Archive for the ‘antique motorcycles’ Category

Examiner Resurrection: Playing Monkey On A Racing Sidecar

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

This experience was a real highlight, so I’m happy to run this as an Examiner Resurrection.

motorcycle sidecar rig and two riders

Rick Murray at the controls and me in the passenger spot.

“Grab this grip with your left hand and never let go.”

I figured that first bit of instruction was the most important of all. Especially when ignoring it could result in my hitting the pavement at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour.

I was going for a ride on a racing sidecar.

If you watch sidecar racers scream around the curves, often with the passenger hanging much of their body out of the car and inches from the ground, your first impulse is to say “Those guys are crazy.” Well, crazy or not, I wanted a piece of it and I was going to get it.

I went to the Bonneville Vintage GP and Concours last week with antique motorcycles on my mind but was quickly caught up in the excitement surrounding the sidecars that were also there racing, both vintage and Formula 1 and Formula 2. And as luck would have it, the sidecar guys love to take other folks on what they call “taxi rides” for a couple laps of the track. Where do I sign up?

So Rick Murray, with Team RGM, who would be taking me for a ride in his rig, was explaining to me what I should, and most importantly, should not do. As you move around from left to right to center, the right hand moves from grip to grip. But the left hand never moves from its grip. A lot of the rest I was told was forgotten as soon as we got out on the track but I did remember this.

Then Christine Blunck, with Subculture Racing, walked me through the entire track, showing me how to roll on my legs from left to center, where to brace my feet as I moved right, and what move to make on each turn in the track. She noted that sidecar passengers at times wish they were monkeys so they would have that tail, that fifth hand, to grab on with.

Wearing my own helmet and gloves and a borrowed leather suit, I was mounted and we were ready to roll out on the track. There would be one other taxi rider on the sidecar ahead of us. Let’s go.

Around the track we looped, through turns with evocative names such as “Gotcha,” “Mabey Y’ll Makit,” “Agony,” and “Ecstasy.” If I remembered anything Christine had told me about each turn it became moot as I quickly lost track of where we even were on the course. Initial thoughts of shifting left to right and back to left were dashed at the realization that, oh yeah, sometimes you have two lefts in a row, or two rights in a row. Guess I’d better pay attention to the track.

But even then it got confusing. I’d be figuring that I needed to be going right and I’d look ahead and the guy in the car in front of us was going left. Who was correct and who was confused? I know I was confused even if I was correct.

Of course, in all honesty, it didn’t matter if I screwed up. We were not going at full race speeds and Rick told me he could run the whole course at that speed with no problem regardless of what I did. And afterward I asked him if I screwed up and he just said, sort of noncommitally, that “You did fine.”

So we did the first lap and were well into the second when I heard the engine rev and felt us picking up speed. I knew Rick was opening it up to give me a taste of real race speeds and I hung on tight to enjoy the sensation. I have no doubt that my own personal land speed record was set at that moment.

Then we swept again through the clubhouse turn and into the pit lane and off the track to a stop. I stood up and realized I was breathing hard, not to mention feeling like I’d just had a work out. And I’m sure I was smiling. Here’s your leathers back, and thank you for the pin that reads, “I rode a racing sidecar.” Thank you, thank you, thank you. When can I do this again?

Biker Quote for Today

I have no interest in living a balanced life. I want a life of adventure.

Old Bikes, Empty Roads, Riding Skills

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017
old motorcycles

There were just a few old bikes at the Ameristar when I stopped by in the middle of the day. Everyone else was out riding!

The Antique Motorcycle Club of America (AMCA) is holding a get-together in Black Hawk this week so what more excuse did I need to take a ride up in the hills? Besides, we’re setting new heat records down here in Denver so a little cooler air can only be welcome. Of course, considering the event, I rode my 1980 CB750. It may not be an antique but it sure ain’t some spring chicken.

Bill and I rode to Black Hawk two Saturdays ago and the road up Clear Creek Canyon had a sign warning of road work and grooved pavement, so we took a different route. That sign was gone so I headed up Clear Creek.

As expected, there was a good bit of excellent, brand new asphalt and there wasn’t a lot of traffic. In fact, after awhile it got odd how little traffic there was, and then there was suddenly an endless stream of vehicles bumper to bumper. I (correctly) deduced there must still be some road work up ahead and at least one spot where the road is down to one lane. Fortunately I got there just as the throng in front of me started to move so all I had to do was slow down and keep cruising.

The gathering place for the AMCA was the 10th floor parking garage at the Ameristar Casino. Who ever heard of a 10th floor parking garage. But in fact it’s just a parking garage and you go all the way up to the top, at the 10th floor. I knew the group had a ride planned for the day and I didn’t expect many bikes at mid-day and again I was correct, but there were some, such as those in that photo above.

I only stayed around long enough to give the Ameristar some cash–just because they’re such nice folks, you know?–and then headed toward the Golden Gate Canyon road to head back down. There were way too many trucks in Clear Creek Canyon. I considered going down via Coal Creek Canyon but while I was in Black Hawk the wind kicked up quite a bit so I went with Golden Gate Canyon.

Good choice. There was nobody at all on this road. That is, there were just a few vehicles going the other way but I didn’t see any at all going my way until I was almost all the way down, at around Mount Galbraith Park.

So it’s not that I was trying to go fast but I bet I made it down that road in record time, for me at least. There was just nothing and nobody to slow me down. I went zipping along, straightening out the curves, and just generally having a really fun time. Just the kind of thing motorcycling is all about.

About halfway down, however, I started feeling the heat again. It was cool up high but hot and getting hotter down low. Thank goodness for my mesh jacket.

Then I had one more interesting encounter on my way home. Getting off 6th Avenue onto southbound I-25 traffic was backed up way more than I could see any reason for at this time of day, so it was stop and go. Except there was one guy on a Suzuki sportbike in the lane to my right who was refusing to so much as dab a foot. I might have been able to do that, too, but I wasn’t inclined to do the work. And it is work.

You have to simultaneously rev the engine so gyroscopic force keeps you and the bike upright while feathering the clutch and modulating the brakes so you go slowly, slowly, slowly. You’re always monitoring the gap in front of you as it shrinks and widens. It takes concentration and it is work. I just did the stop and start thing, riding most of the time with my feet just skimming the pavement. But I was enjoying watching him, and in all the time I could watch him he never once dabbed.

Good riding, dude!

Biker Quote for Today

Meditation doesn’t mean you have to sit still.