Tag Archives: Stories

Mark Gardiner’s Bathroom Book of Motorcycle Trivia – 2WF Book Review

When Mark Gardiner emailed me about his new book, Mark Gardiner’s Bathroom Book of Motorcycle Trivia, I thought; “I like motorcycles and I like reading in the bathroom (what guy doesn’t?) – I’ll have a copy sent to review.

Once you get passed the cover art (if one can ever truly get past an image so visually disturbing), you’ll find 365 days of interesting trivia just waiting to be read. Some topics include:

Best places for motorcyclists to live”….Mark apparently bases his criteria for “best” on places that have racetracks, “hip” bike nights, and a even a bike rally or two. In other words I agree with none of his choices; but maybe you will.

Most beautiful” ….The MV Agusta F4 and 1937 Triumph Speed Twin are on the list….other than those two Mark apparently chose the other 8 “most beautiful” bikes after forging a Rx for medical marijuana. Of course beauty is subjective so what do I know.

Lessons, Track Schools and why you need them” …. An interesting chapter where Mark lists reasons why you need help along with a number of places who are willing to offer that help for the right price.

No matter what kind of bike you are into Mark Gardiner’s Bathroom Book of Motorcycle Trivia has something interesting to impart. Such as:

Did you know that Harley Davidson copied BMW during WWII and developed shaft-driven machines with flat-twin motors?

Or that Arthur Davidson (of Harley Davidson fame) used to wear his wife’s clothes to parties, sit on men’s laps and kiss them on the cheek? (Harley built the motors and Davidson built the trannies?)

How about the fact that John Surtees is the only man to ever win the top class in motorcycle racing (he won several Grand Prix championships in the late 50’s) AND Formula One (he won driving a Ferrari in 1964).

Besides trivia Mark also talks about things like the greatest rivalries in racing; for example: the 1989 Le Mans race featuring Lawson, Schwantz and Rainey. Or Edwards vs. Bayliss at Imola in 2002.

With such a broad range of topics neatly broken down into easy to digest bites, Mark Gardiner’s Bathroom Book of Motorcycle Trivia is certainly a book that I heartily recommend for any motorcycle enthusiast. Even better, I recommend the motorcycle enthusiast’s spouse buy them the book for Christmas or whichever holiday you celebrate this time of year.

Mark Gardiner’s Bathroom Book of Motorcycle Trivia now available. 244 pages, $12.95 (more info at: www.bikewriter.com)

The book is available at www.bikewriter.com (Signed copies, free postage to U.S. and Canada.) Also available at Amazon.com. Or, get it delivered to your Kindle or compatible device in minutes, for just $5.99.

 

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2010 TTXGP Electric Motorcycle Race Report – Infineon

TTXGP ELECTRIC MOTORCYCLE RACE REPORT
Pictures by Brian J. Nelson & Mike Doran

Michael Hannas gives you the inside scoop from Round 1 of the TTXGP North American electric motorcycle road racing series at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA.

.Going into the opening race for the TTXGP North American Championship at Infineon Raceway, I really did not know what to expect.  Of course any first race weekend of a new season is full of uncertainty, but with TTXGP being an all new series for “zero-emission” motorcycles with myself riding a one-off prototype with no idea of where myself and my machine would stack up against the competition, you could say that I definitely had more questions than answers leading up to the event. 

I knew with our GP-derived chassis we would have an advantage in the corners, but would my lightweight ElectricRaceBikes.com EGP machine have enough power to keep up with the other bikes down the straights?  Would it even have enough power to finish the race?  How much would I have to conserve power during the race to make it to the finish?

Practice sessions before the race consisted of no more than two or three laps at a time for us while working through some new technology, and there was not a long enough practice session to complete a full race distance stint anyway.  This meant that teams like ourselves who had not done a race distance test before the weekend would be making their best educated guess on whether or not they would be able to make it to the finish with any juice left in the batteries.  The ElectricRaceBikes.com team made all their calculations and assured me that if I followed their instructions regarding my use of power during the race that the bike would make it to the finish.  Of course I was confident in their computations, but without actually testing over the full 25-mile race distance, I think it is safe to say that none of us were completely sure that we would have enough battery life, especially during race conditions.

.So, “What is it like to ride an electric bike?” seemed to be the question I was asked over and over during the weekend.  This was usually followed by “Isn’t it weird without any noise?”  As far as the noise goes, I really didn’t notice that much after the first lap or two on the bike.  Since you still get wind noise and a little noise and vibration from the motor, the sensation isn’t as different from a normal bike as you would think.  There are so many other things about riding an electric bike that are just different than any other bike I have ridden that the noise issue was one of the last things that was weird to me.

Differences from a gas-powered bike that were the first things I noticed more concerned power delivery, handling characteristics, controls and gauges that I needed to monitor while riding.  The power delivery is very linear, and since there is no transmission, the bike just pulls hard from a stop all the way up to its top speed.  The more interesting part is what happens when you let off the throttle, which makes the bike freewheel with no feeling of engine braking whatsoever.  I quickly learned with all the hills at Infineon that there were certain sections of the track where it was actually faster to simply coast down the hill than to power down it, since I didn’t have the drag of the dual Agni motors, which also saved battery.  The ElectricRaceBikes.com EGP is based on a TZ250 chassis, so the handling is actually extremely good.  Unlike most of the other teams, we had no ground clearance issues whatsoever, and I could lean the EGP over as far as I wanted.  Although it holds more weight with the batteries and motors and controller than it would with the internal combustion two-stroke 250cc engine it was originally designed for, it actually feels lighter while changing direction on the track.  This I am guessing is because while there is a shaft spinning in approximately the same location that the crankshaft would normally be, there are no pistons going up and down at over 10,000rpm with the associated gyroscopic force to overcome while turning.

.Not having a clutch lever on the left handlebar was another difference that was actually easy to get used to, but what wasn’t easy to adjust to was having to monitor all the gauges that I needed to while riding to make sure I wasn’t stressing the motors and batteries too much.  Having raced two-strokes in the past, I am accustomed to having to monitor things like rpm at certain sections of the track and water temperature, but the number of things I needed to keep track of on the instrument panel of the EGP was somewhat overwhelming, especially considering one of the major things I needed to keep track of was my amp usage at all times.  This meant watching a tiny number on the digital screen while dragging my knee on the ground at speeds reaching the century mark, and then backing off the throttle slightly when this number exceeded the predetermined mark, regardless of whether or not I actually needed to be on the throttle to finish the turn.

After qualifying the EGP in fourth position, which put us on the outside of the second row, I was fairly confident of at least a podium finish.  While the top two bikes had basically ten seconds per lap on us, we were right on the heels of the Norton-based machine ridden by Thad Wolff that qualified third, and I knew we had a little more speed left for the race.  Plus I wasn’t getting beat by a chassis older than me!  The start of the race was actually the weirdest part of the whole weekend for me.  Without any type of warm-up or sighting lap in order to save battery for the eleven-lap race, we all just lined up on the grid, and once the marshals cleared the grid, it got really quiet.  While normally you would hear the racers revving their motors up as the #1 board goes up and then goes sideways, all I could hear was complete silence from the crowd and the bikes next to me.  I think I actually started making “vroom, vroom, vroom, vroom” noises in my head, and then the green flag flew and I took off like the wind, literally.

.I got a really good jump but was overwhelmed by Michael Barnes on the Lightning and Wolff on the Norton on the way up the hill to turn two, and then Shawn Higbee snuck by me going up to turn three.  From there for the next few corners we actually had a race, as all four of us swapped positions a few times, with myself using the handling advantage of the EGP to ride around the outside of Wolff in the carousel, only to get motored back again up to turn seven.  I quickly realized that the top two were going to clear off and have their own race, while my battle would be for third.  I knew if I could ride hard enough through the corners to keep the pressure on, maybe I could stay close enough to force Wolff to override his machine and risk a DNF, or at least have to slow down to make it to the finish.  Sure enough, it happened much sooner than I thought, when on the third lap Wolff pulled off the track with a broken bike.

I looked behind and saw I had a pretty good gap to the next guy behind, which I maintained for a couple laps until one time I looked back and no one was there.  The rest of the race was spent keeping track of the gauges and making sure I wasn’t overstressing the package so that I could be assured to make it to the finish, which was actually more stressful than battling with other riders normally is.  The ElectricRaceBikes.com team’s calculations were spot-on, and the EGP made it to the finish without missing a beat, crossing the line third, for a spot on the very first podium ever for an electric motorcycle road race in the United States!

Special thanks to: ElectricRaceBikes.com, Sevcon, GP Frame and Wheel, Epic Engineering, SuperPlush Suspension, Dunlop, Arai, SHIFT, Epic Images, and D&W Images.

 

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2010 AMA Race Report – Infineon

AMA ROAD RACING REPORT
Pictures by Brian J. Nelson

Austin DeHaven takes you through his very first AMA Road Race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA.

.Hey everyone, I’m Austin DeHaven from Los Angeles, California racing in the AMA SuperSport Championship aboard my own 2009 Yamaha YZF-R6.  I just got back from making my AMA Pro Racing debut at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA. Since everything was new to me, I had many challenges that I had to overcome throughout the weekend, from the crowds, the pressure of faster riders and the biggest challenge to me, the Dunlop 211GPA Spec Tires since I had always ridden with Pirelli tires before.
 
We worked throughout the first day and 1 hr practice and 20min qualifying on setup, trying to find a balance between the pros and cons of the things we liked in certain areas of the track. Towards the end of the session, I started to feel more and more comfortable, figuring it out and dropping my times. As the session came to an end I finished with a qualifying position of 6th. That night my crew chief Robert Ward, my Dad, and I talked about how we could improve the bike, and my riding.
 
For race one I was unsure where I would place or how I would compare but I was ready to go. AMA is the highest level of motorcycle racing in the USA so they do things like any other world level professional series with a sighting lap, a little time on the grid for the pre race festivities, then a warm up lap when we grid and get ready to go. AMA also uses a start light system, not a flag. So the red lights come on, then when they go off we go!! When the lights came on I jumped forward a little, and this messed me up just a bit so I got a bad start and came off the line somewhere outside the top 10.  I had my work cut out for me, but I put my head down and worked my way back to 5th in a fairly uneventful race. The race came to a short end due to multiple red flags, leaving me with the final position of 5th. I was super nervous and although it was a decent result, I knew that it was not the end of the weekend, and that I could do better. 
 
.Sunday was such an exciting and busy day; there were so many fans and so many people watching. Before the racing begins they do a fan walk, where we setup our bikes on the hot pit and I get into my gear so that the fans can walk up and down the pit lane and see their favorite riders, bikes, and get some autographs. It was fun and I took a bunch of pictures with many little kids and other fans. People are always so surprised to see me as a rider, being that I am so young. But they are also so supportive. It was a fun experience. Also from the notes I gave Robert as to how the bike handled in the first race we decided to make a few fairly big changes the night before trying to get the bike dialed for race 2 and find me that little extra bit of speed.
 
Race 2 began and I got a much better start this time, unfortunately about halfway through we had yet another red flag, causing a race restart due to a crash and some debris on track. After the restart, I got off the line well and was running in 5th again.  I was in a pack of 4 riders running nose to tail, and it seemed that we were catching 4th and 3rd place. Scott Gilbert who was running in 4th crashed out on the last lap leaving me in 4th followed by Tyler Ohara running in 5th.

.Elena Myers was ahead of us by about 2 seconds and I knew this was my chance for a podium so I pushed as hard as I could to catch her but it was the last lap and I only had a few corners to do so. When we came over the rise into the turn 9 complex Tyler and I were right behind her and I noticed she got into a little wobble coming down the crest, I knew this was my chance. When we went into the turn 9 chicane I went as deep as I could on the brakes and I dove in to take 3rd. When I came out of the turn though I went into a little slide causing me to have to roll off the throttle and get the bike stable. The problem was with all the madness of the pass I went into the last turn unsure of what gear I was in. This allowed Tyler Ohara to make the pass on me into the last turn. I squared up the turn and got on the gas as hard as possible. I crawled over the front of the bike to keep the wheel down as we drag raced down the straight banging bars and elbows all the way to the line.  I lost out on 3rd place by .014 of a second in my very first AMA Pro Race. I finished 4th.
 
The weekend was such a great experience and so many people showed us great support. The AMA paddock is such a great place, the competitors, teams, and fans are the best in the world and I can’t wait for the next one!

#56 Austin DeHaven
AMA Pro SuperSport

XDL Sportbike Freestyle Championship in Nashville, Tennessee

XDL SPORTBIKE FREESTYLE REPORT
Pictures by David Avila

Luke “Duke” Emmons gives you the inside scoop from Round 3 of the XDL Sportbike Freestyle Championship in Nashville, Tennessee.

.After a disappointing 6th place finish at the last round, I knew I had some work to do.  When I got home I went back to the drawing board and rode double sessions almost every day.  In this sport, as with any other, you get back what you put in. My last practice session before I left for TN left me working on my f4i after flipping it during a stoppie. After a couple hours of repair work, I gave it a quick test and then hit the open road for Nashville.

I had the feeling that it was going to rain in TN so every time it rained in CT I was on my bike getting comfortable with my tricks on a slick surface.  After an uneventful drive to Nashville, I was ready for a busy Friday which included a bit of practice, qualifying, and the burn out competition. Unfortunately, I watched as my Shift teammate Chris “Teach” McNeil rode a little too aggressively and high sided during practice. He was unable to compete due to a wrecked bike and damaged knee. His Shift gear took the brunt of the complete yard sale. After talking to him recently, it sounds like he is on a fine road to recovery. My turn came to qualify and I ran a very well choreographed run which put me in third place for the event. After that, the burn out comp was in full effect. I had been working on leaning my bike harder and revving higher and I ended up finishing second on a saturated surface. The extra cash I earned from my finish made changing the tire worth the hassle. Friday night I thought about what the next day would bring and hoped for the best.

.I felt awesome when I woke up on Saturday. The first run I laid down was very nice which put me in second place. I wanted to come out strong in my first run because I still had one throw away in the bag. Old school factory Aprilia rider, Joe Dryden, baited me in my second run to park a stoppie on the k-rail and burn out without putting a foot down. I did it but probably would have felt the banner wrapping around my tire and rim if I had touched with a foot. Luckily Aaron from racing 905 and Dave Bolognese (my ace mechanic) were able to remove the debris from the rear tire of my F4i.

I had the opportunity for a re-start after it happened but was a little rattled and ran a decent run that knocked me back to fourth place. During my final run I was doing very well until I stalled a no handed circle wheelie and finished fourth on the day. I can’t help but wonder how the day would have turned out if the FMF banner hadn’t put a damper on my second run, but all in all I felt I had a successful showing.

At this point I am ranked third in the XDL Championship and am working hard to move up from there. I am not going to lie but I am not going to tell the truth. I have something up my Shift sleeve for LA and I hope to be the number one Shift rider there so I can give you all the lowdown once again.

I couldn’t have come close to getting fourth place in Nashville XDL without the help from SHIFT, Racing 905, Hindle Exhaust, Sparx Helmets, Warrior International, HEL brake lines, GPR Dampers, Ensoguitar.com, Amsoil, Shinko Tires, ASV levers, Thrust Co, Bike Styles, Stuntride.com,  and Hohey Designs.

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2010 Flat Track Race Report – Round 3

FLAT TRACK RACE REPORT
Pictures by Brian Nelson

Brad Baker gives you the inside scoop from Round 3 of the AMA Grand National Championship in Prescott Valley, AZ.

.At last, it was time to get back to the AMA Grand National racing season after a 2 month break from Daytona. Round 3 of the season would take us to the desert of Prescott Arizona for the first mile track of the season. It was a challenging day of racing with the track conditions being rough and really dry and slick. Nevertheless, I had my 450 Honda dialed in for the AMA Pro Singles class and posted the 2nd fastest qualifying time by just .001 of a second.  My heat race got off to kind of a shaky start, getting off the line around 6th. I made short work of the field and went on to win the heat with a commanding lead. I was able to get the fastest heat over Jeffery Carver who is the Championship point’s leader to get the key starting spot. I rolled out for the main event looking better than ever in my new Shift leathers. Off the line I did what every racer wants to do; get the holeshot and get away. I put my head down laying down fast lap after fast lap. When I crossed the checkered, I had almost a 5-second lead over the rider in second.  


.It was a great weekend of racing for me as I am now only 8 points out of the championship point’s lead. Next, I will be traveling to Springfield Illinois for rounds 4 and 5 of the season. I plan to take home two more wins and put myself back in the point’s lead where me and the #1 plate belong!

 

Read more racing reports and look at SHIFT’s new gear at their site: www.shiftracing.com.

  

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Shift Rider Report from Havasu




1 SHIFT RIDER REPORT

Chris ‘Teach’ McNeil gives you the inside scoop from Round 2 of the XDL Sportbike Freestyle Championship in Lake Havasu, Arizona.

By Chris “Teach” McNeil

Photos by: The-Nags.com (in the article)
                David Avila (below the article)

Heading into the 2nd round of the XDL National Championship Series, all my hopes at a title were resting on a solid finish in Havasu since I had already used my bye run at the first round in Daytona.  Practice for me leading up to the event was non-existent due to setup time on my new 2010 BMW S1000RR.  I managed to get the bike setup for freestyle just in time to head down to AZ a few days early for a show at Iron Horse BMW – my first time riding the2 bike in anything other than stock street trim.  Between the show and the qualifying round at Havasu, I managed to get about 5 hours of ride time in on the new whip.  Thanks to guys like Full Throttle, Racing 905, Moto Heaven, Woodcraft, Metzeler, Spectro, Sick Innovations and Galfer for getting parts to me asap.

My sights were set pretty low going into the weekend, and after the first day on the bike, I was simply hoping to qualify.  My goals quickly changed however, as I was improving literally by the minute.  By entering all of the different contests it allowed me more track time, and I was having a blast riding the 180hp liter bike that has taken the world by storm.  I defended my title in the wheelie race with ease and as I expected was out of the circle challenge in the first round.  I found myself in 2nd place for the team 3 event and although I didn’t win the burnout contest, I can assure you the crowd was on their feet!  Qualifying was next and with no expectations I just went out and ripped the bike, earning myself 9th…not bad considering the circumstances.

The finals on Saturday dawned a near perfect day and I was feeling better and better.  Again, I went out for my first run with no expectations, no real plan, and just tried to shred as hard as I could and see where that left me.  As I pulled off the track, my fellow competitors and friends seemed to be real stoked, telling me “Teach is back”.  I responded by letting them know that I never went anywhere and all I needed was a sick bike to let them know where my rightful place was.  Surprisingly, I ended up on top after the first round due to my high speed, flow, and inherent danger that goes along with wicking up an almost4 200 hp motorcycle.  I knew I was almost out of tricks due to no practice time and not quite having the setup dialed (a little more gearing along with some grip in key areas will give me back my full bag of tricks) but I stuck to my guns of speed and fun.  I busted out some old school high speed moves in the second round that was good enough to leave me in 2nd place overall heading into the final round. 

At this point, as the possibility of staying in the Championship hunt became more and more realistic, my goals and attitude changed drastically.  Where I was satisfied and happy with a top 15 finish just one day before, I now wanted to taste victory and my competitive fire was being stoked.  I let it all hang out in my final run, leaving everyone gasping for air and 5 glad that I was able to ride off the track and not be carried off on a stretcher.  I was completely stoked on my results and rode as best I could, earning myself a 3rd place overall on less than 2 days of practice – something that says a lot about the ride-ability of the new Beemer.  You can expect to see me on the podium the rest of the year as I look to dial in the S1000 and take home the top spot in Nashville next month.  As always my boys at Shift kept me looking good and riding safe in the latest Shift gear.  Check me out at www.TeachTrix.com for more pics and videos.

For more info about Teach’s gear check out www.shiftracing.com

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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.

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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.  

XDL Sportbike Freestyle Championship in Daytona Beach, Florida

XDL SPORTBIKE FREESTYLE REPORT
Pictures by David Avila and the-nags.com 

Luke “Duke” Emmons gives you the inside scoop from Round 1 of the XDL Sportbike Freestyle Championship in Daytona Beach, Florida.

.It was Déjà vu all over again is I left cold and nasty New England weather to rip it up in sunny Florida. I had been building a new bike to ride at Daytona XDL 2010. However, due to time constraints I was advised to take my stuntwars bike. Thanks again to Dave Bolognese, after two days of prep my F4i was tight and ready to get the ever living Shift beat out of it.

Tuesday was the beginning of my first 6 hour practice session with Andrew Griffy. Thanks to him I was able to really push due to the natural competitor that lies within. I spent the week working on style. I want to be able to do my tricks better than anyone else 11 out of Ten times.

Friday morning I woke up ready to ride. I was the first one at the track that morning aside from the handful of riders who stayed at the track the night before. I remember walking around feeling proud to ride at the same place that so many great riders had graced.

XDL has stepped up for the riders tremendously. There is a reality TV show to be aired on the Versus network October 12th. I wasn’t sure if the added pressure would affect my riding so I did my best to put it out of my mind. The day started out with the usual riders meeting and Thomas Evans sternly laying down ground rules for the event. Practice has changed since last year. Instead of four top riders in a confined area at once, which is a recipe for tumbleweed stew, each person gets a 90-second window to practice by themselves. It is highly organized and a lot safer.

.Immediately following practice, qualifying began. I put in a solid qualifying run but held back just enough to guarantee me a spot to ride Sunday. With so many good riders it is important to you and all your sponsors that you ride that second day. I qualified in the ninth spot out of almost fifty riders. The competition is so tight at XDL that any top ten rider can win.

Saturday brought rain and cold. I was used to this but 40s and raining is never fun. I competed in the circle competition but was defeated in the first round by a half a circle and Lin Savage.  Sickest trick crossed my mind but the wet ground was slippery and the trick that I have planned for the next round requires a lot of traction.

Sunday began the first round of competition. Aaron from racing 905 has turned into an excellent riding coach. He gives advice on how I should ride and what runs to use. I am privileged to have this type of support. Now at XDL there are three two minute runs and your lowest is dropped. This takes off so much pressure and allows you to rip the top off of a run.  I rode hard and fast during my first run and finished fourth.  I liked to be in this position so early in the day. I was at the front of the pack but still had room to improve. 

.My second run was a good follow up from the morning I rode aggressive and threw caution to the wind. The average of my two runs moved me into third place right behind Shift rider Rick Hart. My third run was faster and cleaner than the prior two and shifted me into second. Bill D ended up with a win that day but I am working hard to take the XDL National Championship title and the number one plate. I was a point and a half (out of 100) per run behind him. I may have took second but I took first in appearance because I looked so damn good in my Shift gear.  Victory is within reach and I hope to be writing about just that after the next round from Lake Havasu, Arizona.

I couldn’t have come close to being XDL Daytona runner up without the help from SHIFT, Racing 905, Dave Bolognese, Hindle Exhaust, Sparx Helmets, HEL brake lines, GPR Dampers, Enso Guitars, Amsoil, Shinko Tires, ASV levers, Thrust Co, Bike Styles, Stuntride.com,  and Hohey Designs. Thank you all.

Check out all of SHIFT’s products here: http://www.shiftstreet.com/us.