Father & Son racing

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Father & Son racing

And we're not talking dirt...

Publisher's note: In January 2005, Randy Grein and I had several discussions about him providing track racing content for Sound RIDER! in 2005. We came up with a number of articles I believe many readers will be intrigued by. But the clincher in the whole thing was that Randy was passing on tradition and spending his time prepping his 14-year-old son, Justin, for track racing!!! We hear a lot about families doing dirt racing, but rarely do we see a 14-year-old hitting 95 mph on the track. So here's the first in a series of articles that will run throughout the year chronicling Randy and Justin's adventures at the track. Justin will provide sidebars throughout as well. With any luck these pieces may inspire other dads and sons to hit the track with their kids.

With apologies to the Grateful Dead, what a long strange trip it's been. I started racing in 1980 on the advice of a friend at University Honda. I had just bought a nearly new GS750 and was curious how fast it was. Chris Miamoto, a serious racer with a real GP bike, suggested coming out to the track to race, but was rather coy with what that entailed. There were no training clinics or track days back then, novices were gridded in the back of whatever class they entered. I showed up with number plates (no brackets to mount them) and a toolbox on the back of my bike. The good people running the club got me straightened out and on the track, and I was hooked. Except for a few years off to get finances straight, I've been racing ever since.

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Interview with Justin

Justin is a quiet kid not given to tooting his own horn, so we gave him a few questions to get started:

Q: What does it feel like to start racing so young?

A: I think it's just real cool. I can finally race without playing a video game. I welcome the chance to ride for real wholeheartedly, wishing that the first race day would come sooner.

Q: When did you first want to go racing?

A: It's hard to remember exactly when I started wanting to race. I have wanted to ride since age 7, when my dad first told me he would give me a bike. I always wanted to go as fast as I could, but 50 mph just wasn't fast enough. I guess I really wanted to go racing most seriously about a year ago, when the prospect of racing in a year came up. But, like I said, I've always wanted to go racing like my dad.

Q: What do your friends think about this?

A: My friends think it's cool that I go racing, but don't bring it up constantly. Life mostly goes on the way it has for thirteen years.

Q: What does your MOTHER think?

A: Let's just say my mom is not thrilled with the idea of me racing. She wants me to do what I want, but crashing is not exactly what either of us wants for me. I don't think all that fear is really necessary though. Even though my mom has these reservations, she lets me go race. So she must not be too worried.

Q: What are you doing to get ready?

A: I go riding in the dirt as often as I can to get ready. Reading "A Twist Of The Wrist" as I am is not enough. Books can describe what there is, but only riding a bike shows me how to do those things that have been described. It's not quite the same on dirt as on pavement, but you get the basic idea.

Q: How do you think you'll do?

A: I don't think I will do too well in the first year or two, but I'll get there. But it's all for happy times, blazing winds, high speeds, and a couple of medals here and there make up for any and all disappointments I meet. After all, I can't expect to be a champion the first time out, now can I?

And, like most people, I was lucky enough to marry. Wife, children, career, house. School, soccer and baseball for the kids. Time got tight but with the willing support of my family I continued to race. More, they came whenever possible. My son and daughter (now 13 and 11) grew up at the racetrack with the idea that they could race in their turn – if they chose. Justin has made that choice, and begins his career this year.

The first question people always have "and what does his MOTHER think about this!!??!" Funny thing, that – she thinks it's great. Laurie knows the real risks of racing (no worse than football); she's seen me crash a few times. The fact that Justin will be riding a vintage bike in the immensely popular Vintage 250 class filled with Honda CB160s really helped. A bike with 11 hp and a top speed of 83 mph is much less intimidating than a modern hyperbike. It's also easier to control, more forgiving – and less likely to cause serious injury in an accident. The lower cost of campaigning a bike that needs tires once every 3 years is just gravy for me. I will continue to campaign my '02 SV650 in the usual SV classes. It would be interesting to try a bigger bike again, but the realities of finance prohibit.


Twenty-five years of racing have taught me the FIRST step in racing is to prepare a budget. The average race career is 3 to 4 years – a year as novice, a year to get fast, and a year to get frustrated, overspend and quit. With my own racing program we needed something light, inexpensive and durable. Something so easy to maintain a child could do it. And something that wouldn't eat tires. A small vintage bike would be great, but while looking for a CB 160 we found a slightly better bike – a Penton 125.

We've spent a few years riding dirt bikes (never enough) but more is needed. It's a truism that kids rarely learn best from their parents – I'll be there to help, but Justin will have other mentors for most of his training. That's not to say I haven't given him assignments – he is studying the bible of the craft (Twist of the Wrist) and we watch most races on TV. Naturally there's On Any Sunday and Faster! and all the WMRRA videos and Saturday afternoons wrenching. He will be responsible for his own maintenance, but like any apprentice he'll be under a watchful eye.

his bike will be a real classic, a Penton 125 Enduro modified for road racing. We bought it from a racer who had done all the work and had some success before retiring. Modifications are modest, consisting of higher pegs, shocks, forks and an 18" front wheel.

The current, not cast in stone, plan is to enter him in the classroom portion of the WMRRA New Rider's Clinic, but as he won't quite be 14 we will skip the track session and wait for the first 2Fast rider clinic. Besides, WMRRA places all novices in a single track session. It's absolute insanity placing an 11 hp bike out there with R1s, doubly so when everyone is a novice! Providing he does well, we petition the Executive Board of the club (something required for all novices between 14 and 16 in Washington) and he'll enter the next race.

Next installment: Justin's first day on the track. Join us as I fight against parental over-control and Justin learns how to carve corners on a bike almost as old as his father!

Randy Grein/Winter 2005

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