The Pilot Fish

Like all FSSNOCíers, Iím a Thumper Guy, and have been for nearly twenty years (ye gads! That makes meÖmuch older than I act!). My current primary thumper is an MZ Baghira Street Moto. For the uninitiated, a street moto is essentially a motocross or enduro with 17Ē wheels and street tires. MZ took their Baghira dual-purpose bike and made the conversion. My bike is the reduced ride height model that, interestingly, also sports a 2Ē shorter swingarm (read: easier wheelies). The 660cc engine is from Yamaha, and while not a powerhouse makes decent power and is reliable.

Last year my street moto (hereafter referred to as SM) was the only kid like it on the block. When I rode it to the Slimy Crud Motorcycle Gangís spring ride-in, it was unique among the 800-1000 bikes in the parking lots. In the fall, there was one other, a home-built version that looked a bit rough. The owner admitted it was fun, but he had waay too much money in it. This spring there were three of us, the newest one being a really (really) nice homebuild based off of (I think) a Suzuki motocrosser. This fall there were at least a full half dozen, and maybe even eight. No doubt about it, the word is getting out: SMs are F-U-N.

I generally donít ride with others when I attend this rally. There are too many genuine hooligans doing really dangerous things on public roads. This year, I was attending without wife or friends, and feeling a bit hooly (hooliganish???) myself. Thus as I was just about to pull out and ride out solo, and a small gang of big-bore sport bikes growled past, I pulled out and attached myself to the back of the pack. I figured Iíd ride at the rear and see if my 45 hp thumper could run with these 100+ hp sharks. I knew that I could never even stay close to them if the road got straight for too long, but this ride-in emphasizes twisty back roads. You know the type: Thumper hunting grounds.

For the first 15 or 20 miles I rode behind these yahoos as they pulled their 60 mph stand-up wheelies on the long straights. Indeed, they were pretty much all good at such demonstrations of copious power on tap. But in the twisties they rode like little old men. I couldnít really believe it at first. These guys were mounted on superbikes, with unheard of power-to-weight ratios, terrific brakes, rigid chassis, top-shelf suspension components; and they rode like newbies when the road bent. I found myself getting a bit bored behind them, not really riding anywhere near my limits, nor the MZs. At about the halfway point Iíd had quite enough.

As the road kinked up again, I started hunting. One by one I picked Ďem off in the corners: here a ZX-10, there an R1. At the next stop sign I was about a quarter of the way up the pack. The lead rider stared at me in his mirror. I nodded. After the turn the road was straight for a good bit, and the power wheelies started again, and I was summarily passed at triple-digit speeds. I was at the back of the pack when the tarmac snaked again. This time I could tell the riders were trying harder to ride faster. I had to turn up the heat until I was riding at maybe 60% of my ability, nowhere near my limits. Each turn where I could see oncoming traffic (there was not much) I picked off another bike, once I even got two. GSXR-1000, FZR-1000, R1, ZX-10; all fell victim to my bright red pocket-rocket with miles of clearance, decent tires, reasonable weight (porky by SM standards though), and manageable power and right-now torque. At the next stop I was in the front quarter of the pack, and the lead rider visibly jumped when he saw me in his mirror just behind him, others of his pack still pulling up to the stop. My full-face helmet prevented him from seeing my insouciant grin.

This pattern repeated itself several times. Every time the road straightened out sufficiently for all that horsepower to get uncorked, Iíd get passed like I was standing still. Then the road would show itís western Wisconsin similarity to Dealís Gap and Iíd find myself swarming through with relative ease.

I had great fun. When we arrived at the next rally point, I noticed that the guys didnít want to talk to me. [Big grin!] So fellow thumper riders, donít be afraid to mix it up with the big boys, just be sure that you get to pick some of the roads.

And in case youíre curious about the title:
pilot fish n.
(Vertebrate Zoology, Ichthyology)
A small slender marine fish (Naucrates ductor) that often swims in company with larger fishes, especially sharks and mantas.

Nataraj Hauser
Madison, WI
(Nataraj.Hauser at

Make your own free website on