Sunday, June 14, 2009

1979 Suzuki RM125

The Japanese motorcycles you could buy back in the “dinosaur days” of motocross in the late 1970s were evolving at a fast rate, and works technology was being incorporated into the production bikes you could purchase at your local dealer. As mentioned earlier, every year there was one or two standout bikes that would dominate racing. Make the wrong choice and you would struggle all year with poor starts and poor finishes.

Pity the poor fools that bought off brands like Ammex (yikes) or Carabela. There was plenty of variety
through the 1970s, Husky and Maico mixed it up with bikes from Spain, Czechoslovakia, Sweden, and even Mexico. But the tide was turning on these old bikes and in their place in the winner's circle was, increasingly Japanese made.

The 1979 Suzukis were very similar in appearance, to the bitchen' factory race bikes of the dominant team on the world championship Grand Prix circuit, Suzuki. With great riders like the highly revered Belgian Roger DeCoster, dentist Gerrit Wolsink of Holland, Gaston Rahier and Andre Vromans, both from Belgium, and world championships, race wins, and the trickest bikes at the time, Suzuki was on a roll.

So how could you resist the 1979 RM125? Underneath the stock shovel-shaped fenders (the first thing I changed on my bike) was, for all intents and purposes, the same as Roger D. was slaying the world champs on. The entire bike was newly-redesigned and they nailed it. Punchy, solid, fast and balanced would describe this bike.

I left mine mostly stock, with the exception of the aforementioned fenders (Preston Petty “Mudder” on the front, and an aftermarket reproduction 1978 RM125 rear fender), some mild cylinder porting (exhaust ports raised slightly and the intake shaped and polished), the head milled for more compression, grippy Metzeler tires front and rear, some Oury waffle grips, and little else.

The suspension and everything else I just left alone. This was the beginning of bikes that did not need a lot of modifications to win races. And in 1979 the gates were full of these little yellow Suzukis. Yes, you could still win on other brands, but my memory tells me this was “the” bike to have that year.

We used to race on Thursday nights at the old Bonneville Raceways, west of Salt Lake City. They had made a small motocross track on the interior of the stock car oval, supplied lighting and the racers came in droves to race like crazy in front of family and friends. There were ample bleachers for the spectators, a refreshment stand, and enough dirt, turns, jumps and straightaways to keep us coming back for more every week. The black and white picture above is me, sometime in 1979, racing at Bonneville Raceways, wringing the throttle for all the juice—and fun—I could get. I was plate number 23 that year, a number that has stuck with me by choice (and sometimes providence) ever since.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009