Hare Scramble – An East Coast Tradition?!?

I am so jealous of the pics I see from the guys on the west coast with their junker flat track racing events, Salt flat testing, stadium motocross, desert and mountain overland tours, café racer art, fashion, surfing and music events and the hot rod and custom chopper and bobber building scene. I grew up riding a dirt bike on old reclaimed coal mine and State logging roads in the mountains of central Pennsylvania. What do I know about all of this other stuff? I did not go to Stadium size motocross shows or flat track races growing up. Over the last few years of reviewing the dirge of motorcycle news, pop culture and blogs I have indeed become a bit insecure about my motorcycle roots and began to ask myself what indeed are the “hallmarks” are of “east coast” riding? I asked myself questions about what makes up the “east coast” bike scene such as –

  • Is riding your Japanese sport bike in a downtown metropolitan area or congested beach area near a major military post and parking in a large box store parking lot with other like-riders who enjoy the sound of loud pipes and fat back tires “east-coast”?
  • Is riding your Harley or other cruiser to a major resort community over a winter break to enjoy southern rock bands, dive bars and various other local accoutrements “east-coast”?
  • Is taking your heavily packed dual sport adventure touring bike across a key stretch of Appalachian mountain range and staying at fine bed and breakfast spots and enjoying the view “east-coast”?
  • Is adding some new paint to a vintage bike, some fine Italian leather grips and upholstery and partnering with a local machinist to build some rad new pipes for your “customized street tracker” to ride around Brooklyn with Cappuccino foam in your beard “east-coast”?

I would say the “east coast” bike scene does indeed have all of these worthy endeavors as part of both its current and past scene. Although important to participants, I am not sure these dimensions seem quite as weighty, steeped in history of motorsport are grand or noble as the west coast scene. Admittedly, many of the aforementioned dimensions of “west coast” bike culture seem overwrought and bloated, but a few do indeed seem grounded in a history of the track which seems worthy of admiration. I recently relocated back to the northeast from Florida and began looking around for opportunities to engage my young son in riding and reinvigorate my own riding experience. I am also now only going to get to ride a few months a year and I am trying to figure out how to make the most of the time I have to ride and make it worthwhile.

It was my attempt to answer these questions that my exploration brought me to the East Coast Enduro Association (ECEA). The ECEA has been around since 1972 and is part of a large group of AMA chartered clubs that sponsor and promote a multitude of off-highway motorcycle events. The club’s original efforts were primarily focused on organizing Enduro club racing. Since its early days, the ECEA and its chartered clubs have organized national caliber events in both enduros and early versions of what is now called hare scrambles and dual sport events.

The Enduro races consist of large organized rides starting around 8 am and lasting through to 2 pm (100+ route sheet miles and are longer and staged differently than a hare scramble). ECEA notes that “during this approximate 6 hour time keeping event, one can expect check points that track your progress, gas stops that give you time to fuel your bike and body and resets in mileage to help keep you on time or give a break.” Wikpedia does a good job of describing the hare scrambles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hare_scramble, 9/14/2014):

Hare scrambles are conducted on closed course tracks which can vary from 2.5 to 40 mi (4.0 to 64.4 km) or more. The terrain is wooded and fairly rugged in order to test the riders’ skills and endurance. The majority of the course consists of a wooded, single and double width trail, with occasional pasture and sand crossings. An event may incorporate a short portion of a pre-existing motocross track. The natural terrain tests the riders’ abilities to navigate through obstacles such as creek beds, logs, hills, mud, rocks and ruts. Some trails are cut to 30 in (760 mm) or less so motorcycle handlebars will not fit between trees, requiring special skills to navigate. The winner of each class is typically determined by who completes the most laps within a predetermined period of time. The most common time period for a hare scramble competition is 1, 2 or 3 hours. A Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) is not a Hare Scramble; rather a GNCC is wide open and courses are laid out to allow ATVs to run the same course. Conversely, Hare Scramble runs at a slower rate and is much tighter, requiring a different set of skills.

Dual sport event riders use street legal enduro, adventure or dual purpose bikes in 1 or 2 day formats on single track, roads and trails. The events usually span 30-50 miles and often involve sand, dirt, gravel and paved roads. Additionally, the ECEA runs a program called FastKIDZ which is the youth series that promotes development in these series. The ECEA’s calendar features 35+ events every year including and range from dual sport trail rides, traditional and national format enduros, championship adult and youth hare scrambles events.

The ECEA promotes membership through a club structure and at the time of writing included 19 across NJ, PA, NY DE and MD. They have made events completely open (club members and non-members alike), but you have to be an AMA member. Many ECEA Clubs support participation in National and District level hare scrambles. There are many very active member-based organizations supporting these events and significant resources on the following sites about where to ride and how to get started in endure or hare scramble riding.

  • High Mountain Dirt Riders (ECEA): http://www.hmdr.org/wordpress/
  • Reading Off-Road Riders (ECEA): http://www.rorr.org/2014-hare-scramble/
  • Valley Forge Trail Riders (ECEA): http://www.vftr.org/
  • Meteor Motorcycle Club (ECEA): http://meteormc.com/dual-sport.html
  • Raush Creek Trailriders & off-road park: http://www.rauschcreekracing.com/
  • Virginia Championship Hare Scramble Series (Non-ECEA): http://vchss.org/vchss_flag_intro.htm
  • New England Trail Rider Association (non-ECEA): http://www.netra.org/category/racing/hare-scrambles/page/2/

For international interests, check out the Red Bull Erzbergrodeo (2014) for the most intense hare scramble event to-date (http://www.redbull.com/en/motorsports/offroad/stories/1331654497290/erzbergrodeo-2014-red-bull-hare-scramble-video-on-dema).The events are also growing in popularity at the American Historic Racing Association (AMHRA) and in partnership with the AMA through its historic cross-country and motocross activities (http://www.americanmotorcyclist.com/racing/nationalchampionships/vintagenationals.aspx).The schedule for what the AMHRA deems as “cross country riding (vintage and historic/post-vintage) is primarily this side of the Mississippi and in the northeast, southeast and mid-west (http://dev.ahrma.org/?page_id=1972). The AMHRA describes this type of racing in the following manner:

Cross country riding is how motorcycling began, because roads where very few and far between when motorcycles were born. As the motorcycles and roads improved, the riders still challenged themselves with off-road competitions on ancient Roman roads in Europe and on “cow and wagon” trails in the USA. Eventually, the competition organized into ISDT-type reliability runs in Europe and enduros and “hare and hounds” in the USA. Further organization and land closure issues brought the closed course hare scrambles to prominence (http://dev.ahrma.org/?page_id=63, 09/15/2014)

So, it would seem that the boy who grew up riding a dirt bike on old reclaimed coal mine and state logging roads in the mountains of Pennsylvania now realizes that others with similar backgrounds have developed an entire subculture of riding and racing with its roots in the type of riding he loves. This is a riding that is steeped in history here in the U.S. and abroad, committed to trail riding and preservation of open space, varied and challenged by off-road racing experiences and a desire to push oneself and machine and a desire to pass a love of this type of riding on to others. Perhaps the east coast has much more of an authentic history and coolness to its biking traditions than I first realized? The writing and review of materials to construct this article has definitely educated me about a vast network of great riders and events peppered throughout the region. I cannot wait to attend my first event and I now realize I just might need to revisit some other assumptions held related to east-coast vintage and custom building, flat track racing history and other topics often thought of as “west-coast”.See future blogs for such exploration!The above information was adapted from information found on ECEA’s website and related links/information. For more information about the club and its events, please visit http://ecea.org/ecea/

IMAGES (09/15/2014)Hare Scramble Image 1: Transworld enduro/scramble webpichttp://cdn.motocross.transworld.net/files/2009/11/img-9661.jpgHare Scramble Image 2: Cortland NY, Cortland Tribunehttp://cortlandareatribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/greek-1.jpegHare Scramble Image 3: Red Bull Graham Jarvishttp://www.riderswestmag.com/images/uploads/graham_jarvis_romaniacs630.jpgHare Scramble Image 4: Red Bull Hare Scramble 2012http://image2.redbull.com/rbcom/010/2012-09-05/1331576008631_1/0010/1/1500/1000/1/red-bull-hare-scramble-2012-conquer-the-giant.jpgHare Scramble Image 5: Dual Sport Utah 500 Rider Report Onion Creek Ridge, AdvRider

Hare Scramble Image 6: Walden Hare Scramble, 2010 Random Participant Web Photohttp://jasona.smugmug.com/Other/Walden-Scrambles/11302142_h6mgQQ#!i=792862807&k=mMM79ShHare Scramble Image 7: Historic Endure/Scramble Imagehttp://cdn2-b.examiner.com/sites/default/files/styles/image_content_width/hash/db/56/db56e392ea45d89251da7dc9e861524a.jpg?itok=7V6DEOt9