Maybe the rhetorical starting point here should be "Can you lose it if you never had it to begin with" but I think we'll just pass that one over.
What I'm talking about here is the 'other' side of vintage racing. I've rarely heard it said, so maybe it's just me. But I reckon there are others in the same boat.
Back in my youth I was a pretty hard core bike rider - street, dirt, racing etc. I was probably of average to above average ability depending on the discipline, certainly no standout. However, riding most days and racing/trailriding/playriding most weekends did ensure that I had a modicum of skill. I could get around a short circuit track OK, even won a race or two. I was a good trailrider, could hold my own in the midpack at any enduro, was pretty quick round a roadrace track, and was a better than average wheelie-chucker.
All up, I was happy with my riding. Sure I was never gonna figure in any results, but I wasn't crap.
I took the 90s off, then got the urge again. And in the process, discovered Vintage Motocross, or more exactly vintage dirtbiking. I bought an RM400N and went to my local track for the first dirtride in years. It was pretty traumatic, I gotta say.
I was slow. Really slow. And unfit. So bad, that I took a break after the first 5 minutes. Halfway round the track on my first lap - on a track where the lap record was around 1 minute 30 I think.
Clearly, the years hadn't been kind. But I remembered that I was better than that, so I persevered. And I improved, sort of. Over the next few years, I managed to attend a lot of races, and did plenty of play riding. I got faster, and smarter. In fact, I was riding smarter than I ever had, and I found myself once more a good midpacker. Sometimes even a front packer. I even won a race or two.
So, vintage MX was looking good.
But... every other bugger improved too. Initially, vintage seemed to be the home for all the other slow, unfit blokes who wanted to have a play, save for a few standout performers here and there. But as time passed, the standard of bike and rider improved. Racing became more serious.
Guys were training. Bikes were blinged to within an inch of their lives. Trick suspension appeared all over the place. And all of a sudden, the startline at an everyday Evo class race was filled with tricker bikes that went faster than any MX GP back in the day.
I got older. I had more stuff to do at home. I got a bit 'over' the whole thing. I didn't have the time to practice, train or even ride.
And what do you know, I got slower. What the? I'd peaked too early. And when I say 'peaked', I mean something different to what say Stefan Everts might call peaking. I'd gotten to the point of being a mildly fast old bloke on an old bike racing against other slow old blokes, and that was it. Was my dream of fame as a born again MXer over before it began?
I couldn't be sure, but I needed to find out. Mid last year, after 6 months of not riding much at all, I did a local race on my modern bike.
I fared about as usual - dead last I think in the Over 35s. OK, so MX wasn't my bag baby. But there WAS a neat HEAVEN grasstrack event coming up, and I reckoned I was pretty quick on a grasstrack. So I entered and lay awake at nights dreaming of glory.
There were gonna be age races!
All in affairs. Sure, I was on a 75 RM125, a little outgunned in the power stakes, but hey - I KNEW I'd win everything.
How'd it go? Welll.... practice was great, I was going quick and things looked good. But in the races - Man was that an eye opener. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, even that fat old bastard on the Yamaha thingy, was hammering. Every race I'd jump the start and holeshot the first 10 meters. After that, it was just a procession of guys passing me in lurid feet up slides while waving at the crowd. I couldn't believe it...Even bloody Nathan beat me in every race, and that really IS embarrassing.
In the end, I think I was gloriously at the back of the pack in most races. Gulp.
I lay awake at nights afterwards, replaying every moment in my head, dreaming of what should have been but wasn't.
And it was then I realised the Dark Secret of Vintage Motocross.
If you never ever had it, you probably won't find it riding VMX. And the longer you do it, the older you get, and the slower you become.
Right then and there I discovered a whole new approach to this game. I started riding in 1974 cos it felt good. My best memories aren't of racing, they are of the fun, the feelings, and the pure excitement. And that, for me, is what my VMX experience should be. Yes, I've lost it. But in that, I think I found what really counts.
So, next time you see me at the track, I'll be giving it my best shot.
I'll be dreaming of glory, imagining myself giving the guns fits. But in my heart, I'll know that the thing of it is that I am still out there, on the same old dirt, digging it. For many years to come, I hope.
Maybe I AM a winner after all.