Little Motorcycles Equal Big Fun
Ed. note: In this age of bigger, faster, more high tech, more powerful and more expensive motorcycles, there’s a refreshing counter-movement taking place in motorcycling, and it is expanding rapidly. Small motorcycles are becoming popular again, among the young and older. From Royal Enfield abroad, to Janus Motorcycles stateside, from Grom groups to Mini Moto racing, small displacement is a rapidly growing segment within the motorcycling world. Mike Boyd recently jumped in that world with a Honda Monkey, and spent a couple of fun weekends with like minded riders at two big events for small motorbikes- The Smokey Mountain Small Bore Rally, and Barber Small Bore in Birmingham, Alabama. Here’s his account of the festivities.
A man and his Monkey.
Smokey Mountain Small Bore Rally: June 1-3, 2023
I am rather late to the game in this niche of motorcycle mania. I learned about this rally at the beginning of the year, and it looked like a lot of fun. So, I went to my local motorcycle shop, Cycle World of Athens, and bought myself a new 2023 Honda Monkey (above). I have been riding for over 60 years, but this is a different experience entirely. The fun I’ve had riding this little bike around my region and taking it to Daytona Bike Week led to my decision to attend this rally in the mountains and see what other like-minded folks were doing with these little bikes.
Mini motos everywhere.
I arrived and set up at my campsite beside a beautiful mountain stream about two miles outside of Townsend, Tennessee, the host city for this year’s rally. I then rode to a pre-rally “meet & greet” reception held at a local craft beer restaurant. This little town was inundated with little bikes already, scurrying around everywhere. I met numerous enthusiasts and saw some incredible custom small bikes around the city square. I especially enjoyed meeting the organizers of this event, Matt and Tiffany Carpenter.
Organizer Matt Carpenter (right) with last year’s Poker Run winners. The wrestling-styled belt was the coveted prize.
The weekend kicked off with small bore drag races held at the Knoxville Dragway some 50 miles north of Townsend. These guys are serious about this stuff. I watched a Honda Grom turn over 100 mph down the strip. Unbelievable! By early afternoon, the Rally hosted a 100 mile poker run which I joined in, and it made a nice scenic loop with card draws in Maryville, Louisville, Friendsville, then back through Maryville before ending again in Townsend. I may be lucky in love, but certainly not in poker. Oh well, it’s all about the ride. The day ended in Maryville with a “Downtown Pub Takeover”, and hundreds of mini motorcycles filled the town central. So many new friends were made.
No slow bikes here. The definition of “pocket rocket”.
Friday was filled with numerous mapped and guided group rides in the area, and I decided to ride with a group of Honda Monkey riders in the trip headed over to Deals Gap, the NC end of the famed Tail of the Dragon. The store and road was slammed with people, so I rolled back to Townsend and took in the nearby Smokey Mountain Parkway. Back at the rally point, I checked out some of the vendors like Howling Moto, The Speed Shop, Run DHM, Morg Mini-Moto among others. There was even a Dyno Tune trailer set up. It was operating non-stop. Friday ended with a ride to Gatlinburg. Under a full moon hundreds of little bikes ran down country roads, sounding like a swarm of killer bees with some stunt riders popping wheelies.
Minis for miles. And there always has to be at least one.
The last day of the rally, Saturday, was action-packed with a bike show, prize raffle and the vendors doing a booming business. They got some of my business. I bought a set of street tires so I could be rid of those rough riding “knobbies” that came stock on the Monkey. The afternoon brought out the field games, with slow races and another where riders raced down to the other end of the field, got off the bikes to put on a shirt, wig, and purse, hop back on the bike to race back to the finish line. Crazy! It was getting hot, but everyone hung in there.
Have wheels, will race.
The evening ended with a group ride to the American Legion Post 13 in Maryville for a closing party. They had prepared a nice dinner for us, and opened their parking lot to the stunt riders. I enjoyed visiting with many of the riders and Post members, being a combat veteran myself. I got to meet the Post Commander who told me next year they were going to open up their own campgrounds for rally campers. I rode solo back to my campsite where I settled down with a cold beer to reflect on this great rally and make plans for the next.
Card girls at one of the stops during the Poker Run.
Barber Small Bore: June 9-11, 2023
I set out for my second small bore rally in less than a week on June 8, with my Honda Monkey tied down securely in my home-made travel trailer/camper. Barber Motorsports Park is a little over 200 miles from my home near Athens, Georgia, so aside from the always awful Atlanta traffic, it’s an easy trip to Birmingham, Alabama. I arrived around 2pm and checked in at the credentials building along with everyone else waiting in line until 3pm when they opened the gates to claim camping spots. For those who have never been to Barber, this place is beautiful. Everything is clean, modern and manicured. As the Rally didn’t start until Friday, I had time to just ride around and meet people as they came in.
Filling up fast. The place would be full by late Friday.
Friday, June 9 was a beautiful day and the crowds had been filling up the camping areas to capacity. The Fan Zone was my first stop where the Mini GP track and vendors were set up, and a long line formed early for people signing up to ride the main track in what’s called Parade Laps. They also had timed drag racing for anyone who got in line. And signed a waiver.
The Fan Zone in the morning. It would be filled the rest of the day.
Elsewhere on the Park grounds was the Stunt Show and what they called “Straight Rhythm” which is riding over and through a bunch of large dirt piles. Most of these were open to anyone who signed up. The small bore crowds were filing in all day Friday, and it was truly exciting to see the wide variety of stock and custom small bikes everywhere, and to feel the enthusiasm around the vast motorsports park property.
Small Bore Drags and Track. These guys aren’t exactly dressed ATGATT. The track riders certainly were.
Saturday was another fine day if not a bit warm. The events continued from Friday with a few other offerings thrown in at the end of the day. These were the Creek Bottom Classic, Mini Moto Hillclimb and to top all that off, Barber hosted a free Pig Roast and Bike Show. They held a raffle drawing for many great prizes including a new motorcycle. There were so many events and races crammed into the end of the day that it was well after dark before everything ended.
Playing on the miles of wooded trails and hills around the Barber Motorsports complex.
Whether around the track, in the vendor areas, at the Bike Show and various other events, or out in the woods rides, the Barber Small Bore was a thrilling weekend with fellow enthusiasts. I’m so glad I made the trip. This was their fourth year putting on the rally, and it’s grown exponentially each year they’ve hosted it. I’ll definitely be back next year, no doubt.
Something for everyone at Barber Small Bore.
Two very different rallies, but they share a common passion. Small motorcycles can certainly equate to big fun. Be it out on open roads, in a beautiful place like Barber Motorsports Park, or bouncing along some wooded trails, I’m hooked on small bore riding. It’s true, sometimes it really is more fun to ride a slow bike fast, than a fast bike slow. All I can say is that I had a wonderful time at both rallies, and after riding motorcycles for over sixty years I have discovered an exciting new aspect to this sport we call motorcycling.
Huge thanks to Matt & Tiffany Carpenter of Smokey Mountain Small Bore and Nick LaCasse of Barber Motorsports Museum for putting on two fantastic events, and for granting me access.
For more on each of these events, click on the links below: