Pullstart Racing League’s Inaugural Race
The rider to my right leaned toward me and said over the sound of the engines, “Let’s not kill each other today. Okay?” I nodded.
The three of us pulled up a little closer to the starting line of the track outlined in cones behind Duke’s Indy—a honky-tonk bar on the south side of Indianapolis, IN. We were the first heat of what was to be multiple of the inaugural race of the Pullstart Racing League.
While we waited for the flag girl (my wife volunteered for this important job) to countdown and wave a bandana borrowed from a friend to get us started, I could still hear one of the event organizers using a leaf blower to blast dust off the parking lot in one of the tighter corners of the racetrack.
For a second, I wondered how the hell I got here.
The Lead-Up to Race Day
About three weeks before the event held on May 5th, a friend texted me a picture of a flyer he saw in Duke’s. It said, “Run-What-You-Brung Minibike Racing. Must be 21+ to participate.” I was sold.
I immediately searched on Craigslist to find a bike. An old guy a few miles north of me was selling an ancient-looking Sears five horsepower minibike for $200. The next morning I called. Two hours later I was at his house with my truck.
I rode it for maybe 12 seconds and knew I wasn’t going to find anything cheaper that ran. It was an ugly thing.
The seller told me, “The previous owner had a thing for John Deere.” He wasn’t wrong.
Everything on the bike was painted John Deere green with the exception of the yellow wheels. I forked over the $200, tossed the bike in my pickup, and drove home triumphantly.
A few days later, I realized there were some things wrong. The lights bolted on weren’t wired up. Neither was the handlebar kill switch. Not huge problems. There was a kill switch on the engine, and I could just take the lights off.
After a few rides, I found other issues. I put new tubes in the tires, replaced the rear wheel with a new but incorrectly sized one (it was the cheapest I could find), put new wheel bearings in the front wheel, and adjust the scrub brake as best I could to work with the new wheel.
I decided it was good enough. Far from perfect, I was ready to race.
Underpowered & Unprepared
When my wife waved the bandana, my opponents surged forward, and my bike more rolled forward. Once moving, though, it picked up speed. The track was reasonably tight, so the higher powered, faster minibikes’ advantage was mostly nullified.
It was then that I realized I should have practiced riding the little bike more. These things push in the corners and can get a little squirrely due to their tiny wheels.
I also should have spent more time and money getting the bike in good working order. When pressed hard, my brake pedal dragged across the pavement any time I leaned left. This made maneuvering around the tight course tough.
I bounced off a bale of hay once. Luckily, I was going so slowly into the tight corner that I could right myself and got back on the correct side of the cones. This was where I really lost my opponents—not that I had much of a chance catching them anyway.
After what felt like five quick laps but was honestly five very slow laps, I’m happy to say I finished only a little more than half a lap behind the other riders. Despite my embarrassing showing, I came off the track with a stupid grin on my face.
Low Speed, Big Fun
The rest of the day progressed in much of the same fashion. This being the first race in what was an unorganized event put on by self-proclaimed amateurs, little was planned.
The organizers asked racers opinions on pretty much everything. No timers, no awards, and few rules beyond don’t be an asshole.
I was promptly placed in the losing bracket after my poor showing, and from there, the real fun began. I put on a better show my second time on the track, though I didn’t win. I stuck to the rear wheel of a fellow racer but was unable to pass.
Still, I once again came away sweating and smiling. I wasn’t the only one. Everyone in attendance smiled as big as I did, joked about the ridiculousness of it all, and vehemently cheered on the other racers.
That’s the beautiful thing about motorsports and motor vehicles, specifically motorcycles. They bring people together. Folks come for the noises, the competition, and the inevitable crashes, but they end up connecting with others in the community, making friends, and having a damn good time.
It also goes to show that you don’t have to have a powerful, expensive bike to have some fun. A bike of a dubious mechanical condition in a parking lot behind a honky-tonk bar in the middle of the heartland can be all you need.
If you’re in Indiana, and you want to participate in Pullstart Racing League, keep an eye on the website. The event organizers plan to set other dates.