Mammoth Lakes, California, is my all-time favorite place. It’s a place where I can go to relax, hike up into the mountains, sit by a lake all by myself
and just forget about time. It is peaceful and quiet. It’s just
me and my fishing pole. Oh, wait, what is that noise? Oh
yeah, it’s the roaring sound of motocross bikes, which I can
hear from my favorite lake.
Once a year this quiet little town is filled with motocross
bikes as people head to Mammoth for the town’s annual
event, the Mammoth Mountain Motocross, which has been
going on since 1968. This year marked its 50th anniversary, and although I haven’t been going there for that long
( 33 years for me), it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was
parked under a big pine tree in the back of the pits with
my 1984 Husky on one side and a nice little creek behind
me—one that I have caught trout out of before.
Riders from all over the world come to Mammoth
Mountain to blend vacation with a little motocross fun,
but they sometimes forget to come prepared. It’s practice
day at the beginning of the week, and riders try to get
their bikes dialed in for the high-altitude track. This year
a nice family came up to the Pro Circuit pit area pushing
a little minibike. They hadn’t noticed in the days or weeks
leading up to the Mammoth Mountain Motocross that the
fork seals were leaking. I pulled the forks off the bike and
tore them apart. Once inside, I realized that these forks
had never been apart—and the bike was several years old.
The oil was black, thick as tar and smelled really bad. The
fork tubes were full of rock dings and obviously had been
neglected all of their lifespan. I couldn’t help but think, as
I fixed these roached forks, that this nice family could be
out on the lake fishing instead of watching me work on
their forks—if only they had come prepared. Heck, maybe
I could have been out on the lake fishing myself. It was as
simple as doing some preventive maintenance over the last
three years. Showing up at a race unprepared is bad form.
It’s stressful to have to do emergency surgery on your bike
the day before the big race.
The Mammoth Mountain Motocross comes with its own
specific set of problems that pop up each and every year,
many caused by the unique challenges of racing at high
altitude. Pressure builds up in everything when traveling
up into the mountains. Now, the actual scientific explanation is not that the air pressure is building up inside of
things; it’s that there is a lack of outside pressure to hold
it in. Open your toothpaste at a ski resort and it instantly
blows all over the place. Your tire pressure increases, air
builds up in your forks, nitrogen pressure in your shock
goes up and you might even find that the bag of potato
chips that you brought up to the mountain with you is
ready to explode.
This may be a special once-a-year event, but in many
ways it is just like any other race. We see problems ranging from a rider bringing his bike to us for help with his
rear suspension (only to notice that his rear axle is loose)
to a rider who tells me that his forks are so stiff on the
big downhill that they are hammering him in the braking
bumps. So, I stiffen his forks, even though he told me that
they were too stiff. He later comes by to thank me for making his forks feel better by softening them. I just smile and
resist the urge to explain what really happened.
Jim “Bones” Bacon has tuned the suspension of
the biggest names in motocross, including Jeremy
McGrath, Ricky Carmichael, Ryan Villopoto and Adam
Cianciarulo. If you have a suspension question, send it
MY MAMMOTH MOTOCROSS EXPERIENCES
So, the next time you’re planning for a big race, try to
prepare ahead of time for all the things that may pop up.
Don’t wait until you get there and try to act surprised.
That way, both you and I could be relaxing next to a lake,
dreaming about the next day’s race. ❏