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My AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days experience

July 25, 2012

By Matt Bucher

Matt Bucher (right) with his dad, Paul.

The Bucher's race bikes.

Matt Bucher at the line.

Paul Bucher with grandson Max.

Matt Bucher at the start.

On the track.

I arrived at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Thursday morning on July 19 to help set up the hare scrambles course. It poured down rain, of course, but we had fun out in the woods getting it ready for Friday.

I rode the vintage Penton motorcycle I was going to race for the first time on Thursday after we finished working the trails. It was the first time I ever rode a vintage bike. I always grew up on modern dirt bikes and ATVs and have historically raced enduros. Wow! What an eye-opening experience that was! I knew it was going to be a long day Saturday at the motocross.

The hare scrambles races took place Friday, and I used my ATV to pull about five to six vintage bikes out of the woods when they stopped running. There was some good racing during the three one-hour hare scrambles races.

Saturday morning came around, and I went out for practice on the moto track. I think I got passed by about 50 people. I felt so awkward on the bike and could not figure out how to ride it. I swear Jeff Fredette jumped right over me, and there weren’t hardly any jumps!

I was moto No. 10, and I raced the Vet A class. I am man enough to admit I was pretty nervous. I looked at it as fun, but I had friends and family come down to watch me, so I wanted to do well. I was racing the complete opposite of what I normally race: an old bike on a moto track! Give me a modern bike and tight trees!

In my first moto, I got a good start and started to get a little arm pump about half way through the moto. I couldn’t catch the guys ahead of me, so I just settled for where I was at while still trying to figure out how to ride the Penton. I ended up fourth in my moto. I thought that wasn’t too bad. But like any racer, you want to win, so I was a little disappointed!

I went back to the pits after the first moto with no clutch, no rear brakes and not much of the front brake left. My family and friends in the pits were giving me some friendly advice like rail the outside berms, do this, do that! I have so much respect for the men and women who raced those bikes back in the day, I know they didn’t know any better, but man oh man it is a challenge compared to how good we have it today.

My second moto came calling. I figured I didn’t have a snowball’s chance, but I figured out a lot in between the motos. I used the outside berms and tried different lines and stayed off the brakes. The old Penton doesn’t change direction like my 2011 YZ 250 does, so I had to change up my technique.

I got another good start after almost wheeling off the back of the bike when I started in first gear because I couldn’t get the Penton to go into second on the line. I ended up banging bars a few times, and I rode more aggressive with the throttle. With better technique, and a little luck, I ended up second in my second moto and second overall in the Vet A class. If I had one more lap, I believe I could have had the guy in first. I was stalking him the whole time, but, hey, I’ll take the second.

I left AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days having had a great time helping with the hare scrambles, going through the swap meet and seeing some racing buddies. I also got to ride some 2013 KTMs at the KTM off-road demo rides! But, most importantly, I went back in time and raced some motocross on a 38-year-old dirt bike and did pretty well!

I can’t wait until next year!

Matt Bucher is an AMA member from Toledo, Ohio.