Pastrana To Recreate Evel Knievel Jumps

Nitro Circus and Indian Motorcycle, America’s first motorcycle company, announced today that Travis Pastrana will be jumping an Indian Scout FTR750 when he looks to pay tribute to Evel Knievel, the founding father of motorcycle stunts, and surpass America’s most iconic daredevil.

“Evel Live”, an unprecedented three-hour live event premiering Sunday, July 8th at 8PM ET/ 5PM PT on HISTORY® in partnership with Nitro Circus, will see Travis Pastrana attempt three of Knievel’s most famed jumps on the Scout FTR750, including jumping the length of 52+ crushed cars, 16 Greyhound buses, and the ill-fated Caesars Palace fountain jump that left Knievel grasping for his life. If successful, Pastrana will be the first individual to complete all three jumps in one three-hour timespan and on a motorcycle similar to those Evel used.

The Indian Scout FTR750 is a flat track racing motorcycle designed to push the boundaries of speed and redefine control with two wheels firmly on the ground. Rewinding time, you find the motorcycles Evel jumped were designed for similar purposes. However, neither were intended for jumping.

“It was extremely important to use a motorcycle similar to the ones Evel jumped. The Indian Scout FTR 750 is just that, a modern-day evolution of the flat track motorcycles of the past,” said Pastrana. “It has the power I need and handles well, but I’m only going to have a few days to get comfortable on it, not to mention I’ve never jumped a V-twin before. I’ve got my work cut out, but we’re used to going big at Nitro Circus, so we’ll make it happen.”

The Indian Scout FTR750 is far different from the lightweight motocross bikes you would typically find Travis Pastrana jumping. The engine of the FTR750 features a powerful 750cc 53-degree V-Twin and utilizes 43mm conventional front suspension with an adjustable Ohlin’s mono-shock on the rear. Introduced in the American Flat Track racing series in 2017, the Indian Scout FTR750 secured 14 victories along with the manufacturer’s and rider’s championship in its first year of competition.

“We couldn’t be more excited for Travis to be piloting the Scout FTR750 as he looks to make history by recreating three of Evel Knievel’s most historic jumps in a single evening,” said Reid Wilson, Senior Director, Marketing and Product Development for Indian Motorcycle. “Evel Knievel is truly a global icon, and we’re proud to be a part of this incredible event that pays homage to his legacy in such grand fashion.”

Will Travis Pastrana successfully complete all three jumps on the Indian Scout FTR 750? Tune-in to HISTORY on Sunday, July 8th at 8PM ET/ 5PM PT to find out.

To learn more about the Indian Scout FTR750 and Travis Pastrana’s attempt to make history with it on “Evel Live,” as well as for periodic updates leading up to the event, visit IndianMotorcycle.com or follow along on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.

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Dunlop’s New Q4 High Performance Track Day Tire

Dunlop Expands Sportmax Line with the Addition of the Track-Day High-Performance Q4

Buffalo, NY: Here’s the first thing you need to know about Dunlop’s all-new Sportmax Q4®: This purpose-built track day tire achieves lean angles up to 62 degrees*, more than any other street-legal tire Dunlop has ever made.

Utilizing technology shared by Dunlop’s cutting-edge MotoAmerica road race tires, the Q4 is made in Dunlop’s Buffalo, New York, plant on the same proprietary equipment as the racing products. Only Dunlop makes sport tires in America.

The Q4 is not a replacement for Dunlop’s popular Q3+, but instead adds depth to the Sportmax family lineup to accommodate track-day-level riding like no other Dunlop DOT street tire has before.

The Sportmax Q4 will be sold through all Dunlop retailers, as well as race distributors, so it’s easily accessible to all riders.

At a glance, the all-new Q4 features:

  • Dunlop sportmax q4Bold on-tread branding that’s remarkably detailed.
  • New tread pattern with low groove density that puts down a massive footprint, especially during maximum lean angles.
  • Street-friendly performance—does not require tire warmers, and minimizes the need for chassis adjustments.
  • Designed in new sizes such as 180/60ZR17 and 200/55ZR17 to work on sport bikes with sophisticated electronics packages. These new sizes also offer a more aggressive profile option for track use for many sport bikes.
  • The rear tire features Dunlop’s Jointless Tread (JLT) technology, the same process used in Dunlop’s racing slicks. JLT applies a continuously wound tread strip over the carcass to achieve the ideal stability, flex, and grip across the tire’s tread profile.
  • Dunlop’s proprietary Carbon Fiber Technology (CFT) in the sidewalls for even greater stability.
  • Dunlop’s proprietary Intuitive Response Profile (IRP) for ultra-linear and responsive steering.

Availability
The Sportmax Q4 will be available in May 2018 in an expanded size range to cover a variety of Japanese and European sport bikes.

Sportmax Q4 Front
Size (Load Speed)
120/70ZR17 (58W)

Sportmax Q4 Rear
Size (Load Speed)
180/55ZR17 (73W)
180/60ZR17 (75W)
190/50ZR17 (73W)
190/55ZR17 (75W)
200/55ZR17 (78W)

*As tested by Dunlop on a 2017 Suzuki GSX-R 1000 RR on a closed track at Barber Motorsports Park.

About Dunlop Motorcycle Tires
Dunlop is the largest supplier and manufacturer of original equipment and replacement motorcycle tires in the U.S.A. For more information, visit www.dunlopmotorcycletires.com.

KTM Announces 300xc-w TPI and 150xc-w For 2019

KTM’s announces 2019 offroad lineup that will include the new 150xc-w and expansion of the TPI lineup. The 300xc-w will join last years revolutionary 250xc-w TPI.

2019 KTM 150xc-w

 

Thanks to a long history as part of the foundation of the company and with many milestones achieved in producing READY TO RACE, world-beating enduro machines, KTM’s strive for excellence has ensured the orange brand remains the market-leader in the segment with the KTM XC-W and EXC-F lineup. Last year the Austrian manufacturer announced the world’s first serial-production, fuel-injection 2-stroke offroad competition machines with the KTM 250 XC-W TPI and KTM 300 XC-W TPI models that have taken the possibilities of enduro to new heights, whilst complimenting the high-quality, high-performing 4-stroke models within the range.

2019 KTM 300xc-w TPI

However, the KTM R&D department in Mattighofen never rests; the latest generation of KTM XC-W enduros and EXC-F models receive updates for model year 2019 with improved WP fork settings, and a reworked WP shock absorber with a re-designed main piston and settings for improved, confidence-inspiring damping characteristics. A new seat cover, stronger battery and new graphics with a READY TO RACE factory-looking orange frame compliment the high-quality Brembo brakes, No-Dirt footpegs, NEKEN handlebar, CNC-milled hubs with high-end black Giant rims and more that comes as standard on these championship-winning machines.

For model year 2019, the KTM 150 XC-W 2-stroke, designed for closed-course use, receives a new cylinder with a machined exhaust port and a new power valve for high-end performance. An optimized kick-starter seat along with an ultra-compact, newly designed DS clutch with a new clutch cover reduces overall engine width over previous models. In addition, a re-worked 6-speed transmission offers better function and improved reliability.

2019 KTM 500exc

“The last two years have been incredibly exciting for our Enduro machine development here at KTM. A brand new ground-breaking generation for model year 2017 that had been re-designed from the ground up, followed by a world first for model year 2018 thanks to the serial-production fuel-injection 2-stroke offroad competition models with the KTM 250 XC-W TPI and KTM 300 XC-W TPI; it’s been an incredibly fast-moving but fruitful few years in terms of development for this segment in which we remain the market leaders. Model year 2019 sees some key adjustments across all models, along with more in-depth refinements for our KTM 150 XC-W machines. As we step into a new era of enduro as a whole, we are looking forward to the latest KTM XC-W models reaching dealer floor,” commented KTM Senior Product Manager Offroad,” Joachim Sauer.

BikeBandit Guest Blogger Series: Honda’s 2018 Gold Wing and The Opinion of A Gold Wing Diehard

Doing some research on the new Gold Wing and listening to the opinions of current Gold Wing riders, reading the cycle magazine tests and comparisons, talking with close Gold Wing riding friends and following the GL1800 forum I have formed an opinion and overview that may help you think differently about the new 2018 GL1833 and I would like to share.

 

2018 Honda Goldwing - James Casey
To say that touring is in my blood is an understatement. I was 17 for my first touring adventure and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Thru the years I grown up with the Gold Wing. I have owned 3 1977 GL1000s, a 1983 GL1100, a 1996 GL1500, a 97 Valkyrie, and an 01, 03, and 05 GL1800. My current bikes are the 05 GL1800 and the 97 Valkyrie (I have put over 100,000 miles on the Valk). These are just the Gold Wings I have owned. I started touring in 1972 on a 1971 CB750. I had added a Wixom Fairing and Bates Bags. In the summer of 72 a buddy of mine and I did 3000 miles thru California. From Tucson to San Diego, up the coast to San Francisco, then to Lake Tahoe and down thru Yosemite NP. Then back to San Diego and back home to Tucson. I was 17 years old and that trip totally hooked me on touring. I was at Tucson Honda when they rolled the first 1975 GL1000 off the truck and I knew I had to have one. I had 2 other CB750s before I was able to buy my first 77 GL1000. Had to mention this so that you would understand that I know a bit about touring.

Years later after my first test ride on the 01 GL1832 I went home and put my GL1500 up for sale. I bought one of the first ABS GL1832s in Denver Vin #000043 in Jan 2001.

Now thinking about the NEW GL1833 and hearing views and comments across the board from “I love it” to “Not for me “ I have to share with you my thoughts. This Gold Wing was not built for the aging Gold Wing rider. The GWRRA which I have been a member for 19 years has aged significantly. If you put in a search for a Gold Wing on eBay 70% of what shows up are trikes. If Honda wanted to build a bike for that demographic the new Gold Wing would have had 3 wheels.

I am still riding strong at 63 years of age. I keep in shape by working out, golfing, snowboarding, and bicycling. I hope to have another 10-12 years of 2 wheel Motorcycling. This new Wing was designed for the younger rider moving up to Touring. Much the way I was looking for that “bigger, better, faster, smoother” tourer after my CB750s. They may have started with a Sport Bike. Then they went to a Sport Tourer. Now they are looking for something for touring cross country and it’s “Not your Fathers Gold Wing.” Look at what is happening at Harley Davidson (YouTube… HD sales). They are closing the plant in Kansas City. Their base doesn’t like change but they are an aging breed also, and they are having a problem with who to target for more sales.

The manufactures are looking for their next target audience. Think back to when most of the 50-65 year olds started touring. We dressed a 750 or a Gold Wing. As we aged the manufactures targeted us. They added fairings and integrated the bags and trunk into the body. Well 50% of that audience is now gone (aging out or riding trikes) what would you do??

2018 Honda Goldwing - James Casey
When I had to give up my Gold Wing for a time, this Valkyrie satiated my 2-wheeled needs till I could get another GL.

I think the new Gold Wing GL1833 is awesome. You will always hear negatives as you did when the GL1832 first came out. I have always said that it should be a pre-requisite that the Gold Wing buyers should also own a Valkyrie or a VTX or some other kind of “Motorcycle” as I do. In 2003 when I sold my 01 GL1832 (financial/new business situation) I bought my Valkyrie (which I fell in love with) to get me thru until I could buy another Wing.

2018 Honda Goldwing - James Casey
Is the Honda Gold Wing the perfect touring bike? Some people may say no, but I disagree and can’t wait till I can get in the saddle of a new one for my next long haul.

After riding the Valkyrie that summer I came to the realization that Honda had built the perfect Touring Motorcycle. The GL1832. Those Gold Wing riders who were complaining about “My leg gets hot” or “the wind hits my hands” were totally spoiled. Go ride any other motorcycle for half a summer and then get back on your Gold Wing and tell me you have room to complain. I had to wait a few years until I could buy another Wing because I wanted to keep the Valkyrie and have both. Two years ago I took a trip from Denver to Daytona Bike Week. Even though I had a beautiful 05 Wing in the Garage I took the Valkyrie 4000 miles in 10 days. Just to remind me of what real motorcycling is all about. Then when I loaded up the Wing in July later that summer and headed to California I had nothing to complain about. Perfect Touring Bike!

Will I own a new GL1833? Not this year but I will own one soon (still have to keep my Valk). Maybe for the Gold Wing owner who has their GL1832 all set up the way they want will not buy a GL1833. But for all you younger sport touring riders out there looking for that “bigger, better, faster, smoother” touring bike to go cross country, WOW, does Honda have a bike that will knock your socks off!

New Yamaha NIKEN – First Look

The radical Yamaha NIKEN is on the way. Oddly reminiscent of the 1993 GTS1000, Yamaha ventures into uncharted territory with another head turner.

I am not quite sure what to make of it, but I sure want to ride one. Yamaha refers to it as a “leaning multi-wheeler” (LMW). NIKEN is equipped with LMW  technology to reduce the effects of changing ride environments and to deliver a high feeling of stability when cornering.

Yamaha NIKEN with leaning multi-wheel technology

It achieves excellent performance for spirited and sporty riding on various road surfaces and the capability to freely carve through the continuous corners of winding roads. The body design makes full use of the unprecedented front-end suspension mechanisms pairing 15-inch front wheels with dual-tube upside-down forks to visually accentuate the machine’s sporty performance.

The real question is – just who is the target market? Is this a three wheeler that should be classed alongside a Can-Am Spyder? Is it some kind of hyper scooter? The motorcycle market is notorious for clambering for new designs and technology that then languish on the shoowroom floor.

Will the NIKEN be a new direction for motorcycling or just another sidebar museum piece for history to look back on with amusement?

 

Here is a first look from Motorcyclist Magazine

Bultaco 360 Frontera – The Next Adventure

I have been pondering my next adventure for a while now. Last year it was Vietnam, an amazing trip. Naturally I was thinking of something similar for the next outing. But I kept having trouble trying to come up with something that would really motivate me, give me something to plan and work on. Vietnam was more of a lark, I got invited so I just hopped on a plane and went along for the ride. I didn’t really put much planning into the trip.

Before tear down, all the shiny bits will go in storage, replaced by plastic Preston Petty reproductions for the upcoming adventure

I realize I probably sound a bit conceited at times and I completely accept that. So bear with me here. My bar for adventure is pretty high. I have ridden or raced in many exotic locales. Trust me when I say, that like anyone, they were things I only dreamed of at one time. I am very fortunate for the opportunities that have come my way. When Baja is your backyard, raising the bar takes some creativity.

Anywho, back to our story. So I was looking for a challenge. Not a race, but a legitimate challenge and something sort of off the beaten path too. I had a couple of ideas floating around, really more like adventure bike rides. I am all for getting the 950 out and heading for parts unknown. But  the ideas were all just a little too easy.

The Spanish were known for crafting distinctive machines

I kept coming back to the story I recently shared, “Two Yankees in Alaska”. It is hard to describe how much that story captured my imagination. Of course I am sure I have over romanticized it. But I think it is the simplicity that struck me the most, packing some gear on the bike and pointing it toward the horizon.

Any such trip would be so easy today on a big adventure bike. But on an enduro bike of 40 years ago, that would be something completely different. That was my proverbial nail on the head moment. Could I be as tough as they were back then? Could I do it the same way they did? Heck, to them, they were riding the latest equipment and making it work. Can I do the same?

So I have the trip planned out, but I am going to wait to share that part. Today I present to you the bike I have chosen for it – the 1975 Bultaco 360 Frontera. For those who speak Bultaco, a Mark IV M143. As soon as this wild idea formed in my head, I knew this would be just the bike for the adventure.

I come from a long line of Bultacos. Most of my formative years of riding came on one. At 12 years old I was riding an old 250 that I couldn’t touch the ground on. My dad, Gordon, raced them for many years. Our garage saw a string of Bul’s – El Tigre, Campera,  Sherpa, Lobito and even a Frontera. That is right, I actually rode a 250 Frontera quite a bit as a teenager. I have not ridden it much in recent years, but I have a M90 Astro too. It hangs from the rafters in Gordon’s shop. A few years ago while in financial straits I parted with my 125 Streaker.

The Frontera seems like a pretty good choice for an extended adventure ride. It has a wide ratio transmission and comes with a lighting coil. Even by 1975 standards, the Frontera was not quite cutting edge as an enduro race bike. Its low pipe and mild tune were slightly out of step with the likes of KTM, Husky and particularly Can-Am. But it was a durable trail bike and that is what I am looking for.

Original aluminum fenders and Bultaco mudflap

Oh, there is one other thing. I already knew that Gordon would want to come along. At 81 he is still up for anything short of full blown extreme riding. Well, I guess there are two things. The second being, he already has a very nicely restored identical Frontera. He even races it.

Gordon White racing his Frontera in 2017 (Mark Kariya photo)

I now had a whole plan mapped out. But of course it all revolved around me finding a bike for myself too. But I was confident that something would show itself. The Bultaco resto market is pretty strong. A Frontera is not nearly as sought after as a Pursang or something really rare like an El Bandido.

But I had no idea just how close I already was to finding my bike. The first call went to my local restorer, Bruce at BR Bultaco, as it turned out it was also my last. He just happened to have an amazing original condition M143 in need of a new home. A customer had bought it off eBay and had it shipped directly to him. Then came a change of heart and the 360 wasn’t needed and now it sits in my garage.

Huge low pipe spark arrestor exhaust

What you see here is a beautiful condition bike that has not had any major restoration work. It only has 440 original miles on it and the original Pirelli rear tire. Frankly it is too nice for what I have planned. But it was just too good to pass up. All the pretty bits will come off and get replaced by modern plastics.

It has not even been started. So the first task will be to pull the motor to take it back and have the top end and crank inspected. At the very least it will get new crank seals. Other items on the to do list include Mikuni carb, Preston Petty fenders, Clarke tank. Of course I am sure that list will grow. Bruce built the motor in Gordon’s bike and is excited about the adventure too.

I mentioned the new adventure to the group of riders who I went to Vietnam with last year. I casually threw out the idea that maybe they could join the trip on adventure bikes if they wanted. Next thing I knew Brian Holt seized on the idea and a week later he is now a Bultaco owner too! We are a party of 3 and in for quite the adventure.  More on that later, for now feast your eyes on my new ride.

Beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder, so I understand not everyone will see the same grace in the Bultaco as I do. That huge exhaust is sort of an eye sore, but it is forest legal so it will stay just the way it is.

Oh! I forgot another part of the story. Narcis Casas was an engineer/racer who developed the Frontera at Bultaco. He went on to found Gas Gas. I was associated with him when I worked for Gas Gas. I got the chance to talk with him quite a bit about his days at Bultaco and this particular bike. Narcis debuted the Frontera prototype at the 1973 ISDT in Dalton Mass. He would end up with a DNF.

1973 Dalton Mass ISDT Results, showing Bultaco Engineer Narcis Casas retired
Ignacio Chivite with his Dakar prepared Bultaco 370 Frontera

Owensboro Statue For Nicky Hayden

Nicky Hayden Statue to Be Unveiled in Owensboro. The champion’s home city announces Nicky Hayden Day.

 Nicky Hayden celebrates USGP victory

The Hayden family—parents, siblings, and fiancée of the late Nicky Hayden, along with members of his extended family—are pleased to announce an unveiling ceremony for a sculpture honoring the late MotoGP World Champion. Created by George Lundeen of Lundeen Sculpture in Loveland, Colorado, the bronze statue was commissioned in partnership with the City of Owensboro, Kentucky, the Haydens’ hometown.

“Nicky left us just under a year ago, and we still miss him every day,” said Tommy Hayden, Nicky’s older brother. “We appreciate the support that his fans have given our family during the past 12 months, and we look forward to seeing many of them as we unveil this beautiful tribute to Nicky. We would like to thank the City of Owensboro for their support on this project. Nicky loved this city and took great pride in representing it in a positive way, so it’s appropriate that he’ll be memorialized here.”

The work recreates the popular racer’s celebratory lap of Monterey, California’s Laguna Seca Raceway following his championship-year victory there, and as Nicky did on July 23, 2006, his likeness will hold aloft an actual American flag. The sculpture will be unveiled on June 8 at 5:30 p.m. on the front lawn of the Owensboro Convention Center, at 501 W. 2nd Street.

The ceremony is being held in conjunction with Owensboro’s Friday After 5, a summer-long series of free outdoor concerts on the Ohio River waterfront. During the unveiling, Mayor Tom Watson will read a proclamation declaring the following day (June 9, or 6/9), Nicky Hayden Day, referencing Nicky’s racing number, 69.

“It is with great pride that we as a community have the opportunity to continue ‘The Kentucky Kid’s’ legacy in his hometown,” Mayor Watson said. “We will have a lasting memorial to commemorate his accomplishments to not only OBKY but to the world. I want to thank the Hayden family for allowing us to partner with them on this truly eventful day.” ABOUT THE HAYDEN FAMILY

The family of late 2006 MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden continues to reside in Owensboro, Kentucky. In his memory, they have set up the Nicky Hayden Memorial Fund, which helps local children in the community he loved so much. Nicky Hayden merchandise may be purchased at GP Racing Apparel. Hayden Brothers merchandise may be purchased at the Hayden Brothers General Store.

 

BikeBandit Guest Blogger Series: Seven Days of Recalibration

 

“The more vast the amount of time we’ve left behind us, the more irresistable is the voice calling us to return to it.”

– Milan Kundera

 

By now I have adapted to the scramble to simultaneously close my classroom and ready my bike for annual Mild Hogs June ride, seven days on the roads of eastern Oregon, but it’s all worth it once underway.  Despite riding these roads for many years, they still call to me across their vast, empty, rolling plains, begging me to return.  I dare not disappoint.

Ted Edwards - Seven Days of Recalibration
By the numbers: 8 riders, 7 days, 3 states, 1600 miles, 150 head of cattle, and 1 suicidal robin.

Saturday morning, I made the rendezvous with the Wenatchee contingent of the Mild Hogs riding group.  Main hog Terry Hammond was on his Aprilia, Jack Larkin on his Yamaha FJR, my step-brother Todd Shiflett with his classic 1994 VFR750 and my father Don Edwards on his ST1300.  We planned to congregate in Ukiah, Oregon by 1:30 that afternoon with the far eastern chapter of the Mild Hogs, Jeff Pyper on his Kawasaki Concours, Dave Kelley on his FJR and my brother-in-law Trevor Alexander piloting his 2006 VFR800.  Our group wanted to be the first ones at the rendezvous point, so we decided to push the pace from the start.

If I ever find the inventor of heated gear, I will buy him a scotch.  The June weather leaving Wenatchee was deceptive; sunny, but with temps in the mid-40’s.  With the push of a few buttons, my heated grips and heated jacket made me appreciate the science and engineering majors I knew in college.  Little did I know, firing up the heated gear would be a daily theme the entire trip.

We bombed through flat, pretty farm land in Quincy to flat out ugly land in Hanford and Benton City, which made me appreciate anyone who studied irrigation and land management in college.  Once in Oregon, we tackled Butter Creek road which, like its name, started out with buttery smooth asphalt, but soon degraded into my nemesis: chip seal.  It is a well-documented fact that I attract chip seal like a trailer park attracts tornados.  If you ask anyone I ride with, they will tell you that if you follow my taillights long enough, we will, at some point, ride on that evil concoction of tar and gravel.  If I could have found the inventor of chip seal in college, I would have forced him to ride a motorcycle on his creation.

Nevertheless, the road is twisty, the weather warms up, my spirits thaw and I decide to take off my heated jacket.  After all, it is mid-June, right?  Isn’t it supposed to warm up?  Big mistake.

We headed south on highway 395 towards our convergence point of Ukiah, Oregon when the rain, sleet and snow hit.  How can there be sleet and snow mid-June?  I pulled over, donned not only my heated gear, but also my rain gear.  Sleet pelted my helmet like someone shooting me with a pellet gun on full automatic.  Once fully suited and resembling the Stay-Puft marshmallow man from Ghostbusters, I was tempted to speed up catch the rest of the group.  Fat chance.  Doing the speed limit in the sleet and snow was not an option.  Neither was seeing the road.  I was fearful that a log truck with 20 year old wiper blades would come barreling up behind me while I struggled to do 35 mph, signaling a trip to the E.R. and a call to my next of kin.  My survival technique was to aim for where there were no trees since I figured that gap would be the most likely to have pavement.  It worked.  Mercifully, the sleet and snow stopped after about 20 minutes and when I found dry pavement I used the right twist grip to speed up and dry off.  At least, that was my pre-planned excuse should one of Oregon’s finest decide to inquire.

I arrived in Ukiah to find the rest of my group waiting for me and I quickly peeled away layer after layer of Gore-Tex and Cordura.  I had to pee for the last 30 miles and the driving rain didn’t help.

Ted Edwards - Seven Days of Recalibration
Todd is not in this photo. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss how to keep him well fed so he doesn’t eat the rest of the group.

When the far eastern contingent finally appeared in Ukiah, we joined forces and continued south along 395 to finally get in some real riding.  Despite being a major highway, 395 south of Ukiah is as twisty as any eastern Oregon road.  Todd, Trevor and I took the lead and started to put some heat into the tires.  That is, until a pair of deer put some heat into Todd’s shorts.

Two of the bothersome rodents decided that the middle of the road was a good place to play Frogger.  One deer made a wise choice and made a break for the side of the road; the other deer, not so much.  I can only assume that the remaining deer was enamored with the technological marvel that is gear driven cams and wanted to observe all three of our VFRs up close.  Todd would have preferred otherwise.  The road rat finally changed its mind and made a break for the barbed wire fence, getting wedged mid-way at the chest.  Now I felt sorry for the deer, but also grateful that it will spend the next few minutes ruining a perfectly good future set of deerskin moccasins and not playing Frogger with the rest of the group behind us.

Our group rolled into the tiny town of Prairie City, Oregon shortly afterwards, likely doubling the town’s population.  As we constructed burritos for dinner, Todd decided that he wanted to assuage his brush with death by eating as much as humanly possible for the rest of the trip, starting right the heck now.  His burrito was so big that one tortilla could not contain it, so he wrapped a second tortilla at an angle around the first one, like a bias-ply tire, thus inventing what the Mild Hogs now call the Bias-Ply Burrito.  An upgraded belted radial version is in the prototype stage.  Todd, Trevor and I attempted to work off dinner with a game of horse on the shortened basketball hoop mounted in the gravel driveway.  None of us are very good, and we had indulged in way too many burritos and single malt, so despite the hoop being only 8’ off the ground, we could hardly make a basket.  Or find the hoop.  Or keep score.  How do you spell horse again?  Nursing the inevitable food and scotch induced coma, we put ourselves to sleep watching Dust to Glory on Netflix.  Best movie ever.

The temperature Sunday morning was 31.7 degrees.  Did somebody forget to notify Oregon that it was mid-June, not mid-January?  After much stalling, guzzling of coffee (and a few aspirin) and Todd perfecting the steel belted version of Bias-Ply Breakfast Burrito, we headed for dazzling, twisty and terminally flawed Austin Junction, a.k.a. The Cow Chip Highway.

Ted Edwards - Seven Days of Recalibration
Ummm, yeah. I guess they do own the road.

I have never been on The Cow Chip Highway and not been caught in a cattle drive.  Anyone who believes that the old west is dead needs to ride here.  Most riders negotiate blind corners and anticipate oncoming cars, maybe a deer playing Frogger, but on The Cow Chip Highway, its cattle drives right down the middle of the asphalt.  Usually I can find a path through the cattle herd without pissing off the bull (a skill not taught in your typical MSF course).  Not this time.  On this day, the herd we encountered was so thick and so many cattle were being forcibly mounted so often that the group wisely gave way and bid retreated to a nearby pullout.  Or, as my ex-Marine dad would quote, “We didn’t retreat, we just advanced in the opposite direction”.

Except Terry.  He wagered that the large tailpipe on his Aprilia did not too closely resemble a mounting point for the horny bull in the herd and hugged the shoulder to make his way through.  However, I would have paid big money to hear him explain to the local Aprilia dealer (of which there are none in eastern Oregon) how he got bull semen into his Aprilia’s exhaust.  Terry was now on one side of the herd with us on the other.  Terry rode off, abandoning the group, never to be seen again until the end of the day.

We stick together for brotherhood and safety in this rugged and remote land.  We count heads at every stop because no one wants to be left by the side of the road with a broken bike or a broken body.  Terry’s abandonment would be a bone of contention the rest of the trip. We all agreed to not let Terry babysit our kids at a swimming pool.

Ted Edwards - Seven Days of Recalibration
Cow pies got flung everywhere, even my jacket and helmet. Good thing I had my visor down.

After the herd passed, we let loose on The Cow Chip Highway.  Or should I say, got loose.  There is enough loose chip seal (did I mention that I attract chip seal) and cow pies that I thanked my dirt bike roots.  It did not take much throttle to break the back end loose and I hung off the bike as much as possible to take away lean angle and keep the bike upright wile accelerating out of each corner.  The back end wiggled enough under just mild throttle that Jeff commented on the frequency of the back end of my VFR stepping out.  Occasionally, both ends slid and I maximized my focus on good throttle control (thank you Keith Code).  Focus, throttle, and pucker.

Cow poo was everywhere.  It covered our tires, rims, brake calipers, fender wells, clogged our radiators and even flung on my jacket and helmet, my penalty for following Trevor too closely.  Yet, we high fived, celebrated and could not wipe the s#@!-eating grin off our faces, pun intended.

Next, we turned south on 395, then west through Long Creek, Monument and Kimberly, then on highway 26 back to Prairie City.  Once there, Todd, Trevor and I washed the cow pies off the bikes, jackets and helmets and joined the rest of the Mild Hogs by the fire.  The company of brothers, a glowing fire, good burgers, single malt scotch, a cheap cigar and a toast to fallen brothers provided the perfect answer to the unending question of why we do such bizarre things.

That night, the Netflix motorcycle movie of choice was Road, the documentary about the Dunolp family.  It seems to me that if your last name is Dunlop, you are born with your right hand in the shape of a twist grip followed by a spectacular but painful road racing career filled with death and victory, sometimes only a few days apart.  This is my reminder to focus on the present and why I ride.

Ted Edwards - Seven Days of Recalibration
The group poses in front of the Sumpter gold dredge to try to put it’s mammoth size in perspective. It is a beast.

Monday was bitter cold again.  This is June, right?  Time to fire up the heated gear.   Given the weather, Todd, Trevor, my dad and I decided to do a short loop with less miles and more sightseeing while Jeff, Jack, Terry and Dave waited for a good weather window to head south.  Our destination took us east on highway 26 to investigate the ghost town of Whitney.  Hard to believe, but one house in the abandoned town was actually for sale.  Go figure.

We blitzed through more great roads to Sumpter to check out the historic gold dredge.  The remote and rugged town, named after the Fort Sumpter of civil war fame, once had a population over 2,000 in its gold mining heyday, but now has about 200.  The mining dredge is a stoic reminder of the boom times and looks like a wooden steamboat from hell, complete with heavy iron buckets, wrist-thick steel cables and enough pulleys, pipes, wood and iron to confuse their purpose and yet, only one tiny fire extinguisher.  OSHA would have a fit.  In its lifetime it extracted over 126,000 ounces of gold, so something must have worked right.

Ted Edwards - Seven Days of Recalibration
Todd and Trevor get in touch with the pavement outside of Sumpter. Literally.

As hard as it was to leave that mammoth machine, the mythically evil Dooley mountain road lay in wait for us.  With 180 turns in 18 miles, it is our Tail of the Dragon and it sounds like a sport bike rider’s dream, but it is as beautiful and deadly as a rattlesnake defending its territory.  Defend it does, baited with gravel-lined hairpins and lethal drop-offs.  This is one road where you absolutely do not make a mistake.  The reward for lack of focus here is a log truck coming the opposite direction, trailer crossing center stripe into your lane.  Or, a mandatory 100 foot drop off leading to pine trees sticking up like Vietnam era punji sticks.  There is no shoulder, no room for error, just great pavement, a pocket of mid-corner gravel, then a sheer drop.  Focus, good line choice and fine throttle control are the way through.  Trevor’s focus lapsed for a nanosecond entering a hairpin and he butt-puckered enough to pull the fabric in his new Corbin seat up into a volcano shape.  Time to dial it back and focus, all of us.

Tuesday morning was cold, again.  With drizzle, again. Because it’s June, so why not?   Did I already mention how much I like heated gear? We arrived that morning at Baker City for breakfast where we finally convinced Todd to get his front tire headshake resolved.  He had been nursing the wobble since day one of the ride and was trying to ride around it, but the imbalance had reached critical mass and needed to be dealt with.  Todd, Trevor and I split from the group and found a local bike shop where the teenager gave us a massive middle finger saying that they will not balance a tire that was not purchased from them, citing liability reasons.  In other words, you didn’t buy your tire from us, so we won’t help you out.  However, it seemed to me more of a liability to send a bike that actively wants tank slap you into oblivion back on the road for another 1200 miles of high speed twisty roads.

Our riding group has our own tire changer and balancer that we use regularly.  We all mount and balance our own tires and have likely done more tire swaps than the teenager who shooed us away.  Not to mention that Todd Shiflett (a.k.a. The Carb Whisperer) has been a professional power sports mechanic from birth.  He was seen TIG welding in his ultrasound, and can mount and balance a motorcycle tire in Indy Car pit stop time with a beer in one hand and cigar in his mouth.  I have witnessed it firsthand.  Impressive stuff.

Fortunately, our next attempt at a nearby shop revealed real mechanics.  They tossed Todd some DynaBeads and an air hose and let him do his magic in the parking lot.  I offered chocolate as payment into their greasy hands, which they didn’t refuse.  My kind of guys.

The rest of the group had gone ahead without us, so once finished, we used our delay as an excuse to exercise the top of our power bands.  All 3 of our VFRs howled a V-four exhaust note that made roadside cattle turn their heads and inspired them to make a cow pie or two.  Fine by me, as long as it doesn’t end up on the road.  From Baker City to Brownlee dam to Cambridge, Idaho, the 3 of us fell into a perfect symphony of sound, spacing and focus as we ate miles and annihilated corners.  We could not wipe the grins away.

Ted Edwards - Seven Days of Recalibration
Fred Deal’s cabin is a thing of beauty. Many of us were inventing ways to stay longer.

Our pit stop in Baker City took over well over an hour, but I know we made good pace since when we found the rest of the group at McCall, Idaho I asked my dad how long they had been waiting for us.  He silently pointed to his convenience store coffee he was drinking.  He had just taken the first sip.

It felt good to have the group reassembled for the run into Fred Deal’s cabin in Warm Lake, Idaho.  He facetiously describes it as a cabin, but log home dream mansion is more fitting.  It also happens to be at the terminus of one of the best kept motorcycle secrets in the northwest: Warm Lake road.  Pure sport touring heaven, its perfect pavement, banked hairpins, and zero shoulder makes sure you focus only on the present; not the past corner, not the next corner, just the corner you are on Right Now.  Here, confidence in your level of grip and your skill set is needed to eradicate fear.  However, what happened after we arrived really put the squirt in my shorts.

There is only one lodge at Warm Lake, accessed mainly by dirt roads.  Since our group had already ridden the dirt road into Fred’s remote cabin on our sporbikes, none of us were anxious to remount.  Fred, Milt Herman (who was staying with Fred) and the other five riders, piled into Fred’s small car like college students packing onto a Volkswagen Beetle.  This left Todd, Trevor and I with the unsavory options of riding our trio of VFRs like dirtbikes, walk, or starve.  That is, until we spotted the unsuspecting quad in the basement.  Nothing good happened next.

Ted Edwards - Seven Days of Recalibration
Warm Lake road, blue skies, mountain air, skilled riders and great bikes. Can’t every day be like this?

Todd drove and Trevor rode on the back rack of the quad which unweighted the front wheels, eliminating that thing we take for granted called “steering”.  Since that seemed important, I sat on the front rack in an attempt to regain steering control.  Evidently, my left handed-ness makes the left half of my body significantly heavier than my right, enough to make Todd panic shout, “She’s pulling to the left!”  I slid to the right, which also had the added benefit of allowing Todd to see where he was going.  Pure panic set in on the first attempt to negotiate a corner until we discovered that Trevor and I needed to lean like monkeys in a sidecar to get the quad to even remotely think of steering.  More yelling ensued at the first muddy patch of road and Trevor got caked with mud, for which he officially labeled Todd a sunofabitch.  I soon realized that if I didn’t hold my legs straight out in front in a plank position, the giant lugs on the quad’s mud tires would’ve sucked in my motorcycle boots, with me not far behind.  Todd informed me that should I get sucked under, he could stop the quad, but only after the dreaded thump-thump that would signal my trip to the E.R. and a phone call to my next of kin.  I was more afraid on that quad than I had been on any part of the trip.

After we miraculously arrived at dinner unscathed, Todd continued his theme of eating his way through brushes with death and ordered a burger called The Captain Kirk, with Trevor following suit.  The Captain Kirk is a burger made from an entire cow.  Simply finishing the whole meal, fries and all, allows you to sign the lodge’s book of fame.  Only 3 people had done so that year.  Remarkably, both Todd and Trevor polished off the meal and signed the book.  Todd, to prove a point, then ate the rest of someone else’s meal.  Impressive stuff.

Remounting the quad for the trip back, amongst more squeals of joy and panic, we decided that should a hungry bear appear, it could easily have caught our overloaded quad.  Todd and I concocted a plan.  Should a bear appear, we would simply shove Trevor off, curing both the problem of speeding up the quad and feeding the bear in one masterful stroke.  Pure genius.  I am sure Trevor agreed.

Wednesday morning was cold, again.  The heated gear went on, again, but with June-like blue skies that promised hope.  We had an excuse to wait for it to warm up as Dave Kelley made a sprint into McCall to make duplicates of his newly broken key which he had amputated itself into his locking saddlebag.  Dave played the odds and had 4 sets of keys made in McCall, 3 of which actually worked when he got back.

Leaving Fred’s log home oasis was painful, but Warm Lake road awaited.  Again, all 8 of us slalomed together in perfect spacing, pacing and motorcycle harmony, until I pulled over to turn on the GoPro.

Ted Edwards - Seven Days of Recalibration
Todd shows off the robin that lost its game of chicken with the VFRs left fork tube. I am mildly shocked that Todd didn’t eat it too.

Todd and Trevor, being a good shepherds (hear that Terry?), pulled over and waited for me to make sure I was okay.  I rejoined them after a GoPro mount changeover and luckily recorded what transpired next.  At speed (and I do mean Speed) a particularly chunky robin, who must have lost all will to live, made a Kamikaze run into the left fork tube of Todd’s VFR.  The fork tube won the encounter but Todd reported that the post-impact explosion of feathers came over the top of the fairing, around the sides of the bike and even up through his dash.  The only clue Trevor and I had about the incident was riding through the massive snowstorm of feathers.  The next day, Todd would still pick feathers out of his radiator.  It made me wonder what would have happened if we pulled into a certain shop in Baker City and asked to replace a left side fork seal and steering head bearings after a bird strike.  I can picture them saying, “I am sorry, we didn’t sell you the bird, so it is a liability for us to help you out.”

Once turned north, I was painfully reminded that I attract chip seal.  The chip seal construction stretched from about Riggins, Idaho to White Bird, give or take.  The endless miles of chip seal and road construction had the combined effect of not only making us all do 35 mph behind R.V.s for an hour, but also pissing us all off, so we took out our frustrations on White Bird grade.

White Bird grade is yet more banked switchback heaven, with enough sketchy pavement, cows and no center stripe to make you focus Right Now.  Evidently our roaring group of riders shredding the pavement earned us the right to all be labeled assholes by the locals.  I failed to remind them that while we are all indeed assholes, Todd is technically a sunofabitch, according to Trevor.  Huge difference.

We entered Clarkston, Washington and headed 22 miles south along the Snake River to our destination for the night, the Snake River Rendezvous.  The remote group settlement has several cabins that are little more than four walls with concrete aggregate floors, a toilet and upper sleeping lofts.  There is no internet, no cell service, no phones and no one else in the camp except us.  It’s just the way we like it, and we made our own entertainment.

Ted Edwards - Seven Days of Recalibration
The Mild Hogs have a knack for finding stunning places to stay in the middle of nowhere, so we make our own entertainment. Just the way we like it.

Trevor and I attempted to inflate a basketball for a game of horse rematch, but the ball failed to hold air.  Next, we decided to break into the abandoned school bus on the property, but despite my best efforts I failed to get it started, which was probably for the best.  What other mayhem could we invent?  Hmm, the electric fence looks entertaining.  Maybe not. But we did find big, flat washers and some flat plywood with holes.  Cornhole time!  And cornhole we did, for hours though dusk and into the night.  For half time entertainment, we observed a bighorn sheep grazing across the river with a full curl.  As the halftime grand finale, Trevor and I went to the lower terraced lawn and did a two man interpretive dance of Terry abandoning the group on The Cow Chip Highway, which the group rewarded with a standing ovation and rave reviews.  Look for it on Broadway.

We competed, laughed, trash talked and high-fived into the night until only Jeff, Todd, Trevor and I remained with our single malt, cigars (both of which are banned at the Snake River Rendezvous, I might add) and fading light.  We all agreed that this throttle therapy among a band of brothers in remote locations is soul regenerating stuff that puts life in perspective.

Thursday is cold and drizzly with a 70% chance of rain and heated gear, because that is June, evidently.  So, to wait out the weather, we rode to nearby Dworshak dam for a full tour.

Dworshak dam is massive, beautiful concrete dam with a huge crack.  That’s right, a giant crack.  It even has a pipe to pump put the 350 or so gallons a minute (!) pouring through the crack in the concrete.  I would fancy to think that the engineers who built the dam were better at solving problems than me, but it turns out we are all men when it comes to solutions.  Dam cracked?  Ah, just let it drain out.  Sounds good.  Who wants Bias-Ply Burritos for dinner?

Ted Edwards - Seven Days of Recalibration
The group listens to a long dam lecture. (sorry, I just couldn’t help myself)

We must have been the worst tour group ever: eight men acting like children, side conversations, crude remarks, squeezing against each other in the elevator, spitting over the edge of the dam and no shortage of dam jokes.  So, after endlessly irritating our tour guide and easily overstaying our welcome, we turned our attention to the glory that is P1.  Headed uphill, this road served up mile after relentless mile of banked switchbacks on shoulderless road with trees ready gather us after our mircosecond of inattention.  Time again to focus on the present.  No past, no future, only this corner Right Now.

And it didn’t stop there.  Making time toward our overnight digs at Terry’s condo on Lake Coeur d’Alene, I was introduced to Idaho’s highway 97 for the first time.  More tight hairpins on more narrow roads and more peg scraping lean angles required focus and good throttle control.  By now, this was paradoxically remarkable and routine, and there was nowhere else I would rather be.

However, riding this way for 6 days in a row had taken its toll.  After full bellies of motorcycle stroganoff (a Mild Hogs rite of passage) we were shoved back into the shock and reality of things like cell service, billboards, and television news of shootings.  It did us in.  We all collapsed into our own little worlds at different rates as conversations stopped and we stared blankly at glowing smartphones.  I tried to watch the Catalunya round of MotoGP on my tablet but fell asleep in the middle.

Friday morning, it was time to go our separate ways home.  Don, Terry, Trevor and I pounded straight, perfect pavement with plenty of shoulder and grassy run offs all the way into Wenatchee.  It was so boring I got nostalgic for the forced focus of imperfect roads with no margin for error and dangers multiplied by speed.

When watching Dust to Glory the previous Saturday, one of the racers explained that after cheating death for 1000 miles of unpredictable roads, cows, cactus and crowds, the stresses of life are not a big deal when put into perspective.  We can relate.  Nothing in life increases your focus more than piloting a motorcycle, because nothing else in life is a bigger rewarder of skill or a more severe punisher of inattention.  Brake just a nanosecond too late after seeing two deer in the middle of the road?  That will make your butt pucker enough to tear the seat fabric.  Even worse, you could go home in a body bag.

Ted Edwards - Seven Days of Recalibration
I am endlessly nostalgic for it. And yes, this photo is my new screensaver.

Upon returning home, the little irritants of daily life manage to creep back; being rejected for a job, someone cuts you off in traffic or a car breaks down.  Who cares?  You just almost died six times from riding your bike off the road in a sleet storm, hitting a deer, riding through a cattle drive, surviving a bird strike, having a massive tankslapper near a concrete dam, or being launched off the road into trees at 80 mph.  So what if Starbucks messes up your coffee order?  Tiny things compared to the way a motorcycle can change your life in an instant.  A motorcycle recalibrates your perspective on life.  It’s why we ride.

The famous author Milan Kundera understood this psychology.  He said, “The man hunched over his motorcycle can focus only on the present… he is caught in a fragment of time cut off from both the past and the future… he has no fear, because the source of fear is in the future, and a person freed of the future has nothing to fear.” Except sleet, deer, cattle drives, cow chips, quads, mid-corner gravel, sheer drops, trees, chip seal, tankslappers, fractured dams, broken keys and bird strikes.  Yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Algos means suffering. So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return” – Milan Kundera

BikeBandit Guest Blogger Series – For The Love of Motorcycling

I have always been attracted to motorcycles for as long as I can remember. In fact, my first experience on a motorcycle is enough to make most people run away and evangelize against it as the most dangerous and vile thing that exists.

You see, I was about nine years old, when a family friend visited my home on his ‘new’ bike. It was a Yamaha DT 175. Here it was, someone I knew with a motorcycle, someone who can teach me the art of riding. My mind raced with the possibilities and excitement. After much persuading, and without my parents’ approval or knowledge for that matter, we were on our way for a ride.

Fast forward 30 minutes in that historic period of time, and there I was in a hospital with a broken right leg in three places, and needing a skin graph to my ankle. I spent two months in that hospital with many visits to the operating theatre. In fact, my mother’s account of the incident was worse. Apparently, I had an initial allergic reaction to the anesthetic. They thought I was going to die. My mother prayed and wept for her first born son.

I spent the summer of that year learning to walk. Having spent four months in a cast, my leg muscles were terribly atrophied and the lack of movement had partially frozen my knee joint. Then there were the scars. They served as a constant reminder, and to this present day, of my great ordeal as a young lad. But somewhere, deep inside, those 15 minutes of freedom and sense of exhilaration had found its place and planted the seed that will later take roots within my heart.

Usually, I share this story with people when they ask how I got into motorcycling. The look on their faces is always priceless. They often come to the resolution that I’m crazy. But I’m not, at least not completely. My mother was sure I was certifiable crazy the day she came home from work and saw a bike parked in front our home.

I had my first job out of school as a bank teller. It was a part time gig but it was enough for me to save towards buying my first bike. A Suzuki Intruder 400. She was dressed in black and accessorized with lots of shiny chrome pieces. In hind sight, I should have maybe invested in a jacket, or gloves or a helmet for that matter. Maybe some riding lessons and a motorcycle license would have been a good idea too.

With my powers of persuasion, the same one that got me into trouble years ago, I had gotten the owner of the Intruder to drop the bike, upon purchase, off at my home. Mom was like “are you going on a bike again? Don’t you remember what happened? Son, I can’t believe you would do that!’ I felt her pain and saw the concern in her eyes. It was like a mother sensing no good thing could come of this and fearing the worse. I did the only thing a loving and obedient son could do. I reassured her and as soon as she went inside, I took the bike for a spin.

It was glorious. All 20 minutes of it. The wind on my face, because I didn’t have a helmet yet which was also against the law. The freedom of mobility and sense of independence. The acceleration, the look from by standers as I pass by. Sweet! I thought to myself. This is not so hard. I have this clutch thing down once I get moving. What was I so worried about? Wait that corner looks kinda sharp, what’s that gravel? Before I knew it I was down. Kissing asphalt, not literally of course, but damn near close. Great, I’m bleeding at my palms. My new bike is scuffed pretty badly and those on lookers are now laughing, not cool. Worse yet, how do I tell my parents now. I will surely never own a bike once I live under their roof. I needed a plan. I’ve got it!

There was a bike shop about a half hour away at limping pace. I pushed the bike home, parked in a way to hide any visible damage and began my trek for help. I had befriended the guys there months ago and I knew they would assist. So after relaying my unfortunate accident and being subjected to some minor ridicule as expected, I got the head mechanic to come collect the bike for repairs and storage until I sorted myself out.
The next few days I did my best to avoid my mother. Didn’t want her seeing my poorly bandaged hand. That didn’t last long though. I needed her assistance an expertise as a nurse to properly clean and dress my wound which of course was from a skateboarding accident. Sorry mom.

The next few weeks as I visited the bike shop to check on the progress of my bike, I decided if I was going to do this, I was going to do this right. No more short cuts or Evil Knievel stunts. I wanted to enjoy motorcycling the right way. Safe and law abiding. Plus, I wanted the respect and blessing of my mother.

So, I sold the bike after much deliberation and bought some protective gear. Well a helmet and a pair of gloves anyway. I enrolled in a riding class and got my riders permit. I was now legal and geared up, but now no bike. I took a while to get my next bike though. As I got older I grew more cautious. Let’s call it the onset of wisdom. I got a Yamaha RD350 which broke down almost every time I rode it. Then a Kawasaki Ninja 400 which I crashed 3 times before selling. I bought a Yamaha XT 250T that didn’t last long ‘cause I realized I wasn’t a dirt bike kinda guy. Although that is what started the whole chain of events. I then got a Yamaha FZX 750. I crashed that one too but it wasn’t my fault. Some guys and I were on a ride and a fellow ride rear ended me. Long story. I sold that and took a rest. Seven years to be exact. Family time. Wife, new baby, new home. But the desire lived on.

Romeo Ali - For The Love of Motorcycling
This beauty is the one that got me to respect motorcycles.

My wife came home from work one day and found a 05 Suzuki GSX-R 1000 parked in the apartment. She (wife) freaked out. She (the bike) was awesome. Wickedly fast and handled like a dream. I respected that bike, not that I didn’t respect any of my previous steeds, but there was something about that bike that scared me a little. I kept it for four years. Rode her every other weekend incident free.

Romeo Ali - For The Love of Motorcycling
Me and my current pride and joy. I learned the hard way about everything that you need to ride, but I learned….. ATGATT!

When I sold the Gixxer, I wasn’t sure what I wanted. Maybe a cruiser, or a muscle bike like a Vmax. I tried a Suzuki Boulevard M109R. Nice but a little too heavy for me. I stand at 5’6” weighing 168lbs. So the next best thing was a Kawasaki ZX14R. I’ve had that bike for nearly 3 years now and absolutely love and respect it for what it is. I ride now when life (read wife) and weather permits. I have one riding partner who rides a similar bike and shares my level of maturity. I have gained a lot of knowledge and wisdom over the past thirty six years on the subject of motorcycling and I don’t voluntarily see myself stopping riding. I often fantasize of going car-less, but maybe that’s just the little crazy in me trying to get out. Who knows…maybe one day!

BikeBandit Guest Blogger Series: This Ain’t No Picnic

Well, this turned out to be a great gig! I got a call asking if I would be willing to haul a photographer on my bike for a marathon. The last one I did was the Motorola marathon in February. It was about 40 degrees at 5:00 in the morning when I left the house for that one and after 25 miles at 70 MPH, the wind chill overcame my gloves and jacket. The start was at 7:00 am and the whole thing took about 5 hours. It was a lot of fun all in all, so I jumped at the chance to do another one.

Merle Grall - aint no picnicThis one was Willie Nelson’s “This Ain’t no Picnic” Farm Aid Concert and 10k marathon. I got to the Run Tex store on time and signed up at the volunteer registration. When I told them what my job was, they seemed to treat me with a lot of respect. Maybe when they associate motorcycle riders with an event like this, they still think of Sonny Barger and the Hell’s Angels at that Rolling Stone thing. I’m sure I don’t look the part, though, I was just dressed regular and didn’t even wear my overalls. Of course, I guess being about 20 – 30 yrs. older than most of the other volunteers may have had something to do with it too.

I connected up with the guy I was supposed to and he was going to set me up with the photographer and parked Mr. Breeze (my Valkyrie) in front of the ticket entrance. I really get a kick out of this whole thing. You get to drive through barricades, in and out of traffic, wrong way down the street, and cops waving you through the entire time! We went to the stage where a press conference was going on to find the shutterbug. This was interesting hanging out by the tour busses and being just a few feet away from Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, and Lance Armstrong while the media took pictures and did interview type stuff. I was with a couple of young volunteers that were supposed to make sure I got with my rider, and even they moved closer to get a better look at the celebrities while I stayed back where I was. Pretty soon this guy walks past me with about 3 big cameras and I wondered if maybe this was my guy. I started to say something to him but figured it wasn’t him or the ever-vigilant volunteers would’ve said something. Just to be sure I thought maybe I should ask, so I went over to where the volunteers were being ever vigilant over the press conference hoopla and asked if the guy walking away with the cameras could be my man. Sure ‘Nuff he was. They hollered at him and I went down to catch up.

Merle Grall - aint no picnic
This was from a previous marathon I participated in as a Moto-Photo Rider. I had a blast then so why not give it another go.

He’s a freelancer from NYC and was doing this for Runner’s World magazine, so if you get a copy and see pictures of the runner’s, you’ll know they were shot from the back of my bike. He gave me a media pass and free concert ticket for my efforts. I already had one ticket that they gave me at check-in but didn’t really need it since the media badge got me in and out of just about everywhere. He was a really nice guy and not really too big. The last photographer I carried was a girl about 5’1 and might’ve weighed all of 100 lbs. She was able to crawl all over the back seat and even stood on it a time or two. I was a little concerned at how well this guy would fit, but it was no problem. He crawled on sitting backward and all I felt was the backend go down a little. I drove him down to the starting line and while he went to get shots of the start, I went ahead and stiffened the rear shocks a notch which put it back to a more recognizable handling characteristic.

Just like everyone else that first encounters a Valkyrie, he had a comment of amazement. His was regarding how smooth it rode. I’m used to that sort of thing, because as lots of other Valk riders experience you always get stares in parking lots, turning heads by passersby and occasionally someone on the street telling you what a great looking’ machine it is. Just the other night on 6th street I had an older man stop and look the bike over. Like most non-riders, his first question was if it was a Harley. I had to explain to him that it wasn’t and how a Valkyrie is an HPM (High-Performance Motorcycle) as opposed to a Harley, which is an HPFA (High Priced Fashion Accessory). Same old story; men look longingly with envy and the women swoon when you go by. I had about 30 minutes to wait till the actual start, so I did some people watching’ and made A quick trip to the porta potty while the dignitaries and announcers did their thing at the starting line. The wheel chairs took off first as usual. For those not familiar with these marathons, as I’m just now becoming, they don’t send them off first because it’s a handicap thing, these guys are quick! Those chairs are pretty damn impressive too. I don’t know what the times are, but they gave them a 5-minute head start and I never saw them again.

Finally, all the runners left and after the last of the “mosyers” (those who just mosey along) the photographer showed up and we took off. He directed me to a turn about 1/4 way through the route and we caught up with the pack. We proceeded on weaving around runners and dodging cops and regular traffic till we got to the guy in first. He was way ahead of everybody else and the second place runner was about a quarter mile behind with the same spread between himself and everybody behind him. He directed me when to slow down or speed up and took lots of shots of the first and second place runners. Towards the last quarter of the route he told me to head on in to the finish line and when we got there he jumped off, shook my hand and said “thanks.” That was it? All of 20 min. of riding? That was just way too easy!

I rode on back towards the start, once again breaching a police barricade with full permission and parked in the lot with the TV news trucks. The runners from the 5k portion of the race were starting to file in so I decided to make my way over to the concert area. Right off the bat, I was able to get up close and personal with a genuine Austin celebrity; mayoral candidate Leslie, infamous downtown homeless crossdresser. I guess he was trying to tone down his usual flamboyant halter top-miniskirt-fishnet hose image by wearing a tasteful black dress and leopard print sweater, but I ain’t that familiar with stylish women’s clothing so I won’t venture into a commentary on that. He was talking to some guys about his platform that centered around reviving the outdoor concert scene and “keeping Austin weird” theme.

Merle Grall - aint no picnic
Mayoral Candidate Leslie Cochran was about as close to a celebrity that I came close to. He wasn’t my choice for Mayor and I wasn’t going to get into a debate as to why. Photo courtesy: New York Times

 

Personally, I’m a bit conservative and the idea of this guy trying to win a legs contest against some of our more serious candidates was a little appalling. Elections are serious business and should be decided based on the issues and in a fair, free, election with butterfly ballots. I wanted to put him in his place by asking a hardball question like what he intends to do about the anthrax problem, and if he thought there was any connection with the guys that run around wearing camo all the time out towards Smithwick. I really just wanted to lighten up with festivities instead, so I wandered around to see just how much I could get away with wearing that media pass.

I got over to the backstage area and just kinda milled around like I belonged there. The guy at the gate looked at my badge, but I told him I was just hangin’ out lookin’ for someone. I think if I’d pushed the issue I could’ve gotten in, but he wasn’t sure it was ok and I didn’t want to risk being pegged as a groupie nutcase, so I nonchalantly walked away and had an encounter with a seasoned groupie nutcase. I can’t for the life of me remember her name, so let’s go with Carol. She was in a wheelchair and called me over. I couldn’t understand her very well, but she asked me if I knew Blabberforth. That’s probably not what she said but that’s what it sounded like and the problem wasn’t her disability so much as it was my hearing. I tend to just smile and nod at people when I don’t understand them. Maybe that’s why everyone thinks I’m so friendly. She explained that she knew everyone in Willie’s band and published some sort of website and was trying to get a backstage pass. Some other lady, presumably an insider, came by and told her that someone over by “Willie’s place” (the entrance to the VIP refreshment area) wanted to ask her some questions about Willie and the band. I thought maybe I’d hit the big time here and if I just stuck with her I might find myself passing a doobie with the red-headed stranger later and maybe sit in on harmonica for a song or two during the show. Maybe even get lined up to go on tour, move to Luchenbach, and …… sorry, I digress with my delusions.

So anyway we started making our way over to “Willie’s Place”. About halfway there we ran into the same lady as before and another dark-haired woman with her that seemed to have some connection with the band. They talked to Carol and knew her well. Carol asked if they could get her a pass and all they could say was that they were instructed not to even ask. The
dark haired lady said don’t even think about it until they could get back in good graces, and till then don’t even ask. Needless to say, that smelled of an interesting story so I asked Carol about it. She said it happened last August in San Antonio when she was on vacation. She then went into one of those old familiar premises of “It was really hot and I hadn’t had anything to eat all day. I had a couple of beers and a margarita and don’t really remember much after that…..” You can pretty much fill in the rest. Something about a real curvy road and next thing she knew it was morning and she was in the driver’s seat of her car in front of a Denny’s. It seemed it would be a good idea not to let myself seem too closely associated with her, so we sort of parted company.

At that point, I was at the entrance to the VIP area and met up with some of the volunteers I’d been with earlier. We went in and got to pig out on cheese, meats and free beer. I don’t know who the VIP’s were or how you got to be one, but there did seem to be a lot of folks that were actually helping out with the event.

Back out front the show was about to start and I got to thinking about what to do with the two tickets I had. I decided to go back to the bike to get my phone and call my son to see if he was interested. I ran into his dorm mate’s mother and she said they’d been at her place all day practicing. They’re both freshmen at UT and have a band. I managed to get in touch with them and Ben (my son) said he couldn’t because he had a paper to do, but Andy wanted to go, so I told them I’d meet them out by the entrance. I walked on out and spent about 30 min. learning the ins and outs of the ticket scalping trade by hangin’ out with those guys that stand on the corner buying and selling tickets. Andy showed up and I gave him one ticket and then sold the other to one of the scalpers. They were nice guys; the kind you’d feel comfortable sharing a bottle of wine with on the curb after a hard day sellin’ crack. I like feeling like I can be one with the common folk that way. I think it’s ’cause they just feel so much like family.

Merle Grall - aint no picnic
I didn’t get to hang with “the man” but I had a great time regardless. It’s amazing the opportunities that present themselves to you when you ride on 2 wheels.

Back inside the grounds, which I brazenly was able to once again enter by displaying the ever powerful media badge; the key to all forbidden corners of the universe, and the show was in full swing. I entered the VIP seating area, which was right in front of the stage and you could see every wrinkle on Willie’s saggy old arms It was just overwhelming. Lyle Lovett sang a couple with him and my personal favorite of the whole show was the two of them doing “The Nightlife, it Ain’t No Good Life, But It’s My Life”. There was a rumor that Merle Haggered was gonna show up, but that never materialized. I saw Brian (the photographer) again and pretty soon John (the guy that got me into this) came by. We shuffled off with some more volunteers and were supposed to go backstage to meet Willie personally after the show, but while we were waiting to get through the gate to go back there, one of the big tour busses started pulling out with Willie on board. No big deal. I mean I wouldn’t want to hang out at work an extra hour and spend time talking with my customers about boring computer stuff. It was a fun time and I’d do it again in a second. A live Willie concert on a beautiful October night in Austin, Texas at town lake, all that free food and beer and riding the finest bike ever made—- That’s about as close to the whipped cream and cherry on top of the sundae of life that you can get to.

About The Author
Merle Grall grew up in Oklahoma working machine shops, factories, construction and other various gigs while getting himself through high school. Half of his time in school was spent in vo-tech aircraft engine courses and in his spare time he focused on hot rods, motorcycles, hunting, fishing and in the latter years partying, long hair and rock n roll. His first motorcycle was a Suzuki 50 that he bought for $50 by saving up his pay from working at a drive-in theater.

Merle now resides on the edge of hill country in Texas and currently rides “Mr. Breeze,” his ’98 Valkyrie that is just getting broken in at 70k miles on the odometer. Some of his favorite areas to ride are Big Bend, Colorado, Utah or anywhere with great roads away from crowds. “I just know from experience that finding out what is around the next bend is like reading the first line of the next story in your life and you certainly don’t want to pass that up or not find out how it ends. I guess to sum it all up my perspective of life is that the journey is the destination, and to get there I just make it up as I go along.”