Saturday, December 20, 2008

Racing and the Economy

If you're a racer, you know how expensive racing can be. Heck, racing a little 'ol Honda 500 Ascot out at Willow Springs could cost upwards of $500 a weekend, and that's if nothing broke and I didn't crash. Now imagine you're part of a team...Big bikes, sponsors, big truck and trailer,'re racing in style. That's a whole lot of money, you need big sponsors. Let's step it up one more time, you're the factory or the importer of the motorcycle. Now you have all the other stuff plus...the riders salary, a couple of mechanics (at least two or three) they have to be paid too, BIG trucks, a motorhome a bit above your average Winnebago, a can see the dollar bills just flying out of the exhaust pipe.

In Europe, motor racing gets large, no, huge crowds. Two or four wheels, it doesn't matter. On The Continent they love their racing. Fans show up wearing leathers just like their favorite racer, their bike is painted in the same livery...they love racing. Racer's are gods. So, why is racing shrinking? As a former President of the USA once said, "it's the economy stupid"

Check out what is going on. We'll start with a small but significant event, 'The Legend of the Motorcycle Concours' held at Pebble Beach California, has been canceled for 2009. Why? The economy. Next up on the 'Hit List', Craftsman (Sears) pulls their sponsorship of the NASCAR Truck Series...Why? The economy. NASCAR teams are shrinking because sponsorship is drying up. Audi, the most successful team in the American LeMans Series, has pulled out due to economic concerns and Honda has pulled out of Formula One racing altogether. And, even though Honda is citing global economics and it's effect on Honda as the reason they have pulled out of AMA Pro Racing for the 2009 season, I think there is more to it than that. That is another post as well.

Car sales are down, motorcycle sales are down, of course the factory's can't continue to spend gazillion's of dollars on racing. It's simple stuff. Valentino Rossi is going to have to sell one or two of his houses around the world. Dani Pedrosa will have to order off the value menu on Tuesday and Thursday and Ben Spies can't have Texas Barbeque flown in fresh each week.

But here is the Silver Lining to that cloud. Scooter sales are up world wide and I'm working on a plan to set up a World Scooter Racing program. Can you see it?? Vespa vs Kymco vs Honda vs Lance. It's gonna be great. We'll be on network TV all over the world..we'll have screaming fans wherever we go...we will be the new gods of racing.

Excuse me, I have to go take my medication now.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Weird times in roadracing

Yessiree gang, we have got some strange times heading our way. Professional roadracing in America seems to be taking a detour. I have written and podcasted about the changes happening and the dissatisfaction that riders and manufacturers have about those changes.

Let's do a quick recap; AMA sells off the racing division to Daytona Motorsports Group figuring they can do a better job of promoting racing. Who is DMG? For one, they own NASCAR. NASCAR is second only to the NFL in popularity here in the states. DMG changes the name to AMA Pro Racing. APR proceeds to talking about changes in the class structure and rules. The Big Four (Honda,Kawasaki,Yamaha and Suzuki) cast a wary eye and start backing away. Some riders are quite upset at the structure, we all know that Matt Mladin is pretty peeved and has said he won't ride under the new structure and others are just hanging around to how the dust settles.

Next, final class structure and rules are set out. We all know that Suzuki was not happy from the very beginning, the other three were still somewhat sitting on the fence. Dunlop becomes the the only tyre supplier to AMA Pro Racing, that's OK, spec tyre rules seem to working for World Superbike and Formula's been adopted by that's the trend. No big deal. But wait..there's more?!

Every December, Dunlop holds the Annual Tyre Test at Daytona Motor Speedway. Everybody that uses Dunlop shows up and works with the newest latest and greatest from Dunlop. Factory teams and privateers. New bikes in plain clothes, test mules and young hot shots hoping to impress the factory teams, a big event in American roadracing. This year was a little short on participants. Kawasaki decided they didn't like the new rules and decided to boycott the event, Honda and Suzuki went along. Only Yamaha committed to the event. Recently I had spoken with a representative from Yamaha and he was a little concerned that Yamaha had stuck their neck out pretty far. Eventually Honda decided to go. But...Honda factory pilots Miguel Duhamel and Neil Hodgson didn't have contracts for the 2009 season, Erion Honda Superbike rider Jake Zemke was there riding with a 'Gentleman's agreement'. Weird huh?

A week later Honda announced that they were pulling out of AMA Pro Racing for the 2009 season! Honda cited economics. They said they would continue support of the Erion Racing and Corona Racing teams, but as a factory team they would not be racing. Do you really believe that 'Global Economics' is the reason Honda has pulled out? I don't. I think it is an easy way make a statement, to thumb their nose at AMA Pro Racing.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Let the show begin

This blog-post is being powered by ZZ-Top today. And... Marshall Crenshaw, Cream, The Kinks, John Hiatt...I believe all of them are bikers at heart. This kind of work environment drives my wife crazy but it works for me.

This last weekend was the Cycle World International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach. I love going to the show..whether for work or fun. I always run into friends,
see the new bikes and all the goodies I would love to have. This is when my credit card is taken away from me before I go. Wives..spoilsports that they are.

Friday morning is the start of Media Day at the show. Even though Long Beach is not the first show of the season, a lot of new bikes are unveiled there. The logic is simple..Southern California is the main market and this is where the magazines are located..gotta have press coverage you know. That's why The MotoWorld is here.

My good friend Michael and I survived the L.A traffic and arrived at the show looking forward to some good interviews, checking out all the newest,latest and greatest in the motorcycle world, seeing old friends, meeting and talking with people who you know their names,their writing, but not their faces, and making new friends.

Between Michael and I, our day was full with interviews, photo's and the basic media circus. Can't complain at all. The new Harley XR1200, some very cool Cafe Racer's from roadracer turned custom bike builder Roland Sands some vintage Cafe Racers from local guys...I need to blame my friend Erik for my newly rediscovered love of this genre of bikes...remember he and I have a contest for building the coolest Cafe Racer out of a Honda 350...there was a really neat little Honda 160 all cafe'd out a couple of beautiful Guzzi's and a waaaay trick CB750.

All in all a great day...but, I have to say, even though there are a lot of technical improvements in new motorcycles, they all look the same, feel the same and...well, I don't know...for me the show was more about the people. Industry types and regular riders. I guess that really is the essence of motorcycling, the people that ride.
So today, go out and ride your motorcycle...cruiser,sportbike,cafe racer or scooter, just go ride.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

So much little time

I have been writing personal blog posts of late and have let news features fall by the wayside. Well, today is different, lets talk about what is going on in roadracing. Those of you that know me, have listened to the podcast ( and / or read this blog, know I have been a roadracer since 1981 and that is where my heart is. I occasionally delve into the off-road world but as my old friend and racing adversary Danny Farnsworth of the Willow Springs Motorcycle Club used to say..."pavement is racing, dirt is for growing potatoes" thats why today is all about roadracing

One of the most popular podcasts at www.themotoworld,com we have done of late is titled "All news, All the time...Well kinda". It was fun to do because there is so much happening in the roadracing world right now. A new organization with new rules, some manufacturers not wanting to play, new riders on new bikes, a spec tyre program in both AMA Pro Racing and MotoGP, a potential for International rules for National series.

Let's start with AMA Pro Racing vs. the 'Big 4', Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha and Suzuki. The final rule changes for the 2009 racing season were announced last week and three out of the big four were not happy. In the past, only one has been annoyed. The details of the rules can be found at other websites such as so I won't get into them here, but the gist of it is that it all started with a change of tire sizes and fuel tank alterations that Kawasaki was not happy with. Honda decided to follow suit and the Yoshimura Suzuki joined in. Yamaha said "we're going racing"! Well, this coming weekend is the Daytona Tire Test. Usually a big event. I wonder who's going to be there?

And still more from the soap opera we lovingly call AMA Pro Racing. President Roger Edmondson has made a big deal about the fact the rule changes coming forth are designed to make the racing better by leveling the playing field, or race course as it were. Spec tyre's, horsepower limitations ala Moto-ST, which he also runs and is doing quite well and new homologation rules for aftermarket parts. There has been and is still a lot of unhappiness about all the various changes. Mr Edmondson is trying to get more motorcycles from more manufacturers on the grid. Good for him. I think we all agree that we would like to see the likes of Ducati, Aprillia, KTM, Buell and Triumph alongside the Big Four. Here is where it gets a bit interesting.

In the "Middle Weight" classes, AMA Sportbike and AMA Supersport, we could see a VERY wide range of machinery on the track. For the 2009 racing season we will see the 600CC bikes from Honda, Kawasaki,Suzuki and Yamaha but...also the Triumph Daytona 675, Buell 1125R, KTM Superduke, BMW1200ccHP2 and the Ducati 848. Would make a very interesting and exciting field don't you think? I do. But wait, what's wrong with this picture??? 1100 and 1200 CC motorcycles against little'ol 600's? It's been done before. But that was back in the day of two big heavy, two valve aircooled cylinder motors, not lightweight, high performance, liquid cooled four valve motors. And,why is Ducati limited to 848CC?? I must be missing something here. Let's get a small picture of how this looks. Based on press releases available to all; the Buell 1125R comes from the factory with 146HP and 82 Ft lbs of torque, ok, cool. The Honda CBR600RR comes to the party with a paltry 105HP and a meager 46 ft lbs of torque, poor little Honda.

So, the question is now, how is this a level playing field? I'm not sure, but it might make for some very interesting racing.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lost mentor

This has a been a tough year. Losing friends and motorcycles, motorcycles are friends too actually. I found out yesterday that the man that caused my sickness...riding and racing motorcycles...passed away a while back.

Michael Norton Spence was my step dad. I have mentioned him in posts of late and I find it interesting that because of those posts I learned of his passing.

Michael was born in 1935, took up flat track racing in the early 50's, and roadracing a little later. The pictures of he and his brother racing back then are great, I wish I had them. Michael took me under his wing in the mid 60's and created this monster that has lived in me ever since...the love of motorcycles. We raced in the California Desert together for a few years, rode every twisty road in Southern California and destroyed a few motorcycle's along the way.

I have numerous memories of time with my step dad...some good, some not so good and some just plain memorable. I learned to figure out how to get a motorcycle running again when you're stranded in the desert or on a Highway in the middle of nowhere, how to tune a motorcycle by ear and why Triumphs are the best motorcycle's ever made...well, I still own one, so I guess he taught me well??

A favorite memory I have comes from the trip home from a race in the desert. Just your basic 'Hare and Hound', 100 miles across the Mojave, was my first trophy..third place in the 'Open Novice' class. I was on top of the world. The day got better...we were passing the old '395 Cycle Park' in Adelanto, California where a TT race was going on. We stopped to watch a bit and I ended up getting a chance to ride in the TT on a Bultaco Astro 250, too much fun. I didn't do all that well, but I followed my basic race philosophy...don't crash and don't be last, I succeeded.

It was a really hot day in the desert and what is always great on a hot day?? A cold beer! Two guys covered in dirt, in an old truck with a couple of beat up motorcycles in the back and one of the guys is only 17. Let's stop at the next roadside bar we see. The Rocket Inn. A dive outside of town, people that have been sitting at the bar since opening time (6AM), a really bad jukebox, really cold beer and no ID required. A great end to a great day. It is a great memory. Oh, and the really, really good part, I beat my step dad in the a long way!!

I moved to New Mexico in 1973. My move to New Mexico was on my motorcycle thank you; at that time a 1972 Kawasaki 750. Unfortunately it was also at that time Michael and my mom parted company. I lost touch with my motorcycle mentor. I tried to find him a couple of times over the years since with no luck and actually thought I saw him once in a restaurant.

The man that got me started on this life long path of motorcycling was killed while walking across a road near his home in Las Vegas. Over thirty years later I found that he was an associate professor at a local college and still riding his old 1952 Triumph Speed Twin.

Thank you Michael for sending me on this path. I owe you much my friend. I hope you are riding your motorcycle in heaven and I know that heaven for you is riding that bike.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The coolest tool

Only thirty eight days to Christmas... so start saving your pennies because I know what I want under the Christmas tree. Now, we're all gearheads here and we love tools, how can you go to Sears, Lowes or Home Depot and not head for the tool section?! It would sacrilegious! That's when the wife takes my credit card away. Some of the better motorcycle shops have cool special tools as well. Motion Pro goodies are especially dangerous. Then there are catalogs like Rider Wearhouse, Dennis Kirk, heck, even JC Whitney has some neat stuff. Being a gearhead is a sickness cured only by more tools and as 'Tim the Tool Man' says..."More Power". Well, I think I have stepped over the line.

Here at The Motoworld International Headquarters we are putting in a new driveway. The contractor doing the work showed up with a crew, a big truck, sledge hammers, pick axes and...a Bobcat! You see them all around at job sites but when you see one in your driveway doing it's job, well... It does everything, turns tighter than a MotoCross bike, can lift that MX bike ten feet in the air and with the right attachment it can transport a Gold Wing across town.

Why am I putting this on my Christmas list and what has this got to do with motorcycles? I want to build a TT track in our back yard and the Bobcat is the perfect tool. Getting the Bobcat is probably easy compared to getting permission from the wife to build the track. Wish me luck.

Ride safe, ride fast and have fun dreaming
See you on the road,


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Old bikes again??!! Yeah, sorry about that

As most of us do, we subscribe to different mailing lists and forums. For me, it's the Bevelheads (vintage Ducati's),The VJMC (vintage Japanese bikes),the Hinckley generation Triumph list (the new stuff from Triumph)and a few more for motorcycle business stuff.

This last week a topic on the Triumph list came up that brought up reliability issues of Triumphs. Now, the new Triumphs are so good that the only issues that could be brought up were regarding older Brit Bikes. I and a couple of other list members were accused of trashing and slamming old bikes. It was all based on a couple of comments about unreliability. Hey, we all know that motorcycles of the 50's through early 70's American, English, Japanese, left a bit to be desired in the reliability column. Good jokes about Lucas Electrics being the Prince of Darkness...'Jap Crap'and if you add in the AMF Harley know exactly what AMF means...Adios Mother F....R. I'm sorry I hurt this guys feelings but oh well.

So today I wanted to do a quick post about old Triumphs again. My step dad, who I blame for my sickness...loving motorcycles and in particular English motorcycles, started me on a little Yamaha dirt bike, moved me to the Bultaco, to a Honda 350, a Triumph Bonneville, then a BSA Lightning 650...on and on..In between all those bikes I was allowed to ride his 1952 Triumph Speed Twin. Only once in a while but I did get to ride it. I learned a lot about motorcycles with that bike. How to cut your own clutch plates out of cork, replacing a primary chain and servicing a 'sprung hub' style ...suspension??

Early on in motorcycle history, the frames were rigid. Something of a front suspension was there and the rear..well, the seat had springs on it like an old tractor, but that was it. Then came the sprung the center of the rear wheel the hub had springs built into the wheel..a very ingenious design...didn't do much, but was better than a rigid! I know Vincent had an incredibly modern suspension, way ahead of it's time in that period, look at a Yamaha Mono Cross suspension of the Seventies and you'll see how modern a Vincent was! One of the poster's on the Triumph list extols the virtues of his Vincent on a regular basis..and I envy him a lot!!

So, the point of this little story...modern motorcycles are so reliable you don't have to think about them hardly at all. Older bikes, and I don't care where they came from, needed love and attention. Many of us learned the lesson...ride it for one hour, work on it for two. We may look back and criticize them for unreliability and sketchy handling, but those of us that rode them then and still do, learned about taking care of your motorcycle so it would get you there and home again. I hope you get the opportunity to spend some time with an older motorcycle, learn to clean and set points, adjust the timing and your clutch, tune the spokes on your wheels, tickle the carbs just right so it starts on the first or second kick and to love the sound and feel of an old motorcycle. Besides all that good stuff...they're chick magnets!!! even for us old guys.

Ride safe, ride fast and ride old...oh, and here is the next bike on my wish list
See you on the road,