AHRMA - Vintage Bike Racing at It's Best.

The author preps for a spin as a monkey with Bob Demetrius.

This article appeared in the May 2009 issue of Rider Magazine.

AHRMA - Great People and Great Bikes
If you have any interest in hanging around vintage motorcycles and people who are passionate about them or if you are entertaining the notion of doing some racing yourself, then you owe it to yourself to investigate the American Historical Racing Motorcycle Association (AHRMA). My riding buddy Gale Smith and I experienced an AHRMA event at Grattan Raceway and it was fantastic. Motorcycles are the lifeblood of AHRMA and the heartbeat is provided by a great bunch of people.
Did I mention these folks are passionate about motorcycles? Over the course of two days we met a bunch of them and to say these folks love their two, and three, wheeled mounts is an understatement for sure. In addition to seeing all the racing machines we were treated to some great bikes ridden by spectators including all manner of American, Japanese, German, and Italian bikes of every stripe from mid-size dual sports to big bag cruisers and everything in between.
Gale rode his 1984 R80ST five hours up to my place. We have experienced the track at Grattan (located a few miles NE of Grand Rapids, MI) as riders when we took a Sportbike Tracktime class there four summers ago. Grattan is a jewel hidden in the rolling hills of Kent County. The track is a challenging two miles with a 3200 foot long straight, lots of elevation changes, and ten turns - including an off camber downhill left and a decreasing radius aptly dubbed “The Bus Stop.” (Turn three, the off camber one, was easier for me to master than the %$#@ Bus Stop during my track day.) Grattan allows wonderful access for viewing and picture taking since the price of admission includes access to the pits.
One of the first AHRMA people we met was Will Harding from Florida. Will is an AHRMA official who has been around the organization since the days of 35 members. He told us that there are now somewhere close to 6,000 members involved in dirt, moto-cross, and track racing their machines. Will currently is a sidecar “monkey”, this is his second season riding with Bob Demetrius and he loves it. [Bob was gracious enough to take yours truly for two laps: see sidebar].

Bob Demetrius

Bob started out as a monkey in 1988 on the same 1972 modified BMW that he now owns and pilots. His dad, Rich, bought the bike in 2000 and drove it four years until Bob started driving in ’04. Bob’s position as an art director in an ad agency allows him to use up his vacation time by competing in AHRMA events from March to October. He also races a ’72 Honda CB350.
“I love them both, “Bob related. “The side car is more like dirt track racing in that you drift in and slide through the corners.”
Lila O’Hara actually changed her occupation to allow her to race along with her longtime boyfriend Kevin Brown. She has a degree in molecular biochemistry and worked in a lab, but became a contractor like Kevin so the two of them could load their bikes on a trailer behind their van and hit AHRMA races all over the country from their home in Kansas City, MO.
Lila loves to race. Her eyes light up and she becomes very animated as she relates racing stories. (If you ever meet her, be sure to ask about her race for last place with the guy on the Harley – it is a great tale.) Lila competes in two classes on her ’73 Suzuki GT185 and she digs Grattan.
“I love this track. I love the turns and elevation changes and the fact that there are trees and bushes around the track to use as landmarks,” she explained. “I tell everybody they need to come and ride this track.”
My notes on Lila include the word “gritty”. Not long after she learned to ride on the road some seven years ago, Lila went wide in a corner and hit a guard rail breaking her leg in seven places. That didn’t slow her down one bit and she related how her fellow AHRMA riders cheered when, after much physical therapy, she was able to position her leg on the peg of a bike in the pits. She loves to compete and was very frustrated when carburetor jet problems forced her out of the second day of racing.
Lila is ready to race.
Rosco Tuffli lives about six miles from Grattan in Lowell, Michigan. He travels to all the AHRMA races so he can race on a hand shifted ’39 Harley WLDR. Rosco explained that the bike was originally a road bike set up to race – you simply removed the lights, ran your race, put the lights back on and rode home. Rosco’s efforts are backed by the Road Weasels – an Indian only riding club based out of Grand Rapids, MI.
Rosco is a master plumber with a big heart for Habitat for Humanity. In his spare time he loves to ride, restore, buy and sell old bikes. He loves riding his ’33 Harley, but confessed that the favored bike in his stable is a ’74 BMW R75/6 he has owned for a dozen years and 90,000 miles. His favorite piece of equipment is a Widder vest because he loves to ride in the winter. Rosco brought home a national championship in the Historical Production class in 2007. Watching him whip his Harley around the track was a site to behold – he hung the majority of his body off the side of it to negotiate the off camber downhill left.
“I can remember my first ride and my whole life was ruined after that,” Rosco said with a big grin sneaking across his face as he explained his riding history.

Rosco Tuffli with his famous smile.

Rosco shares his love of bikes. We watched a father and son come up to admire his racer. They asked if they could take a picture and Rosco told the young man to climb aboard for the shot. The kid’s face could hardly contain the grin as dad snapped the memory.
The classiest camp award had to go to Bill Blair of Lancaster, NY. He tows his Kompact Kamper behind his ’98 Road King Classic to any AHRMA event “east of the Mississippi”. Bill is retired and donates his time to work for AHRMA at events all over the country.
You never know who you might run into at an AHRMA race. Imagine my surprise when I found myself discussing the Zen of racing with four time world champion superbike rider Doug Polen. He explained that the ideal racer would be a computer set to maximize the physics that come into play.
“All the human does, in any form of racing, is take away from the potential of the vehicle.” Doug commented.
He went on to say that the rider who can come closest to the performance of a computer is going to win. Doug never crashed once during his championship seasons and he said it was because he knew his limits and never went beyond them. Sounds simple, especially when you watch Doug lift his front wheel while blasting down the straight.
Fantastic bikes and fantastic people made a week-end at the races a real treat. Catch up with an AHRMA event if they get in your neck of the woods, you will have a blast.

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