A number of years ago I met Nicky Hayden at Laguna Seca Raceway during a MotoGP event. My Podcast had only been running a couple of years but Nicky was gracious enough to spend a few minutes with me. I found him just as warm as his smile and our interview was as wonderful as can be, I walked away smiling ear to ear. The following year at Laguna Seca they had a not so small gathering of the former American GP champions and again I got to talk to Nicky and again it was a great conversation.
Another great visit was with Earl Hayden, Nicky’s dad. We met at Daytona there with his other two sons. We had a good visit. I asked him about him being a dad of these great racers and his reply was “well, you probably ought to ask the boys about that…”. My few minutes with him will stick with me all my life, he’s that valuable to racing. Also, an incredibly humble man, you can’t walk away from Earl and not feel good.
Enough has been said about Nicky’s career from dirt tracking as a kid to MotoGP World Champion. When last I saw Nicky at the Long Beach Motorcycle show I asked him ‘if‘ when he retired from Roadracing would he go back to Flat Track. All he did was smile and say I love dirt track.
Nicky was/is a universally liked racer both on the track, in the pits and off the track. Always smiling (well not always but a lot of the time). Nicky Hayden represented the best of what motorcycle racing is all about. A fierce competitor, a team player and a great sportsman. The racing world is missing you now and will continue to miss you. I will cherish the minutes I had with you.
Thoughts and prayers from our family to yours are in our hearts. Race in Peace and Rest in Heaven, you have deserved it.
There is a romantic old saying “if you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you it is true love”. However, those of us that race and ride motorcycles know the saying actually goes,
“If you love something set it free. If it comes back to you, it means you high sided!
…Dirt is for planting potatoes.”
So said a motorcycle racer, and good friend.
A long time ago I swore off going to funerals, like thirty years ago, but since that time I have been to two. Yesterday was number two.
When I first heard of my friends passing I, like everyone else I imagine who has had a friend die, did pretty much nothing but think of the good things about that person and how they influenced my life. Then I started thinking about everyone else within that circle of friends and how they impacted my life.
I started my motorcycle roadracing life in 1981 then took a few years off to raise a couple of kids. When I decided to get back into racing I headed out to my nearest track, Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, California to figure what kind of motorcycle I wanted to race. As I wandered around the pits listening to bikes and racers stories I met Larry Cochran who then introduced me Danny Farnsworth who happened to be the ‘Race Director’. These two ‘gentlemen(?)’ through their powers of persuasion, enthusiasm and God knows what other powers they posssessd that day, convinced me that riding an old Honda 500cc single cylinder motorcycle would be the best way to get back into racing. For the rest of my life I will rue the day I listened to those two guys.
A couple of years later I came in second place in the class championship and while everybody else at that Championship banquet was thanking everybody for support, help,etc, etc…I got up there and blamed Larry and Danny for ruining my life. I could have raced a faster better bike, but instead I was racing this old Honda single and flogging it mercilessly year after year. But, here’s the thing, those ten years racing that Ascot with Danny Farnsworth, Larry Cochran, Scott Fabbro and Scott Spears, Carlin Dunne, Steve Allen and a couple others that came and went in the class were truly the best, most fun years I have ever had on a motorcycle. It was those ten years and that group of men that keeps everything else motorcycling in second place.
Yesterday was Danny’s funeral. A number of us former Willow Springs Motorcycle Club racers attended and swapped ‘Danny Stories’, reconnected with each other and left knowing that in the Golden Era of the WSMC it was Danny that cared more about the racers and their safety, even it pissed off someone, which often times it did. Danny had no problem pulling you off the track and telling you what a bonehead move you made, or there was a problem with your bike. It didn’t matter if you thought he was wrong, what Danny says goes. Period. We all benefitted from Danny’s overriding concern for our safety.
Danny Farnsworth was the type that when your bike broke and you needed a part, he would find one from somewhere or somebody, he would loan you one out of his own stock of spares.
When my son started racing I followed in Danny’s and Larry’s footsteps and put Kelly on an Ascot. As Kelly went through new racers school, Danny took him under is wing, which he did for so many young riders, and even though my son kept saying that Ascot was trying to kill him, Danny kept giving him support and encouragement.
Those of us that got together yesterday did more than just say goodbye to a good friend and motorcycle racer but a man that gave so much to racing and racers. I owe Danny a lot, he convinced me to ride the worst racing motorcycle there was and have the most fun anyone could possibly have.
Adios my friend. Race in Peace.
Oh, and like you said at the end of every racers meeting “Keep the rubber side down and the shiny side up”, I still live by those words.
I have been interviewing motorcycle racers for a number of years now, some interviews are notable for how good they turn out and a few are like “well, there is a half hour I’ll never get back”, and then there are the ones that just make you feel good all over, you’re laughing your ass off through the whole thing and you talk about it months and years after. My interview with Tommy Aquino was one of the latter.
We were at the AMA races at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California and Kevin Foley of Yamaha set up an interview with the ‘Young Guns’ Tommy Aquino and Josh Herrin.
When I arrived at the appointed time and place (the Yamaha mega trailer) I met the two while they were playing video games. Mind you, these were not motorcycle video games but your basic shoot ’em up games and they were having a great time. The interview was conducted with all kinds of distractions, background noise and a lot of fun. That interview has been a consistent favorite of The Motoworld Podcast. I spent nearly an hour with the two of them and found them to be very fun, welcoming, smart and above all else, they loved racing motorcycles. They also were great teammates.
Being a follower and reporter of motorcycle racing, and specifically a follower of those we have interviewed, I have kept track of Tommy’s career. Tommy moved on from AMA racing to the British National Series in the 1000cc Superstock class, which is a stepping stone to British Superbike which is THE stepping stone to Worlds Superbike and MotoGP. In 2013 he had a good season, he was on his way. Sadly, Tommy’s career was cut short while training at a local motocross track.
Piru motocross track is only 9 miles from my home and I happened to be riding by the track at about the time of the incident, it wasn’t until the next morning that I heard the news that Tommy Aquino had died. My heart was broken and my thoughts and prayers went out to his family and friends. Tommy was only 21 years young with so much ahead of him.
Racing has lost a wonderful young talent and the rest of us have lost a wonderful young friend. To hear my interview with Tommy go to
Good-bye Tommy you are missed.
At about 15 or 16 years old my daughter decided she wanted to learn how to ride a motorcycle. I was roadracing at the time and she had come out the track a few times but somehow the ‘bug’ never got her. Until, she met a boy who rode motorcycles. Great? Well, at least it was better than falling for a surfer or football player…maybe?
“Dad, teach me to ride!!!” I was one happy guy. My daughter had gotten ‘the bug’. The good thing was we had a little Honda ‘Step Thru’ (a 1959 Honda Super Cub) in the garage that was a perfect basic trainer. Ok, that training session lasted about 15 minutes…”Dad, can I ride ‘The Mighty 350?”
Now this is one of my prized motorcycles…it’s not a museum piece, it’s just a bike I have had forever and have ridden everywhere. In a weak moment I agreed to teach her to ride on ‘The Mighty 350’. By the way, ‘The Mighty 350’ is a 1972 Honda CB350 with a sh#t load of miles on it. Again after about 15 minutes, my daughter was off into the sunset. She returned an hour or so later with a great big grin on her face.
Leah moved her way up onto her brothers Honda HawkGT but as she has told me many times, it was that little Honda Super Cub that really gave her the biggest fun.
The boy she had met was also a roadracer. While out at the race track on weekend, she and her friends decided to take on the boys to see who was fastest. The boys were quite surprised.
The other day MotoWorld staff photographer Heather and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Long Beach Motorcycle show. New motorcycles, (and all the hoopla that goes with them) and all the new goodies that you just have to have for your new motorcycle. I love seeing the new motorcycles, and yes, I do my fair share of drooling on them (sorry to the people who have to keep cleaning them all day…), now I only need the bank to give me a bigger line of credit to build a bigger garage and then I could have some of those motorcycles. For me however it’s the people who really make the show worthwhile.
Media day at the show is a circus. A Ringmaster parades us all around the show to each manufacturer where they tell us all about the new and exciting models and features but the real interest, for me, is listening in and being part of all the side conversations. Magazine editors, contributors, photographers, builders, racers and manufacturer reps.
Most of us in Moto-Journalism may only see each other a couple of times a year, if that, and when we do it’s not so much about motorcycles but our lives in general. We all read each others stories and product reviews so when we see each other it’s all personal. Some have new gig’s, some have increased their family size, moved their business or started a new one. Old contacts are renewed and new ones are made, it’s a great day to be around motorcycles and motorcycle people.
This year at the show I ran into my old friend Bill Stermer from Rider Magazine, we haven’t gone for a ride together for a couple of years so it was a good time to plan one. Next I met up with one of my favorite (and very fast) ladies, Laura Klock. Laura and I met at Bonneville back in 2009, she had just set a land speed record aboard a Victory Vision. Laura rode this fully dressed touring bike down the salt with the stereo blasting a cup of cold coffee in the cup holder to something a bit north of 150mph. This was not your average touring bike (thanks to husband Brian Klock) and Laura is not your average touring rider…by any stretch of the imagination.
My good friend Matt Capri, who happens to be the premier Triumph speed merchant/builder on the planet, and I had a wonderful conversation about his newest creation, a 350 lb (wet) 100+ hp Bonneville, and how much fun (scary fun!!) it is to ride. The thing about talking with Matt is that you can’t contain his enthusiasm. Arms flailing, face going through all kinds of contortions and he is talking so fast you only catch every third word but you heard everything.
My friend Skratch was there painting a gas tank and we talked about how his business is growing. Skratch is a really talented painter and builder of both cars and bikes and always a lot of fun to talk with, especially while he is taping off a flame job. Actually the fun part is doing all that I can to distract him…it never works, the man is a machine.
I spent good time with my old racing friend Evans Brasfield. Evans is actually one of the people that got me into Moto-Journalism, and I’ll never forgive him for that…I mean never ‘forget’ him for that. We have raced sprint races together, endurance races, reported on World Superbike races and camped out in the rain at those races. Evans’ writing (he now writes for Motorcycle.com) and riding I have always enjoyed and seeing him again was a nice bonus to the day.
Media Day is about the people in motorcycling that make it for me. Old friends like Nick, Bruce and Beth from Two Wheel Tuner Magazine (sadly the magazine is gone but they are still doing really well), Sandro and Robert (RobDog) from Galfer Brakes, catching up with Arlen and Cory Ness and their work with Indian motorcycles, new friends like Alicia Elfving (the motolady.com), Cristi Farrell from Moterrific Podcast and Christa from RoadRunner magazine.
Seeing all the chrome and beautiful paint, the faster than any of us can ride legally on the street motors, the bikes that want to make us cash out our 401K’s so we can ride to the tip of South America are all well and good but for me, it’s the people and their stories and their life on motorcycles that make going to the motorcycle show and my job great.
This isn’t really about ‘riding’ with The MotoWorld but it is an adventure with The MotoWorld.
We have been coming here to Miller Motorsports Park for four years now and each trip is different. There are different race events, different racers, different vendors and entertainment. Last year they changed the schedule to hold the Superbike races on Monday, Memorial Day instead of the usual Sunday. It seems to work well for everyone. However, there is one thing that changes like crazy and it makes me nuts, you guessed it, the weather.
When we come to Miller we camp out at the park right next door. It’s a very nice place and you get to meet a lot of interesting travelers coming to the races. The first year we got here so late the first night we had to sleep in the back of the truck in freezing wind. The rest of the weekend was great. Year two was windy but warm. Our third year was dominated by rain, wind, snow, and more rain. It rained so much the second night we had a river running through our tent. Fortunately, we had big air mattress to keep our jammies dry. That same night the snow level was about five hundred feet above track level.
Here we are at year four, we’re pros now; nothing will surprise us. We check weather.com before we get on the road. Slight chance of showers on Friday and Saturday, clearing Sunday and a beautiful sunny day on Monday, race day. The wind, which is almost as normal here as it is at Willow Springs, was only supposed to be 18-20 mph with gusts to 25 on Saturday. That last sentence is why the pretty lady on TV is not to be trusted.
After a nice solid drenching rain Saturday morning which made for some pretty exciting practice sessions, the wind picked up, and picked up, to the point of riders getting blown all over the track and on top of that it was cold. The pretty lady on the weather channel said it would be in the mid 60’s…she lied. Here is where the story gets fun.
We stayed here at the track editing photos and writing stories until about 7pm. Then it was into town to pick up supplies…refreshing adult beverage makin’s. Camping at the races requires a nice cold Martini at the end of a long day. This is Utah, the state runs all the liquor stores, and they only sell them during certain times and certain days. When we arrive at the State store, we find out we are twenty minutes too late – what is a poor thirsty moto-journalist to do? We’ll just go to the market and get a bottle wine. Guess what? You can only buy wine at the State store too. Back to the market for beer. A box of local beer will have to do.
The wind is still blowing pretty strong but nowhere near the velocity of the afternoon. As we pull up to our camp spot I see our nice blue ground cloth with nothing sitting on top of it. “Heather, our tent is gone!” “Shut up, it is not?…where did it go?” I couldn’t help but laugh at the look of utter disbelief on her face…first no martini’s and now no place to enjoy them. Things are from bad to worse and the adventure begins.
Where is our tent? One of our fellow campers tells us that some other camper saw a maintenance guy take it and put it away in a service building. Off to find the gal at the gate; she’s on a break; try to find someone else; no luck; finally find the gate lady; she calls somebody else; then we actually find our tent behind the service building not in it which is a good thing because the man that has the key isn’t there.
We spend the next hour or more finding a better protected spot and repairing all the holes and tears that our poor little portable hotel suffered while getting blown around. By that time we decide against cooking dinner and head for town. But that, friends, is another story.
Finally around 11pm we crawl into our bed only to be blown awake by Hurricane Zelda blowing through a couple of hours later. It was blowing so hard that I truly believed that when I opened the door in the morning, I could look at Heather and say “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.”
It was quite the adventure yesterday, but every trip here is.
Pictures will follow tomorrow. Wish us luck for tonight, especially with no martini’s.