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My First Bike...John Clark

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My first bike was a well-used Briggs & Stratton-powered minibike with no suspension and a pull start. It cost $50 and I paid for it with earnings from my paper route. I never raced this bike - it wasn't exactly “race-ready.” I rode this thing every day until it would run out of gas.

I built a little track in my parents’ backyard with some jumps and berms and made my little brother time me to see how fast I could do a lap. I didn't have any heavy equipment, so I had to dig out the track with a shovel. We would fill the berms with water to soften the dirt, then do laps to dig them out and turn them into nice ruts.

It was about a year before I started riding my uncle’s Maico 125 - quite a jump in power! I was still pretty small for the Maico and didn't get to ride it much at first, but we would go out to Sears Point, now Infineon, back when they had a dirt track there. They had to put me on the bike and hold it up for me to get going and catch me when I was ready to stop because my legs were too short to touch the ground. Later, I got my own XR.

This was right about the time that On Any Sunday came out, and Mert Lawill was from my same hometown. I would pretend to be Mert and drill holes in different parts to make them lighter like he did in the movie. Of course, this didn't make any difference, but I felt cool doing it. I had three older brothers who rode, and they would help me mechanically. The best was when they showed me how to take the governor off!

At the time I was heavily into BMX riding. Now, don't confuse this with the type of BMX riding that is popular today, as those types of bikes did not exist. I had a Schwinn Stingray with a banana seat and mini sissy bar. The cool thing was to cut the front off the seat and duct tape it up and to replace the handlebars with moto-style high bars with a cross bar. We used to have races out a Blackies Pasture in Tiburon, where we had a pretty good track with nice jumps and big berms. After a couple years of pedaling, I longed for the twist of the throttle and tried to get my parents to pony up for a minibike, but that was not going to happen. My older brothers had a friend with this old bike in his garage and kept it for me until I earned enough from my paper route to pay for it. This was the first substantial purchase I ever made.

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