Recent guest on the show, Mitch Carvolth, added another King of the Motos notch to his extreme enduro belt. KOM kicks off a week long extravaganza called the King of the Hammers, an event that takes place in a purpose built city called Hammertown. Though Hammertown is filled with four wheeled vehicles of all sizes, the festivities begin with our favorite type of vehicle, the dirt bike.

With the growth of Extreme Enduro‘s in the states, specific training has begun to take place for riders who undertake these technical events. Mitch took some time to tell us about the days leading up to KOM, and how the event itself went for him. Big thanks to Mitch for coming on the show and helping support Seat Time by writing his thoughts down for all to read. – Brian!

King of The Motos training started about a month or so before the event with some of the Arizona Crew, Taylor Robert, Max Gerston and Mike Damm. Every week trying to plan rides involving the nastiest terrain we can find out here in the dry, gnarly desert. Obviously when riding with guys like this, your perspective of what nasty terrain looks like quickly changes. After destroying endless amounts of FMF pipes, radiators, bars, etc, we’re finally getting closer to our trip out to Hammertown.

The weeks leading up to the event were going great! Riding had been going good, solid days at the gym and no complaints. When Wednesday before KOM rolled around, we figured lets get one more day on the bike. We busted out the heart rate monitors, Trail Tech GPS’ and were off. Fast forward to an hour and a half later and I’m pushing back a blown up 300XC. Quick note, if riding or preparing for an extreme enduro, I highly recommend having quality radiator braces and a properly working fan!

mitch-carvolth-king of the motos erek-kudla

Photo Credit: Mark Kariya

I woke up early Thursday morning and got to work tearing down my bike. Crossing my fingers that it was only a piston and rings since I had just ordered some from Vertex the week prior. I had a bad feeling that this wasn’t going to be the case since the last 10 minutes of my 300’s life sounded like an old Volkswagen diesel. Finally apart, I found out that the head and cylinder were toast and quickly call up the guys from MotoCity. They had a 300 conversion kit in stock, so I snagged it up and got back to work.

The rest of my Thursday was spent rebuilding the 300, and all of Friday morning was spent going over the finishing touches on my bike, packing my gear & clothes and everything else needed for the weekend. Only an hour or so behind schedule, Taylor and I rolled out of Scottsdale with our bikes loaded, bags packed, and our Airbnb booked. For us, the drive is just under 6 hours so we rolled into Joshua Tree at a decent hour. Here we grabbed some dinner at a local Thai restaurant that is our go to place when in town. After dinner we headed to the house, which was conveniently a couple blocks away where we unloaded, showered and headed to bed.

The next morning we pulled into Hammertown, which is located near Johnson Valley, CA, where the event takes place. Saturday is the day to get everything dialed in, for me that included breaking in a new motor. Everyone’s busy registering, or out practicing the test loop Trail Tech had loaded onto our GPS’. This helps get the riders use to navigating, and from what Jimmy Lewis mentioned in our emails, this year that was going to be more crucial than ever! For myself, braking in the bike went great and now having a properly working fan from the guys at Trail Tech, I was confident the 300 was going to last throughout the weekend. After completing the test loop, it was back to the truck to swap out my tires for some fresh Kenda Super Stickies for Sunday morning.

mitch carvolth king of the motos hillclimb-mark-kariya

Photo Credit: Mark Kariya

All riders have to stick around for the mandatory riders meeting held at 6pm.  They go over the layout of the race, answer any questions riders may have, and upload Sundays race courses to the SD cards in our GPS’. This year is similar to last years format where they have two races. A longer distance, less technical race in the morning and a 3-hour more technical short course in the afternoon. The morning race is roughly a 27-mile loop for the pros and a 24-mile loop for the sportsman/team class. This race determines gate position for the afternoon race and if any sportsman rider were to finish before a pro, they’re awarded a paid entry for the pro class the following year.

The Sportsman class started at 8am sharp, followed by the pros at 8:10. There are a few reasons for this format.

  1. It gives the riders a chance to get familiar with their GPS’ since not everyone practices the day before.
  2. The 10-minute head start gives the riders time to clear the first hill before the pros take off.
  3. It forces the pros to figure out how to navigate through the sportsman riders when they’re in the way blocking certain sections. This becomes a crucial element for the pros in the final race.
Mitch carvolth king of the motos mark kariya

Photo Credit: Mark Kariya

Sunday started pretty early for us. Showing up at 6:30 gave us just enough time to get things laid out in the pits, as well as geared up and ready for staging at 7:30. After getting all dialed in, I rode over to the staging area, which is located at the other side of the lakebed from where the pits are. Here people start to gather as Erek Kudla calls each rider one at a time to pick their starting position. Once everyone is lined up, they shut their bikes off for the dead engine start. At 8 o’clock the sportsman class fires up and takes off, and minutes after they start calling the pros up to staging. For the pros, it will be a Le Mans-style start, we park our bikes in the sand and stand about 50 feet behind them. Everyone’s eyes are fixed on the green flag held in Jimmy Lewis’ hand as he patiently stares down at his watch. As soon as we see the slightest movement from the flag everyone is in a full sprint to their bikes.

The hill started off in deep sand and climbed gradually up to a rocky peak. With a bobble on my first attempt, I quickly turned around to try again. My second approach was better than the first, but I still ran into issues once losing my momentum due to other riders near the top. I eventually made it out but had a lot of time to make up. From here I put my head down and tried to make quick work of the guys I had in my sights.

Trying to race and follow a GPS is pretty comical after not doing it for a while. Everyone starts to follow the guy out front and it becomes a game of follow the leader till someone realizes we’re all off course. Then it’s a mad dash to find the trail and get out in front of everyone before they find it. This game pretty much continues throughout the day. I managed to pick off quite a few guys, but those positions seemed to go back and forth while I was making mistakes by trying to find alternate lines up and around sections of sportsmen riders.

About an hour into the race things start to spread out. The technical sections held up most of the amateurs. Those ahead weren’t much of an issue because of the pace they were going. After a handful of mistakes and stopping twice to double check a couple sections to be clear, I reached the finish line in 10th, luckily not missing any checkpoints.

mitch carvolth king of the motos mark kariya

Photo Credit: Mark Kariya

From here, we went back to pit row to do any bike work needed before the 1 o’clock start time of the final race. When I pull in I begin to work on my bike. After all the sand sections in the first race, my filter was wrecked. Knowing we had a 3 hour final, I swapped it out for a fresh one. Once done with my air filter, I topped off my fuel and got to work replacing my rear tire for a new Kenda Super Sticky to finish out the day.

This race has a bit of an ISDE fashion to it where the only people allowed to touch the bikes are the riders. All fueling, bike work or GPS adjustments have to be done by the rider. For the next couple of hours people continue to roll through the finish. Unfortunately for the few just making the time cut off, its time to head up to the start for the final race.

Throughout the weekend the weather was super windy, with a storm was blowing in. The forecasts predicted high winds and lots of rain, which would make this extreme enduro very extreme! Luckily the wind was minimal for the first part of the day, and the rain hadn’t showed up yet. While on the line for the final race the winds started to pick up and you could see the storm rolling in. It was chaos off the start, a cloud of dust already forming 50 yards into the course. Cartwheeling backwards out of the dust came Max Gerston, just barely clipping me as I made my way through the carnage.

About 15 minutes into the race we have a pretty solid group all battling for positions. By this time Max is back in the mix, along with Noah Kepple and Ty Tremaine. All of us trying to beat one another to the next unknown challenge. We all got to one of the more technical sections in the loop, Max and Noah getting through it to distance themselves from Ty and myself. Ty and I would go on racing each other for a good portion of the first lap till I finally made a pass down a long, technical, rocky canyon. I tried to put a hard charge on to distance myself from Ty.

Once I complete the first lap, the course now became more familiar. Lap 2, 3, and 4 now had the element of riders still trying to complete their first lap. This made parts of the course that much harder, trying to pick a line at a quick glance through all the bikes and people.

Back at the section where I had lost Max and Noah earlier sits a line of bikes, single file, waiting to weave their way uphill through some boulders. Quickly I start scouting out the hillside trying to find an alternate line. I didn’t have time to sit and wait for all these guys to get through one at a time. I asked the man running the check point if anyone had found a way around. He pointed off to the side where someone had attempted to get around but couldn’t make it work. With no patience to sit around, I went up and scoped the line out. It was definitely more work but I didn’t have time to waste so I maneuvered my bike up as far as I could, having to get off and pick it up a couple times. A minute or two later, I was through the thick of it and made my way around all the riders. I used this line 2 more times in the following laps. After completing two full laps, I came into the pits for fuel and new goggles. At this point it had started raining on some parts of the course.

As the race wore on, each rider who was lapped would be pulled off as they crossed the finish. With less riders each lap, things became a lot easier. By my 5th lap, I came into the pits for fuel, knowing I would have to fight to get one more lap. As I was fueling up, people were telling me that Cody was not far behind, so I charged the last lap in hopes that this would help bring Noah or Max back into sight. About halfway through my last lap, Cody finally got around me. I tried to follow as long as I could, but his flawless riding and calculated lines made it hard to keep up. Eventually Taylor Robert and Colton Haaker would get around me just before finishing the last lap. By the end of the day, I finished 8th, with a total time of 5 hours and 3 minutes between the two races.

There’s a reason why they call King of the Motos one of the toughest races in North America. After racing my first KOM here in 2014, I have been hooked on extreme enduros and have been coming back ever since. I love the challenge they brings every year. Not knowing what to expect keeps it exciting and the adrenaline going. Something to fear and anticipate throughout the months leading up to the next event.