Joe’s Minibike Reunion Is Crackling Fun

The 6th Annual Joe’s Minibike Reunion took place at Crescenta Valley Park in La Crescenta, California, on Saturday, October 14th. The event, where hundreds of minibike owners pay a modest entry fee to show off their little treasures in hopes of snagging a coveted Joe’s Minibike Reunion trophy, was free to the public (thanks, Joe’s).

Owners were asked to fire up their bikes a few times during the day for what is called a crackle fest. It was music to my plugged ears.

This was my first Reunion and the crowd was the most diverse group I’ve ever seen at a motorsports event. There were hot rodders and hipsters. Restorators and ground-up fabricators. Drag racers and motocrossers. Guys in Rat Fink t-shirts and couples wearing matching Panama hats walking their Pekingese dogs. The only thing missing was kids. While there were a few kids (mostly with parents or grandparents who were showing off their minis), I couldn’t help but notice the lack of 8-to-14-year-old kids drooling all over these bikes. Sad. I still get goosebumps when I think of the Heathkit Boonie Bike my little brother and I got for Christmas (that my older brother assembled). Guess kids aren’t into minibikes anymore. Why not? I have my theory (and it starts with an “i”).

The minis were as diverse as their owners, but the ratio of show ponies to riders (meaning minis that are ridden) was way, way out of whack. Like one rider to 50 show ponies. The event tried to attract more scratched, dented and oil-dripping minis with judging categories that included “Rat Bike” and “Survivor” but they were vastly outnumbered by owners who put many hours and even more bucks into their minis.

The following are just a few of the minis that got my heart pumping.

Nice rear seat suspension.
Chopper-style mini.
Dragsters where a popular category. Where do they race them? I am sworn to secrecy.
Interesting frame without a downtube. The engine bolts to the top of the frame for strength. Hope Vincent doesn’t find out.
No, this is not a Harley. Love the number plate lettering.
Super sweet mini with its patented Torq-N-Verter.
A billet engine and copper-plated bars, fork, sissybar and pipe. I thought it would be rude to ask the owner how much he had invested.
The bike’s owner (white t-shirt) had to keep an eye on his beauty every second. Somebody touched the bars (“Hey, that’s copper. You’re gonna leave fingerprints.”) and then tried to wipe it with his shirt (‘Now you’re gonna scratch them.”).
I would have loved this on my Boonie Bike. It converts a rope-pull starter into a kick starter, “just like a real motorcycle.”
A lot of love goes into these restorations. Look at the top photo on this board and then look below.
From trash to treasure.
A Dunecycle with a Sears engine.
The Dunecycle probably burned a few necks in its time. What kid would stop riding just because the engine got hot?
The Italian Wilier Triestina was imported by the Christensen Engineering Company who dubbed it the Chris Cycle. It was claimed to be the first street-legal minibike.
The Honda Trail 70 pretty much killed the 60’s minibike. It was so superior that the old steel-framed, Briggs and Stratton powered mini didn’t stand a chance. Guess that’s what is called progress.
This must be a very rare bike, but $1500 for a bike this rough and missing lots of parts? More power to the guy if he can get that type of money.
Very nice presentation.
Wonder if this is the same Manx that built the dune buggy?
One tasty Taco.
This is my Best In Show, first runner-up. Dig the fuel tank on the triple clamp and pinstriping.
This is my Best In Show, second runner-up. I’ve always been a sucker for Mooneyes. Didn’t hear this during the crackle fest, but I’ll bet it is loud.
A drum roll, please. My Best In Show was this well-used little mini. The paint rubbed off the top tube proves how much this mini has been ridden.
A ripped saddle would cause most of the mini owners to suffer heart failure. Not on this little beauty. Give the cord a yank and let’s ride.

Battle of the Ponies

One of the fringe benefits of showing your bike was a free run on Steady Garage’s dyno in a trailer. It was kind of hairball with bikes throwing chains and the possibility of a blown engine. If the flying parts didn’t get you, the blue cloud of exhaust would. This was the most popular activity of the day.

Reunion entries were invited to hook their bikes up to a portable dyno. The horsepower battle had begun. No bike had exceeded 30 horsepower when I left, but one entry reached 29.6. So close.
The bike’s fork gets tied down while the rear wheel gets centered on a roller. Fire the thing up and after a load test, they let the little engine sing.
The back door of the dyno trailer attracted the most (and bravest) fans. Did they want to see the 30-horsepower barrier broken or an engine blow up? Earplugs recommended.
This poor guy’s chain let loose before his mini could show the crowd what it had to offer.

Stretching The Definition of a Minibike

Joe lets a lot of bikes into the Reunion that I wouldn’t classify as a minibike. Still, I didn’t hear one complaint from any of the spectators.

A board track replica.
I think this started life as a Derbi moped.
Do the police ever hassle this bike’s rider? “I ride right up to them. Most of them think it is cool. I’ve only been pulled over once.” Go Dodger Blue!
You meet the nicest people on these things.
This is a Honda suitcase bike. The bars and saddle (and maybe wheels) folded into a handy carry-on. Don’t think Honda sold a ton of these.
This is not a minibike, but I’ve got a buddy in Vancouver, B.C., who would fly down here tomorrow, buy this bike and ride it home. Are you coming, Norman?

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