Bikes of My Life- Tony Blazier
By:
swizcore

(Swizcore) We all know who Tony Blazier is. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for his contributions to YouTube which allow us to catch up on the great races of the past. Likewise, our wives would probably rather kick him in the junk due to the alienation that incites. Tony has a love for moto that ultimately benefits all of us. This edition of Bikes of my Life is a great read, so send the wife out for an all expenses paid trip to the salon and get busy reading.

 

By: Tony Blazier

The Bikes of My Life

No amount of begging and pleading would change my Dad’s mind. As a result, I got a pretty late start riding and racing.  I was 18 before I bought my first dirt bike. Once I had one though I was hooked and I began an obsession that has continued to this day. Since I got that first bike I have owned a total of 38 bikes. Considering I am 42 now that is a pretty substantial number. In the interest of not boring the crap out of everyone I am going to stick to racing bikes only on this list. I have owned a bunch XR’s, KDX’s and such over the years too but I figure PulpMX readers are not really interested in play bikes so we will leave them for another day. Here are the bikes of my life T Blazier style.

 

The Red Rooster was one bad ass machine in its day.

My first bike was a 1978 Honda CR250R Elsinore. I picked it up for $250 bucks in 1987. It was in awesome shape and was a real rocket. At the time I really knew nothing about riding and this was probably not the best choice as a beginner bike. To be honest even a 1978 CR250 was way more bike than I could handle. Thankfully it was a total claw hammer as far as reliability goes. I totally neglected everything on it maintenance wise and it never complained. I ran outboard 2-cycle oil from Kmart in it and maybe cleaned the air filter twice a year. I didn’t know any better and the Red Rocket refused to quit.  Back then I had no money for real mods so every week I would go to my local Honda shop and buy new stickers. By the time I sold her a year later she had over 50 assorted stickers plastered front to back. Now it seems totally retarded but in 87 I thought it was pretty bad ass.  This is one bike I wish I still had today. I sold it for $250 in 1988. Today they go for 10 times that. Oh well.

 

I was ready to let the good times roll in 1987.

This was my first “modern” bike, the 1987 KX125.  The 87 KX125 was a pretty mediocre bike in its time but compared to my 78 it was quantum leap forward. The motor was not particularly fast but it did handle pretty well. I remember the suspension being really soft too and it would bottom out over any medium sized jump. The disc brakes on these KX’s were like a light switch and it took a while to get used to them. This was the first bike I actually raced and in this pic you can see my sweet Tuff Racing color scheme. My only real complaint with this bike was the quality of it. The plastic would crack if you sneezed on it and I went through two gas caps before stealing one off my buddies 81 CR. Nothing beats the feeling of riding with your balls on fire from gasoline my friends. I had this bike for about a year before I got the bright idea to get a 250. 

 

Guys like Jim Holley and RJ made this bike look way better than it was.

I was on a very limited budget at this point so when I sold my 87 KX I actually ended up getting a two year older bike. I found a super clean 1985 YZ250 in the Cycle Trader for $1000 and snatched it up. I had always liked the looks of this bike as the first of the red and white Yamahas here in the States. Once I got the bike home and actually rode the thing it was apparent it was way less than awesome. Pretty much the only thing that was good about the bike was the motor. The motor had tons of torque and was really fast. The suspension, on the other hand, was atrocious. These were the days before cartridge forks and back then bad suspension was REALLY bad. The forks were so soft and under damped I had to run 15 PSI of air in them to fight bottoming (yes we used to pump air INTO the forks). Of course this trick resulted in a fork that would jack hammer your hands over every bump. The rear shock was no better than the forks. YZ’s of this era were equipped with what Yamaha called the BASS system. This stood for Brake Actuated Suspension System. The idea was that when you applied your rear brake the BASS would lessen the shock’s compression damping and make the bike smoother in breaking bumps. In reality what happened was you would tap your brake in the whoops, the shock would blast through the stroke and then catapult you into orbit. The hot set up was to just disconnect the thing completely. The handling also left a lot to be desired. The 85 YZ’s had really tall bulging gas tanks that made it nearly impossible to get your weight forward in turns. As a result the bike had an awful push in the front end. Put simply the stupid thing refused to turn. I remember Dirt Bike magazine said the 85 YZ250 handled like a school bus with four flat tires.  I have no idea how guys like Glover and RJ went so fast on these piles of crap. I had mine about six months and waved it bye.

 

White Lightning.

After the debacle of my YZ250 purchase I decided to drop back down to a 125. With a few hours’ work and a Want Ad Weekly I was the proud owner of a used 1988 YZ125.  This was a really fun bike. It had a very punchy midrange powerband and a pretty sweet handling chassis. This was the first year for the cartridge fork on the YZ’s and it was light years better than before. With the addition of the modern suspension and a rear disc brake Yamaha was at least finally able to compete with the all-powerful CR125R’s of the time. To me this bike only had one really bad flaw. It had one of the absolute worst transmissions ever to grace a dirt bike. This bike just would not shift under power. I am not exaggerating here, either. It just WOULD NOT shift no matter how hard you slammed on the shifter. This might be less of an issue on a 250 or 500 where shifting is less critical, but on a 125 it is a big problem. Exacerbating things was short powerband on the YZ that demanded constant shifting to keep it on the pipe. The problem was so bad I actually went through 3 shift shafts on this bike. I would slam on the shifter so hard trying to get the next gear that the shaft would bend where it comes out of the cases. The final straw with the YZ was when I had the bright idea to try and get more top end power out of her. My buddy had an 81 CR250R that was roached and we thought it would be a good idea to bolt on the 40mm carb off of it onto the 125 Y-Zed. Well this experiment lasted about fifteen minutes. As I did some test runs behind my house the apparently lean running YZ let go with a bang that sounded like a shotgun going off. When I took the top end off I found the piston had exploded into a hundred little pieces. Amazingly all I did was turn the motor upside down, shake out the pieces and stick a new piston and ring in it. She fired right back up 1st kick. Try that with a modern 4-stroke, my friends. After I got the trusty Y-Zed running again I decided it was best to sell her before I blew up anything else.

 

“So Fast it will blow away 250’s!”

After I parted ways with the 88 YZ I decided to stop fighting city hall and just get a Honda. In the late 80’s if you were riding anything but a Honda you were at a real disadvantage. It was not like today where all the bikes are very good.  Back then Honda was killing the competition. The pinnacle of this domination was the 1987 CR125R.  In a bit of hyperbole, Dirt Bike proclaimed on its cover that the 87 CR125R was “so fast it will blow away 250’s”. While this was a bit of a stretch it was indeed a fantastic motorcycle. This bike was an absolute rocket for a 125. Where my 88 YZ would hit hard and then sign off, the Honda would just keep pulling and pulling till the cows came home. The suspension was on par with the 88 YZ but the brakes were way less grabby and much easier to use. The only real problem this bike had was headshake. Even aggressive handlers like the current Suzuki RMZ’s do not shake their head like a mid-80’s bike. On more than one occasion I literally had the handlebars ripped out of my hands on a rough strait.  I ended up keeping the mighty CR about a year before it started feeling really tired.  All my bikes were second hand at this point and some were more used than others. This CR had been ridden very hard before I got it and when it started to feel totally ragged I figured it was time to sell her. 

 

If it’s good enough for Bradshaw…

When I sold my CR I was really hoping to pick up another Honda, but a couple of things worked against me. In the first place I was pretty much flat broke.  My second problem was a complete lack of patience. In the days before Ebay it was a lot harder to find the bike you were looking for. If you could not find it in the local paper it might as well not exist. If you combine this lack of selection with a college kid’s funds you can see my dilemma. Thus I ended up not with my first choice but the first thing I could afford. The 89 YZ125 was not a bad bike but it was far from spectacular. It was actually very similar to my 88 YZ. The main improvement was in the bodywork, which was much smoother and better looking for 89. The engine was basically the same punchy mid-range power plant as on the 88. This gave me a lot of problems as I had gotten used to the top end pull of the CR and it was difficult to go back to the harder to ride YZ. This was the first year of the 19” rear wheel but honestly at my sedate pace I could not tell any difference in performance. This YZ was way more stable than the CR though, and that was huge improvement. The 89 YZ125 had the same atrocious gearbox as the 88 but I did something about it this time.  The transmission problem was such an issue on these late 80’s Yamaha bikes that Race Tech started building this crazy external linkage to make the bikes shift better. Doug Dubach even ran one on some of his bikes. It would basically move the leverage point back to the swingarm pivot and give you in essence a foot long shift lever. This Rube Goldberg set of linkages and rods looked ridiculous but it made a huge difference.  I had this YZ about a year in total, racing it in the 125 novice class. Overall it was a pretty good bike but I was never able to come to terms with its quirky personality.

 

This was one great 125.

After a year on the less-than-awesome 89 YZ I was so pumped to get this 1990 CR125R. This was 1992 and Honda was still the 125 to have at this point. This bike was very similar feeling to my 87 CR. It had a rocket of a 125 motor that pulled forever, razor sharp turning, and fantastic looks. I still think the 1990 CR’s are one the best looking bikes ever. I just love the Honda Orange color scheme and understated graphics. This was an awesome bike and once I got on it my race results immediately started to improve. I went from 5th and 6th place on the YZ to winning my first race on the CR. Really the only thing that was bad on this bike was the front fork. This was only the second year for the upside down Showa forks and they were pretty harsh.  To this day this 1990 CR125R was one of my all-time favorite bikes.

 

This bike had the Motor of Doom.

I started to take racing a little more seriously at this point so I decided to try my hand at another 250. I picked up a used 90 CR250 to go with my 125 and thought I was pretty bad ass.  The 1990 CR250R had one of the best engines ever put in a motorcycle. The motor was super smooth while also being rocket ship fast. Not an easy feat in the same motor. It had power everywhere and was claw hammer reliable to boot. I pulled a lot of holeshots on this machine. Like my 125, the 250’s only real flaw was with the suspension.  I got it revalved and spent endless hours trying to dial it in but could never get rid of the harsh action.  These bikes had a huge problem with oil contamination in the suspension and if you did not constantly change the fluid the damping would go from bad to horrible in a hurry.  Even with the sub-par suspension this was still a great race bike. It was always one of the fastest bikes on the track and turned like it was on rails.  I kept this trusty CR for almost 3 years. That is longer than I have owned any bike before or since. That is testament to what a great bike it was.

 

That smell is not race gas my friends.

I finally got talked into getting rid of the trusty 90 CR’s by a friend of mine who owned my local Suzuki dealer. In what seemed like a good idea at the time I traded in my trusty 90 CR’s in on used 1995 RM250. I did not have the bike more than an hour before I regretted the decision.  As soon as you started one of these RM’s you knew something was just off.  Most two strokes have a nice snappy brapp to them when you twist the throttle. Not this bike, it would go brrrriiinnngg like some bike from the 70’s. I hated the motor on this bike. My five year old Honda had a way better motor than this thing. The bike had no low end and then would hit very hard with a huge blast of midrange power. It was like riding a big 125.  The chassis was no better as it felt like it had a hinge in the middle. The bike was incredibly busy and would dart all over the track at speed. The suspension was actually pretty good but it was not enough to save this crappy bike. This bike handled so bad and the motor was so tough to use that it was actually way harder to ride than my clapped out Honda. I ended up racing this bike one time before deciding she had to go. 

 

I still think this bike looks badass.

When I saw the ads for the all-new 96 RM’s I absolutely had to have one. I thought this was the coolest looking bike ever. I ended up trading in the 95 RM on a brand new 96 RM125 and RM250. After a decade of second hand bikes this was my first new MX bike. I know there were a lot of pro riders that hated these bikes but I loved them. For my B class speed the suspension was fantastic and the right side up fork was soooo trick.  You could hit anything on the track and the fork would just soak it up. The bike handled nothing like my hated 95 with a feel very similar to my 90 Honda. The 250 motor ran very much like a Honda too with good power that was easy to ride fast. It may not have been the fastest 250 ever but it was more than fast enough for me. The 125 was super fun to ride but the powerband was a little narrow. It was basically a mid-range only motor that had to be shifted constantly.  I still think these were great bikes that have gotten a bum rap over time. I had a string of injuries in 97 and when I tore my ACL it was the final straw. I decided it was time for a break so I sold all my bikes and spent the next year and half getting my Moto fix with Motocross Madness on the PC. 

 

This bike vibrated worse than a Harley with loose motor mounts.

In 1999 I decided I wanted to get another bike and try riding again. I tried to find a 99 YZ125 which was by far the best bike at the time. All my local Yamaha dealers were sold out of them at the time so I decided to get a 1999 Honda CR125R instead. I had always had good luck with my Hondas so I figured what the hell. Well I should have waited a few months for the 2000 YZ’s to come out because this CR was a total pile of crap. When I got the thing home and rode it back to back with my friends 99 YZ125 I could not believe the difference. The YZ felt like a 175 compared to the CR.  I think my 10 year old 1990 CR125R would have smoked this thing. I just could not believe how slow it was. The motor was all mid-range with no low end or top end power. On top of that it was slow to rev and climb on the pipe. The bike was just painful to ride. Then you had the frame which I thought looked incredibly cool but was better suited to a pickup truck. This thing was so stiff you felt every little pebble on the track and would pound your hands to pulp in 10 minutes. On the bright side, the stupid thing vibrated so bad it would numb your hand about a minute before the pain set in. I just hated this bike and no amount of fiddling with gearing, pipes and carburation would make it any better. Honda should have been ashamed to pawn this POS off on the public. I had this jewel about six months before I had had enough and sent her packing.

 

 The Revolution that started it all.

Late in 99 I had the opportunity to ride a buddy’s 99 YZ400F and it totally blew my mind. At this point the only 4 strokes I had ever ridden were all play bikes. Riding this YZ was a whole new experience. As soon as I rode it I knew I had to have one. I immediately sold the CR125R and snapped up a 99 YZ400F. Everyone now is used to thumpers but in 99 it was an all-new experience. The bike was just incredible. I had never ridden a bike so fast that was also so easy to ride. The motor had zero vibration and pulled to the moon.  It was amazing because you could all of a sudden take all these lines on the track you had never considered. The weight of the motor and compression braking made it so the front end would stick like glue in turns. You could rail the inside of a turn and with a blast of torque still nail the tricky double. It was almost like cheating (well maybe it was cheating actually). This bike really was a revolution. All was not perfect with the big 400 though. For starters it weighed as much as a XR600. Once in motion some of that heavy feeling would disappear but you could really feel it in the slow stuff. The suspension was a little soft as well which compounded the weight issue. The motor did have a few peccadilloes as well. If you tried to rush things and whack the throttle open like you would on your two stroke you would be met with the nastiest bog imaginable. The bike would literally hiccup and die right as you expected a blast of power. At this point the fun was just starting because you would then need at least 30 seconds to get the bike going again. These were the days of finding Top Dead Center and manual compression releases so starting a hot YZ400F was no easy feat. If you stalled it in a race you were toast. You would have to find neutral, (it would not start in gear no matter what) pull the hot start on the carb, (don’t touch the throttle) kick it till you found TDC, (don’t touch the throttle) pull the manual compression release, (absolutely don’t touch the throttle) and finally kick it all the way through the stroke. If it did not fire on the first kick you had to do it all over again. These early YZ400F’s were by no means perfect but they changed the sport of Motocross forever.

 

 The biggest cheater bike of all time.

I was floored in the spring of 2000 when I read that Yamaha was actually making a 250cc version of my beloved YZ400F. I just had to have one from the second they announced it. I immediately called my local Yamaha dealer and gave him a $1000 deposit on the first one he would receive. Six months later I had brand new 2001 YZ250F in my garage. The bike was just incredible. It revved so high it made a sound like no other bike I had ever ridden. Everybody is used to 14,000 RPM bikes these days but in 2001 it was a whole new experience. It was just amazing to ride one of these bikes for the first time. The bike handled great too and unlike its big brother did not feel thirty pounds overweight. This bike only had one serious flaw. It was an absolute nightmare to start. It had the same insane starting ritual as the YZ400F but if you can believe it was twice as hard to get going. Sometimes it would take 20 kicks to get the stupid bike going. Other times it would just refuse to start until I would change the plug.  If the bike was hot it was even worse.  Overall this was a really good bike but starting the thing just drove me nuts the whole time I had it. If there was ever a bike that needed electric start, this one was it.

 

Honda enters the four stroke game.

When Honda finally came out with their answer to the YZ400F in 2002 I decided to trade the YZ250F in on a 2002 CRF450R. This thing was so trick at the time. It was totally new from the ground up and man it was cool. I loved everything about this bike. The motor was mellow and easy to ride like the YZ400 without the pesky starting issues. It also had a lot less of the compression braking and throttle response problems the early Yamahas suffered from. MXA picked on the handling of the big CRF but I thought it handled just great. The suspension worked well and the bike just looked bitchin. This was a fun bike that I really enjoyed.

 

This bike and I never got along.

Of course once I saw that Honda was releasing an all-new 250 four stroke to compete with Yamaha I had to have one.  I went and purchased the first 2004 CRF250R my local dealer got in. I absolutely loved the looks of this bike and it made my 02 CRF450R look really dated by comparison. That is pretty much where the love affair ended, however. I just really never felt comfortable on this bike. The motor always felt like I was in the wrong gear to me. The powerband was punchy but narrow and I just could not make it work. I tried fiddling with the suspension but I could never get it set up to my liking, either.  The shear fact that in a year of ownership I never bothered to buy any accessories or graphics for this bike says it all. This bike and I just never gelled and I was happy to see her go.

 

Maybe the best Motocross bike ever.

In 2005 Honda came out with an all-new CRF450R and it was an incredible machine. I think these 05-08 CRF’s are some of the best motocross bikes ever made. The motor was an absolute powerhouse with incredible pull from idle to redline. If anything, it actually made too much power for me at times. If you cracked open the throttle on one of these babies it shoots forward like and open class bike of old. I never felt the need for more power on this bike. The suspension was maybe a little stiff but very race ready. The handling was very good as well with excellent turning and great stability. The only thing I did not like about this bike was the size of it. These CRFs were big bikes and they really did feel like modern open bikes. Other than that I loved this bike. It really was a fantastic machine.

 

Kawasaki’s age in dog years.

As awesome as the CRF was on the track it was a huge handful in the woods. All that massive hit was just too much on the trail so I decided it would be fun to get another 2 stroke. I ended up getting a 06 KX250 to ride on my parent’s trails. It was actually kind of weird at first riding a 2 stroke again after so many thumpers. The bike feels so light and the power is so sudden it takes a little time to adjust to again.  Probably the best thing about this bike was the smell. You have to love the sound and smell of a racing two stroke. Overall I would have to say this was not the best two stroke I could have purchased. The motor was powerful and the suspension was decent but the bike had a strange feel I never cared for. It always felt like the back of the bike was jacked up in the air like some kind of chopper. Worst of all, this bike wore out at an incredible rate. Unlike my Honda, this KX felt beat after six months. This bike got me back on the 2 stroke bandwagon but I quickly decided I wanted something better. 

 

Good Vibrations.

A buddy of mine picked up an 89 CR500R to restore so I decided I had to get one too. I went for the 90 because I just love the looks of the 90 Hondas. You just cannot beat the sound of one of these five honeys. I took this bike out to Budds Creek with my CRF450R and I was amazed how fast you could still go on one of these old beasts. You just leave it in third and dial on the power. It just pulls and pulls till you run out of track or nerve. The suspension was not even as bad as I remembered my 250 being either.  The only real disadvantage on this beast it the lake of stopping power. These brakes were top of the heap in 1990 but by today’s standards they barely work. None of that really matters anyway.  Old 500’s are just cool and the looks you get when you fire it up are more than worth the cost of admission.

 

 One potent Pumpkin.

When I got rid of the 06 KX250 I wanted another 250 two stroke to ride woods on so I purchased a 08 KTM 250. This baby was a real rocket and defiantly faster than my KX had been. The brakes on this thing were so incredible I had to get an oversize brake kit for my CRF because they felt so weak in comparison. This thing was a great woods bike and other than the concrete they pass for a seat had few flaws. On a motocross track it was ten times the work of the CRF but I got it mostly as a play bike so that was no big deal. It was quiet, fast and fun. No complaints. 

 

If Goldilocks rode MX this would be her bike.

When I decided to retire the mighty 05 CRF450R I decided to go with a 09 YZ450F. This bike is hands down my favorite ever motorcycle. MXA always bagged on this bike for being slow but I thought the bike was just perfect. Where my CRF was so powerful it was nearly impossible to ride it in tight trails the YZF was just at home in the woods as on a MX track. The mellow power was so much less tiring to ride. I’m sure the CRF was way better for a pro but for me this was the perfect do anything bike. The suspension was super plush and the handling was just awesome. I loved this bike so much I decided I no longer needed a bike for the trails and one for the track so I sold the KTM 250.  The big YZF just did it all. I even love the looks of it and after I saw the hideous 2010 YZ450F I was glad I did not wait for the 2010. 

 

Reed’s Rocket.

My latest acquisition is this super cherry 05 YZ250 my bike dealer buddy picked up in trade. I took one look and had to get it. I always loved the looks of these YZ’s and this baby was in pristine condition. It is a super fun bike to ride and although the 06 YZ250 has better suspension the 05 is still pretty good. The motor is really smooth for a two stroke but still super-fast. It is a great all-around play bike that I love to look at it in my garage. Long live the 2 stroke. 

Comments

Love the history

I retired in 1988, so our histories with bikes did not cross paths much but here's a couple of thoughts:

1) My brother had a 1985 YZ250. Man, that bike had a great engine as you say but I agree 100% about the handling and suspension. I raced it in a super-tight arena cross after the radiator on my 85 RM250 blew and it was actually pretty solid in that environment, better than my Suzuki. But get it on any form of outdoor MX track and it had the potential to kill.

2) I did not spend much time on the 1987 CR125 but one of my best friends had one. In 1987 I was racing KX250 and KX500, and I was a little too fat for serious 125 racing or so I thought. I took his CR125 out on my home track, which was a rough and fast sand track and proceeded to turn lap times faster than I could on my KX250. And much faster than the KX500 but I could never get on with that monster.

3) You are right about the 80s era Kawasaki plastic. I raced KXs from 1986 to 1988 and had a lot of broken green bits in the garage after I was done!

Thinking back to those days my fave bikes were: 1978 YZ80, 1979/80/81 RM80, 1983 CR125, 1986 KX250. Good memories.