To excel in racing, you first have to learn the basics. And what could be more basic than a 125cc Grand Prix bike? With a single cylinder pumping out a humble 40 horsepower, and a dry weight of just 160 pounds, 125's would seem the perfect beginner's bikes. But that doesn't mean that more experienced racers can't learn anything from them.
"You can learn riding skills on a 125 GP bike that you just can't get from any other machine," affirms Michael Barnes, who has an uncanny knack for hopping on a Honda RS125 and winning national races--indeed, Barnes won a WERA Formula III national the first time he rode one of the diminutive machines.
"The main thing that 125's can teach you," continues Barnes, "is how to squeeze every possible bit of speed out of a motorcycle. It really teaches you how to soak every last bit of aerodynamics, jetting and gearing. Gearing is really critical, because you need to be exiting every turn with optimum speed and rpm to get a good drive, or you'll lose precious seconds that just can't be made up on a straight. And since, on a 125, you're drive is almost solely based on your cornering speed--which is, in turn, based on your entrance speed--you will quickly learn how to tie all aspects of speed together. And that helps your overall riding, no matter what machine you compete on."
"Consider aerodynamics--something that, except for when blasting down a straight, you wouldn't normally concentrate on when riding a superbike. But you should be. Because a 125 teaches you that, no matter where you are, you have to be constantly aware of how much drag you're generating by sticking your body out in the wind. You have so little horsepower that even radically hanging off mid-turn slows you down. And even minor lapses in how well you're tucked in on a straight can noticeably slow you down."
So ask yourself in your next race: Am I hanging off this far for a reason? Does it make my exit faster, or am I only slowing myself down?
Another major skill a 125 teaches you is how to set, carry and leave turns at the maximum possible speed. You can take a 125 further than any other motorcycle in terms of entrance and cornering speeds. It's a totally different world between a typical four-stroke racer and a 125. On the small bike, you will find that turns can be taken much faster than you ever dreamed possible, and count on braking one to two markers later—or not at all."
Passing has got to be the most exhilarating part of 125 racing. Unlike larger bikes that rely on horsepower to make the pass on the straights, on a 125 you must learn to do the passing in the corners and on the brakes. When racing against the larger four-strokes, it's not uncommon to pass several of them at a time… in the same corner! When racing other 125's, the differences in the bikes are very small. So the riders are forced to work on their own skills instead of counting on the bike to do all the work. The rider is forced to learn his own weaknesses and fix them. Likewise, the rider must figure out where they are strong and determine how to exploit those strengths.
When it comes to racing 125's, Barnes gives a few general rules to live by. "First of all, get around your opponent in any possible way, at any possible time. If you're in back, and the leaders get through some traffic better than you and break you're draft, you're dead meat--these bikes pick up a lot of speed by drafting each other. But don't worry about leading out onto a long straight and getting left behind when the pack drafts around you—these bikes spend so much time on the straights that you have plenty of time to tuck in right behind them and re-draft."
As far as setting-up a 125, Barnes has found this extremely simple. "The Honda RS125's that I've ridden have been set pretty well right out of the box, and there aren't a lot of adjustments available, so just get it working well and concentrate on your riding. But one spooky aspect of these is the amount of feel you have: bumps that you'd never noticed will suddenly seem large, but the stock suspensions soak it up really well."
There's also the issue of size. "Although riders over five feet tall will feel cramped and out of place after their first stint on a 125, they shouldn't be discouraged. "Sure the 125's are small," concedes Barnes, who is 5-foot-8 and 130 pounds, "and they weigh somewhere around 160 pounds, but your size doesn't really matter. Look at Moto Liberty's Doug Carmichael: He's got a couple inches and about 30 pounds on me and is just as fast." But larger riders need to be especially conscious of their weight placement. "The 125's are incredibly sensitive to body positioning--even moving your helmet a few inches can change the bike's attitude in a turn. But you should use this to your advantage. If the front end is pushing you just lean back a little bit, get some weight off the front, and it will steer in. If you're coming out of a turn and it's spinning the rear-(actually, they don't really spin, it's more like a momentum drift) you can lean forward a little bit and solve that."
Learn to do everything right and you, like Barnes, will find that 125cc racing might just offer the most bangs for you bucks. "Since you're so close to the ground, nothing really bad happens to you in a wreck. And the bikes are so light that they don't rip parts off in a slide. Rather, they just seem to skip along the track. This all makes for a very confidence-inspiring mount, and helps keep repair bills, and therefore the cost of racing to a minimum."
Written by Brent Plummer
The USGPRU 125 Grand Prix National Championship® and 250 Grand Prix National Championship are true National Championship Series.
The series is geared towards the development of riders who will eventually move on to compete at the highest levels in road racing on the world's most famous circuits. At the same time we retain a core group of veteran 125GP and 250GP riders who remain year after year and set a high standard for rookie riders to strive to achieve.
We are represented across the entire United States and operate in cooperation with the Can-Am Challenge in Canada - 16 races in 3 distinct regions. We provide riders the opportunity to race in both regional and national championships without breaking the bank traveling all across the US.
The series is dead serious and embodies all the practiced disciplines and skills you will need at that next level.
The USGPRU events are run just like a World Grand Prix (WGP) event. Including warm up laps, qualifying, professional teams, pre-grids, and all the regulation and routines experienced at the world level.
The series is set up like this for a very good reason. It promotes professionalism and more importantly, it will attract sponsors that will be willing to support and promote the series and its riders.
All riders want to be on TV and to make this happen there has to be a spectacle and no one does it better than WGP so we have modeled our series after their success.
If you're looking for a first class series where riders can all afford to compete at a highly competitive level and have equal access and opportunity to sponsors and support then this is the place.
Registration & licensing:
It's all very simple. Just contact the Regional Steward for your region and download the Registration and License Application from the USGPRU home page. Just follow the directions on the license application and a license will be issued to you immediately.
You will also need to read and understand the USGPRU rules and regulations. These are VERY important and rules are as much a part of racing as going fast. We cannot stress this enough, YOU MUST READ AND UNDERSTAND THE RULES COMPLETELY.
At the end of the 2001 season it appeared as if there would be no real national series for 2002 and riders would be left to find their own local series and do what they could with that.
In late November 2001 a group of riders got together with the idea of starting an organization of 125 riders that could work directly with organizers to get 125's included in one of the nationally run series' without the complications involved in organizing separate events across the nation.
It all came together in early December 2001. While working directly with race organizers at Formula USA and CCS. We worked out what we hope will become a permanent agreement with Clear Channel Entertainment's Championship Cup Series and Formula USA.
At the end of the season the USGPRU had achieved what many thought was impossible. There had been 13 highly successful races in which over 130 Licensed racers (just a few short of the total number licensed in the GP Classes by AMA Pro Racing) had competed with an average grid size over 24 riders.
Each region has its own Regional Steward who is supervised by the USGPRU Chief Steward, Stewart Aitken-Cade.
The Western Region Stewards are Sarah Wheeler & Scott McNew
The Eastern Steward is Stewart Aitken-Cade.
Regional Stewards are present at each event to help coordinate with the weekend's host organization and insure the smooth running of events throughout the year as well as compete on their own bikes.
Stewards are available via email at:
East - Stewart Aitken-Cade
In addition, there are a couple other club VIP's:
Contingency POC - Stewart Aitken-Cade
East Coast Tech Rep - Pat Bartlett
West Coast Tech Rep - Scott McNew
Media Director - Heather Aitken-Cade
Senior National Tech Rep - Paul Nelson
Contact the USGPRU via snail-mail:
C/O Stewart Aitken-Cade
609 Riden St
Odenton, MD 21113
Longer Races :
In 2002 CCS agreed to double the length of our races. This extended race lengths from the typical 5 lap sprint to over 54 km on all circuits. This finally allowed tire wear and endurance conditioning to come into play in the 125 class.
The USGPRU instituted class rules based on the FIM 125GP and 250GP rules (albeit simplified versions thereof) which very closely resemble the rules for European Championships and other major international series. All new Sporting and Technical rules are available for download from this site.
Electronic timing is in place for EVERY event on the national schedule. Riders are gridded based on timed open qualifying, not when you happen to get your pre-entry mailed in.
The USGPRU issues racing licenses on an annual basis. The licenses will be issued to both expert and novice competitors along with unique competition numbers. Novice competitors must run black numbers over yellow number plates. These Licenses will accompany a full CCS/FUSA license and be valid for all CCS/USGPRU events for the same cost as the standard CCS license. Go to the Downloads Page to download the License Application.
A typical race weekend is fairly straightforward but an understanding of how it works will make your life a whole lot easier. Plan ahead and make a simple list of everything that needs to be done before you leave for the track. Arriving with a plan is the first step towards making your weekend a successful one.
Plan to arrive at the track one day before the scheduled event for a Promoter Practice. These practice sessions are usually held by CCS, Team Hammer or the racetrack itself prior to every event. During these sessions you will have at least five sessions to test and adjust setup prior the start of each race weekend. This time is invaluable as it can often double the total amount of track time riders get at each event.
On three day weekend events (Formula USA and OMRRA) there will be multiple practices followed by a single qualifying session. Advance registration is key; no one wants to stand in line all day waiting for registration. If you have your entry submitted in advance you will breeze through registration in less than 10 minutes. You can generally register the day of the Promoter Practice.