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Official Publication of the Riders of Kawasaki Issue 4 - 2009

MONTANA’S ROCKY MOUNTAINS adventure ride to rocky knob

rider customs justin’s kz café racer


Cruzin’ the Smokey’s and the Natural State

ISSUE 4 > 2009

CONTENTS departments 4



Events Calendar 2010 Calendar From the Green Room Hassle-Free Replacement Keys Behind The Scenes Kawasaki Employees Appear in Ad Campaign


10 Cruzin’ the Smokey Mountains! Vulcan Riders Forum Reunion

26 Diner Destinations Motorcycle-Friendly Eateries

28 Lifestyle Straight Talk with Leandro Mercado

30 Streetwise Stay Sharp in Cold Weather

34 Benefits Get Added Value from ROK

35 Membership General Information

18 day-tripping Montana’s Rocky Mountains

20 RIDER CUSTOM Custom Cafe Racer

ON THE COVER: A nostalgic Drifter® motorcycle owned by VDOG member Scott Steen. Cover photo by Laura McNeely.


Some of the motorcycles shown here have been modified from their original configuration by custom builders. Improper installation or use of accessories, or motorcycle modification will void your motorcycle warranty. It is Kawasaki’s recommendation that all motorcycles be left in their original chassis configuration and does not endorse modifying your motorcycle’s frame, suspension or running gear in any way. Incorrect loading, improper installation or use of accessories and modifications to your motorcycle may result in unsafe riding conditions. Always consult your owner’s manual.

Issue 4 > 2009 Editor-in-Chief Teri Conrad Contributing Writers Paul Bryant, Walt Fulton, Dr. Gregory W. Frazier, Kristi Martel, Laura McNeely, Lance Oliver, Dave Stambaugh, ROK Staff, Adam Zuckerman Contributing Photographers Justin Belshe, Paul Bryant, Dr. Gregory W. Frazier, Walt Fulton, Laura McNeely, Lance Oliver, Kim O’Neill, Joseph Paradise, Dave Stambaugh, ROK Staff Production/Design Managers Harodesign, Inc. Printed By K&D Graphics Orange, CA

Even Greener Than Before

Accelerate Editorial Office P.O. Box 25143 Santa Ana, CA 92799-5143 Accelerate™ magazine is published bimonthly by Riders of Kawasaki (ROK™). Subscription is included in membership dues. Unsolicited manuscripts, photographs, and artwork are welcome. All materials submitted become the property of Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A., and constitutes permission for ROK and its designees to publish your name, likeness, photographs, artwork, stories and comments without compensation. We recommend that you keep copies of all submitted materials as they will not be returned. Receipt of unsolicited materials does not guarantee they will be used. ROK staff reserves the right to edit manuscripts as deemed necessary. All materials contained herein ©2009 Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. Membership Information Call toll-free (877) 765-2582 or (877) ROK-CLUB General Information (949) 770-0400 x2773 To reach us by email Check out our website at

MOVING FORWARD Message to Riders of Kawasaki members and Kawasaki owners, For the past year or so, we’ve incorporated the use of recycled paper in the printing of our magazine—maybe some of you noticed the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) logo on the inside front cover. We’ve also worked closely with an environmentally-conscious printing company to produce this publication. For 2010 we’re focused on reducing our carbon footprint even further by going digital. We’ll still be bringing you the latest motorcycle adventure rides, travel tips, rally coverage, rider’s customs, and more. But with the new digital format you’ll enjoy an array of visual enhancements to make your reading experience even more enjoyable. Look for it online at Our first issue is scheduled to launch in conjunction with Daytona Bike Week in late February 2010. In this edition of Accelerate™ magazine, Dr. Frazier shares his adventures to a place that doesn’t even exist, but has become popular among motorcyclists. We also have more rally coverage to share from the Vulcan Drifter Owners Group, Vulcan Riders Owners Club, and the Vulcan Riders Forum. And we take you behind the scenes for the making of the 2010 product brochure. Thank you for being such an important part of our motorcycle community! Happy Holidays!

ROK Staff Send your comments, stories and photos to

ISSUE 4 > 2009



Vulcan Drifter riders braved the rain and fog while riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo: Laura McNeely



1/22/10 - 1/24/10 Jacob K. Javits Convention Center New York, NY

Vulcan Riders Owners Club 5/13/10 - 5/16/10 Maggie Valley, NC

International Motorcycle Show

International Motorcycle Show 1/29/10 - 1/31/10 I‐X Center Cleveland, OH


International Motorcycle Show

SEVROC Annual Reunion 2010

VROC 5th Annual Spring Fling Vulcan Riders Owners Club 5/13/10 - 5/16/10 Eureka Springs, AR

2/5/10 - 2/7/10 Minneapolis Convention Center Minneapolis, MN

Kawasaki Superbike Showdown

Daytona Bike Week


2/27/10 - 3/8/10 Daytona Beach, FL

International Motorcycle Show 2/19/10 - 2/21/10 Donald E. Stephens Convention Center Chicago, IL

5/15/10 - 5/17/10 Sonoma, CA

Americade 6/7/10 - 6/12/10 Lake George, NY

VROC WWR 4thAnnual Rally 2010


AMA Superbike Challenge

Vulcan Riders Owners Club 6/10/10 - 6/13/10 Cortez, CO

3/20/10 - 3/22/10 Fontana, CA

NEVROC 12thAnnual Laconia Rally


Arizona Bike Week 4/1/10 - 4/8/10 Scottsdale, AZ

For more information, visit Kawasaki. com/ROK. Please check before you go. Event information is subject to change without notice or liability. Details about an event are the sole responsibility of the event organizers. Always confirm details before attending.

2010Vulcan Riders Owners Club 6/16/10 - 6/20/10 Epsom, NH

Tell us about your upcoming event, ride or rally and we’ll share it with our ROK members. Send us the details (date, event name, location, contact phone number, email and Web site) to for consideration. Please provide as much advance notice as possible.

fromthegreenroom Got an important topic you’d like us to address? Send an email to

Replacement Keys Without the Hassle Easier than you think!

If you’ve ever lost the keys to your car, then imagine losing the keys to your bike. It can be pretty devastating, not to mention inconvenient and costly. And, what if your key code isn’t recorded? Now Kawasaki has a preferred provider,, for lock and key services so you don’t have to call the local locksmith for help. Here are just a few of the services available through • Keys cut by code on original factory blanks • Key fabricating when no code is available • Recoding replacement locks to match existing keys • Keys cut by digital photo • Same-day turnaround • Express shipping available Contact any authorized Kawasaki dealer for more information.

SPECIAL MILITARY PROMOTION Kawasaki is pleased to announce the Winter Military Customer Gift Card Promotion to all active and reserve United States military personnel for the purchase of select, new Kawasaki motorcycles. For each eligible model purchased between November 1, 2009 and March 31, 2010, the service person will receive a $250 Kawasaki Gift Card. The Kawasaki Gift Card works just like a debit card, and may be redeemed at any authorized Kawasaki dealership or wherever MasterCard® is accepted.

ELIGIBLE MODELS Model Year Model Code


EX500 EX650 VN900 ZG1400 ZX1000 ZX1400 ZX600

We don’t just sit in 6


Kawasaki Employees Appear in Ad Campaign Words: Teri Conrad Photos: Provided by Kawasaki

Have you seen the latest 2010 Kawasaki Product Brochures and videos? For the second consecutive year, Kawasaki has integrated motorcycle riding employees in its ad campaign. The photo shoot took place in historic Nevada City, and Grass Valley, California, approximately two and a half hours from San Francisco. ROK Events Coordinator, Brian Gibson, participated as a rider-model in the 2010 photo shoot for Kawasaki’s Vulcan® cruiser motorcycles. Many of you may know Brian from visiting ROK’s awesome Hospitality Areas at events like Daytona Bike Week, Americade, and MotoGP Laguna Seca. He attributes his being selected to his 25-years of riding experience and enthusiasm for the brand. While Brian’s personal collection consists primarily of sportbikes, he also rides cruisers. During the shoot, he rode the Vulcan 1700 Classic®, Vulcan 2000 Classic LT, and especially enjoyed navigating the new Vulcan 1700 Voyager®. Brian lives and breathes Kawasaki and begins most every day by commuting to work on one of his Kawasaki motorcycles. Brian also appears in the video for the Vulcan 1700 which can be viewed on the company website.


Kawasaki Team Green™ employee Debbie Barilla and her husband Joe Barilla, an Orange County Sheriff, rode twoup on the Vulcan 1700 Nomad™. She and her husband have been riding motorcycles together for years. Debbie also rides dirt bikes, but she loves riding cruisers best. Debbie admits that she is not always a good passenger. She’s had her motorcycle license for four years and prefers being in control of her own ride. You can see Debbie riding a fully accessorized Vulcan 900 Custom in the video for this model on the website. Each day began with an early wake-up call, getting geared up and heading out the door to caravan to the site. There were no make-up artists or dressers on this photo shoot, and helmet hair was prevalent after a full day of riding. “We were on the bikes before sunrise on some occasions,” said Debbie. “There’s a lot of downtime between photo shoots as the crew sets up lighting and instructs the riders. The video shoots were more relaxed and fun because we’re riding the whole time and even get to ride to various locations,” Debbie explained. A ten-year employee of Kawasaki, Debbie is enthusiastic about the brand and enjoys riding her Kawasaki in various group rides that she and her husband attend. Maybe you’ve pictured yourself on one of the new Vulcan® 1700-series motorcycles and caught yourself day-dreaming about those endless twisties and scenic backroads. We encourage you to experience it for yourself. To check out the new product videos and download a copy of the latest eBrochure visit

*Check out the Financing Tips article on page XX to prepare for your next purchase.

ISSUE 4 > 2009


Financing Tips and Tactics Words: Mitch Boehm Photos: Provided by Kawasaki

Times are tough. Jobs are disappearing, consumer confidence is lagging, and money seems harder and harder to borrow. Which is why Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. and its 1,400 independent dealers across America have made financing a new motorcycle a top priority, with new programs to make it easier than ever. At Kawasaki, a perfect credit score isn’t required to obtain financing on a new motorcycle. Dealers now have multiple options to assist buyers who wouldn’t otherwise qualify for a loan. Not only is financing available for a wide range of credit scores, but it’s also plenty affordable. Even those with less than perfect scores may find affordable interest rates from Kawasaki’s affiliated lenders. Some Kawasaki-affiliated loan programs do not require comprehensive or collision insurance coverage. This means many new buyers may only be required to carry their state’s minimum liability coverage1. Most buyers are just seven steps from owning a new Kawasaki: 1. Determine a monthly budget for payments and insurance 2. Bring your ID, two recent pay stubs, down payment and/or trade-in to a Kawasaki dealer 3. Choose your vehicle 4. Negotiate your best price 5. Apply for financing 6. Sign on the dotted line 7. Let the good times roll!

The Ninja® ZX™-6R won almost every major magazine shootout and its stunning performance has earned universal acclaim. Now, a new lower cost loan from one of these affiliated lenders might be the ideal opportunity to put a brand-new Ninja sportbike in your garage! These new finance options and customerfriendly insurance requirements go a long way toward removing the obstacles faced by today’s buyers. And Kawasaki dealers have yet another strong tool in their arsenal – the fantastic bang for your buck that’s built into Kawasaki’s entire product line. From the $1,849 KLX™110, to the $4,999 KLX 250S; Kawasaki currently offers 14 different brand-new warranty-covered models with MSRPs under $5,000. And with special programs offering payments as low as $49 per month on new vehicle loans below $5,000, there’s never been an easier, more-affordable time to buy a new Kawasaki.

What if you followed the first five steps above in good faith, but your dealer was still unable to provide financing? Don’t give up. You still have options, as other lenders are eager to help. Even if your credit application was turned down, a couple of hours searching for lenders on the internet will often result in a workable solution… and another happy new Kawasaki owner!  Bottom line: If you have a steady income, there really isn’t anything standing between you and a new Kawasaki. All you need to do is pick a ride and go get it!

Effective tactics for securing a new vehicle loan, even if your first attempt wasn’t approved: • Ask a family member to co-sign your loan application. • Search the internet for lenders specializing in difficult credit. You’d be amazed at how many options there are for alternative financing.

to help, like: You can often boost your credit rating by several points just by paying a maxed-out credit card balance down by one hundred dollars.

• Search the internet for eligible credit unions. Many credit unions have money to lend and relaxed loan guidelines for members.

• Don’t forget the value of a Trade-In! If you didn’t mention a trade-in vehicle during your first dealer visit, take your old ride to the dealer and let them know you want to add it to the deal, it may drastically reduce the financed amount on your new Kawasaki.

• Search the internet for quick tips on boosting your personal credit score. There are numerous strategies

• Save some additional cash for a month or two. A larger down payment can make all the difference.

Kawasaki does not make specific recommendations on insurance coverage. All insurance coverage decisions are the sole responsibility of the purchaser, subject to lender requirements and state motor vehicle laws.


[ If you have a steady income, there really isn’t anything standing between you and a new Kawasaki. ] ISSUE 4 > 2009


Cruzin’ the Smo Riders stop to take in the view and stretch their legs along the Blue Ridge Parkway.



Vulcan Riders Forum Reunion Words and photos: Teri Conrad

okey Mountains! The Vulcan Riders Forum members held their seventh annual reunion in Maggie Valley, North Carolina which drew close to 200 rally-goers this past August. ROK representative Channing Eggenberg and myself had the pleasure of attending the rally. Craig and Tina Wegmann, along with their teenage children, Taylor and Julia, planned the majority of activities for this year’s event. Each year, the group chooses a different part of the country for their annual reunion. To date, the group has held events in Maryland, Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Alabama. According to Robert Orsino, who created the forum ten years ago, the focus was to bring people together that shared a love of Kawasaki motorcycles.

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Highlights from the reunion included a series of activities, such as guided and unguided motorcycle rides to Deal’s Gap, a picnic ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway, slow-ride parking lot games, and a BBQ grand finale. It’s fair to say the Wegmann’s and their group throw one heck of a party! The only thing I would add is to make sure you bring an extra set of clothing in case there’s an unplanned pool party. The Wegmann’s are also members of VROC, and were originally introduced to me at a SEVROC rally. What impressed me most about Craig and Tina is they both ride their own cruisers—his a 1600 Nomad and hers a Vulcan 2000. The couple shares a passion for motorcycling that is not always common between spouses and is quite admirable. Haywood County Deputy Heidi Warren, from the local D.A.R.E. program served as our escort for more than 80 Kawasaki motorcycle riders who participated in the 40-mile ride from Maggie Valley to

Asheville. As you might imagine, a group this large drew quite a bit of attention en route to Kawasaki dealer MR Motorcycle. Onlookers stopped to watch and admire the lengthy procession of bikes and take pictures from Highway overpasses, city streets and personal vehicles. One might think it was a parade. Upon arriving at the dealership, riders filled up on coffee and bagels at the Full Throttle Café courtesy of Riders of Kawasaki. From there small groups assembled and headed to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The common theme among those who attended the rally was an overwhelming feeling of camaraderie and family. In the evenings rally-goers gathered to socialize, listen to music, check out each other’s bikes and swap motorcycle stories in a growing circle of rocking chairs each night. But the biggest draw for many was hanging out with like-minded riders and the location. “It’s always an experience when traveling to and from a rally,”

said Joe Paradise. “When you’re on a motorcycle it’s as if you become one with your surroundings, and each time is different from the last.” When visiting Maggie Valley, one of my favorite places to eat is Snappy’s Italian Restaurant ( They are very motorcycle-friendly there and the food is great. Garrett Anderson, the owner (affectionately known as “pizza dude”) personally delivered pizza and snacks to the night owls in our group when hunger struck late one evening. While most of those who attended are members of the Vulcan Riders Forum (it can be found on Delphi Forums), a few people learned of the rally by reading about it in various motorcycle publications. Next year’s reunion is scheduled for August 5-8, 2010 and will be held in Bardstown, Kentucky. For more information, visit All riders are welcome.

Cruzin’ the Smokey Mountains!

Editor Teri Conrad stops to admire the scenery during after getting separated from the group. A full tank of gas, awesome new bike, beautiful scenery—what’s the worst that can happen?


RALLYROUNDUP Editor’s Note: A special thank you goes out to MR Motorcycle for providing a 2009 Special Edition Vulcan 900 Custom loaner bike. I enjoyed riding it so much that I didn’t want to return it at the end of my stay, but am happy to hear it was purchased by the reunion really was a family For some a newly licensed rider who attended the rally with affair and for others it was an opportunity her husband. You made a great choice! to see old friends and make new ones.

Editor’s Note: A special thank you goes out to MR Motorcycle for providing a 2009 Special Edition Vulcan 900 Custom loaner bike. I enjoyed riding it so much that I didn’t want to return it at the end of my stay, but am happy to hear it was purchased by a newly licensed rider who attended the rally with her husband. You made a great choice!

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Rain, rain and more rain! VROC Eureka Springs Reunion Words and photos: Dave Stambaugh, group photo: Jamey Tolefson

The year 2009 proved to be a year of wet motorcycle rallies for me personally. I took five multi-day trips and got rained on going to and from each one. As a result, my planning for number six—the VROC reunion in Eureka Springs, Arkansas—included packing my rain gear, which I ended up using. But it wasn’t until I was within 50 miles of Eureka Springs that the rain started to fall, and it came down hard. It was the most brutal rain I’ve ever ridden in. I arrived on Wednesday in a downpour that continued the rest of the night and half of the following day. The steady drizzle on Thursday kept many rally-goers holed up at Iron Horse Stables (the Kaw pasture). It was a good opportunity for everyone to catch-up with friends. By evening it dried out enough for people to head into town for dinner and do the tourist thing. Friday brought overcast skies, but thankfully no rain. Riders began heading in different directions in various groups anxious to get a ride in. The destination for my group was the Burger Barn in Ozone, Arkansas. From the Iron Horse, we took Route 62 into Berryville, then went south on Route 21 until we reached Ozone. The Burger Barn is easy to miss because it looks


like a big brown storage shed with yellow trim hidden in a clump of trees (dirt parking lot and all). But the food is good, cheap and fast – which meets all three of my criteria for road food. I’ve done this ride several times, and each time we’ve taken a different route. My favorite way to get back to Eureka Springs is to head north on Highway 21 (about 14 miles) then west on Highway 16. Once you reach the intersection of Highways 16 and 23, go north all the way back to Eureka Springs. The run to Burger Barn provided nice twisty roads in both directions totaling 170-miles roundtrip. (Use caution if there’s been heavy rain in the preceding days as there are several areas where mud washes out onto the roadway). We had our banquet on Friday night at the Best Western Inn. Dianna Hughey called out raffle numbers as the group studied their tickets. Many items were donated by individuals and local businesses, but special thanks goes to Kawasaki for providing the majority of the raffle items and door prizes. Be sure to attend next year’s reunion scheduled September 15-19, 2010. For more information, visit


Rally Ins and Outs Planning a rally is fairly easy once you’ve gone through it. You just do the same thing you did before and add a few new things, right? Wrong! No matter how well you plan, Mother Nature can be very unpredictable. Instead of gathering around campfires, you may find yourself taking shelter under roofs and covered decks to chat about motorcycles. If you’re faced with planning a rally here are some things that have worked for me. First pick a location. I live in Arkansas, and the Ozarks in Northwest Arkansas provide for some terrific roads for riding. Next, select a date and tell your friends. One of the best places to let people know about an event is the main forum at A posting on the events calendar and talking it up in the forum is sure to get some attention. There are also other forms of advertising

you can do, other forums, flyers at dealers, community event calendars, and motorcycle publications. An added bonus is having it listed in Accelerate™ magazine. It helps to have a website where people can sign-up, volunteer, and get lodging information. So what all goes on at a rally? First and foremost, we ride. So we establish a central location for people to form groups and head out in various directions. Some go with destinations in mind, and some travel armed with maps or GPS devices. Still others prefer to just pick a direction and go from there. Small groups are encouraged for organized rides and have the greatest success rate for keeping everyone together. Now we could easily just ride and then sit around the campfire and tell tales of

Words: Dianna Hughey

our travels, but a rider has to eat too. This is where the banquet comes in, and to sweeten the deal we request items for door prizes. Our main source of support is Riders of Kawasaki (ROK), as well as local merchants. Be sure to give them plenty of notice and thanks as they could just as easily decline next time. For local merchants it helps to arm them with flyers, and inform them what the raffle is for. The VROC Eureka Springs Reunion sponsors a local food bank called Flint Street Mission, which offers food and services to area residents in need. In the years that I’ve coordinated this event, we’ve experienced extreme heat and cold, a fading hurricane, heavy rain, thick fog, power outages, and wind storms. And each year, I can look back and smile and say it was a great time!

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Drift 16

t-In Vulcan Drifter Owners Group



Annual Drift-In Rally

Personal Achievement:

Words and photos: Laura McNeely

• Longest Distance Traveled - Alex Krombholz, Uxbridge, London, United Kingdom, who flew from to Lincoln, Nebraska and then rode with Scott Steen to North Carolina on a spare Drifter belonging to Scott. Longest Distance Ridden - Parker Detweiler, Houston, Texas.

The roar of motorcycle engines continued almost non-stop as one Kawasaki motorcycle after another rolled into the Qualla Motel just off Highway 441 in Cherokee, North Carolina for the annual Drifter® motorcycle rally. Nearly 100 rally-goers gathered together for fun and camaraderie at the Dog Pound (otherwise known as rally central). Riders came from all over the country and as far away as Canada and Europe. It was incredible to see the numerous Drifter motorcycles gathered in one place. The tremendous diversity in style and uniqueness of these bikes is the foundation for this group of riders. All share a common retro theme punctuated by classic art-deco styling. Chief Cherevas, our host for the 2009 Drift-In Rally, made it his goal for this year’s rally to be incredibly memorable and it showed. No stone went unturned, as evidenced by the plethora of cleaning supplies, tools, and first-aid kits spilling from his room. Thoughtful consideration for every scenario made for a safe and exciting rally, that was indeed, memorable. But it didn’t stop there! As we rolled through town “Welcome Drifters!” was displayed on the marquees of numerous local businesses. With a warm welcome like that, how could we not be! A variety of thrilling group rides were planned at destinations such as Hellbender 28, Tail of the Dragon at Deal’s Gap, Fontana Lake Dam, Bald River Falls, the Cherohala Skyway and Nantahala Gorge. On Thursday, riders braved inclement weather to enjoy cruising the beautiful Smokey Mountains of North Carolina. As we rode along the Blue Ridge Parkway, it seemed as if we were participating in a parade. Everyone was waving. That’s how we do it in the south—we wave to everyone! While ascending the Blue Ridge Parkway, an idea I had led to the making of the Drift-In Rally DVD. My husband Randy and I performed a virtual circus act to capture portraits of the riders surrounded in beautiful

The Drifter model was only produced for seven years (1999-2005 for 1500s, and 1999-2006 for 800s). mountainous backgrounds. But the sun got blotted out by typical afternoon cloud cover until finally, at the highest point (some 6,053 feet), everyone gathered for a group photo in the sleet and fog! The end result yielded enough photographic memories for everyone to enjoy for years to come. Friday’s ride was more relaxed and included a lunch stop at Sonic located on Charlotte Highway, where manager Desiree Mendonica and her employees provided us with excellent service and plenty of rollerskating entertainment. Our annual bike show and picnic was held on Saturday at Smokey Mountain Connection Spirit Riders located on Highway 441. Members from the Freedom Biker Church of Asheville served as judges. Mrs. North Carolina, Phyllis Dinkins presented the awards, and posed for photos with the winners. Winners received bragging rights and a beautiful plaque designed by Rebecca Pickins from Ashville Awards and Gifts. Saturday evening we met up for our annual banquet and festivities at Brushy Mountain Smoke House and Creamery where we enjoyed an all-you-can-eat buffet. As things began to wind down plans were set in motion for next year’s rally which will be held in Durango, Colorado, July 7-10, 2010. For more information, visit

Shortest Distance Trailered - Chief Cherevas, our host who chose to bring everything we could possibly need to enjoy ourselves at the rally. Bike Show Winners: • Best 1500 Drifter - Dave Teper, Flagler Beach, Florida. His 2000 Drifter is a vision in turquoise accented by a black leatherfringed seat, saddlebags, skirts and a relief design of an Indian head on the tank. • Most Unique Drifter - Chief Cherevas, Leicester, North Carolina. His 1999 forest green and cream motorcycle named Trouble has a beautiful Native American theme painted on it and is accented with a black leather seat, saddlebags and skirts adorned in burgundy fringe. Completing its uniqueness is the ape hanger handlebars. • Best Non-Drifter - Nicki Rogers, Asheville, North Carolina. This showy non-Kawasaki motorcycle has a pink and white color scheme with a Pink Panther mascot that rides on back. • Best 800 Drifter - Rita Crusenberry, San Angelo, Texas. Her 2002 Drifter named Isilith, is a sleek black beauty accessorized with a leather-fringed seat, saddlebags, skirts and tan artwork. • Best Former Winner - Deb Taylor of Texarkana, Arkansas. Her 2000 Drifter 800 appropriately named Olive, is an olivecolored beauty accented by red pin-striping and a leather-fringed seat. • Judge’s Choice - Danny Taylor, Texarkana, Arkansas. His 1999 scripture-inspired motorcycle is a gunmetal grey custom with red detailing and his personal mantra: It ain’t a sin to be in the wind. • People’s Choice - Jan Ditto, Bristol, Tennessee. Her bike, Prayer Princess, is pearl white with a Native American theme of cool blue and green feathers and beads painted on her bike and a matching helmet.

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it’s all about the ride


hen the roads are this good – the hairpin turns this relentless, the mountains this steep and the views coming at you as fast as a slide show – reeling off 250 miles can be a full day’s ride. And when you time it just right and the sun is shining down on one of those perfect autumn days when the peak leaf change colors the Appalachian hillsides… well, the ride just doesn’t get much better than that. Today’s ride is a loop through some of West Virginia’s best roads and most unique sites, with a scrap of Maryland and Virginia thrown in for variety. Our starting point is West Virginia’s Blackwater Falls State Park at 3,200 feet. That may not sound like much for riders accustomed to the Rockies, but it makes for chilly fall mornings. I awaken to find thick frost on my motorcycle’s tires (where are the tire-warmers when I need them?) and a few scraps of leftover snow clinging to shady spots, even though the afternoon promises temperatures near 70 degrees in the valleys. So I linger over morning coffee to give the sunshine a little extra time to warm the pavement. I head north on U.S. 219 and its


sweeping curves get me warmed up for the day’s ride. Across the border, at the crossroads of Redhouse, Maryland, I turn east on U.S. 50, which offers some challenging hairpins and steep descents as it crosses the panhandles of West Virginia and Maryland. The road really starts to get interesting, however, when I turn south on West Virginia Route 42. Just past the town of Mount Storm, windmills whirl on a ridge above some of the tightest switchbacks you’ll find anywhere. It’s memorable descent lingers down the mountainside. A little further south, I venture down Jordan Run Road and then follow the signs for the Dolly Sods Wilderness, climbing a single-lane road of dirt and jagged rocks, five miles steadily uphill, in first gear all the way on my streetbike. But the destination is worth the effort. Dolly Sods is a high plateau that looks like a slice of Canada, except it’s 50 miles south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Stunted red spruce trees grow one-sided because of the battering wind and the bogs and heaths look like nothing you’ll find anywhere else in this part of the country.


High Season in the West Virginia Mountains Words and Photos: Lance Oliver

Further south, I aim down one of my favorite roads anywhere. Smoke Hole Road veers off West Virginia Route 28 and eventually connects with U.S. 220, though some maps suggest it doesn’t go all the way, probably causing many riders to miss out. Personally, I think it’s backroad nirvana, especially on a clear fall day with bright sunshine bouncing off millions of yellow maple leaves as I whoosh through the curves. Other than a few fishermen testing their luck along the South Branch of the Potomac River, I have the road to myself until it dead-ends at U.S. 220. If time’s running short, I can cut back west on U.S. 33, which offers tight curves between Franklin and Judy Gap. But I have something better (and longer) in mind, so I continue south on 220 to the picturesque town of Monterey, Virginia, where I gas up and turn west on U.S. 250 for one of my personal favorite ridge-crossing roads. This section of U.S. 250 throws tight mountain switchbacks and long ridgeline views at me as it carries me back into West Virginia. About 25 miles north of the crossroads

of Thornwood, I spot the sign pointing up Briery Gap Road to Spruce Knob, West Virginia’s highest point at 4,861. Since the last time I was here more than 10 years ago, the state has paved the road all the way to the peak of Spruce Knob, and riding this narrow but smooth strip of asphalt is certainly worth the detour. And since it’s virtually a dead-end road ending at the sky, there’s not much traffic to contend with. At least not vehicular traffic. Partway up the mountain, a fox darts across the road, downshifting for more speed when he realizes I’m closing in. I squeeze the brakes, and my front tire just barely brushes his tail. Moments later, a red-tailed hawk swoops across the road ahead, just above helmet level, intent on his hunt. Further on, I come to a near complete stop while two young deer standing in the roadway try to decide which way to flee. I grew up in West Virginia, and one of the things that strikes me nowadays when I return is how wildlife populations are flourishing. The state went from fully wild and forested before the European settlement to mostly cleared, farmed, mined and

timbered by the early 1900s, but today many areas are returning to nature. At Blackwater Falls, while out for a walk, I see two black bear cubs saunter across the road ahead. That’s a sighting that never happened when I was a kid. The peak of Spruce Knob is a peaceful rest stop with an observation tower and a short nature trail for taking in more views of receding mountains that end only when your eyes give out. After leaving Spruce Knob and resuming my northward run, I turn left on Route 55 at the famously scenic Seneca Rocks, a jagged slice of stone erupting from the forested hills. Route 55 throws one more entertaining set of hairpins into the mix as I climb to the top of the ridge, where one sign marks the Eastern Continental Divide and another sign warns truck drivers to check their brakes. Back where I started, I’ve put only about 250 miles on the odometer but it feels like I’ve experienced summer and fall, cozy valley towns and a state’s highest peak, and, for a moment, I thought I was in Canada. That’s day tripping at its finest.

ISSUE 4 > 2009



Custom Cafe Words: Adam Zuckerman, Photos: Justin Belshe

Thanks to the growing popularity of celebrity TV shows, many people may think it costs a small fortune to build a custom motorcycle and requires an American V-twin. Wrong on both counts. Justin Belshe of Oklahoma explains how he went about customizing his own Kawasaki KZ750 motorcycle. Justin is a dedicated fan of the Kawasaki KZ series bikes of the 1970s and 1980s era. He is also aware that while choppers were emerging as the main form of custom in America, the café racer was rapidly evolving in England. While American choppers stuck to the V-twin formula, café racers were built from every available engine and frame. As England’s motorcycle industry collapsed in the 1970s, British youth turned to the Japanese superbikes that shocked the world with their power and reliability. The 1980 KZ750 LTD Justin started with was built to be a cruiser. To improve handling, he swapped the fork from a GPz750, Kawasaki’s superbike in 1982. He ditched the pullback handlebar for clip-on’s with bar-end mirrors, and crafted rearset foot pegs for a sportier riding position with better cornering clearance. A fiberglass racing seat with a tail fairing completed the transformation. This custom KZ pays homage to both the look and spirit of the original café racers, with a few modern touches thrown in for good measure. That British “make the best of what you have” spirit is especially evident in the project budget. “I dug the KZ out of a sand dune in a junkyard in Amarillo, Texas and traded a $50 guitar amp for it. Both the junkyard man and I figured we’d come out ahead on the deal. My only regret is that I didn’t own a camera back then, so I don’t have any ‘before’ photos,” says Belshe. “It was a real mess.” Everything from a complete engine rebuild, to custom bodywork, and paint were done in his guitar shop. “If I had to guess, I’d say I have somewhere between $500 to $1000 in the bike and an endless amount of hours.”


His craftsmanship is evident everywhere you look, but that is no surprise coming from a man whose hobby is building custom electric guitars and amplifiers. “I’m sort of a shade tree mad scientist. I fix things, and I build things. Everything I own came to me already broken.” The fuel tank comes from a GPz750 that had been badly abused. His patient approach, learned from shaping guitar bodies, brought the tank to a fine finish. The same goes for the tail section, a salvaged piece from a crashed racer that he dramatically reshaped to fit the KZ. He removed all extra tabs from the frame and sanded it to bare metal before the red paint job. “It’s all rattle can, off the shelf industrial enamel.” There is creativity throughout the bike. The exhaust system was gutted, making the bike too loud. Justin refurbished the baffle with copper scouring pads for batting, and formed the muffler end cap from a peanut can. The tiny battery hidden in the tail fairing strains to start the bike, so Belshe rewired the headlight to cut off during starting. The rear hugger fender is crafted from the original LTD front fender. The large LED school bus taillights with integrated turn signals are among Justin’s modern touches. “The only original parts left on the bike are the wheels, frame and the top half of the engine. There are pieces from probably a dozen different KZs in there, but it’s all period correct,” he laughs. “I ported and polished the head, and I might drop in some lumpy GPz cams this winter.” “Since the rebuild, I’ve put a couple thousand miles on the bike and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at just how fast and reliable it is,” says Belshe. “Kawasaki really got it right with this engine design!”

The term “café racer” wasn’t just another slang term. It was used to refer to the type of bikes built specifically for illegal racing on the roads near England’s transport cafés (truck stops).


“This ain’t no trailer queen.”

“I started this project with the intention of changing the gaskets.”

ISSUE 4 > 2009


Montana’s Rocky Mountains Destination Rocky Knob Words and photos: Dr. Gregory W. Frazier

Rocky Knob is a place that doesn’t exist on a map or a GPS, so in a sense it is not real. And yet for five years, I have targeted it as a destination point for summer adventures while riding through the western USA, so it must be real because I rode there. A riding pal of mine discovered Rocky Knob several years ago when he and his son were wandering around the southern Rocky Mountains of Montana. They were riding two-up and camping on a week of motorcycle touring, doing a summer father-son bonding trip. They asked for permission from the property owners to park their motorcycle and pitch their tent behind the restaurant in a mowed grassy area. Their shower that evening was splashing water over themselves in the mountain stream across the road. Dining was an option of either the dining room or bar, where they had steak and pie. The prices were reasonable and the father noted his tensions from work melted away during their stay. The next summer the father and I planned an adventure together, mixing some gravel roads with pavement over a five day period, starting from and returning to Seattle. With no specific route planned we left the Northwest with the Rocky Mountains as our only destination. On the second day my pal suggested Rocky Knob as our next stop. He described it as being a little bit out of our way but where we could have a pleasant stay and besides serving good steak and pie the staff and restaurant offered peace of mind. We arrived about 5PM after a mixed day of riding which included nearly 100 miles of tough gravel road and fire trails. Tired and dirty, we were ready for a bath and the quiet of camping on the freshly cut lawn behind the restaurant. The owner remembered my friend from the year before and allowed us to set up out tents and park the motorcycles on the grass next to them. After making our camp and taking a cold river bath, we spent the evening eating, playing pool and chatting with the patrons, many of whom were area residents. They were interested in our motorcycle travels and made us feel welcome. For us the biggest news was about the forest fire that had nearly destroyed Rocky Knob. The burnt trees surrounding


the restaurant and adjoining motel were burned down to within inches of the lawn. The residents told us how the firefighters had stopped the fire with the help of staff and area residents. If Rocky Knob had been a town one could say the fire was stopped by the townspeople. Because Rocky Knob was not a town, or on a map, the tale had to be told within the context of the area residents valiantly saving their favorite watering hole and restaurant. The next summer we planned another ride, again leaving Seattle, but looping to the southeast. Again the plan included some off pavement riding to remote areas, and a loose schedule. On our third day we decided to vector back to Seattle through Rocky Knob. Again we camped behind the restaurant, and were remembered by the owner and some of the patrons from the summer before. It was like a reunion, they wanting to know where we had been riding motorcycles over the previous year and we wanting to know what had changed at Rocky Knob. It was another peaceful evening spent well away from the hustle and bustle of our normal daily lives of driving to jobs and working in the big city. Another year went by and again found the two of us planning to get away from our daily routine of work for more motorcycle exploring in the Rocky Mountains. This time Rocky Knob was the main destination, our having remembered the comfort of spending a night there. When we arrived the staff and patrons welcomed us as if we were part of their community. Before we could set up our tents we had to answer questions about where we had been, where we were going, our motorcycles and what time we wanted dinner. It was as if we had called ahead for reservations. Most of the patrons did not remember our names but knew we were the two motorcyclists who returned year-after-year. We again spent a pleasant evening after a cold bath in the mountain stream. As the sun was setting I went outside the restaurant to inspect our camping area and make sure all was well with my motorcycle and tent. I saw a mother deer and her fawn that had come out of the woods to browse on the grass near our tents. When I went back in to the restaurant and told


“Bear?” I asked. the patrons about the deer they laughed and said, “Better deer than the bear.” “Bear?” I asked. The waitress answered loud enough for all the patrons to hear, “A male black bear, and he comes down to attack the dumpster near your tents. Don’t worry though, you two bikers he’ll likely leave alone. He’s not real friendly towards people.” That night I slept lightly, and twice woke thinking the snoring of my pal in his tent nearby was the bear rooting through the dumpster or bushes. In the morning I again saw the mother deer and her fawn, but no signs that we had been visited by a bear. This year we carried out our tradition at Rocky Knob. I met my pal in Seattle after spending six weeks in Alaska. We mapped out a route that took us through the deserts of Nevada, then over numerous gravel roads through Idaho. The last miles from Idaho into Montana had us wondering if Rocky Knob was still there. We had not called ahead for reservations, again chancing that we would find the place that is not on any map. When we arrived we noticed a large banner across the front of the building that said “Welcome Bikers.” It seems that over the year since we had last been there Rocky Knob had become a destination for other motorcyclists. Once we got our tents set up and a quick wash, the sun started to go down and local patrons began to drift into the restaurant. Trading stories with them it seemed not much had changed over the year, except the bear had stayed away and over 100 motorcyclists had stopped in the week earlier. We traveled the next day to a motorcycle shop in Missoula to purchase a badly needed new tire. While the tire was being installed we were asked by other customers where we were going, and where we had been. I told tales of my six weeks in Alaska, then my pal took over and shared his stories of our last week of riding, seeing wild horses, the many miles of dirt roads, and lastly our stop the night before at Rocky Knob. We were both surprised when one listener said, “Oh yeah, I know that place. It’s just out there near the Idaho line on Highway 93.”

ISSUE 4 > 2009



survival skills for the road Words: Dr. Gregory W. Frazier Photos: Teri Conrad and Laura McNeely

On occasion, journeys can lead to unplanned destinations, of which the traveler is unaware. It can be to a quaint village long passed by an Interstate when a road construction detour takes you through it. Or it can be a motorcycle shop for repairs when a mechanical failure requires vectoring off the planned route. Sometimes these unplanned destinations can be the most fun and memorable in retrospect. What you want to avoid are those memories you would rather forget. BUILD YOUR OWN TOOL KIT A new motorcycle may or may not have a tool kit. If new, it may only contain about 10 percent of the tools you will typically need for a roadside fix. Spend a little time before leaving on a tour adding tools you might need. Before you go, try using your self-made tool kit to do some routine maintenance like checking the battery, changing the oil or adjusting the chain to see if your kit has the tools required to do basic maintenance. BUILD A TIRE REPAIR KIT AND KNOW HOW TO USE IT If your motorcycle comes with a tire repair kit, it will likely contain enough spare air and bits for a one-time fix. Construct a tire repair kit that can make at least a second repair if the first one fails. Try using your kit by changing an inner tube or plugging a leak before you go. It is no fun to learn how to fix a flat on the side of the road while swatting mosquitoes or working in the rain. FILL THE GAS TANK AT THE END OF THE DAY Start the riding day fresh by tanking-up at the end of your previous riding day instead of first thing in the morning. Even though you may be tired the night before, starting the new day with a full gas tank keeps you from having to stop soon after you have started. It is a break in stride when you suit up and start your riding day only to have to repeat the gloves-off-wallet-out-suitunzipped process shortly afterwards to fill the gas tank, more so when riding in the rain or cold. EMAIL YOURSELF IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS Scan and email yourself copies of important documents like passport, driving license, visa(s), and credit or ATM card information, such as where to call if they get lost or stolen. If necessary, you can download and print your basic information making reporting their loss and securing replacements much easier and less time consuming.

Dr. Gregory W. Frazier’s latest book, Motorcycle Touring: Everything You Need To Know is available from the Whole Earth Motorcycle Center for $24.95 (plus $7.50 S/H) with a VISA or MasterCard at 1-800-532-5557. You can follow his other adventures at: under “What’s New.” Check out his other books and DVDs under “Catalog” at the same website.

REMEMBER ATMs ARE NOT EVERYWHERE The world is not blanketed with ATMs. In some countries they are non-existent. Carry enough cash to get you through a few days. US dollars are almost universally accepted. Newer, unmarked and not torn bills are best. IF LEAVING THE USA, CONTACT YOU CREDIT CARD COMPANY Letting the credit card or ATM issuer know in advance that you will be using your card outside your normal usage area, like in a foreign country, can save them from blocking your card if they think it has been stolen. If you check your account online you might want to do so while traveling from a secure location to compare charges showing on your account to those you know were charged, thereby preventing someone from stealing your card number and pin, instead of finding out when you return.


ISSUE 4 > 2009


Motorcycle-Friendly Eateries For those of you who enjoy discovering new places to eat while traveling by motorcycle, we invite you to try a few of our favorite diners during your next two-wheel adventure. We found the following establishments fit the bill for a decent meal, were motorcycle-friendly, and served as good stopping points on our travels to simply take a break from the elements.

Editor’s Note: To share your favorite motorcycle-friendly diner with us, just send an email with the name and location of the restaurant and why you recommend it, along with 2-3 high quality photos to: for consideration.

eat&drink big sur bakery & restaurant Highway One, Big Sur, California (861) 667-0520 Words: Kristi Martel, Photos provided by: Joe Jarrell and Natalie James

The 8am opening time makes for a perfect first stop on your motorcycle journey, plus the old-timey gas pumps out front not only look cute, but will actually fill up your tank for the day’s ride. The way the light shines through the vintage glass windows makes a breakfast of hearty egg and potato frittata and frothy cappuccino even more delicious. This is the experience of the Big Sur Bakery. Surrounded by redwood trees, green mountainside and clean air on California’s famed Highway 1, this restaurant could easily rest on the laurels of its location alone. But the three owners, dedicated to giving visitors a top-of-the-line culinary experience, create memorable, delectable edibles, including breads and


pastries baked fresh daily in the wood-fired oven. If you’re lucky enough to pass by during lunch or dinner, you’re in for a diverse treat. Entrees include clam chowder (clams still in the shell included), wild salmon with succotash, or oak-grilled Niman Ranch rib-eye with herb butter. For those with more casual meals in mind, they also offer wood-fired pizza and hand-patted burgers. No matter what time you arrive, you can’t leave before snapping a few photographs. Ideal photo spots are in front of the weathered wooden shed with the ages-old Shell gas sign, beside the garden beds that overflow with wild flowers or inside the restaurant itself, decorated with cut-out paper hearts strung from the ceiling. You must go here if you’re ever in Big Sur.


the fat cat café Grand Lake Ave., Grand Lake, Colorado (970) 627-0900 Words and photos: Sherm Acord

Several of us VROC’ers discovered the Fat Cat Café while attending the WWR rally in Grand Lake, Colorado. From that point on, it became our daily breakfast stop and a favorite stopping place whenever we’re in the area. Sally, the owner, is very biker-friendly, and really went out of her way to make sure we had exactly what we wanted and that it was prepared just right. She even made some special diabetic approved food for those that wanted it. This place is known for the best breakfast in the Grand Lake area. The weekend buffet was to die for! All of the food was prepared fresh, and not what you’d expect to find in a typical buffet. There are many healthy choices and the portions for ordering off the menu are quite generous. Oh, the best part is this place is easy on the wallet and the owner is truly appreciative of your business. If you’re ever riding near Grand Lake, it will be worth your time to give the Fat Cat a try for breakfast or lunch.

the burger barn 14429 Highway 21, Ozone, Arkansas (479) 292-1392 Words: Teri Conrad, Photos: Dave Stambaugh and Kim Oneill

If you find yourself growing hungry while riding along the scenic roads of Arkansas’ Highway 21 and service isn’t necessarily an issue, then the Burger Barn is definitely worth a stop. It’s a popular place among motorcyclists, although most go for the experience. The rustic canary yellow hut (barn) is set in a wooded area just off Highway 21 and there is plenty of bike parking available—pretty much wherever you decide to stop your bike. You can’t miss the sign out front which boasts “3-napkin burgers.” And, it is strictly outside dining only, but there is a covered area with a picnic table where you can sit and enjoy your meal. A few of us even put the 3-napkin theory to the test, and it passed with flying colors. This is exactly what you might expect from a typical burger joint—the burgers are big and made to order and the food is pretty decent overall. Our first experience there was straight out of a Seinfeld episode, and we weren’t sure at first, whether or not the Burger Barn resembled that of a motorcycle-friendly eatery, or if the owner who also doubled as cook, cashier and order-taker was more of a burger-flipping bully! In the end, we were pleasantly surprised, but we recommend you stick with the basics. We’re not sure what the hours are, so you may want to call in advance, unless you’re already riding through the area and get lucky.

ISSUE 4 > 2009


Straight Talk with Leandro Mercado 2009 AMA Pro SuperSport National Champion Words and photos: Paul Bryant

2009 marked the Kawasaki debut of Argentine road racer and rising AMA SuperSport star Leandro Mercado. At just seventeen years of age, Leandro is one of the newest additions to the AMA paddock. In his first year competing in the class, Mercado clinched the AMA Pro SuperSport national championship at Daytona International Speedway, proving his mettle as a rider with skill and race-craft far beyond his years. Mercado qualified second and led the first few laps, then pulled-off a bold pass in the final corner to claim both the race win and the national SuperSport title. Hailing from the city of Jesús María in Argentina’s Córdoba province, Leandro started racing mini-moto flat track at the age of seven. In Argentina’s competitive 50cc flat track class, he won regional championships in 2004 and 2005 before winning the national title in 2006. In 2007, Leandro raced 250 Supermoto and 600 SuperSport, collecting numerous podium finishes in both classes. In 2008, after relocating to Lodi, California, Leandro raced a 125cc twostroke in the AMA Rookies Cup series, scoring two wins and six podium finishes in ten races – not bad for a 16-year-old! Leandro joined the Monster Energy® Attack Kawasaki team to contest the AMA Supersport eastern division championship aboard a Ninja® ZX™-6R while also taking part in selected Daytona Sportbike races along the way. En route to winning the AMA Pro SuperSport national championship in his first year, Leandro won three SuperSport races and logged a top-ten finish in Daytona SportBike. We caught up with Leandro at Infineon Raceway, during the Kawasaki AMA Superbike Showdown to learn more about this talented young racer.



Q&A with Team Green’s Rising Star Paul Bryant: Hi, Leandro. Nice to meet you. Are you enjoying being on the Monster Energy® Attack Kawasaki squad? Leandro Mercado: My teammates are awesome – Jamie and Roger – I’m very happy, and I’m learning a lot from them. PB: Congratulations on your first Supersport win at Road Atlanta – that was kind of crazy! Mercado: Thank you. Yes, that was a crazy weekend. I crashed twice – once Saturday in qualifying and then again in the race. In the Supersport race it started to rain, I lost the front, and we had a restart. My team was able to make some repairs, we had a very good race, and I was able to win. PB: There’s nothing quite like crashing and then winning the race! Mercado: Yeah, that’s true! (laughing) PB: It seems like the ZX-6R is really working well for you. In the practice sessions you were two seconds faster than the rest of the field, and then you scored pole position – congratulations. Mercado: Thanks. Yeah, yesterday two seconds, today pole position. I really like the bike, and it’s working well for me.

PB: You did very well last year in the AMA Rookies Cup. You scored two wins, six podiums, and nearly nabbed a third win at Laguna Seca – missing out by just a thousandth of a second at the checkered flag! How easy has it been moving from the 125cc to the 600cc Supersport machine? Mercado: The 600cc has more power and a little more weight, but it’s been going really well and I’m definitely getting used to the bike. PB: How do you stay fit? Mercado: I work out every morning at the gym doing free weights, and then in the afternoon I usually get on a motorcycle. My training includes a lot of dirt and Supermoto riding. There’s a lot of training, that’s for sure! PB: What’s your favorite section of the Infineon track? Mercado: I like Infineon very much. It’s a technical track with lots of uphill and downhill sections. I like the Turn 6 carousel and the drive up the hill toward Turn 2. PB: Any hobbies away from the track? Mercado: What else is there other than motorcycle racing? (laughing). No, not really any hobbies, just a little bit of time on the computer, hanging out with friends, that sort of thing. PB: Have you seen any movies recently? Mercado: The new X-Men film – it was great! PB: Since you now live here in the United States, does your family ever come from Argentina to see you race? Have they seen any of your victories? Mercado: Yes, my Dad comes to some of the races, and he’s seen me win – he was very happy! PB: Thanks for your time, Leandro – it was great talking to you. Mercado: Thank you!

ISSUE 4 > 2009


Stay Sharp in Cold Weather Riding Season Words: Walt Fulton, Photos: Nancy Foote and Walt Fulton

Riding a motorcycle and performing all the necessary tasks to perfection, even in perfect conditions, can present a challenge to many. What are these “perfect conditions?” Let’s start with little or no traffic, a warm day, sun and wind at your back and a ribbon of asphalt as smooth as a billiard table that disappears over the horizon. Good start? As long as the rain doesn’t turn to snow and the mercury doesn’t drop below freezing, there isn’t any reason to stop riding, but you do need to approach this challenge from a different perspective. We’re starting to see an even greater number of beneficial features available on various high-end two-wheelers that can help reduce a rider’s workload in lowtraction conditions. ABS, both linked and non-linked, and traction control can make the complex task of properly managing traction less intensive for the rider.

Walt Fulton has been riding motorcycles for the past five decades, and is a former three-time winner at Daytona, and factory racer for Suzuki, Kawasaki and Harley-Davidson. Walt was a featured rider in the iconic motorcycle documentary “On Any Sunday.” Despite his busy schedule, Walt logs an average of 100,000 miles per year. He has worked as an expert in the field of crash investigation and reconstruction for the past 30 years. He is a riding instructor and founder of California-based StreetMasters Motorcycle Workshops. For additional information, visit



The downside to ABS and traction control is that riders can now afford to be lazy. Braking can now be accomplished by grabbing a handful of front brake and standing on the rear brake with no concern of locking either wheel. The technique of reach and squeeze finesse may soon be an artifact of the past. Traction control allows a rider to accelerate out of a wet corner by snapping the throttle to the wide-open stop with no impunity while the computer sorts out and eliminates wheel spin. In both examples, ones’ practiced techniques and finely honed skills will tend to evaporate. As a suggestion, don’t buy into this advanced technology hook, line and sinker and allow your skills to atrophy. Continue using the “proper” skills and save the technology as your safety margin, should you misjudge. Put another way, don’t push your envelope by counting on technology to save your bacon. There are other considerations that are perhaps more important than the safety margin offered by today’s technology. With enough precipitation a pot hole can fill up with water and literally disappear from sight. Not only does wet pavement offer reduced traction, painted lines and metal manhole covers can be as slippery as ice

and should be avoided. And with reduced visibility, debris is more difficult to see. Traction control doesn’t prevent the front wheel from slipping out from under you. The only way to manage these and other issues brought on by inclement weather is to reduce your speed, increase following distance and become more vigilant than ever. Keep in mind the higher the speed, the less distance and, subsequently, less time you have to respond to a hazard. And finally, consider your own comfort and the need to stay dry and warm. An investment in high-quality riding gear that is waterproof, warm and will allow you to maintain mobility and dexterity is a must. There is a lot of gear available that will keep you dry, and layering used to be the means to keep warm. Unfortunately, as the temperature plummets you may find yourself layered up to look like the Michelin Man and still be cold – there goes your mobility and dexterity. Don’t forget that riding even in moderate temperatures can be debilitating due to the wind-chill factor. Today, your best choice to stay warm is to go electric—from shoulders to toes. Electrics offer a light-weight, non-bulky means to stay toasty warm.

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Riders of kawasaki Get added value from: Get a $50 Kawasaki Gift Certificate when you successfully complete a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) street or dirt course, or a Keith Code California Superbike School. Send a copy of your completion certificate and we’ll send you a gift certificate redeemable toward the purchase of apparel, parts, accessories, or service at any authorized Kawasaki dealership. For additional information, visit GEICO offers insurance policies created especially for motorcyclists without breaking the bank. And if you own more than one, you can save money with their multiple-motorcycle discount. Get a winter lay-up credit with the Sunny Day Riding program. For more information, visit For those times when you run out of gas, get a flat tire, or need towing, you can count on Road America for 24-hour motorcycle roadside assistance. Get up to $250 coverage per incident with a premium ROK membership. For additional information, call 1-877-ROK-CLUB or visit With JC Motors Motorcycle Shipping you can take your motorcycle with you when traveling throughout North America and abroad. Save $50 on each one-way domestic shipment, or $100 on each roundtrip domestic shipment. Get door-to-door pick-up and delivery from a business or residence, and track your shipment on their 24-hour real-time satellite system. To schedule a shipment, visit www. and mention ROK.


Get added piece of mind with a Medical Air Services Association membership. Designed to help save lives and protect members from catastrophic financial loss when medical emergencies arise that require air and/or ground ambulances from home or while traveling. The $60 initiation fee is waived for ROK members. For more information, visit Sign-up for a class with Keith Code’s California Superbike School and get access to leathers and other gear for the day, plus free lap times. For more information and to check out the class schedule, visit and mention ROK. When you need custom parts and accessories that offer style and attitude for your Kawasaki cruiser choose Baron Custom Accessories. Their product lineup includes performance intake and exhaust systems, custom handlebars, engine guards, floorboards, lowering kits, air-ride suspension kits, wheels, chrome parts and a whole lot more. ROK members get 10 percent off all Baron products, free shipping (some restrictions apply), and free online customizing assistance. Plus, schedule a VIB (Very Important Biker) tour and receive a complimentary gift. For more information, visit www. and mention ROK during checkout. From basic to advanced adventure training, to multi-day tours, rallies and special events RawHyde has an adventure opportunity for you. Get 15 percent off an intro or advanced training class, and $500 off any RawHyde Adventures expedition or tour. For more information, visit and mention ROK.


Leandro Mercado 2009 AMA Pro SuperSport National Champion

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