Up for the Down Stroke

For many riders, life begins with a two-stroke. Growing up in the wild, unregulated '70s, your first motorcycle often involved mixing oil and gas, then hitting the throttle for instant power—thrusting your 10-year-old body into hyperspeed. Or maybe it just seemed that way.

The first bike I ever rode was my best friend's Honda 50 Mini-Trail, which we would use to vault off of homemade ramps and to explore nearby woods. Endless, school-free summer afternoons were spent absorbing gas fumes and skidding along dirt roads, gunning the four-stroke engine for all it was worth. Despite the fact that it probably never exceeded 30 mph, we were sure it was the fastest, coolest motorcycle that money could buy. Until we saw the neighbor's Honda enduro with a two-stroke 250. It was a monster, with gigantic spoked wheels, incredibly long seat and exhaust pipe, and an engine that sounded like an angry wasp buzzing in for the kill. We were suitably impressed, especially when he would kick our asses in any race.

That initial awe many of us felt for those two-stroke bikes has been replaced by nostalgia as we've grown older and they've been nearly regulated out of existence. While you can still buy a two-stroke dirt bike or scooter, graduating to a big, multi-cylinder street bike is a thing of the past since they haven't kept up with EPA rules. But those big, old two-strokes still have their fans, and they'll be gathering together from near and far this month in Deals Gap to celebrate their special bikes. In tribute to the rides that got us rolling, we thought it'd be fun to not only cover the rally, but to pull out all the stops with a special two-strokes issue. Inside, the main features and a few of the columns are devoted to the smoky engine so many of us are familiar with—and maybe ought to ride again, for old time's sake.

Coury Turczyn, ed.