SOME WEEKENDS WORK OUT BETTER than others. I had a pretty good one recently that involved a private jet, a helicopter, a world-class racing facility, the weirdest nightclub I've ever been to, rally star Ken Block, custom car builder Chip Foose, custom bike builder Ian Barry, TV star and motorcycle enthusiast Matt LeBlanc and some of the most technologically advanced motorsports equipment ever produced by mankind.
IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR WHEN THE MOTORCYCLE Industry gets a fresh injection of life with the announcement of kick-ass new models. It looks like 2013 is going to be a particularly good vintage, because manufacturers around the world appear to be getting back on the throttle as they continue to recover from the recession.
WE HAVE IT ON GOOD AUTHORITY THAT 2013 officially has become The Year of the Cool, thanks to Chris Hunter, head man at the number-one neo-custom motorcycle website, www.bikeexif.com. The Bike EXIF Custom Motorcycle Calendar is beautifully printed on heavy stock and focuses on the best bikes featured on the site in the previous year.
Ducati tried everything, and Valentino Rossi gave a lot of effort. It was impressive to see how he stayed motivated. We weren't always on the same page with little things, but as far as the big stuff, we had a lot of similar comments. That was a good thing, especially for me, because it was clear he was number one.
Whatever it's called or whatever's in it, if it's got "RC" in the name, we want it
TOWARD THE END OF HIS ANNUAL shareholders address last September, dealing with business as usual, Honda President/CEO Takanobu Ito snuck in a paragraph that relit the pilot in the hearts of the V-Four faithful everywhere: "Since its market introduction in 1987, the RC30 [VFR750R] supersports bike has been loved by a large number of fans.
Okay, this is getting a little close to home. I got my first job later in 1988 at Cycle magazine, and that new, second-generation GSX-R750 on the cover looks suspiciously like the one that jumped out from under me on Decker Canyon. There was oil on the road, I swear it!
WITH ELECTRONIC RIDER AIDS SUCH AS traction control, ABS and selectable power delivery quickly becoming standard on modern sportbikes, the next step in the digital revolution appears to be smart suspension systems. Imagine ECU-controlled suspension that makes damping adjustments on the fly to cope with changes in road surface conditions.
THE STREET TRIPLE IS THE best-selling Triumph worldwide (with over 50,000 sold in the last five years), so the 2013 model tries not to mess with success too much. The most obvious difference is the new low-slung, GP-style exhaust, which is responsible for about 8 of the 13 pounds the bike has lost, but there's a new frame and swingarm, too.
THE CALIFORNIA IS BACK, and Moto Guzzi with it. When I first saw the new California 1400 in photos, I thought the bike was competently styled. When I saw it in person at the Milan motorcycle show, I found that Miguel Galluzzi's styling is absolutely beautiful.
We who have blithely launched upon the deceptively placid waters of motorcycle maintenance know how quickly conditions can deteriorate. The black clouds and howling winds descend without warning, and the rocks of unintended consequences loom large.
I T COULD HAVE BEEN A BAD MOMENT for a new rider. But luckily, I'm an old rider who's already fallen on his elbow in a situation exactly like this, so I stayed off the brakes, took the gentle "rain line" through the corner and slithered through without incident.
I WAS ORIGINALLY ATTRACTED TO THE motorcycle by its human scale. Two men could easily stand a bike on its back wheel in an elevator and take it up to a college room. Two men could wrestle it up stairs from a lighted basement workshop. Two men could put a bike into a van at the end of a hot day at the track—without a ramp.
German accessory-maker Wunderlich builds the MadUSA, the naked S1000RR we all want
HELLO, BMW? Is THIS THING ON? UM, YOU'VE COMPLETELY changed your ways in recent years. Your turnsignal switch is normal, you built a class-dominating inline-Four that actually runs across the frame like on other sportbikes, and you killed it with the K1600 tourers.
It's back and it's better, even though it never left
OVER THE PAST DECADE, SPORT-TOURING HAS BEEN ON A BIT OF a roll. And the one bike, more than any other, responsible for getting that ball rolling was the FJR1300. When it burst on the scene here in 2002, the FJR proved wonderfully capable of both carving up the backroads and cruising the open roads, doing it with one of the stoutest engines on two wheels and a full complement of features geared for moto-touring, all for a manageable price through a large dealer network.
The new Europeans: custom motorcycles, friends, clothes, life
THE DOUBLE GARAGE DOORS RISE TO REVEAL A COLLECTION OF FRANKENSTEINesque specials. They have very little in common with each other. There is no theme, either obvious or subliminal, except they were all built by one ambitious and rambunctious outfit, El Solitario MC. Center stage is a rigid Single with the ergonomics of a 1960s dragster and the power of an early '80s Yamaha 250.
Baula is the Spanish name for the leatherback turtle, the huge sea creature that inspired the build. The bike was commissioned by one of David Borras' friends, Jimmy. Years earlier, the pair had hidden, drunk, in the grass of a Costa Rican beach as the leatherbacks dragged their bulk up the sand to lay eggs.
AFTER DECADES OF RIDING, I'VE learned that it's always the equipment's fault. Okay, actually, I thought this a long time ago, then I rode with Canet, who always seemed to lap significantly faster than me on identical equipment. So I learned that the reason I went slow/ crashed/ran off/didn't win the world championship was not because I didn't buy a $1500 shock, didn't have the "right" tires, didn't have a 1000cc superbike or a factory ride, etc.
Four days of competition, comedy, male bonding, BBQ eating, beer swilling, gun blasting, child rearing— and learning to ride a TT-R125 like a world champion
Colin E's 10 (or so) Commandments
MAYBE THE MOST FUN I EVER HAD ON MOTORCYCLES WAS WHEN my kid was about six and had a KTM 50 and I had a Yamaha TT-R125: He was mass-centralized, had never known fear and had the power-to-weight ratio of a June bug. I was wider, more treacherous and prone to crashing in his path when pressured—a big problem for him and his 12-inch wheels.
Is it better to fizzle like a damp sparkler or go out in a blaze of glory? Hmmm...
LISTEN, I DON'T MAKE THE RULES, I only suffer under them, and the term "suck" is our current most commonly used word to express that one is terrible at something. I suck at a long list of things, but with age comes wisdom if you don't suck at getting old, and I've at least come to appreciate that sucking at things is an excellent way to carry on being a kid.
RawHyde Adventures makes steely-eyed dirt donks out of street sissies. Or at least teaches them how to whine like men.
ON THE THIRD DAY, IT HAPPENED. CLAMBERING UP a rocky slope, the BMW G650GS Sertao caught a rut and jinked hard right. In the uh-oh moment that followed, I reverted to old, bad form and looked at the hillside that was about to add some pretty white plastic to the sand-and-shale mix.
Remedial roosting at the Dirtwise Academy of Off-road Riding with Shane Watts
BORN IN A SMALL DIDGERIDOO IN VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA, IN 1972, Shane Watts is: six-time Australian Enduro Champion, Australian 500cc Motocross Champion, 1997 World Enduro Champion, 1998 International Six Day Enduro Overall Champion and 2000 AMA Grand National Cross Country Champion.
Superstar instructors might make you the next motocross superstar
AS LUCK WOULD HAVE IT, I ATTENDED Ricky Carmichael University at Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park the day after I competed on the same track in an amateur AMA Outdoor National. Nevertheless, there I was, with 70 riders of all different ages and abilities, taking motocross instructions from The Goat— The Greatest of All Time.
FOR SOME, THERE IS NO BETTER PLACE to ride a motorcycle than off the beaten path. Better yet, completely off the grid. The day may come, however, when you need medical attention or to have your machine extracted from a remote location. What will you do if you don't have cell-phone service?
What makes llmberger carbon-fiber parts look so good for so long? Kunststoffbeschichtet. You might not be able to pronounce it, but this exclusive plastic-powdercoating process is said to be more scratch-resistant than conventional clearcoating methods, block UV rays, offer a better base for painting and improve the overall appearance of the parts, "underlining carbon's unique three-dimensional visual effect." Pricing for individual parts to fit Ducati's 1199 Panigale starts at $132. Also available: composite-ceramic exhaust heat shields and muffler covers. Not a Panigale owner? llmberger also makes c-f bits and pieces for many late-model American, European and Japanese sportbikes.
Sierra Motorcycle Supply
39mm Preload Fork Adjusters
Is the fork on your late-model Harley-Davidson Sportster sitting a tad low in its stroke? Designed to replace the stock caps, Speed Merchant's 39mm Preload Fork Adjusters will compress the springs by 7/8 of an inch, raising your bike's front end by the same amount. Fine-tuning the setup is as easy as placing a 3/8-inch wrench on the head of the adjuster and turning it in the desired direction. CNC-machined of 6061 aluminum, the adjusters are available in either a "machine" finish ($140) or black anodized ($150). Additional H-D applications include 1987-94 FXRs and 1991-2005 FXDLs and FXDs.
Sierra Motorcycle Supply
Zega Pro 38L Top Case
Saddlebags are great for touring, but the bulkiest of them can get in the way around town. The Zega Pro 38-liter Top Case "will transform your motorcycle into an urban utility vehicle," says Touratech, making negotiating traffic, errand-running and even parking easier. Sizewise, the locking, all-metal box will swallow a full-face adventure-style motorcycle helmet. Available in raw-aluminum, black-anodized or silver-anodized finishes, the case mounts to a model-specific, stainless steel rack using the company's quick-release Rapid-Trap attachment system. MSRP for case and rack starts at $653.
Sierra Motorcycle Supply
Pro Shirt and Shorts
Biff! Boom! Bang! You'll feel and maybe even look like a superhero in Forcefield's Pro Shirt ($299; XS-XL) and Shorts ($179; XS-XL). Energy-absorbing, CE-approved Nitrex Evo armor built into the shoulders, elbows, chest and back of the shirt has been "optimized" to be lightweight, flexible and handle multiple impacts. Same goes for that fitted to the thighs, hips, buttocks and tailbone of the shorts. Holding it all together is BeCool, a unique fiber said to breathe better and be more comfortable during long hours of use than conventional synthetics. All armor is removable so both shirt and shorts can be machine-washed. Ankle-length ProPants are also available.
Q I have a question about engaging first gear when stopped. I have a 2009 Aprilia Tuono that I bought "new" this past year. It makes a moderate but unhealthy-sounding "clunk" when I shift it into first gear at a stop, but there is no significant lunge forward.
When using a tap or die to cut new threads or clean up old ones in certain small components, it sometimes is better to hold the tap or die in a vise instead of the part being threaded. Otherwise, the part might be damaged or distorted if clamped in a vise tightly enough to remain steady during the threading operation.
Years sold: 2001-present MSRP new: $6999 (2001) to $10,499 (2012) Blue Book retail value: $3795 (2002) to $9390 (2012) Basic specs: A retro-styled, dohc parallel-Twin displacing either 790 or 865cc, depending upon year and model. The Bonneville was introduced in 2001 as a lone 790cc model, had the America cruiser version added in '02, followed by the Speedmaster faux dragbike and upgraded T100 in '03.
Ben Spies' three-year run with Yamaha in MotoGP ended abruptly when he crashed out of Round 15 in Malaysia, separating his shoulder. Here, the former AMA and World Superbike champion and MotoGP race-winner speaks candidly about his decision to leave Yamaha, the mindset and skills necessary to go fast on a modern 250-horsepower GP machine, and how Ducati "wouldn't take no for an answer."
I HAD FOOD POISONING AT MUGELLO. BAD FOOD POISONING. I shouldn't even have started the race. I got sick in my helmet, and afterward, I was dry-heaving and shaking uncontrollably. Yamaha stayed in Italy and tested the next day, but I didn't ride.
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