THE DR CREW TACKLES THE GLEN HELEN 24 HOUR ENDURANCE RACE
Story By The Sleep-Deprived DR Staff
Photo By Adam Booth, Chris Denison, Karel Kramer And Eric Narvaez
The Glen Helen 24 Hour is one of the most challenging off-road endurance races on the West Coast, which also makes it one of the most rewarding to actually finish. The Dirt Rider squad has fielded a team at this event multiple times before, but this year we decided to go all-in with a serious “race” team, a more relaxed “fun” team and a lone Ironman entrant. With a total of 13 riders, our crew was offered a slice of factory-level support by way of the Monster Energy/Kawasaki off-road team, which provided two fresh race bikes and two fun-loving riders, along with a paradise pit area and even a chef for the weekend. We also had an Irish journalist, a fast Hawaiian kid, a handful of guys named “Chris” and someone wearing full baggy gear. The weather was hot, the riders were stoked and the bikes were built for speed as we headed into this grueling event. Here’s our hour-by-hour diary of what went down:
1000 Hours: The Start
“After riding Ironman at last year’s race, I didn’t think I would return for the 24 Hour. But there I was, sitting on the start line on the factory Monster Kawasaki with nerves burning deep because I didn’t want to let my new teammates down at the first hurdle. I didn’t grab the holeshot (sorry chaps) and the first lap was wild — I could see dust was going to be an issue in the early stages.” — Geoff Walker, Token Irishman
1100 Hours: Flowing Fast
“As a naturally competitive person I found myself going into full race-mode almost right away. I bounced off a few large rocks and found myself trying to pass people like there was a bonus prize for each pass. But then I quickly reminded myself that it is a long race and while I can’t win the race in one lap, I could certainly lose it! So I found some good lines and tried to get in a good flow of going fast without destroying the bike or wearing myself out.” — Ricky Yorks, Test Rider
1200 Hours: Hot, Hot Heat
“It was noon in Africa (yes, that’s how hot it felt and, yes, I’ve been to Africa) when Kai handed off the 450 to me. I’d never ridden this race, had no idea of the course layout, hadn’t ridden in quite a while and pretty much just decided to wing it. It’s like not golfing for a few months or a year, then when you do go it’s so low pressure that you have the most fun you’ve ever had. The Glen Helen course was a cool mix of terrain with a makeshift EnduroCross section, a rocky sand wash and the famous truck track. The REM and big tracks were the usual flowing layout and were still fairly fresh when I rolled through. On up through the single-track, the whoop roads on the ridge and backside of the facility were beat at the beginning and became increasingly hammered by the end of the race. A small pavement section and big hillclimbs were also no match for the Kawasaurus Rex!” — Dane Herron, World Traveler
1300 HOURS: Who’s The Goon?
“For my first shift on the bike, I decided to keep it fun and race in an old set of LBZ baggy gear and an open-face helmet. I wanted to be mellow and ride around 70 percent, so I was just keeping a medium pace around the silt bed found on the upper ‘ridge’ section when I saw that JCR/Honda team rider Colton Udall was lapping me. Although dressed like a goon, I still had some manners and pulled over so he wasn’t stuck in my dust. But to my surprise I then got T-boned hard from the side by Udall while waving him by! Man, I was heated! I got on the gas and began revving my engine and running into the back of Udall. I was so fired up that I was screaming at him through my open-face helmet, and I think my heart rate spiked to 200 BPM! I can only imagine how the scene looked from his perspective. When we finally came down the pit row Udall waved at me and apologized. I guess he got a little whiskey throttle in that section and didn’t mean to hit me! Maybe that’s what I get for dressing like a goon, right? Thanks for the apology, Udall!” — Kris Keefer, Crusty Demon
1400 HOURS: NASCAR Style
“The Fun Team’s lap times were somewhere in the 20-minute range, so I knew when to expect the bike, but as 20 minutes turned into 30 I began to get a bit nervous. Finally the bike arrived, bar tweaked, levers missing, grips torn, one hand guard gone and the other hanging by a thread. This is when I realized how gnarly the track really was. The Kawasaki mechanics snapped into action with a speed that would make a NASCAR pit crew jealous and had everything straightened or replaced in no time. Having mechanics that good really has a way of motivating you, so I rode my hardest as I left the pit, and tried to put down a couple factory-worthy laps in the hellish heat.” — Scott Denison, Off-Road Addict
1500 HOURS: Take No Chances
“I define a successful endurance race lap by its uneventfulness. My experience has been that if you have a bunch of really good stories when you pull into the pits, you probably rode over your ability level and had a few things go sideways out in the bush. Our KX450F was an absolute monster in the power department, and while the suspension was set up for Shrek, the bike could get on top of bumps if you twisted it.” — Chris Denison, Team Captain
1700 HOURS: Boothy On Board
“There’s nothing like jumping on a bike you haven’t ridden, a course you don’t know and heading off into the last part of the day when the sun is right in your face, blinding you every time you turn west. With heavy dust and direct sunlight in my eyes, my first laps weren’t record setters, but at least the heat of the day was past us and the coolness of night was fast approaching.” — Adam Booth, Bearded Blaster
1800 HOURS: Hide-And-Socket
“We found it best to stay out of the way of the Kawasaki techs during pit stops. We thought we were helping by passing them tools or parts, but for some reason they would always search for the tools where they had previously left them. They never asked us for them, even though we were clearly holding the tools behind their heads. From the outside, it must have been pure comedy looking like a game of moto keep-away. The lesson? Don’t mess with the pros, just let them do their jobs!” — Mike Barrett, Crew Chief
1900 HOURS: Goodbye, Daytime
“I was fortunate enough to have Booth ride out the most miserable part of these 24 hours: sunset. Once on the bike I had a couple of shadowed straights before the sun fell below the mountains. From that point on my goal was to avoid mistakes, continue finding smooth lines and finish off the day solid. The wind had died so the dust was getting worse, but there was still plenty of daylight for me to finish off my segment without needing lights. Our KX450F was running strong, and the only things showing signs of wear were my hands and, of course, the tires. As I rolled into the pits, everyone was getting amped up for the start of a long night.” — Chris Barrett, Mr. Consistency
2000 Hours: Light Bright
“The toughest part of the 24 Hour is the transition from light to dark, and while I welcomed the drop in temperature it quickly became apparent that we had an issue with our lights, or lack thereof. Twice I had to just stop right where I was to let the dust settle, as visibility had dropped to zero. While I was out getting lost in the dust, the team begged, borrowed or stole the brightest and most amazing light I had ever ridden with and replaced the two handlebar-mounted helmet lights that I first went out with. My next trip out was a huge improvement.” — Scott D.
2100 Hours: After-Dinner Energy
“By dinnertime I was buzzing after an afternoon of overheating the body and battling the bike. A softer fork was fitted, and the shock and power were also softened after Booth’s first early-evening lap of the day confirmed my initial feelings that the setup was too rigid. Riding this beauty with the most amazing Baja Designs light setup was a joy; I had found my mojo, and I wanted to ride every hour to the finish. Everything seemed easy now, and it brought me back to last year’s Ironman experience. The differences between team racing and Ironman are incomparable. It was strange to have to hand the bike over, and this feeling really hit me after this session. I really wanted to keep going!” — Geoff W.
2200 Hours: Wait, We’re Only Halfway?
“With darkness in full swing, the monotony of the race reared its ugly head. Time never seemed to go by; I just kept turning lap after lap. I would occasionally stop for a few minutes at a time, popping my head in to the Dirt Rider team pit, receiving encouragement, snacks and positive words before reluctantly getting back on the bike for five more laps. At one point, my rear tire hit a square edge, throwing me sideways and cartwheeling me into the night. I got back on the bike, beat the levers back to a usable state and continued riding. Only when the race was over the next day did I go and get an X-ray of my wrist. Luckily, it was just a bad sprain!” — Michael Allen, Ironman Extraordinaire
2300 Hours: Shameless Green Plug
“Thanks to Kawasaki’s PR technician, Ryan Collins, and Team Green’s Jason Smigel and Jeff Decker, the bikes ran flawlessly. Both machines held up very well and needed only a bit of attention: a few air filter changes, a chain guide replacement, a rear wheel swap and the addition of a Baja Designs light system (thanks to Bob Bell!). Our Fun Team bike was dropped several times (shocking), but a bit of attention from the technicians brought it right back up to race spec. This race is truly a testament to the hard work of Kawasaki’s engineers and to the R&D that’s been put into the advancement in design, technology and reliability of the KX450Fs to make them run nonstop for a full day!” — Greg Lasiewski, Kawasaki Media Relations Master
0000 Hours: Midnight Moto
“Six hours later, somewhere around midnight, I jumped back on the fire-breathing beast known as the Kawasaki. The Baja Designs lightbar was sleek, and I didn’t even notice its weight on the front of the bike. I was pleasantly shocked on the amount of light it pumped out, converting the night perfectly into a workable course to wheelie around. I also ran a Baja Designs Strykr helmet light, aiding in my ability to negotiate the tight single-track. The dead of the night roosting is by far the best part of the 24 Hour.” — Boothy
0200 Hours: Wide-Open Wake-ups
“If there’s one thing the Dirt Rider crew is good at, it’s keeping the energy level high. Mr. Keefer had thought-fully brought a bullhorn, which we used in conjunction with some fireworks to assist our slumbering teammates in waking up for their turns to ride. I typically don’t sleep at all at these races, which in this case turned out to be a blessing — payback is a beast, but they can’t get you back if you don’t let yourself drift off!” — Chris D.
0300 Hours: Power Hour
“It’s tough to get motivated from a deep sleep, but once you dust the cobwebs off and realize you’re part of a team and the other dudes are counting on you, that’s when you man up and try and have as much fun as possible. But riding that fatigued is the toughest thing in the world to do. Your mind and body are slipping and you really have to dig deep. Tough as those laps were, I’d do it again for the satisfaction of pushing myself.” — Dane H.
0500 Hours: Zombieland
“At this point I felt like a zombie, I was half asleep and talking to myself, bordering on insanity. Mainly I was wondering why we all signed up to do this race. I kept telling myself that this is fun and that sleep is overrated. You’re far enough into this race that there is no turning back and you can start to see light at the end of the tunnel...or maybe that’s just the sun coming up?” — Yorks
0600 Hours: Everybody Scream
“After all the fun of lighting fireworks, bullhorn wake-ups and cracking jokes, I was stoked to get out and ride. The track actually broke in enough where you could bank off little walls and the berms were still good; finding lines was a blast. There was one tight section of the course that funneled down into a tiny canyon, and it reminded me that I got scared pretty good a couple years back by some kids jumping out at me in the dark with a Scream mask on. All I was thinking about was if someone was going to come around the corner and jump out at me and scare me again. Riding this tired in the dark plays with your head!” — Keefer
0800 Hours: Pumped On Being Stoked
“The pit was buzzing and the track was brilliant as we all looked to the finish. The warmth from the sun grew, and as with every session I felt honored to be out there representing the DR team and Kawasaki. My feeling of ‘I hope I’m not letting these guys down’ was still in me, but I stuck to my solid policy and really enjoyed my final three-lap run in the sun. I was fresh as a daisy and strong. I had the honor of riding with Ironman Allen for part of a lap, and this brought a smile to my face as the awesome effort he was putting in was evident. I cannot describe how much respect I have for this human.” — Geoff W.
0900 Hours: Made It!
“As the race wound down, I began to feel that awesome feeling that comes when you’re about to achieve what you set out to do, which in this case was finish the race. My feet looked like zombie feet, I smelled like garbage, every muscle and joint in my body hurt and my wrist was twice its usual size, but I wouldn’t trade the feeling of finishing the 24 Hours of Glen Helen for anything in the world. The most surprising part was the fact that my hands only had one small blister. I really think that was due to the Fasst Company Flexx bars and A’ME grips that I ran on the Honda CRF250X.” — Michael A.
1000 Hours: That’s All, Folks
“24 hours later, all three Dirt Rider bikes crossed the finish line, much to the relief of all of the riders, helpers and poor souls who had to listen to our bullhorn in the wee hours of the night. The official results put the DR Race Team in third place overall, although we were later told the second place team had bent the rules and would be disqualified. The Fun Team clocked a solid fourth place finish in the Industry division, while a now-snoring Michael Allen was awarded with second in the Ironman class. There were smiles all around as we cleaned up the mess in the pits. Were we tired? Definitely. But we were also thrilled to have put in a solid day’s work with no major issues. The 24 Hour is a massive undertaking even with a high level of support like we had, yet the reward of finishing strong is well worth the effort. If you ever have the opportunity to race an endurance race like this, I highly recommend it.” — Chris D.
YOU CAN FIND THE FULL TEST OF OUR MONSTER ENERGY/KAWASAKI KX450F ENDURANCE RACE BIKE AT WWW.DIRTRIDER.COM/2012-24HR-BIKE-TEST. ALSO, CHECK OUT THE WEB FOR MICHAEL ALLEN’S PLAY-BY-PLAY ACCOUNT OF THE IRONMAN EXPERIENCE AT WWW.DIRTRIDER.COM/-FEATURES/2012-HONDA-CRF250X/.