Two years ago I read about the Biltwell 100. "What a fun time that looks like," I thought. There's been many times in my life where I've come to the realization that “I can actually do that!” And so I have done many things that as a kid only cool people did in movies, like flying airplanes. I'm not sure at what point in life I realized that, if I worked hard for it, I could actually achieve anything I wanted, but when it hit me, it hit HARD.
After dealing with a nasty knee injury and more than a year of therapy and recovery from an ACL reconstructive surgery, it felt like I had lost all my outlets. I couldn't play soccer, I couldn't rollerblade, I couldn't do many things I enjoyed. Riding my 550lb Harley with a very weak left leg was one of those. I went through some despair, helping customers get ready for the spring season, watching all my coworkers at Revzilla out riding, and me, sitting on my work chair envying them all.
It took a lot of thinking, but I eventually gave in to the idea of using some of my school savings to buy another bike, a lighter one! It was here that my quest began. After a lot of research, and bugging every mechanic friend I knew about any possible bike I could buy, I stumbled upon this new Beemer model that had come out just 3 years prior. It was light, not too tall for my – very short – height, it was a simple single-cylinder, easy enough to maintain and, the best part, it was a $5,000 BMW! "What?!"
While I absolutely love my Harley-Davidson, Sniper the 883, this little BMW, which my husband named Wildcat after Ernst Lubitsch’s 1921 silent film The Wildcat, has brought me quite some joy. I'm clueless as to how many miles I've put on it and, honestly, I don't care. I just know I've had lots of fun with her... after she forgave me for tipping over at the dealership during our first test ride, that is. Cut me some slack, it was my first time on a bike after my ACL tear!
She was my touring buddy when I went camping with the Litas Los Angeles and got lost at the Sequoia National Park for six hours without any phone or GPS service – if only I had been using REVER’s offline maps! She's gone on a few track days at Willow Springs Raceway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Chuckwalla Valley Raceway. Recently, she even graduated to an Ultra Lightweight race bike when I got my racing license, crashed, dragged my knee for the first time, and also won 2nd place at one of the Femmewalla races!
I was getting quite a lot out of Wildcat. Asking for more would be cheeky!
As some time has passed since my surgery, I've reacquainted myself with the off-road world. I've been riding a G310GS, Baby GS, and an old 2T CR85, Mucky Red in New Hampshire, and about a month ago I added a new dirt bike to my collection in California: a little TT-R 125. After managing to get a spot in this year's Biltwell 100, I was running out of time to actually get a bike to race it. Hence, the perfect height TT-R 125E, which also fit my very low budget. That came with a small compromise though: a dirty carb. No big deal! I cleaned it, re-jet it, put it back on, installed a new Twin Air Air Filter, a sexy FMF Mini Powercore 4, some Acerbis X-Force Handguards and brand new Michelin StarCross 5 Tires. The thing was pretty much ready to race. I just wanted to test ride it before changing the oil and finalizing the BBR Motorsports Skid Plate install.
The bike started after three or four kicks, and the exhaust sounded A+. I went to get a screwdriver to set the idle jet on the newly cleaned carb. When I came back a waterfall of oil was pouring out of the... uh, the airbox? “Uh-uh!” Not everything goes according to plan, even when you've done everything right. I still don't know what happened, but this wasn't something I could fix myself. I brought the TT-R to the shop, where they assured me it WOULD NOT be ready to race on Saturday. My Biltwell 2023 dream was over. Or was it?
Some frustration was dealt with, a bit of anger too, and some big fat tears may or may not have rolled down my cheeks as well. It wasn’t over though; hope wasn’t gone. I had to pause for a second and think, “what are my alternatives, and how can I adapt?” Well, it wasn’t me who would need to adapt. I turned to an old friend that’s given me more than I should be asking for. How hard could it be to find some knobby tires for a sport bike? Well, quite hard, but not impossible!
No local shops in the Santa Clarita area had dual-sport or dirt tires in the sizes Wildcat needed. The few that are available in those sizes either needed to be ordered by the shop, or were only available online and would not be delivered on time for the race. I had to, quite literally, leave my comfort zone and drive 175 miles to get my answer. The three hour long drive between my work shifts proved to be worth it, and I managed to get decent enough tires to, at least, give the race a shot. Trying was all I wanted.
Wildcat took off her racing Dunlop Q3 Plus Sportmax Tires and put on a Shinko 805 Big Block Tire on her rear, and a Shinko 244 at the front. They were not perfect desert race tires and also fit her a little too big, but nothing that couldn’t be solved by removing the fender. Her new look was that of a warrior.
You will have to stay tuned to find out how this story ends. But this little Wildcat is quite the all-in-one: commuter, sport-tourer, podium race bike, and now lite-adventure bike? I bet your typical “dual-sport” can’t do all of those as well as this little one does it. I may be (definitely am) biased, but this inanimate object has managed to earn my love and respect, and will forever hold a place in my heart for all the good, and sad, memories she’s allowed me to create.