Archive for the ‘motorcycle racing’ Category

Examiner Resurrection: Sidecar Racing: High-Speed Ballet

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017
sidecar racers prep

Wade Boyd and Christine Blunck gear up to race their #6 Formula 2 sidecar.

Money and horsepower do not produce winners in sidecar racing. It takes teamwork, and a good team can make a poor machine very, very fast.

So say the folks who ought to know, the sidecar racers I spoke with (and rode with!) at last weekend’s Bonneville Vintage GP and Concours.

Wade Boyd and Christine Blunck are the points leaders for both driver and passenger as this racing season nears its end, and they were the ones I chanced to strike up conversation with as I sought to learn more about this sport. I also spoke with Rick Murray, the outgoing president of the Sidecar Racers Association-West.

Wade got into sidecar racing unexpectedly when he showed up at the Isle of Man TT one year expecting to race in three events. Finding that he had been shut out of two events, “I told my girlfriend to find me a sidecar.” He had never ridden a sidecar before but she found a driver in need of a passenger and he agreed to take Wade.

“I had a dynamite time, and then for four years it was like I had my thumb out. I’d go without having anything set and I’d find someone who needed a rider. Then I got to drive . . .”

Christine’s first involvement with racing was as an umbrella girl at various races, but she had a friend who ran a motorcycle shop, and who said of sidecar racing, “We could do that.”

That’s often how it happens, says Rick. “Quite often you have two friends or relatives who want to race together. We have many husband/wife, father/son, sister/sister teams. We have a fairly high percentage of women in the sport.”

Wade concurs, saying “Where else do you get to take a buddy for a ride?”

Wade is a steel fabricator by trade and he built his own rig for the most part, although “Mr. Bill” Becker of Becker Motor Works helped him out putting the motor in and with some of the other big stuff. Mr. Bill is known by all U.S. sidecar racers because he helps nearly all of them keep their rigs running.

That sort of helpfulness is characteristic of sidecar racing. “We’re competitive but friendly,” says Wade. “We want you out there and I want to pass you fair and square.”

It’s all about teamwork
The key to running a fast race is the teamwork. Each team pre-rides the track and then maps out their strategy for each turn on the course. On most turns the passenger will hang their weight out to enable fast turns without the third wheel rising off the pavement, or floating. That loss of traction cuts speed. However, in some instances, “letting the chair float” allows the rig to cut the corner sharper in order to get up speed in a hurry for the straightaway.

The passenger needs to know his or her position on each turn and the driver needs to be aware of the passenger’s location. On occasion the driver will look back but usually, “I feel her, the ESP is strong,” says Wade.

The passenger also needs to make their moves smoothly and gracefully. Harsh, forceful moves from one position to another will negatively affect the handling of the rig. Wade calls this coordinated, smooth movement “high-speed ballet.”

Despite the seemingly dangerous risks the passengers take, leaning far out of the rig just inches above the ground, sidecar racing in the U.S. is actually very safe. By comparison, Wade says, at the Isle of Man TT “they put a bale of hay in front of a telephone pole. After doing the TT, this (the track at Miller Motorsports Park) is easy. We rarely touch, but if you do touch you’re probably going to spin out, and if you spin out the passenger can get launched.”

According to Rick, the last sidecar racing fatality in the U.S. occurred in the 1980s, and there have been only three fatalities since the 1960s.

Passengers do sometimes get “spit off.” Christine’s most memorable such occasion came in Ramsey, on the Isle of Man when her driver clipped a curb in an S-curve. “It spit me off and I flipped through the air and landed upright on my feet in some gentleman’s front yard. I said ‘Hi’ and introduced myself.” She adds that there are times when the passenger wishes he or she was a monkey, and had that tail as a fifth hand to hang on with.

Sidecar racing is an inexpensive way to race, Rick notes, because you split the cost two ways. Plus, using wide, slick tires, as modern sidecars do, the costs are low because a set of tires will last one to two years. And most racers run stock engines so reliability is very high.

Still, there aren’t that many sidecar racers in the U.S., and they’d love to see that change. That’s one reason Rick and others love to offer “taxi rides” to spectators when they can. These taxi rides let non-racers suit up and take two laps around the track with an experienced driver at the controls.

“I tell people you’ll love it or hate it,” says Rick. “I’ve never seen anybody go half way. They’re either ‘Get me off’ or ‘Where can I buy one?'”

And if you do love it, says Rick, “You can spend $4,000 to $5,000 and have something to have fun with.”

Biker Quote for Today

Sometimes your knight in shining armor turns out to be a biker in dirty leathers.

More Motorcycling Odds and Ends

Thursday, January 30th, 2014
Bikes In Sturgis

It's all about motorcycles.

You can tell I’m not getting in a lot of riding because if I was I’d have all sorts of new stories to tell. Almost every ride sparks some idea for a story to tell, but it can get to be slim pickings this time of year. But there’s always little stuff.

For instance, Alan passed along to me awhile ago a thing about a new kind of motorcycle helmet with what they call a heads-up display that shows what is behind you as you look ahead plus a whole lot more. The brand is Skully, and the display also responds to voice commands to play music, take phone calls, guide you with GPS, and maybe something else I’ve forgotten. Potentially very cool. I’d sure like to try one out.

Well, this thing Alan forwarded to me was a link to put your name in the pot to get a chance to demo one. So we both did.

And what do you suppose came of that? Both of us got emails thanking us for asking to demo and telling us that what they really want us to do is go to their Facebook page and like them and then give them as much promotion through social media as we can. Then they’ll look at who has done the best job of promoting them and those will be the folks who get to demo a helmet.

OK. So I’m giving them a little publicity here but I’m not jumping through all those hoops. Guess I won’t be on the demo list. I’d still really like to try one of those things, though. Maybe in a few years all helmets with come with that stuff.

Another thing Alan sent me (Alan sends me a lot of stuff) is about another movie that’s supposed to be coming out soon. By now probably everyone has heard about “Why We Ride,” but now there’s another on the horizon.

Called “Out of Nothing,” this is a film about four guys who live to race on the salt flats. That link goes to a trailer on YouTube and it looks pretty interesting.

I was all set to go out and spend a week on the salt a couple years ago, crewing for Jerry Pokorny, until I discovered the day before he was leaving that the week I thought this was happening was not the actual week. And my wife and I had vacation plans for that week. Big surprise, I chose my wife over Jerry, so I’ve never been to Speed Week. But I get the impression that after watching this movie you’ll have a lot better idea of what it’s like. I know Jerry’s stories are pretty fascinating.

So how come we’re getting motorcycle movies in a bunch all of a sudden? Things come in threes; is there a third one out there we’re going to be hearing about soon.

Finally, it may not be the heart of motorcycling season right now but that doesn’t stop the Motorcycle Travel Network. We’re having our first guests of the year this weekend, Robin and Glenda from Lawrence, Kansas. They’re coming in for the Motorcycle Show and Swap and they’ll be here for two nights. We haven’t hosted MTN people yet who we didn’t enjoy meeting and getting acquainted with. And more importantly, we have had some guests we had a fabulous time with, and we’ve spent nights with members in their homes and had great times, too. If you travel and you like meeting new people who share your passion, the Motorcycle Travel Network is definitely worth checking out.

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Biker Quote for Today

It’s all about motor bikes, always has been, always will be.

Guest Post: Can’t Miss Competitions in the United States

Thursday, July 11th, 2013
motorcycle racers ready to run

You don't have to be Valentino Rossi to enjoy getting out on the track and racing.

The following is a guest post from Simone.

If you can’t get enough speed on your motorcycle, than competition motorcycle racing could be for you. Live through professional riders! Luckily enough, there are a bunch of different racing styles and types to choose. From motocross to endurance to hare scrambles and more, there is bound to be something to fit your racing preference. Additionally, there exist a variety of rider associations that present yearly racing series and other events geared to the adventure-seekers and spectators just like you. Below are some of the featured annual competitions and races that, if you want to live through a motorcycle racer, you’ve simply got to check out! Maybe you’ll even try out yourself. But whatever you do, make sure to do your homework and stay in your appropriate racing class.

US Grand Prix National Championship Series – This sportbike racing competition is unique because it’s really two racing series in one. Comprised of the 125 Grand Prix National and 250 Grand Prix National Championships features extended length grand prix racing with timed qualifying. Riders in the USGPRU series compete for regional championships in the Eastern and Western regions across North America and the points earned there are carried over to the US National Championship. Additionally, this series splits its riders up so older racers (over 30) can compete against each other while the young-guns are left to compete with each other.

The East Coast Enduro Association has been a proud sponsor of endure and hare scrambles for upwards of forty-five years. Featuring courses in the beautiful mountains of Pennsylvania, the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, and the surrounding areas, riders compete in different series to earn points towards the championship. Enduro racing is said to be one of the ‘easiest’ kinds of racing to start with because it takes place on dirt and doesn’t necessarily reach the same top speeds as sportbike racing.

The Race of Champions, brought to you by the American Sportbike Racing Association (ASRA) allows riders to compete on the famous Daytona International Speedway in a Team Challenge or separately in a winner-take-all championship sprint series. Open to any rider over the age of 16, this race is a great fall-time fixture in the lives of many sportbike racers for nearly thirty years.

Next comes the Action Sports Grand Prix Series at the Action Sports Moto Park in Ohio. This series is different because not only does it include off-highway motorcycle racing, it also includes ATV racing series and harescrambles. In order to be awarded the #1 plate, riders must earn the greatest amount of points in each class. These series points from the 8 AMA-sanctioned Grand Prix events will determine each class champion. In addition to holding the 8 events there are also 2 motocross practice days worked into the schedule.

We’re just scratching the surface of all the different types and series of motorcycle racing. Check out these events and start your own research of great competitions. And maybe get out there and compete in your first race as well!

Author bio: Simone is a writer for Competition Accessories, a leading online retailer of motorcycle apparel and more. Simone takes pride in her gear and loves taking twilight rides and discovering new locations.

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Biker Quote for Today

A biker without full-face protection should only ride as fast as the slowest hornet. — MediaWeasel

How to Go 200 MPH with a Stock Kawi Engine

Thursday, June 27th, 2013
Streamlined Motorcycles

Streamlined motorcycles at last year's Vintage Motorcycle Days. That raggedy-looking green bike is Vic Valdes, who made his streamlining out of discarded political posters.

I spoke with Craig Vetter last week, working on an article that I hope I’m not too late getting to Rider magazine. Vetter, as you probably know, is the designer of the Windjammer fairing and a lot of other things, and these days he’s really focused on fuel efficiency.

Vetter has worked out the design for what he calls The Last Vetter Fairing, which is body work that creates a streamlined motorcycle with upright seating and room to carry four bags of groceries.

He told me that in a recent test ride, with two identical motorcycles, one streamlined, the one that was streamlined got double the gas mileage of the stock bike. But he also talked about the power you need to push a bike down the road at 70 mph, and that comes out somewhere in the 20-25 horsepower range.

And here’s the kicker. If you’ve got too much power you’re not going to see any major miles per gallon increase with streamlining, he said, because all that power eats up too much gas.

“What you would notice is you could go probably 200 miles an hour. But where is it legal to go 200 miles an hour?”

I get the point but it still kind of tickles my fancy to think of my Concours going that fast. “I hit 189 miles an hour but the dang thing only gave me 68 miles to the gallon! What a gas hog!”

So anyway, it was a really good conversation and I couldn’t begin to use all the interesting stuff in that one short article for Rider so all the extra will make for some good blog posts here. Stay tuned.

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Biker Quote for Today

I wanna ride this road!

Winning That KLR650; Entry to the Races for Free

Monday, May 27th, 2013
ABATE racer

OK, this photo is a bit dated--Jon no longer rides sponsored by ABATE. But you get the picture.

I went to my ABATE meeting yesterday (yes, of course I rode one of the bikes) and among other things got an update on the odds I’m facing winning this KLR650 that I’ve spoken of before.

A recap: This is a new bike ABATE is raffling off, $10 per ticket, with a maximum of 2,500 tickets to be sold. The drawing is on June 15. I’ve bought three tickets. As of Sunday there were still only 641 ticket sold. That means I now have 1 chance in about 204 of winning. Try those odds on PowerBall.

So I’ve been figuring all along that of course I’ll win, but now that I’ve bought this V-Strom I figure it’s cinched. You know, what’s the best way to find something you’ve misplaced? Buy a new one. The old one immediately shows up. I wanted a dual-sport bike. I bought one. Now I’m sure to win another, right? Only about 20 days till I graciously accept that key. Geez, then where am I going to park a fourth bike?

I’m glad to see that number at 641. That means they’ve pretty much gotten the bike paid for. I’d like to see the group–us, my group–actually make money but at the very least it’s good not to lose money.

ABATE and MRA

I learned something else at the meeting that was pleasing. ABATE and the Motorcycle Roadracing Association (MRA), the local group that puts on racing at several tracks around the Front Range, have a very cooperative relationship. And the newest thing to come out of this relationship is that any ABATE member who shows up at the races can get in free by showing their ABATE membership card. Nice!

I’m not a huge race fan but I do generally get out to the races once or twice a season. Now I don’t have to pay the gate fee. It’s just $10, but until I took this regular job with the National Park Service I was scraping by for several years and that $10 was not of no consequence. Of course, now that I don’t have to pay it I’m in a place where I could easily pay it. But maybe there are others out there who are still scraping by and for them this could be a good thing.

Either way, it shows the good, mutually supportive relationship between the two organizations. And let me tell you, this is not the way it is in other states. In most other states the sportbike crowd despises ABATE. This good relationship is unique to Colorado. I’m pleased that I had a hand in making that happen, but I’m not going to rehash that story here. Maybe another time soon if you’re interested.

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Biker Quote for Today

Across the country on the kindness of strangers and the strangeness of friends (and a DR650).

Track Day Opportunity at High Plains Raceway

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Racers at High Plains Raceway

Have you ever whined that you’d really like to see how fast your bike can go but you don’t want to risk the ticket? Stop your whining, here’s your chance.

Erico Motorsports just announced that they are sponsoring two track days at High Plains Raceway, out east near Byers. The dates are June 4 and August 6.

The charge to just go out on the track is $250. For an extra Benjamin Erico offers “a ton of coaching from Team Erico to include classroom time. Yeah, we’re not pros but I’ll bet we can get you going much faster, staying much safer, and having a blast riding your bike how it was intended.”

Of course, you’ve got to have all the gear, and you need to drain your coolant and replace it with water. They’ll be serving breakfast at 7:30 a.m. and the track will be ready to at 8:30.

If you’re interested, you’ll need to contact John at john@ericomotorsports.com. He’s also there to answer any questions you might have and provide complete information.

I did a track day once and I have to tell you, it was humbling. There were the folks who knew they belonged in the beginner group and then some of us who couldn’t conceive that we should be in that lowly position. I went out with the mid-level group and promptly found myself the slowest guy on the track, by a long shot. But I had fun and maybe I learned enough to get at least a bit better. It definitely made me a lot more respectful of the skill those guys have who go really, really fast.

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Biker Quote for Today

Whoever said money can’t buy happiness has never owned a sportbike.


Plenty of Colorado Motorcycle Racing In 2012

Monday, February 20th, 2012

motorcycle roadracing

I thought it would be a simple thing to put up a list of motorcycle racing events going on in Colorado this summer but boy was I wrong. First off, scratch that stuff about “this summer.” The first racing I found actually takes place in March, on March 11, just 20 days from now. And then there’s so much more it’s a bit mind-boggling.

That first event is put on by the Sport Riders Association of Colorado (SRAC), and it is an AMA-sanctioned motocross event. It will be in Berthoud, at the Valley Dirt Riders Motocross Park.

The SRAC has three different series running this summer, the Spring Cup Series, the Summer Classic Series, and the Supercross Series. That’s a total of 19 race weekends altogether, scattered around between Canon City, Grand Junction, Lakewood, Berthoud, Greeley, Colorado Springs, and more.

Then we have the Rocky Mountain Trials Association (RMTA). The RMTA lists 10 events running from March 25 through October 14. Maybe you have to be in the know, as I was not very successful at figuring out where these events will be held, other than names such as Coral Bluffs, Pine Nook, Stock Ranch, Pilot Peak, Sledgehammer Gulch, and more.

Of course the one organization I’m most familiar with is the Motorcycle Roadracing Association (MRA). That picture up above is from one of their races, at High Plains Raceway. Round 1 for the MRA will be May 5-6 at High Plains. Six more rounds through September 15-16 will rotate between Fountain, Pueblo, and High Plains.

The Rocky Mountain Motocross Association (RMXA) has 21 events on their agenda, beginning March 11 in Dacono and finishing on October 7 in Sterling.

Then, just to confuse me more, several of the tracks list events that don’t seem to be on any of these organizations’ schedules so maybe they’re just events the tracks themselves are putting on. So you get the picture. If you enjoy racing you’ve got plenty to choose from, and you won’t have to go far, no matter where you live in Colorado. Hey, get your motor runnin’!

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Biker Quote for Today

Chicken strips are for losers.

And the Race Is On

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Racers at High Plains RacewayI headed out to High Plains Raceway Saturday for the opening day of the Motorcycle Roadracing Association’s (MRA) 2011 season, and to do my first piece following racer Jon Kuo through the season. The weather was perfect and everyone was definitely jazzed for the season to start. The story and photos are available on Examiner.com.

I became acquainted with Jon because he is sponsored by ABATE of Colorado, of which I am a member. This year now, ABATE is sponsoring three racers, as well as the corner crews. To say that this is unusual is an understatement. In many states there is outright hostility between the sportbike crowd and the ABATE organizations. Terry Howard, Colorado’s State Coordinator, was there Saturday and she told me they caused quite a stir at last year’s Meeting of the Minds, the Motorcycle Rider’s Foundation conference, when they showed up with representatives from the MRA and the Colorado Sportbike Club as members of their delegation. Everyone was in awe and eager to hear how this came about. I’ll be doing a follow-up article that really digs into the story.

I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet Ricky Orlando, a local fellow who is an AMA racing champion and who now runs a riding school up by Frederick. If you’re into the racing scene I’m sure you are familiar with Ricky. I had spoken with him for the first time just a couple weeks ago when I was working on a story for RumBum.com about how kids can come up through the ranks of American Motorcyclist Association-sanctioned racing and become world champions. Ricky was very helpful and gave me some good quotes for the story, so it was an unexpected pleasure to actually meet him. Of course, he was there to race.

And lest we forget, there was the racing Saturday. When I had spoken with Jon a couple weeks ago he was sounding extremely optimistic about placing very well, maybe even winning a championship. Speaking with him before the race he had toned things down a bit, which I suspect was a result of getting out on the track in practice sessions and seeing other guys out-running him. At that point he said he just hoped to stay up with the fast guys and learn from them.

Jon placed 7th in his first race, the only one I was there for, and he was very disappointed. And this is where I start learning about racing. Jon told me his problem was that he doesn’t have the corner speed the top guys have, and it’s something he needs to learn. Riding on a 250cc Ninja, he said the bikes don’t have enough power to go really fast, plus they’re light, so you can–and need to–carry a lot of speed deep into the corner. The best riders hardly even brake in the corners, he said. And because you can’t make up much time in the straights, races are won and lost in the corners.

As I say, my education begins. It’s going to be an interesting season. It will be very interesting especially to see how well Jon does learning to corner faster. Stay tuned.

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Biker Quote for Today

Motorcycle racing is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.

Getting Up Close with Motorcycle Racing

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Jon Kuo ready to race

This seems to be pretty typical of what I do. I’ve arranged with Jon Kuo, a motorcycle racer, to follow him through the season that begins this weekend. The idea is to see and present the day-to-day human side of what racing involves. And at this moment I don’t have a clue how I’ll go about doing that.

But that’s how I work. Make the decision to do it and just jump in. Learn to swim in the process.

I first met Jon two seasons ago when I learned that ABATE of Colorado had signed on as one of his sponsors. This struck me as surprising because I was aware that there was some animosity, at least in some places, between sportbike riders and ABATE organizations. In fact I did a whole series of articles about that animosity.

Fortunately, that animosity is not the norm here in Colorado. Here, ABATE and the Motorcycle Roadracing Association work together on issues that are of concern to all motorcyclists. United we stand, divided we fall, you know?

So I know I’ll be learning a lot about racing this summer about. Should be interesting. I’ll make sure to pass a lot of it along to you. Stay tuned.

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Biker Quote for Today

If you can read this you must have a V-Max, too.

Motocross Plans for 2011

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

I’ve only been to one motocross event, and I’ve certainly never ridden motocross, though it looks like a hoot and a half, but maybe I’ll at least get to another one in 2011.

Motocross racers at the startI got an email today from the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) announcing their Pro/Am motocross racing schedule for next year and one of the events will be here in Colorado. They’ve got 53 events on their calendar and number 20 will be in Brush on May 30. I’ve put it on my calendar.

Not knowing all that much about Pro/Am racing, I’ll pass along to you what the AMA says about it. First off, these are the events where amateur racers “earn the credentials to line up at an AMA Supercross or AMA Pro Racing Motocross event.”

Additionally, “The AMA Racing Pro/Am program is critical to the natural progression of a rider through the amateur ranks of AMA amateur motocross all the way up to getting their AMA Supercross license,” says AMA Director of Supercross Kevin Crowther.

To be considered for a professional motocross license, competitors must have earned at least 75 advancement points (at the time of application) in AMA Racing Pro/Am motocross events in a continuous 12-month period. Points are based on overall finishes in either the 250 Pro/Am and Open Pro/Am classes. Points from each class are not combined.

Whatever it’s about for the guys on the track, for the spectators–I’m thinking–it has got to be fun. I’m going to plan to go and presuming I do you can bet I’ll be right back here telling about it.

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Biker Quote for Today

They don’t expect you to finish. That’s why it’s the Dakar.