FOLLOWING THE LIME
BY AUB LEBARD -- THREE-TIME BIG BEAR CHAMP
As Told to Gene Jaderquist
Aub, three-time Big Bear winner. Class B Jack Pines champion, two-time winner of the Flintlock run, holds a total of 80 trophies, most of them earned since 1946. At 29, the dynamic, wiry rider is considered the man to beat in hare-and-hounds events. Between races, Aub keeps busy holding up his half of "LeBard and Underwood", a motorcycle shop with a BSA franchise at 13446 E. Firestone Blvd, in Los Angeles. He hates clocks and watches, tells time by the sun and his own instinct, always arrives early for appointments. His wrist watch, a gift last year from Rhea, his wife, lies at home in a desk drawer. Besides his wife, Aub has three other motorcycle enthusiasts in his immediate family. His son, 3, who rides with dad and a daughter, 6. Aubís father, ďPappyĒ LeBard, is a legendary figure in Los Angeles events. He scouts, acts as part of the pit crew, avidly follows sporting competition, but has only two solo pavement runs to his credit.
After years spent trailing the hare, I should be able to relax on the morning of a race. Instead, Iím worse now than on my first run 13 years ago. At breakfast, before the 1951 Big Bear National Championship, my throat was too tight to swallow a mouthful of coffee and I knew if I forced it Iíd throw everything up. All I could do was sit around and chew cigarettes and watch the others eat. We all left for the starting line near Victorville together. I drove the truck because I was too nervous to be a passenger. We arrived an hour early because I hate to be hurried at the last minute.
When the ready bomb puffed in the distance, I calmed down. Just knowing the BSA was in top shape helped ease my mind. Most of the race is really run in the shop long before January 8 dawns. In the last five years of steady competition hare-and-hounding, Iíve learned that the condition of my machine can win or drop the race, regardless of how well I ride. A patch-up job comes un-patched on the rocks; a weak tire will blow up in your face when you need speed most.
Not that I spend a lot of money and time on speed-tuning. My BSA is always running a stock engine. A top speed of 85 is all that anybody needs for hare and hounds. The only special work Iíve done is raise the exhaust above the lower level of the chain guard and chop six inches out of the muffler; fix a safety-wire to the transmission cover plates; bolt in a heavier skid plate. These are all minor adjustments but theyíve been made to stay. None of these adjustments are important compared to the real preparation-painstaking, methodical inspection of every joint, every nut, every working part. Examine, test, replace when in doubt-thatís the only way to be sure your machine will finish. And the time to do all this is in the day after the race before. Then youíve got plenty of time for repairs. I clean and gunk my cycle very slowly after each race, studying each section carefully as it comes clean.
Five minutes after the ready bomb, the starting bomb is fired. When I spurted forward toward the smoke this year, I knew my bike was good for the distance. Now I could concentrate on staying the route myself. In the first fifty yards a number of the 300 starters found themselves flat on their backs. I always take it slow at the beginning, giving plenty of space to the eager jockeys. First man into the first check doesnít usually win any prizes. Thereís no profit in blasting through the dangerous confusion of three-hundred excited, throttle-happy riders. In a race as long as the Bear, the steady man has the best chance.
I learned that lesson thoroughly in a recent Turkey run. For some reason I still donít understand, I decided to make an early break for first place. I bolted through the pack, blowing off guys right and left, weaving and twisting in the choking dust, trusting to some sort of blind radar I thought I had to keep myself out of trouble. So at 65 mph, with zero visibility, I jammed my front wheel at an angle into a dry wash. There was nothing to do but take it. When I crawled back to the BSA, I was in last place. Then I had to make emergency repairs where the chain guard had wiped out ten spokes. I was luck to finish the race at all.
I cruised into the first check in this yearís Bear in about 100th position. Shortly after the first check, the trail led along a fence and we all rode single-file. At the end of the fence, the lead rider turned left and we followed him. I donít know why. Perhaps some expert in mob psychology understands why everyone turned left when the trail was clearly marked as a right turn. Here, I was lucky. Because I was so far, behind, I saw the others milling around in the blind canyon. It was obvious that they had missed the trail so I whipped back to the fence and picked up the right turn. Just like thatĖI was now in first place.
Following the lead rider has cost me more than one race. Through bitter experience, Iíve discovered that you canít trust anybody but yourself to follow the trail. And if you do get off, double back until you pick up the lime. Taking out after a pack of riders somewhere in the distance doesnít pay off. Ten guys can be just as wrong as oneĖsometimes more so. Old hands at hare-and-hounds can interpret the lime markings and save several mistakes. A real shark can damn near tell you the bust measurement of the blonde the hare was thinking about by looking at the lime pattern. You could always tell by the way Royal Carroll threw lime his speed and direction of travel at a glance.
The next stretch was desert sand. Sand, like shale, is odd-ball stuff and a rider has to be awful careful about snapping the throttle. Sixty-five is a good speed. Slower, and youíll be plowing through the sand; faster and you may get thrown. At 65, you travel on top of the sand. Whatever you do, donít turn fast on either sand or shale, especially at high speed. If you find yourself overshooting a corner, go on over, slow down, and come back. Everybody overshoots a corner once in a while. Playing it safe will cost you less time than a spill.
In one race, a couple of years back, I slid into a pile of sand and threw myself. Before I could go any father, I had to sit down and clean out the air-cleaner. That cost a lot of time but it was the only way I could finish the race. I always carry plug wrench, extra plug, screwdriver, crescent wrench, pliers and wire for emergencies.
Toughest stretch in this yearís Bear is now generally referred to as "Impossible Hill" Almost impossible to climb because it is composed of rock and shale. Most of us went side-hilling. This was one time when it paid off to be near the fontĖlate comers to ďImpossible HillĒ found the going too soft to handle. Coming down the other side of "Impossible Hill" there was nothing to do but hold on and let your job bounce down the other side over a few choice rocks. Rocks are the toughest going, the most dangerous obstacle in a hare-and-hound. The only thing you can do is stay off the biggest and sharpest boulders. Hold the bars tightly because the font wheel will do its damnedest to throw you when it stubs on a big one.
Best preventive against rocks is proper inflation pressure for tires. I keep 25 lbs. Of air in the rear 4.00x19 and 28 lbs. In the front 3.00x21. In addition I put two and one-half tubes of Never-Leak in the front tube and one and one-half tubes in the rear. Use good tires, too. No boots other make shift devices. It takes a new or excellent tire to stand up over the shattering course most hares love to set. Tread style doesnít seem to make much difference. Some of the best riders I know tell me my treads are all wrong and I donít like theirs.
The fifth check in the Bear run is the gas check - about 80 miles from the start. At this distance, time becomes very important and extra-seconds at the gas check can cost time at the finish or force you to take wild chances to make them up. My gassing procedure had been practiced at home. Iíd drive the Beezer into the garage, stop it anywhere and begin to unscrew the gas cap. The pit crew would run toward me, each ready to do one specific job. Bob Moffitt checks the oil; Pappy, my dad, fills the gas tank; Rhea, my wife, wipes my goggles with one hand and stuffs fruit-flavored Life Savers into my mouth with the other. They taste wonderful when your mouth is dried up from nervousness and full of dirt and sand. In the garage runs, we go the time for these operations down to 47 seconds. During the race I pulled up slightly beyond the check to avoid the crowd and confusion.
After the desert, the long climb began - approximately 3,000 feet in two miles. The weather turned cooler as the climb continued, a relief after the monotonous desert. The low temperature didnít bother me, even at the finish line. I was dressed for anything. That is another important preparation - clothing. Good competition clothes for hare-and-hounds are warm, but not hot, and loose. This year I wore long woolen underwear, leather riding pants, wool shirt, unlined leather slip-over jacket, boots, riding gloves. Under the boots I wore heavy, wool boot socks and under these, a pair of silk socks. Borrow your wifeís or girl friendís nylons if you donít have silk socks of your own. Yours legs will feel warmer and sweat less. Under the gloves, wear silk gloves. I use the standard surplus air-force silk gloves. The if you ever have to take off your riding gloves, your hands will be protected. When buying riding clothes, but sure your body movements are free and unhampered. Buy your boots large enough to ear boot socks. I suffered through two years of tight boots and aching feet because mine werenít.
As you draw toward the finish line, you pass through pine trees. The light I very deceptive here and distance is tough to judge. In previous years, the road to the finish line lay in alternate light and shadow. Light spots would be wet but give good traction; shadowy spots would be frozen solid. I almost blew the race once when I went into a shadowy turn too fast. When the race is over, the bench-racing begins. I get as much kick out of hashing over the details and troubles of each run as I do out of the actual riding. This article is really just a bench-racing session for me.
A lot of riders like to play with gear ratios, changing their machines around from one race to the next. Iíve found that the wisest solution is to find a versatile combination that will handle any kind of up or down slope on hard or soft ground. Extreme ratios just donít pay off in hare and hounds. If you could practice on the course, you might be able to calculate a perfect set of gears; but there are no practice sessions. The same goes for compression ratios. In my experience, 7.5:1 is the absolute maximum for rugged cow trailing. I use 6.8:1 and it has proved to be satisfactory for the past two years. A too-high compression ratio generates too much heat for the slow slogging that you encounter somewhere in every run.
Iíve stopped using folding pegs because theyíre dangerous for me. I ride the pegs a lot during a run, and when I put my foot down for a peg I like to find it there, not folded up by contact with some obstacle. The rigid pegs do get bent occasionally but it isnít much of a trick to straighten them out.
The hardest thing for me to learn was to take it easy. I used to get all excited and try to blow off every guy I saw in front of me, and quite often Iíd find myself in trouble. Now, I concentrate on one objectiveĖfinish the race. I set my own speed for each type of terrain and hold to it -- if somebody passes me I figure heí;s either better than I am or riding wild and I let him go. If heís riding wild heíll come to grief and Iíll pass him and if heís a better rider heís going to beat me anyway.
First place man always has it tough. Heís the one who has to guess exactly right on speed, direction of turn. The man in second place can profit by the errors of the leader. But never follow the leader too closely, because you find him in your lap if he goes down suddenly. On the other hand, donít give a thought to the rider behind you. Let him take care of himself. If heís a good rider heíll make his own opportunities for passing and if he isnít as good as you he wonít be able to pass.
Donít run with the hounds unless you are having fun. I guess I got too serious about winning after a while and that may be why I tighten up so badly before every event. From her on, Iím going to slack off a little and take it easy. Amateur events like hare and hounds are the best recreation a rider has. No special equipment or expensive modifications are necessary. The winning combination is a good machine in peak condition plus a lot of experience.
Reprinted from Cycle Magazine, July 1951