The Evolution of Hatch
The cousins Hatch do the 2003 Dirt Rider 24 hour at Glen Helen.
The AMA Pro Says:
Early one morning I was checking my email and I got one from Hatch Illustration. This usually means that my cousin is about to test some great bike or meet some famous person in the motorcycle industry. He knows that drives me crazy. Well not today, this one read, "I'm only going to ask you once, 24 hours at Glen Helen." Great motoheads think alike, I knew exactly what he meant. My heart started racing just like it does before the gate drops in a moto. I couldn't wait to get back to him and ask about the details.
The day finally came when it was time to fly out west, still not really sure what motorcycle I might be riding. But that was okay. Just getting a chance to spend some time in California with my cousin would be good enough. When I landed Jimbo was waiting at the terminal and the first thing he said was I got your bike. A brand new Yamaha YZ450F. I felt like a factory racer walking through the airport with my gear bag over my shoulder and a nice new Yamaha, prepped and ready to ride.
My first concern with the YZ450F was getting the big beast started. A close friend and racing teammate at Monmouth Cycles had the YZ426F, and me being a shorter rider, I would always have trouble getting it started, especially when it was hot. Not to worry. The 450 fired off on the first kick and I had no compression release to deal with. Now it was time to head out on the track and see what other improvements Yamaha had made.
The first part of the ride would be the motocross section. The power from the engine to the rear wheel was very smooth from the bottom of the throttle clear through to wide open. Having raced motorcycles most of my life it was nice to get away from the light-switch power band you get from most two-strokes. One thing I noticed right away was that I didn't have to shift very often. That's because Yamaha went from a five-speed transmission to a four-speed. I wasn't sure how that would be when it came to doing a big jump for the first time. After getting comfortable on the many tabletops it was time to do the step-up and then the big double. Third gear, as it turns out, will get you over just about any big obstacle. Way over...
Next it was off to the mountains and tight trails. I have to say this bike was doing everything well. The tight trails were a little bit tough; the wide motocross handlebars make maneuvering though the trees a little tricky. That's when I made a mistake and stalled the beast in the tight, sugar-sand switchback section. Now what's going to happen? Will the beast start hot? Or is it going to be a seven-mile push back to the truck? I propped myself against a tree so I could have my left leg on the peg and my right leg ready for a full hard stroke on the kick starter. I pulled the hot lever on the left handlebar, and to my surprise it started right up. I had a smile from ear to ear Yamaha had tamed the beast.
The entire event was like a dream come true for me. Getting out west for my first time, being involved in the 24 Hours at Glen Helen, meeting all the nice people that make this event possible. Thank you Yamaha for letting an old motocross racer from New Jersey come out and test a bike, sniff. What's my next assignment?
We spotted the #1 special section arrow and after a few hours of being severely spanked by my faster cousin I finally found his Achilles heel. It was massive down hills and we were staring straight down the famed Glen Helen MX mountain loop. If you think it looks big on TV, you have to see it in person to appreciate how brave and talented the Pros actually are attacking that hill in anger, simply amazing. I grabbed a handful of gas and hurled down, it was about half way with speed gaining that I questioned why I approached such a monster down hill with a healthy dose of throttle. Surviving to the bottom I thought the hardest part of loop #1 was over until I rounded the corner and spied the near vertical boulder field that offered my only return to the main route. The trail was strewn with helmet-less, beat-faced riders taking a break to analyze the quagmire. This was not a good sign; I kept my momentum and made it to the top to report my findings to thy elder cousin. At this point I was glad I had my hydration system strapped on and it worked quite well keeping me from the dreaded cottonmouth. The Dirt Rider boys had done a great job; I was having an absolute blast.
A catered lunch break and brief walk around revealed the magnitude of the talent at the event. I spied Malcolm Smith, sandwich in hand, at a nearby table. Jeremy McGrath whizzed by on a KTM with a very cool American flag waving proudly from the back of his helmet. Mike Metzger had his bikes on display fresh from the Winter X-games, no doubt, with studded tires and all. Helmet great Troy Lee was suited up and hanging with McGrath, all while the Motoworld on-air talent roamed the pits conducting interviews and gathering it all for posterity.
Lunch partially digested, it was back out to the main loop. Craig set the pace in his point and roost style. The first part of the loop was a wide sandy affair slowly winding up, then back down into a tight valley that wound though brush, slowly getting tighter, including a brief wooded section and a two-foot long section of actual mud and moisture, then back into the open. Every so often I would come across some hardy soul stationed in the thicket shooting photos. I met a few groups of riders along the way telling of how far they had come and their different motorcycling affiliations-- amazing how friendly everyone was all day long. We had a brief chat with a fast guy wearing a video unit on his back and a camera on his head, but after a brief stint he realized we weren't Steve Hatch or his brothers and went on his way.
After trying my very best to stay on the rear tire of my YZ-mounted cousin we approached one last monster uphill with large groups of bikes gathered at the bottom that resembled circled wagons of the old west. Was this a sign, should we scope out the situation first? Nope, we hit it hard and fast and had a blast bouncing and roosting our way to the top and eventually winding back down to the pits.
I took a break after multiple laps of the mountain to watch and photograph Craig lap the MX track and relished the time we had to finally ride together and at such a prestigious event no less (said Jim in his best James Bond accent). As night began to fall the teams scrambled to hook up their lighting systems and a more serious tone swept the pits. The people that came to play all day, including us, packed up to leave the star-studded teams to ride into the night and get on with the business of testing the bikes throughout the night, 24 hours indeed.
Our long day ended with a visit to the nearby shop of Amsoil Honda, busy preparing Travis Preston's championship 125 machine in anticipation of the San Diego Supercross. Thanks To Craig's endless connections, we found ourselves taking in the Supercross that Saturday sitting in the riders section, again surrounded by all the biggest names in our sport. This was a fitting end to a stellar week no doubt. For Craig it was back to the Jersey snow and for me back to staring at a computer screen and planning my next big move. I would like to thank Yamaha for providing the mighty 450F, Motorcycle Online for persuading Yamaha it was a reasonable thing to do, and Ken Faught from Dirt Rider for a truly memorable week in February.