Category Archives: cafe racers

First dates

I like motorcycles, she likes boats. The first time I asked my now wife on a date it was to go look at all the Christmas decorations around town. The fun part of all of this was that I was going to take her in a motorcycle side car. Now think about it, how many first dates are in a side car…I was hoping this might score me a few extra points for being creative. Well, I was flatly turned down. Apparently creativity goes just so far.

A month later,and several other attempts (also rejected), I came up with the perfect solution and it worked!!! However, her best friend did come along as a chaperone.Picture 26

Girls are just as fast…

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?”Picture 30

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.Picture 31

It’s all about preparation

We all do our very best to prepare for an event, whether it’s a race or a long trip, we get things ready. Holidays are no different.

Usually on Christmas we have a house full of family and friends, most of them motorcycle people. The stories are flying and the more beer we have the stories fly even higher but that is part of what makes the day special. We watch classic races (World Superbike Imola 2000, Troy Bayliss and Colin Edwards…the best race to watch over and over), ‘On Any Sunday’ and whatever movie somebody brings…last year we watched Big Faus and Little Halsey (or is it Big Halsey and Little Faus??? Does it matter?).

This year everyone was here and it was time to put the turkey in the BBQ (in Southern California that is the preferred method…) Instead of putting stuffing in the turkey we put some garlic into a can of good beer, put the turkey over the can and cook. It always comes out great…except this time. The turkey decided that this year the beer was going to be administered a bit differently.
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We ended up ordering pizza. Happy Holidays to all and a very Happy New Year. Now sit down and start planning your first big trip of the year. I am.
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Can’t leave your best friend behind, can you?

Picture 23Moto-Camping has been a way of life for me since I was a teenager…it was always a good way to escape suburban family life. Moto-Camping tested your planning skills (having been a Boy Scout preparation was pretty easy), adaptability skills (you never what the weather will throw at you), packing skills (motorcycle luggage at the time consisted of a small duffel bag strapped to the seat and an old Boy Scout Yucca pack) and map reading abilities (where does this road go???). At times, it also tested your mechanical skills, especially when riding a mid 1960’s Triumph. It was also important to know how to Bullsh*t your boss when you wanted an extra day or two on the road.

The thing about Moto-Camping is that it boils everything down to what is absolutely the bare essentials you need to have a good trip. You spend years and lots of money acquiring just the right gear and as soon as you think have your ‘kit’ just right, you meet another Moto-Camper on the road that has something newer, better and tricker than you. More money going out when you get home.

Over the years I have camped solo, with just a friend or two and done some good sized rallys, I like ’em all. I’ve ridden bikes as small as a Honda CB350 all the way up to my newest ride, a Buell Ulysses, and everything in between. The main thing that has changed for me is that now I travel two up ninety percent of the time. It’s true, I finally found a woman who likes Moto-Camping as much as I do!Picture 22

Moto-Camping two-up requires a whole new strategy when it comes to prep and packing. Suspension has to be set much different, general ergonomics have to be adjusted and sometimes even a new motorcycle. It’s all worth it. Another thing you have to think about when Moto-Camping, or any kind of vacation for that matter, is what to do with your pet. You can take them to a kennel (too much $$$), you could beg and plead with a family member to take Fido or Fluffy for a few days…the odds of them agreeing to that are a bit slim, or you can simply ask a neighbor to come over and feed Muffy or Spot, (again, a tough favor to ask…).

Picture 26 We love our dog, he’s a good traveler in the car and we would like to take him out into the world more. We have never really all that fond of car camping, it’s too easy. Two Martini’s later however we started talking about getting a small travel trailer (talk about being too easy!) take the dog, the grandkids and see the USA in style and luxury.

The next morning we were back to our senses. We decided that Moto-Camping is still the way to go for us but…we know that our dog would love it too. So, with a little research I found a way to take Boscoe along. It’s perfect.
mc dog carrier

Old vs. New Technology…

…and does it make riding more fun?

I recently bought a motorcycle that was actually made in ‘this’ century. Now, I have been riding ‘Vintage’ motorcycles even before they were ‘Vintage’ so getting a bike without carburetors was really weird…”You mean I have to hook up a laptop computer to my bikes computer brain to make it run right?”…Geez, I still have a dial phone in my house!!

Picture 19So, despite all my fears and worries about having a modern motorcycle (and knowing that I am going to be excommunicated from my friends at ‘The Church of Vintage Motorcycles’) I buy the bike, a Buell Ulysses. It’s got fuel injection, all kinds of luggage, adjustable windscreen, an extra front wheel, another seat and then on top of all that…GPS. I don’t know how to work a GPS thing, hell, I can’t even spell GPS.

Picture 18I have always used good old AAA maps, my own internal compass, the help of locals and other riders to find my way. The learning curve with a GPS system can be a bit steep for guys like me so I decided that small steps would be better. I’ll still use maps but I also found another tool that make the transition to the new millenium a lot easier.
etch a sketch GPS

New motorcycles and old friends

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.

ImageThis 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.

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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.

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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.

 

Creative thinking at it’s best

My friend over at ‘On Two Wheels’ apparently has a good sense of humor. Check out the link below to see just how far Italians will go for a good photo.

I had to repost this because it is just too good. Enjoy…unless you’re someone in the last photo.

http://ontwowheels-eh.blogspot.com/2013/03/only-italians.html

Wives always tell the truth…

…even when you don’t need them to!

Picture 33A while back I went to a ‘Bike Night’ hosted by a local dealership at a popular drive-in burger joint (aren’t they all?). I took a sh*tload of pictures ( thank god, and Nikon, for digital camera’s) and met a bunch of very friendly and enthusiastic riders.

There must have been at least 300 hundred bikes in the parking lot and more on the street. Cafe racers, cruisers, vintage bikes and a couple of very cool sidecar rigs. You name it, it was there. This was a time and place that being a motorcyclist was more important than what you rode or what you wore.Picture 34

As the evening went along I made friends with a couple from Ireland, they had just moved here to California and were enjoying the bike culture that we have here. He told me great stories of riding in the UK, going to the Isle of Man TT and taking part in ‘Mad Sunday’, and the cafe racer society hanging out at the Ace Cafe in London. The stories got better as the Guinness bottles lined up next to his bike.

Around 10 o’clock the parking lot was thinning out and it was time to ride home. Nial and his wife were heading the same direction as me so we left together. The minute we pulled onto the street Nial launched a huge wheelie, almost leaving his wife on the street, and then just disappeared down the road. I said my goodbye’s inside my helmet and rode casually on. It wasn’t too long after that I spotted my new friends visiting with a local policeman. I stopped behind the cop car and got just close enough to listen to the conversation.

The officer had stopped Nial for speeding and here is what I heard of the conversation…
Officer, “do you know how fast you were going sir?”
Nial, “no sir”
Officer, “you were doing 85 in a 35 mile an hour zone”
Nial.”I couldn’t have been, this bike won’t do 85 in 2nd gear?”
At this point the officer looks at Nial’s wife and asks her, “do you believe that he wasn’t doing 85 miles per hour?”
Wife, ” I never argue with him when he’s been drinking like this…”
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I ended up giving Nials wife a ride home because he did leave her on the street anyway.

Everybody has their own sense of style

I’m an open minded kind of guy, I think. I like all kinds of food (including stuff that if you really knew what it was you wouldn’t get it anywhere near your mouth), most all kinds of music (I learned to like punk because of my son but I will never accept rap as a form of music…), and even some friends choice of wives (or husbands as the case may be).

Picture 28The area that I think I am the most open minded is motorcycles. As far as I’m concerned if it has two wheels and a motor, it’s great! I like most all motorcyclists as well. Ok, I do have a bit of a problem when it comes to certain motorcycle brand owners that are too into the ‘lifestyle’ instead of actually riding their status symbol, but I’m working hard at getting over it and thousands of hours in therapy are helping. I like cafe racers, dual sports, adventure bikes, long distance tourers, stretched out choppers, bobbers, baggers, vintage English bikes, UJM’s from the 80’s, and scooters too. I love motorcycles, even the ones you wouldn’t be caught dead riding much less be in your garage.

Picture 20For some strange reason though, I have this weird affinity for the little old Honda 350. I have seen them laying in fields by the side of the road (that is where I found the first one I bought for my dad, yes I did like him), in the farthest back corner of an abandoned warehouse, in the basement of an old house in Hollywood (I did buy one there, really), a good number of them turn up at Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Swap Meets, and on ebay (generally way over valued).

Picture 23I have seen Honda’s omnipresent 350 turned into cafe racers,desert racers (I have had both), choppers and bobbers.Grocery getters and student commuters. Todd Henning is the Guru of making Honda 350 roadracers that put bigger, more modern bikes to shame on the track. I have even seen some left stock?! The Honda 350 is the one bike that you can buy without breaking the bank (or even having to ask the bank…your wife…) and turn into anything you want it to be. That’s why I love ’em.

While looking for parts for my latest SL350 Cafe’ Racer project the other day, I came upon the coolest, or at least the most unique, styling treatment I have ever seen for a Honda 350.
High heeled cb350

I can’t imagine any high fashion woman not wanting to ride around in this classic Honda. Soichiro is probably turning over in his grave right now.

It’s been a long time coming

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.