Alanf’s blog…
Scattered thoughts

Monday, January 31, 2005

Things are back to normal now…

Author: site admin
Category: Uncategorized

After riding my bike in January, seeing Carmichael get beat in Supercross, watching Mladin crash and seeing someone throw down a faster lap that Rossi I was beginning to get worried.

January Snow

Well, Rossi has said he was testing parts and Capirossi said he was using a Q tire. Mladin still ran the fastest time of the Daytona tire test despite the crash. RC has dominated the SX rounds after muddy Anaheim I and now we’ve gotten two foot of snow in the mountains. My bikes are back to running down their batteries and collecting dust for another two months. Everything is, in fact, back to normal.

If you listen closely, you can hear the stable doors being slammed shut on the four horsemen’s mounts…

[image from my camera]

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Brrrrr…its frosty in hell tonight…

Author: site admin
Category: MotoGP

Its been a late night at work tonight, so not much time is available to put together a blog entry.

However, the news that has surprised me the most today, and probably the most shocking over the past few months, is that Honda and Mick Doohan have apparently parted ways.

Doohan waving goodbye

Doohan, the five time world champion, was generally regarded as the greatest motorcycle racer in the world until Rossi came along. Not only was he completely dominant in the last two seasons of racing the brutally powerful two-stroke NSR500, he did so against competition like Gardner, Lawson, Rainey, Schwantz and Biaggi. The era in which Doohan reigned supreme was perhaps the most hard fought championships in the history of Grand Prix motorcycling.

Honda hired Doohan as the General Manager of their HRC racing organization soon after he retired from racing due to his leg injury at Jerez in 1999. Doohan was first hired by Honda in 1989 to race Grand Prix. 5 world championships in 10 years makes for an impressive career! What makes this so remarkable to me are two different aspects: First, Doohan and Honda are synonymous. The guy raced for them for 10 years, as been a high profile employee for a total of 17 years and won all five of his world titles while racing for Big Red. He was General Manager over HRC for the championships of Criville (’99) and Rossi (’01, ‘02, ‘03). What company would dare loose that marketing goldmine? Second, the Japanese in general and Honda in particular have a strong corporate history of life-long dedication to their employees. For Honda to take someone that high up the corporate chain off the payroll is very significant.

While I doubt that Doohan’s leaving will big a huge blow to the team itself (I think his roles were more administrative, and perhaps even symbolic, more than technical) it still shows just how desperate Honda is to get things turned around for next season. Then again, Doohan has always spoken his mind and was clearly impressed by Rossi. He repeatedly complemented Rossi’s 2004 performances on TV while criticizing Honda riders like Biaggi and Gibernau. Maybe that is what ultimately garnered him a pink slip.

I hope this isn’t the end of Doohan’s involvement in the sport. I’m sure he has enough money to comfortably retire to the Gold Coast of Australia (perhaps even enough to *buy* the Gold Coast of Australia) and never been seen again but that would be a loss to the sport as a whole. Here is hoping he’ll be back to help some other teams, to commentate or just to visit the paddock.

[image from Mick Doohan web site.]

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Motorcycle geek consumerism…

Author: site admin
Category: Bike Updates

I regularly complain about the seemingly rampant consumerism here in the US. It seems like everyone is generally focused on what to buy next, whether its new clothes, a new car, new toys or all the other things that indicate status and success in our society.

Despite my hippie ideals, in the interest of showing honesty and hypocrisy, I’ll admit that my own motorcycle obsession brings with it a certain amount of consumerism so ultimately I’m guilty too. Just a few weeks ago I posted a blog entry about looking for a new bike this summer and now I have a second example of this in that I’m ready to upgrade my ancient Garmin 12 GPS with something newer. Oh well, just color me an alpha consumer when it comes to bikes.

I have a few requirements for the new GPS:

1) Must have memory and downloadable maps, including European maps.
2) Must have a motorcycle mount available, preferably from Touratech.
3) Must have an external DC power option.
4) Must be usable both on a motorcycle but also handheld for hiking/geocaching.

Additionally, it will be a bonus if the GPS runs off generally available batteries like AA Nicads and I think color screens are usually easier to read that the black/white ones.

Garmin V GPS

So far, I’ve only been looking at Garmin because I like the products I’ve seen from them in the past. I currently have the search narrowed down to four models: The Garmin GPS V, the Garmin 60CS, the Garmin 276C and the Garmin Quest. The V is an age old design and has become a standard in the motorcycling community but its also nearing the end of its life span. It’s block design is also not the best for hand held use. The 60CS is exactly the opposite in that respect, perfect for hiking but maybe not the best for mounting on the bike. However, it also is rumored to have a better antenna which is nice for both hiking and riding. The 276C looks to be the ideal motorcycle GPS but I need to check around to see if its price is really justified by it’s functionality. Finally, the new Quest seems to be a great compromise but its so new there aren’t many people with firsthand experience.

I have a motorcycle friend who works for Cycoactive in Seattle, so I’ll have to check with him to see what an actual trusted salesman has to offer on the subject. I hope to come to a decision soon so I get the new GPS in time learn it before heading to Spain in March. If you have any opinions about GPSes, please post a comment as I’m thankful for all the information I can get at this point.

[image from Garmin web site]

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

What Sepang indicates for upcoming MotoGP season…

Author: site admin
Category: MotoGP

The 2005 MotoGP season officially opened this past weekend with a three day test at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit. Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, Ducati and Kawasaki came to Sepang to start their winter testing program and see whether the off-season has resulted in improvements to the bikes or a step backwards.

Capirossi at Sepang

The first impressions offer a couple of surprises and some confirmations of what was predicted. First, as expected, Yamaha has come out strong. Both Rossi and Edwards have been near the top of the timing chart, whether testing suspension, tires, engine or suspension changes. With both Yamahas running so strong, the other teams better take notice because last season Rossi carried his pre-season speed into the first race and blitz’ed ‘em all.

The first of the surprises was Ducati’s return to the top of the timing charts. Capirossi has consistently been the fastest guy on track, showing that Ducati may have found the way out of their engine/chassis/tire quagmire of last season. However, with teammate Checa injured, its hard to tell yet if this is a drastic improvement in the bike or if its just Capirossi riding harder than anyone else.

The second big surprise was Biaggi’s competitiveness considering his lingering leg injury. Despite walking on crutches in the pits, Biaggi has turned in lap times in the top five and within half a second of Capirossi. This bodes well for Honda’s commitment to build their 2005 RC211V around Biaggi (no matter how much this decision has been questioned by everyone outside, uh, Biaggi’s living room) since it means Biaggi can start developing the bike now rather than having Gibernau handle development duties for this first test. This is undoubtedly bad for Gibernau and probably for all the other Honda riders since none of them seem to have the same riding style as Biaggi.

A third surprise was the fast lap times turned in on the first day by both Suzuki riders. While they are still down on speed compared to the other teams, at least they haven’t taken a step backwards after having tuning legend Erv Kanemoto leave to help Biaggi and Hayden at Repsol Honda. It seems that Suzuki’s development cycle is still moving to slow too keep up with the competition but they are still improving and the two riders can put in fast laps when taking advantage of the soft Bridgestone tires and the bike’s excellant handling.

The final surprise was to see Barros as the fastest Honda rider for both days. Barros does have the advantage of being on the same bike as last year, something only Gibernau can also look forward to, and that has probably allowed him to work on going faster rather than adapting to a new bike. Bayliss and Melandri have to figure out how to ride a Honda, Tamada has to learn the Michelin tires, Hayden and Biaggi have to test the new parts for the 2005 bike but I thought Gibernau would have been the one to come out swinging. We’ll see if Barros stays fastest at the end of day three, which is when everyone puts aside some of the component testing and goes after fast laps.

While not a surprise, it was sad to see that Kawasaki didn’t immediately make a mark with their test times. After Nakano’s spectacular rides in 2004, there was always the hope that the smallest of the Japanese manufacturers would make another quantum leap and jump up to the Honda/Yamaha level this season. Perhaps the next few test seasons will bring about that surprise.

Also not a surprise, but equally sad to see, is that Team KR Proton still don’t have funding or a rider in place and thus weren’t able to make this first test. These test sessions are probably more important for these little teams than for the big guys, so missing this test will pretty much crush any chance that the KTM powered Proton will have a snow ball’s chance in hell at being competitive.

And finally, not a surprise at all…both Melandri and Xaus have already crashed.

[image from Ducati web site.]

Monday, January 24, 2005

AMA 125 Supercross excitement…

Author: site admin
Category: AMA MX/SX

Last week I commented on how dominant RC is already looking in the 2005 AMA 250 Supercross series and predicted he would run away with the series. Well, I’ll start this week off by talking about Kawasaki’s Ivan Tedesco and his performance thus far in the 125 series.

Ivan Tedesco flies

With three races in the bag, Tedesco is proving to be consistently fast. Like RC on the big bike, Tedesco has appeared remarkably smooth throughout the race weekends while still running a pace the other riders are having trouble matching. The major contenders thus far (Short, Hepler, Ramsey and Sipes) have had moments of impressive riding but always appear a little ragged. At this early stage in the series, I think Tedesco can comfortably run a pace that pushes the other riders to the ragged edge when they try to match it. As a result they are missing their jumps, running wide on corner entrance, loosing traction on corner exit or just plain crashing.

The 125 series has been so dominated by Stewart over the past few seasons that other talented riders have been just off the radar. It appears that Ivan is now showing he is deserving of that attention for this season and hopes to put his own stamp of dominance on the series for 2005.

While I don’t think the 125 series will be a Tedesco riding clinic, I do think he’s showing he’s a notch above the rest of the riders straight out of the gate. I hope the others can make the leap necessary to challenge him as it will make the 125 class a more exciting race class than the supposedly main event 250 “Carmichael show”.

[image from the MX web site.]

Friday, January 21, 2005

  • The only real disadvantage to living in the mountains of Colorado is that my driveway has a tendency to ice up during the winter months. There is currently about three inches of packed ice in my driveway and that sheet of glass will be there until the thaw in March. !@(afimages/Blog/2005/1/DRZatWork.jpg:R200 popimg: “DRZ at Work”) This week, the temperature has been up into the 70s and the roads have been full of motorcyclists enjoying the brief reprieve from cold weather, sandy roads and the threat of black ice. Yesterday it was finally too much for me, so this morning I chipped away at my driveway to get a few rough spots on the ice and then carefully slipped and slid my way across it on my DRZ. Then I got to join the smiling crowd of bikers on the road and enjoy some mid-winter riding! Whoo hoo! I’ll be heading home late tonight and will probably freeze my ass off but at least I got in some rare riding in the month of January. Hmmmm….with just a little more chipping and some rock salt, I may be able to to get the Beemer out tomorrow… [image from the cell phone of co-worker Paul Rundle] (1)

Thursday, January 20, 2005

AMA the best superbike series in the world…

Author: site admin
Category: AMA Superbikes

I’ve heard repeatedly the claim that the AMA Superbike series the best in the world. However, recent news about the British Superbike series (BSB) should prove that otherwise.

First and foremost, there is simply the size of each series. The AMA Superbike series currently has 9 events scheduled for 2005, seven of which are double header events, for a total of 16 races. The British Superbike series, on the other hand, will run 13 events and all of their events have two legs totaling 26 races.

The quality of the tracks could also be argued as a factor since three of the English tracks are truely world class (Silverstone, Brands Hatch and Donington Park) while only one of the US tracks currently hosts an international motorcycle race (Laguna Seca). New tracks in the US like Barber Motor Sports Park could help swing this difference but dropping a track like Virginia International Raceway from the 2005 AMA calender while keeping a track like PPIR isn’t helping the cause…

British Superbike racing

Both series have roughly the same number of registered riders (based on the assignment of race numbers) but many of the American riders are reserving a race number just to compete in a single race, either the Daytona 200 or the event on the AMA calendar that races at the same track as their regional race series. As a result, the number of racers at a single event in the US fills out the grid with more riders than the British but the British series has roughly the same number of riders when comparing how many race at every event.

But the largest difference for 2005 will be the depth and variety of their respective fields. The 2005 British Superbike Series has the best line-up they have ever had with at least 14 factory riders representing all five major manufacturers: Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Ducati. The AMA series has only 11 factory or semi-factory riders on four brands (Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Ducati). The British teams also run a wider variety of tire brands (Dunlop, Michelin and Pirelli) where the US series is dominated almost completely by one (Dunlop with some second tier teams running Pirelli).

And the final nail in the coffin is the talent level of the riders. While no one can argue that some top US riders like Mladin, Duhamel and Bostrom could be world class riders there is really only two with with recent experience in a world class series: Kurtis Roberts and Neil Hodgson. The British series this year has become a home away from home for many ex-GP riders including Leon Haslam, James Haydon, James Ellison, Shane Byrne and perhaps Jeremy McWilliams as well. The list is even longer if you consider events like the Isle of Man and the Macau road circuit races as world class races, since BSB riders always dominate both events. Finally, the Japanese factories are even sending their star riders like Kagayama and Kiyonari to the BSB as a stepping stone before going to World Superbike or MotoGP.

The AMA Superbike series is a great series but it for 2005 I believe the British have the bragging rights for the strongest series in the world. I hope the AMA will soon regain the clarity in their own program required to raise the bar and hopefully return to the brilliance of being the national superbike series which leads the world.

[image from British Superbike Championship web site]

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Letting go of the past…

Author: site admin
Category: Motorcycles

Last summer, my great uncle Charlie passed away. Charlie Hasty was great person and I could sing his praises for a long time. However, since I usually concentrate on motorcycle stuff on this blog, I’ll focus just on the treasures of his garage rather than those of his personality.

Charlie was a big time tinkerer. He built a miniature scale train, from scratch, with each car being around five feet in length. The engine was perfect. He even spent a year to find the right size acorn nuts to use on the boiler to mimmick the rivets on a real steam engine. He also built a few half scale early 1900s antique cars, one powered by a Cushman Eagle engine and another by a B&S motor. He built a miniature carnival, complete with moving rides like a four foot high ferris wheel. Basically, a trip into Charlies garage was a trip into an Alice’s Wonderland of mechanical oddities.

''33 Morgan Supersport

But my favorites were his 1950s era Cushman Eagle motorcycle and, the queen of the garage, a bright yellow 1933 Morgan Supersport. The Morgan was an english built three-wheeler with a water-cooled Matchless v-twin mounted between the two front wheels. The body was a smooth torpedo shape and the driver was protected by a small glass windshield inside the wooden cockpit. There were levers to adjust the timing, levers to adjust the idle, levers to adjust the flow of fuel, levers to apply the brakes and levers that I still don’t know exactly what they do. This thing was a motorcycle geek’s delight. When Charlie cranked the thing, it would sputter and shake with the front end doing a dance from side to side like a stack of gears and A-arms doing a belly dance and the long steel exhaust rumbling out the rhythm.

Well, with Uncle Charlie’s passing, its now time for the contents of his garage to be distributed to family or sold and the Morgan, because of its value, is on the auction block. The first potential buyers came by last week to take a look at it. I’d buy it, if I could, but I don’t have the garage space or the time to do the thing just. I’d prefer to see if go to some place like the Barber Museum but selling to a specialized buyer like that requires more time, knowledge and effort than my Great Aunt can put into it.

Soon the old Morgan will grace someone else’s garage…

[image from Antique Motorcycle Club of America web site]

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The more things change…

Author: site admin
Category: AMA MX/SX

With all the hype around this year’s AMA Supercross series, it looked like things were really up in the air. Well, with the second round in the books, I think one things is still very clear. Things have changed but they are also the same. Ricky Carmichael is so talented on a motorcycle that titles are his to loose.

Ricky Carmichael at play

With the Phoenix event held indoors, it was guaranteed to be dry. Something which would help answer all the questions raised before Anaheim but not resolved when it turned into a mud bath. Well, from practice until the final waving of the checkered flag at Phoenix, Ricky was the fast guy. All the folks thinking (hoping?) that his jumping ship from Honda to Suzuki would slow him down have to be shaking their head in disbelief.

Sure, its too early in the season to be predicting another season of Carmichael dominance but it was amazing to see just how fast Carmichael could be and just how confident he was at this race. With Stewart out for a few months with a broken bone, the real question is whether Reed or Windham will find what it takes to shake up the new king of supercross.

Bravo to Ricky and his team for showing us all how silly it is to question his ability to step up to new challenges, whether its a new bike or new competition.

[image from Dirt Rider Magazine web site]

Monday, January 17, 2005

Why you should see Spearhead…

Author: site admin
Category: Music

We went and saw Michael Franti and Spearhead on Saturday night and had a great time. They have morphed their show from a funk/soul/hip-hop vibe into a more rock driven performance, which has taken some of my enthusiasm away, but they still put out an amazing energy with some of the best socially conscious lyrics being written.

Michael Franti of Spearhead

Michael Franti, the lead singer and inspirational force behind Spearhead, is an ex-college basketball player, a long time musician and social rights activist. He has melded all this together into a band which is continually changing but always speaks loud and clear about the issues of today, whether those are the prison system, the wars around the world, the death penalty, AIDS, world hunger, etc. He is particularly critical of our current government and the war in Iraq, both issues which I endear me to his music all the more.

A Spearhead show is a blast of energy, unlike any other concert I’ve ever been to. Their music, whether it be soul or funk or hip-hop or rock or any other label, has the crowd moving. Franti is jumping and leaping from the moment he hits the stage which is infectious. Watching a Spearhead show from the back of the venue is like watching a sea of humans with everyone in constant and frantic motion.

The band gives you music to enjoy, energy to dance to and a message to contemplate. All excellent reasons to catch one of their shows.

[image from Glastonbury Festival 2004 web page]