Photos & Musings: Miscellaneous

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Bar Drags

Many people have asked me about the bar drag shots. Well, they’re all real, not photoshopped and not taken just before a crash.

The first time I remember getting the clutch lever in the dirt was in 1980, when I raced for Bryan Wade's British Motocross Racing School team. I used to do the demos at Bryan's training schools, and we were at Hawkstone Park one day, teaching on the practice track.

There was a 180 degree left hander in the woods, and while demonstrating I went round it maybe a dozen times. The berm was a perfect radius and I just got more and more confident and hit it faster each time, eventually getting the bars to touch down. That was on my Honda CR250 Red Rocket.

Getting the bars down is all about finding the right type of dirt, and building up the right shape berm, which shouldn't be too tight. You need to work up to it slowly. Going too fast too soon blows the berm out, and most likely your confidence too. You need to be smooth, accurate and committed, and come in on EXACTLY the right line. You can't do it if you are squaring the berm even slightly. Lots of gas is needed to pick the bike up.

You also need to work on just one corner. I could never do them if I was doing the rest of the lap and only hitting the corner once every 2 minutes.

The only problem is that when the bike gets really low, even though your boot cuts a little extra clearance for the bars, the clutch lever drags and disengages, meaning that the bike can low-side.

The KX shot is from a Motocross Rider magazine test of Paul Malin’s factory KX250SR from the early nineties. The full scanned test of that bike can be found in the Bike Tests section of my site.

The photo was taken by Kevin Chevis at Chippenham, on a main part of the track. It was set up but only in terms of carefully building up the berm slowly. It was third gear, wide open, and we did it about twenty or so times like this until the berm blew out.

The Honda CR500 shots are by legendary US photographer Fran Kuhn, taken at Gorman, California in 1987.

Mark Banks and I met Fran while racing the Golden State series and Fran offered to shoot some stuff with us. He took us to Gorman, a vast, wide open riding area, which was pretty dry, hard packed and nasty. However, Fran knew of a dried up river bed there in which he had done some shooting the week before. The sand was really soft beach type stuff, and I cut in a wide arc and started reeling off these third gear drags. It felt like surfing! Did this for about twenty minutes, and because it was a huge left hand circle that we were using my right knee was getting burned to shreds on the pipe. Hence in some of the later shots you can see me holding my knee away from the hot exhaust.

We got some great shots from this. One was used for a poster in DBR and also for an Answer products ad. Some of the pictures were amazing, with huge showers of sand being sprayed up from my left boot, almost obscuring the bike and me totally.

Fran is a great photographer. You can check out his stuff at

The black and white head-on shot is a Jack Burnicle photo from the DBR test of the production 1992 Hondas at Cadwell Park in Lincolnshire.

There wasn’t actually much of a berm here, just soft dirt on the outside. I was riding really well and just pitched the bike in, both wheels sliding together.

I worked well with Jack, and at this Cadwell Park test he was shooting really close to the action, and pretty much right in front of me. He asked me what I wanted him to do if I lost control, so I told him 'Stay exactly where you are. I will miss you so long as you don't jump into my path'. Last thing I wanted when out of control was a moving obstacle! A regular day at the office for both of us I guess!

The ‘almost-drag’ is from DBR test of Rob Herring’s factory Honda 250. Louth, Lincolnshire. Early nineties.

Lastly, the one handed photo is, would you believe, a 490 Twin Shock Maico, from about 1981, taken on the infield at Hawkstone Park. It's a long time ago, but I think I did ride that one out, although it wasn't glamorous!

Kawasaki KX250SR, Chippenham Enlarge image

Honda CR500, Gorman, CA Enlarge image

Honda CR500, Gorman, CA Enlarge image

Honda CR500, Gorman, CA Enlarge image

Honda CR250, Cadwell Park Enlarge image

Honda HRC CR250, Louth Enlarge image

Maico 490, Hawkstone Park Enlarge image