by Bruce Mike
Every year, the first weekend of May, there is a 3 day event in Dubuque Iowa called Vintage Torque Fest. This was the third year in a row that I have attended and I’m pretty certain I’ll be back next year. It is my kind of event. A few hundred street rods that are DRIVEN to the event as well as a bunch of motorcycles, pit bikes and mini bikes.
The first year of we went we brought my Honda Trail 70 and a friend brought his mid sixties Honda CT. We had a ton of fun riding them around the Dubuque County Fairgrounds and racing in an impromptu parking lot race. Last year we brought nothing and regretted it. We vowed to bring something we could ride on the track. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of stuff going on at Torque Fest and even without something to ride we had a good time.
Vintage Torque Fest is a fund raiser for families with children with congenital heart defects. It is not a typical car show. It is a weekend long festival that brings people from all over the country that have a passion for old cars and bikes and the lifestyle that seems to go with it. There are bands and art and entire families that seem to long for life as it used to be. These are my kind of people. They drive old cars with big motors that shoot flames. They have the skills to do a proper burnout. Driving their old cars and bikes is far more important than washing and polishing them.
There were four of us who went this year and we found out in January that the track at the fairgrounds would not just be open to cars and trucks, but mini bikes as well. Since none of us have an old car or truck we decided to get some mini bikes together. I’ve had my Trail 70 for about 20 years and had recently put a 110cc motor in it that my nephew had pulled out of a pocket bike he had found in a dumpster. I should clarify, my brother and nephew put the motor in it, I purchased parts and a 12 volt conversion kit and handed them tools. My skill set doesn’t go much beyond basic maintenance and diagnostics. I do have a pretty good eye for aesthetics. I know there are people out there who would think it sacrilege to destroy the integrity of a perfectly good Honda Trail 70, but I gotta say, with a 5-speed transmission and a top speed of around 50 mph, it’s ridiculously fun to ride.
The other mini bikes we brought were the old-school, tube frame, centrifugal clutch, lawn mower engine type. Of course they all needed improvements and enhancements. We spent one night a week, in my brother’s shop, for a couple of months, working on these things. There was welding, fabricating, bigger motors and a whole lot of fun involved. In the end we still weren’t convinced any of them would complete a lap on the track.
We left early Friday morning so we could make the mid-afternoon track time for mini bikes. We made it and all of the bikes completed at least one lap. They also all needed repairs afterwards. We discovered this to be half the fun. Just like all the cars and trucks at Torque Fest we did whatever we had to do to get them running. There was all kinds of back yard engineering and “what have we got that’ll work” repairs. Pretty much every time we rode, something would break on one of them.
By the time we left on Sunday we had sold one and bought a brand new one that will require performance enhancements before next year. I know it’s the childhood memories of mini bikes that makes doing this so enjoyable but spending the prep time with friends and family makes it great.