Paul Beaumont: Age and Experience Equates to Being Young at Heart. It Also Wins Championships Too.

Recently, I was afforded the opportunity to interview a true trail rider and enduro/cross country, championship racing, hometown hero from the heights of the Rocky Mountains in Montana. Being a huge trail enthusiast myself, I not only enjoyed this interview, but gained exceptional knowledge about the man himself. Paul Beaumont, rough riding, trail scouting, bushwhacking, cross-country champion is almost a man of myth these days in how he rides and who he is concerning dirt biking. Having experience that spans four decades, Paul not only knows a thing or two about bikes, but also about finding some of the best and challenging trails out there. It is just as easy to find Paul on a track made from a perilous goat trail, or riding with the best out there on a manmade cross-country course, and winning.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Paul took on this past year’s Big Sky XC race in Montana, and came out as the champion in the 50+ year old “B” class. Though this is not new to Paul as he also entered the races in the past years as well, but also Paul had not raced in over two decades before entering the race in 2009. This ability was due to not having lost a step from his current trail riding and past experience. In case you did not know, Montana holds some of the world’s toughest and most challenging terrain, and also is not hospitable in terms of weather either. This equates to Paul being not only a mountain man among dirt bikers, but one to be reckoned with when you hit a trail with him.

Q: Paul, if I may ask, how old are you and how long have you been riding?

A: I am 53 years old, and been riding since I was about 9 years old. So, 44 years.

Q: What got you into the sport?

A: My dad raced District 37 desert races, and took us kids with him to the desert for those weekends. He published, edited, and sold (I manned the newspaper booth at the races) a newspaper covering the D-37 races and other dirt bike news, called the “Desert Wrap-Up”. Dad raced in the trail bike class on a Hodaka 100.

Q: So, needless to say, you grew up around dirt bikes and races. How many different bikes have you had over the years, and what has been your favorite?

A: Dad got a writing gig for one of the dirt bike magazines where he would bring out different bikes to do tests, so we got to ride all kinds of bikes during the early 1970’s. Dad also was into building his own bikes out of the different parts and pieces of various machines. One of the earliest bike creations I loved to ride was the “Toad”, which started out as a Mustang 250 with this really weird tractor tire on the rear, that Dad put a Kawasaki 110 engine into. My 1st “real” bike was a 1970 Yamaha 60cc Mini Enduro. That won a lot of trophies for me in the mini class, both in motocross and hare scrambles. Just after I turned 14 I got a brand new 1974 Suzuki TM125 as a Christmas present and I still remember my 1st ride, actually a race, on that sweet bike! It was out near Dove Springs and I took 1st place in the 125 class that day. I remember I broke the frame a few times and Dad welding it up each time, always adding some new support along the way. He was always modifying every bike we had to get more performance and help us boys to win races. I moved up to the 250 class when I purchased a friend’s 1972 CZ 250. I loved that bike! I raced the CZ all the way up to the 250 expert class in the local (southern California) motocross scene into the late 70’s. In 1980 I bought a Suzuki RM 400 and moved up to the Open bike class where I won a handful of races before crashing hard and smashing my face real bad in a Grand Prix club race. I sold the 400 from my hospital bed in 1985. My 1977 Suzuki PE250 took me to several Enduro wins during the early 1980’s. I used the PE 250 to compete in English Trials events as well, culminating in a respectable 5th place finish in the Novice class of the El Trial de Espana. I remember the event organizers were hesitant to allow me to enter the El Trial on an Enduro bike with knobbies and I had to convince them I could compete. I lost my left eye in a work-related injury that year and stopped riding dirt bikes altogether.

Q: Wow! You have done more than some professional riders I have talked to, Paul. However, and like myself, you now you ride a KTM 300 EXC, though mine is a 300 XC-W, yes? Can you tell us why you ride a 300 as opposed to others out there?

A: After that bad wreck in August of 1985 I quit riding for 20 years. It was in the spring of 2005 that I got an itch to ride again and did some research into the “modern” bikes. Of all the bikes I’ve had the RM400 was the closest to perfection in my mind’s eye. I wanted a modern version of the mighty Open class 2-strokes of the 1980’s, but I also wanted a bike that could take me on the high mountain goat trails I loved riding with the PE250. My 2005 KTM 300 EXC fit the bill for both the thrill of a mighty Open Class 2-stroke as well as the low speed grunt of the torquey PE250.

Q: Like many riders like yourself, I assume you do your own wrenching, yes? Are you self-taught or have you been trained in any manner?

A: Yes I’ve always done my own wrenching. Dad was always there to help me out when I ran into something I couldn’t understand. I raced on a low budget and was responsible to keep my bikes in top condition every weekend for every race. I remember many long school nights prepping my bikes.

Q: I know you live in Montana, and it provides wonderful trails and scenery, but have you always lived in Montana? If not, what drew you to such a place?

A: I grew up in a small mountain community in southern California where we were mere minutes from desert riding. I have always loved the solitude of living in the mountains. After a few visits to Montana, it began to call my name and I moved my young family here in 1992.

Q: Like myself, you ride almost year around no matter the weather. What do you do to your bike to keep it running throughout the year?

A: I keep the bike in as good a shape as I can all year ’round. There is about a 5-month period here when I do not ride. It is during this time (October to February) when I do my top end repairs, clutch work, sprockets and chain replacement, etc. I use Stabil in the fuel during this time to keep the gas fresh. I try to get the bike out in the snow at least once during the winter months for the fun of it.

Q: How is your bike normally set up for your riding style?

A: I have kept my bike pretty much stock and only upgrade when something breaks. I haven’t touched my suspension setup in 7 years. It might be a bit soft for racing but it works. I installed a Rekluse clutch this past summer and found that it has helped me immensely! I have a lot more confidence now in the really technical sections. I think I owe one of my race wins to the Rekluse clutch as well.

Q: I know you race and do quite well. Could you elaborate a bit on what class you ride in and the type of racing you do?

A: I raced a lot when I was a teenager and into my early 20’s. Mostly motocross, some desert, and a few enduros. I competed in a few trials events as well. It was 24 years since I had last seen a green flag when I entered the Big Sky XC race in 2009 just for the fun of it and relive some of the excitement I remembered from my younger years. I entered the 40+B class and made it through the entire race (2-hour hare scrambles format) to capture 8th place in class. I thought that would be it for racing until a friend of mine wanted to enter the Montana XC series this year with his stepsons and really pulled my arm to get me to join them. I committed to the 2012 season in the 50+B class. Other than that one race in 2009 I hadn’t raced since 1985. I was looking forward to riding new areas and having some fun.

Q: What got you into this type of racing and have you raced others as well recently?

A: Now that I’ve done it, I think I like hare scrambles racing the best! It contains elements from both motocross and desert racing that I grew up with.

Q: Hare scrambles have attracted a large following as of late, this is true, and for the reasons you mentioned. I hear you won this year’s Montana XC in the 50+ “B” class. Congratulations. Could you tell us how that went for you this year?

A: Thank you. I was not in good shape at the beginning of the season and it showed in the 1st 3 races. My wife put me on a juice fast and healthy food diet that dropped 15 pounds from me and I started lifting weights to build arm strength. I struggled through the 1st 3 rounds but after that everything came together . My 1st win of the series came in round 4 at Elk Basin. I led the entire race from start to finish. Then at round 5, I did the same. Round 6 at Big Sky was the biggest race of the year where we would be racing against the Western Hare Scrambles series riders. I led for the entire race until a crash on the final lap dropped me to 2nd in class, but 1st amongst the Montana XC series riders to secure the championship points lead for the season. Then our season ended abruptly due to BLM land closures because of the devastating fires that ravaged Montana this summer.

Q: I imagine you would have won it anyway with the momentum you had built up to that point. I assume you plan to run in next season’s series as well. What do you hope to do in that season, besides win of course?

A: (Laughs) I haven’t made up my mind about committing to next year’s series yet.

Q: I am all but sure you will enter. I have seen several times where you have gotten yourself into a deep section of unmarked trail that is essentially “new ground”. Is this something you find yourself doing often, and does it help you out in the races you enter?

A: The trails here in northwest Montana get so little use that every spring we spend several weekends just opening them back up. Each winter more trees get knocked down across our trails and if we skip a trail for two or more years you can hardly find it once you get back in there. I don’t always carry a chainsaw with me on every ride so we often have to either jump the fallen trees or find alternate routes around them. It’s good training for the enduro-cross sections that most of the modern races include.

Q: When you are out scouting for trail, what is it that you look for most often? What makes you search out such challenges?

A: Whether it is in the desert or high on a mountain I look for trails that take me to hard-to-reach destinations; places where very few have gone before.

Q: Do you have any sponsors you would like to mention?

A: I’m just an average Joe who loves to ride his dirt bike. No sponsors.

Q: What does the future hold for Paul, and where can we find your accomplishments online?

A: Hopefully many more years of off-road adventures with friends! You can read about the Montana XC Big Sky race at http://forum.dirtrider.com/

 

Thanks for the interview, Paul. It was truly a pleasure to have this talk with you and to see that no matter who you are, and where you are at, you can still have a blast riding and enjoying the world from the seat of a bike. Truly inspiring.

 

And, there you have it folks. A true rider and hometown hero. It just goes to show that with a little work, ingenuity, and a little help from your friends you can overcome adversity and still come out on top of a championship series, or even a fallen tree.

Until next time, keep your bike ready, your seat warm, and stay dirty my friends.

Ryan “The 300 Guy” Hackney

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