The ones that got away: Motorcycles I didn’t buy

While my experience pales in comparison to some of the guys who have been in the motorcycle writing business full-time for decades, I have had the chance, thanks to my work in the industry, to ride a lot of different motorcycles. I’ve lost count of exactly how many. But I am pretty sure the number of motorcycle brands I’ve ridden is 14. I’ve ridden singles, twins, triples, fours and a six. Chain, belt and shaft drives. American, Japanese, British, Italian, German  and Indian. Gas and electric.

Riding is one thing. Buying, however, is another. Perhaps because I’ve had the chance to borrow many bikes, I’ve bought fewer than some people who have been riding as long as I have. I’ve only owned 10 motorcycles and almost all of them were purchased used.

You can learn a lot about a rider by seeing which bikes he or she is willing to plunk down money for, but I think it’s equally telling to consider the ones we almost bought but didn’t. I have some very specific memories of motorcycles that got away.  Continue reading The ones that got away: Motorcycles I didn’t buy →

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Toni Elias shakes up the MotoAmerica Superbike series

Toni Elias

Toni Elias has put the Suzuki GSX-R1000 back on top in MotoAmerica Superbike racing.

Just two rounds into the second season of MotoAmerica Superbike racing, Toni Elias has injected both an intriguing new story line and an extra level of excitement into a series that’s still struggling to come back from the hole it was left in by previous management.

None of that should be a surprise. Elias is a former world champion, the first ever to win the Moto2 championship. He is also the last rider to win a MotoGP race riding for a non-factory team, which makes him the answer to a great trivia question (he memorably beat Valentino Rossi by 0.002 seconds at Estoril in 2006). His style, slewing the bike into corners, is exciting in itself. His fierce competitiveness is evident on the track. And the smile nearly always on his face in the paddock shows he’s having a great time. It’s easy to understand why fan and media interest is high. He’s winning, he’s having fun, and he seems to be a genuinely nice guy while doing it.  Continue reading Toni Elias shakes up the MotoAmerica Superbike series →

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EPA retracts statement that would have overturned Superbike racing

Yamaha Superbikes

MotoAmerica Superbikes like these Yamaha YZF-R1s would have been illegal under the interpretation the Environmental Protection Agency expressed earlier this year.

Under pressure from Congress and the car racing industry (with very little involvement from the motorcycle racing side, which would have also been affected), the Environmental Protection Agency has backed off an interpretation of emissions laws that would have made it illegal to race modified street-legal machines. In other words, all of the professional roadracing classes in MotoAmerica.  Continue reading EPA retracts statement that would have overturned Superbike racing →

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Why Maxim got it wrong about flat-track racing

Brad Baker

Brad Baker deserves all the rewards and recognition he gets. But no matter what he does, flat-track racing is not going to be the next big thing.

I’m only picking on Maxim because a media empire built on cleavage is an easy target. Their argument is not unique.
Continue reading Why Maxim got it wrong about flat-track racing →

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Kawasaki brings its Z125 Pro to the U.S. market to battle the Grom

2017 Kawasaki Z125 Pro

It’s like a Grom, only green. And maybe a little better. And a bit cheaper.

The Honda Grom has been a big hit by being one of the few motorcycles that appeals to a wide range of riders, both newbies and experienced. Kawasaki has decided to cash in on that success and offer a similar bike that looks to be a little better or equal and $200 cheaper.

Last fall, Kawasaki announced two versions of its Z125 for Asian markets: the Pro, with a four-speed transmission, and a regular Z125 with an automatic. Kawasaki has now confirmed the U.S. market is getting the Pro. Continue reading Kawasaki brings its Z125 Pro to the U.S. market to battle the Grom →

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The EPA thinks most professional motorcycle racing in the U.S. is illegal

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency thinks motorcycles raced in the MotoAmerica series, the top professional motorcycle racing series in the United States, are illegal. Superbikes, Superstock bikes, Supersport race bikes — all of ’em, illegal.

Roger Hayden's Suzuki GSX-R1000 Superbike

The EPA says Roger Hayden’s Suzuki GSX-R1000-based superbike is illegal, just like all the other bikes raced in the MotoAmerica series.

Same goes for that modified Mazda Miata your friend races in SCCA, by the way.

If you have a track-only bike you take to track days and you’ve modified the exhaust, airbox or reflashed the ECU, the EPA says that’s illegal, too, even if it never rolls a tire onto a public street or highway.

All those companies like Dynojet and Bazzaz selling fuel-mapping hardware or companies selling full “race” exhaust systems? They might as well shut down. Selling that stuff is illegal, too.

What’s this all about? Deeply buried in documents released months ago by the EPA are provisions that explicitly contradict a decades-old understanding: that emissions regulations don’t apply to motor vehicles that are not operated on the public roads. Now, the EPA says that was never the case. All along it has been illegal to modify an emissions-certified car or motorcycle for competition use. And by the way, the fine is $37,500.

Continue reading The EPA thinks most professional motorcycle racing in the U.S. is illegal →

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The best advice: Five things to remember

good advice makes the ride better

Eric Trow (right), owner and chief instructor of Stayin’ Safe Advanced Rider Training, gives a student some one-on-one instruction during a training tour.

If you’ve been around motorcycling as long as I have, you can remember a time when there were no Motorcycle Safety Foundation courses and few good books on how to ride better. Training may have been the motorcycle salesman telling you, “This is the clutch, this is the brake, one down and four up. Good luck, son.” Advice varied widely, depending on your sources, and could have been as ill-advised as the infamous, “Never touch that front brake, she’ll throw you right over the handlebar.”

Today, we have far more sources of advice, but it’s still up to us to separate the good from the bad. Having thought about all the tips and lessons thrown my way over a lifetime of riding, I’ve come to the conclusion that these are the best five pieces of motorcycling advice I’ve been given. Continue reading The best advice: Five things to remember →

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2016: Day one, ride one of a new year

ride to Pickerington Ponds

No ice here. Funny how much better 35 degrees and sunny feels compared to 40 degrees and gray and damp.

With the sun shining and temperatures around 35 degrees, there was nothing to stop me from starting off the year with a motorcycle ride on Jan. 1, what many people in these climes call a polar bear ride. Thanks to El Niño and one of the strongest freak storms on record, the North Pole was the same temperature as Chicago this week, so even the real polar bears didn’t face serious winter weather.

I took the camera and the Versys for a short ride to a nearby nature preserve. While I was fiddling around with the camera, a man and his wife in a car arrived. He walked over to strike up a conversation.

Turns out Mike is a BMW rider, and we ended up talking for quite a while about his bike, mine, favored roads and the usual topics of conversation that arise when two riders happen to pull off the road at the same spot and time.

Through circumstance and, to be honest, choice, I spend most of my riding time alone. For some people, motorcycling is appealing mainly because it is a social activity, and they probably can’t imagine the appeal of the riding I do. My work, though, not only gives me more than an average amount of opportunities to talk about motorcycles, it actually requires it. So foregoing the social aspect of riding is not really a hardship for me.

Still, I always find myself cheered up by those chance encounters with strangers who instantly have plenty to talk about with me, just because we’re both part of that minority that rides. Like my habit of taking a polar bear ride the first day of each new year, whenever possible, it’s a small positive that forces its way into my awareness, and I’m a person who’s all too quick to spot the negatives.

All in all, a good way to start the year.

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