Alanf’s blog…
Scattered thoughts

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Box of Shame #1: EZ Outs aren\’t always easy…

Author: site admin
Category: The Box Of Shame

I’ve been riding, and wrenching, on bikes for a long time now. This has led to a lot of “learning experiences” and those have sometimes resulted in broken parts or repair bills. I keep a “box of shame” in my garage, containing worn/broken parts, as a reminder of the lessons I learned during those moments.

I decided it would make for an entertaining series of blog entries if I related some of those tales.

I bought my ‘88 GSXR1100 in ‘91 from a race team after it had survived three hard years of endurance racing. Thus I was given a head-start on the educational experience that is bike repair. I learned a lot quickly, especially things like fairing repair, replacing worn/bent parts and daily lessons in metal fatigue. By 1993, the bike had 20,000 street miles on it and most of the niggling problems from the race days were over.

However, after a weekend street ride, I discovered that the end of one of the front left brake caliper bleed nipples had broken off. I don’t know if this was because it got hit by a stone or whether vibration caused it to crack but the end result was having the shaft of the bleed nipple stuck in the caliper with no obvious way to remove it.

Since I’d worked on old cars before, I knew the solution. I headed up to the hardware store for a set of EZ-outs - reverse threaded studs which can be inserted into a hole then turned to extract the bolt. Normally, a drill bit and a T-handle tap wrench are required bit in this case the bleed nipple was already hollow so no drilling was required. I figured I’d just use a crescent wrench and save the $10 for the T-handle.

Big mistake. The T-handle allows you to apply constant, even pressure while turning the EZ-out. A crescent wrench, on the other hand, causes a twisting and bending motion. Additionally using a big f’ing crescent wrench can create enough torque to snap off the end of the EZ-out inside the bolt you are trying extract. In addition to causing a lot of cussing, this also expands the bleed nipple enough that it won’t ever come out again. Care to guess how I discovered this information?

The cooked caliper

To make matters worse, I brought the brake caliper to a local shop to see if they could help. They tried to use a cutting torch to get things to expand but overheated the thing, basically welding the bleed nipple in place. To fix that, they drilled out the nipple but drilled too deep, scoring the “dished” portion inside the caliper which allows the bottom of the bleed nipple to seal when tightened down. To fix that, they milled off 4mm from the top of the caliper but that resulted in too little thread contact on the shaft of the bleed nipple to prevent leaking. By the time I got the caliper back, it was discolored from the torch, required teflon tape to prevent brake fluid from leaking out and had a huge flat spot from the milling machine. Soon after, the brake piston seals on that caliper failed, possibly because they too had been overheated by the torch.

I eventually bought a used caliper to replace the damaged one and thus started my box of shame.

Needless to say, I should have sprung for the $10 T-handle in the first place…

Monday, November 29, 2004

Thoughts on the \’05 MotoGP line-up…

Author: site admin
Category: MotoGP

With silly season in MotoGP nearly over, here is my take on the riders for next year. I’ve had to make a few guesses, since some teams (D’Antin, Proton, WCM) haven’t finalized their line-ups yet.


  • First, Yamaha, the reigning champions with the Rossi-revised M1 and Michelin tires:
    • 1a) Valentino Rossi - Jeez, what really can be said. The guy is so freakin’ amazing. However, for the good of the sport, all the other riders should take up a collection and sponsor Rossi with an F1 car. Nothing short of him leaving will prevent another MotoGP title in 2005.

      1b) Colin Edwards - I really want Colin to “come good” this year. 2005 was basically a disaster, made doubly so by the successes of his Movistar team-mate. The guy has got talent but with three other Hondas finishing ahead of him in the points, his complaints of defective bike design were wearing thin. Does he have the talent to race at the MotoGP level? Maybe the Yamaha can help him answer that question. I don’t see him fighting for the championship in 2005, unless he becomes less picky about setup or the Yamaha becomes much faster. Where Yamaha has scored is they’ve hired one of the best development riders away from Honda at a time when Honda desperately needs development focus for the RCV.

      2a) Tony Elias - This will prove very interesting. Tony hasn’t won championships at the 125 or 250 level yet gets a coveted MotoGP ride for 2005. He’s young, very fast, knows all the tracks and he’s Spanish. All strong qualifications. He’s also big enough to fight a big 4-stroke, something his 250 rival Pedrosa may not have. I don’t see him being a factor in 2005 but he is a possible bright star for the future.

      2b) Ruben Xaus - I think Ruben being released from his D’Antin contract and signing with Yamaha may be a desperate move by Ducati to keep Rossi from dominating in 2005. After all, with all the money Yamaha will now be spending on body work, they will be unable to develop the M1 further to Rossi’s liking. Having Xaus on track makes for good crash scenes but I don’t see him being a factor in the championship.

  • Second, Honda, now second stringers for the first time since 2000 with the once all-conquering RC211V and the seemingly less dominant Michelins, need their riders to step up:
    • 1a) Max Biaggi - I can’t say I’m a fan of Biaggi but I really do feel sorry for the guy. I mean Max really is a phenomenal rider. He won *four* 250cc GP championships and has finished second in 500/MotoGP something like four times. That is an incredible record. But you have to feel sorry for the guy. He was born in the era of dominant champions, having a premier class career that started in the Doohan era and is now dwarfed by the brilliance of Rossi. Still, the guy makes such a spectacle of himself that he is hard to pity. I think Biaggi will have another bridesmaids year and the FIM will eventually retire the number “2″ in his honor.

      1b) Nicky Hayden - I’ve rubbed rabbit’s feet, I’ve tossed pennies in the wishing pond, I’ve burned incense and I’ve lit candles. I’m afraid there is nothing else I can do, so in 2005 It’ll be all up to him. I think he’s got the talent, the drive and the team to do it. I think he’s still learning every time he goes around a track and that is fantastic. But 2005 will be his shot. If he can’t do it in 2005, I’m afraid he’ll have reached his high water mark and will have the legacy of an “almost” champion. Sadly, he’ll be up against Rossi and I don’t see it happening, though secretly I hope he proves me an idiot. However, he does have a shot at ruining Biaggi’s bridesmaid streak. In the meantime, has he thought about donating money to the Rossi Ferrari fund?

      2a) Sete Gibernau - Sete has been the revelation of 2003 and 2004. Coming from relative obscurity on the Suzuki to become Honda’s great hope. He was at his peak last year, so the question is can he maintain it? I think that 2004 was a crushing defeat for him and it will be particularly hard to come back from that, especially given the psychological whipping Rossi was giving him the last few races. Unless he can beat Rossi straight-up, early in the season, I think the fire will fade. Fourth in 2005?

      2b) Marco Melandri - Melandri proved inconsistent and, at times, reckless aboard the Yamaha. I was a big fan when he raced to so many wins while injured in 250s but now that its a habit, its less gritty or brave and more stupid. His immense talent is being destroyed by bone fractures and torn ligaments. I think he’ll continue to ride (and crash) with his heart in 2005 rather than take top tens with his head. Melandri coming to Honda, after Xaus left Ducati for Yamaha shows just how devious Ducati’s plan to force bodywork expenditure among their competitors really is!

      3a) Alex Barros - This guy is a sponsors dream. How else can he still be on a GP bike? He crashed more in 2004 than Xaus or Melandri but still gets an “A” seat ride. He’s been around GP since they chipped the bodywork from granite with stone axes and he’s taught every whippersnapper for three generations how to late brake. His reputation as a great rider is set in cement. But unless he’s sponsored by Geritol and the AARP, I don’t see why he’s back for another season. Money is the name of the game and the Repsol South American bankroll can buy a lot!

      3b) Troy Bayliss - I’m openly thrilled to see Bayliss still in the MotoGP game but I think, like Sete, the wind in Bayliss’ sails died in 2004. The uncompetitive Ducati GP bike sucked the life out of Troy’s championship drive. I think he’ll ride well in 2005 but he made enough deposits into the gravel trap confidence piggy bank that he won’t have enough left to pay for winning rides in 2005.

      4a) Makoto Tamada - Tamada has the drive but then again so have a long line of talented Japanese riders like Katoh, Ukawa and Ito. Honda will desperately want a Japanese MotoGP champion but, assuming they can find a grid spot, his “B team” status (thanks to the Repsol contract) will hold him back.

  • Ducati was 9th in 2004, their Desmosedici the first of the “others” but now with Bridgestone tires in ‘05, have:
    • 1a) Loris Capirossi - I’m not a Capirossi fan and haven’t been since the ugly 250 incident with Harada in 1998. In fact, I didn’t like Capirossi in 1997 due to some questionable accidents, so ‘98 just sealed the deal. I know how exciting it is to have an Italian on an Italian bike but I still cringe when I hear his name. Maybe he can spend 2005 changing tires on his buddy Rossi’s Ferrari?

      1b) Carlos Checa - Checa brings lots of Spanish sponsorship money to the table. That’s it. He’s there to buy tires for Capirossi’s Ducati (and help repay the 2004 debt from Xaus’ bodywork purchases). He’ll sit in the track hospitality suite on Sunday night with Barros and talk about how nice it is to have friends in high places.

      2a) Fonsi Nieto - Spanish? Check. Connection to historic Spanish motorcycle hero? Check. Lots of sponsorship money? Check. Okay, so we know how Mr. D’Antin is financing his 2005 racing effort, since he probably isn’t getting much money based on the ‘04 results. Fonsi showed flashes of brilliance but ultimately fell apart like a cheap paper sack to be beaten by Melandri in the 2002 250GP season. That defeat was apparently so crushing that he’s sucked for two straight years afterwards. Given his 2004 season, I’m amazed he got a MotoGP ride.

      2b) Randy DePuniet - It seems D’Antin is going after either Roberto Rolfo or Randy DePuniet but I’m guessing the Frenchman will get the nod, based on their respective 2004 250GP results. Rolfo had an uncharacteristic crap year, while DePuniet was challenging for race wins nearly all season. I don’t think either is really ready for MotoGP but Randy showed he rides with a lot of heart last season. Now he has to get his head around riding the MotoGP monsters and get his heart around riding an uncompetitive, year-old Ducati.

  • Kawasaki, their ZX-RR and their ‘Stones had an fantastic 2004 with a top ten finish, and for 2005 will again have:
    • 1a) Shinya Nakano - Checa and Xaus get Yamaha rides. Barros and Melandri get Honda rides. Nakano has to serve another year at Kawasaki despite having a more memorable season in 2004 than any of them. Jeez, this guy should get another shot at Yamaha just as a reward from walking away from his Mugello crash last year. The kid is amazing and is the best thing to happen to Kawasaki since, well, people push started their Grand Prix bikes. Another top ten in 2005?

      1b) Alex Hoffman - Someone has to race with the Suzuki and Aprilia boys. Seems like a talented guy and he put in some nice rides in 2005. More importantly, he crashed less in the season than the D’Antin bikes did in one practice session. Good on ‘ya.

  • Suzuki wallowed in 2004 but comes back the same GSV-R, the same Bridgestone tires and same riders with:
    • 1a) Kenny Roberts Jr. - KRJr showed he still has fast laps in him with strong qualifying runs in 2004 but I don’t think he’s got the fire, even if he had the bike. Like Biaggi, his bright light has been dwarfed by the brilliance of Doohan and Rossi, then snuffed by the under performing Suzuki. Its sad, really, because his talent deserved to shine longer than just the 2000 season.

      1b) John Hopkins - What’s a guy got to do? Like Nakano, Hopkins regularly showed his stuff in 2004 but is still stuck in the purgatory that is the Suzuki GP team. Sure, there is lots of talk about the engine finally coming good in 2005 but that could just be echos from when they said that last year…or the year before. Hopkins has more experience dicing (thanks to a bike that consistently puts him in the 6th through 12th place gaggle instead of up front mano-a-mano with Rossi and can flat bust a move on qualifying tires. He doesn’t even crash the way he did in 2002 and 2003. Pity this guy’s parents were British and not Spanish…

      1c) Nobuatsu Aoki - Suzuki hired Aoki as a test rider which was an ace decision and he’ll also get in a few wild card rides. The guy deserves the keys to the corporate wash room in Banbury after the dedication he’d shown Proton and that development experience should help him give Suzuki valuable input. Maybe Suzuki can contract him out to WCM to help develop their Blata engine, because after riding the Proton V5 Nobu should be able to diagnose every possible type of engine failure from the seat and probably has the fastest clutch hand in racing. However, like Proton, the Suzuki desperately needs more power so I doubt Aoki’s wild card rides will amount to much.

  • Aprilia and their Cube may not be back at all. Or the under-performing Cube may be back but as a Pramac, not an Aprilia. If either are back, they’ll likely have the cheaper Dunlops and have:
    • 1a) Shane Byrne - He either burned bridges with Ducati after his 2003 British Superbike championship or couldn’t get out of his Aprilia contract to go beg a ride on a D’Antin Ducati for 2005. Oh well, even if he isn’t getting a chance to learn all the tracks, he is learning about all their gravel traps…and may qualify for a pilot’s license if Aprilia folds their team.

      1b) I doubt they’ll have second rider….

  • KR Proton has their new KTM engine and new riders but probably no other option except soldiering on with the Dunlops:
    • 1a) Jeremy McWilliams - This isn’t decided yet but what choice do either party have in the matter, unless Proton folds their team all together. Jeremy, like Barros, is considered ancient in racing circles and probably doesn’t have teams knocking down his door. KR can’t hire anyone without a budget in place, so he can’t really be picky. They’ve worked together in the past and McWilliams can probably help with continued development of the bike. That said, he doesn’t deal well with bike problems and having problems seems to be a real strength for the Proton. If Jeremy picks up where he left off in 2002, expect to hear the announcers saying “McWilliams into the pits” a lot this year. Still, I really hope the KTM engine is the silver bullet TeamKR has needed for the past, oh, nine years.

      1b) Kurtis Roberts - Despite the persistent rumors of Kurtis returning to the US, I think he’ll sign for another year. The new KTM engine seems better, his Dad probably doesn’t care who his management firm is or isn’t and its better to play second string in the big game than try to be big fish in the AMA pond. Besides, the longer Kurtis stays in MotoGP and the more he learns, the better the chance he’ll move to an E ticket ride in the future.

  • and WCM keeps Proton off the last row of the grid with an interesting Blata V-6 engine and something round and black, probably Dunlops. Their riders are:
    • 1a) James Ellison - Dude, I think the World Superbike TV announcing gig was a better deal. WCM won’t likely have a new bike (tested or otherwise) until the mid-point of 2005 and won’t have any money for the whole year. You’ll split your time between a bike that was horribly uncompetitive in 2005 and a bizarre development mule made of cylinders from a toy bike. Trust me, not all press is good press…

      1b) - Does it even matter? Maybe it will be Chris Burns. Maybe Michel Fabrizio. Maybe a shot for any number of ex-GP ghosts or a chance in the big circus for some national champion. The fact is the bike, not the rider, will determine the results. Personally, I’m glad WCM (and Proton and maybe Pramac/Aprilia) are around, since they are the privateer teams that keep bringing new blood into the series. If any of these guys (like Fabrizio in 2004) have great rides, maybe the bigger teams with better bikes will pay attention.

  • Finally, Moriwaki won’t have their first full season but will run a few select races again in 2005 with their Honda V-5, probably on Michelins, and will have fill-in riders like:
    • 1a) Olivier Jacque - Jacque never did it for me, even when he won the 250GP championship in 2000. I thought Nakano was the stronger racer that year and the best race Jacque road the whole season was the final race at Phillip Island. Anyway, whatever his skill as a 250 rider, he wasn’t able to translate that into success on the larger 500s. I don’t think he’ll adapt well to the MotoGP bikes either, even if he was riding a competitive bike. He isn’t and thus will be rubbing shoulders with Aprilia and Proton, hoping to make it into the tail end of the points.

      1b) Syougo Moriwaki - Other than having a famous last name and blood ties to the team owner, I’ve never heard of him. Then again, with Rossi, Nieto, Gibernau and two Roberts on the grid, having a family tree that includes motorcycle racers can account for a lot. He’ll probably only race one or two races this year (Motegi, for example) and will probably struggle more than Jacque.

[image from SpeedTV website]

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Team line-up blog entries delayed..

Author: site admin
Category: Uncategorized

I’ve told a few folks that I’d have blog entries with rider line-ups for the various series (AMA, World Superbike and MotoGP) online this week. Well, I’ve decided to delay a week, in the hopes that some of the smaller team’s will sort out their riders during the US holiday. In particular, I’m waiting for Proton and Aprilia in MotoGP, the rumored Italia Honda team in World Superbike, Jordan and the Suzuki support teams (Valvoline, Corona, Hooters) in AMA.

Hippie Thanksgiving

If there aren’t new press releases from these teams by next week, I’ll just take some guesses about who I think will end up where so I can get things posted. Consider this the Thanksgiving Break for my blog.

[image from Turtle Island web site]

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Kurtis of the Dead…

Author: site admin
Category: AMA Superbikes

Like an extra in a late night b-movie zombie flick, it appears that Kurtis has again risen from the afterlife to return and again haunt the US roadracing series. Last year, it appeared the Kurtis had thankfully…uh, I mean fortunately…been given an opportunity to move on to GP. I thought he had left US waters, if not for the remainder of his career, at least long enough for us to get a break from his whining.

Kurtis is a talented racer, no doubt. He has garnered three AMA championships in hard fought classes (Formula Xtreme in ‘99 and a double with Formula Xtreme and 600SS in ‘00). He also won two Superbike races in ‘03 against Mat Mladin, something few accomplished that year. Kurtis was successful enough in the AMA series to justify him having a shot at something on the world stage and I don’t begrudge him a MotoGP ride. What’s more, in his ‘03 season he only destroyed about half the motorcycle parts of previous seasons, so he was starting to ride with more smarts which is something any crew chief for a MotoGP team will appreciate.

So for 2004, Kurtis parked his helmet in the Roberts/Proton garage and his longevity in Grand Prix seemed pretty certain. He has a historical name which is a PR gold mine, he was managed by top class International Racers, Inc., was slated to help develop his father’s GP bike (an experience which did wonders for the skills of his older brother Kenny Roberts, Jr), was getting the all important knowledge of the GP circuits and had an opportunity to adapt to the travelling life of the MotoGP series. While no one expected him to fight for the title, he was gaining experience that would probably see him staying in MotoGP for awhile.

Kurtis' MotoGP debut

Unfortunately, his MotoGP debut didn’t go as well as originally planned.

So what is my beef with Kurtis, you might ask? Well, as I mentioned above, I think he’s a multi-time national champion in whining. Whether he’s complaining about the other riders or making excuses or moping about the pits he always seems to come across as a pouty little kid. While piling up trashed bodywork and bent sub-frames, it seemed like it was always the track, some other racer, the wind, or even his mechanics giving him a bad set-up that was to blame. I prefer to see a little more humility and a lot more personal responsibility. Second, I think he’s relied on his huge reserves of natural talent to win races and thus hasn’t put in the hard work that would raise him game to the level necessary to be a world champion. He’s not another playboy like Gobert but he’s not another freak like Mladin either.

Now things have fallen apart for Kurtis in ‘05. He’s left International Racers, he isn’t re-signed with KR/Proton and there have been rumors flying that he’ll be back in AMA Superbike next year on either a Honda or a Yamaha. Maybe this set back will be a little wake-up call. Maybe he’ll feel a little less entitled and a little more thankful to be racing motorcycles for a living. Then maybe he’ll have the focus to fight for an AMA Superbike championship and then go back to MotoGP with the dedication necessary to get a top ride and fight for that championship as well.

[image source unknown]

Monday, November 22, 2004

Motorcycle porn…

Author: site admin
Category: Motorcycles

So winter has arrived in the mountains of Colorado. The bikes are begrudingly shoved to the corners of the garage so my wife’s car can fit inside. I’m holding off on that last oil change needed to winterize the bikes, in the hopes that a little more sun, a little less snow and lots of wishing will melt out a little path so I can get in just one more ride. But the case of fresh oil, the 5 gallon gas can and the bottle of Sta-bil are beckoning me more with each cold weekend.

Since I won’t be riding for at least three months, I’m back to finding a creative way to feed my motorcycle jones during the dark days of cold and ice. And thus is acknowledged the key components of motorcycle porn:

First and foremost is Road Racer X magazine. These guys clearly have watched me for years in order to create a publication that completely pegs my geek meter. I’d pay twice their subscription rate, just to read their interviews with racers, but don’t tell them (or my wife). The photos are amazing (no really, Honey, I get the magazine for the articles). It is really rather sick how much I enjoy their magazine, as I don’t think I was this happy about real porn when I was a horny teen. By February, I’d be humping the bikes like a puppy if it weren’t for having an outlet this effective.

Wardy backin her in

Second, video stimulation really plugs into the most basic desires of the male and Outdoor Life Network’s coverage of the AMA’s SuperMoto series has more slipping and sliding than a jello wrestling contest. I think the commentators still have some learning to do but the racing is so cool they could just play musak over the video and I’d be happy. Besides, Jeff Ward is older than me and still winning national championships. Since the road race season won’t start until March, its nice to have some racing on the tube. Awesome! The icing on the visual stimulation cake is that the collector’s edition of Faster will be released in December, giving twice the MotoGP action of the original release. Swwwweeeettttt!

Third, modern technology has allowed computers to fulfill our darkest desires. At the top of my Christmas list this year is a new GPS since my current 6 year old unit doesn’t allow downloading of maps. I don’t know which model of GPS I’ll buy yet but either way I’ll get a software package with roads, trails and topo maps to explore. Talk about computer sex! After a half an hour playing around with Garmin’s City Source online demo, I was panting and moaning “those curves, wow, look at all those curves”.

Finally, I can just take things into my own hands…by working on the bikes. I know ahead of time that that most of the things on my “to do” list won’t get done, just because its so hard to work in a cold garage with freezing tools. Still, there are a few things I hope to get done, like finally mounting the PIAA driving lights on the Beemer and installing the new rotors on the GSXR. I can always just sit on the bikes and make “vroom…vroom” noises.

It is painful to think that spring is so many months away! Fortunately, the right magazines, the right videos, my computer and some time alone with the bikes will make it pass all that much faster.

[image from AMA Supermoto web site]

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Long Way Round…

Author: site admin
Category: Motorcycles

Huge props go out to Bravo for televising the series “Long Way Round”. After a year in which motorcycling has mainly been portrayed through the actions of egotistical, neurotic or disfunctional chopper builders, it is fantastic to see another side of motorcycling on the tube.

Bikes at the Flat Tops

Better yet, this is something that represents the type of riding I like to do and the kind of trip I dream to do. Maybe fewer folks will be asking if I ride a Harley the next time I say I’m a motorcyclist and more will ask if I saw that cool show with the guys riding around the world.

Sure, two famous actors traveling with a film crew doesn’t represent the real challenges facing the average travellers like Story or my friends Chris and Erin but it is closer than anything previously shown on TV. In fact, I hope this show encourages more people to ride the bikes they have rather than yearn for some art piece that is more about showing off than being ridden.

It appears that Bravo thinks the program will be a hit since they are packing in the advertising and are promoting it pretty heavily. That is a very good sign. The chopper shows have opened the cable channel’s eyes to the growing popularity of motorcycling and you know that avenue has finally been fully explored when even TLC has a chopper show. SpeedTV has continued to cover motorcycle racing, despite their original goal of becoming an all-NASCAR channel. OLN now shows the AMA super moto series, has a hour show on Motorcross and even had a show based on Dirt Rider magazine. Even ESPN has joined the show by airing the X Games super moto race. Now is a time when cable channels can fan out to explore more areas of our sport and Bravo seems to be leading the way.

Here is hoping that this trend continues. In the meantime, I think there still two more episodes of “Long Way Round” to be broadcast…and hopefully a DVD of the series soon after that.

[image from Todd Blachowiak]

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Harley Rant…

Author: site admin
Category: Bike reviews

I’ve long been accused of hating Harleys, being un-American and generally not “getting it’ as a motorcyclist so now seems as good a time as any to get on my soapbox about that…

First, in this day and age the list of things which make me appear un-American is so long that motorcycles should be way down the list.

Second, I’ll freely admit that I’m not keen on the cruiser thing, whether its American Iron or otherwise. One of the things I like about being on two wheels is being able to lean and cruisers generally don’t fair well in that department.

Harley Throwing Sparks

Third, I could care less about fads and lifestyles, I care about riding. A motorcycle that isn’t being ridden is a sculpture. In fact, some of the motorcycles people attempt to ride are sculptures and precious little else.

With those disclaimers out of the way, let me go into detail.

First, I like some Harleys. For example, the Sportster was a fantastic bike in the ’70s. Very cool, very muscular and very (dare I say) performance oriented. The problem, as I see it, is that the modern Sportster is basically the same thing. When rubber mounting is your greatest technological advancement for the past 30 years, your R&D is moving at a glacial pace. Sure, that is spurred by Sales explaining they can sell everything they make even if it is 1950’s engineering but is that a good reason to rest on cast iron and push rods? If Hyosung can do better, so can you.

Second, I don’t spend the majority of my time in a leisure chair. As a result, having my feet above my pelvis, my ass below my knees and my wrists above my shoulders isn’t really comfortable for me. I like the big Harley touring rigs but even they manage to push the floor boards forward and the bars out at an awkward angle. I wonder if the desk chairs in the Harley design labs are all recliners? If not, it shouldn’t be that tough to build in an upright seating position.

Finally, my greatest disappoint is with Buell. I really thought that Harley was going to do something special with Buell ten or more years ago. The VR1000 race bike had a sweet motor, about half the size of the standard Harley V. Sure, the “faithful” wouldn’t want it but Buell was just sitting there as a thumb in the eye of conventional cruisers anyway. If Eric Buell can’t understand water-cooling, send him back to engineering night school for a refresher course. in 1990 it could have been a nice chassis, distinctive styling, strong brakes and a powerful modern sport bike motor. Stir together, bake on sales room floors and enjoy. By the time the V-Rod came out, the motor was a decade out of date (though still better than the *huge* Sportie derivative in the current Buells…sigh) and the innovation is more style than performance.

So that is why I’m down on Harley. If Ford was still cranking about Model-As instead of modern cars, I’d be disappointed with them too…Even Chrysler’s wildly successful PT Cruiser just looks retro while still having a DOHC, aluminum engine!

So really, I want to like Harley. I’d even own an American sport bike, if something reasonably modern was available. If not a Buell, then why won’t Victory hire Dr. Rob Tuluie back?

[image from]

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

A day of rememberance…

Author: site admin
Category: Uncategorized

This past Thursday, November 11th, I was at the fancy new post office in Boulder buying stamps from the vending machine. In case you didn’t immediately make the connection, Nov 11th is Veterans Day in the U.S. and is recognized by the Federal Government, including postal employees, as a holiday. As such, the bank was closed, except the self-service machines and the public mail boxes. Anyway, I’m there starring at the machine and deliberating on whether to buy the flag stamps (Since 9/11, I’ve developed a mental association between the displaying of the flag and ultra conservative, blindly patriotic pro-US rhetoric which I still haven’t been able to overcome) or pay extra for the Breast Cancer or Child Abuse fund raising stamps.

Suddenly the creasing of my frontal lobe is interrupted by a guy asking me if I knew when the Post Office counter would be open. I quickly pointed out that today was a federal holiday and returned to my quandary. However, this guy walked my way and let out a quip that really shook me. He simply said “What? Veterans Day isn’t a real holiday. These post office folks will make any excuse to get off work.”.

Now, as you can see from my flag stamp problem, I’m definitely not the patriotic type. In fact, I’m not even particularly pro-military, being that I’m a long-haired, pacifist, vegetarian, bunny-hugging commie. One thing I am, even if I’m not particularly fond of our country at the moment, is a major history buff. I can quote from memory most of the facts and major events of wars from 1776 to the 1980s. I have memorized even trivial items from WWI and WWII. This, at least to me, is living history. History which connects directly to my life through my relatives.

Normandy D-Day cemetery

Finally, I am constantly aware of the tremendous achievements that soldiers in all wars, and particular the two World Wars, have brought about and I regularly find myself lacking when compared to what these people have experienced and accomplished. I’m not sure I could survive a day in the winter of 1944 in the forests of Germany or in the summer of ‘44 in the jungles of New Guinea. Yet my Grandfather Cecil marched through France, Belgium and Germany for a year with the 3rd Army. And my great-uncle Charlie spent three months in the jungles of New Guinea after his bomber was downed. These men survived something beyond my imagination but lived on to be loving, caring men.

Certainly men worthy of respect and definitely men worthy of a holiday.

[image from]

Monday, November 15, 2004


Author: site admin
Category: MotoGP

“I’m about to give you all of my money
And all I’m askin’ in return, honey
Is to give me my profits
when you get home (just a, just a, just a, just a)
yeah baby (just a, just a, just a, just a)
when you get home (just a little bit)
Yeah (just a little bit)”

– R.E.S.P.E.C.T., Aretha Franklin

Rossi's playground

Yamaha has been singing those words for about a year now and oh what a profit they have brought home. In a strategically delivered death blow, Yamaha found out about the tension between the three time MotoGP champ and monolithic Honda and swooped in for the kill. With a purchase price rumored to top $10,000,000, Yamaha took the risk of bringing the greatest motorcycle rider in history to the blue machines for 2004. Much has been said about the risk Rossi took but what about Yamaha? They where shelling out all that dosh to prove their bike wasn’t the pile it was reported to have been by ex-riders like Biaggi and Barros. Fortunately, they were also willing to spend the money to bring the most experienced crew in GP history in to support their star and waive the usual factory development process because they trusted the team’s direction.

If Rossi couldn’t put in another stellar year on the bike, surely Yamaha’s world wide rep was in for a major beating. In fact, even with Rossi’s unbelievable fourth MotoGP title, the result is mainly recognition of Rossi’s brilliance because the Yamaha was clearly not the equal to the Honda at fast tracks like Mugello and Catalunya but Rossi beat them anyway. Talk about R.E.S.P.E.C.T.!

I hate dominance. I hated it when Rainey ruled and I hated it when Doohan crushed everyone under foot. I’ve even been unhappy to see Rossi commanding the series, even when I was awed by his amazing riding exhibitions. But ultimately, both Yamaha and Rossi deserve all the respect they are getting and more. Both took a huge risk this season and both worked incredibly hard to put together a season which baffled even the most optimistic fans.

Kudos to Valentino Rossi, the 2004 MotoGP champion!

[image from Yamaha Racing web site]

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Nicky Hayden thoughts…

Author: site admin
Category: MotoGP

Nicky Hayden

I’ve exchanged email with a few different people where the question has distilled down to “what happened?”. After Nicky’s stellar freshman season in MotoGP being on the factory Honda squad, teammate to World Champ Rossi and nabbing Rookie of the Year in 2003, big things were surely expected in 2004. With Rossi expected to struggle in his first season on the Yamaha, the kid from Kentucky was tagged as one of the potential champs for 2004. …but it didn’t happen. Worse yet, this was the second of two years on his contract, in an industry where second chances (for American riders) aren’t extended very often.

Nicky showed some great riding at times this year but it seemed like Rossi, Biaggi and Gibernau were usually a little faster when it counted. Certainly his crash caused injuries which spoiled the second half of his season but I think there are two other issues.

First, Nicky still hasn’t learned to raise his qualifying performance to the same level as the other front runners. Nicky clearly has the speed but can’t ramp up to it fast enough to meet the pace in the last minutes of qualifying. Where the other guys cut 1 or 2 seconds off their lap time in just a few laps on their gumballs, Nicky usually doesn’t. When you’re on the second or third row, in a field this talented, you’ve already put yourself out of contention for the win.

Second, I don’t think Nicky has enough experience dicing at the speeds the MotoGP bikes can achieve. Late braking someone into a corner at 100mph on a $100,000 production- based superbike isn’t the same as sliding sideways at 200mph on a three million dollar factory Grand Prix bike. Riders like Rossi and Biaggi can make bold passes in the first or second lap at top speed. Hayden doesn’t seem able to stoke the fire that quickly and, when starting a few rows down, that means its sometimes the mid-point of the race before he can give chase.

In 2005, I hope that Nicky can continue to improve. He’s gotta learn the qualifying routine and then, step up his game in the early laps.

All this criticism and arm-chair coaching aside, I’m in awe of what Nicky has already accomplished and I’m thrilled at the prospects of what he will do as he grows. I’m also thrilled that Honda has realized his potential and signed him for another two years.

[image from]