A NEW 125 TWO-STROKE
With all of the new bikes announced this month, the one that excited me the most went mostly unnoticed. Beta has a new 125 two-stroke. That’s wild! A few years ago it looked like no one would ever make a two-stroke again, especially not one with a carburetor. Now Beta, a small company with limited resources, decided that the best place to invest is in an off-road 125. The 125RR has a brand-new motor, not to be confused with the 125RR-S introduced last year. That is a dual-sport four-stroke that was originally tailored to suit European markets where graduated licensing regulations create a market for small street bikes. In the U.S., it was imported as a bit of a gamble. The idea of a new 125 two-stroke can be seen as a bit of a risk, too.
Beta has always had an interesting problem. It has a small factory with fixed production. Only so many motorcycles can be produced each year, and those are exported all over the world. Lately, the U.S. has been getting more than its fair share because the dollar is strong. Let’s hope it stays that way. Technically, there’s nothing off-beat about the new 125. It has a provision for an electric starter, although one doesn’t come on the bike as delivered. The powervalve has the same two-stage design as the one on the bigger Betas. The suspension is Sachs and the frame isn’t too far removed from the other 2018 Betas.
I’ve always been a big fan of 125 two-strokes. The last time I rode the ISDE was on a TM125E back in 2000. Kurt Caselli and Luca Trussardi also rode them that year on the U.S. team and we formed our own TM corner in the pits with Rich Caselli as our unofficial team captain. The great thing about small displacement bikes is that you get to work them hard and feel like a hero. With big four-strokes, they work you hard.
Earlier in the year, Sherco announced that it had a new 125 off-road bike, too. It has an electronic powervalve, WP suspension and even though Sherco still has a fuel-injected bike in the works, this one is fuel injected. Next week, Sherco is presenting its new 2018 models to the press. All we’ve seen of them so far is in this video teaser.
WORCS AND TAYLOR
Last Sunday, Taylor Robert won the WORCS race at Glen Helen and made it look easy. Trevor Stewart was the only rider to keep him more or less in check throughout the race, although Blayne Thompson also had a good race. I talked a little with Taylor, who is trying to salvage what started off as a terrible year. Back in February he crashed at the King of the Motos and suffered some pretty scary internal injuries. He returned to racing after about three months, but it wrecked his plans for the WORCS series and the National Hare and Hound series.
In the WORCS, he won the first two, missed the next four, then won the next two. That’s a pretty average for the ones he’s attended, but it only puts him in seventh overall. In the National hare and hound, he only missed two rounds, and he won the last two. That gives him fourth, with a realisitc chance of climing as high as second. First place in both series belongs to Gary Sutherlin, who is having a solid year, even if he isn’t winning as often as he has in the past.
Gary has only won one Hare and Hound this year, but has been on the podium in all six rounds. Ricky Brabec has been injured and missed the last two rounds, so that gives Gary a runaway lead in that series, which has no throwaways for the pros. In WORCS, Gary has won two of the nine rounds, but that’s enough for a solid lead. At Glen Helen this week, he had his worst race of the year. He was running in third when he damaged his radiator and came into the pits. His crew replaced it in about seven minutes, but that was enough to put him in 13th place. Sutherlin’s closest competitor in the series is Justin Seeds, who also had some back luck, so his point gap is 13 points with two races to go.
One of the most impressive rides at Glen Helen was Noah Kepple, who race our 2018 Gas Gas EC300 test bike to second in the Pro 2 class. Noah was recently picked up by Gas Gas to do various races including the EnduroCross series. Unfortunately, Gas Gas didn’t have any motorcycles to give him. We relinquished our test bike three days before the race and he rode it extremely well. Keep in mind that the Glen Helen WORCS course is mostly motocross and the Gas Gas is set up for tight trails. The suspension was far too soft. Noah just added a little fork oil and did his best. The bike is super quiet compared to the 450 MX bikes that fill the Pro 2 class, and you could hardly hear him go by.
The Erzberg Red Bull Hare Scrambles happened this weekend and it was epic. It was shown live, and if you missed it, you can still watch on Red Bull TV by clicking here. Cody Webb had a shot at winning it, but seized up with arm pump. The TV coverage only caught part of the drama, but little bits and pieces are appearing now. The amateur video above shows a critical period where Johnny Walker (in the orange pants) gets by Cody (in dark pants), who tosses off his goggles. There’s a shot of Colton Haaker (bike number 16) who isn’t seen in the TV coverage at all. The other American finisher was Keith Curtis, who was 20th. Mitch Carvoth came within one checkpoint of the finish and was credited with 26th. Cody Webb’s schedule is amazing. The week before this he was in the U.S. at the Last Dog Standing. Next week, he’s in the Dominican Republic at the Machete Hard Enduro.
EARLY YEARS OF MOTOCROSS SERIES
Keep an eye open for this. Travis Fant has been putting together a series of videos, each presenting an iconic motorcycle in Tom White’s Early Years of Motocross collection. Many of the bikes in Tom’s collection are very valuable and well-known among collectors, but are perhaps too rare to be remembered by most riders. The bikes featured in this series are more mainstream, and Tom’s reservoir of knowledge is amazing. The series will appear here and on our Youtube channel, which has lots of good stuff.
AMA VINTAGE DAYS
Speaking of Tom White, he has covered the AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days for us in the past. This year, he has some health issues that will prevent him from being there, but the event is still the biggest gathering of vintage racers, collectors and enthusiasts in the country. It starts in two weeks and if you’ve never seen it, go!
THIS WEEK IN MOTOCROSS: TENNESSEE 2017