Story and photos by Neale Bayly.
A couple of years ago I discovered one of the best-kept secrets on two wheels when I found myself attending a riding course at Corner Spin, just outside Charlotte, NC www.cornerspin.com. For several years I had seen posters promoting the facility at my local bike hang outs, but somehow the idea of riding a Honda XR100 in the dirt didn’t seem like the most exciting way to spend a weekend. After all, I ride real motorcycles. Fast forward to the end of a weekend of training at Cornerspin, and the stark realization that I had been missing out on a whole pile of fun and a chance to seriously improve my riding skills. Fun that could be had at very low cost and with low penalty for error, outside of a few bruises if you get too enthusiastic, or sore ribs from laughing so much.
I had to sort out a way to do this kind of riding on a more regular basis. As I got more addicted to spinning and sliding in the dirt, the next logical step was getting my two boys, Luke and Patrick involved. Before long we had an old Yamaha TTR125 in the garage that we purchased for $500. It was in rough condition but we knew it was going to get a lot of abuse so it didn’t matter. Having worked through various other small bikes as the boys have grown I had seen the results of kids falling off. The next step was to find a suitable riding spot, at first we rode on an old abandoned building site near our house, but more recently we took up residence at a friend’s back yard. He is a confirmed bachelor with a little property attached to his house, and as an avid motorcyclist and mechanic was the perfect accomplice. With a small, fun track laid out where he used to have a lawn, we have been happily spinning, sliding, and crashing every weekend our schedules have aligned, and in the process safely taught a good number people to ride, and exposed existing street motorcyclists to a fun way of refreshing their existing skills. It’s a riot. Turn up with a cooler full of drinks and snacks, pull out the dirt-bike gear and a lawn chair, and then either sit back and enjoy the show or go twist the throttle and have a ball.
The TTR has proven to be absolutely bullet proof, and apart from oil changes, air filter cleaning, chain lubing and adjusting, the only time it needs any attention is when something is too bent to ride. My oldest son Luke has a unique ability to provide not only the most spectacular laps, but also some pretty spectacular crashes and more bent parts than the rest of us combined. The old TTR has been on the ground in a pile of dust and limbs more times than any of us care to remember while always surviving to ride another day.
As the winter set in late last year, we rolled the TTR into the garage, and found the final drive to be in serious need of replacement, the chain was stretched beyond repair and the old beast was looking more than a little weary. I decided that before the new riding season was upon us I should get to work and freshen up the Yamaha. A new chain and sprocket set with lower gearing was ordered, oil and oil filter purchased, and a new air filter and spark plug went into the bag. Then a set of the Bridgestone Trail Wing’s were put on in place of our worn out OEM knobbies. Aaron Stevenson, Cornerspin’s owner, has all his bikes fitted with these at “Spin” so we followed suit.
All the rest of the work to be done required mainly elbow grease, a few tools, and some lubricants, so off to the shed we went. While I had the back wheel off I cleaned and serviced the brake pads, which were extremely glazed. Sanding the inside of the drum, I cleaned all the moving parts with brake cleaner, before lightly greasing them. Then I re-installed the pads, which now looked as good as new. While I was doing this, my pal Corey pulled off the swing arm and shock and re-greased the bearings. Things had been getting a little squeaky, and to be honest I don’t think the suspension had been doing a whole lot of anything with the amount of dust and mud that was packed in there. While the swing arm was off, I washed it and repainted it before Corey bolted it all back together. With everything cleaned and lubed, it all went back together easily and now works like a charm.
Next on the list was the bodywork, it all came off for a thorough cleaning and we gave the bike a meticulous washing and detailing. This allowed us to see everything, check it all over and install the new air filter and spark plug. Patrick gave the TTR an oil change, and Corey put all the bodywork back on. There were a few things to straighten out, and once the brake pedal spring was repaired, the rear brake rod attended to, and the levers set in place, we were close to being back in business. We lubed the cables, filled her with gas and headed out to the track on a warm, sunny spring day.
The transformation was amazing. The new gearing added a few teeth to the rear sprocket so the bike accelerates much better, and the rear shock is now quiet and actually works so the ride quality improved greatly. We have also done a lot of work to our track to smooth it out, and after a day of fast laps we couldn’t be happier with our little TTR 125. Luke immediately jumped on and set about putting it back in the state it was when we parked it last winter. He was most impressed with the extra power and was his usual flamboyant self as he turned the fastest lap times we have ever recorded on our little track. Patrick also took some laps, as did Corey and I, and we rode until it got too dark to see. Other than occasional oil changes and chain maintenance, and of course a couple of dollars worth of gas for the day these mini’s are a great way to get the juices flowing without breaking the bank. Who says you can’t have cheap fun on motorcycles?