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.
David Crosby was right, Its been a long time coming. I have been away from this much too long. Every now and then you have to join the working class. There are plenty of reasons…financial, geographic relocation (you got married and your wife has a better job than you), whatever the reason, it happens. And, as it happens, I have spent the past year or so amongst the working class and less with the journalistic class. A much higher class I might add. So, this morning while awake way too early (it’s 4:30 am) here at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah for the World Superbike races , I started thinking about the interviews I want to conduct, the writing I want to do and the people to see that I only get to see once a year. Then I started thinking about the things you miss when your heart and brain is a journalist, but you step away from it, even for just a little while.
I miss the general involvement in motorcycling. I have been working so much that finding time to take good long rides has been next to impossible. This point was just recently brought up to me by two friends, one who asked me about planning a trip in the next month or so, and a friend that stopped by to visit here at the track. The second friend, Greg, is on a two week trip on his Kawasaki Concours stopping at the races, and then heading off to Montana for some fly fishing, but mostly just riding.
I have spent a long time talking with people in all aspects of motorcycling. Interviews with racers, travelers, journalists, TV personalities and one guy living the crazy life of a motorcycle courier. I’ve talked with tech people, custom bike designers and stunt riders. Everybody has a good motorcycling story to tell and I like telling their stories. So, I realized on this trip up here to Utah that the thing I miss most about taking this time away from writing and storytelling is the motorcycling community. I miss the e-mails telling me about a great trip, the best restaurant in Sonora, or a really fun day ride. The woes and joys of restoring an old piece of junk motorcycle and that the only reason they are doing it is because their dad had one just like it. The racer who is having a great season and the one who is struggling to just to make it to the next race. It’s all wonderful.
I will continue to be a working stiff (gotta maintain my retirement planning…) but, I’m going to get back in the saddle again, make the time for trips and passing along stories. This is what I love to do.
The last Motoworld blog post was all about getting friends together to watch the season opener MotoGP, do some bench racing, eat, drink and plan our spring road trip. While everyone was arriving with pots and plates of food, boxes of beers and good munchies we had a great motorcycle movie on in the background. The movie going was ‘Riding Solo To The Top Of The World’ by my friend Gaurav Jani from India. Riding Solo is a wonderful travelogue that I believe every traveling motorcyclist should watch, it really put’s ‘Long Way Around’ to shame.While waiting for racing to start, enjoying all the good food and visiting with friends, more and more friends became captivated by the movie to the point of ” hey, record the race, let’s watch the movie, then the race”. After watching the races, we finished the movie. After the movie was over and everybody headed home a new idea was hatched…a way to get motorcycling friends together, and another good reason to consume mass quantities of food and beer, wait, who ‘needs‘ a reason for the last two?
Most readers of this blog are probably old enough to remember Drive-In’s and most of us who did go to Drive-In’s can’t remember the movie we ‘watched’…because the windows were too steamed up. The Drive-In in my town was $5.00 a carload… including Steve and Artie in the trunk along with a couple of six packs. So I got to thinking, with Drive-Ins extinct how can we motorcyclists recreate that wonderful piece of Americana, but on motorcycles? Welcome to the Ride-In Theater.
Here are the rules, you have to ride your motorcycle, no cars. Admission is cold refreshing beverages and your company. The Fillmore Ride-In Theater has popcorn, hot dogs and lawn chairs. But now, what to show? I went through my collection of motorcycle movies and came up with a selection that I’m sure will please everyone. We can’t show all of these on one evening so it gives us a nice summertime of motorcycling entertainment.
We start the Ride-In season with the best of all time motorcycle movie, ‘On Any Sunday’. If this movie doesn’t stir your soul, you should trade in your motorcycle for a minivan and call it quits. Next would be Peter Starr’s ‘Take it to the Limit’, truly the greatest motorcycle racing movie made. From Trials riding to Roadracing to Drag Racing, Desert racing and MotoCross, this movie is nothing but pure excitement and a great Saturday night Ride-In movie date.
About mid July, we bring out ‘The Worlds Fastest Indian’. A great feel good movie about a real legend in Land Speed Record Racing. Having been to Bonneville with a race team, ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’ brings back a lot of good memories and feelings. You have to watch this movie every once and awhile…just because.
August brings to the big screen…actually my barn door…Robert Redford and Michael J.Pollard, also known as ‘Little Fauss and Big Halsy’. There’s just something about this movie that just plain works. You’ve got Robert Redford at his hunkiest, Michael J. Pollard at his quirkiest, throw in some good racing…you can’t go wrong on a warm summer evening at the Ride-in. Oh, and Lauren Hutton doesn’t hurt the movie either.
Labor Day weekend we wind up The Ride-In Theater season with ‘Faster’. A good look at the inside of MotoGP racing. Excellent racing footage along with some great behind the scenes filming, interviews and commentary. Just in time for the end of the MotoGP season.
So, come on all you motorcycle movie fans out there, drive-in ‘s may be extinct, but Ride-In’s are alive and well. Oh and by the way, that little screen in the picture above isn’t what we’ll be using, I just couldn’t find a big ‘ol white sheet to cover the whole door for the photo, but I promise I’ll find one before Ride-In Theater season starts, but you get the idea anyway.
Steaming up the windscreen on my BMW could be a bit challenging but a lot of fun. I think I smell popcorn…see you at the movies.
When you love going fast, you will always love going fast. Sammy Haggar put it perfectly…”I can’t drive 55″. I met Sammy Haggar when I was working for a radio station in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a very cool guy.
Another guy I consider a good friend can’t drive 55 either. Meet my friend Kevin Johnson. Willow Springs roadracer extraordinaire, great mechanic and connoisseur of fine Kentucky bourbon. Kevin loves going fast and he loves being with people that feel the same way.
Two years ago Kevin and I helped propel a friend to a Land Speed Record at the Bonneville Salt Flats… get this…on a 1959 Norton.
A couple of weeks from now are the ‘Bub Motorcycle Speed Trials’ at Bonneville, Utah. Kevin and I planned on being there with our friend Ken Canaga of Left Coast Racing working on a Norton Streamliner to go over 200MPH. A couple of things came up and plans changed. Kevin is going to be racing a Gilera 500CC single at Miller Motorsports Park instead. I envy him.
Like I said, when you love going fast, you love going fast on anything.
Ride safe, ride fast and Kevin…don’t go 55..
Good evening Speedsters,
Well, I just got back from The BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials at the Bonneville Salt Flats…WOW is all I can say. Thats it for this post..thanks for reading it…
Ok, just kidding…
Here’s the story, about 4-5 years ago a couple of roadracing friends of mine got a wild hair up their fannies and deciced that building a Bonneville Streamliner was something they wanted to do. No problem..they’re both engineers, good mechanics and racers. Fast forward to about January 2006…this thing is actually beginning to take shape. Powered by a 920cc Norton engine..going after the 1000cc pushrod motor Streamliner record. Cool huh??!! The frame is pretty well sorted out and is coming together, the motor is ready to go, so let’s put it all together. Easier said than done. Build the cockpit..design the controls, outriggers..on and on and on…time is flying by and September is coming up really fast. Originally scheduled to leave on Friday September 8th..still working on the ‘liner’ Saturday night the 9th till about 11pm…guess we’re leaving Sunday. Sunday 8AM we hit the road…13 hours later we roll into the Wendover Nugget Hotel parking lot, 4-5 miles from the Salt Flats. We meet up with our friend Kevin Johnson from Reno Nevada, another former Willow Springs speedster, settle into our rooms, enjoy a bit of Kentucky’s finest ( Makers Mark Bourbon..) and talk about the upcoming speed trials.
Monday morning dawns clear and beautiful. A short drive and there we are..the world famous Bonneville Salt Flats. History is made here..how fast can a man go on a motorcycle or in a car?? THIS is where you find out. It’s an unbelievable sight..surrounded on three sides by mountains..the salt goes on and on as far as the eye can see. Stark white, like snow but solid. It truly is awe inspiring, even if you’re not a motorcycle racer. As was said in Hot Rod Magazine about 40 years ago..it’s like racing on the moon. A 5 mile drive along the salt and we arrive at the pit area..more like a small city of cars, trucks, vans, trailers and…motorcycles. An old hand shift Indian, side valve Harley Davidsons, a Bultaco, a couple of vintage Triumphs. a handfull of Vincent Black Shadow’s, our Norton’s and all accompanied by the appropriate amount of grey hair and beards. And then…
… the modern motorcycles…Hayabusa’s abound..well, yeah…they’re really fast. A couple of new Kawi ZX14’s, Ducati 999’s, Honda CBR100RR’s..the list goes on and on…but, here’s where it gets interesting…
BUB has added a ‘Run What Ya Brung’ class to the event. You can show up on your daily rider street bike, pay your $100 and take a couple of runs on the salt to see how fast you can go. Full dress Harley’s, BMW RT models, a Honda CRF450 dirtbike with Street tyres, a young man with an MV Agusta F4 Agostini replica ( he went somewhere in the vicinity of 175mph!!?? ) too much fun. I took the opportunity to interview some of these riders for my podcast..interesting people and having a lot of fun. Isn’t that what it’s all about??!!
Another thing that was really interesting about this meet was how many women were there racing!! I interviewed a few of them..one young lady was riding a Honda RS250 roadracer expecting to go somewhere in the vicinity of 160mph..she ended up a bit short of that but still achieved a record speed. I met a lady named Laura from South Dakota on a very custom and highly built Harley Road King…check this out..fairing w/ CD player ( blaring away..) and saddle bags…147MPH!!! Another lady, Valerie Thompson on a bilt to the hilt Harley Davidson pushed past 160mph!! These women are truly awe inspiring.
Another side of this event, and actually any motorcycle racing event, is the family and friends supporting the racers. As I was cruising the pits interviewing racers, it dawned on me that talking to the families would also be very cool. Completely by accident I started talking to Rocky Robinson’s family…mom, wife, son, brother..Rocky is the pilot of the Ack Attack Streamliner. They broke the exisiting Land Speed Record of 322mph on their first run…347mph! Anyway, that was one of the most fun interviews I had..I’ll have it up on the podcast in the next few days.
Now, back to OUR team effort…after waiting and waiting and waiting inline to get on the track ( 5 hours !!!) They closed the course because of wind…damn. Ok..back to our pit and time to drink beer..wind is blowing like crazy so we lower the canopy, huddle inside and wait out the storm. Other racers come by and visit..all in all a fine way to spend the late afternoon. The LSR ( Land Speed Rcing ) family is very special and unique.
Tuesday again dawns beautiful. We get to The Salt Flats earlier and get in line..a few hours later..SEVEN to be exact..we finally put Ken and his old Norton 750 on the course. Within the hour Ken holds the AMA Land Speed Record for 750cc pushrod motorcycles at 126.35mph!! Yeah Baby!! Back to the pit’s and start working on getting the ‘Liner’ ready. Now, here’s the deal..Eric, the pilot, has NEVER driven a streamliner..so we spend the late afternoon running up and down the back area of the flats figuring out how to start and steer this thing..a lot of laughs. But, we also discover a few problems..as in the really high tech electric shifter doesn’t shift. OOPS…designed to shift a Harley drag bike..(does that mean it wears a dress???)…you’d think it would shift a Norton, right?? Well..uh, no. These old gear boxes take a bit of finessing..not bang/slam. A call to Pingle, a few adjustments and hey, it looks like it works…
Wednesday it’s out to the Salt and see if we can get the ‘liner’ on the course. Here’s what I learned about racing at Bonneville…it’s called ‘hurry up and wait’..no kidding, you wait for hours for your few minutes of glory. Anyway, we finally get the liner out on course and…….off Eric goes…for about 100 yards…the motor died. Ok, back to the start line, wait for a few other motorcycles to go and guess what…up comes the breeze and the course is closed to Streamliners. They can close the course anytime the breeze exceeds 3mph. A good safety proceedure I think. Well..back to the pits and drink more beer…thats the other thing about Land Speed Racing..I think it’s powered by beer. Ok with me….
Thursday again dawns beautiful. But today, the last day of the meet is going to be short..done by noon. We gotta get out there…no problem. We’ve got the drill down. Line the bike up pointing a little to the right, leaning on the left skid, start in second gear..good push and away he goes…motor sounds great..go Eric go…
jump in the truck and go chasing after him…tune in the CB to hear course control…something about a ‘parachute test’ was successful..huh??? the chute popped out a mile 2 and Eric dragged it through the flying mile..speed??? a whopping 65mph!!
Ok..lets see what we can do for the return run..
Line him up…point right, lean left, big push…uh..Eric..the course is over there…no wait..now it’s over there…ah..there he goes down the course. Back in the van..let’s go get him…listen to the radio…through the flying mile at a blazing…108mph! HUH??? The electric shfter failed. Eric couldn’t get out of second gear..so..well..108mph in second gear??!! Not bad ‘eh?!
So, as they say…there is always next year..stay tuned..
oh, one more thing…I’m going to start working a supercharged Honda SL350 for next year…Bonneville does strange things to your mind…
See you on the road..