Things we think of while riding down the road

Archive for October, 2008

The ‘one percenters’

Good afternoon all,

The AMA, American Motorcyclist Association, has said that 99% of all motorcycle riders are good law abiding citizens and the other 1% are outlaws. The ‘one percenters’. The motorcycle gangs. We’ve all seen the movie ‘The Wild One’, well, I hope most of us have seen it, Marlon Brando, Lee Marvin and a sweet innocent girl in the local cafe’, great stuff…anyway, with a little bit of literary and artistic license it portrayed the motorcycle gangs of the fifties. Riding, drinking, fighting and general mayhem. Ride into town, intimidate the local folks…scare the crap out of them really…take what you want and ride onto the next town. That movie along with others like, Hells Angels on Wheels, Wild Angels and more, stamped the outlaw biker image on the American public. Easy Rider on the other hand, showed ‘the biker’ as a loner, criminal and maybe not such a bad guy.

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley of California. A suburb of Los Angeles. Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Ronald Reagan, Disney Studios, Warner Brothers, many celebrities and notables called ‘The Valley’ home. So did some motorcycle gangs. The Hessians, The Mongols, The Hells Angels and a couple of minor gangs. Everybody saw them and heard the myths about them. In those days, they really didn’t lay low. The parties were legendary, the crimes..violent, the image..huge. True modern mythology. Then for a few years, it seemed that the gangs were, well, not such a big deal. You didn’t hear much about them, didn’t see them everywhere so, almost forgotten. Relegated to history. Not so.

Motorcycle gangs became businesses. Corporations no less. Violence was down, business was up. Crime does pay. Territories set and observed. There were still investigations, arrests and convictions. Fued’s between rival gangs still existed but no longer on the front page of the L.A Times. All seemed pretty quiet on the Motorcycle Gang front.

A few years ago that quiet ended. And I was a little closer than I would like. I was in Laughlin, Nevada celebrating my brothers birthday. I had ridden my Ducati Darmah and the valet guys let me park right by the front door. Two days later my Ducati was surrounded by a sea of Harley’s. It was the beginning of the annual Laughlin Run. After a lot of careful manuevering, I was able to extricate my motorcycle and get on the road for home. I was heading west, and a caravan of Harley’s was heading east. It was quite a sight..and sound. Before I had even gotten home that night, the Motorcycle Gangs were back in the spotlight. Stabbings, shootings and dead bikers. All at the same hotel I was staying at.

I used to own a small retail business here in Southern California and a few members of a motorcycle club were our customers. They were OK guys, always nice, polite and respectful. We treated them the same way. A couple of members even offered to ‘help’ when our store was broken into. Uh, thanks but no thanks.

This big club decided to have their International 50th Anniversary party in our town. The town government went into a panic. ‘No Motorcycle Parking’ signs up all over, adding police officers from all over the county. The city spent thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars to protect the citizenry and in general, making this club feel very unwelcome. The Anniversary event went off without a scene. The members from around the world spent money in stores and restaurants and went home.

A few months later, a large number of the club members were arrested, including the club president, on a wide variety of charges. Some stuck, some didn’t but the clubs days of doing their business quietly or under the radar were now over. Motorcycle gangs had a few brief moments on the front page again. Then just as quickly, out of the spotlight.

Until the other day. Another very large international Motorcycle Gang was raided in the Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley areas. Raided big time! Guns, money, drugs…the stuff of motorcycle gang lore. Back on the front pages and the 11 o’clock news.

This is a bit of a different post for us, but we do call ourselves The Moto ‘World’ don’t we? Well, gangs are part of the motorcycling world, for better or worse. One motorcycle club’s own website has a unique line at the bottom, “When we do right, nobody remembers, when we do wrong, nobody forgets”. I guess participating in toy runs at Christmas are the good things that make up for the bad things?

Earlier on I made a comment about being closer to motorcycle gang activity than I would like. More than the brawl in Laughlin, more than customers in my store. A young man that I have known since he was just a little kid… good family, good friends, a good surfer and computer wiz, is joining a motorcycle gang. Why? I don’t know. It makes no sense. I don’t want to lose a friend to that life because as the gangs say, “once you’re in, you’re in for life”.

Motorcycle gangs are back in the news again, but hopefully, they will be back out of it just as quickly. Those of us in the 99% don’t need negative publicity.

Ride safe, ride fast and stay in the UPPER 1%, not the lower.

Paul


Start ’em young, or…

…the family that rides together…uh, rides together.

I think I was fourteen years old, my dad had just returned from a tour of duty in the Vietnam War. He was only going to be home for six months before heading back. He had a Honda 160 tucked away in the garage. After he settled in, he took the sheet off, put in a new battery and went riding.

A couple of weeks later, dad was washing the bike and asked if I would like to learn how to ride. I couldn’t say yes fast enough. After the basic..”here’s the clutch…here’s the brake…down for first…etc” I was ready???? Ok, I’m guessing that you are already getting a picture in your mind of what happens next…

Actually I did pretty good. Until…the clutch lever doesn’t work the front brake! Here’s the ‘Homer Moment’…DOH! right into the back bumper of my dad’s car. More damage to ego than motorcycle or car. I have been on two wheels ever since.

Fast forward a few years… I have been racing bikes out in the desert and lots of trail riding. My son Kelly was about 2 years old when I first put him on a motorcycle, he rode with me all around Kennedy Meadows, to the Speedway races in Costa Mesa and all around parts of New Mexico. But he never got the bug like I did. Sigh.

After Kelly graduated from High School I sent him off to Europe for a few months. He came back with great stories of course, but he also came back with a desire to ride motorcycles? Here’s how the story goes…On the Greek island of Corfu, he rented a scooter and rode everywhere for a few days. When he got home he told me that he never understood my love of motorcycles until then..now he wants to ride. Christmas day, while the turkey was cooking, we took out ‘The Mighty 350’ and rode all around our town. Kelly went on to roadracing, commuting and traveling around the country(9000 miles in 3 weeks) on two wheels. The seed was planted early on, it just took a really long time to sprout.

My good friend Erik is a hard core rider..roadracer, rally rider, traveler and commuter. He also has two little kids, Emma and Ethan. For Emma’s eighth birthday, Erik bought her a little Honda XR50. They live close to an off-road vehicle park so going riding is easy fun.
Here’s the catch though…she has to share the XR50 with her little brother once in a while. Anyway…Little Emma is totally hooked…the stories I hear from Erik are just great. She likes to brag that she’s ‘racing’ with the big kids!!??
Every time I talk to Erik, the conversation heads to how much fun he is having riding with his kids. I know the feeling, I’m sure a lot of us do. Emma is going to be the next ‘Star’ on The Motoworld Podcast”


I was still racing into my early fifties with my son, and my dad was still the ‘Crew Chief’ at the races. Dad and I traveled all over the Western U.S and Canada together. Lot’s of great memories, pictures and stories.

So, go riding with your kids and have two wheeled fun for years to come. Like I said,”the family that rides together has more fun than others…for a long time..”

Ride fast, ride safe and ride with your kids..
See you on the road,
Paul


From Houston to the World


The sun is just starting to come up here in Southern California and I just got off the phone doing an interview for our podcast. I spent the past thirty minutes with a racer that I have admired for years. Not only for his racing, but his overall involvement in motorcycling and with motorcyclists. Kevin Schwantz. 500cc World Roadracing Champion in 1993, founder of the Kevin Schwantz Suzuki Riding School www.schwantzschool.com and coach for the Red Bull Rookies Cup team.

Kevin had just wrapped up a two day school at Road Atlanta and was heading off to the airport for a motorcycle show in Paris and then down to Valencia Spain to coach the American Red Bull Rookies for a race against the European Red Bull Rookies. In our chat together you could hear the enthusiasm and pride he has for these young kids. When Heather and I were at the AMA Superbike Finale last month at Laguna Seca, Kevin was there coaching the kids all through the weekend. As we would walk around the paddock, we would see Kevin with his riders and they were all having a great time…hey, who wouldn’t? A couple of times we went looking for Kevin to talk with him for the podcast and we found him in the KTM Red Bull pits giving a pep talk to the kids. You should have seen these kids, their eyes and attention completely focused on what Kevin was saying.

Kevin came into this teaching and coaching position through a side door, you have to listen to the podcast www.themotoworld.com to hear about that side door, you can hear how much he has come to love it. I have a good friend who has attended his school twice, once as a journalist and once on her own. Angie credits Kevin with her success in roadracing. She was always fast, but Kevin helped her become smooth and fast.

Kevin Schwantz is an interesting man. Starting off trials riding in a ditch outside his family’s motorcycle shop in Houston Texas to World Roadracing Champion to Stock Car racer to owner of a Stock Car team to teacher and coach in motorcycling again.

It was a great thirty minutes with Kevin, well worth getting up before dawn to have a visit. Listen to the podcast and get to know Kevin a bit better, you’ll like it. I did


Another day in Paradise??


Fire Season in Southern California…ranks right up there with Hurricane Season on the East and Gulf Coasts. It really plays havoc with your life. I really feel bad for the people that are directly affected by these catastrophes. We here at The Motoworld live in area prone to fire danger, as a matter of fact we were watching fire come over the hill towards where we live a year ago, fortunately the wind shifted and our little town was spared.

Today, I’m watching the news about fires that are happening right now in areas that I have ridden motorcycles in since I was a teenager. The mountain areas north of Los Angeles offer some of the greatest riding you could find anywhere. Roads like Angeles Crest Hiway, Sierra Hiway, Lake Hughes Road, Angeles Forrest Hiway, Upper Big Tujunga, Bouquet Cyn….the list goes on. Off-road areas like Texas Canyon, San Fancisquito Canyon, Green Valley, Leona Valley and more.

I have reminisced about riding areas that have disappeared due to development or environmentalist concerns(?) but when whole areas burn, there is nothing to do but watch and pray for those in the way of the fire.

So, I’m writing this today because I’m watching the fire spread and I’m thinking back on the days that I rode my Bultaco Matador or my Honda Sl350 in those hills that are now burning. It was great riding back then and if it wasn’t all closed up now, it would still be great riding. It’s just sad to see it burning.


where are they all going?

With the uncertainty of the status of motorcycle roadracing here in the U.S for next season, what are racers going to do? Where are they going to be racing? It seems like no one knows. As we were preparing to go to Laquna Seca for AMA Superbike Finale a couple of weeks ago, we contacted the PR people for the Big4 to line up interview time and as I mentioned before three said interviews are fine but don’t bring up politics and one, Suzuki, said no interviews at all. As a matter of fact the PR gal completely ignored us at the track. Oh well.

Yamaha, Kawasaki and Honda have always been helpful and fun to deal with and the PR people and riders have become good friends. When the subject of the current situation of roadracing came up, we were told that the guys are just tired of hearing about it and the truth is no one knows whats going on. In our interview with Honda’s Neil Hodgson, we were talking about the off-season, he brought up next year and his quote ” God only knows what is going to happen” my response was “and he’s not telling”..we both got a chuckle out of that.
So he
re are a couple of things we do know and a couple of rumors and speculations. We do know that Ben Spies is going to World Superbike. He wanted MotoGP but maybe in reality, WSBK is a perfect stepping stone for him. He has a good deal with Yamaha and Valentino’s contract runs out in a couple of years, who knows what Ben’s next step could be, but I think Ben will be a major force in World Superbike. We do know that Troy Corser is going to BMW and Max Biaggi is going back to Aprilia. We know that Ben Spies is taking Troys seat at Yamaha, but who is taking Max’s seat at Sterilgarda Ducati. AND…who is taking Troy Bayliss’s ride at Xerox Ducati???

Now, onto rumors and speculations…back in July, we here at The MotoWorld www.themotoworld.com interviewed Erion Honda’s Jake Zemke and he came right out and said that he is looking to Europe for a ride next year, and besides that, his wife loves Italy. Josh Hayes has a ride for the end of this year in World SuperSport and finished ninth this past weekend..good for you Josh. That is both Erion Honda riders looking eastward. What is Kevin Erion doing for next year?

Did you watch this last weekend’s World Superbike race from Magny Cours, France? More importantly, did you listen? During the broadcast, one of the announcers made a couple of cryptic comments. First was a hint that Noriyuki Haga may be leaving Yamaha to Ducati, could be a good match, could be the one that finally gets the ‘perenial bridesmaid’ a World Championship that he so richly deserves. That would fill Troy Bayliss’s seat, and, I think ‘Nitro Nori’ is probably only one of a couple that could fill Troy’s seat. So, who steps in to fill Hagasan’s ride? Well, another comment was made by the Speed TV commentator that there was a possibility that Ben Bostrom may be heading back to the continent. Let’s see, he has had a good bit of success in World Superbike, and he is the AMA SuperSport Champion on a Yamaha..a very good fit in my view. But..and this is a very BIG but..Ben Bostrom and Ben Spies as teammates?? Uh…BBoz could be a good teacher helping BSpies get used to the World Tracks, but would he want to? BBoz is highly energized and back in a big way in his racing. He likes winning. Helping out someone else…not so much.

And then there is Jake Zemke. AMA Formula Extreme Champion. He wants to go back to Europe. Jake would be a perfect fit on just about any team. There may be a couple GP teams??? John Hopkins at Kawasaki might be needing a new teammate

The top racers here are still wondering where they are going to race this next season. A few have a pretty good future overseas but at the same time, the World Teams are on a budget like everyone else. You simply can’t bring every AMA ex-patriot to Europe.

An interesting time in roadracing here in America. I feel it’s almost like a game of chicken


Actors or racers?

Last weekend while at The AMA Superbike Finale, word came that Paul Newman had passed away. A sad day indeed. A moment of silence was observed and it got me to thinking of another great racer actor, Steve McQueen.

As far as I know, Paul Newman was never a motorcyclist, just into sports car racing. At age 78 he was racing his Corvette in the Trans Am series..and check this out, at 78 years old he finished 5th in a field of 17!!! Back in the 70’s he did a car racing movie ‘Winning’ that was just so-so, but it was what he loved. There are lot’s of wonderful things to say about Paul Newman in all the fields he was involved in… acting, philanthropy and racing. Newman Racing has been supporting racers for many years. Paul Newman was a very classy guy. He will be missed by the racing world for years to come.

Back to Steve McQueen, another great actor racer. I was lucky enough to race in the Elsinore Grand Prix with Steve, I got to talk with him for a minute or two and he was a really nice man. I almost wanted to say a ‘cool guy’ but that is a way overused term in his case. True, but over used. Everybody has seen Steve in the greatest motorcycle movie of all time, ‘On Any Sunday’
But to see and ride with him..actually he was quite a bit faster than me so I can’t really say I rode with him…just on the same track and out in the desert once or twice.

Later in years, Steve was living not too far from I do now. He was spending a lot of time out at The Santa Paula airport, hanging with Von Dutch and some other unique characters. I still have a gas tank from my 1967 Triumph Bonneville pinstriped by Von Dutch.
As Steve’s cancer progressed, he went to Mexico for some experimental treatments and eventually came back to Santa Paula.

Sadly, both Steve McQueen and Paul Newman passed away due to cancer. Both really classy men in all ways. So, did we lose two great racers that acted or two great actors that raced? Either way you look at it they are both missed.


play it safe or…?

It’s 9:30 Sunday morning here in the media center at Laguna Seca all the photographers are gone, out on the track, the journalists are typing away and we already have two interviews done. Jim Allen of Dunlop Tires,
and
the Chief Technical Inspector for the AMA, my friend Jim Rashon. Two more this morning, Ducati’s Larry Pegram and Kawasaki’s Jordan Szoke. Hopefully we’ll pick up a couple more this afternoon. This is going to be good day. Hectic, but good.

The championship of two races being run today have already been decided, one is just about a done deal and one is still up in the air. While talking with my friend Jim Rashon of the AMA (we had a really great interview) he brought up an interesting question, Ben Spies, Superbike Champion, will he just cruise along and play it safe or will come out and prove why he’s the three time Champion? Same question goes for Aaron Yates, Superstock Champion. My thought, they are both going out with guns ablazing. There is a third rider that question can apply to and he is not the declared champ, yet, that’s Ben Bostrom in Supersport. He has a pretty strong points lead and all he has to do is finish better than seventeenth.

In our interview with Ben he posed that question to himself “do I cruise along and finish tenth or do I go out and win it? I know we can win it”. Well, Ben is on the pole, so much for cruising, and like he said in our interview “ I love roadracing”. My money says he goes out for the win.

Times a wasting, back to the pits and look for Kevin Schwantz.