Archive for June, 2010

Marveling at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

The road up Pikes Peak

I have a recollection that I may have been up on Pikes Peak about 35 years ago. Otherwise, I know I was up there 50 years ago. Suffice it to say, when I rode my Concours up to the top on Friday it may as well have been the first time. Oh my god, what a road!

Last week was race week for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, a race with cars, trucks, motorcycles, quads, sidecars, and a few divisions that have peculiar names because, well, probably because no one knows what to call that vehicle. Tuesday was sign-in and tech inspection, followed by three days of practice, and then Saturday was free before the race on Sunday.

I ran down to Colorado Springs on Tuesday to meet up with the racers I had made contact with via the Adventure Riders forum, and to get my press credentials. I went down again on Friday to talk to my contacts about their experiences in practice and hopes for the race, and to go to the top of the mountain myself. Then Sunday I went down one more time for the race.

The road up Pikes Peak
Let me tell you, you have to ride that mountain yourself to really understand how incredible it is what these racers do. From the starting line to the top is 12.2 miles, and it took me about 30 minutes to cover that distance. Granted I was behind a couple cars with tourists who thought the 10 mph posted speeds on some of the switchbacks were excessively high. I ended up shifting down to first gear a few times when I would rather have stayed in second.

But it’s not like I was grumbling about them holding me back. I would probably only have shaved a couple minutes off that time on my own. So consider this: The top racers were shooting to make this run in under 10 minutes for the first time ever. That is to say, they would have needed to average 73 miles an hour the whole way up. Yikes! There is no portion of that road I want to take at 73 mph period, much less average that speed the entire way up.

Now, the 10-minute barrier wasn’t broken, so the record remains all of 10:01.41. And the fastest time this year was 10:11.49. Oh yeah, that guy was going slow!

So the race was fun and very interesting but the real trip was the mountain. If you’re coming to ride in Colorado you have got to ride to the top of Pikes Peak. Yeah, there’s a $12 fee per person but it’s worth it. And while the road used to be only half paved, there are now just two remaining stretches of dirt and the rest is asphalt. Paving is to be completed in 2012. So if you want to ride it while there’s some dirt left you’d better come soon. Or if you’d rather avoid the dirt you only need wait a couple more years.

For myself, I would have welcomed a dual sport bike on that gravel, but I did it OK on the Connie. And I’ve ridden over high passes before many times but I wondered if going up on a bike with carbs would be an issue by the time I got to 14,110 feet. No problem. It ran just fine. Remember though, I’m tuned for Denver elevation already, so if you’re tuned for sea level it could be a different matter. But I didn’t see anyone who was having any trouble.

Of course I’ll be adding Pikes Peak to the Passes and Canyons website. Hey, I’ve got the photos and the info now, and all I need is the time to get it done. I’ll let you know when it’s up. Till then, you can check out these pictures.

The road up Pikes Peak

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Biker Quote for Today

Accelerate until you see God, then BRAKE! –Kevin Schwantz

Hoka Hey Story Takes on a Life of Its Own

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

We all know about the best laid plans of mice and men. Well, I had the idea in my mind that my main focus this week was going to be the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, preparation and practice for which are currently underway down in Colorado Springs. I was down there Tuesday, I’ll be down there again tomorrow, and once again for the actual race on Sunday.

Distance riderIt was inconvenient that the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge, which I also had plans to cover, was set to run through the same time period, but I figured no problem, I’d do a piece on the start of the race, try to touch in with my rider contact sometime this week, and then turn more of my attentions in that direction once the Pikes Peak was over.

What I didn’t count on was the huge amount of interest there would be in the Hoka Hey, and the surprisingly slight interest in the hill climb. I should have had a clue about a month ago when my web stats started showing a lot of traffic on the story I did about the Hoka Hey back in February. When I put up my first story on Examiner.com about the Hoka Hey it was like an explosion. Within a few hours that story drew more traffic than my Examiner page normally gets in two days, and generated more comments than I usually get in a week. And that was just the beginning.

A key to all this seems to be that very few other news sources are following this event. I put up a few articles and by default, the crowd came to me. The Hoka Hey organizers have links on their home page that presumably should go to their Facebook page, their MySpace page, their Twitter feed, and other places. However, while the anchor text is there, and the various pages they should point to are there, the code is not. Those links are dead. So the organizers are providing almost no information about their event.

In the meantime, my planned coverage has been thrown out the window. I planned to track Bob Peterson as he made the ride and he gave me the cell phone number of the main phone in the camper his support team is traveling in. I was to call them periodically and get an update on his progress and condition. After repeated calls, and leaving messages, I have never gotten hold of anyone. And Bob is French-Canadian, so his Facebook page for the ride is in French. I don’t speak, or read, French.

But hey, it’s OK, I’ve got other aspects of the ride to cover. For starters, it appears to many people that the whole thing may be a scam. It seems the organizer has a bit of shady history, and he definitely seems to lack in public relations skills entirely, at the very least. Some followers of the race are telling the naysayers to show proof or shut up, while others just don’t care. Truth is, there probably weren’t that many riders who truly thought they might win that $500,000 purse. For them, the ride and the adventure is the whole reason for doing this. And no matter what happens when they all reach Homer, AK, their experiences will be theirs for the rest of their lives.

So I have no idea where this story will lead next. And heck, at this point I don’t even know where the riders are. But it’s the Pikes Peak hill climb that is now more of a distraction, while the Hoka Hey is front and center.

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Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge Launches, With a Few Mishaps

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge route

OK. I mentioned way back in February that the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge was coming up this month and the start was yesterday. This a 7,000-mile race from Key West, FL, to Homer, AK, with a winner-take-all prize of $500,000 in Alaskan gold.

The only bikes allowed in this race are Harley-Davidson air-cooled V-twins. The entry fee is $1,000, so the organizers needed at least 500 riders just to pay the winner’s prize. Apparently they got about 750 takers.

I’m going to be following Robert Peterson, of Quebec City, in this race on my Examiner.com page. That arrangement came out of Robert contacting me to inquire about problems riding over Rabbit Ears Pass with a bike tuned to sea level or thereabouts. It creates some issues for me because Bob’s Facebook page on the race is in French. Presumably he’s French Canadian. But I have a cell phone number where I can reach his support team–and hopefully him, at least on occasion–and everyone on the other end of the line speaks English.

So the race got off to a difficult start yesterday, at least for a few riders. It’s hard to get it clear from the news reports but at least four, and maybe five, bikes crashed at approximately the same place around Immokalee, FL. It would appear there was some sort of hazard at that spot, else why would so many bikes crash in multiple crashes in just one spot? Who knows. But Bob wasn’t one of them.

An interesting thing about this event is the skepticism. The idea of awarding a $500,000 purse to the winner does sound extreme. One person commenting on my first Examiner story had this to say:

It’s interesting that by the rules, no prize need be awarded now. According to the rules they do not need to pay the winner if ANYONE gets in an accident or gets a ticket. There have already been several accidents as of this afternoon so it is entirely possible the riders will continue on for naught. Another disturbing point is that one of the “charities” targeted for funds is the Red Cloud Foundation whose relationship to Hoka Hey co-founder Big Jim “Chief” Red Cloud is unclear.

And I read in a H-D forum a comment by one guy who said he’ll believe it all when the money actually is given to the winner. I guess we’ll see.

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Biker Quote for Today

Harley-Davidson® motorcycles: Impeding the normal flow of traffic for over 100 years.

Ride to Work Day 2010 Is Next Week

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Mark your calendar. Monday, June 21, is a day to ride. Ride your motorcycle or scooter to work, or just ride it somewhere. This is national Ride Your Motorcycle to Work Day and we want to startle people with how many of us there are.

Ride to Work Day banner 2010I mention this thing every year, and I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but there’s always someone who is hearing about it for the first time. So I’ll just recap.

We want to make people aware that we are there, and that they need to be watching for us. We also want lawmakers to recognize how many of us there are, so in case they want to slip by some legislation that would damage our interests, they’ll think twice. Beyond that, here’s an earlier post on the event, from a previous year. The gist has not changed.

So come on. I know it’s a dirty job to have to ride your motorcycle, but man up! Someone’s gotta do it and it might as well be you.

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Scootin’ Around Sturgis

Monday, June 14th, 2010

We’re combining business and pleasure and have come to Sturgis, SD, on vacation coinciding with the Cushman Club of America‘s annual rally. They have come here this year to “Play with the big boys play.”

Scooters at Cushman RallyWhat is surprising is how much some of these little boys look like the big boys. While it is surely no surprise for the aficianados, the rest of us are probably unaware of what some people do with these little scooters. There are all kinds of custom machines that look amazingly like Harley-Davidson motorcycles. They even have modified engines that sound a lot like Harleys and provide as much power as you could possibly want on something with 10-inch tires.

Sturgis is very welcoming of the rally. As the mayor pointed out to us, where else can you hold this sort of event and have ample facilities and a mindset where, close off Main Street one day to all but scooter traffic? Sure, you bet! Plus, during the big bike rally, there is a tower on Main Street where you can get great shots of the thousands of bikes everywhere, but you have to pay to go up on the tower. As one of the concessions to attract other events, the tower will be there today but there’s no fee to go up and shoot your shots.

The big group picture will be at 3 p.m. today and there should be more than 1,000 Cushmans engulfing the street. Then tomorrow, about 120 of the more intrepid scooterists will take a cruise through the Black Hills. I’m told there is one spot where you can see down four levels of pig-tail bridges and you should be able to get a photo showing scooters on each bridge simultaneously. I’ll be hoping to get that shot.

Jeff Bartheld, the rally organizer, hopes to be able to set me up to ride monkey in an Indian sidecar rig so I can get some great shots of the ride. Just hoping the Indian runs; as of yesterday that was not a sure thing.

So it’s going to be fun, plus a bit of work. Then, after I send off the articles I’m committed to on Wednesday, I’ll be on vacation, as Judy, my wife, is already. Hey, the Black Hills are gorgeous at this time of year. Now if it will just stop raining.

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Biker Quote for Today

I don’t mind riding in the rain and I don’t mind riding in the cold. But cold rain makes my makeup run.

Now I See Why Randy Loves Triumphs

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

That’s my friend Randy there in the photo, on his first bike, back when we both had dark hair and more of it. He still has that Triumph Bonneville, although it’s in pieces stashed in boxes around his house. Today he rides a Bonneville T100.

Randy on his first BonnevilleSo it was Randy who tipped me off that Northern Colorado Euro Motorcycles would have a truck in from Triumph offering demo rides last weekend. I took a ride to take some rides.

Cutting right to the heart of the matter, I loved the Bonnevilles I rode. Yeah, I rode two of them. The basic Bonny was the first one I rode and then I rode three cruisers, the America, the Thunderbird, and the Speedmaster, in that order. While I liked the Speedmaster best of those three, none of them matched the Bonneville, in my opinion, so I rode another Bonneville, the T100 this time, like Randy’s.

I’m not going to repeat my discussion of each of these bikes, you can read that on Examiner, but I’m sold on the Bonny. It was light, agile, powerful, and a whole lot of fun.

Thanks for the heads-up, Randy.

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Aging and still riding is like the talking dog. It does not matter how well the dog talks but rather that the dog talks at all.

Dr. Ray Is Now In

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Dr. Ray OchsI got a note this morning from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, announcing that their “resident doctor of best riding practices” is now posting a Tip of the Day on the MSF website as well as on Twitter.

The resident doctor would be Dr. Ray Ochs, director of training systems for MSF.

Here’s what the MSF has to say about Dr. Ray.

Dr. Raymond J. Ochs, director of training systems for MSF, offers MSF’s followers on Twitter (msf__usa) and MSF website visitors (www.msf-usa.org) knowledge taken from 47 years of experience and decades of research in motorcycle safety to help keep them safe 365 days a year.

From big-picture views on mental preparation and basic riding techniques to detailed suggestions on issues such as night visibility and helmet fitting, “Dr. Ray’s Tip of the Day” will cover a range of topics. Ochs believes that the short, simple statements posted each day will benefit all riders, especially those who have never taken a safety course. However, they are no substitute for proper training such as MSF’s RiderCourseSM series.

“When it comes to motorcycling, it’s best to be a lifelong learner,” said Ochs. “Every rider can benefit from expanding their knowledge or being reminded of practical riding techniques and safety precautions, no matter their skill level. As we say here at MSF, the more you know the better it gets.”

With a doctorate in educational psychology and a master’s degree in health and safety, including more than 35 years of experience in education, training, and leadership functions, Ochs became an MSF-certified instructor in 1973 and a chief instructor in 1980. He has conducted motorcycle safety training programs and presented papers and presentations on safe riding throughout the U.S., Germany and Japan.

And what sorts of tips is he offering? Well, here are a couple of the first ones.

All the levers and pedals should be adjusted so they’re easy to reach and operate.

Sportbike riders: Get used to holding yourself up with your core muscles and legs, gripping the tank with your thighs. This takes the pressure off the handlebars.

If you want more of Dr. Ray you now know where to find him.

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Calling on all my noob skills, I froze at the controls.

Movie Producer Looking for Bikes in Colorado

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

dirt bike at Thunder Valley MXI just want to pass this along. If you have older two-stroke motocross bikes and you’re in or near Colorado, there is a movie in production that may want to use your bike. And you might get in the movie yourself.

Here’s the particulars, as passed along to me by Jerry Pokorny, with the British Motorcycle Association of Colorado. It comes from a guy who goes by Whiskyman, but I guess you’d need to reply to Jerry at jerry_pokorny@msn.com.

I have been in communications with the producer of some budget movies who is now filming a production dealing with a human interest angle on a motocross racer theme.

Production is here in Colorado at Thunder Mountain in Lakewood and another site a short distance away so it’s in our backyard.

To help him out, he has asked me to try and help him find two different bikes – as follows:

Early ’90s vintage 2-stroke motocross bike in very clean to mint condition. The bike will mainly be used as static prop and only ridden for 2 laps around the motocross track by a professional stunt double in the production so it won’t be harmed in any way. It will be used in 2 scenes to be shot in Early June. No limit on displacement or brand was specified so let me know what you have in your collection that you would be willing to make available for a couple of days. The producer is going to offer the owner of the bike a small walk-on part related to the movie main characters race team in support of the “works rider” (principal actor in this production). There is no other compensation but the ego trip of having your bike and possibly you in a movie – now how cool is that?

The other need is for a few mid to late 1980s vintage 80 cc 2-stroke motocross bikes to be used in a scene with the producer’s main character YZ – 80 as “other competitors bikes.” This will be shot in late June or July. No walk-on part for this but you will still have bragging rights on having your bike in a movie………..

Ok, let’s hear from you as soon as possible. Let me know what you have (make, model, displacement, year) and if possible send a photo. I will help screen candidates and forward the best options to the producers for his consideration.

This sounds like a heck of a lot of fun so please respond at your earliest convenience!

Ride fast, life is short

Whiskyman

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