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Friday, January 27, 2023

The Vallee report – 125 Memories

For those of you keeping track, there is a Supercross competitor in the 250 class that seems to have gained some new fans. This rider isn’t on top of the podium every week and in fact he has only qualified for one main event in four tries so far. The reason Gared Steinke is gaining new followers every week isn’t so much about where he finishes but much more about what he is riding on the way to the finish. You see while every other rider in the series is riding a four stroke 250, Steinke is turning heads and keeping mosquitos at bay as he turn laps on his KTM 125SX. I can only imagine some of the “are you kidding me?” looks Steinke gets from fellow competitors when he lines up at the gates. Steinke proved those naysayers wrong in round two however when he made it into the final while many of them were loading their bike into the trailer for the night.

Gared Steinke is turning heads in the 250 Supercross class.

Watching Steinke (and listening I guess) it has made me think back to the first ‘real’ bike I ever purchased. The year was 1983 and large hair and bright clothes were in full force. After a couple of years of owning some absolute lemons I happened to notice a brand new 1982 Yamaha YZ 125 at the local dealer. After some sweet talking to my mom, I convinced her to co-sign for me and with a promise of 12 easy payments I was out the door. Much like my first couple of bikes there was no transportation for the 125 so once again I was off on foot as I pushed the bike home. I was in absolute awe during that walk and stared at that bike almost the same way I stared at the Farrah Fawcett poster on the wall in my room. You know with bikes they say “look where you want to go,” well I proved that theory to be correct about halfway through my journey when a particularly long gaze at the sexy swingarm resulted in both me and the bike crashing to the ground and me landing on the before mentioned swingarm. My first high side!

For the next few months all I seemed to do was go to school, work to pay for the bike and ride. Working at a variety store that my mom owned there were many times that I worked my shift after riding during the day and my bike would just be sitting outside against the railing. I would walk to the door and check on the bike every two or three minutes for the whole shift but thankfully it was always there waiting for me and our walk home when I was done.
Living in Brockville at this time I was fortunate that there were two sets of trails about an equal distance from my house in opposite directions. If I wanted to go ride where it was a little more technical I would head to the trails over behind the psychiatric hospital. These trails had some pretty tight turns and the odd jump here and there. If I wanted to go a little faster on a given day I would head to the trails that were behind Black and Decker and a couple of other plants. These trails ran parallel to the 401 and were a little more wide open so you could really bang through the gears and open it up. Unfortunately what I was lacking at this time were more friends with bikes so it was usually just me whenever I went riding. As cool as it was to be president, sergeant at arms and treasurer of my gang of one, I really longed for a couple of prospects to join this cool little thing I had going.

Eventually I started bringing friends out with me and we would basically share my bike for the day. I have said many times before I am not a great teacher but if these friends were newbies I would do my best to pass on what little knowledge I had in order to get them mobile on my machine. One day at the trails out by the plants my friend Sean was taking a spin. Although he wasn’t an expert by any means he had been out with me a handful of times so I felt comfortable letting him take the bike whenever I got tired. On this day I happened to be sitting in the grass taking a breather with the sound of highway traffic in one ear and the high pitched wail of my bike in the other. Suddenly the bike noise stopped and although I knew Sean had most likely wiped out I gave him a couple of minutes before I set out towards where I had last heard the bike. Cresting a bit of a hill I was shocked when I saw my bike laying in the parking lot of a factory with Sean sitting on the ground not far from it. In a bad case of judgment moment, it seems that Sean had decided to take a rip through the parking lot for some reason. What he failed to notice was a chain strung between two poles and although he had been yanked off the bike quite violently, he was very lucky the chain wasn’t a little bit higher as if it was there is a good chance it could have decapitated him.

The Yamaha YZ 125, the subject of many dreams.

Speaking of bad judgment, one day Sean and I decided to head to the motocross track that was about 25 minutes down the road in Prescott. Remember I didn’t have a truck or trailer available so we just decided to hop onto the 125 and head on down the road. After a few hours at the track where it became very apparent that I had very little natural talent, it was time to head home. Once again hopping onto the bike we headed down the road towards home and we weren’t far from our destination when we saw the flashing lights. An OPP car was right behind us and despite my bad boy urge to flee I instead pulled over (good god I’m not a psychopath). The officer told Sean to start walking the bike home while I sat in the car receiving a good scolding. He read off a list of charges including ‘no footpegs for the passenger’ of all things, and every time he mentioned a charge there was a dollar amount associated with it. After about twenty minutes he drove me to where Sean was walking with the bike and as I got out of the car teary eyed he told me he would be at my place in a few hours to talk to my parents. When I got home I of course confessed everything to my parents and after getting grounded we sat and waited for the officer to show up. Guess what? He never showed! Well played officer, well played. Lesson learned sir.

I rode that bike for another six months or so and then ironically sold it to Sean as I was looking for some cash for my first car. When I sold it the bike was a little battered and bruised and the tires were pretty well bald but it still hurt a little to watch it leave my driveway. Sean blew it up shortly after getting it from me and I’m not even sure if he ever fixed it. Every biker seems to have a story of the one that they wish never got away. So if you ever see an ’82 YZ 125 with bald tires for sale in Brockville please let me know. At least now I have a truck to pick it up….

  • From Todd Vallee

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