Racing Vintage Motorcycles While Collecting Social Security

The senior class of AHRMA

This week finalizes our three-part series written by senior roadracers, a real-world insight into competition by racy men and women. I interrupted this three-part series last week with a “How to Not Crash” article because many riders have told me they want to try racing but are scared of crashing. I will finish this series next week with an article about how to significantly increase your safety on the track because riders have told me they are afraid of being taken out by other riders. “Crashing” and being “taken out” are real concerns and they are within our control.

The goal of this series is to encourage you to explore racing, first through the experience of those on the grid and second through approaches and techniques to keep you as safe as possible.

To each of the Senior racers who participated, thank you. You are tremendous role models to those riders who will become racers and to me personally.

Kathy Daily
Kathy Daily, age 67, #164Etech

I learned to ride when I was 18 years old and then didn’t ride again until I was 63—four years ago. I started racing at 65 and my love of it grows exponentially; I’m trying flat-track and mini-moto racing now too. I race a modified Yamaha TT-R125 and a 1971 Honda CB350. Last year I had seven race days and this year I’ve had 16 actual races so far with another seven race days planned, so about 15 more races. The TT-R has no class to race in with AHRMA, only United States Classic Racing Association (USCRA).

Physical fitness is extremely important to me. I’m sort of retired; I still teach flying but set my own schedule so I can go to the gym daily. I do aerobics classes and zumba dance at least one hour a day, sometimes three.

I used to prep my own bikes until this year; now Motoconsult in Connecticut takes care of them. I spent about $5,000 purchasing and modifying my two bikes, but beyond that I don’t dare really think about my budget! I spend maybe $3,500 a year counting travel and etc. for six weekends of racing—how much you spend also depends upon how often you crash.

I used to pylon race airplanes, so my only child who is 20 is familiar with and okay with my life choices. In fact, I got into motorcycles because my boy rides. My siblings won’t come to watch me race because they’re afraid I’ll get hurt. I’ve crashed but have more injuries from dirt bikes. My worst roadracing injury was getting knocked out in a high-side crash during a practice session, forcing me to spend the day in the hospital.

My biggest challenge is that old injuries and my old body dictate my riding style, but I’ve loved racing things since I can remember. Making caterpillars race as a kid, to skiing, then racehorses (exercised on a track, never licensed), to planes (career pilot), so bikes are a natural evolution. Horses, bikes, planes are all the same; it’s the magic of the union of a powerful vehicle and my mind still calling the shots at speed that gives me joy. When asked about mistakes senior riders make, I don’t single us out from everyone else so I don’t see “senior” mistakes.

The best advice I have for riders beginning or returning to roadracing is just do it. No excuses! Afraid of dying? Gonna soon anyway. Money? Can’t take it with you. Be an example to your loved ones to “live life on the edge or you’re taking up too much space!”

Bill Deal
Bill Deal, age 77, #599Etech

I currently race a 1968 Honda CB160 in AHRMA’s 200GP class and a 2015 KTM 390 Cup bike in its Sound of Singles 3 class. I bought my first motorcycle in February of 1970, a Yamaha DT250, and rode my first enduro in October. I rode the District 6 enduro circuit until 1979 with some road trips on a BMW 75/5 in between.

In 1998, I took my first track school with Reg Pridmore and knew I was a go-fast rider. That was followed with many trackdays as a rider and later as a coach. I started roadracing in 2009 with AHRMA on a Suzuki SV650 in Sound of Thunder 3. I competed in five race weekends in 2016 and will do four this year due to business involvement and motorcycle vacations. I do most of my own work on my bikes.

Physical fitness is extremely important. I work out twice a week with a personal trainer and at home the other days. I watch my weight, eat a sensible diet, and try to get my seven to eight hours of sleep. My biggest challenges are a loss of flexibility and slower reflexes.

I usually budget $1,500 per race weekend plus $2,000 to $3,000 per season for bike maintenance over four to six race weekends. My wife always comes with me and is fully supportive of my racing, but she does worry about me. My worst injury has been a broken collarbone.

I’d advise new or returning racers to not pick the fastest or highest-horsepower bike to start; enter some of the lighter, smaller-displacement classes. Start by taking a number of track/race schools and attend many trackdays to practice these skills. Work on your physical conditioning and keep on riding until you’re not having fun.

I race to satisfy my need for speed. I have surfed and skied in the past. With roadracing I determine the steepness of the mountain or height of the wave by how much throttle I twist.

Kendall Cranston
Kendall Cranston, age 71, #480Etech

My current racebikes are a 1980 Yamaha XS650 I run in Sportsman 750 and 2015 KTM RC390 for Sound of Singles 3. I’ve been riding since I was 16, so that is 55 years. I spent most of my years as a motocross, enduro, and dual-sport rider and didn't do a lot of street riding until I moved to Texas in 2011.

I started AHRMA roadracing at age 68 in 2016, so this is my third year, though I did three AHRMA Post Vintage motocross races in 2015 on my 1978 YZ250. There have been a couple years without a dirt bike or streetbike, like when I had to sell my Ducati in college to pay tuition for my wife and me. I raced motocross from 1973 through 1980. During the years I was racing cars, 1981–1992 (Renault Cup, VW Cup, IMSA All-American Challenge and GTO, and SCCA Trans Am), I did only a little dirt bike riding and little streetbike riding. I took Keith Code schools at VIR around 2004–2005 but did not start roadracing until February 2016.

In 2017, due to injury before the Barber round, I only made seven AHRMA race weekends with normally two races each day (Saturday and Sunday). I plan to race eight race weekends on both bikes this year and that will be a total of only 30 races due to broken engine on the KTM.

Fitness is somewhat important though I probably spend more energy prepping the bikes at the track than actually racing since the races are short. Before one knee acted up a year ago I would try to run 2.5 miles two to three times per week (which included a big hill) and two days participating in a Flexercise class. Now I am walking and swimming some to replace the running. Working on racebikes—installing engines, changing wheels, building and installing parts and catch pans—all provide a workout. I do all the work on my bikes including building engines, painting, and welding.

My diet is not special but I try to eat lots of fish, fruits, and vegetables. At 6 feet and 180 pounds dressed, I am fortunate to have been blessed with a relatively skinny body from my parents.

My biggest challenges these days are bravery, strength, flexibility, and vision. I don’t heal as fast as I used to so the penalty for a fall is much greater. I find it harder to move around on the bike and lean off. With floaters and the beginnings of cataracts, at speed it can be hard to pick up landmarks on the track (like turn 9 at Willow Springs).

I have been too scared to add up the cost, but since you asked… After plugging estimates into a spreadsheet, for two bikes and an eight-race-weekend season I spend about $16,200 annually. I have $7,800 in the KTM not counting the $2,000 I spent this year for a used eBay engine to replace the one I broke in the first race, and at least $3,000 in the XS650 in Sportsman 750. I probably don't have enough cost in there for tire warmers, stands, and all the parts I have bought for spares or in rebuilding or building three XS650s! Also, I have over $3,700 in racing gear: Dainese D-Air, Arai, Alpinestars.

My wife is tolerant but not enthusiastic…but most of my life has been about racing something. She goes to six races per year with me and since we often take a toy hauler motorhome she is happy to watch satellite TV while I work on the bikes. She pretty much knew what she was getting when she married me in college since I had a Ducati Scrambler, which after marriage we kept in the second bedroom of married-student housing.

Before we were married I took her to see an InterAm Motocross (when Roger DeCoster was still on a CZ). By the way, she was my next-door neighbor in high school and watched me rebuild the transmission of my first bike (a Harley-Davidson 165 two-stroke) in my garage. Also, she has always been happy that I buy the best protective equipment I can get.

My worst roadracing injury was at Utah Motorsports Campus in 2017. In the first practice session on Friday I trail-braked the KTM into the clubhouse corner and lost the front end and went down on my left side. I picked the bike up and went back to my paddock area. I apparently cracked three ribs and a scapula but thought I was just bruised. I raced the KTM on Saturday and Sunday and the XS650 on Sunday. Two weeks later I went to the chiropractor for back pain. He recracked and displaced the ribs and the pain later in the day was so bad that my vagus nerve fired, slowing my heart rate to 30 beats per minute and I passed out. My wife called the EMTs and after two days in the hospital no heart problems were found. I guess after years of dirt bike riding and racing I was used to riding with some sort of injury or pain so the original cracked ribs were not that big a deal… Although coughing or sneezing was agony.

I advise riders looking at our sport to get as much race training from a professional as you can afford. The biggest mistake I see Seniors make is thinking they are 25 years old! I think after age 70 my energy level started going down so it is harder to do all the work required to travel, load, rebuild, and prep bikes. I may not be able to race as many races in 2019. Also, competition has gotten better so I’m not winning as many trophies this year.

I believe smaller-displacement, slower classes better fit our reflexes, stamina, and eyesight. Also, Novice Historic Production is a good way to get started.

I’m roadracing because I just have something in me that loves motorsports and the competition. Since my last car racing season in 1992 I had been looking for something to race. I considered Supermoto, karting, Formula V, Mazda Miata, and other things but was too busy managing two manufacturing plants. After retiring and doing lots of road riding around Texas I got the bug for racing motorcycles. I enjoy the satisfaction of competing and the engineering and mechanics involved.