Making Big Memories On A Little Motorcycle

A number of years ago I discovered one of the best-kept secrets on two wheels when I found myself at Aaron Stevenson’s Cornerspin training. For a couple of years, I had seen posters promoting the Spencer, North Carolina facility at my local bike hangouts, but somehow the idea of riding little Honda XR100s didn’t seem like the most exciting way to spend a weekend. After all, I ride real motorcycles. Fast forward to the end of weekend 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 motorcycle riding. 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.

The little bike that could- Yamaha TT-R125L

As I got more addicted to spinning and sliding in the dirt, the next step was getting my boys, Luke and Patrick more involved, and before long we had an old Yamaha TT-R125L in the garage we purchased for $500. Over the years we had worked through various other small bikes as the boys grew and this was next in line. At first we rode on an old abandoned building site near my house, but later we took up residence at my friend Corey’s backyard. He was 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 were happily spinning, sliding, and crashing every weekend our schedules aligned, and in the process safely taught a good number people to ride, or exposed existing motorcyclists to a fun way of refreshing their existing skills. It was 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 fun.

Not many joys greater than watching your kids having fun.

That little Yamaha TT-R125L proved to be absolutely bullet proof, and apart from oil changes, air filter cleaning, chain lubing and adjusting, the only time it needed any wrenches turned was when something got too bent to ride. My son Luke had a unique ability to provide not only the most spectacular laps, but also more bent parts than the rest of us put together. So it was no surprise that the TT-R ended up on the ground in a pile of dust and limbs more times than any of us could remember while thankfully always surviving to ride another day.

A frequent occurrence with these lads.

As the winter set in late that year, we rolled the TT-R into the garage and found the chain was stretched beyond repair and the old beast was looking more than a little weary. So Corey and I decided that before the next riding season was upon us we should get to work and freshen up the old Yamaha. A new chain and sprocket set was ordered, oil and filter purchased, and a new air filter and spark plug went into the bag. Then a set of the Bridgestone Trail Wings were put on in place of our worn out knobby tires. Aaron had all his bikes fitted with these at “Spin” so we followed suit.

Time for some winter work.

All the rest of the jobs required some 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 reinstalled the pads, which now looked as good as new. While I was doing this, Corey pulled off the swingarm and shock and lubed all the important places. 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 swingarm was off, I washed it and repainted it just for looks before Corey bolted it all back together and installed the chain and sprockets. With everything cleaned and lubed, it all went back together easily and worked again like it should.

We also took all the bodywork off for cleaning and gave the bike a thorough washing and detailing. This allowed us to check everything over and install that new air filter and spark plug. Patrick gave the TT-R an oil change, then 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 day.

Fast boys even faster.

The transformation was amazing. The new gearing added a few teeth to the rear sprocket so the bike accelerated much better, and the rear shock was quiet and worked properly over bumps, so the ride quality felt almost plush. We also did a lot of work on our track to smooth it out, and after a day of fast laps we could not have been happier with our little old TT-R125L.

Fond memories with my boys, on a fun little dirt bike.

Luke immediately jumped on and set about putting it back in the state it was when we parked it that previous winter. He was most impressed with the extra power and was his usual flamboyant self as he turned the fastest lap times we had ever recorded on our tiny track. Patrick took some laps, as did Corey and I, and we rode until it got too dark to see. In the next weeks we bled the brakes and overhauled the front brake caliper, but that was it for the season. Other than occasional oil changes, air filter clean, chain maintenance, and of course a few dollars worth of gas for the days, who says you can’t have cheap fun on motorcycles?


*Photos by Patrick Bayly


Cycle World Athens


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