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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
The 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.
For 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).
I 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.
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.
I started attending church when I was eight years old. The local Presbyterian church is where my grandmother decided I should go to learn about God and Jesus. Ok?…when you live with your grandmother and you’re only eight years old you can’t argue can you?! But, eight years later I really learned about God and Jesus.
In 1968 my mom married Mike, a good guy who loved motorcycles. 1968 turned out to be the year I left the Presbyterian church to join ‘The Church of Speed’ and really came to know God and his Son. Most all Sunday’s I found myself either going way too fast on a canyon road or bouncing along in the middle of the Mojave Desert (occasionally wondering where the hell I was??) on a Bultaco motorcycle that was as untrustworthy as an unattended dog near a big picnic table loaded with food. In both situations I was constantly saying “Oh GOD help me” or “Oh Jesus get me out of this” and more often, “Holy SH*t”.
Recently I was searching my library for a book I hadn’t read before or at least not in the past few years when my phone rang and divine intervention took over. The call was from my old friend Rob, the Pastor of Bikers Church back in Ottawa Canada. He is planning another trip out west this summer and was asking route advice. As I was pulling out my old maps I told him about my search for a new book and it took him less time to come up with a suggestion that it takes Ricky Gadsen to come off the starting line at a National Drag Race…”The Bible” he said. “When was the last time you read it?” I told him I was sixteen when I last read the ‘Good Book’, “well it’s about time you revisited it” he said. After talking about his trip and his urging me to read the Bible numerous times we said our goodbyes and made plans to meet on the road.
Knowing that Rob would ask me Bible questions when we next talked I picked up the book and started reading. Genesis was good but it was Exodus that really got my interest. It was in the book of Exodus that I discovered that Triumph motorcycles have been around a lot longer than most people think. Sure, Triumph has been telling everyone that they have been around since 1902 but if you read the book of Exodus closely you will find that Triumph has been making motorcycles since biblical times. When Moses led the Jews out of Egypt, he did it on a motorcycle! Really. And how do I know this? It says it right there in the bible…”the roar of Moses’ Triumph could be heard throughout the hills!”
And…here’s the original Triumph owners manual!
Long way to go for a bad joke huh?!
Ok, here I am sitting at my computer on a truly beautiful day in Southern California wishing I was out riding my motorcycle instead. Such is life for all too many of us. Doing research for a story about Vintage Triumph 250’s, I open up my Thumper Talk Newsletter email and am glad I’m only riding a keyboard today and not a Honda in the sand dunes.
Ok, back to work…you too. Thanks to Thumper Talk (www.thumpertalk.com) for a well needed laugh…even if it is at someone else’s expense.
Have you ever seen one? Do you even know what a Winnie Wasto is? Well, set right down and let me tell you. A Winnie Wasto was the preferred mode of race transportation for one of the biggest stars in Motocross racing. Every week, legions of fans would follow this star’s exploits on the track in the nations favorite weekly motorcycle newspaper, Cycle News. This racer wasn’t a legend because of his success on the race track, quite the opposite, he was legendary for his perseverance in the face of absolute disaster. Broken bones, broken motorcycle, dead motorhome…it didn’t matter, this racer was at the track every week racing as if he stood a chance of winning. Who is this legend of motocross? It could only be Motocross Cat himself.
I started reading Cycle News in 1967 or ’68 when I started racing. My step dad got us a subscription when I got into racing and from then on I kept renewing that subscription for the next twenty years. Each week when Cycle News would show up Michael (my step dad) and I would fight over who got to read it first, he would always pull the old “I paid for the magazine so I’m first”, or “if it wasn’t for me you wouldn’t be looking for your name in there” and of course there was, ” I’m faster than you, that’s why I get it first”…that one only worked for about a year, maybe. We finally came up with a plan that was fair and it made reading Cycle News more interesting.
Instead of reading it all at one time and then having to wait a whole week for the next one to arrive, we picked certain segments to read each day…kind of like those people who read one bible passage a day? Hey, Cycle News was our bible. The first day was to skim the paper for two things, a story about the race you were in last weekend and then any other stories you might want to read later. The second days passage was ‘The Latest Poop’ by Papa Wheelie. Day three was Motocross Cat. The rest of the week was reading the other stories, feature articles and looking at all the ads for stuff that you knew would make you go faster. Every real racer knew everything in Cycle News every week.
Cycle News was one of the pillars of Moto Journalism for nearly five decades. There are a great many racers and journalists who owe the Clayton family (founders of Cycle News) a debt of gratitude for being instrumental in their careers. The list is long, loaded with names that are legendary both behind the handlebars and the typewriter. Cycle News truly was the window into the motorcycle racing world that we all looked through.
As I was thinking of how to write this story, I decided I wasn’t going to head down the path of why Cycle News succumbed, plenty of others have already done that. I want to remember Cycle News as something I looked forward to every week and while I would sit there in my garage staring at a broken Bultaco or a beat up Honda I could always read Motocross Cat, get a smile on my face and be thankful I didn’t have to work on his bike.
Thank you Cycle News, I will miss you.