginner’s race, and organized the racers into heats and kept track of who placed where. 

The winner still didn’t get much of anything beyond bragging rights, but it felt like things were going in the right direction, and more racers showed up each week. It was cool to see and be a part of. 

The Final Day of Racing

minibike race start

The final day of racing for the season was supposed to happen at a dirt track in the city. Unfortunately, due to some unforeseeable issues that idea got scrapped, so we ended up back at Duke’s. 

With the track expanded and the waivers signed, we did a few warm-up races before the brackets were put together. During warm-ups, I felt good. 

My ugly green minibike was running well, and the track was tight, meaning I had a chance to stick with the pack despite the fact most of the racers were running engines about twice the size of mine. 

Then they divided the heats up into groups of eight racers and the official races began. 

For the first race, I lined up with everyone and one of the organizer’s kids waved a green flag to start us off. I ran out the first ten feet while twisting the throttle wide to get me off to a good start, but the other, more powerful bikes still managed to pull away.

number 1 minibike racer

Near the back of the pack, there were three of us. The leader (pictured above) was far out ahead of the pack. Me and the racers at the back of the pack traded places a little bit, and I ended the race second to last. An embarrassing showing.

The next heat I was in I again placed near the back of the pack, duking it out with a couple of other slower, low-powered bikes.

The last race I was in was the loser’s finals. We had to find out who the best of the losers was. During this race, I did my best to hang in the middle of the pack, but slid on some gravel at one point went down briefly and then got passed. 

Then we watched the finals. Everyone in this group was running 212cc engines from Harbor Freight. They’d all customized their bikes in various ways, and the competition was stiff. I managed to snag a video of the race. 

 

The number 1 bike was out front for the whole race (he’d dominated all day), on the last lap, he accidentally tripped his kill switch and this opened up for the rider in second place to pass him by. 

With all of the official racing done, we decided to do one race with everyone. Instead of everyone lining up, we did a Le Mans-style start, where you had to run to your bike from across the parking lot, start your engine, and take off. 

My bike is not fast, but it starts every single time you yank the pull starter. I sprinted across the parking lot, yanked it and took off. I got through the second turn before I was passed, and a good half of the pack blew right past me. 

I hung in the middle until lap three, where my front tire hit some gravel. I skidded, tipped, caught myself with one foot, and then went over the handlebars. I was wearing full gear, so the spill didn’t hurt—I wasn’t honestly going very fast—but my bike completely flipped. It was still running so I hopped back on and took off. I ended right at the end of the pack.

At the end of the day, we all lined up our bikes for photos. Then we had the eight guys in the final race lineup for a few more. 

The trophy was given to the winner of the day first (he got to hold it for about 12 seconds) and then the overall winner of the year based on the last several races got to keep the trophy for the off-season. It’ll be brought back next year for us all to battle over it again. 

What the Next Year Will Hold

Duke's Indy

The Pullstart Racing League will be around in 2020. However, it sounds like we may be at a different venue. There are some liability worries, and there’s always the need to go faster. Both of these things mean that we could end up at a different place next year. 

There was talk of a go-kart track, there was talk of a dirt track like the one that was supposed to happen for the last race of this year, and then there’s always the chance that we pool some resources and make the races happen again at Duke’s. 

I’m not sure where we’ll be racing next year, but I know the organizers of the event and its participants aren’t interested in letting it die. Wherever it ends up I’ll be there, and I’ll be doing my best not to finish dead last next year. 

minibike flag waving kid

The best thing about this whole experience is that it wasn’t about winning. It’s about indulging in something ridiculous and fun. It’s about the fact that you can have a ton of fun with a bike that’s as basic as possible. 

We’re there to push limits for the sake of doing so and laughing at ourselves while we do. My crappy green bike wasn’t the fastest, but it didn’t really matter, I’ve had a hell of a time this season. 

Speaking of my little green bike, it will be getting some upgrades. I’m not sure what all I’ll do, but I’ve got my eye on a 212cc Harbor Freight engine (possibly something bigger if I can get it to fit). I’m also likely going to upgrade the spockets, clutch, and wheels. We’ll see what else I can make happen before the racing league reconvenes in the spring. No matter what, I’m sure I’ll have one hell of a time in 2020. 

If you’re interested in racing, check out the Pullstart Racing League’s website, and if you don’t find what you need there, take a look at the league’s Instagram.

4 Comments

  1. Avatar
    October 30, 2019
    Reply

    Holy cow, this looks like stupid fun. There’s a go-kart track near me that’s just itching for this kind of lunacy, and we even have a Harbor Freight!

    • Wade Thiel
      October 30, 2019
      Reply

      Mike, I love it. It is super fun. Bikes are cheap and racing is pretty low-speed so even if you go down, you’re not going to be too messed up.

  2. Avatar
    October 30, 2019
    Reply

    Just did a search of our local Craigslist and found a “modified” mini bike for $150. See what you’ve started?

    • Wade Thiel
      October 30, 2019
      Reply

      The beginning of something great, I think.

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