A number of years ago I met Nicky Hayden at Laguna Seca Raceway during a MotoGP event. My Podcast had only been running a couple of years but Nicky was gracious enough to spend a few minutes with me. I found him just as warm as his smile and our interview was as wonderful as can be, I walked away smiling ear to ear. The following year at Laguna Seca they had a not so small gathering of the former American GP champions and again I got to talk to Nicky and again it was a great conversation.
Another great visit was with Earl Hayden, Nicky’s dad. We met at Daytona there with his other two sons. We had a good visit. I asked him about him being a dad of these great racers and his reply was “well, you probably ought to ask the boys about that…”. My few minutes with him will stick with me all my life, he’s that valuable to racing. Also, an incredibly humble man, you can’t walk away from Earl and not feel good.
Enough has been said about Nicky’s career from dirt tracking as a kid to MotoGP World Champion. When last I saw Nicky at the Long Beach Motorcycle show I asked him ‘if‘ when he retired from Roadracing would he go back to Flat Track. All he did was smile and say I love dirt track.
Nicky was/is a universally liked racer both on the track, in the pits and off the track. Always smiling (well not always but a lot of the time). Nicky Hayden represented the best of what motorcycle racing is all about. A fierce competitor, a team player and a great sportsman. The racing world is missing you now and will continue to miss you. I will cherish the minutes I had with you.
Thoughts and prayers from our family to yours are in our hearts. Race in Peace and Rest in Heaven, you have deserved it.
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…..
…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…
What does a group of derelict, ex-motorcycle racers do when they get together…besides drink beer, talk about bikes from way back when and remember how fast we used to be? Easy, we watch racing on TV, of course we do move the TV out to the garage so we can smell motorcycles while watching the races.
For the past few years, some of the guys I used to roadrace with and some other riding friends, gather at one of our houses to watch the races on TV. It started with the Daytona 200, went to World Superbike, then on to MotoGP and now back to World Superbike, or… whatever looks good that weekend. We gather five or six times a season to celebrate racing, the fellowship of racers, do some serious bench racing, talk about races and racers of years past..”remember the final Superbike race at Imola in ’02?! “…”yeah, that was the best ever!”…”no, no, no..500GP at Silverstone when Doohan was sliding all over the place” and on it goes for a couple of hours. Cold beer and good BBQ make every race exciting.
The day other was the opening round of the 2009 World Superbike Championship in Australia and our group was ready for some racing. It was a beautiful day here in Southern California; sun shining, eighty degrees, coolers full of refreshing beverages, barbeque fired up and about twenty some friends. Over the years our gatherings have grown to include wives and girlfriends, dogs and kids and not to mention the food has gotten much better. We plan the race day menu based on the country where the race is…Spain, Paellea and Sangria; Japan, Sushi and Sake; England, fish and chips with Guiness…you get the idea.
The other great thing you get when a bunch of racers sitting around watching a race is the running commentary…”oh man, he easily could have passed Capirosi right there!!”…” just wait, Rossi is going to let him go by then pass him again three laps from the end”…” the Kawasaki’s going backward again…”. And then there are the cheers when something exciting happens, the groans when something bad happens and the ever popular “oh S*#T!!!” when something crazy happens. Surround sound doesn’t hurt either.
The racing can sometimes be a bit boring, but watching it with your friends never is. Give it a try…and remember to bring good beer, food and stories.
As you’ve read before, I’m starting work on a Cafe Racer project based on a 1971 Honda SL350. It’s going to be a very cool bike when it’s done but it’s going to need some surgery and odd parts. Off to the boneyard I go. I know the owner pretty well and I know he keeps odd hours, like you never know what days he is going to be open and for how long that day. Oh well. Knowing this, I decide to call first before making a fifty mile trip to find closed doors. No answer, call a couple of hours later, no answer, call the next day, you guessed it, no answer. So I call a friend who lives close by to see if there is a sign or anything that says when the place is open. My friend calls back with some bad news. There is no sign about hours and it looks like a lot of the old bikes and stuff that you can see from the street are gone. This is very distressing, time to open a beer.
When gas prices were at their peak earlier this year friends at motorcycle shops were telling me guys pulling old bikes out of the garage and and starting to ride again. Parts sales were pretty good, accessory sales were up and so were cheap used bikes. Not so with new bikes though. With a lot of these old bikes being drug back out into the light of day you would think that the salvage yards might be doing a pretty brisk business, I mean a good part from a salvage yard is usually less than half the cost of new.
As gas prices started coming down and the weather stated getting a little cooler, the old bikes were relegated to the corner again. Even scooter sales that were doing so well started slowing. Motorcycles here in the U.S are looked at more as toys instead of transportation. Everywhere else in the world, small size motorbikes are a major part of the traffic scene. And with gas prices as high as they are in Europe and other areas of the world you can understand it. But, wait I’m getting off topic here, let’s get back to the boneyard.
Digging around some of the lists and forums I’m on, I’m finding that salvage yards are going the way of the DO-DO bird. They are disappearing. Riders that work on their own motorcycles seem to be going away as well. Younger riders on newer bikes aren’t interested in crud covered old bikes and unless you have all kinds of computer stuff you can’t work on a new one. So again, back to the salvage yard. With a bit more research and calling a couple of other salvage yards around the Southern California area, I learn that the value of all those parts is greater as scrap metal than parts. And with business slowing it’s better to send it to the smelter than to someones garage. A pretty hefty number of the motorcycle salvage yards in Southern California have closed over the past couple of years. Those of us that dabble with vintage motorcycles are find it increasingly difficult to find parts.
The econmy is hitting motorcycling in all ways, from the lowly salvage yard all the way to MotoGP. Just this morning, sources inside the Kawasaki MotoGP team leaked it that Kawasaki was pulling out of the 2009 MotoGP season. This is sending some shockwaves through the motorcycle racing world. American Honda pulled out of roadracing here in America citing economic woes. With two major players out of the game, I wonder who’s next.
Well, I think now I’ll go outside get on my trusty little Honda 350 and see if the salvage yard is open. If Greg isn’t there oh well, it’s nice day for a fifty mile ride.