Alanf’s blog…
Scattered thoughts

Thursday, December 23, 2004

I\’ll be home for Christmas…

Author: site admin
Category: Uncategorized

Happy Holidays to everyone!

Its been a busy and exciting year. Work has been crazy but it looks like our products will roll out in 2005 so we will see some success after three long years. Jonna and I did lot of traveling which, as always, was the highlight of our year: motorcycling in Italy, hiking in Moab, visiting friends in Chicago, an anniversary weekend in Crestone, CO and trips to visit family in Florida and California. I helped a friend at some of the local MRA races with his Ducati 999 and maintained my race obsession by watching nearly all the MotoGP, World Superbike and AMA races on SpeedTV. I made it down to watch the AMA races at Pikes Peak International Raceway. I also got in 6000 miles of riding, including a great weekend DP ride with my buddy Todd. I’m looking forward to more of the same in 2005!

Florida Christmas Tree

We are heading to Florida for Christmas, then going over to New Orleans with my parents to enjoy the Big Easy for a few days. As a result I won’t be posting any new content to the blog until after New Years Eve. Its also possible that dorje will have a problem while we are away and our housesitter won’t be able to fix it, so don’t be surprised if becomes unreachable.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

[image from]

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Box of Shame #4: Beware the temptation of the parts catalog…

Author: site admin
Category: The Box Of Shame

In the Spring of 1998, I brought my GSXR to a track day that our local riding group had put together. I’d prep’ed the bike but it was running poorly and seemed to be running really rich with the spark plugs fouling whenever it was ridden hard. It was also overheating on hot days, which seemed the opposite of what I would expect from an engine which appeared to be running rich. After a few laps on the track, the bike really began to degrade until eventually it didn’t have the power to out-drag a BMW K100RS on the front straight. Clearly this was more than just a jetting problem. Since I planned to ride the bike on an eleven day trip through the Pacific NW in July, this problem would have to be addressed quickly.

Back in my garage, I did a compression test and found that all four cylinders had very low compression. I added some oil to the cylinders and tried the compression test again, only to get the same numbers. Clearly, the valves were the culprit. I tried a valve adjustment, followed by another compression test, but the numbers didn’t improve much. Since that meant either valve seats or valve guides, I called my local shop and arranged to have the head rebuilt.

Just before I brought the bike in for its scheduled head overhaul, I got to thinking about how sloppy the second gear shift had been feeling. I called the shop back and asked if they could install new shift forks “while they were in there”. They said “sure” and that is when things started to snowball. The shop called me back the next day and mentioned that they might as well replace the transmission gears as well, after all once the transmission is apart for the forks there isn’t an additional labor charge to rebuild the whole thing. “Okay”, says I, “how much more can that cost?”

When I brought the bike in to the shop, I got to talking to the mechanic. Marv Rosencranz is an ace mechanic, responsible for building some of the rocket race bikes ridden by local fast guy Ricky Orlando. He’s worked on GSXRs for a long time and casually mentioned how cheap the Wiseco piston kits where for the old oil-cooled GSXRs. Well, now, how could I pass up something so cheap? I mean, after all, they already had the motor apart so how much more could it cost?

It turns out the root of the problem was worn valve seats. They’d finally been hammered into the head, reducing their contact with the valves. The seats needed to be replaced and re-cut. The valves were serviceable but the exhaust valves had definitely been cooked due to poor valve seat contact. Since I was already replacing half the motor anyway, I wasn’t about to put questionable valves back in the head, so I had them order up a new set of those too. Do you see where this is going?

GSXR engine leftovers

In the end, the motor was over-bored to the max allowable by the stock cylinder liners. New stock valves, valve seats and valve guides were installed. A five angle valve job was done. The cam was resurfaced. Wiseco pistons were installed, bringing displacement to 1110cc. New transmissions gears and shift forks were installed, along with a new shift star. New clutch plates and springs replaced the old ones. All new gaskets and seals. The bike was re-dyno’ed making a touch over 125hp, not bad for an ancient oil-cooled GSXR. The total cost was roughly the asking price for a good condition used ‘88 GSXR1100. Ouch.

All the old parts were put in the Box of Shame to remind me not to let projects get so out of hand in the future.

Then, one week later, I loaded up the bike and headed for the Pacific Northwest, were I re-learned the lesson about touring on a bike before you’ve found all the little problems caused by doing last minute repairs but that is another story…

\’Et up with it…

Author: site admin
Category: MotoGP

In the south, we have the saying “Et up with it” (short, presumably, for “eaten up with it” which is itself a long way of saying obsessed).

For the past few weeks, I’ve been reading the biographies of some of the greats of Grand Prix including Barry Sheene, Mick Doohan and Wayne Rainey.

While Sheene certainly was a playboy and a media hound, he was also so obsessed with motorcycle racing that he was willing to come back from two different horrible accidents to race and win. His accidents at Daytona in ‘75 and Silverstone in ‘82 were worse that most racers will ever experience, yet neither prevented him from getting back on the fastest bikes in the world and winning races at the highest levels of competition including the ‘76 and ‘77 Grand Prix world championships. Sheene probably carried more metal in his body than any other racer in history.

Wayne Rainey is perhaps the poster child for being ‘Et up with it. Primarily because of his complete dedication to the task of beating rival Kevin Schwantz but also for obliterating all the other competition in route to his three Grand Prix world championships before his tragic accident and resulting paralysis in ‘93. Any photo of Rainey from that time period shows the complete and intense focus with which he approached racing. The bike he rode in ‘93 should, by all rights, have run mid-pack because of its handling woes but Wayne through the force of his own will made the bike challenge for wins. It eventually cost him the ability to walk.

Doohan Wheelie

Finally, Mick Doohan’s gruesome accidents before becoming one of the most dominant riders in the sport provide the most contemporary example of being Et up with it. Mick lost part of a finger, badly broke his arm and broke his wrist in different accidents before “the accident” at Assen in ‘92 which nearly lost him his leg. Despite this physical punishment, Doohan’s drive to compete and win brought him back again and eventually launched his spectacular string of five straight world titles. The famous photo of the fragile looking Doohan in an Italian hospital with his legs sewn together shows the depths of his obsession better than any story possibly could.

There are other stories, thankfully less dramatic but that equally illustrate the dedication required to win at this level of racing. Freddie Spencer’s meteoric rise and rapid fall from GP glory. Schwantz’s battered wrists which, despite over a decade of healing, still cause him problems. Even Criville suffered serious health problems after his ‘99. It seems that most of the riders, perhaps Lawson and Roberts being the exceptions, left MotoGP after paying a physical toll much more severe than most racers would ever consider paying.

So what does this history stay of the current MotoGP stars? First, it would indicate just how focused Rossi has probably become after his switch to Yamaha. In interview after interview, Rossi says he has completely changed his approach to racing in order to get the Yamaha to the level where it can win races. Perhaps this history also explains why riders like Biaggi, Barros and Capirossi have always seemed to lack just that little bit extra necessary to run with Rossi. The risks they may have to take bring dire consequences and the recent history of the sport offers ample warning. Biaggi, Barros and Capirossi were all racing during the time when Rainey crashed at Misano, Doohan crashed at Assen and Doohan’s final crash at Jerez. Rossi was just getting started in that era…

I also wonder about the current crop of young riders, particularly Nicky Hayden. Does he have the focus and dedication to win at this level? Will he reject the temptations of Europe, where MotoGP riders are treated like superstars, and become ‘Et up with being a world champion? Given the stories of these other stars, should he? Maybe Rossi has forged a new path to stardom which won’t exact the price that the champions of the 70s, 80s and 90s had to pay.

[image from Mick Doohan web site

Monday, December 20, 2004

This year\’s bike show…

Author: site admin
Category: Bike reviews

The Cycle World International Motorcycle Show made its annual visit to Denver this past weekend…

Overall, it wasn’t a particularly exciting show this year, as only a few new bikes have been announced for ‘05. The highlight of the show was definitely having Rossi’s M1 MotoGP bike on display in the Yamaha display. They also had some of their AMA race bikes on display, specifically Gobert’s title winning Superstock bike and Hacking’s Supersport bike. Yamaha definitely wins the award for having the best eye candy.

Of the other manufacturers, there were only a couple of stand-outs. The booth-by-booth breakdown is:

Triumph Thruxton

I was pretty impressed with Triumph’s new Thruxton version of their Bonneville platform. They are now up to five different permutations of the Bonneville: The standard model, the T100, the America, the Speedmaster and the Thruxton. While the T100 is a nice looking bike, I think its the Thruxton that finally pegs the classic look meter. If I had a big enough garage, its a bike I’d be willing to pay hard earned cash to own. Sadly, the good looks of the Thruxton are offset by the horrid styling of the Speed Four. The Rocket III’s looks are growing on me, with only the radiator really spoiling the overall look.

Suzuki was same-old, same-old. Changing the names of their cruiser line doesn’t mean much as long as they are still peddling the same stuff. I like the new GSXR-1000, though the muffler didn’t look any better in person that in the photos. Still, the specs are just right and the exhaust is easy to replace. Its inching its way up the short list of bikes I may actually buy in ‘05. I was surprised to see how stock the Carmichael Supercross bike looked. I’m sure there are plenty of unobtanium in the forks and shock but no much that jumps out to the untrained eye. Mladin’s Superbike, on the other hand, looked much different from the stock GSXR. Nice!

The only thing in the Honda tent that raised my eye brows, other than the Duhamel Formula Extreme race bike and the Baja 1000 winning XR650, was the CRF450X enduro bike. Almost makes me wish I was a good enough dirt rider to do justice to that bike. Honda also had a Rune on display and I still think that’s a good bike, if only because it stands so far outside Honda’s normal boundaries.

Kawasaki had a particularly low key display. I guess they made their big splash last year with the ZX-10R and ZX-6RR. Even Tommy Hayden’s championship Supersport bike looks pretty mundane since so few modifications are allowed in that class. That said, the ZX-10 still looks evil, in just the right way, so I walked by it at least five different times throughout the day. One of those would look really nice in the garage…

BMW didn’t have the new K1200S, so they were a disappointment from the beginning. They had the new R1200GS but I’ve already spent enough time on one of those at the local dealer that my butt can automatically remember the seating position just from muscle-memory. On the plus side, they had my buddies Chris and Erin there talking about their around-the-world trip and Edelweiss had my pal Scott hawking their tours.

I breezed past the Harley booth so fast I didn’t really notice anything in particular. The new Buells always catch my eye and the fancy translucent false gas tank on the CityX Streetfighter looks particularly cool. I wouldn’t yet buy one since they use that massive sportie motor but their styling continues to stay fresh and interesting.

Another surprise was how much I liked the styling of the Victory cruisers. The massive 250mm rear tire on the Hammer is more form that function but I love the tank/engine/tail section design on the other bikes. The Vegas is really the first cruiser that I could see myself riding (if not buying). Sweet looking bikes and I’m glad to see Victory is doing so well.

The Urals always look good in a retro way but since they are still making the same bike as when they first introduced them in the US they need to do something new to be interesting. I mainly went by there to show Jonna what old Beemers looked like….

Just like last year, I’d have to say that nothing in the Ducati booth did anything for me. The entire line looks like its been beaten with an ugly stick. Doing a nose job on the 999R was a step in the right direction and I enjoyed seeing the cut-away motor but I still don’t find it as beautiful as the old 916. I just avoided looking directly at everything else because of how much I hate the looks. Between the Multistrada and S4, they’ve managed to completely ruin the reputation Ducati had developed for leading the revolution of making drop dead gorgeous bikes.

The Aprilia/Moto Guzzi booth was downright depressing since it had only a sub-set of their models and no real marketing material available. I hope its just that their 2004 marketing budget was scuttled when the company went bankrupt and that the Piaggio money will give them a stronger presence next year. I’ve always liked the look of the ‘04 Mille and the Moto Guzzi V11 LeMans and enjoyed seeing them again but would rather see something new like the Guzzi MGS-01.

Finally, KTM was glaringly noticeable in their absence. Dirt bikes are in a boom in the US, they have a seriously lust worthy line-up, KTM has surpassed BMW and Triumph in world wide sales but they don’t have the bucks to set up a booth? What’s with that? I’m particularly disappointed because all of their V-twin powered bikes peg my crave-o-meter and I was hoping to spend some time drooling on their Adventure (still hate the front fairing, though), the Duke (ooohh….ahhhhh) and their new Supermoto bike.

As always, I loved seeing the old vintage bikes on display and the Cycle World display with various bikes including Ward’s ‘04 championship winning Supermoto bike. Still, nothing can touch seeing Rossi’s MotoGP bike, so the highlight of the show was only ten foot inside the front door.

Maybe next year will offer more surprises.

Friday, December 17, 2004

New bike deliberations…

Author: site admin
Category: Bike Updates

Help me out here, folks.

Next year, I’m planning to buy a new bike. This bike will replace one of my bikes (the Minister of Domestic Tranquility has forbidden adding a new bike to the garage without first getting rid of one of the four I already have). I’m keeping the relatively new 2000 DRZ400, so my current thoughts are:

1) Finally sell my ancient 1988 Suzuki GSXR1100 (ex-Team Hammer Suzuki race bike) and replace it with a new sport bike. This is the most logical, after all sport bikes have changed dramatically in the past 16 years but also the most difficult since I’ve done so much riding on the old thing that I’m quite attached to it. Nonetheless, if this were to happen I’d be getting something completely excessive like the new Suzuki GSXR1000, Kawasaki ZX-10R, etc. I considered, as a variation on this idea, to replace the GSXR with something more exotic like an Aprilia RSV1000 or a used Ducati 998 but realized I use a sport bike for strictly utilitarian purposes. Why buy an expensive dinner fork? Besides, the old GSXR isn’t worth much so that would mean even more out-of-pocket expense to buy some tarted up European replacement.


2) Replace my 2001 BMW R1150GS with a new BMW R1200GS. On one hand, this is very attractive since the R1150GS is relatively low mileage (40,000) and thus will have a decent trade in value. I love the GS, so the thought of having the same basic bike but 40 lbs lighter is very, very appealing. The downsides to this are that the R1150GS is relatively low mileage, so why trade it in? Also, I *loath* BMW’s power assist brakes and that is a standard item on the new R1200GS. Finally, does it really make sense to pay all that money (hey, I complained about the BMW purchase price the first time around!) just to loose those 40 lbs? Maybe I could get a Touratech carbon fiber sub-frame for the 1150 for the same amount and with the same benefits.

3) Upgrade my ‘82 Honda FT500RR track bike. The reason this one is likely to crash before ever getting off the ground is that I never use the damned thing as it is. Still, I hand built the thing (with some help on the frame from Bare Bones Racing) and I thought it was a hoot to ride the two times I’ve ridden it. Something like an SV650 would make a much better platform for track riding (and racing, should I ever get around that). Factor in that a used SV would be incredibly cheap and this is undoubtedly the best financial decision. A slight alteration to this would be converting the old GSXR into a track bike, ditching the race Ascot and reverting back to plan #1 of getting a new sport bike.

I’d also thought about getting a vintage bike to toy around with (since an early 70s Kawasaki H2 has always been on my wish list ) but I’d rather have something newer right now. Besides, I don’t have enough time to maintain the projects I already have!

I plan to look around at the Cycle World International Motorcycle Show this weekend but I know I’ll end up liking whatever I sat on last the best. Does anyone want to offer suggestions?

[image from Lone Star BMW]

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Mat Mladin\’s Legacy?

Author: site admin
Category: AMA Superbikes

First off, congrats to Mighty Mat for his 5th AMA Superbike title. In fact, let me repeat that in case the folks that say he’s not a good rider missed it…his 5th AMA Superbike title. The guy has a work ethic that makes the rest of the field look like its a hobby for them, he’s built a team that rivals anything at the world level and he has proved that he is a fantastic development rider. He’s got everyone else covered and I’m forecasting he’ll earn championship #6 in 2005.

Mat Mladin at VIR

So having such a phenomenal rider in the series is cause for all hearts and flowers, right? No cause for a fan of the series to complain, right? Wrong.

First, I hate dominance. Whether its Lawson, Doohan, Duhamel, Fogarty, Rossi or Mladin. I want the outcome of races to be fought till the finish line and championships to be a question mark until the final points are tallied. Mat hasn’t always had a cake walk but its always obvious in on the first day of practice that Mat is the one to beat. Second, I think Mat has overshadowed his own brilliance as a rider by his constant criticism of everything in and around racing.

So what will Mladin’s legacy be? Ex-Grand Prix rider? King of AMA Superbike? Big fish in a small pond? Whiner extraordinaire? Lets break ‘em down:

  1. Ex-GP rider - Can anyone that didn’t astound as a Grand Prix pilot during the ascension of Doohan really be considered a failure? The list of riders that had the misfortune of racing against Rainey/Schwantz and Doohan is long and glorious: Magee, Shobert, Chandler, Kocinski, Cadalora, Barros, Criville, etc. Mat’s finishes aboard the Cagiva 500 GP bike showed he was a good rider and the equal of his more experienced teammate Chandler. Besides, results aside, having your name on the above list of riders isn’t exactly something to be ashamed of! Its a pity Mladin has never had a second crack but I don’t think he’ll be remembered for his Grand Prix past or potential.
  2. King of AMA Superbike - If Russell can be called “Mr. Daytona”, surely Mladin should be called “Mr. AMA”. He has become the alpha dog of the series and all but dry humps his opponents come race day. There is no question that Mat will forever go down as the first person to own the series. Plenty of folks had spectacular seasons but Mladin is the first have them back to back (only interrupted as Nicky Hayden blew through on his way to MotoGP). But outside of the US and parts of Australia its unclear how many people know just how much Mat has dominated in the US.
  3. Big fish in a small pond - This is somewhere in between #1 and #2 and could well be how Mat is remembered, through no fault of his own. The world stage, whether it be GP or World Superbike, is where the best come to battle the best. In WSB the money is no good, the rules usually favor one brand and the organizers seem disorganized but it is where national champs can face off across a whole series and not just when the other guys visit your home track. In GP, the money and pressure are astounding but to quote Sinatra “If you can make it there you can make it anywhere”. If you wanna be considered the best you have to bet the rest. Since Suzuki never gave Mladin that second shot at GP fame, he may well be best remembered for what he didn’t accomplish rather than what he did.
  4. Whiner extraordinaire - In 2004 alone, Mladin lashed out at the tires, the tracks, the other riders, the AMA officials, the TV commentators, the other bikes, the AMA class structure, the post-race award ceremony and even Suzuki for not putting him on the GP bike. Undoubtedly, there is truth in all of this, particularly the track safety issues but he’s managed to complain about so many different things that its hard to take him seriously about any of them. Do I expect Mat to become another meely-mouthed corporate spokesperson? Definitely not. Do I think he should forsake his principles about track safety? Hell no. In fact, I think he should focus all his energies on the important things and can his wise cracks about the other riders, the AMA officials or the other bikes. He could be remembered for making a positive change in the AMA series (as well as ruling it with an iron fist) or he may be remembered more for what he said rather than did.

Ultimately, Mat probably doesn’t care. He’ll laugh all the way to the bank and may not worry about whether he’s remembered in the US or elsewhere…

[image from

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Box of Shame #3: Don\’t ride a strange handling bike…

Author: site admin
Category: The Box Of Shame

In 1995 I loaded up my trusty old GSXR (and a truck load of other bikes) and moved to the mountains of Colorado. The riding around Rollinsville, CO is incredible and since Colorado is in the middle of the country I could do some summer vacations to the west coast. As a result, the miles really started to pile up on the old GSXR since it was handling commuting, weekend sport rides and touring duties.

One Thursday evening in the summer of 1998 our local riding group decided to head into the mountains for a group dinner after work. This meant a “spirited” ride up one of the local canyons with everyone converging on a restaurant. I decided to head out with the faster of the riders so that we could do a slightly longer route with the intention of still arriving at dinner on time. My friend Todd led the group for most of the way with the line of bikes stringing out as we passed cars or just rode our own pace. At the top of one particular canyon (Hwy 7 at Raymond, for the locals) I decided to take over the lead and shot off down the road for the final stretch. The bike was feeling a little “loose” but I attributed that to the worn chain and the rear shock which was due for a rebuild.

Coming through one particularly tight left hand curve with the throttle screwed on pretty hard, I suddenly felt the bike jerk to the right and heard what I thought was the chain skipping over the sprocket teeth. Now I know the chain was worn but I didn’t expect it to be that loose, so I immediately pulled over to check things out. Todd was right behind me and had seen/heard the same thing, so he pulled over as well. We both looked the bike over and everything, including the chain tension seemed okay. Perplexed, I got back on the bike (as the rest of the group had caught up by now) and we all headed on to the restaurant. The bike did the same thing once more but when I got to the dinner spot I again couldn’t find anything wrong.

When I got back to my garage, I put the bike up on the rear wheel stand and again went over the chain, sprockets and shock but couldn’t find anything wrong. The next week, I went to the shop and bought new wheel and swing arm bearings. I already had new chain and sprockets I could install and figuring it wouldn’t hurt to replace the bearings since they were 5 years old and I was thinking perhaps a bad bearing was what was wrong.

The following weekend, I hoisted the bike up onto a garage rafter and started to dismantle the bike to replace the bearings, chain and sprockets. When I removed the plastic cover that hides the swing arm pivot bolt I got a horrifying shock…

The broken axle

…the end of the swing arm pivot bolt fell off, where it had cracked completely through. I’d been riding, and riding hard, on a bike with a swing arm that was mainly held in place by the rear shock mount. Yikes!

I bought a new swing arm pivot bolt from the local Suzuki shop and installed that along with the bearings, chain and sprockets. I then reassembled the bike, at which time everything felt and worked perfectly (though the shock still needed a rebuild). I then pulled the engine and had it rebuilt by a local race shop, but that is another story.

The moral of this one is just that if a bike is handling strange, there is a reason. Don’t give up looking until you find the problem. I keep the broken swing arm pivot bolt in the Box of Shame to remind me of the importance of that lesson.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


Author: site admin
Category: MotoGP

A lot has been written in the magazines lately about the new Motoczysz bike (both Cycle World and Roadracing World have done recent articles) and the bike is also generating a lot of buzz on the blogs and motorcycle news web sites. Add in the recent magazine articles and books about John Britten’s bikes in the early ’90s and the buzz Kenny Roberts is generating with his KTM engined Proton MotoGP bike and you have full blown resurgence in underdog appreciation.

Motoczysz bike

First, let me say that the MotoCzysz project is very cool. Any time someone goes into their garage and comes out with something that is new, interesting and more importantly that actually works, it is worth celebrating. That this team have put together something on their own is fantastic and I wish them all the best.

However, with that said, I think much of the buzz is more wishful thinking than honest appraisal. Everyone wants to see the underdog succeed. Lots of folks want to see someone stick it to the man. We grew up with fairy tales about the little people accomplishing the impossible. How can you not want to see Motoczysz come up with a viable MotoGP bike? Not to throw a wet blanket on the excitement but lets look at the three most recent examples with a critical eye…

First, I’ll commit the heresy of actually criticizing the Britten. The bike was many thing…innovative, beautiful, soulful sounding, creative and powerful. But as a race bike, it still needed a lot of refinement. I saw the thing race two different times: First in ‘92 at Daytona with Andrew Stroud and then again a year later at Road Atlanta with Nick Ienatsch. Both times the bike was stunningly fast but its handling characteristics were scary to watch. At Daytona, the bike had a high speed weave so pronounced it was visible from the pit area. Likewise, at Road Atlanta I talked with Nick in the pits and he mentioned the Britten he was riding had a head shake on the back straight which was causing him to roll off the throttle before the old “Gravity cavity”. To paraphrase Rob Muzzy “underpowered bikes always handle well”. Its getting them to handle well with power that is the trick. Additionally, the Britten suffered from reliability issues. The 1992 Dayonta Twins race came to an end with a failed electrical connector. Ienatsch’s Road Atlanta race ended even worse when one of the cam belts broke and wrecked the motor. The extreme of this is the 1994 Isle of Man disaster where a carbon fiber wheel came apart resulting in the death of rider Mark Farmer. The Britten was revolutionary but even after years of development was far from a finished product.

Second, the TeamKR Proton which hopes to start its ninth year of GP competition next season and has long been touted as the ultimate “David versus Goliath” story with Mr. Roberts and his gang taking on the might of Japan. While the image has a grand romantic story book quality too it, the analogy isn’t very accurate unless David’s main job was harassing Goliath with spit balls. The V3 version of the Proton had great promise but other than a few odd rain races or heroic qualifying sessions, the bike failed to live up to its lofty goals. The V5 four-stroke had an even more abysmal record despite having even more hype surrounding it. Initial reports of the new KTM motored version indicate their back sliding may have stopped but it has a long way to go in both reliability, power and rider results before the project can truly be considered an effective alternative to the power of Japan, Inc.

Finally, no Grand Prix underdog article can really be written without at least mentioning the WCM Grand Prix machine. So there, I’ve mentioned it. Nothing more really needs to be said…

I’m excited to see another person enter the fray that is roadracing competition with their own bike and I think the project may generate more interest in the Laguna Seca round of the 2005 MotoGP season since it is certain to continue to get more press. That is also a good thing. But I’m very skeptical that they’ll make the race or, if they do, that they’ll qualify. Its a long way from a garage in Portland to a garage in the big leagues of MotoGP. Still, skepticism be damned, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for them since I like to cheer for the underdog too…

[image from USA Superbike web page]

Monday, December 13, 2004

Back from the bay…

Author: site admin
Category: Uncategorized

Golden Gate Bridge

I was out of town last weekend visiting my in-laws in the San Francisco area, thus the lack of new content on Friday. I already have a few things I hope to take from thoughts to blog entries early this week. Additionally, the Cycle World International Motorcycle Show is in Denver this weekend, Michael Jordan claims to have a press event scheduled for early this week, the World Superbike guys are testing in Spain this week and the AMA Dunlop tire tests start soon. Hopefully that will be enough fodder to keep the blog entries coming…

[image from the Official San Francisco City web site]

Thursday, December 9, 2004

Burn out…

Author: site admin
Category: AMA Superbikes, MotoGP, WSBK

Fire one up, dude!

Rossi burns one down

At the beginning of last year, things probably seemed pretty good for Michelin. They still had a virtual lock on MotoGP and were part of a full factory effort by Ducati to win the AMA Superbike series after a ten year shutout. I’m sure they were still hurting from World Superbike’s decision to become a Pirelli only series but at least that affected all the tire manufacturers equally. By March, they had taken pole at Daytona, Rossi had put the hammer down in South Africa and the lap times being turned by World Superbike riders were almost two seconds off those set by Michelin riders the previous year. 2004 was going to be a sweet year.

Now fast forward 10 months. With last month’s press release that the factory Ducati MotoGP team would run Bridgestones , this week’s announcement that the Austin Ducati AMA team would run Dunlops and the requirement that the Fila SBK squad use Pirellis, the long-standing image of Ducati’s rolling on Michelin tires has been obliterated.

In fact, with Aprilia seemingly out of MotoGP and Ducatis defection Michelin has lost four Grand Prix riders while only gaining Tamada whose Honda will apparently use the French tires. Another black eye for Michelin was the clear superiority of the Bridgestone qualifying tires in MotoGP as Tamada, Roberts, Hopkins and Nakano all had impressive qualifying times during the previous season. It was even rumored that the Bridgestone rain tires were better but its much harder to quantify that since rider skill, race strategy and bike setup are so much more difficult to separate out during a wet race. (Bridgestone’s highest achievement though was their win at Motegi where a Japanese rider Makoto Tamada on a Japanese Honda motorcycle won the race using the Japanese Bridgestone tires.)

In the AMA, the Michelin tires were a clearly less developed tire compared to the Dunlops which have ruled American road race tracks for almost a decade. It is likely that some of the factory supported teams, like Valvoline Suzuki, will continue to run Michelins in 2005 but none of the factory teams will be providing the much needed technical feedback so the tire R&D can catch up to Dunlop.

Even though the Pirellis were slower at every World Superbike round, the politics of that series mean that they are unlikely to return to the former rules allowing factory teams to run their own tires. Hopefully, with so many riders helping with development, the Pirellis will become a better tire so all those lap records set on Michelin tires will eventually fall as well. On the other hand, if the Pirellis don’t improve their grip then the vicious highsides caused by lots of power and hard tires will result in so many rider injuries that another brand may be brought in to replace them in the name of safety…

Is Michelin going up in smoke? Doubtful but it does appear they’ll have to work that much harder to regain some of the ground they’ve lost for 2005.

[image from]