A very different kind of custom

When we envision a “custom” motorcycle, we almost always imagine a motorcycle that has had some of its utility removed in the name of art.

Choppers are ever more stretched, seats get lower and lower, ape-hangers get higher and higher. As a result, lean angle is reduced to five degrees and front end feel is gone with the bling. Sportbikes get long swingarms and lowered suspension, until the sweetest handling bikes ever built are converted into something that turns with the responsiveness of a garbage scow. At the V-Twin Expo this year, I saw my first 32-inch front wheel. I’m sure lots of people thought it was cool. I couldn’t help thinking what a nightmare it must be to ride that bike at anything above parade pace.

Mark Morel's ZX-10RWhat if building a custom didn’t mean sacrificing function for form? After all, “custom,” at its most basic level, means building a one-of-a-kind machine that responds to one man’s (or one woman’s) personal ideal.

That’s what Mark Morel did. He modified his motorcycle with his own hands and skills to suit him. His motorcycle wouldn’t get a second look from the guys at the V-Twin Expo, unless they were looking at it to disparage it. The hard-core sportbike crowd would probably consider it a sacrilege. But it’s every bit a custom: one man’s perception of just exactly the bike he wanted. Continue reading A very different kind of custom →

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The good and bad of the Daytona 200’s internet-only era

fanschoice.tv promo imageWell here we are in 2014 in the brave new world of internet-only coverage of the Daytona 200. Because nobody could figure out how to televise this year’s six-round AMA Superbike series profitably, and since few people actually go to Daytona International Speedway for the race, there was a troubling chance that the 73rd running of the event could be the race that fell in the woods and didn’t make a sound.

The solution was www.fanschoice.tv, which showed all the races from Daytona online this year, with no commercial interruptions except that awkward Cortech thing that popped up in the middle of the broadcast like someone’s junior high school audio-visual editing project. So now that the top level of professional motorcycle roadracing has fallen so low that even cable won’t touch it, how was the coverage in this new age? As usual, there was the good, the bad, and the fistful of dollars. Oh wait, I’m mixing my old movie references again.

Let’s start with the good. Continue reading The good and bad of the Daytona 200’s internet-only era →

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What’s next: RevZilla

RevZilla logoIn an industry that has more than its share of stagnation and failures, RevZilla is a success story. Continue reading What’s next: RevZilla →

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Another road trip in February

Snowy rest stop

On the road (again) in February. The roads were clear but the backdrop was quite snowy.

Last year, it was just for fun. This year, it was more about business. But either way, I once again found myself obsessively checking weather forecast updates every few hours to see if my plan for a motorcycle road trip in February was going to happen.

Once again, the weather waited until the last minute to cooperate. But with temperatures solidly in the 40s and sunny skies above, I headed east from my home office in Ohio to the headquarters of RevZilla in the Navy Yard in Philadelphia. Plans are for me to do quite a bit of work for RevZilla this year, so this is the first of what I hope and expect to be several such trips.  Continue reading Another road trip in February →

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The decline of the AMA

AMA in declineThe American Motorcyclist Association has experienced a steady decline since 2007, losing 28 percent of its membership and losing nearly $4 million in the last three years alone. Despite these losses in members and money, AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman has been given pay raises and bonuses and record levels of compensation for the position.

How and why has this happened?

Continue reading The decline of the AMA →

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Buried with his bike

It made the news nearly four years ago when a young man in Puerto Rico was posed on his Repsol replica Honda by a funeral home after he was shot to death.

Now, the same thing has happened on even a grander scale here in Ohio.

When the same thing happens in my former home and current home, two very different places, and covers both an 82-year-old man and his 1967 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide and a 22-year-old man with his CBR Honda, I’d say it shows the universality of the obsession some of us have with our motorcycles.

But I still think I’ll just be cremated.

 

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Shifting center of the motorcycle world

Here in the United States, we often vary between thinking we are the center of the world or acting as if we are the world, a way of thinking that spawned that old joke, “So, I see you Americans won the World Series again this year.”

To anyone paying attention, it has been clear the United States hasn’t been the center of the motorcycle world for a long time. Yamaha is unveiling the M1 for the 2014 MotoGP season, an activity of no real importance but full of symbolism. So where are Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo flying to for this event? No, not some European capital. No place in the United States was considered, I’m confident. Instead, they’re flying to Jakarta. That’s Indonesia, for the geographically challenged.

Wonder why? Consider this your stat of the day: More new motorcycles are sold in Indonesia in one month than in an entire year in the United States.

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Filling the Superbike gap?

The worst thing about the 2014 AMA Superbike schedule, which I wrote about last week, is obvious: five race weekends are not enough exposure (especially without television coverage) to bring sponsors on board to support the teams. But the second worst thing is not new. The gap between Daytona in March and the next race at Road America in late May/early June, is too long and nobody likes it. In the unlikely event the increasingly irrelevant Daytona show does build any momentum, it’s long forgotten by June.

Roadracing World magazine publisher and team owner John Ulrich is trying to do something to address both problems. Say what you want about Ulrich. I have. He can be a polarizing figure, inspiring both admiration and ire, sometimes both within minutes.

But you can’t deny he’s at least trying to do something. Read his idea here and consider just how bad the DMG folks are going to look if he can put together half as many races in a month as they have in a year. I hope he succeeds.

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