Archive for the ‘transportation’ Category

Remembering why we ride

November 1, 2010

It was hell getting out of Queens and out of the city. Packed traffic on the Cross Island Parkway up and over the Throgs Neck Bridge. Accidents on the 95 heading to the George Washington Bridge. All lanes just limping along. Sitting in the jam on a superheated idling V-twin, no lane-splitting relief in sight.

Over the bridge and into New Jersey and it was hot. Not a lot of traffic, but a long list of highway changes in my travel plans. The effects of the red-eye flight were now clearly being felt, not a good thing given this was my first time on two wheels in this pocket of the Northeast. A handful of wrong turns and route changes, and things were finally smoothing out.

The city quickly fell away to country. Green ruled the color palette. The front wheel aimed north on the 87 — a straight shot (more or less) the rest of the way, and any tension that had built up during the first few hours into the journey evaporated into the ether. The only goal now was Lake George in upstate New York for the Drag Specialties Adirondack Run.

I’d been invited by LeMans to attend the annual dealer/distributor ride and jumped at the chance. The day-to-day slog of trade magazine work involves a lot of sitting, reading and editing. It means staring at a computer for hours at a time and transcribing taped interviews. It means juggling story budgets and weekly editorial meetings and lots of run-around tasks only tangentially related. It’s long bouts of grinding it out punctuated by short bursts of adrenaline.

In other words, magazine work is lot like many other jobs. So when given the chance, I happily snag the perks that come in the form of new bike intros and organized press rides or, in this instance, the fifth annual installment of the ride organized by Drag Specialties. Turns out I wasn’t the only one eager to step out of the office for a little two-wheel therapy.

Jim Matchette, Drag’s national sales manager, says the run was launched not only as a way to bring together its dealers, vendors and sales employees, but also as a chance to ride motorcycles in great locations. “That’s why we all got into the business in the first place,” Matchette said.

And boy, did they get it right this time. Two major loops featuring hundreds of miles of woodsy, twisty blacktop, all of it winding through upstate’s sheer natural beauty. The trees were just starting to turn, so the greens ran into reds into yellows. One trip went to Lake Placid, home of the 1980 Winter Olympics, the other up and around Lake Sacandaga to a lunch stop at the picturesque Jimbo’s Club on Brant Lake.

On one of the loops, I had the chance to ride with Jim Bannon and Buck Shelton, owner and service manager, respectively, of Mavrix Motorsports, a Honda Powerhouse dealership in Middletown, N.Y. Also in our group were their superstar Drag rep, Rick Pence, and one other LeMans employee whose name now escapes me. Good dudes all around. We took a wrong turn at one point that — like all good wrong turns — led to a miles-long lakeside road filled with banked turns and fast bits of two-lane.

Two days of riding through some of the best scenery this country has to offer. Nearly 400 miles of not thinking about a computer or a deadline or a desk or a meeting. Nothing but the steady drone of the road and wind one hears inside a helmet. Trees and turns and lakes and rain and road and acceleration. It was constant locomotion punctuated by leisure and cocktails and conversation.

After it was over, on the ride downstate into the city, the obvious smacked me upside the helmet. Matchette was absolutely right about actually taking the time to get out and ride, to get out and enjoy why most of us got into this business to begin with — riding motorcycles.

I’m not too sure about everybody else, but it’s pretty easy to get wrapped up in the workaday minutiae of our careers, even when working in this great industry, and put our passions on the backburner. So I wonder, how often do you get out and ride? How about your employees? Let us know at
editors@dealernews.com.

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews November 2010 issue.

FirstGear TPG Apparel Road Test: There Will be Rain

February 22, 2010

Back in the fall, we had a chance to head out to Colorado with Tucker Rocky and FirstGear to check out the TPG lineup of apparel. This is pretty high-end stuff aimed at the hardcore adventure touring rider, the type of person who thinks nothing of clocking 50,000 miles a year on two-wheels, often in less-than-pristine conditions. I am not one of those people. However, I was up for a dual-sport ride through the Rockies with the chance of experiencing some weather and putting the TPG duds to the test. Well, we got weather. Rain. Sleet. Hail. All that stuff that’s mostly foreign to So Cal natives (me!). 

So, you’ve got to hand it to Tucker Rocky and FirstGear for picking a such a route and ride as a way to showcase the features of its TPG (Technical Performance Gear) apparel. They either had strong foresight into what we might encounter or had some major pull with certain parties to arrange that kind of weather.

Click here for the full story.

Blogs Abuzz About H-D’s Buell Decision

October 15, 2009

Buell_logoHarley-Davidson has carved a lot of pork, and jobs, during the past year, and now the move to end production of the Buell line and sell off its recently-purchased MV Agusta business has people buzzing anew about the way the Motor Co. has chosen to streamline its operation.

Here are some thoughts gleamed from a surf through some of the social networking sites:

Gutted that Harley has pulled the plug on Buell Motorcycles. After all of Erik’s struggles and hard work developing improved product, he deserves better than that. – Kevin

No matter what you think of HD or Buell product, you have to respect Erik Buell’s independent and creative thinking. Sorry to see you go Buell. – Glenn

Victims of Hope and Change? – Robert

I feel for all those who have been laid off … but I keep thinking there is more to come from Buell. – Greg

Buell gone; MV on the block!? Whats next? Price drops on Fatboys and baggers? – Jeffery

Why didn’t they dump their latest European acquisition instead of wiping out more American jobs? As an American manufacturer, it sickens me to see HD become just another company making a profit at any cost. – Chris

A day of mourning for American Sportbikers … regardless of what you ride. Buell, you will be greatly missed! – Brittany

I am truly bummed about Buell going under. I wasn’t a die hard Buell fan but it was nice to see a company like that succeed. – Aaron

It seems that we have let another American Motorcycle Company go by the way side my friends, and what a shame! – Patrick

Learn more about H-D’s decision by clicking HERE.

H-D Props MV for Now, But What Comes Next?

October 14, 2009

MV Agusta says 85 percent of the parts used in its 2009 910R and 1078RR have been completely redesigned for its 2010 Brutale 990R (MSRP: $15,000) and 1090RR ($18,000).

I guess that’s what happens when a new parent company, in this case Harley-Davidson, injects a bit of capital into its recent acquisition.

Former Ducati CFO Enrico D’Onofrio is now managing director of the MV Agusta factory in Italy, and MV Agusta Design Chief Massimo Tamburini retired Dec. 31, 2008.

I wonder what the folks at MV, and H-D, have planned for the future.

Check out the MV factory’s 2010 Brutale presentation video:

Erpelding, Europe’s Keeper of Classic Race Bikes

September 29, 2009

Are you a racebike enthusiast? Happen to be planning a trip to the Nuerburgring in Germany?

erpeldingIf so, you may want to visit former motorcycle and auto dealer and racer Frithjor Erpelding, a man who claims to have the second largest private museum in Europe dedicated to race motorcycles. Located in the Eifel mountain hamlet of Jammelshofen, near the ‘Ring, the museum houses 200-some bikes and a half-dozen of his championship-winning race cars.

Among the units on display: AJS, Aprilia, Ariel, Bimota, BSA, CZ, Egli, Gilera, NSU, Koenig, Moto Parilla, Moto Guzzi, MV Agusta, Matchless, Maico, Triumph, Norton, Greeves, Jawa, Puch, Wanderer, Harris, BSS, Benelli, Laverda, Royal-Enfield, Harley-Davidson, Horex, Honda, Gilera, Kawasaki, Kreidler, Linto, Suzuki, Scott, Seley, Yamaha, Rickman, KTM, Ducati, Montessa, NSU, Vincent, Velocette and Zuendapp, etc.

I asked Erpelding which of the 200 units is his favorite. “The Norton,” he replied without pause. Erpelding has two Norton Manx. “The chairman of Cambridge University recently contacted me, asking if I would sell one of my Manx. I told him ‘No’. He offered Euro 100,000 and I declined. Then he offered Euro 200,000 and I again declined. Finally, I cut to the chase and told him I wouldn’t be selling the bike no matter what the price.”

MuseumBut, Erpelding is willing to sell certain units. He says he recently sold a Vincent to a collector in the United States for Euro 80,000. “He deposited the check in my bank account before even receiving the bike. I called and asked him why he trusted me, and he said, ‘I’ve heard you’re a trustworthy guy’.”

Erpelding is a fella who loves telling his stories. If you’re planning a visit, be sure to leave time to have beer at his Race Museum Bar. He’ll tell you about his run-ins with racer Agostini and Yamaha bosses; his thoughts on Triumph, MZ and KTM; his trips to Goodwood; and his days of racing Honda motorcycles and cars.

Check out Erpelding’s website, which features the full line-up of the museum’s bikes on display.

Race Replica Scoots We’re Not Getting

September 27, 2009

File this under cool stuff we’re not getting in the U.S.: Three 50cc scooters wrapped in race livery that are sure to be a hit with sportbike enthusiasts looking for alternative surface street transportation.

Inspired by Valentino Rossi and the Fiat Yamaha MotoGP racing team, the Aerox Team Yamaha Race Replica (top), powered by a liquid-cooled two-stroke 50cc engine, is wrapped in the new-for-2009 paint and graphics to match the racing livery of the YZR-M1 MotoGP bike.

The Gilera Runner Marco Simoncelli Replica (middle) is powered by a 50cc liquid-cooled two-stroke engine delivering 5.4hp and features livery similar to that of the 250cc MotoGP World Champion’s factory racebike.

The Malaguti Phantom F12R Ducati Corse Superbike (bottom), available in 50cc liquid or air-cooled two-stroke versions, is the latest in a line of scoots made available via a licensing agreement between Ducati and Malaguti. Also available: the Phantom F12R Bayliss Limited Edition and the Phantom F12R Ducati Team version.

I saw all three of these units during a recent trip to the Nuerburgring in Germany. The bikes depicted in the photos were for sale at motorcycle dealerships adjacent to the world-famous racetrack.
Yamaha_ScooterGilera_ScooterDucati_Adenau-copy

Scooterists Assemble in Twin Cities for ‘Rattle My Bones’ Rally

August 16, 2009

Hundreds of scooterists from all over the Midwest assembled in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul Aug. 13-16 for the 2009 Rattle My Bones scooter rally.

RattleMyBones2The four-day event started with a meet-and-greet and scavenger hunt on the evening of Aug. 13; had participants assembling Aug. 14 for five ride possibilities, a “historic sites” ride and one ride each for geared scoots, automatic scoots, vintage scoots and for scooterists who have never been on a group ride before; continued Aug. 15 with a 70-mile, large group ride followed by dinner, a gymkhana, bike show and music; and wrapped up Aug. 16 with an organized breakfast, raffle prize giveaway, awards presentation and a final ride.

Sponsors included dealerships Scooterville, Blue Cat Motors and Leo’s South; as well as CF Moto; Scooterworks USA; Binetto/Shad; Aerostich; Bell Helmets; Corazzo; Scorpion EXO and Scoot! Magazine, among others.

As the logo suggests, the Rattle My Bones rally was named after a song by the defunct Twin Cities band The Suburbs.

As the logo suggests, the Rattle My Bones rally was named after a song by the defunct Twin Cities band The Suburbs.

Aprilia Fastest Bike at Pikes Peak … Again

July 30, 2009

The formal results are in: Piloting a 2009 Aprilia SXV550, Davey Durelle was the fastest motorcycle up the hill at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on July 19.PikesPeak_logo

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, first held in 1916, features a course that climbs 12.42 miles, has 156 turns and starts at 9,390 ft. climbing to over 14,000 ft. Durelle completed the treacherous run in an astounding 11:48.649 minutes. It was his 13th personal victory at the event and the second year in a row he took the title of fastest motorcycle on the mountain.

Durelle finished a split second ahead of Gary Trachy aboard a 2008 KTM SMX. Both raced in the 750cc class.

PikesPeak1Durelle grabbed the hole shot and lead for the first two miles before Trachy made a pass for the lead. Trachy stretched his lead to five seconds before Durelle used the power of the SXV to close the gap in the wide open dirt section and re-passed him for the lead less then a mile from the summit. Durelle and Trachy battled side by side to the top finishing a mere .094 seconds apart – one of the closest finishes in the history of the event.

Davey Durelle is sponsored by Aprilia USA, Dunlop Tire, Arai, Spider Grips, Scotts Performance, Victory Circle Graphixs and Erico Motorsports (a Dealernews Top 100 dealer).

The fastest ATV on the mountain was a 2008 Honda 450 piloted by Michael Coburn with a time of 12:18.858 minutes.

Rider Impressions: The Victory Hammer S

July 15, 2009

In June I picked up a 2009 Victory Hammer S from Polaris headquarters in Medina, Minn. Now, after one month and nearly 1,000 miles, it’s time I return the bike.

As a fan of all things with two-wheels, I would’ve enjoyed keeping this head-turner in my garage alongside the SV1000S, Tomos Golden Bullet moped and forthcoming two-stroke Stella scooter. Having a muscle cruiser like the Hammer helped satisfy my different moods – whereas I enjoy long, quick-paced rides on the Suzuki, I equally enjoyed implementing the Victory for shorter, inter-city jaunts. If the SV1S, in triple black livery, is my B2 stealth bomber, the Hammer S, available only in a vibrant blue with white rally stripes, was my attention-grabbing Blue Angels C-130T Hercules “Fat Albert” – heavy, but powerful and impressively agile for its size.
VictoryHammerProfile2
The bike attracted attention and garnered questions wherever I went, whether at the filling station, neighborhood grocery store or local bike night. “Go ahead and park it right out front on the sidewalk,” the owner of my favorite restaurant, Eli’s in Minneapolis, said after grilling me on the bike’s specs and my impression of the ride.VictoryHammerOverdrive

“Nice Hammer!” a guy in a pickup truck shouted to me while we were stopped at a red light. “I just bought one! I love it!”

The Hammer S represented the fourth Victory extended ride the folks at Polaris have granted me. The first bike, the V92TC, was a bit unkempt; the first year Vegas was better, but still not tuned quite right (needed more breathing, found through the parts catalog); and the Vision I rode for a few months last summer was hugely impressive in handling and performance for its size.
VictoryHammerFrontBrake
What’d I like about the Hammer S? I had a list of highlights I quoted to everyone who asked: The 97hp, 113 ft. lbs. of torque offers a healthy dose of acceleration, the bike’s outfitted with a smooth running carbon fiber belt, the sixth gear “overdrive” transmits a fuel-saving engine speed of 2,400 rpm at 70mph, it maneuvers surprisingly well with the big 18-incher up front and 250/40R18 Dunlop rear, and braking was impressive (stainless steel lines, front dual 300mm floating rotors with 4-piston caliper and rear single 300mm floating rotor with 2-piston caliper).VictoryHammerBelt

The list of things I didn’t like is much shorter: To garner the hardtail look, engineers placed the rear shock a bit too far forward, directly under the seat. It’s preload adjustable, but nevertheless transmitted some kidney-jarring bumps when traversing roadway irregularities.
VictoryHammerGauges

My House Wine: CorsaVino

June 30, 2009

A couple of months ago I reported on CorsaVino – a wine brand of limited availability launched by Arun Sharma, the general manager of MotoCorsa in Portland.

t4Well, today I received my shipment of Sharma’s 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Il Mostro Rosso, limited to a production of 98 cases and retailing for $314 by the case or $29 by the bottle; and 2005 Syrah, limited to a production of 217 cases and retailing for $292 by the case or $27 by the bottle.

Mmmm, now to deal with the most difficult decision. After all, being a wine enthusiast is a bit like being a collector of motorcycles: Do you drink/ride the product or do you not drink/ride the product?