Tag Archives: harley davidson

The Motor Company has been sold

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls…The Motor Company, Harley Davidson has left the building. With stock prices tumbling, motorcycle sales on a serious downhill slide, newly appointed CEO Keith Wandell…after collecting a nice $6,4000,000 paycheck, has, along with the pending approval of the board of directors, decided to sell the Harley Davidson Motor Company.

Originally, rumors were that ‘The Motor Company’ would become a Chinese based firm following in the footsteps of Jaguar, Volvo and Benelli. Today, it was revealed that Harley Davidson is going to Russia not China.

Russian motorcycle builder Ural, has found the funding to buy the iconic American motorcycle company for an undisclosed amount. Ural has been gaining market share for the past five years worldwide with their versions of early generation BMW motorcycles and have decided that the American V-Twin motorcycle is their next target.

We here at The MotoWorld wish the new company ‘Ural Harley’ the best of luck. It’s a good thing today is April 1st….

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Divine intervention?

Feelings… we all have them. No, this is not about getting in touch with my feminine side, or getting my feelings hurt when a woman didn’t like what I made for dinner, it is however about intimacy. The closeness we motorcyclists share with our bikes.

Currently I have a friend riding around the country over roads he has never ridden, weather conditions he has never experienced, towns he has never seen and people he has never met. The one constant is his motorcycle, the bike he has ridden for years and trusts completely. His journey is and will continue to be great.CIMG7745

The other day I was preparing to leave on a short trip up the California coast then over the Sierra’s and home through the desert, my idea of a perfect ride. I loaded up my relatively new to me BMW, donned my riding gear, pushed the button and….pushed the button…and…damn. Change of plans…change of ride.

Sitting in the corner of our barn is my Triumph Daytona, battery tender still attached. Take the blanket off, turn the key, hit the button and…the growl of the three cylinder motor fills the barn. “Baby..we’re goin’ for a ride!!” Change the luggage from the BMW hard bags to the old soft saddlebags..eliminate a few things…”let’s see, do I really need a rain suit?…uh yeah”…it went like that for a few minutes and packing was done. Set tyre pressures, check the oil and chain adjustment…it’s time to go.

Roll the Triumph out of the barn, kiss Heather goodbye, climb on the bike, hit the button, pull in the clutch, click into first gear and head out onto the road. I know this feeling. I have spent nearly 100 thousand miles on this bike, I know this feeling very, very well.

The feeling you have when you know something so well is so unique and so special it is hard to describe but it’s there. The feeling of each corner of your favorite road, the curves of your favorite wife…wait…better be your only wife…and the feeling you get when you ride a motorcycle that you have traveled many, many miles on. CIMG6321

On this trip we rode familiar roads where everything just flowed, the lightest push on the handlebar moved my Daytona just where I wanted it to go, just the right amount of throttle and brake kept everything under control. On new roads my comfort on the bike made the ride easy and enjoyable. On our way home, knowing my motorcycle became more important than I could have imagined.

Highway 395 here in California is actually not a boring ride; mountains, lakes, valleys and deserts…if you have to ride up and down this state, 395 is a good ride. Normally. This time we encountered hurricane force winds that scared the bejeebers out of us. It was a very hard long ride home. For nearly three hundred miles it was a fight…me and my Triumph against the wind. We won.

Once home and completely beat, I started to think how grateful I was that I was riding my Triumph on this trip. Under the worst of conditions I was on the motorcycle I knew best. I know everything that bike will and won’t do. There were times I was truly scared of getting blown off the road, but knowing just how much input to give the bars, throttle and brakes because of the intimate connection I have with this motorcycle, I got home safe and sound…worn out, but home.

Have you ever thought about ‘divine intervention’? or whatever you might call something happening for a reason you can’t explain? Well, the thought came to me during the ride in the wind…I was planning on riding my BMW which we have only spent a couple thousand miles together, but it decided it didn’t want to go on this ride. So, I rode the Triumph instead. I honestly believe that because of my closeness with my Daytona I made it home without incident. If I had been on the BMW the trip may have ended differently.

Final thought for the day…The BMW didn’t want to risk itself being tossed on the ground, so it decided not to go. You know how I know this…it started just fine this morning. Who says motorcycles don’t have feelings?

The Parade Mentality…again, sadly

I wrote an article a while back titled, ‘The Parade Mentality’ it was about a group of riders riding two by two, side by side slowly down the road holding up traffic. The riders finally pulled off the road to the delight of the mile long stretch of motorcycles, cars and motorhomes behind them. Think about how embarassing it must be know that on a motorcycle, you’re holding up a motorhome??!! Anyway, this version of ‘The Parade Mentality’ is a bit different. Sadly.

A good friend of mine, Steve McQueen ..not the dead one but the very alive one, is a Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructor(www.motorcyclenationpodcast.com) and a rider with years of experience. He can teach you much. One thing that all motorcyclists should know, either from being told by ridinig friends, reading your DMV test booklet or taking the MSF course from my friend Steve( or his counterparts, wherever you may live), is how to ride in groups.

Steve teaches basic riding skills and, working with other organizations, more advanced skills. One of the advanced skills is how to ride in groups. The group may only be three or four riders, it may twenty or more but the same basic rules and skiills apply. Riders are taught to ride in a staggered formation, never side by side nor too close together. And there is a good reason why.motorcycle_crash_200

1253391367Here is what happens when ‘The Parade Mentality’ gets in the way of safe and common sense riding. A dozen riders off to the hospital, some with serious injuries, a major interstate closed down for hours and all because one or two riders couldn’t stop fast enough..hit the cars ahead of them and the rest of ‘The Parade’ ran into them…instead of being cool, how about being smart.

What is a Biker?

What is a ‘Biker’? A good and sometimes confusing question. Is a ‘biker’ a Harley rider with a leather vest and a pudding pot helmet, or is it someone who simply rides a motorcycle?

The other evening, over green chile crab enchiladas and cold beers my friend Rob Dale from Canada and I pondered the question. Rob is spending a month riding around the US visiting friends and taking in the sights. Rob is Senior Pastor at the Bikers Church in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and by his own description, a ‘biker’.CIMG7747 Rob does ride a Harley, and yeah he wears a leather vest and a pudding pot helmet, but his description of a biker is quite different than what most people would think.

When I told someone once that I rode motorcycles, the first comment was “So, you’re a biker,” followed by the question, “Do you have a Harley?” My response to both was “No, I do ride motorcycles but I’m not a ‘biker’ and no, I don’t own a Harley, I ride a Honda.” I remember the look on the person’s face as almost disappointment.

Back to the question of what is a biker? Most of us equate ‘biker’ with the Marlon Brando character in the ‘Wild One’, or Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in ‘Easy Rider’, the guy…or gal, that rides past you on a very loud Harley Davidson scaring the bejeebers out of you. Big boots, lots of leather, tattoos and attitude…that’s a biker. Well, maybe not.CIMG7744

Years back, I was riding a little Triumph Daytona 500 up in the Los Padres National Forrest and wouldn’t you know it, just as I was about ready to turn around and head home..it quit. English hunk o’ junk. There I was on the side of the road with a dead bike, wonderful, just freakin’ wonderful. Now this was in the days before cell phones; hell…this was still in the days of rotary dial phones..so I am stranded. Then the road started to rumble.

Earthquake? Well, sort of… a group of riders heading up the road on big bikes and wearing jackets that I recognized from a rather well known and not necessarily well liked motorcycle club. A few went by then a couple stopped a ways ahead of me and then a few more and I was surrounded. As you can imagine, I was a little more than nervous. One rather large guy came up and asked if I was Ok and what was the problem? I wasn’t sure of the problem. Another equally large guy came up and said he worked on Triumph. To make a long story short, within about twenty minutes my little Triumph was running great, I mean better than it had for a long time. After thank you’s were said and well wishes for a good ride the ‘bikers’ headed on and I headed home.

Rob and I talked about ‘bikers’ for quite a while. He called me a ‘biker.’ Me? I ride an old BMW, a kind of old Triumph and a little old Honda 350. Marlon Brando or Peter Fonda I’m not. I’m not even Rob..but in his eyes, I’m a biker. But why? Well, we came to the conclusion that the motorcycling community is a big family if you want it to be. I was helped on the side of the road by motorcyclists I didn’t know. I invited a fellow rider I didn’t really know into my home for the night. Riders often wave at each other on the road and non riders ask why? My answer is, well, we’re a small part of society and we have a unique bond.CIMG7749

So, if waving at each other on the road, helping some poor guy stuck on the side of the road or inviting a fellow rider over for supper makes me or you a ‘biker’..I’m proud to be a ‘biker’.

Thanks Rob

If it wasn’t for bad luck…

… we’d have no luck at all… and then there’s ‘ the best laid plans of mice and men’… and lastly, ‘what could go wrong?’…we’ve all heard those sayings and for some of us they are all too true.

Building a Bonneville Streamliner is no easy task. First there is the design concept, then the engineering, “what do you mean you don’t fit in the cockpit?”CIMG7233… all the parts, replacing parts, re-engineering for the third time and all the while reading the rulebook…’the tilt sensor has to be set for what angle??’ When you finally think you’re ready, it’s off to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah with lofty goals of a Land Speed Record. Besides all the work you put into the bike, you also need a healthy dose of luck.

This year our team, Left Coast Racing, was mounting its third assault on ‘The Salt’. Past parachute and shifter problems had been dealt with, new electronics installed and a nose cone mounted…we were ready, what could go wrong?? Tempting fate is never a wise move.

It’s a long drive from Southern California to Bonneville, we decided to split it into two days. First stop Las Vegas…confusion at the hotel, room change and a really bad rollaway bed, not a good start…a portent of things to come?? Nah..just a no sleep night. Saturday morning , a really bad hotel breakfast…we should have hit one of the casinos for their $4.99 all you can eat breakfast buffet’s, it would have to have been better.

Interesting drive up what is known as the ‘extraterrestrial highway’; you know, I didn’t see any extraterrestrials or UFO’s… all those extra miles for nothing, sheesh. Finally we caught a glimpse of the Great Salt Lake, I have seen Salt Lake many times and it never ceases to amaze me. No matter how many times you go to a race track, when you see it from a distance and know you’re almost there and you’re going to be racing on it soon, your heart speeds up, your breathing steps up and mentally you are already racing.

Our first day was spent getting the bike tech inspected; a few minor adjustments here and there and we were ready to fly. Well, some tweaks were not quite so minor…re-engineering for the fourth time. Lets go racing…uh tomorrow.CIMG7157

The Bonneville Speed Trials are an interesting dichotomy. The long track (also known as the International track) is either eleven miles or eight miles long and the Mountain Track is either five or three miles long. We started our record quest on the long track. You get anywhere from two to five miles to build up speed and then speed through the measured mile, the whole run takes anywhere from five to seven minutes tops, but…you have been waiting in line for nearly two, maybe three hours. Bonneville is the epitome of ‘hurry up and wait’. The good thing about waiting, at least for a journalist like me, I get to meet and talk to a lot of interesting people. But, more about the luck of ‘Left Coast Racing’.

Monday morning dawned bright and beautiful and no wind!! Perfect for running a streamliner. After a good three hour wait at Mile Zero, the starting line, our Norton powered streamliner was green flagged. The moment Eric, launched the bike…our luck struck…the parachute popped out??!! WTH?? Right at the starting line?? One-quarter mile later Eric and the Norton were laying on it’s side. there went that day. The rest of the afternoon was spent figuring out why the chute popped out…by time we got the problem sorted, there was no way we could get another run in. “Anyone want a beer?” Nobody said no.

Tuesday morning, motto for the day..”we’re prepared , what can go wrong?” Again, tempting the gods is not a smart move when it comes to racing. Another loooooonnnggg wait and we’re back on the track. Eric launched the bike perfectly, the motor sounded great and off we went to catch him at the end of the track. One of the great things about the BUB Speed Trials is that they have a dedicated radio frequency to broadcast what is going on all day…so we’re listening to Eric’s time while he is still on the track…104mph. What??? This thing is geared for around 212mph..what happened?? The announcer said something about damage to the bike as it passed the timing lights. What happened?

CIMG7516The Salt Flats are sitting on top of parts of The Great Salt Lake and every now and then you get a ‘pothole’. Not a good thing on a race track. Track workers spotted it, put cones all around it, warned Eric at the start about the cones but for some reason Eric was determined to aim for those cones. Back to the pits with our crippled motorcycle. Clean up the damage and it’s back to the track. The next run would be great right? Right? A sputtering motor kept the ‘liner to a slow 105 mph.

When you tempt the racing gods, they send the ignition gremlins. Four hours of searching, changing, searching more and changing more; builder Ken and master mechanic Kevin think they have the problem solved. However, it was too late to make another run that day. “Anyone want a beer?” Again, nobody said no.

Welcome to Wednesday morning and high hopes for a good run. We get to the Salt Flats early so we can get a jump on the day. Right out to the staging area to take our place in line and visit with everyone else hanging around for their turn to run. Tom Mellor and his 195 mph Triumph Trident ( towed by a Rolls Royce )CIMG7435 is there, the worlds fastest 50cc streamliner is there as is the former Land Speed Racing record holder, the BUB #7. We’re all back to waiting, that’s part of Bonneville, we’re used to it. While waiting I had a moment to talk with Chris Carr, pilot of the BUBS#7, former Land Speed record holder, multi-time national flat track champion and all around good guy…I asked him about the Indy Mile a couple of days before and then we talked about the BUBS Streamliner, he told me they were having some issues ..fuel? ignition? They didn’t know…HA..even the big guys get caught by the gremlins.

Our turn finally comes up…ok, we’re ready, lets go. Eric launches perfectly, the bike sounds great, and off we go chasing him down. Over the radio comes his speed, 125mph…only 125 we thought? Something still has to be wrong…big sighs from the team. When we pick up Eric he tells us he never got out of third gear. What?? Now, always wanting to think positively, I looked on the bright side…”hey, 125mph in third gear!?. that’s great!! Imagine what it will be at the top of fifth!!” By the looks I got from the rest of the team, being Mr. Sunshine wasn’t going over so well.

If you want to set a Land Speed record at Bonneville, you have to make two runs…one up and one back within a certain period of time, making no modifications to the motorcycle. Even at 125mph we were on record pace so we set out for our return run. Again, a good launch but…it sounded like we hadn’t exorcized all the gremlins, Eric’s top speed 105mph. Back to the pits to start the process all over again. Another few hours of searching revealed…not much. It was getting late in the day, the track was closed and the restaurant was going to close soon. “Anyone want a beer?”

Now, its Thursday, the last day, we have until three o’clock to achieve our goals and set the record for our class. We have done everything we can so now it’s up to the ‘Salt Gods’. After waiting for what seems like an eternity… is this beginning to sound familiar??..we’re lined up, Eric is strapped in and………the Norton won’t start. Are we out of gas? Can’t be, but it won’t start and it won’t start. Our hearts sank, this was our last chance. I couldn’t muster up a Mr. Sunshine comment. We just went back to the pits in silence. “Anyone want a beer?”..no answer required, I just passed them out and cursed the ignition gremlins.

We packed up our home away from home and headed back to the hotel. Showers, another beer and off to dinner to start making plans for next year. That is one of the beauty’s of racing..there’s always the next race. There is only one problem with running a streamliner, you can’t just run it up and down your street to see if it’s running right…your neighbors won’t like you and neither will the local constables.

Friday morning we say good bye to Kevin as he heads home to Reno, Ken, Eric and I start the long trip back to Southern California. It’s an easy drive, long, but easy. Breakfast at the Silver Cafe in Pioche, Nevada, the best breakfast I have had all week. Next stop Las Vegas.

Like I started this tale with, if it wasn’t bad luck we’d have no luck at all. While leaving the gas station in Las Vegas, we discovered that someone had put concrete posts at the end of the gas pump islands right where we wanted to go…how inconsiderate…one of those posts took the fender right off our trailer and bent the axle. Didn’t we leave the gremlins behind in Utah? Fortunatley a trailer supply house was literally around the corner and three hours later we were back on the road to home. CIMG7654

The Bonneville Salt Flats is a very humbling place, not only for the fact that it can dash your hopes of being in the Land Speed Racing record books, but also for it’s stark beauty. Flat, white and seemingly endless. Mountains seem to float in the sky, motorcycles disappear into the distance followed only by the wail of the exhaust. Bonneville is so much more than seeing how fast your motorcycle will go. There is something about the salt thats brings you back year after year. Whether you are riding, wrenching or writing, the salt gets in your blood. I’ll be back next year, nothing could keep me away.

Guitars and Motorbikes

A little while back I wrote a story called ‘The Sound of Music’, my friend Bernie on his motorcycle at Willow Springs and on stage playing guitar with his band ‘Turn 9’. The synergy of the two.

Last weekend while celebrating a friends birthday over some of Kentucky’s finest, we expanded the idea…matching up classic guitars with classic motorcycles or maybe iconic guitars and motorcycles. We started with a Gibson Les Paul mated with a Matchless G50 Single, perfect. A Fender Telecaster with an early model Harley Sportster..well, maybe? Then another perfect fit hit us, an Indian Chief with a National Steel guitar.

As the evening continued on and more Makers Mark was consumed, the match ups got better and more difficult. Now the disclaimer here…nobody in this discussion was riding or driving…we all have very tolerant,wonderful and sober wives.

I put this concept out to friends and got some good match ups..interestingly enough though, most of of the pairings involved Harley Davidson. Fender guitars used to place ads in magazines such as Surfer in the 1960’s featuring their guitars alongside either a woody, a Triumph Bonneville, even a little Honda step through..you remember them..”you meet the nicest people on a Honda”, and of course, a Harley Davidson Sportster.

Then the e-mails started coming. After sorting through them I pulled a few that I thought interesting. My friend John Wayne, yes thats his real name, is the best automotive exhaust guy just about anywhere..he knows sound and flow..his pairing was his own 1965 Harley XLH and his Gretsch Country Gentleman guitar. I liked it. Josh Chinn submitted his chopped ‘67 Triumph alongside his Fender Sunburst Telecaster, he even painted the bike to match the guitar. Next up was Susan Elliot from Chicago, her match up was her dad’s old Martin acoustic and his old Harley Electra Glide. She couldn’t remember the year of the bike or the guitar, they have both been sitting in her garage for almost 20 years since her father passed away.

And lastly…and certainly the best… Ian Livingston of Casitas Springs California..I hope you’re ready for this one…a 1959 Gibson Flying ‘V’ guitar and…and…his 1967…Vespa. I kid you not. I laughed so hard I scared my dog, but then, it made perfect sense. Why would that make sense you ask?? Ian used to live in Europe, played in a band and raced scooters. Too cool.Ian and his Vespa2

This is only the beginning of this train of thought..there have been a good number of friends who have come up with great motorcycles and music ideas. Some are old and worn out and some intriguing. Let’s see where this train takes us.

Pack Rats…you gotta love ’em

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Boxes and boxes of motorcycle parts stacked floor to ceiling, some have labels, most don’t. Frames and wheels hanging from the rafters, gas tanks here and there, a bunch of mufflers piled up in a corner along with a stack of tires that you would never ride on. There are motorcycle parts that haven’t seen the light of day since the Nixon administration. You’ve got  a few ‘project’ bikes scattered around that haven’t seen any ‘project’ since he brought them home and there may be a bike or two that actually run…well, if he had a battery for it. And then there is that one motorcycle that actually does run, has decent tires and he rides regularly. We all know someone like that.

cimg54071“Well,  this here’s a story about a man named Mel, a poor pack rat whose garage looked like hell”… , you gotta go with the Beverly Hillbillies theme here…Mel is the consummate pack rat, as a matter of fact I think he could get his own TV show on HGTV, ‘How to be a professional pack rat’.

Mel is my son’s Father in Law, a really great guy and I’m lucky to have him as a family member.  We didn’t  meet until the kids had decided to get married. “Uh Oh…guess we better meet the other side of the family”, over to the house for dinner we go. In typical guy fashion, we head out to the garage. Mel opens the door and I can’t see a thing. Not because the lights aren’t on, no…it’s because there is stuff floor to ceiling and wall to wall. From antique radios to junk picked up at yard sales and thrift shops, work benches covered with boxes of who knows what (even he doesn’t know!!) and some really cool motorcycles and motorcycle stuff.

Mel  told me about some of his motorcycling history and, as it turns out,we have a few mutual friends. We had a lot of fun talking about this bike and that bike. He points out the ’73 Ducati 750GT hanging from the rafters, but where’s the motor I ask? “um, it’s somewhere over there?” pointing in the direction of a stack of old marine radios. OK.  The conversation switches to radios for a while but I’m still looking for motorcycles.  I know there are some buried treasures somewhere in there.cimg5414

Last Wednesday I stopped by Mel’s to give him a manual for a Zenith Trans Oceanic radio that a friend had given me. I knew that Mel had a least a couple of these radios and would like the book.  When I pulled up to his house my eyes bulged out and my jaw dropped.  It looked like a quarter of his garage was in the driveway and in amongst the boxes and radios was… and you need to be sitting for this.. a Vincent Black Shadow, getting ready to be loaded into someone else’s truck, a Norton International also on it’s way to a new home and a beautiful Harley Davidson ‘K’ model just sitting there.  These were the treasures I knew were buried deep in that garage.

A little more digging turned up a ‘1976 BMW R90S that has been sitting for fifteen years, a Harley XR750 Flat Tracker in a few pieces (with hand cut Goodyear tires and all), a 1939 HRD Comet that needed some TLC and a hand built Schwinn Paramount racing bicycle.   Hanging in the rafters are gas tanks off Velocettes, Ducatis, a BSA and a brand new handbuilt aluminum tank for the XR750. Wheels with vintage exotic brakes, bits and pieces of exhaust systems and a fender or two for good measure.cimg5428

As Mel was searching for more parts for the Harley that was going to new home, he would come across something else special and every one of these parts came with a story. “This one was handmade for me by a guy in England, it’s the only one of it’s kind…” or, “ my friend met a guy at the Playboy Club in London and they rode out toCoventry to get this part and…”. The stories went on and I realized that though the parts had stories, the real story was Mel himself.