The Story Behind the Photo | 1985 Hully Gully Newsletter
By Billy Rainford
Besides good looks, charm, and a dashing personalty, motocrossers all share another more unfortunate thing in common – we’ve all pretty much missed one season’s racing due to injury. It’s a sad but very real part of the sport we’ve all chosen.
I’m not even sure why my name pops up in this little Hully Gully Newsletter from way back in 1985 because I sure didn’t win that day. No, not by a long shot.
I know you didn’t ask, but here’s the story…
In 1984, I woke up from another normal early-spring weekend spent somewhere at a race track with my parents. However, as I tried to slide out of bed to hit the shower I realized that my right leg wouldn’t straighten out. Huh?
Assuming it was just some sort of fluke thing from the races (I hadn’t fallen or hurt myself), I limped badly to my to my closet for my housecoat, ready to walk to the bathroom.
Nope, this wasn’t just a little glitch in my routine, this was a full-blown issue. I just couldn’t understand why I was unable to straighten my leg! Try as I might, it wouldn’t go past about a 45-degree able! Of course, my parents assumed I was faking something to get out of going to school that day.
Finally, my mom caved and we decided to head over to the emergency department at University Hospital in London, Ontario.
I got in very quickly and was taken to a back room for closer inspection.
As I sat up on the examining bed, the doctor put both hands on my knee and tried pushing down. I told him it wasn’t moving.
Next thing he did was go for some laughing gas! Seriously.
After inhaling a ton of the stuff, he tried again as I writhed in pain but still laughed my ass off. It was not going to straighten. Off to the x-ray machine I went.
Sure enough, there was a problem that wasn’t going to simply fall into place by applying pressure.
When the doctor came back, he told me I was suffering from what is called “osteochondritis dessecans.” Say what now?
From Wikipedia: Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD or OD) is a joint disorder primarily of the subchondral bone in which cracks form in the articular cartilage and the underlying subchondral bone. OCD usually causes pain during and after sports. In later stages of the disorder there will be swelling of the affected joint which catches and locks during movement. Physical examination in the early stages does only show pain as symptom, in later stages there could be an effusion, tenderness, and a crackling sound with joint movement.
I had complained about knee pain for years. I’d even fallen in front of a big crowd during a regional track and field event in the 100m final. As a little kid, it was embarrassing and people thought I’d faked a fall because I wasn’t winning. That was about 75% not the case!
Anyway, it was so bad that a chunk had actually broken free from the head of my femur and was lodged in the joint. No wonder it wasn’t going to straighten!
I wasn’t sure what to expect as treatment, but I’ll admit I was startled when he told me we’d be back in for surgery the very next morning.
So, surgery went well and the prognosis for this surgery is actually pretty good if you get it when you’re young and still growing. The bad part is that the area receives such little blood flow that I was to be on crutches without weight-bearing for 3 whole months!
So, this is what happened to my 1984 season. I had just moved up from the 80cc class and was heading into Junior, ready to take on the world! Actually, my left knee started bothering me during 1985 and I ended up having another arthroscopic surgery on that one to clean it up. No long recovery for this one, but I was still off for a while.
The bottom line is that I was still riding an almost-new 1984 Can Am 125 in 1985.
The bike looked really good on paper, but was actually terrible and I feel like I should have gotten a trophy every time I crossed the finish line in the top 39! Beat one person on that thing and it’s a win.
Actually, I remember one time at a practice track swapping bikes with a friend for a few laps. He stopped pretty quickly and asked how I was even finishing races on the thing. He likened it to “riding a pull-out couch.” He wasn’t wrong and that is still one of my favourite quotes of all time.
Most people will look to a specific part of a motorcycle to blame for a sub-par performance. In 1985, I simply had to point toward the bike in general and people understood. Did I mention that the 125 engine was plopped into the same frame as the 500 and the pipe touched the frame straight from the factory? Yep, it vibrated and broke the frame PDQ.
Chuck Collins is mentioned in the newsletter for winning the Expert class. I remember the first day I showed up at Hully Gully with the bike, he looked at it, asked, “What the hell is that?!” and walked away.
In hindsight, we really should have tried to sell that thing and gone back to a proven brand, but who was going to buy it?! My dad had a machine tool business and he thought it would look good if we rode something North American built. I think we just left it out in the yard and forgot that incident ever happened. I still get a little revved up when I see that company logo.
I can’t believe I’m still making excuses for my poor performances on that thing…and nobody even asked!
That story was for the simple reason that I’m pretty sure people would read the newsletter and ask themselves, “A Can Am 125 in 1985???” It happened. It shouldn’t have, but it did.