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  1. Canadaler

    Canadaler ODSC-OFTR Member

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    Just a note to anyone who happens to stumble across this thread. While the principle ideas and suggestions on how to ride HS for the first time still hold true, it is horribly outdated with respect to events and sanctioning bodies.

    Since I originally wrote it, even the term Hare Scrambles has fallen out of fashion. In an era when seemingly everything has to have an "X" in it to indicate some sort of "extreme" adventure, these events are now called "Cross Country" races or "XC" for short.

    Late in 2009 the CMA essentially lost its stranglehold on sanctioning HS events. All but one (Steel City Riders) club "abandoned" the CMA to either start their own Off-Road Ontario (OOCC) Series of events or "jumped ship" to the CMRC (Canadian Motorsport Racing Corporation) sanctioned XC events. As of today (May/10) there are now two separate, competing series and one CMA "National Championship" HS event at Oshwekan.

    OOCC does not require you to purchase a racing license but will charge you a $15 "surcharge" per event entry if you are not a member of one of its affiliate clubs. If you only intend on trying an event or two, it's a pretty sweet deal. If you get hooked and want to race more, they are using the surcharge to entice you into joining a member club to both support and sustain the sport.

    CMA and CMRC both require you to purchase a Competition License ($75 and $70 respectively) before you can race. CMRC also requires you to purchase ($40) or rent ($40 deposit minus $20 upon return) a transponder for their automated score keeping system.

    As of this update, its hard to say what the outcome of these sanctioning changes will be. CMRC also sanctions the majority of MX races in Canada and is trying to boost XC race attendance by drawing heavily on MX riders. We shall see I suppose... :?

    In the mean time, I think there's probably still a lot of decent information to read here if you're looking to try your first event, wherever it is.


    Everything you ever wanted to know about Hare Scrambles!

    Well...maybe not everything...but I hope this answers some questions that were coming up in other threads and answers some of the PM's I got requesting more information.

    First off...you could write a book...or books on this topic. So that you know "where I'm coming from"...a bit of my history: I've been riding and competing in various forms of off-road motorcycling since 1971 (e-gad!) the vast majority of those years spent riding Observed Trials, in Michigan and Ontario. I used to ride a ton of local events and most of the eastern/mid-west rounds of the NATC (US National) Series. Since 2000, I've been riding Enduros, Hare Scrambles and GNCC's almost exclusively.

    Please...no...PLEASE...remember that these comments are my own opinions only! When you talk about bikes and racing there are bound to be different opinions, especially when it comes to brands and performance. The first opinion I will impart to you is that when you go racing it's 80-90% "you" and 10-20% bike! Skill, conditioning, attitude and desire beat fast, trick, "bling-bling" laden bikes every time.

    (I'm going to restrict this to "typical" Ontario events here...)

    Hare Scrambles are sanctioned by the Canadian Motorcycle Association (CMA) and you will need a CMA Full Competition License to compete. (http://www.canmocycle.ca) There are usually about 6 events each year starting around May through September. Check here for the latest information: http://www.canmocycle.ca/content_frames ... s_calendar

    Local clubs host these events. Entry fee is usually $40 the day of the event, so far nobody is charging extra for parking or entrance fees (let's hope it stays that way!)

    Hare Scrambles courses are "closed loop"...ie no road sections. You don't need any license or insurance on your bike to compete. Courses are usually somewhere between 6-20km in length and are arranged in a continuous loop. They are usually a "mixed bag" of single track trail, grass track (fields) and maybe sections of a MX track (like at Barrie.) They can feature fast/slow, tight/open, smooth/rocky, muddy/dusty, river crossings, hills....well just about any riding conditions you can come across.

    The above conditions somewhat dictate what types of bikes are good, bad, or ugly for Hare Scrambles. You will find that the overwhelming majority of bikes here are MX'ers, both 2 and 4 stroke. There are no displacement classes in Hare Scrambles so you could very well be lined up on the starting line with your "Big Dog" next to the fearless kid on his 16,000 RPM 125 2-stroke rocket. Well, actually I would highly discourage anyone from using their "Big Dog" here, it just ain't gonna work. If you're a dual sport rider with a WR, "X", DR-Z, KDX, XR or TTR, you can do it. If you stay in the sport and want to compete with the "big boys" of your class, you need to go RM, CR, KX, YZ, Husky, GasGas, KTM, or any other MX, or "race ready" off road/enduro bike.

    Classes are divided up by skill level, starting at "Novice B" then (in ascending order) Novice "A", Intermediate, Expert and Pro. There are also age based classes Youth, Veteran, Vet Expert, Super Veteran as well as a class for Women. If you've never ever raced one before...enter Novice B. If you absoluetly blow everybody away in that class then move yourself up at the next race to Novice A, it's OK to do this...besides people hate "cherry pickers."

    The morning is set aside for the "lower classes"....(how British!) Youth class usually runs first, by themselves for one hour, usually ending by around 9:30am. Next are the Women, Novice A&B, Veteran and Super Veteran classes run together for two hours, generally 10am to noon. The afternoon is for the "fast guys", this is great because you can race and spectate the same day! They run for 2-1/2 hours.

    OK...you've decided to go to your first Hare Scrambles...what now? When you arrive the organizers will have an area set up for you to sign up. If you do not have a CMA membership it is always available at the event. Make sure you have appropriate riding gear, the absolute minimum is high topped boots, jeans, jersey, motorcycle gloves, a SNELL 2005 approved helmet and eye protection (goggles or safety glasses.) Better/best to have off-road pants, kidney belt, chest protector, elbow pads, knee pads and a drink system.

    Some sign-ups now have tech inspections...in fact I believe the rules now state there must be tech inspections, but there were only 2, or 3 out of 8 events this year. They will probably check basic things, like your spokes are tight, your brakes work, nothing is falling off...etc. This is NOT a substitute for proper maintenance which is your responsibility! They may also do a sound check, although to date, it is not being done. If there is no tech inspection they will likely check that your helmet is SNELL 2005 certified at sign up...bring it with you. Some clubs put a little sticker on your helmet or bike to verify that you have been inspected.

    When you sign up they will ask you what class you are riding. You will be given a sticker with a number on it. Each class has a specific series of three-digit numbers, Veteran class (for example) all have numbers starting with "9". The sticker goes on your number plate, or head light. They need this number to score you, so make sure it is on and visible. Before you leave sign up you might want to ask them to point you in the direction of the starting area.

    Take a few minutes and walk over to the starting area. It will usually be a large open area where the organizers have put stakes in the ground along with white chalk lines marking the start lines for different classes. Make a mental note of where you will line up. Take a look at which direction the first turn is...do you want to line up to the left, the right, in the middle? If you want to make sure you get the spot on the line that you fancy, be there about 10-15 minutes before the start to stake your claim.

    Now look for the "scoring barrels". These will usually be within site of the start area and are 4, or 5 barrels each set about 5' apart. On the scoring barrels will be signs which have classes written on them. If (for example) you are riding "Novice B" there will be a barrel that says "Novice B" and an arrow pointing to one side. When you come around each lap, you are going to follow these directions so that you go through the same spot as all the other Novice B riders. Make a mental note of which barrel you're going to be coming through when you come around your first lap.

    Usually 15-30 minutes before the start there is a "riders meeting" which is announced by a car horn, or some other attention getting device. Here they will make any last minute announcements regarding the track and will usually show you how the flag man will operate the start. Go to the rider's meeting and listen to what they have to say!

    Alright...now you're all dressed up, numbers on bike, it's gassed up and ready to go...if you're like me, the first thing you need to do now is find the nearest tree to run over to and pee! After that, make your way over to the starting line. Make sure your bike is warmed up, but don't be a "pit squirrel" blasting around between cars and popping wheelies.

    The start....this is where you can really tell you are alive! Hare Scrambles feature a "dead engine" start. You're properly lined up with all the other guys in your class now. If it's your first event, you're most likely in Novice A, or B, which means your line will start second last, or last. People will be lined up from all the classes at this point, some practicing starting their bikes, some talking, joking, sweating maybe even praying...yes it can be rather stressful and exhilarating at the same time. Watch the starter, memorize the motions he goes through to start each line off so that when it's your turn you know exactly what is going to happen and when.

    My personal opinion on the start is as follows...you either want/need to try and get the hole shot and be first into the corner, or you want to take it easy, hold back and be towards the back of the pack. Being in the middle of everything can really suck when all the bikes that were initially spread out over a 60 foot wide start line battle for that 6 feet of "prime real estate" at the inner apex of turn #1. Your strategy here will somewhat dictate where you are lined up on the start. Let's say that 150' from your start line is a 90 degree right hand turn. If you're not "gung-ho" on beating everyone into that first turn, may I suggest you line up somewhere between mid-point and the far LEFT hand side of the start line. This way, if there are any problems in the first turn you'll get a good look at them and can take evasive action to the outside of the turn. If you're keen on getting the "hole shot", you probably want to line up where you can get the shortest/straightest route to that first turn. May I respectfully suggest that in your first race you concentrate on consistency, riding within your limits and forgetting about making the cover of "Inside Motorcycles" with your massive hole shot.

    Alright....the lines in front of you have all gone off now, usually started around 30-60 seconds apart from one another. Your kick starter is out, foot poised over it, engine at top dead centre, bike in gear, clutch in. You're next...and no...even though you really, really have to pee again...there's just no time for it now!

    The starter drops the flag and fired by massive secretions of adrenaline you boot your bike to life, dump the clutch and you're off! Two things to think about here...and I suggest you do consciously think about them....firstly the race is 2 hours long...it is not won, nor lost in the first few seconds, or minutes, or even the first lap. Secondly, be cool, pace yourself, keep your wits about you and ride within your limits.

    You're out on the course now, a loop that you will probably ride somewhere between 3 and 8 times today depending on it's length. Try to "ride with your head" this first lap, well every lap actually. By the end of the day you will remember each turn and rock and log, pay attention to where they are early in the race.

    Passing, or being passed....they will likely tell you this at the rider's meeting. If someone is behind you, close enough that you can hear their bike, close enough that you can hear them yell "PASS!" at you, let them by. They are obviously faster, likely in a different class anyways and might "stuff you" into the nearest tree if you don't get out of their way...well really this is NOT true, you will find most people do respect one another, so you should too. When...not if...but when you're being passed, try to stick to one side of the trail and "hold your line". If you can, use a quick hand jesture to point to the side the guy (or heaven forbid girl or small child) can pass on. Do this and even the most aggressive, competitive rider will probably yell "thanks" as he goes by. You can do this too when you pass people!

    Coming up on the first lap now, here come the scoring barrels. You remember which ones to go through and come to a stop when you reach it. Yell out your number. Yes the scoring volunteers are going to read it off your number plate and record when you passed, but yelling out the number reinforces it and helps when you have dirt that might obscure the numbers.

    The scoring personnel will now wave you through, or yell "GO", or something to let you know they've got your number recorded. DO NOT dump the clutch and wail out of the barrels like the Tasmanian Devil on crack. "Roosting" the scorers is not just "bad form" it's down right ignorant.

    As you continue to ride you will (hopefully) get into a rhythm. Pace yourself, you've got 2 hours to go. Unless you have a 2-stroke MX bike with a small tank, you've likely got enough gas to last you the race without stopping to add more.

    No doubt as you reach the 2 hour mark, your hands may be blistered and sore, your arms pumped your legs burning. Don't do anything stupid here, remember it's your first event, your learning about Hare Scrambles and (hopefully) enjoying yourself. No need to ride 1 hour and 50 minutes only to stuff your head in that rocky section you couldn't hold on in.

    Once 2 hours is past, the checkered flag comes out. Your class placement depends on how many laps you did and what time you finished. Let's say that 2 hours is up and the first Novice B crosses the line having ridden 6 laps in 2 hours and 4 minutes. The next Novice B rider comes through at 2 hours and 5 minutes, again completing 6 laps...he's second....and so on.

    When you cross through the scoring barrels for the last time please make sure the scoring volunteers hear you say something to the effect of "thanks for helping out today." Maybe a small thing, but without these people we'd have no events.

    Time to head back to the truck, have a cold drink and get ready for the bench racing sessions. Results will probably be posted within the hour and you can (if you're lucky) pick up your trophy one half hour after results are posted. This is to allow for a "protest" period in case someone has a dispute with the results.

    This turned out to be way longer than I planned, but I hope it gives "newbies" the information they need as well as some confidence in order to try one of these races. You will find that virtually anyone you run into at the event will be happy to help you with any questions, or problems you have. You can do this and I hope you will also enjoy it.

    Ron

    EDIT: 1/12/07...I updated a few things in the above text and thought that I'd add a wee bit more with an overview of the current CMA H-S venues:

    Barrie: (RJ Motorsports): The MX track is incorporated into the loop, don't worry about doing "Supermans" off double or triple jumps. Most big jumps or doubles have a path around them. The area is sandy and can be very dusty if dry. Single track is generally in pine forest, there are a few sections with rocks (usually embedded in the ground) and roots. These areas can be slippery if its wet out. Loop is generally of average length (around 6-8km).

    Vienna: (just south of Tillsonburg, ON): This is private land which borders agricultural land and has a valley running through the centre of it. Soil is sandy in sections and clay in others. This place is really slick to ride on if its wet. No MX track here. Some water crossings (ditch sized) but there can be very large puddles in the base of the valley if it has rained a lot. Good single track through the woods and on hill sides of the valley...in fact most of this loop is single track. Some fast sections bordering farmer's fields...stay out of the crops! This year (2007) the start/finish area was on the north side of the valley...way better than the old parking area, tons of room now! The loop this year was (I think) around 12km for the morning classes.

    Moorefield: (north of K-W): Terrain is flat and scrubby, lots of "grass track" sections combined with lots of single track to make the longest loop of all venues (typically 20-24km.) With such a long loop there is little chance of the being lapped by even the top guys...so this event is unique in that there is no separate morning and afternoon race. The Masters start first...followed every 30s - 1 min...by the other classes in order of highest to lowest skill rankings. The event is also known as "The Anthill Classic"...wonder why?...well...stray off the marked trail in the grassy areas and you'll find out real quick. You ought to have just enough time to say to yourself "oh that's why they call it that!..." before gravity hauls you back down to earth...usually head first.

    Oshweken: (Six Nations Reserve area S-W of Hamilton): MX track here, the track is located on a private farm. Ground is hard...slick when wet...dusty...make that DUSTY...when dry. Some rolling hills, fence line sections and some woods provide the single track. Property is gently rolling, no big hills but not flat either. Course layout usually takes advantage of the elevation changes, including the MX track..(no killer jumps.)

    St. Thomas: (UPDATE: Back on this year's schedule now...whopee!) Smaller loop, some decent hills especially at start/finish. A couple of creek crossings, nothing too deep but with water tracking down the trail there can be a few challenges in store. The whole place can be fairly slick when it rains. If it's really muddy it'll stick to your bike like glue and add another 50 pounds to it. Too bad there is not more land to utilize, there are some nice single track sections here. One of the better venues (I think) for spectating...bring the family.

    Wilberforce: (UPDATE 8/07...rode this last weekend...here's the scoop..) The course is short and you can complete a lap in less than 15 minutes. Rocks and hills are the name of the game here, the course is technical and can be unforgiving if you make a mistake. Probably not the best place to start your H-S career as a newbie...but keep your wits about you, get up on those pegs and you should be able to negotiate the course. There are some tough uphills and one steep downhill through the trees which saw more than one person picking themselves up from the ground. There is also an MX track as part of the loop, no big jumps and the track is 100% sand. Good venue to spectate at since it doesn't take long to walk out and see some really good trail sections. This place can either boost your confidence or send you home humbled.

    Burnt River: (Updated 9/07): You can sum up this course in two words..."Rock and Roll." The loop was just under 14km and virtually the entire length of it is good old Canadian Shield rock base. There is a bit of a "roll" to the terrain...no big hills...but the real "rock and roll" is the speed of the course...fast...very fast by CMA standards. Top morning class riders were averaging almost 30kph over 2 hours...doesn't sound like much...but believe me...it's 'haulin' when you're weaving through the woods. Most of the loop, with the exception of a short section of single track near the finish line is 2-track width. If the rocks are wet...either from rain or water carried through from puddles...they can be slick as ice. If you go down at speed here...it's gonna hurt...not a place to ride without all the proper protective gear. The course should not be too difficult technically for beginners to ride, maintaining your composure and speed here are the key issues.
  2. Jon Mutiger

    Jon Mutiger Limited User

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    Excellent info!

    Did you see the pic of me getting the holeshot on Tony Boerkamp? I have to get me some back issues of that for when I get old and say I used to be fast.

    Jon
  3. mvidler

    mvidler Limited User

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    Thanks Ron, that was great. An enduro write-up would be fantastic, too, when you've got the time.

    Mark
  4. Anthony Petti

    Anthony Petti Limited User

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    Ron, excellent write up. I can't wait to try this one day!

    Thanks again,
    Anthony
  5. BushPilot

    BushPilot Limited User

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    l

    Here here!
  6. Brian Helliwell

    Brian Helliwell ODSC Executive

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    Great post Ron!

    I hope you don't mind but I've moved it to the Competition forum and have asked Digby to make it a 'Sticky' post.
  7. Canadaler

    Canadaler ODSC-OFTR Member

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    No problem, hope it helps and encourages others who have thought about trying some racing.
  8. Fyr

    Fyr Limited User

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    Hey Ron,
    Thanks for this info. I am hoping to compete in an off road event. I printed your post to read later (I have e mail at work only for the time being, and I share a machine with 7 others)
    I would like to get a bike that I could ride to the event and race but I guess thats a tall order eh?
    Thanks again
    Glen
  9. fedge

    fedge Limited User

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    I love the Hare Scrambles and you sir have done a excellent job of discribing how it works :D
  10. frontside720

    frontside720 Limited User

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    Great job Ron!!

    Raced my first scramble in Barrie and I'm looking forward to the other tracks. It's nice have an idea of what to expect. Especially when you have never been to any of these places.

    Thanks!
  11. jharding

    jharding Limited User

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    Great H-S Info - Wilberforce

    Hey Ron, awesome write up, I'm one of the newbies you mention and tried Wilberforce this past weekend as my first event. I wish I had the benefit of your advice before I left my comfortable dock on Sunday morning. Anyhow, I haven't given up and I'm gonna hit Burnt River this weekend. One thing I definately noticed is how willing so many people are to help out and give advice, especially when you're picking your bike and body parts off the ground and out of the woods.

    Truthfully, I can't say I wasn't warned ahead of time. John Nelson tried his best but I just wouldn't listen. One may figure he was trying to sell me a bigger machine but that's not his style. Thanks for the help John.

    Sorry to the 1 rider I didn't move over for. You were the 1st to lap me and I thought it was the sweeper yelling some kind of encouragement behind me because I was about to crash -> again. I'm glad you found a line off to the side.

    A special thanks to the sweeper if you're reading this, I never got to thank you on race day for picking my butt up so many times. You volunteers are the best and I hope to some day give back. J