Harry Klemm’s “The DG Years, 1975-1976” – Episode 11: From Mechanic to I.T. Before There Was I.T.

The skills that got me the job at DG were those that made a good motocross-racing mechanic. And truth be known, being a good race mechanic was all I ever wanted to do. However, after about a year on the job I realized that my job was no longer that of a race mechanic. My job was to develop the products, parts and modifications that race bikes were made of. All of these parts and modifications had very detailed and precise specifications. I had to become expert at developing, documenting, collecting and organizing all that detailed tech data that made these parts and bikes. I had to gather stock and modified specs for cylinder-head dome volumes, squish angles, bore diameters, cylinder port heights and port widths for every 100, 125, 175, 250 model of Yamaha, Honda, and Suzuki. In addition, I had to create and document carb-jetting specs for 30mm, 32mm, 34mm and 36mm carbs on all those same machines. It was a herculean task just to develop and create all those specs, much less document it all in an organized way. It would have been easy to organize it all on a computer spreadsheet program, but effective personal computers with spreadsheet programs would not be invented for another 10-plus years. I didn’t have the luxury of waiting for them.

The phone in your pocket is more powerful than computers that filled an entire room back in the 60s and 70s. Harry did not have the luxury of computer assistance.

In the late ‘60s and most of the ‘70s, the word “computer” did not refer to an electrical device that sat on your desk. “Computer” was a job description, and computers were people like me. By no means was I a national-caliber computer. Those folks worked for huge corporations and the government. The only thing I had going for me was that I was the best computer available that was willing to work on motocross bikes 7 days a week. Not many computers were up for that.

I chose to organize all my technical data on pages and pages of handwritten graph paper tables. At the time, I firmly believed that if I organized all the data in this way, I would be able to see patterns of certain proven specifications that might help with more rapid development for future models. As time played out, that did happen occasionally, but not nearly as often as I had hoped. While I was kind of excited about what I was putting together and learning, I realized I was getting farther and farther away from being a motocross mechanic.

Just one of the countless graph paper data sheets Harry created to track all the numbers.

While I was still the guy in charge of the DG race team at Sunday Saddleback races, I was spending more and more of my time thinking about new ways to sort and organize all the technical data I was gathering and less time working on race bikes. While I had always been excited and enthusiastic about every part of my job at DG, the more “data oriented” my job got, the more isolated I felt. There was no one in the paddock doing anything close to what I was doing, and the distance between my job, and the job of the average motocross mechanic, was growing by the day. I remember feeling very jealous of most pro mechanics, because they had the luxury of only having to tune, perfect, and refine just one motorcycle.

I was in a non-stop cycle of focused development of 2 or 3 bike models at a time to do the product development. As soon as the products were developed to my satisfaction, those bikes we set aside so I could start development of 2 to 3 others. It never ended. The goals and vocabulary of my job became so different from that of other mechanics. It became hard to communicate with them. It was a scenario I could have never foreseen.

Story Index (Click on any title to read the episode)
Episode 1: Understanding The 70s SoCal Motocross Atmosphere
Episode 2: My Road Into Motocross
Episode 3: Getting a Foot in the Door
Episode 4: Reality in the Race Shop
Episode 5: Building a Race Team
Episode 6: Building the Team Bikes
Episode 7: Understanding the Goals of a Racing Business
Episode 8: The DG Front Office
Episode 9: The Competition
Episode 10: Painting the SoCal Racer’s Atmosphere
Episode 11: From Mechanic to I.T. Before There Was I.T.
Episode 12: A Few Words About Engine “Formulas”
Episode 13: Mechanic Buddies
Episode 14: 1976 Turning Points at DG
Episode 15: Facing the “Race-Gas” Era
Episode 16: The Retail Chamber Birthplace
Episode 17: The Mammoth Motocross Classic
Episode 18: The DG/Saddleback Launching Pad

 

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