Tag Archives: willow springs

Wise old saying…

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!

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“Asphalt is for racing…

…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.

Danny FarnsworthA 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.

motorcycle pictures 095Those 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.

Cretins Motorcycle Club

Picture 6When most people hear the term “Motorcycle Club” they instantly change the word club to “gang.” They picture bikers riding into town terrorizing the local folk, taking what they want and leaving the town in shambles. Ok, so I may have watched “The Wild Ones” a few too many times and I do record the “Sons of Anarchy” each season, but not all “clubs” fall into that stereotype, thank goodness.

A long time friend of mine belongs to a motorcycle club that is simply a group of guys and gals that love motorcycles and the motorcycle culture, more precisely the “Cafe Racer” culture. Welcome to the Cretins Motorcycle Club.

First, what is a Cretin? By Websters Dictionary definition you would think a Cretin is a stupid, childlike person full of pointless information that appeals only to other Cretins. If you dig a bit deeper into Cretinism, you find that it is medical term from 18th Century France that describes a condition of severely stunted physical and mental growth due to untreated congenital deficiency of thyroid hormones. This condition was often attributed to stagnant air in mountain valleys and bad water. Uh, does Pabst Blue Ribbon count as ‘bad water’? Probably.Picture 12

Second, The Cretins I know are not stupid nor childlike…well maybe a bit childlike (that’s when the fun begins isn’t it?) and yes, in this case we are full of useless information that only we care about…engines, chassis, cool bodywork, fun roads to ride…you get the picture.

The Cafe Racer culture was born in England post World War 2. Blokes would gather at a pub, have a pint and then race each other to another pub and have another pint. There are all sorts of stories about how cafe racers came about, but I’ll stick with this one for now. These were like minded riders just having fun on their motorbikes. And maybe they did terrorize a few motorists here and there. All in good fun…?

Now, the truth about the Cretins Motorcycle Club: These are people that simply love the Cafe Racer motorcycle culture. I had the opportunity to spend an evening with the Los Angeles chapter of the Cretins. This was not my first time with the Cretins. I met them back in 2010 when they hosted the LA Moto Film Fest, but this was the first time I rode with them on their weekly Thursday night ride / meeting. See the photo gallery here
Picture 11“It was a dark and stormy night” (really it was!)…Scott Fabbro, club president, and I had finished our interview for The Motoworld Podcast about his racing experience at the Isle of Man and headed to the first gathering spot, The Thirsty Crow pub on Sunset Blvd near downtown LA.Picture 35 When we arrived we just pulled up onto the sidewalk parked our bikes and waited for everyone else to arrive. In just a short period of time the sidewalk was lined with bikes. Scott’s classic GS750, a cool Honda CB400-4, First Lady Susan’s BMW Boxer Cup (signed by Randy Mamola!!), my old Honda Hawk and a variety of other bikes. The Cretins are an equal opportunity motorcycle club.Picture 31

After a pint (Pabst Blue Ribbon of course), it was back into the damp evening and off to the next stop. Now, it was a wet and rainy night but these guys and ladies didn’t let that slow them down. Picture this – a swarm of cafe racers riding in the wet like it was a warm sunny day at the beach. I felt like we were really keeping true to the “Rocker” culture in England.

Picture 33How about some pinball? That was our next stop…a very cool pinball arcade, ‘Pins and Needles’ in a recording studio somewhere near Downtown. At this point I was totally lost but I didn’t care. I was with the Cretins and having a great time. Some of us played some pinball, some just hung around outside and talked, and after about thirty minutes or so it was off to the club house.Picture 15

The Cretins Club House. When the Cretins show up it’s not quiet. You can’t have a meeting space in a nice residential neighborhood where Ozzie and Harriet are getting ready for bed now, can you? So, you pick a very cool building in an industrial area and make as much noise as you want. Picture 16

Inside the clubhouse is the requisite bar stocked with the required PBR (and some other better beverages…all drank responsibly, really). Inside there is all sorts of memorabilia from racing, rides, charitable events (the Cretins are very socially conscious), and good music.

When we got to the club house, members and friends of the Cretins who couldn’t make the earlier ride were showing up and the place came to life. Talk about bikes, rides, races, politics, family and friends was everywhere. The club really is a family of its own. Also along for the ride were two guys from Cycle World Magazine, photographer Jeff Allen and writer John L. Stein. It was very interesting that the Cretins were invaded by two journalist teams (The MotoWorld and Cycle World) at the same time and none of us even knew it was going to happen. But the Cretins welcomed us all with open arms…or was it handlebars? I didn’t get a chance to talk with John but I did get a chance to spend some time with Jeff (who will be a featured interview on The MotoWorld podcast in the near future) while watching him ply his trade as a pro moto/photo journalist.Picture 32

At around midnight it was finally time to head home. I had had a wonderful night with the motorcycle club. If all goes well this will not be my last ride with the Cretins.

Ride with your mates, share a pint or two, swap stories and carry on the tradition. For this group, this is motorcycling at its best. To know more about the Cretins click http://cretins-la.com/
Thank you Scott, thank you Cretins

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

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.

 

Family ties and Vintage Racing

Last weekend was the annual AHRMA Moto Corsa Classica at Willow Springs Raceway here in Southern California. Motorcycle racing, a classic motorcycle show and a swap meet…what else could a proper motorcycle nut want? Great weather (even with the required Willow Springs ‘breeze’..read 35mph wind!!), catching up with old racing friends and making new ones.CIMG5661
When I first started down the dark path of ‘Vintage’ motorcycle racing back in the early nineties, I thought racing a Honda 350 would be an easy and not too expensive way to dip my toes in the water. In my early research I came across the guru of building racing Honda’s, Todd Henning. I spent a good amount of time with Todd on the phone and learned that building a really competitive 350 was not the cheap entry into vintage racing I thought it would be. I learned a lot from Todd and ended up using some of that knowledge on my street-going 350’s. Thank you Todd.

Ten years ago, Todd had a serious crash while racing the AHRMA race at Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma California resulting in head injury and a long time in a coma. It took a while, but thankfully Todd did recover. His racing career was over, however. But…the Henning dynasty lives on.

While cruising the pits at the Willow Springs AHRMA races I saw a young man getting into his leathers, the name on his chest, Ari. Next to his truck was a motorcycle I thought I recognized, a very well set up Honda 350. It turns out that Ari is Ari Henning, Todd Henning’s son and it was his dad’s old racebike next to the truck. A quick introduction and asking how his dad was doing, we arranged for a better meeting later in the day. CIMG5660

Ari went on to win both races he was entered in that day. Afterwards we had a good chat about his new career as a moto-journalist with Motorcyclist Magazine and finished up with a call to his proud dad. There is an old racing saying, “age and treachery will always overcome youth and skill”; in young Ari Henning riding his fathers racer it’s the best of both worlds.CIMG5710

The Sound of Music

Any truly dedicated motorcycle rider will tell you that there is music in the sound of their motorcycle. Whether it’s the ‘potato, potato, potato’ sound that Harley Davidson tried to trademark,(or patent, I can’t remember which), the scream of a high revving inline four from Japan, the distinct cadence of an Italian V-Twin or the growl of a British triple. It doesn’t matter, our motorcycles make music to our ears. Wind in your hair and bugs in your teeth be damned..it’s the sound, the feel of your motorcycle that stirs your soul.

Music stirs our souls as well. I don’t know about you, but I’m guessing that there are a lot of you that have done this…made a tape (if you’re old!?) or a CD of your favorite traveling music. Some of you have motorcycles that have CD players, speakers in the fairing (hell, now speakers are put into the arm rests for the passenger??) and/or headsets in your helmet and you travel with your music. I have a very funny story about a trip to Laguna Seca with a group of friends and one of them that likes his music loud, but I’ll save it for another time. The rest of us however, love the sound of our motorcycle.bernie

I’m not a musician, the only thing I can play is the radio, but I do have some riding and racing friends that are great musicians and one of them is Bernie Ayling. Bernie is not only a great guitar player, he has an incredible guitar collection. National Steel’s from the Thirties, original Fender Stratocasters and some of the most beautiful and beautiful sounding acoustics you’ll ever hear. Bernie plays some very serious blues in a band named ‘Turn Nine’. Where did the name ‘Turn Nine’ come from?, Bernie is also a motorcycle roadracer and turn nine is his favorite turn at his home track, Willow Springs out in the California desert.

Bernie spent years racing a 500CC single at “The Fastest Road in the West”. Recently, Bernie along with racing partner Jay Niederst, built his newest and very trick race bike, The AsHawk. What’s an AsHawk? A built to the hilt 591 CC Honda single from an Ascot neatly tucked into a Honda Hawk GT chassis. Upgrade the suspension, adapt some slick race bodywork, have Jay do a stunning paint job, spoon on some Dunlop slicks and watch out Formula Singles…the Bern Man is back. cimg5398

So, here is one lucky guy, making music during the day on his motorcycle and at night on a classic Les Paul. If you find yourself in Southern California sometime, look up ‘Turn Nine’ and spend your evening listening to some great blues. I’ll see you there.