Tag Archives: Miscellaneous Stories

Road 2 a Cure

The Journey Begins

Photo’s By Andy Madison        

.Chris Calaprice came down the stairs one day, and started a conversation with his wife of 15 years, Jennifer, that began something like “Honey, I got this Idea…” and was fully expecting a response like “Have you lost your damn mind?”

However, as a 6 year survivor of pancreatic cancer there is not much he has learned to fear.  So he asked anyway (while secretly planning an escape route once the words came out of his mouth), but she enthusiastically agreed and the trip eventually became the Road 2 a Cure journey to raise awareness about pancreatic cancer. 

So after almost three years of planning, Chris said goodbye to Santa Barbara, CA on February 20 of this year and began a journey that will eventually wind him and his 2010 Victory Vision Premium Tour ABS with an eye popping purple wrap done by 858 Graphics of San Diego, CA through all 50 states over a nine month span.  The mileage, over 42,000 miles in all, represents one mile for each person that will be diagnosed with the disease this year.  Sadly, 75% of those diagnosed will not live another year, and the odds of being a 6 year survivor, like Chris, are an astonishingly low 5%.

However, it doesn’t have to be like that, and that is why Chris and his wife hit the road.  Diagnosed at 36 years old, Chris was faced with the same grim prognosis as other pancreatic cancer patients, but he wants to spread his hope to others.  Speaking to him there is a benevolent urgency in his voice, and this clearly is a family that is not interested in their own celebrity; they are on a mission.

Chris bluntly stated that, “Doctors must quit closing the door on hope, and refer patients early to specialists that are armed with the latest knowledge to fight the disease.  We need to foster hope because there are survivors.”

Pancreatic cancer is the 4th leading cancer killer, but receives only 2% of the federal cancer research budget.  This, according to Chris’s wife, Jennifer, “Is why we are hitting the pavement and talking to people.” 

.First and foremost, Chris wants to plant the seeds of hope among pancreatic cancer patients.  He also wants to raise awareness about the inequity in funding for research and early detection of pancreatic cancer, and wants patients to stop taking no for an answer when they share his disease.  “When you’re diagnosed, people don’t think there is a chance…and I hope that by being on this bike I can show people that with proper treatment and the will to fight the quality of life can be there.”

And a fight it is.  Chris will be receiving chemotherapy treatments while he is on the road, and will be off of the bike for up to 2 weeks at a time to recover from the treatments.  Even weeks after chemotherapy treatment, days in the saddle seem a bit longer, but that is alright with him.  “Quality of life is subjective, and cancer changes you.”  He thinks about seeing sunsets in the rearview mirror, day after day, and thinks about the family that told him he has brought hope into their house so he rides on. 

“Motorcycling helped save me,” Chris says, “because when I was first diagnosed it was an outlet.  Out there, I could push everything aside and just focus on the ride.”  “I am a schizophrenic motorcyclist,” Chris jokes, “I am happy dragging a knee at the track or sitting on this Vision.” 

.When Victory heard of Chris’ journey they offered their help in the form of a bike to use for the trip.  “Victory has been so generous, and as a touring bike I can honestly say I have never found a machine that offers more.”

Despite the tough odds for pancreatic cancer patients, they hope to “Change houses from despair to hope…to create more survivors.”  With a broad smile Chris believes that “There is no such thing as false hope.”

That is the driving force behind this grassroots effort.  They want to inspire university researchers to attack pancreatic cancer, even though it is tough, and they want congress to spread funding more equitably.  They want to find the best science out there, put patients in touch with a supportive and knowledgeable network.  They want to be the champion for the underdogs, and believe that with the awareness they are raising, a difference can be made.  They want to meet people, hear their stories, share their stories, and let the purple caravan be a beacon of hope.

While in Las Vegas, a man approached Chris and his purple Victory motorcycle.  He was with his kids, and calmly said that he had recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  He is insured, however, his insurance would not cover the whipple procedure, which is a tough surgery that can combat the disease.  Through his network at www.road2acure.org he was able to get this man in touch with another survivor with the same insurance company, and help him navigate through the paperwork.  “The purple Victory did its job, and that one day,” Chris says, “that one man made this whole trip worth it.”

.“People often see the trailer and ask if we are a race team,” Chris quips, “but we aren’t rich.”  In fact, they have no cash sponsors and are supported by small donations along the way.  Small donations and small steps at a time, and Chris is making a difference while he makes his way across the nation.

“We are making a difference through awareness, but we need help.”  Along the route Chris will be participating in rallies and local rides to raise money and awareness so don’t be surprised if you pull into Sturgis and see a 40 foot purple trailer.

To help, visit www.road2acure.org and see if Chris and the caravan are coming your way.  Their route and schedule are posted online, so contact them at info@road2acure.org if you are interested in finding out what you can do.  Host a ride, offer them a meal, or just meet them to say “Hi!”  Donations can also be made through the website here or in person at any of their rally points.  “People,” Jennifer says with a big grin, “they are why I am out here.”  “We had a guy give us $10…that’ll get the bikes a few hundred miles.”  

April 2010 Editorial

How Bad Is It?

Unless you have been sleeping under a rock for the last few years, you are most likely intimately aware of the fact that there is a world-wide economic crisis that simply refuses to go away. This is the financial version of a serious cheap whiskey hangover. Instinctively we have all pretty much assumed that there has been some sort of impact in the motorcycle world, even if it was simply a delayed personal purchase decision based upon employment worries. The anecdotal evidence I have heard from dealer friends around the world, anything from new bike sales to used motorcycle resale values to repair shop work to employment figures pretty much points to continuing bad business conditions with seemingly no end in sight. However, for many riders things did not really hit home until the new model introductions for 2010. Where are the new models? What happened? Is it THAT bad?

.Well, yeah. It is that bad. I dug around in some industry association web sites and publications to get a sense of the numbers, and what I found was rather sobering with little optimism for the short term.

Figure 1 is a compilation of data from the Japanese Automotive Manufacturer’s Association. This is an extract of yearly reports from 2004 to 2009 (the 2008 report did not contain this particular data), and shows the number of motorcycle exports to various geographic locations around the world.

A few interesting facts and trends pop out of this:

North America, i.e., Canada and the USA, used to be the largest motorcycle market for the Japanese manufacturers. 93% of that North American market is the USA. Over the last two years North America has been edged out by Europe. Historically, both Europe and North America have been far larger markets than any other region in the world by several orders of magnitude but by the end of 2009 both markets dropped by 50 to 70% to levels approaching the rest of the world. These economic changes drive some serious development and marketing decisions at the motorcycle manufacturers.

.Looking at the relatively flat lines at the bottom of Figure 1, we can see that the economic crisis has not had the same impact on the two-wheeled community in other parts of the world as it has on Europe and North America. This is most likely due to cultural differences. Motorcycles and other powered two-wheelers (PTW in Euro-speak) are considered to be a normal part of the transportation system rather than a luxury leisure-time activity purchased with disposable entertainment income. That cultural difference shall remain the subject of a different rant for another day but let me just say that I personally think it is time for the American motorcycle community to reassess its priorities. See our Editor-in-Chief’s recent rant on outlaw bikers for a start. In addition, there are on-going discussions in both Europe and America on motorcycle-related topics such as lane-splitting, favored parking, toll booth charges and to put it mildly I am a bit disappointed by our collective (non) participation and general apathy. Motorcycles are part of the solution, not part of the problem. Perhaps American riders should take an example from the recent lane-splitting protests in France where nearly 40,000 riders did an ABATE-style ride during Paris rush hour traffic to prove a point to legislators. Try getting 40,000 American riders together on any subject that does not generally involve bad behavior and vast quantities of alcohol. But I digress…

.Let’s switch over to Europe for a moment. Unfortunately it was not possible to get exactly the same kind of information from The Motorcycle Industry in Europe, ACEM but we see a similar trend over time. Using the number of deliveries and registrations, 1999 to 2008, in Figure 2, we see a fairly robust business with a generally upward trend up until 2007.

The next available information for 2009 comes in Figure 3, which compares 2007 through 2009. We can see a huge 24% decline in motorcycle deliveries and registrations. That is roughly 350,000 fewer PTWs on European roads in 2009.

So clearly the motorcycle manufacturers have been suffering as much as, or more than, the rest of us. This translates into less development money for new models, which drives some hard choices in the marketing departments. Europe, the new world sales leader, got a few nice new models such as the Yamaha FZ8, North America got last year’s models with a new paint job. I suspect that we will not see the return of an every-two-years update on 600 Super Sports, for example, for several years. On the positive side, you may take pleasure in the fact that your brand new 2009 Super Bike will remain technologically current for a few more years than normal.

Let us hope that the racing budgets are not next on the chopping block.

.One last chart. Figure 4 shows the Japanese manufacturer’s exports by month from January 2009 through February 2010. Forget September – that is a yearly anomaly when the new models are shipped to the distributors and dealers in preparation for the new model year. But look at the trend from November 2009 to February 2010. Maybe? Perhaps? Wishful thinking? Are things actually beginning to pick up? Time will tell. I hope for the sake of those thousands of Americans who are employed in the motorcycle industry that this is the beginning of a sustained upswing. I think we are all overdue for some good news.


Independent Repair Shops

A Fountain of Knowledge

Recently I was testing a new product (TCB Brake Systems) and needed help with the installation.  At first I went to my local dealership since I have bought a few bikes from them over the years I figured they’d be willing to help.  However, after speaking with the service technician I was told we needed the service department manager’s approval for the install.  The techs didn’t want to install a non-motor company part, but the service manager wasn’t available that day to get approval.  After none of my calls were returned I turned to a local independently owned shop for help.  Custom Iron had helped me in the past during my “I want to be a drag racer” days, and their willingness to assist when a dealership turned me down re-sparked my interest in local shops. 

.Andy and Sandy Anderson own Custom Iron, which is located at 4950 N US HWY 17 in Deleon Springs, Florida.  The shop owners are real enthusiasts as they own and operate several different bikes.  At their shop you will find a stroked Sportster, a restored 1948 Harley Pan head and a 1962 rat bike that is ridden daily.  The ’62 rat is closing in on 600,000 miles, and is arguably the most photographed rat bike in the country as there doesn’t seem to be a year that goes by that it doesn’t show up in some national magazine.   

On a recent trip to Pennsylvania on his ‘62 he cracked a rocker arm shaft.  To get her back on the road he got a bit creative, and now runs a pan head on the rear cylinder and a shovel head on the front one.  How cool is that?  It would be tough to find that kind of ingenuity in any large dealership.  The bike is my age, but it runs stronger than me.  He and his wife have been serving the riders in our area almost 20 years, and have helped keep countless bikes clicking off miles.  

For over 20 years I have taken at least one long distance motorcycle ride per year.  Most rides have been with friends, with some on new motorcycles some on older ones; but no matter how well we would prepare for these trips mechanical problems would appear.  When a stainless steel bracket on a custom bike came apart a small bike shop in Greenwood S.C. let us use their welding equipment, but wouldn’t take any money.  

When we had a similar incident with an old shovelhead on another trip it was repaired, and again no charge collected by the shop.  Still, another time three of us were someplace in the middle of nowhere with a flat rear tire.  We removed the wheel on the side of the road, and two riders waited with the tireless bike.  I rode to another town and found a small shop, and while they replaced the tube the owner had brought lunch in for his employees.  He fed me, too, (like I needed it) and charged me a very fair price for the job.  As we were settling the bill he packed up food and drinks for me to take back to my 2 waiting friends.  

These are but a few stories, but the fact is no small shop has ever turned us away while traveling.  One large dealership did, as they had no time to help us…but they would have an opening in several days if we’d still be in town.
In all fairness, one time I was having an electrical problem on a new bike and I stumbled on a dealership that was not open for business but was having a HOG ride.  When a chapter officer noticed our out of state tags he came over and introduced himself.  We told him of my problem, and fortunately for me he was also a mechanic at this store.  He opened up the garage and took care of the problem, no charge.  With the exception of “no charge,” would that have happened if the dealership was open and I had to deal with a service technician?  I’d like to think so, but I’ll never know.

Think about every time there are local benefits run, who do you go to for door prizes?  When you need to advertise for a local fundraiser or toy run, again it’s the local independents that place your flyers up in their store.  Have you ever seen advertising for local shops?  If so it is usually in a local paper as most do not have a web site or large marketing funds, and instead rely on satisfied customers to get the word out.  

One morning I was having breakfast with a group of riders in the North Georgia Mountains, and I was on the only V-twin in the group.  I mentioned I was looking for parts for a 1949 servi-car, and one of the riders recommended a small shop that’s tucked pretty much out of the way.  Endless Cycle, the out of the way shop in Dahlonega, specializes in old and obsolete pars.  I walked in to find a plethora of motorcycle stuff for most brands.  In the back of the shop were 3 lifts with different bikes under construction.  What a find for a self diagnosed bike junkie!!  They have several bikes for sale, everything from bobbers to street fighters.  Phil Cusmano, the owner, even has a documented world land speed record bike in the shop.  As he says, everything is for sale so give him a visit at www.endlesscycle.com.

As evidenced by Phil and his shop, most local shops not only service motorcycles but have a deep love of the sport.  You can usually find solid advice on racing, restoring, or just keeping old iron road worthy.  Refreshingly, when you walk into one of these independent local shops the advice is free and they are, more often than not, more than willing to help.


Sadly, most mega dealerships won’t work on a motorcycle if it is over 10 years old.   So, what do you do when you take that tarp off the bike that has been sitting in you garage for years?  Of course, you could pop open the tool box and tear into it yourself; but what if you get stuck??  What if you need a hard to find or obsolete part?  Try and find that local independent shop, one specializing in your type of bike, and you may be amazed to find the knowledge the folks have sitting behind the dusty counters.

In this world of bigger is better where we throw everything away that doesn’t work right, remember the local shops may be able to give the old ride a new lease on life.  Some of these shops have enough parts and bikes that could rival a motorcycle museum.  Most are dedicated to the sport of motorcycling and are there to help the customer.  It seems they are not only businessman, but true enthusiasts that, in my experience, will do whatever it takes to get you back on the road while telling a story that gave them the experience they need to keep the wheels turning.  


Bikers Rights

From The Desk of The Editor-In-Chief

Recently an email went out from the media rep for a major motorcycle manufacturer to a wide range of media personalities. This email was just a heads-up to let everyone know about the manufacturer loaning a bike to a rider. This rider was going to ride all 50 states and over 41,000 miles to represent the amount of people diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer every year.

This sounds like a good cause, right? Well, apparently to one editor that got the email it was a waste of money since only a very tiny minority of motorcyclists get Pancreatic Cancer. He also expressed that another large motorcycle manufacturer’s involvement with a different charity is a waste of time, money, and resources as well. He is of the strong opinion that our motorcycle resources should only be spent on riders and the families of riders who crash, or are involved in a crash, and are left with medical bills, health issues, and sometimes death. He was unafraid to CC everyone on the list letting them know, in no uncertain terms, how he felt.   

The words and tone of his “Bikers’ Rights” emails are what started me down the path of this article – the basic premise of which I’ve felt strongly about for some time now.

First off I hate the term “Biker”. What is the mental image in your head when you think about someone being a “biker”? I know that in my head it is a guy on a “loud pipes save lives” cruiser wearing jeans, engineer boots, a black t-shirt, fingerless or no gloves, and either no helmet or a “skid-lid”. Obviously I’m stereotyping and generalizing here but that is what I, and I’ll bet most of you, think of as a “biker”.

So what “rights” does this crowd usually fight for? Well the “right” to not wear a helmet is a huge one. Another is the “right” that motorcycle training shouldn’t be mandatory. The “right” to loud pipes also comes to mind. Furthermore, hidden in the subtext below all this is the desire to “stick-it to the man” and have stiffer laws for motorists who, unintentionally, hit a motorcycle rider. I’m sure there are other “rights” that they want but quite frankly I think we’ve seen enough to form an opinion.

First, you can’t have the “right” to ride without a helmet as the base act of riding a motorcycle (or driving a car for that matter) isn’t a “right” it is a privilege. This means that you can’t have any “rights” when it comes to training or the pipe issue either.

A clear case where a “motorcycle rights group” clearly got their priorities all screwed-up was when Florida was looking to pass a “mandatory motorcycle training to get your motorcycle license” law. ABATE fought tooth and nail to stop the law from passing as it targeted motorcyclists. Now, while that sounds like a good thing to fight against, wouldn’t their time and effort have been better spent in working WITH the lawmakers to see about getting tougher licensing requirements for ALL vehicle operators rather than working against a law that, more than likely, would save some motorcyclists’ lives? Personally I wouldn’t mind seeing ALL licensed vehicle operators have to take some recurrent training every X number of years as it would make our roads a safer place for everyone.

How about after a crash? Are motorcyclists being targeted by uncaring people in their 4000 pound killing machines? Should there be stiffer laws concerning the penalties levied against drivers who unintentionally hit a motorcyclist?

I have been riding for over 19 years and put about 12,000 miles a year on a variety of motorcycles. In all that time I can honestly say that I have run across only a few (less than a handful really) truly spiteful drivers that I felt really didn’t care whether I lived or died. Having been involved in a car-on-bike accident, luckily a minor one, and seeing the fear and concern on that driver’s face as they realized what they just did completely cured me of any anger towards that person I was feeling. Was I still angry at the situation? Yes. Would I have felt differently had I been laying there crippled? Most certainly. I understand the anger that motorcyclists, or their families, have when they are hit by an inattentive motorist but that does not mean that I want, or anyone should want, stiffer laws against drivers who hit a motorcycle compared to hitting another car or truck (does the bumper sticker “Kill a Biker, Go to Jail” ring a bell?).

What we should want, what we should strive for, is equal treatment under the same laws that govern all vehicle operators; if the circumstances of the crash warrant jail time under the law, then that is what should happen. If the circumstances of the crash don’t mandate jail time under the law then we shouldn’t want that to be the sentence handed-down merely because one of the vehicles involved was a motorcycle.

The best way to go about this is to bring attention to the disparities in the execution of the law in cases where a motorcyclist was hit and the system, for one reason or another, blew off the case; either by handing down a fine/sentence that was far below what case history would call for or by a failure to work the accident in a proper manner thereby contaminating (or not collecting/providing) evidence that would have been admissible.

 Collecting hard evidence and being able to present that in a logical, rational way is how we as motorcyclists should be addressing the concerns of “rights”. Are we doing that? In most cases we are not. Instead we let those that feel yelling, screaming, insulting and bullying are the preferred methods of getting things done do the speaking for us.

So what about an accusation the other editor made of manufactures using our finite motorcycle resources to promote and funnel money to charities that are, or become, our political enemies (his words not mine)? Should manufacturers instead funnel money and resources into riders and families of riders who have crashed? What obligations, beyond the “jar on the bar”, do we as motorcyclists have to those of us who have been injured or killed in an accident?

First thing to understand is that there will never be a telethon or huge celebrity-driven charity drive for a motorcyclist that is killed or disabled in a crash. Why? Simple; they chose to ride. We as motorcyclists choose to put ourselves in harm’s way for no other reason than because we enjoy it. We subject our families to the higher risk that they will be left without a husband, wife, mother, or father every time we throw a leg over our 2-wheeled obsession.

No one chooses to have cancer. No one chooses to have MS, Parkinson’s, or any other debilitating disease. My father-in-law, before he passed away from emphysema, told my wife that there wasn’t a lot of interest in finding a cure for emphysema because unlike lung cancer the only people who get it are smokers. They bring it on themselves. They chose to smoke and emphysema is the direct result of that choice. We choose to ride motorcycles and being killed or disabled can be a direct result of that choice.

The issue is compounded when we choose to ride without wearing all our safety gear merely because we don’t want to. “Bikers” make a huge ruckus about how so-and-so’s family has been left without a parent/son/etc.. because some evil-doer in a cage struck them down in the prime of their life. These are often the same people that refuse to practice their riding skills, drink alcohol while riding, and can’t be bothered to wear any of the gear that MIGHT save their life in case of a crash and yet they are the ones that scream the loudest for someone else to take responsibility for the consequences.

So, if we don’t want the screamers and yellers representing motorcyclists as a whole what do we do? How much of our time should be spent tilting at windmills and “fighting the man” compared to using that energy to improve our own riding skills?

It’s time for motorcyclists to shed the “us against them” mentality and instead embrace a spirit of diplomacy. I believe most lawmakers would respect us and our views if we’d stop acting like a bunch of spoiled children and learn to play well with others. We are a very small minority who, unfortunately, scream very loudly bringing the wrong type of attention to ourselves.

The days of the outlaw biker should be over. If we are to be taken seriously by non-motorcyclists then we are going to have to take ourselves seriously first. This means that while we expect the law to stand-up and protect us when we need it, we also take the steps necessary to protect ourselves BEFORE we need it.

Wearing the proper gear, practicing our riding skills, choosing NOT to drink and ride, and working within our communities to help not just other riders but everyone; THOSE are our “rights” as motorcyclists.

Have you exercised your “rights” lately?

Discuss this article on our forums at http://www.2wf.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1554 (you will need to log-in)


March 2010 Editorial

The Importance of Brand Loyalty

.Not so long it was conceivable that when you purchased a new or even used motorcycle, if you were happy with it you’d be more prone to buy a newer model from the same manufacturer. But after seeing most of my riding friends buying different motorcycles when they were in the market for a new one made me question this thought process. Which then lead to the inevitable question of: “Is there such a thing as brand loyalty anymore?”

Actually I didn’t have to look very far to find an answer as I was a perfect candidate if I answered “No” to that question (which is my answer coincidentally). While it’s true that I’ve owned many motorcycles over the years I’ve never upgraded from an older model to a newer model made by the same motorcycle manufacturer. Be it the style, price or any other number of factors, I chose to buy a competitor’s product from the current brand that I was using (or in this case riding) at the time.

Now if I said “Yes” to that question then I’d probably be on my 3rd or 4th generation Honda by now. Of course since I’m not I wondered what it would take for a company to build a brand that not only attracted customers in the first place but also retain them just as much say 2, 3 or 4 years down the road?

I touched on this is at the end of my January Editorial about the need for motorcycle manufacturers to accomplish both of these tasks (and then some) to grow their revenue and remain financially stable. That said, only a few in today’s marketplace have a well known and respected brand and have built a substantial relationship with their customers.

.The first company I’d put on that list would have to be Ducati. They obviously “get it” when it comes to marketing their product but moreover they understand the need for their customers to feel that they’re a part of something bigger. A family if you will. This is why, according to Michael Lock, CEO of Ducati North America why Ducati is doing so well even in this difficult economic climate:

“We have introduced business improvements, developed market-leading bikes, competed in international road racing and are very focused on the needs of our growing customer base. All of these factors have greatly contributed to our growing sales and market share success across the U.S.”

The second company I’d add to the list is Harley-Davidson (HD). While they might not lead the landscape with cutting edge technology there’s no denying the fact that HD has built a brand and it’s recognized all over the world.  As Willie G. Davidson says: “When you look up the word ‘motorcycle’ in the dictionary, there’s a picture of a Harley next to it.”

You may draw comparisons to other companies (BMW is one that comes to mind) but these two companies seem to lead the pack. Ducati and Harley-Davidson riders are more likely to purchase another Duck or Hog than say a rider who’s only interest is in top HP numbers. How do I know this? I conducted an informal poll and asked as many people who I could find the following question: “Would you buy another [insert current motorcycle manufacturer here] and why/why not?” I might point out that almost all of the major players were represented (sans the MV Augusta’s and Benelli’s of the world).

.Surprisingly the Japanese manufacturers didn’t fare as well as I would’ve thought and the lesser known manufacturers (e.g. Triumph, Aprilia, etc.) held their own despite their smaller marketing budgets. I’ll concede that these results are skewed because of the small number of applicants and it clearly doesn’t depict the buying habits of the motorcycle community as a whole. However, what it does show is some insight into how important brand recognition is to a company.

Which brings us back to the original question of: “Is there such a thing as brand loyalty anymore?” I suppose it depends on how you define loyalty. If you define it by the “number of units sold to existing customers” and those numbers are off the charts then yes, there is (and you have) brand loyalty. If however you define it by “whichever brand has the cheapest product that a customer would purchase” then no, there is no brand loyalty.

Ultimately we as consumers/riders benefit as it’s in the company’s best interest to retain their customers especially now days when operating costs are high and profit margins are slim. Whether or not you drink their kool-aid and spend your hard earned money on another motorcycle from the same manufacturer you’re currently riding around town on is totally up to you. In the meantime it will be interesting to see which companies adapt their brand and marketing campaigns to an ever changing environment in order to produce another model year of motorcycles and grow in the process.



2010 Indy Dealer Show

Introduction by Kenn Stamp

Every year manufacturers and distributors flock to Indy to woo potential dealers into selling their product. Sometimes they are succesfull and sometimes they aren’t but it is always fun to see new “stuff” on display.

This year, the esteemable Peter Jones was cajoled into attending what would turn out to be a pretty mellow Dealer Show. Once more we can blame the economy for the low attendance by both dealers and manufacturers.

Our main goal was to insert Peter into the show, have him take pictures of some of the interesting (and not so interesting) things there, and then publish those pictures here in all their techinicolor glory for you, the readers of 2WF, to enjoy.

 We just forgot about one small, teeny-weeny, itsy-bitsy, tiny-whiny, thing…….

Peter isn’t a photgrapher……he’s a writer. Luckily Peter added captions to help explain exactly what you are looking at. Think of it like having a tour guide walk you through the craziness that is the Indy Dealer Show.

So without further delay, I present a photo tour of some of the interesting, weird, boring, and fun things you could have seen had you gone to the dealer show……you’ll swear it’s just like being there……. sorta. 

(Click on the picture for a larger view)

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A Weekend With The DR-Z

A Weekend With The DR-Z

Photo’s By Josh Hanke      

.Its tough to listen to the radio, fire up the Internet, or, God forbid, turn on the TV anymore without being blasted with information about the recession and the fact we are all broke.  That’s right…tough economic times have beaten down motorcyclists everywhere.

My trusty 2002 DR-Z 400 has been a willing accomplice for the past few years, and has remained as dependable as an anvil; never failing to take me into the woods and returning me home with a smile.  However, my buddies have been experimenting with machines from the other side of the globe…and lately the DR-Z has seemed wanting a bit when riding next to, and often behind, the European offerings from KTM and Husqvarna.

Make no mistake; there is a difference in the performance, looks, and character of these bikes.  Sure you pay for it up front, and handsomely I might add, but the additional dollar signs seem to always disappear into a cloud of dust when we’re in the woods.

Never satisfied to accept defeat, however, I had to ask, “What can you do when the bike you have isn’t the bike you really want ever since your dick-head friends let you ride their European dual sports and you decided you want more power but are flat ass broke?”

Plenty, it would appear, and I took this winter as an opportunity to spruce up the DR-Z and level the playing field a bit between my DR-Z and the other bikes I chase around regularly.  The idea was to not break the bank, and coax a bit more overall performance out of the little dual sport that could.

I decided to address a few basic areas in need of improvement: suspension, protection, and reasonable performance gains.  Keeping the exhaust note, as well as the price tag low was a high priority, so an aftermarket muffler was ruled out.

.For weeks, I kept an eye on Craigslist, eBay, and put the word out to my friends about what I needed.  Turns out, a friend knew a guy that had a buddy that was parting out a DR-Z and had a few trick bits available!  For $200 I was able to pick up Race-Tech fork and shock springs suited to my weight, a proper skid plate, radiator guards and a few other odds and ends.  True, we have access to the information superhighway, but never forget the power of simply letting people know what you’re looking for.

Next, for $40 I found a used SDG seat with a gripper cover from an on-line flea market, and a larger diameter DR-Z “E” model header off of ebay for $20.  Finally, it seemed a jet kit (sourced from James Dean jetting for $70) was needed to get rid of the ridiculously lean EPA mandated stock jetting.  While I was at it I ditched the stock 15 tooth counter shaft sprocket for a 14 tooth ($18) to try and increase her punch down low.

The stock soft steel bars were also replaced with a set of Magura aluminum bars and risers a riding buddy had setting in his garage off a long since sold KTM 400 EXC, as well as new KTM turn signals to replace the rear Suzuki one I busted long ago somewhere in the hills of North Georgia.  Surely, adding select KTM bits to the front and rear of the bike was going to pay huge dividends…I mean, damn, look how sleek the turn signals are!

.With all of the bits in hand, my riding buddies and I spent a sleet filled Saturday in the garage over a few cold ones tearing into the DR-Z trying to cajole a bit more from her.

The JD jet kit install on the CV carb was straightforward, as was the sprocket install.  We also cut a 3in x 3in hole in the top of the air box to allow more air to mix with the increased fuel flow.  The DR-Z “E” model header took a bit more engineering (He means a hack saw and some swear words Ed) to get to fit, but with a bit of patience and creativity it was soon snugged up and mated nicely to the stock muffler.

Swapping the springs was another matter, and I’d definitely recommend getting assistance from someone that has done this kind of work before if you are new to turning wrenches on a bike.  Not that it is difficult, but there are things that need to go together just so, and it is nice to know that things are put back together properly if you are going to have any confidence in the machine.

A short afternoon (roughly 5 hours total) later she was buttoned up, and it was time for the moment of truth.  My free labor took her for a spin around the block, and returned with their impressions.

The first words out of Tim’s mouth when he got back from the test ride was, “It feels like a totally different bike.”  Not that his Husqvarna TE 610 needs to look over his shoulder too hard on a long straight, but it seemed the throttle response was vastly improved over stock as it rev’d up noticeably quicker.  

After his turn with the Dizzer Josh, the local fast guy on the KTM 690R, commented that, “Well, she’ll definitely pull wheelies now…so now what’s going to be your excuse?”  Must be the lighter aluminum bars…guess I could save face by putting the heavier stock steel ones back on.

.My impressions after my first ride mirrored their sentiments.  The combination of the gearing, jet kit, and header definitely seemed to improve overall power and throttle response.  My butt dyno hasn’t been calibrated lately so I can’t give you an HP number, but the difference was noticeable as soon as I slipped the clutch out all the way up the RPM range.  The rear tire seemed much happier to break loose, and a quick snap of the throttle will actually loft the tire while on the trail.  As far as wheelies…well, she’ll do them, but the operator still lacks a bit of the intestinal fortitude to really go for it.

The springs that replaced the too soft stockers were a huge surprise. Yes, the bike sags less, and as a result stands taller (bad for me and my 28 inch inseam), but it certainly appears that the Japanese test riders that set the stock spring rates do not have a body by Wendy’s.  For us Americans that do, new springs are money well spent.  The stiffer rear spring keeps the tail end in check on faster corners as she no longer wallows around under acceleration. The ride is definitely not as plush, but it is a good trade off as the front tire tracks more cleanly and will not bottom out unless you take a big hit.  Simply put, after the spring install and some time messing with the rebound and compression adjustments to dial it in the DR-Z does a better job of staying composed and going where it is pointed.

I have always been pretty happy with the light weight DR-Z, but truth be told, when I started sampling the European makes I got a bit of a wandering eye.  A new bike wasn’t in the cards, though, and I got the feeling I didn’t need a new bike.  So what I decided to do was to improve on a good bike that I am mostly happy with, and begin tailoring it to how I use it…oh, and a bit more power and easier wheelies would be good, too.

P.lease do not be confused as she still lacks outright performance of the more recently developed dual sport bikes.  Running the open dirt roads through the Apalachicola National Forest the KTM 690 and the Husky 610 had power the mighty 400 still can not completely answer.  No matter how hard she was rev’d they’d squirt away, and the KTM 450 EXC that was along with us could have left me for dead as well, but he was content riding sweep while we fought like idiots through the woods.  I know there is a displacement advantage here and do not expect a 400cc to keep pace of much larger machines…I simply wanted to see what I could do on the cheap to make my bike better as I try and tussle with better equipment and, often times, better riders.

One day, I may break the bank and go orange or Husky, but for now as the Jake and Elwood sang in the Blues Brothers, “If you decide to roam/ And leave your happy home/ you gotta pay.”  I like the bike, and for an afternoon wrenching and hanging out with my buddies on an other wise miserable day, not to mention for less money output than the tax bill would be on a new one, I discovered there was some unrealized potential inside the DR-Z.  That, and with the money tree still not shedding her leaves in my neck of the woods it was Cheaper to Keep Her indeed…

Brake Tech 101

Fast is Good; Braking is Better


Let’s start with a little history lesson. The first caliper-type brakes (as opposed to drum brakes) for automobiles were developed in England around the 1890’s. Although this development was crucial to bringing this technology to the masses, the material used (copper) could not withstand the harsh roads at the time and therefore discontinued. It wasn’t until 1953 that Dunlop in the United Kingdom introduced what we refer to today as modern brakes. The knowledge gained during those early years would not only improve automobile and motorcycle brakes but also take them to the next level.

Focusing on the main components that make up a typical motorcycle braking system are the discs (aka: rotors), calipers, lines and pads. Discs are exactly that – metal (usually cast iron) formed in the shape of a disc. The caliper assembly grabs these discs with the help of the pads squeezing as hard as the brake lever is pulled (or pushed in the case of a car or truck) using hydraulic pressure transferred from the lines to the piston(s) and thus stopping said vehicle.

.Traditional motorcycle brakes mount the caliper only at one point (perpendicular to wheel rotation) and thus pad pressure is not constant across the total surface and could lead to misalignment of the caliper. As such the industry has moved away from this type of mounting on most (but not all) performance oriented motorcycles and towards radial mounting. What this means is that the caliper is mounted at both points (parallel to wheel rotation) and the caliper is less prone to misalignment along with other benefits such as caliper stiffness.

Perimeter brakes (aka: Zero Torsional Load [ZTL]) made famous by Buell use a single brake disc attached at the outer circumference of the wheel rim, clamped by a single caliper. Comparing this system to the others mentioned and it can be said that the ZTL offers more feedback at the lever and linear engagement. Since most sport bike braking systems utilize dual discs and calipers, using this method offers a reduction in weight by removing one disc, caliper and line as well as the additional fluid needed in the master cylinder to create the required pressure.

Ceramic brake discs offer a glimpse into what the future holds, though a pricey one. These discs are a ceramic composite (including carbon, Kevlar and silica) and are extremely lightweight, have high heat tolerances and tremendously strong. Combine these discs with ceramic pads (ceramic compounds and embedded copper fibers) and you’ll have a system that can survive high brake temperatures with less heat fade, generate less dust and the wear on both the pads and discs will be minimal.

.All of these braking systems can be further modified by using different materials, processing methods and overall structure. For instance, although the standard radial mounted setup will more than meet the needs of its intended use (mainly street riding with the occasional track day thrown into the mix) it can still be customized and improved upon. Changing the discs from cast iron to high carbon steel, increasing the diameter of the discs, switching from rubber to stainless steel brake lines, upgrading to monobloc calipers that contain 4 or 6 pistons along with individual pads made out of carbon-ceramic will greatly increase the responsiveness of a braking system.

I’m a big proponent of race technology that “trickle downs” to production based machinery. Some say that the added cost may be too great and that the current technology used is more than adequate. I whole heartily disagree with this type of thinking as if that was the case then we’d all still be riding bicycles as that type of transportation gets you from point A to point B just as well as a motorcycle can do.

Regardless of whether or not the average rider notices these improvements the advancements in braking technology should not be stifled. Although I didn’t mention anti-lock braking (ABS) or combined brake system (CBS) since they are more towards forms in which braking is applied than the actual components of the system, are none the less important features that are now becoming standard on certain motorcycles produced today. Without this need to keep inventing and pushing the boundaries of technology to help us as riders, these safety features might not have ever come into being.

Although there are many different implementations of braking systems they all have the same intended purpose: to stop a motorcycle. The one’s mentioned are just a few but with new technologies on the horizon you might find yourself upgrading your current setup in the not so distant future.

.It goes without saying that no matter how fast you are on the street or the track you need to slow down and eventually come to a full and orderly stop. To do that effectively motorcycle brakes employ some of the same technologies that cars use albeit with a twist. Stopping a 2 ton vehicle is no doubt important but just as important is stopping a motorcycle as we as riders don’t have the luxury of a steel frame to protect ourselves in case something goes horribly wrong. So how do motorcycle brakes work and what are the kinds being used in today’s mass-produced motorcycles?

Greatest of All Time

Becoming a G.O.A.T. 

.When you’re young you always have idols to look up to. If you’ve ever played sports then you know exactly what I’m referring to. You try to imitate those superstars in every way shape and form – Joe Montana driving down the field late in the 4th quarter throwing the game winning touchdown pass to Jerry Rice or Michael Jordan hitting a three pointer with the time just expiring on the clock to win the game and avoid overtime. If you’re really lucky (and talented enough) you may someday join this elite club. Talent and the necessary skills are no doubt a big part of becoming a professional athlete but it takes years of dedication and the will to do those skills thousands of times (if not more) without error. Only a few can obtain that status and while there are many sports that have gifted athletes only one can truly be called the greatest of all time within each sport.

Since we all are motorcycle freaks it only makes sense that we explore what it would take to live the dream of racing motorcycles professionally. If you look at the great racers of yester year (Giacomo Agostini, “Steady Eddie” Eddie Lawson, Kevin Schwantz, Wayne Rainey, “Fast” Freddie Spencer, etc.) and those currently racing (e.g. Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, Ben Spies, Mat Mladin [recently retired], etc.) they all have similar traits that if you possess doesn’t necessarily guarantee you becoming the most famous road racer in the world but it does show the path to possibly achieving greatness.

.Whether it was racing go-karts, dirt track or motocross all these racers started extremely early in life. Starting young to build a successful foundation of skills was a key factor for them in becoming a professional athlete. You don’t see many 40 something year olds starting their road racing career now do you? There’s a reason for that. Combine youth and the burning desire to compete and you have the beginnings of becoming a true world champion.

Youthful exuberance however is only part of the overall package. The next piece of the puzzle was for them to move through the racing ranks and understand what it took to ultimately win their respective championships. More importantly improve their skills and learn from their mistakes. It’s this progression that separates the “men from the boys.” Those that mature with the sport eventually grow in the process (aka: a well rounded rider).

Obviously training hard is paramount but for these riders to move to the next level it took commitment by many people, particularly the motorcycle manufacturers. Case in point: Honda increased its R&D budget to build the NSR500 that “Fast” Freddie rode in 1985 which culminated with him winning the Daytona 200 (i.e. winning all three major races in a single year) and MotoGP’s 250cc and 500cc classes; a feat that has never been achieved since.

That same commitment can be found today some 25 years later with Yamaha teaming up with Valentino Rossi and producing the YZR-M1. This motorcycle epitomizes what Yamaha engineers can accomplish and who better to bring it to victory than a 9 time world champion?

.All of these riders have the aforementioned traits but there is one by far which is the most significant – the way they overcome any sustained injuries. Clearly in motorcycle racing any rider at the top of this sport has crashed numerous times over their racing career; some worse than others. Breaking a collarbone may sideline one rider for the whole season whereas one of these riders might only be out a few races.

It’s how they dealt with these injuries and the ability to finish rehabilitation quickly that would determine whether or not they had a championship winning year. More likely than not they were back to racing within a short period of time but the dangers do exist as Wayne Rainey found out in 1993 when he suffered a career-ending crash at Misano in Italy. Unfortunately that crash left him paralyzed from the chest down. He later went on to become team manager for Marlboro Yamaha and in 2007 he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame which is fitting for such a fierce and determined racer.

Confidence, optimism and the ability to be coached are other qualities that all of these riders have an abundance of. They not only command a presence with their team but can also listen to feedback given to them by their technicians. This is important when you’re barreling down a long back stretch at over 190 mph trying to shave a few hundredths of a second off your lap time.

While I’d like to confess that I myself encompass all of these attributes I’d be lying if I did. I suppose that’s why I appreciate what these riders have achieved in such a demanding sport. I can honestly say that for me, it’s impossible to choose one rider who personifies the G.O.A.T. title which compared to some other sports really says something about the quality of people that motorcycle road racing employs.

If you have the drive, dedication and passion that these riders have you may just find yourself getting paid for something you truly love doing – riding and racing motorcycles.

February 2010 Editorial

Land of the Rising Sun

.My first car was a ruby red 1976 Pontiac Grand Prix. By today’s standards it was big as a boat, guzzled gas and had as much steel as probably 4 eco-friendly Toyota Priuses. I remember vividly that when you shut the door the door “shut.” That car was built to last and last it did even with all the abuse me, my friends and family gave it. With just performing basic maintenance (changing brake pads, oil changes and new tires) I had that car for nearly a decade until it was sold to another friend of the family. Who knows where it is today (most likely scrap metal used for a toaster) but I wouldn’t doubt that it’s still going strong just like it did when it rolled off the assembly line some 30+ years ago.

There’s no doubt that with the bailout of American automotive manufacturers, there’s plenty of skepticism from the public at large (we did foot the bill as tax payers after all) revolving around how the senior management of those bailed out companies plan to regain its once dominant position in the marketplace. It certainly hasn’t helped matters much that the perception of American made automobiles is inferior to its Japanese counterparts. Or is it?

With Toyota’s recent recall of over 5.6 million vehicles due to sudden acceleration issues (read: the gas pedal could get stuck on the floor mats) and Honda’s recall of over 640,000 vehicles because of faulty window switches it begs the question: “Has Japan taken a detour off the ‘high quality’ highway?”

.Both Toyota and Honda do have remedies for their respective problems and I’m sure that while this isn’t the best PR for them they will continue to sell millions of vehicles worldwide. Although I wouldn’t put it past FORD, GM and Chrysler to take a few body blows to their overseas competitors with a bevy of new commercials touting their lack of recalls and new high standards for quality assurance. Whether that happens or if it’s even true or not is debatable.

All this got me thinking about the scale and possible nightmare we as motorcyclists could be in for if such a recall were to happen to us. Yes, having the gas pedal stick while in your car or truck is extremely dangerous but multiple that by 100 if your throttle sticks while in full lean going through a turn. You’d think that the QA process for motorcycle manufacturers would be double that of automotive manufacturers but apparently it’s not as the big four from Japan (Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki) all have had their fair share of recalls and while all of these issues were resolved the question of quality still remains.

Japan is certainly not alone as Italian motorcycle manufacturers have had their difficulties as well. Ducati has issued recalls in the past and look no further than Aprilia’s current RSV4 sportbike where the entire engine is being recalled!

.While I have no doubt that both automotive and motorcycle manufacturers have an abundance of QA engineers and many processes in place to try to eliminate these types of risks, perhaps even more thorough testing of their R&D work should be completed before producing said product? The same holds true for many other industries, most notably software development. They have multiple methodologies for development and testing (e.g. Agile, Extreme Programming, Waterfall, etc.) yet I need not go into how many defects are still found in RTM (release to manufacturing) software that we all come across on a daily basis.

Japan’s automotive and motorcycle industries will continue to grow because of their willingness to push technology to its limits. Unfortunately though, being on the cutting edge has its pitfalls and if unchecked could lead to serious damage (to both parties – the seller and the buyer).

What does this all mean for us as consumers? Must stricter laws be enacted to protect the driving and riding public? Should the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) be given more authority to “police” these industries? Or do we as consumers demand that higher emphasis be placed on QA tools and techniques just as we did about safety (e.g. front and side airbags, crumple zones, ABS brakes, etc.)? All very good questions and while there may be no clear cut answer perhaps a combination of all of the above?

Head on over to our forums and let us know what you think.