Two images that show why the AMA is going nowhere

2017 Ride to Work Day at the AMA

The photo above shows the motorcycle-only covered parking for visitors and staff at the AMA on the 2017 Ride to Work Day. The video below shows the RevZilla parking lot on a recent Ride to Work Day. One entity is stagnant, the other thriving. Could it be because one is staffed by people who understand enthusiast motorcyclists and one isn’t?

A few months ago, AMA President Rob Dingman wrote a scolding column titled “Fake news in motorcycling,” in which he asserted there was “a deliberate attempt to defame and undermine the AMA” using information from AMA tax filings, an approach he called “naive at best and intentionally misleading at worst.” He cited a specific article from last year, supposedly written by someone formerly affiliated with the AMA, that said the association would run out of money this month (July, 2017). Honestly, I don’t even know what piece he’s talking about. I haven’t seen it.

I will give Dingman this much: I am not an accountant. So let me stick to simple facts that even a journalism major can understand. The real measurement of the health of the organization is not the amount of cash in the bank (or unrealized net gains, deferred revenue and the other stuff his column talks about). What really shows the trend is the membership of the organization, and it doesn’t reflect the optimistic projections Dingman has made over the years.  Continue reading Two images that show why the AMA is going nowhere →

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Short shift: A quick review of the 2018 Triumph Street Triple RS

2018 Triumph Street Triple RS

Triumph updated one of its most popular models, the Street Triple, with a new engine and other refinements for 2018.

On paper, the 2018 Triumph Street Triple RS looks like just about the perfect motorcycle for me. It seems to combine the best attributes of the three motorcycles I currently own — only better in every category.

It is the descendant of my 1997 Speed Triple, but improved by any measure except, arguably, looks. The benefit of 21 years has made the Street Triple RS lighter, more powerful, more nimble and far more sophisticated, especially in terms of electronics. It is also a descendant, in a way, of my 2006 Daytona 675, which was the first year of the 675 cc Triumph triple that remains one of my all-time favorite engines, only the new 765 cc Street Triple makes more power and broader torque and doesn’t impose the Daytona’s punishing riding position, which is sublime at 125 mph on the back straight at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course but is just torture when stuck in city traffic on a hot day. And the Street Triple provides just as much comfort as my Kawasaki Versys, but is miles ahead, again, not just in more power and less weight, but also higher quality that shows in the brakes, transmission, suspension, everything.

Yes, on paper, I’d have to say that if a meteor wiped out my garage tonight and left me motorcycle-less, I’d be wise to start shopping for a new 765 cc Street Triple tomorrow. But we don’t ride motorcycles on paper. Sometimes what looks perfect leaves us indifferent when we live with it in the real world of metal and asphalt and human flesh and synapses. So when RevZilla’s Common Tread got a Street Triple RS for a long-term loan, I was really looking forward to trying it, more than I’ve anticipated riding any motorcycle in a long time.

Would it really be the perfect motorcycle for me?

Continue reading Short shift: A quick review of the 2018 Triumph Street Triple RS →

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It’s a motorcycle: You gonna look at it or ride it?

Speed Triple at RevZilla HQ

My 1997 Triumph Speed Triple joined the other motorcycles ridden to work at RevZilla, though mine was ridden 500 miles to get there. That’s Spurgeon’s 2015 Triumph Tiger next to it, covered in mud from a hard weekend of off-road riding and held together with zip-ties and hope. I thought it might make my old bike look better. It seems that didn’t work as well as I’d hoped.

Two of my colleagues at RevZilla were considering my 1997 Triumph Speed Triple. “It’s kind of sad that a bike owned by someone in the industry is in that condition,” one of them said after a minute’s hesitation.

OK. So maybe that’s not what I was expecting to hear. Or, on another level, maybe I was.  Continue reading It’s a motorcycle: You gonna look at it or ride it? →

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Why we’ll miss Nicky Hayden more than most

Nicky Hayden

The best attitude in the paddock.

Even if he had never won a motorcycle race, Nicky Hayden was the kind of guy who would be greatly missed.

But of course millions more will miss him precisely because he did win a lot of motorcycle races. That’s not the only reason, or even the main reason, why we’ll miss him, however.

Nicky was way more than his accomplishments on the track. He was the youngest rider to win the AMA Superbike title and then he went on to win the 2006 MotoGP world championship. What made him different from other racers, and even from other world champions, was how he handled himself in a cutthroat world of hypercompetitive professional sports.

I was born and raised in West Virginia and Nicky grew up in Kentucky. There’s a lot that’s admirable about the working-class, small-town Appalachian culture, but there are also aspects far less laudable. Nicky embodied the best of it.

He worked hard. He didn’t complain, whine or blame others when he failed. When he succeeded, he didn’t forget to thank those who had helped him along the way. And again, he worked hard, whether it was turning more practice laps than anyone else or the hours spent training away from the track. He was pushing his 35-year-old body hard on his bicycle to maintain the kind of condition only the world’s elite athletes attain when he was hit by a car, causing the injuries that led to his death today.

I once heard a small, bitter and ignorant man say that Nicky “got lucky” when he won his world title. Here’s what I always say: Nobody ever won a world championship by luck alone, or without some luck along the way. It’s easier to conclude Nicky had more than his fair share of bad luck: his Honda team deciding to build the program around Dani Pedrosa instead of him; joining Ducati at a time when that program badly lost its way, leaving him on an uncompetitive bike in what could have been his best years; going back to Honda when he had to move to World Superbike, and being provided with yet another uncompetitive bike to ride; and finally, being in the wrong place at the wrong time on a bicycle in Italy.

Whenever his career handed him bad breaks, instead of whining or sulking or giving up, he slapped a “no excuses” sticker on his bike and worked harder.

In our culture, we look up to movie stars, athletes and other celebrities, but only a select few show the kind of character that truly deserves our admiration. Only a few are the kind of people we’d hope our children grow up to be. Nicky Hayden was one of those few.

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REV’IT Shield jacket review

I know not every motorcyclist is consumed by the pursuit of the perfect jacket. “Consumed” is too strong a word for me, as well, but I am on a more or less endless quest to find jackets that do everything I want without adding unwanted complication or expense. My most recent test case is the REV’IT Shield textile jacket.

REV'IT Shield jacketKeep in mind that I am not one of those riders who wants to own one jacket that can adapt to every possible riding condition. I’d rather buy three $200 jackets to cover the range of warm, cold and wet weather than buy a more complicated $600 jacket that tries to do it all, just as I’d rather have a dual-sport, a sport bike and a touring bike to cover dirt roads, track days and road trips than have one bike that tries to do it all. My general strategy for street riding is to have a three-quarters-length jacket for cold weather, a sporty, waist-length waterproof jacket for moderate weather, a mesh jacket for hot days and a rain jacket to put over any of the above if needed.

With that in mind, let’s see how the REV’IT Shield, a fairly straightforward, waterproof, sport-styled, waist-length textile jacket fits into that plan, now that I’ve tested it. Continue reading REV’IT Shield jacket review →

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The 2017 Harley-Davidson Street Rod: I don’t get this motorcycle

Harley-Davidson Street Rod

Harley-Davidson made a lot of improvements to its Street 750 to create the Street Rod. So why is it one of the most awkward-feeling motorcycles I’ve ridden?

Most people were underwhelmed by the Harley-Davidson Street 750, Harley’s new liquid-cooled “world” motorcycle. Performance was nothing amazing, which is not that surprising for Harley-Davidson, but what was surprising was the general quality of the fit and finish and the looks.

In introducing the 2017 Street Rod, Harley had been unusually responsive to criticism. This new model addresses the Street 750’s shortcomings with a range of improvements: steel-braided brake lines and dual discs up front, far better fit and finish, a little more power — even little things like improved, bar-end mirrors.

So this is a Harley I should like, right? One that can go and lean, at least a little. I took the one we currently have on loan at RevZilla for a short ride this past week while I was in Philadelphia, and I’m sorry to say I can’t get on board the Street Rod train.

I just don’t get this motorcycle.  Continue reading The 2017 Harley-Davidson Street Rod: I don’t get this motorcycle →

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A Scootour of Puerto Rico

This story originally appeared in Rider magazine.

scooter tour of Puerto Rico

Homely scooter, beautiful beach.

Sometimes you just need to take a ride. Even if circumstances aren’t optimal. Even if there are obstacles to overcome. Even if those around you react with, “You want to do what?”

That’s how I came to find myself on Puerto Rico Route 191, a narrow road of tight switchbacks that climbs 2,000 feet in just a few miles, wringing the throttle on a copper-colored, Chinese-built scooter of questionable lineage and well-worn suspension. The scooter’s engine whirred in pain, the plastic housing in front of my knees rattled loudly with each bump, the front end threatened head-shake despite the modest speeds, but really, none of it mattered. Because sometimes you just need to take a ride. Continue reading A Scootour of Puerto Rico →

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Dunlop RoadSmart III sport-touring motorcycle tire review

Dunlop tires on a BMW

Test riding the new Dunlop Roadsmart III sport-touring tire on a BMW R 1200 RT. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.

I had a shock last year when I changed the front tire on my Kawasaki Versys and went to write down the mileage in my maintenance log. According to the numbers, that Dunlop Roadsmart II had been on the front wheel of my Versys for 25,000 miles!

I was certain it was a mistake. I must have changed it without writing it down. But since I only buy tires from RevZilla, where I work as managing editor of Common Tread, I had an easy way to check. My purchase records there confirmed it.

I got 25,000 miles out of a front tire. I’m certain I’ve never done that before.

Now admittedly, the Versys is fairly easy on (especially front) tires and I don’t ride the bike that hard, typically. But still…

So when I got a chance recently to attend the press intro for the next generation of Dunlop sport-touring tires, the Roadsmart III, I was really interested in seeing how they’d do.  Continue reading Dunlop RoadSmart III sport-touring motorcycle tire review →

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