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Bucket racing was originally started by motorcycling enthusiasts in New Zealand, around 1980. It quickly became very popular, and spread to Australia by 1988. The name derives from the slang phrase "bucket of shit", or similar Bowdlerised terms; rather than the usual finely tuned racing machines that traditionally graced racing circuits, these bikes were often recycled ex–road machines that had been crashed or fallen into disrepair.
The original idea was to take a low-powered commuter motorcycle with a maximum capacity of 150 cc and remove the entire road going gear, thus creating absolutely the cheapest form of motorcycle racing in the country.
And so began one of the most enduring forms of motorcycle racing that New South Wales and Australia has seen in the post war period. At its height in the mid-90s, there were up to 60 competitors at NSW race meetings, divided into Amateur and Pro classes—essentially, junior and senior riders based on experience and ability.
As a form of inexpensive racing the class has seen participation from teenagers to retirees, attracted to the sport by its low cost and accessibility. Bikes prepared for bucket racing sell for about $1,500 making it the cheapest form of amateur racing available to anyone who can ride a bike.
Bucket Racing Develops
As bucket racing matured it bred a group of ‘Garagists’, enthusiasts who developed their racing bikes into highly crafted and very speedy racing machines. The addition of racing seats, fiberglass fairings, rear set footrests and gear changes and racing handlebars made some these machines replicas of more modern production racing machines
In addition, home developers engineered the motors of these machines and dramatically increased power outputs from the normal road going power of around 8–12 horse power to outputs often in excess of 20 horse power. It is a tribute to home developers that they were able to create motors that produced power outputs that are directly proportional to factory made GP production race machines
A good example of a well-developed bucket racer is on display at the National Motor Museum at Mount Panorama, Bathurst, NSW Australia and there is also a Honda H100 machine with the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney
Many of the competitors machines in New South Wales have reached a new level in mechanical performance and presentation. As the rules developed the choice of machines expanded to encompass two classes. The original race bikes remained as Superlites and a new class was developed, Motolites. This new class allows the choice of an engine type and capacity and unlimited development of any other part of the machine. The capacity sizes are: 111 cc Air-cooled 2 strokes, 85 cc Water-cooled 2 strokes, 159 cc 4-valve single-cylinder 4-stroke, 185 cc 2-valve single-cylinder 4-stroke, 159 cc 2-valve twin-cylinder 4-stroke, 200 cc 2-valve air-cooled single-cylinder 4-stroke.
The open rules encouraged the use of newer and better frames and running gear. Popular combinations have been Honda RS125 frames with Honda CR85 engine, Yamaha TZ125 frames with Yamaha YZ85 engine, Moriwaki GP80 race bikes, Honda/Jiangshe 185 cc engine in a variety of frames and water-cooled 4 strokes such as the Honda CRF150 and CBR150. The commonly sought after horsepower figures to be competitive are 28 hp for a two-stroke or about 25 hp for a four-stroke.
In New Zealand the rules have developed slightly different classing of bikes with the maximum engine size in Formula 4; two strokes up to 100 cc water-cooled or 125 cc air-cooled and 4-strokes up to 150 cc water-cooled and Formula 5; 50 cc 2-strokes and 100 cc 4-strokes. The rules of what else is used in the building of the motorcycle is broader, allowing a lot more variety of bike parts being used, with the development of some very different and interesting machines with mixed results in performance. for full rules see www.bucketracing.co.nz or MNZ rules