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.
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.
I have spent the vast majority of my life on two wheels. From riding a Schwinn Stingray to school, throwing newspapers onto porches pedaling that same Stingray…well…occasionally the paper ended up on the roof or in the shrubs…”sorry Mrs. Cleaver…”. I wish I still had that Stingray…do you know much that would be worth on ebay right now??!! About the same time I started getting really interested in girls I also got the motorcycle bug. My friend Byron down the street had a Taco mini bike that we terrorized the neighborhood on for years but now, it just wasn’t cool enough. I needed a real motorcycle.
My first experience being on a real motorcycle was when my dad came home from Vietnam in 1966. The first things he did was buy a new car and a new motorcycle. The car; 1966 Chevy Impala SS, the bike; a brand new Honda CB160. Looking back I wonder…why did he buy a big Chevy with a really big motor, I think it was the either the 396 or the 427, and then buy a ‘little’ motorcycle? If you’re goin’ big go BIG…he could have gotten a Triumph, BSA or a Harley… and in the words of the late John Belushi…”But Noooooooo” he had to buy a little Honda.??!!
I was fourteen years old and I was spending a few days with my dad when he took me on my first driving lesson out at the Marine Corps base…I didn’t get to drive the Chevy, I drove my step moms VW, oh well, you’ve got to start somewhere. But then…but then…came, “you want to ride the Honda?”… “gee Dad, let me think about this a whilel, YEAH!!!” I may have called that Honda 160 ‘little’ but when you’re fourteen, sitting on that bike was better than kissing the prettiest girl in school. And what did I do??…I promptly rode into the rear bumper of my dad’s new Impala…yes, I Impaled the Impala…sorry dad. A rather auspicious start to a long motorcycle career don’t you think?
I was fourteen years old when I started riding motorcycles, started racing at sixteen and you know what I’ve learned of late? I was a late bloomer.
In my job as a Moto Journalist I have had the opportunity to interview and spend time with every type of rider. Racers, travelers, industry types, photographers and everyday riders…it’s a great job. There is always one common denominator, the love of riding a motorcycle. Where does that love come from? Usually it’s dad, an uncle or a big brother…sometimes all three and occasionally it’s a friend who goes through the “this is the clutch, this is the brake,shifter…one down and three up” ritual with you. Most women I have talked with got the bug from a boyfriend or husband…I think they got tired of looking at the back of his helmet or, more often, telling themselves they can ride ride better than him.
About a year ago at the AMA Grand National Flat Track races in Pomona, California I was walking the pits doin’ my job…talkin’ to racers. I usually don’t spend too much time on race reports, I like to get to know the racer and the question I ask of everyone I talk with is…”how old were you when you started riding motorcycles?”. Everybody has a fun story about when they first threw a leg over a motorcycle.
On the way home from the race, I was mentally editing the interview’s and one common thread came through…nearly all of the riders I spoke with started riding very,very young. Somewhere between Pasadena and Fillmore I started reviewing all my roadracing interviews as well and I came up with the same thread. I worked through my interviews…MotoGP, World Superbike, AMA Superbike, AMA Flat Track, Motocross and here is what I found. Most all these champion racers were barely out of diapers when they started riding and racing. Take a guess, how old do you think most of these guys were when they first threw a leg over a motorcycle? If you said ‘four’, you win the prize…that’s right, four years old. At four years old pretty much all they could spell was PW50 or JR50 which, were the two most common bikes all these racers started on.
So what have I learned from all this research? I was a racer of no renown because I started ten years too late and that I’m going to have get my grandson a PW50 in about three years. Now if I can just convince his mother…..
There’s an old saying, “something is only worth what somebody else is willing to pay for it”. I write another blog about vintage motorcycles, www.vintagemotorcycles.wordpress.com and here is where I learn what people think their motorcycle is worth and I will say this right off the bat, some people have a very inflated sense of the value of their motorcycle or their 1970 metalflake helmet.
In my years as a surf shop owner I spent a great deal of time helping people determine the value of the used surfboard they wanted to sell. A customer would come in toting an old surfboard that maybe they have had for years or they picked it up at a garage sale somewhere for a few dollars, either way it’s time to sell it. I would always start off the conversation by asking how much do you want for it? The customer would reply, “how much is it worth?”, next is me asking again how much they want for it, knowing that they do have a dollar figure in mind…getting that figure out of them is a very funny game of cat and mouse. This game goes on for just a bit and then I throw out a price of what I think I can sell it for (we sold surfboards on consignment for a small percentage). One of three things happen now, the customer is surprised in a good way, they’re offended or sometimes I get lucky and I’m right there with what they had in mind. At least half the time it’s door number two. If the offended one doesn’t walk out the door in a huff, I try to explain why I put the value on their board that I did. It comes from the knowledge of knowing what it will sell for, not what it may be worth. There is a difference.
The other difference I have to explain to people whether we are talking about surfboards or motorcycles, is the difference between just old and classic. What is the difference? To make it as simple as I can, a ‘classic’ is something that truly stood out in it’s time and has stood the test of time. A ‘classic’ is something iconic, something that helped define that time period, either technologically or sociologically. In surfboards, a 1967 Dewey Weber Performer is a classic, a 1967 stock production, no model name surfboard is just an old board. A Honda CM400A is just an old motorcycle, a 1969 Honda CB750 is a classic. A Kawasaki Samurai is a neat motorcycle but it’s just an old motorcycle, a ’72 H2 is a classic. You get my point here I hope.
I spend a portion of each morning perusing ebay for cool old motorcycles or interesting parts for my vintage motorcycle blog. If I find something interesting that I have some history with, I write a story about it, add some pictures then post it. If I find something interesting that I don’t know much about, I do some research and then write what I have learned..spread the knowledge you know. But here’s the best part of looking at bikes on ebay…the value a seller puts on the motorcycle. I catch myself laughing out loud every morning, I guess laughter is the best way to start the day. For some people the price is based on sentimental value, “I have had this bike since I was just a boy back on the farm in Iowa”, or, ” I completely restored this bike from the ground up, I have $7324.14 in receipts”, opening bid for this Honda CB350 is $7500. Here’s the deal folks, sentimental value does not translate in real world value. If you don’t want to sell it for a realistic price, then don’t put it on the market. If you spend $7324.14 on a CB350, well first, you should be institutionalized, then you have to realize that every dollar you put into it was for your own enjoyment. When you add accessories or do restoration work, the rule of thumb is that you can expect to get back around half of what you put into it. That’s the real world.
I put together a little list of bikes I thought fit in the “you must be kidding” category, ready…? A rusty, sidecover missing, fenders all scuffed up 1979 Honda XR80 for only $2000. How about a custom Maico dirtbike from the ’70’s for a paltry $7,000, or maybe you have fancy a dirty, banged up, yellowed gas tank, not sure of the mileage or hours on the bike ’88 Yamaha BIG Wheel with a starting price of $3500. How does a very nicely restored 1968 Suzuki T500 for $7000 fit in your garage? Now here is where the fun really begins. How can you turn down the opportunity to buy a 1969 Indian 50cc minibike in well used condition for only $2600. I don’t even think you could get that much for one of the Harley Clone Indians from a couple of years ago!?
And here is the capper for the day, a beautiful, 99% original 1978 Kawasaki Z1R turbo that will only lighten your wallet by $25,000, you can actually find a real nice one for less than half that.
What do all these bikes have in common? besides crazy prices, they have all been on ebay a while, and they all have zero bids. I wonder why.
So what was my point in writing this today, it’s not really to make fun of anybody or what they believe the value of their motorcycle is, the point was to take my experience in selling used goods for people and use it to help somebody think about pricing their Suzuki 250 triple that needs work, or that 1970 metalflake helmet to sell..not languish about on ebay. If you want to sell it, sell it. Get a fair price for it and be happy. Like my old friend Doug used to say, “buy it for $1, sell it for $2 and be happy with a one percent profit”
…to watch a MotoGP race when you can’t be there?
You get your motorcycling friends together at your house to watch the race on TV. Some are former racers (me and Jay), some are still racing (Craig and Howard), some that wished they were still racing (me), and those that never raced but love motorcycle racing…the wives. Throw in a few more motorcycle bums and you have a Race Watch Party.
Years ago, I started a tradition amongst our group of motorcycling friends of getting together to watch races, share some good food, drink some good beer (excepting my son, who likes Budweiser) and in general have a great time.
Over the years some friends have moved away, new friends have come into the cult, the races are being watched by little kids who can’t even reach the handlebars (but can reach the buttons on the TV!) and the food has gotten better and more plentiful…hence the ever expanding waistline and the need for a bigger motorcycle…good thing the Grand Prix racing season is only six months long!!! But who’s complaining?
So, when you can’t enjoy the crowds at the races, the cheering for a good pass or the ‘Oh sh*t’s when someone crashes…thanks to Speed TV and some great friends you can have most of the excitement right in your own living room. Now if only someone would invent ‘Smellevision’…I love the smell of race gas…
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