How To Conquer A 24 Hour Endurance Race: Tales From The Rookies

Beginner’s Luck?

Story and Photos by Trevor Hunter

We took a group of 6 guys, ranging from 14 years old, 110lbs, and 5’3″ to 50+ years old, 220lbs, and 6’3″, and everything in between, and threw them in the deep end as they all took on the 24 Hours of Glen Helen for each of their first times. For some odd reason, we gave up our 2020 Yamaha YZ250FX GYTR build to the Prairie Dogs MC to use and abuse for twenty-four straight hours around Glen Helen Raceway. Being that this was more of a “fun” team and not a serious effort showing up to win, prep was minimal and expectations were low on how well the team would do.

The bike is essentially how we built it up originally minus a few different parts and pieces. Changes from the original build to this race bike include Renthal Twinwall Handlebars (999 bend) for added strength to avoid bending under crashing, stock levers (this was a mistake), Maxxis SI front tire and two Maxxis IT rear tires. The bike also featured TCS Powersports  Suspension as we used this set during our YZ450FX test sessions so it was the same valving and spring rates as the #1 YZ450FX. Lastly, we freshened up the drivetrain with a new Firepower O-Ring chain and a new front sprocket to match the still-good DDC rear sprocket. To power lights, we used a WR stator, flywheel, and Firepower battery.

Times don’t lie.

We asked each rider a few simple questions and this is what we received back.

What did you think of the race overall? What would you do differently next year? Any tips for a first timer? What did you think of the bike? What would you change on the bike?

Sean Kamborian

Age: 52 | Height: 6′ 2″ | Weight: 183 | Current Bike: 2022 Husqvarna FX450

I have been very fortunate to have raced the 6hr and 10hr on several occasions but never the 24hr. In part because of the physical and mental requirements, but also who’s bike would be used as the sacrificial lamb? When I was presented with the opportunity to ride with 5 others on a bike that was being donated by a fellow club member, I felt why not?

We were to ride Trevor Hunters #224 Yamaha YZ250FX. Preparation on the bike was left up to Trevor and Craig Hunter. All we knew right up to the last day prior to the race was our rider race order, to bring two full 5-gallon gas cans with premium fuel and to be ready for some two-wheeled fun. This was to be our club, Prairie Dogs MC’s “B” team. It was made up of six rookies. I was excited and nervous. 24hrs is a long time to race a motorcycle through 10.2 miles of different terrain. So many things went through my head. Was I out of my mind, would I let the other riders down, could I handle an event that traversed day and night? Once there I was blown away by the pit set up our club put together. I felt like I was part of a factory team. The #224 bike looked on par as did the #1 bike that was lined up right next to it.

Comraderie was the common theme amongst the riders and pit team at the 24 Hour.

A plan was set into place that we would ride 1hr each or two laps. That of course would be determined by lap times. We had a dry-break installed and a loose plan to always fuel upon rider swap. Mike Wilson would lead off and once I saw him ride by in the 1st lap the reality of it hit me that we are now racing for the next 23 hrs and 35 minutes. I helped with pit swaps and cheering on the team. After each rider came in from there turn, I would ask how the course was fairing and any spots of concern to watch out for. It felt like my turn came quickly. Some pre-ride advice I got from some 24hr veterans was to not ride like I normally race but to pace myself to insure getting the bike in piece to the next rider. It’s a long race. I got on the bike about 3:30pm for the first time. My first lap was just feeling out a bike I had never ridden with a course that I was unfamiliar with. I ended up riding three laps and felt comfortable on the 250F by the second lap so I pushed a bit. Unfortunately, there was a very technical signal track section on the top ridge that both laps 2 & 3 had major pile ups on, causing major delays and leaving injured riders strewn through that stretch of the course. It was frustrating because my lap times did not reflect how well I was going because there were several minute delays. Once I was off the bike, I had decided that I would go over to FinishLineIV Hydration and get their podium level IV. After which I went back to my trailer to eat, hydrate, shower and stretch.

My next ride time came around 9:30pm. I struggled with visibility and a lack of confidence in my ability to ride fast under such conditions. I ended up having slower lap times at night where most everyone else on the team decreased their times a night. The bike ran flawless and never missed a beat. It was a tractor when needed and easy to ride. My biggest issues were that I’m 6’2” tall and the bar/seat height were made to suit a much shorter pilot. But it’s very difficult to suit six different riders of various abilities, height, and weights. I also only did 2 laps this time around.

My final time on the bike was around 3:30am. There was a sense of peacefulness and calm. I was mentally tired more so than physically. Again, I struggled with riding at night. I am just not as comfortable as I would like to be. 9:25am would have been my fourth and final time on the bike but only been one lap so Jordan Gorgone said he would finish so I didn’t have to get dressed.

All in all, the experience was a fun memory. The bike ran flawlessly. The team of riders and support people were top notch. Most importantly we finished the race healthy and brought the bike in, in one piece. I love how it brought our club that much closer together. I don’t think we could have done much differently. We kept it fun and with no goals of winning, just finishing. And we did that with flying colors.

Nick Gniadek

Age: 33 | Height: 6′ 0″ | Weight: 215 | Current Bike: 2022 GasGas MC250F

This was my first time ever doing a night race or even really using a light on a dirt bike for that matter. Initially, I felt the light was aimed incorrectly, but as I got out of the moto track and into some of the back sections going into the truck track I quickly realized I now had a different vantage point to read the cleaner lines on the course and started looking much further ahead with the help of the light to stay out of the nasty bumps that had formed in those later hours. The 24 hours speaks for itself in its name.. Most people ask why you would ever do such a thing, but after speaking to many people that raced it, their response usually has something to do with team building, camaraderie, and time well spent with friends. This race requires a village of people to help out and those people that are there in the pits are the most important people to bring a team of riders to the finish line. As far as the course itself, I believe it was well marked and had a natural feel and flow to it. As the course broke down new lines emerged and further into the race the difference of left to right lines felt like they were miles apart in some areas. The ruts and holes in the silt were enough to make you want to do fewer laps, but it was all about staying in it mentally and pushing on. The only thing I would recommend to a first timer is that if you feel prepared.. you’re probably not. You could go as far as planning every meal out and staying hydrated, but getting enough fuel in you is very important and tough to do. If racing again, I would prep all my goggles ahead of time and have my meals pre-planned so I could rest more in between and not have to worry about the little stuff as much.

The YZ250FX has some great low end power which, compared to my personal 250 felt a little more usable on the hills of Glen Helen. The fit and feel of the bike overall felt welcoming coming into the turns and when trying to grip the bike on certain single tracks and more technical sections. Some things that felt a little foreign to me were the bars either had a lower bend or were too narrow for my liking and for my first time hopping on the bike, the shrouds right by the tank do pop out a little more than I would prefer, this was something I did get used to though as I put more time in on the bike. As for the suspension, TCS Powersports and Trevor have something good going with an initial plush feel through the top of the stroke and a lot of support throughout the mid stroke, so much so that I will be working with Todd on a different setup for my bike! Although the spring on that bike was not correct for my weight the suspension felt very supportive.  Being that we had the support of the Prairie Dogs and the help of TCS Powersports, the preparation for each ride was made much easier on all of us. Thanks again to DBT for letting us use the bike and of course to the Prairie Dogs and TCS Suspension for being there throughout the whole event. We didn’t win, but we still crushed out there as a team and as a club!

Kai Hunter

Age: 14 | Height: 5′ 4″ | Weight: 110 | Current Bike: 2018 KTM 85SX/2022 Yamaha YZ125

The YZ250FX has really great power and has really good torque. Going up through the tight canyons and just coming out of the corner you can just get on the gas and the bike will go. One thing that did take some time to get used to was the seat being lower up in the front then the back. This made me sit up on the bike more than I normally would and help with my cornering. The suspension was on the stiffer side as it was not set up for my weight and set up for more around the 170 Lb. range. The bike wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be but if the suspension was a little bit softer, it would’ve been a little bit better for my liking. As soon as I hopped on the bike at night I thought the light’s were aimed up a bit to up on the moto when going off the lip of the jump, but when we got more to the off-road it was decent. The course wasn’t bad but as the race went on, the silt ruts got deeper and you were dog paddling through the rut. Also one thing that helped me thanks to one of my teammates was when I ride I normally look down at my tire and not far ahead. When going up this trail called  “Boy Scout,” he told me to look far ahead for the lines and that worked really well everywhere. Getting up in the morning wasn’t all bad. I was a little tired at first but then I was good to go. I did three laps everytime and I felt like I could go 4 but I knew we still had a long time to go. Overall my first ever 24 Hour was a blast on this YZ250FX and I would definitely like to do it again. Big thanks to the Prairie Dogs and TCS Powersports for getting the bike ready, and Dirt Bike Test and my brother Trevor Hunter for letting us use the bike.

Joe Kidd

Age: 20 | Height: 6′ 0″ | Weight: 165 | Current Bike: 2009 Honda CRF450X

Overall it was really fun. I was unsure on how the race was going to go because I had never ridden the bike until it was handed to me to go race. But once I got my first stint out of the way which was my slowest lap time of the race. It all went a lot better after that. When I got back in for my second stint, and being the first night rider. I got loose and had a good ride. And my last 2 stents were a blur because I was so tired. But overall I’d definitely do it again. It’s hard to comprehend how long the 24 hours of Glen Helen is until you race it. It’s so strange waking up at 2am and gearing back up and hopping on a motorcycle at night.

As far as what I would do differently next time, I would like to do more testing with the bike to get more accustomed to it before the race. Get everyone as comfortable as possible on the bike. Some tips for a first timer are to bring multiple sets of gear! That includes boots, socks, and helmet pads. If you think gearing back up at 2am to go race is bad, just wait till you have to put back on sweaty gear and a sweaty helmet. Kind of a given. But goggles with clear lenses and a lot of tear offs. Vision is very important for a night race. Sleep and eat when you can. I mastered the 8 minute power nap before going to the 24 hour.

I really enjoyed riding the DBT Yamaha YZ250FX. Once I figured out where the power band was, more mid to high rpms, it changed the bike for me. Almost pulling a wheelie up the hills at Glen Helen. The suspension felt better and better the more I rode the bike as it broke in more and softened up. First impression was that it was too stiff. But as the course got rougher and the suspension broke down, the bike handled the bumps better. I wasn’t really a fan of the rear tire we used. Not sure what tire it was. So I would maybe use a more performance based tire than a long lasting desert tire. I would also change the seat. It was a standard height Yamaha seat which felt too low and cramped. Me being 6’0”, I would sometimes get my feet stuck in the pegs because I couldn’t lift them up because I was so hunched down from the lowered seat. 

Jordan Gorgone

Age: 26 | Height: 6′ 2″ | Weight: 220 | Current Bike: 2007 CRF450X

My thoughts on the motorcycle was that it had a great power for a 250 and handled the bumps really well.

I wouldn’t change anything about the bike

I thought the 24 hr race was great. It was my first time participating in the race and woukd definitely do it again.

What I would do different for next year is come more prepared.

Tips for a first time racer would be to try n save some energy for the end because it’s a long day.

At the end of the race, the team finished 11/12 in Open Expert and 27th Overall. Really, the team faced no issues throughout the race. The team changed three air filters, dumped ~1 gal of gas every hour, and changed a rear tire after eight hours, though it probably could’ve gone the entire race on one set of Maxxis tires. Damage to the bike was pretty limited to the control area. The Cycra Handgaurds are bent beyond belief and the levers are rounded to the moon. Other than that and some scratched plastic, the bike is still running strong. After a wash and an oil and air filter change, we put this bike back on the line for another race weekend with no issues, now having ~45 hours on the engine rebuild. Stay tuned for more durability and long term maintenance on this bike as we tear down and inspect the ProX engine internals.

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