This Month’s Adventure Is In Italian
Inside: T he 2017 Ducati Multistrada 950 • Racing Not Bad For A Girl • Random Scootering
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Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly® #184 June 2017
Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly®
Table of Contents June 2017 3
From The Hip
All The News That Fits Road Rash
REVIEW WRANGLER David Soderholm
Geezer With A Grudge The Unexpected
Paul Berglund Thomas Day David Harrington
CONTRIBUTORS Alan Amesbury Dave Bork Tim Erickson Harry Martin Steve Tiedman Tammy Wanchena
Photo by Bruce Mike
From The Hip
WEBMASTER Julie S. Mike Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly® is published nine times a year by: Hartman Press, Inc. 7265 Balsam Lane North Maple Grove, MN 55369 Phone: 763.315.5396 email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.mnmotorcycle.com Subscriptions are available for $14.00 a year (U.S. funds). See subscription form below. Advertising inquiries: email@example.com 763.315.5396 Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly encourages your submissions. M.M.M. will edit all accepted submissions and retains nonexclusive, multiple use rights to work published in M.M.M. Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly will return submissions only if accompanied by an SASE. “Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly” is a registered trademark. Copyright 2017 by Hartman Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
Bike Review The 2017 Ducati Multistrada 950
Tales From The Road Odd Bike For Sarah Mae
By Bruce Mike
couple of weeks ago my cousin was killed while driving his moped. He was traveling north on Central Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis. While crossing Lowry Avenue, with a green light, an SUV traveling south, turned left in front of him, failing to yield to oncoming traffic. It was 10:30 at night on a Thursday. I live in Northeast and traffic on Central at that time is not very busy. The driver of the SUV was obviously not paying attention. My cousin was a very experienced rider. He had more miles on a moped than most motorcycle riders have. A few years ago my wife and I were on a motorcycle trip. We were in Lafayette Indiana on our way home when a car in opposing traffic turned left in front of her at a green light. Failing to yield to oncoming traffic. I was driving my bike behind my wife and I saw the young man speed through the turn without even looking. Her wrist was broken and still causes her pain today. Failing to yield to oncoming traffic is against the law. Unfortunately you only get a ticket for failing to yield when you cause an accident when doing it.
Left turns are always dangerous. That’s why vehicle navigation systems try to route you to your destination making as few left turns as possible. I am very cautious regarding left turns. When I approach an intersection, opposing traffic turning left is as much of a concern to me as vehicles crossing in front of me. Especially when I’m on a motorcycle. I have been teased while traveling because I will skip gas stations and food stops that are on the left in favor of something on the right.
I have a commercial drivers license and in the defensive driving classes I had we were told repeatedly that nearly all accidents can be avoided. I truly believe this. If everybody on the road were paying attention then most accidents wouldn’t happen. When I say paying attention I’m talking about focusing on the task of driving. This means you are doing the best you possibly can driving your vehicle. This means you’re not drinking then driving, you’re not texting, you’re not talking on your phone, you’re not playing with your radio, you’re driving and that’s it. If there are traffic situations that confuse you — What to do at a four-way stop? — How to properly merge into traffic? — What to do when an emergency vehicle with flashing lights is on the same road as you? — Take some time when you are not driving to ask Google, or whatever your search engine of choice is, what to do in these situations.
Driving a motorcycle requires constant focus. One of my favorite things about being on a motorcycle is the fact that it is just me in my helmet. No music, no phone, nobody talking to me. It’s just me and the bike. In today’s driving environment I have to drive like I’m invisible. Cars today are designed to distract you while you drive. They have navigation screens on the dashboard, power ports, USB ports, cameras, 35 cup holders and DVD players. I have to assume nobody sees me. I realize, in regards to our readers, that I’m preaching to the choir but I’m hoping people will share this article with others and maybe one person will pay closer attention when they make left turns and they will yield to the oncoming motorcycle/vehicle. That simple pause and everybody’s life goes on. Rest in peace Jim Pederson. You will be missed by many.
Movie Review Unchained: The Untold Story of Freestyle Motocross Feature Not Bad For A Girl Calendar
Random Scootering Review of the Piaggio Liberty 150
Feature Return Of The Drifter Cover photo by Dave Bork Review Bike Provided By Moon Motorsports 3613 Chelsea Rd W Monticello, MN 55362 (763) 295-2920 moonmotorsports.com
Je Suis Charlie
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Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly® #184 June 2017
All The News That Fits Ducati For Sale Got 1.5 billion Euros burning a hole in your pocket? Volkswagen, the parent company of Ducati is considering the sale as part of the automaker’s effort to streamline operations, according to a report from Reuters news service. The automaker is still cleaning up after it was rocked by the emissions scandal. According to sources, Volkswagen is reaching out to potential buyers, but hasn’t announced who those buyers are. Speculation is varied on who may be interested, but some indications point toward India’s Hero Motorcycles or an unspecified Chinese firm. Volkswagen’s Audi division bought Ducati in 2012 for about $935 million Euros.
The Cannon Ball Memorial
Photo courtesy of ultimatemotorcycling.com
only winning three races outright.
Reigning Supercross champion and Minnesota’s own, Ryan Dungey has announced he is retiring from professional racing. In an announcement that shocked many, Dungey’s retirement comes when he appeared to be at the pinnacle of the sport. He just secured his third consecutive AMA 450SX championship in a hard fought season. He won the championship in what would be the final race of his career.
Dungey leaves with an impressive list of accomplishments to his name. He won a total of nine AMA Championships including: four AMA 450SX titles (2017, 2016, 2015, 2012), three AMA 450 Class MX titles (2015, 2012, 2010), an AMA West Coast SX Lites title (2009) and an AMA 250 Class MX title (2009). Beyond that, Dungey was a critical part of the U.S. Team’s success at the Motocross des Nations in 2009, 2010 and 2011 helping bring home three championships. Dungey revealed in an interview that this was the hardest fought championship win for him. He feels that he is at the top of his game physically, but struggled mentally to be as focused as needed to continue winning. It showed throughout the year with Dungey
He did not announce any future plans, but did state he will remain involved in the sport and try to make it better. (MMM has a standing offer for Mr. Dungey to contribute stories, air out test bikes over big jumps, or enter local MX races under an assumed name- Ed.)
Nicky Hayden Seriously Injured Former MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden has been hospitalized in intensive care in an Italian hospital after being injured in a bicycling accident on May 17th. The Kentucky native was on a training ride near the Italian town of Rimini after he had competed in a Superbike World Championship race in Imola the previous weekend. According to reports he suffered injuries to his chest and head and was placed in a medically induced coma. A statement from the hospital stated “[Hayden] is still in the intensive care unit ... [and] has suffered a serious polytrauma with subsequent serious cerebral damage, …the prognosis remains reserved.” Details were still limited as we went to press, but early reports are that Hayden was hit broadside by a car in an intersection.
Erwin G. “Cannon Ball” Baker will be memorialized by a group of residents from Garfield Park, Indiana who are raising money to erect a historic marker in front of a house where Baker lived for more than 30 years. Born in Indiana, Baker was a motorcycling pioneer who set dozens of cross-country records riding a variety of motorcycles. Baker began riding in 1908 on an Indian motorcycle, entering races and even won the first race ever held at the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909. He earned his nickname after a record-setting transcontinental ride in 1914 when a New York newspaper writer compared him to the Cannon Ball Express train. From the 1910s through the 1930s, he set 143 riding and driving records. His best remembered record was a 1933 New York City to Los Angeles trek, setting a 53.5 hour record that stood for nearly 40 years and was the impetus for the legendary Cannon Ball Run. Efforts to raise money for the marker have included several events and raffles. Anyone interested in donating to the cause can find out more information through the Garfield Park Neighborhood Association http://www.garfieldparkneighbors.com/.
A Win for Off Road Riders President Donald Trump has ordered a review of all national monument designations that are greater than 100,000 acres made by administrations during the past 21 years under the American Antiquities Act of 1906. The review is to be conducted by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who has 45 days to submit interim recommendations and 120 days to submit suggestions for legislation or recommend that the president reduce the size of monuments larger than 100,000 acres or rescind the designations altogether. The legal power of a president to rescind monument designations is uncertain. But some presidents have used their authority to resize monuments designated by previous administrations. This is considered a major win for off road riders which have seen previously accessible land closed off through what the American Motorcyclist Association saw as an over use of the American Antiquities Act by previous presidents in a bid to appease environmental activists MMM
Photo courtesy of FC Motogp
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Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly® #184 June 2017
Geezer With A Grudge
By Thomas Day
ut of some sort of cosmic coincidence, the last week has been a regular repeat of unexpected events, most of them bad; or they would have been bad if I were any kind of optimist. I’m not optimistic at all. I’m as brutally realistic as I can manage and I am always anticipating something weird to happen at the least convenient time. (Yeah, Murphy. Get over it. I’m on to you.) I scan the horizon aggressively for everything from drunk-or-cell-phone-disabled drivers to chunks of cars dislodging and bouncing down the highway at me. I assume every car owner is a moron and has a chimp’s driving skills. I assume that anything on a truck was tied down by a thumb-less gorilla who was more interested in his next break than worrying about what tons of crap set loose on the freeway would destroy. In fact, driving heavily occupied roads usually reinforces my low opinion of the human species. (We’re not quick or coordinated enough to be called “the human race.”) My wife thinks I’m paranoid. It’s possible, but I’m comfortable with the thought that “you’re not paranoid if they are really out to get you.” Like most cagers, she often rolls through stop signs without looking in any direction but the one she is traveling. She often dives deep into corners at speed, realizing too late that she is carrying too much speed, and bails out on the gas and even
The Unexpected? brakes when either of those moves is exactly wrong. Like 90% of Minnesotans, she will leave a stop sign or light and, ten feet later, hit the brakes before making a left or right turn. Like almost all Minnesotans, she can’t merge and has no idea what “tailgating” means in terms of speed and distance. If I were afraid of dying, I’d be cowering on the floor when she drives. I’m not, so I usually just ignore the threats and read while she’s behind the wheel. I’d rather risk death than drive myself, so it’s a fair tradeoff. On the other hand, when I’m driving she thinks I’m way too cautious. I brake before most intersections if I see any sign that another car might not be slowing for a stop light or sign. I either hold back or hammer my way past semis on the freeway, because I wouldn’t trust truck driver skills or their ability to see me with your life. If someone tailgates me, I slow down to force them past or back. I don’t pay any attention to their hand signals they offer when they finally grow a pair and pass me. There is no chance in hell that I’m ever going to like or respect someone dumb enough to tailgate, so I don’t care what they think of me. The list of unexpected/expected stupid moves from other road users, just this past week, includes two high speed ignored stop lights, one wrong-way on a one-way SUV dimbulb, a half-dozen three lane sweeps from the left lane to an exit by clueless morons who were so infatuated with their cell phone WMD
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that they probably didn’t hear the chorus of horns and screeching tires, and one cell phone idiot who failed to notice that traffic had stopped until he was less than thirty feet from my tail light. I treat my morning and evening commute like a sporting event or a gun fight where I am only armed with a knife. Being among fools and crazies is invigorating. A near miss reminds me that life is precious, short, and nobody gets out alive. A half-dozen near misses reminds me that when the next killer asteroid arrives humans will be long past due for extinction. A dirt biking friend spent the last two years rehab’ing from major back injuries. No, he didn’t crash on a motocross track. He was driving his family home from church when a brain-dead old fart failed to notice the red stop light or the stopped vehicle at the light and plowed into the back of my friend’s minivan and put most of his family in the hospital. An acquaintance spent a couple of years recovering from being run over by a UPS truck that failed to measure a turn and hopped over the curb and hit a couple
of pedestrians who were on the sidewalk. A few years back, a friend in California barely escaped getting killed in his own living room when a speeding moron hopped the curb and plowed into the front of the house. I have some big rocks and a guard rail decorating the front of my house in commemoration (and avoidance) of that event. Supposedly, P.T. Barnum said, “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” Political parties count on that fact, too. My take is that no motorcyclist was ever injured by assuming every cager on the highway is an idiot. There are exceptions, but they are rare enough that they won’t mess with the general statistic. In other words, the exception proves the rule. It’s silly to assume cagers are homicidal. Homicide requires intent and a small degree of cleverness. Most cagers are rarely involved in their driving enough to bother with planning or skill, but incompetence, carelessness, and inattention will kill you just as dead as murderous intent. MMM
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Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly® #184 June 2017
2017 Ducati Multistrada 950 — T N
By Tim Erickson ew for 2017, Ducati downsized its Multistrada platform into a middleweight, just shy of the liter-class..
First, a few clarifications: 1) Physical dimensions are shared with the larger Multistrada 1200; and 2) there is not a smaller version to claim the 950 as middle ground. However, with the popularity of small-displacement (and lower price point) adventure bikes, it wouldn’t surprise us in the least if Ducati’s future product plans included an entry-point Multistrada housing the Monster’s 690 mill. It makes perfect sense to us to launch first the hero model then follow with the lower classes once the business is proven and tooling is financed by happy consumers. Furthermore, classifying the 950 as a middleweight is appropriate – the $13,995 MSRP bike is better poised for the mainstream budget, as well as the mainstream performance delivery.
Heart of the Matter The engine, a 937cc Testastretta Desmovalved twin with a claimed 113 hp output at 9,000 rpm, is shared with the Hypermotard. It features new cylinder heads with redesigned oiling, as well as Ride-by-Wire throttle directing fuel through the 53mm throttle bodies. It’s tucked into a familiar Ducati trellis frame. Engine response is instant and the torque peaks at 7,500 rpm, though we noticed broad power from 3,500 until the needle and over-rev warning lights on the dash flashed yellow. There is also a significant change in intake noise starting just shy of 5,000 rpm, though we’d call it more exhilarating than annoying. A host of electronics supervises power to the ground. Dubbed the Ducati Safety Pack (DSP), the system includes both ABS and Ducati Traction Control with four riding modes: Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro.
Multistrada in Multi Settings We spent time in both the Sport and Touring modes, and while it was difficult to detect significant power delivery differences from the saddle that a dyno might identify, there was a change to braking sensitivity. The Bosch ABS system directs squeeze on Bremo calipers and is integrated with the four drive modes. Sport was less restrictive and allowed a bit of wheel spin in the gravel where Touring had a lower threshold and due to limited wheel spin, acceleration felt more productive in the gravel.
Photo By Steve Tiedman
Beauty, eh? Our test unit was dressed in Star Silk White. The other color is red, of course. factory settings, contributing to better bite for extended gravel or trail runs. But we didn’t play with suspension settings to confirm. And suspension settings there are, manually adjusted. Ducati left off the semi-active and electronic damping adjustments found on the hero $17,995 1200 Multistrada, which combined with the omission of the cornerassisting ABS system as well, are significant contributors to the $4,000 lower base price of the nine-fiddy. While there are better bikes for off-pavement work, on road the Multistrada 950 shines. The suspension offered nice feedback to the road, turn-in was effortless and the corner to corner thrust was addictive. Yes, more power is available for those who have to have the
biggest, but the middleweight bike is well tuned and a more practical powerplant for most riders. For those familiar and experienced with liter-twins, there weren’t any scary-fast moments during our test ride. In short, it’s an engine that riders can make use of its full powerband without a nervous input hand that can get you into trouble quickly. This machine is well poised, and well mannered on paved surfaces. Some of the on road behavior and confidence-inspiring spirit comes from the ergonomics. Like other adventure bikes, the wide, straight bars provide great leverage and a comfortable, squared-off posture. The seat is comfortable for day-long rides and the 5.3 gallon tank offers about 200 miles of range, including reserve.
For those considering this machine for touring, we recommend considering a few alterations. The seat height is 33.1 inches, and the pegs are positioned 18.9 inches off the pavement. This translates to a short seat to peg height for taller riders. There is a taller seat in the Ducati catalog for this purpose. Also, while we liked the adjustment range of the 5-position, manual-adjust windscreen and it was adequate for the majority of the miles we covered, a wider window would better defect side draft and provide better protection for long highway journeys. Instrumentation is all handled by the centerconsole-mounted LCD. There are two trip meters, engine temp, ambient air temp, average speed, fuel range, and more all toggled with the left thumb. When the bike is off, the LCD and toggle action also control the ECU map settings and various drive modes. There is not a dedicated “home” function on the LCD other than speed and tach, so the rider can choose what to display. Hopefully, it’s not the clock with a deadline to be somewhere. Why? This bike is pure joy to ride, and we were reluctant to return it. It corners so effortlessly, and power is so predictable it puts it in elite category as a master of do-all motorcycling. It’s no wonder this class of motorcycle has become more popular than Trump’s Twitter account – we pity those who are trying to sell a sport tourer in today’s used market. And for the adventure class of motorcycle, the Ducati Multistrada 950 is near the top of the list.
Though the electronics help with traction and braking in less than ideal conditions and circumstances, it was hard not to notice the Multristrada’s on-road bias. It wears Pirelli Scorpion Trail II tires on the 19-inch front wheel and the 17-inch rear, and the Ducati literature states the tires are a marriage of off road and touring. On remote, loose gravel roads where we were able to confirm traction control interruption with ham-fisted acceleration, when not on the gas the front end surfed about on the loose earth. It wasn’t a nervous feeling – more of a compromise with the relatively light weight and choice of rubber. It’s likely that softer front damping would allow the bike to sit into the front for more forward weight bias than the
Making it Yours
Special thanks to Moon Motors and Kyle Erickson for making this road test possible. Interested to check it out for yourself ? Head to Moon for a demo ride – tell them your interest piqued in MMM. Photo by Tim Erickson
The 937cc, 4-valve Testastretta liquid twin spools 113 peak hp. Its performance is adequate, exhilarating and practical for heart-of-the-market consumers.
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Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly® #184 June 2017
The Not-Yet Middle Middleweight C
By Steve Tiedman apt. Kirk to Mr. Scott- “Scotty, we need warp speed!”
“Aye, Captain, just put it into Sport mode, you’ll have all the warp speed you can handle!” Okay, the 2017 Ducati Multistrada 950 isn’t the Starship Enterprise, but like the Enterprise, it is more than capable of going stupid fast, quickly. I haven’t had the chance to ride its bigger sibling, the Multistrada 1200, but the new 950 chops CC’s, overall power, some features, and a little weight. And dollars, about 4,000 less of those! At a claimed 113hp, and 71lb-ft of torque, the re-worked 937cc L-twin, 4-valve (per head) Testastretta engine slings this 500lb (wet) Italian dual sport/adventure bike down the strada with ease. The engine does not like to lug, but once you’ve got the rev’s up to 3,000rpm and beyond, the engine reacts quickly and happily. I rode this demo bike, courtesy of Moon Motorsports, Monticello, MN, for 2.5 days and a couple hundred miles, in both good and bad weather. On Day 1, I was in “Sport” mode. The reaction time of the engine to throttle input was just short of wheelie-popping fast. Or, maybe it is that fast? Anyway, if you watch the LCD dashboard screen rather than the road, you’ll see the bar graph tach go ripping across the screen as the digital speedo is shooting up toward 3-digit territory, and that’s just third into fourth gear. For Day 2, I switched the engine management to “Touring”, and I found my just-right mode. Acceleration was still abundant, but more manageable and with less chance of getting myself into trouble. (There are also the “Urban” and “Enduro” modes.) Each of the 4 modes can be further customized to meet your needs; this is all explained in the comprehensive owner’s manual. The gear shift lever requires a firm and positive movement to avoid false neutrals. The dashboard gear indicator shows where you just shifted to, but when letting out the clutch lever several times I found myself in a false neutral. Also, the gear shift lever itself felt gritty when moving it, especially in the lower gears. And finding the real neutral was
easier going all the way down to first, then up to neutral. New bike break-in? The cable-actuated wet slipper clutch seems smooth and forgiving, shifting up or down. Yep, it sure goes, but how does it stop? The front dual disc brakes with Brembo calipers work well, but seemed a bit soft to me. I’m not sure what was happening out back, because the rear brake is, in a word, worthless. Seriously, I could not tell the difference between front/rear stopping and front-only stopping. And because the front brakes are carrying so much of the stopping load, there was quite a bit of fork dive on everything but the gentlest of stops. Maybe this was unique to this particular bike, but at over 700 miles on the odometer, I’d expect the brakes to be broken in and working at their peak. What about handling? It’s a large bike, but for its size, the “feels lighter than 500 pounds” adventurer handled pretty well, feeling like it has a fairly neutral center of gravity. Tight U-turns on narrow country roads were easy, as were general curvy conditions at modest speeds. At highway speeds, the 950 wanted to hold a line, almost to a fault. I easily put it where I wanted it to go, and once in that transitional orientation, it wanted to stay there until I would bring it back the other way. Quite gyroscopic. Suspension, front and rear, is manually adjustable for rebound, compression, and pre-load, and each end moves 6.7 inches. On the morning of Day 3, as I left home to return the bike, I was greeted with 40 miles of heavy rain and stiff winds, and the bike did not flinch while roaring through it. The Multistrada 950 was very stable in windy and wet conditions on the interstate. Up at the handlebar, there are many things that you can do along with steering the bike. The engine modes, and many other features on the dark-on-light LCD screen, are controlled at the left thumb with easy-to-use buttons. The monotone screen is a good size, it’s easy to read in the sun, and shows a lot of data. All gauges are on this screen. The hand levers and foot pedals are adjustable to suit your needs. Having ride-by-wire technology, cruise control would be nice to have. (My beloved Kuryakyn Universal Throttle Boss helped a lot.) Ergonomics. Well… I like to state my body
Photo by Steve Tiedman
Ducati style is distinct. This bike looks like a bird of prey.
Photo by Steve Tiedman
The windshield is indexed with 5 different height positions, and the LCD panel is loaded with useful rider information toggled with the left controls dimensions so you can get a comparison to yourself. I’m 6-feet tall, 215 pounds, with a 36-inch waist and a 30-inch inseam, so my upper body is a bit taller than average. (Speaking of weight, the bike has a max. weight, bike and loads, of 992 pounds, giving a load carrying capacity of 492 pounds of people, luggage, and gear. That’s very good.) Seat-to-handlebar reach was relaxed, the handlebar is wide and high, and provides lots of leverage for making the bike respond to your steering inputs. Handlebar vibration was minimal and not bothersome at any rpm. The seat-to-foot peg reach is pretty good, giving me just about 90-degrees of knee bend, placing my foot below my thigh. The cleated pegs have a thick, soft rubber pad (easily removable for standing/adventure riding) that worked very well to nearly eliminate any vibration from reaching my feet. But, the rubber pad is shorter than the peg length, and with the soft rubber my feet felt like they wanted to roll off the pegs. I removed the pads to check the difference- vibration was insignificant and I never thought twice about it, but having the full length of the foot peg under my boot was much more stable and reassuring. I’d leave the pads off. It also allowed my knees to unbend a couple degrees, this was more comfortable than with the pads installed. The foot pegs are quite high from the ground. I can’t imagine dragging these pegs during hard leaning (they don’t even come with scrapers), so having a lowered peg would improve comfort for anyone with legs longer than 30 inches, or, um, knees that have been around the block a few times. Maybe the aftermarket will bring out a lowering kit. Standard rider seat height from the ground is 33 inches, putting my boot heels about an inch off the ground. Shorter and taller seats, about 3/4 inch each way, are available. And then there is the added height of the passenger seat and rear luggage rack, bringing your leg swing-over height 5 or 6 inches higher, without saddlebags or a top case. For those who may have inseam measurements less than 30 inches or so, a quick web search found at least one method for low-
ering the rear end by 25mm (1 inch). This may necessitate raising the fork in the triple clamps to maintain the bike’s geometry, which could lead to needing a shorter side stand… The stout, adjustable windshield worked well, with just mild helmet buffeting at highway speeds while letting the right amount of air flow around my body. Bending down and forward just a little bit, I found smooth, clean air at my helmet, but this was not a natural seating position. For most motorcycles, accessory or aftermarket windshields often bring improvement, but I’d try this windshield before shopping for a replacement. I wanted so much to ride a 400-mile day on the Multistrada 950, but, the seat... There’s no way to be diplomatic about it; the stock seat on this motorcycle is bad. The factory seat was uncomfortable from mile 1, and painful by mile 20. There is effectively no flat surface for your rear end to sit upon; you are either too far back sitting on an upward curve (where your pants stick to the upholstery, yet your body wants to sink downward/forward inside your pants… causing accelerated monkey-butt syndrome), or if you lift and move even a fraction of an inch forward, suddenly your, uh, “front bits” (male for sure, and probably both genders) are pushing right into the front upward slope of the seat. It’s yet another seat that is fashioned to flow with the lines of the bike rather than provide comfort for the rider. With the price of motorcycles today, especially “all-day” motorcycles, seating needs to be at its best first, and look pretty last. Maybe the aftermarket, or a local upholstery shop can help. The Multistrada 950 is a dual sport/adventure bike, as a segment they are meant to be ridden long distances in comfort. With this seat, I was not able to ride long distances. But with the big cost savings over the Multistrada 1200, you’ll have plenty of cash to fix that seat, and outfit the bike for your next long adventure. Many thanks to Moon Motorsports for the use of the Ducati Multistrada 950.
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Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly® #184 June 2017
Tales From The Road
Odd Bike For Sarah Mae
By Paul Berglund MMMRoadTales@gmail.com
learned to ride a street bike in a vacuum. I didn’t know any riders, I was self taught. I came to off road riding late in life, and by then I had some friends. Several of my riding friends took notice and started riding off road too. Of those I “infected” some grew to love it and others got their fill and moved on to other things. I was never an evangelist for motorcycle riding. I don’t try to recruit non-riders into the fold. I feel that motorcycling can’t be imposed on someone. They have to really want to ride a motorcycle. Motorcycle riders only make up 2 to 3 percent of the American population. We are a rare bread. Not everyone is cut out to be a rider. Most people can easily be talked out of riding a motorcycle. It’s dangerous, you get rained on, etc. I know it’s better for the “sport” if the motorcycling industry is healthy and growing. The plain fact is, most people shouldn’t be out on the road riding motorcycles. If you see how badly the average car is driven, you may agree. And yet from time to time a person comes along that really wants to ride a motorcycle. They have a passion for something that I can take for granted. It wakes me up when someone asks me questions about riding and I have to think about what I’m doing. I have to get my head back into the game. I try to help the new rider when I can and usually it helps me be a better rider. If that passionate person wants to learn to be a street rider I hand them off to one of the many excellent classes like the state run MSF program, (http://www.msf-usa.org/brc.aspx). I can help refine a rider’s skill set, but teaching the fundamentals is beyond my abillities. We all have to be aware of the new rider and help them. We often form loose riding groups to hit the twisty roads of Wisconsin or to buzz up to Duluth to check out the latest product at Aerostich. Some new riders won’t blend well with the group, others will. For the sake of the sport of motorcycling we should keep an open mind. I’ve complained in the past about the riders that didn’t fit in to the mix in past articles, but I’d like to dedicate this to someone that has. Her name is Sarah Mae. My Friend Sev and I had been riding various places together for years. He had ridden his dual sport bike to a coffee shop and was sitting outside having a cup of coffee. When a rider pulled up on her
Photo by Fontana Fotos
vintage Honda street bike. She had just read an article about off road motorcycles in a glossy Over Landing magazine. She recognized that Sev’s motorcycle was one of those kind of motorcycles and was intrigued to learn more about it. Sev and Sarah Mae had several conversations about off road riding before I was dragged in by the gravitational pull of Sarah Mae’s passion. We helped her find an off road bike. She picked a used Yamaha XT225, and we were very proud. She took an MSF off road class and as fate would have it Sev and I were leaving for Moab, Utah right after that. The trails out there are epic, not the place for a new rider, but Sarah Mae despite struggling from time to time, became a huge fan of the adventure lifestyle. And the three of us became great friends. We took our new friend on several on and off road motorcycle rides in the following years. She improved both on and off road but seamed to hit a plateau in her street riding. We all agreed that it was the Vintage Honda 360 that was holding her back. It was time for a new street bike. Sarah Mae is very practical and insisted on selling her current bike before buying her next bike. So Sev and I waited patiently for that process to take place. Finally last fall we
waved goodbye to the Honda. The next step was for Sarah Mae to set up a motorcycle slush fund and narrow down her options. There are so many great choices for a modern road bike that narrowing down the hunt can be very intimidating. The one thing the bike had to do was be capable of riding to Montana to see her grandmother. That didn’t narrow down her options much. There are dozens and dozens of bikes that would do that. So we kept adding features to the dream bike to eliminate potential candidates. The bike had to be comfortable for long distant travel. It had to be able to haul some luggage, ether hard or soft, and finally it should be able to handle a dirt road or two because the adventure bug had bit her hard. Now I could harness my Craig’s List skills and use them for good. Over the course of the winter I sent her links to bikes for sale and she would examine them and those that showed promise, she researched further. As 2017 began to tick buy, I began to wonder if Sarah Mae had brain lock from looking at so many motorcycles online. Each week I’d send a new batch and once a month or so we’d meet for breakfast and discuss the merits of each bike while I stuffed myself with blueberry pancakes and coffee. (Another favorite pastime
Photo by Paul Berglund
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of mine.) Still no results on finding that perfect bike. Then one day in April I sent her a bike that she had never seen before. It was a 2010 KTM 990 SMT. Lots of avid motorcyclists have never heard of it. It got fantastic reviews and sold reasonably well, but was eventually dropped from the KTM line up. Instantly, that was the bike she wanted. She had found her dream bike. By the time we coordinated our attack, the bike was sold. We broadened our search and found several sprinkled all around the continental US. The winner turned out to be in Madison Wisconsin. The three amigos jumped into Sarah Mae’s car and we drove off. It met every one’s expectations. Money changed hands and Sarah Mae saddled up. As Sev and I followed in the chase vehicle we were amazed to see Sarah Mae’s riding style transformed from stodgy and hesitant to fluid and dynamic. It was that old bike holding her back! Like a butterfly, a new rider had emerged. All across Wisconsin we celebrated at every gas stop, lunch stop and Ice cream stop. I’m both humbled and proud to have been a part of this match making. The best is yet to come, for tomorrow, we ride!. MMM
Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly® #184 June 2017
Unchained: The Untold Story of Freestyle Motocross
Directed by Paul Taublieb and Jon Freeman Taublieb Films, 2016 92 minutes, Unrated By Tammy Wanchena
n 1988, my best friend, Pam and I saw Imagine: John Lennon. We left the theater planning our next album in spite of the fact that neither of us played any instruments or had an ounce of musical talent. Now, almost thirty years later and in my mid-forties, I find myself convinced I must ride freestyle motocross thanks to the adrenalin rush of Unchained: The Untold Story of Freestyle Motocross. I challenge anyone to not get swept away by the enthusiasm for riding in this film.
It starts simple enough. The high-pressure world of professional Motocross and Supercross meant the pros went looking for a way to blow off some steam and ride for fun away from the track. Riders would gather at favorite riding spots, goof around on big jumps and pull stunts for the amusement of one another. As happens
anywhere two riders are gathered, they began to try and out do one another. The jumps got bigger, the stunts got crazier, and then the cameras showed up. Many motorcycling legends tell their stories of how they got started in their careers, from the clean cut and boyish Travis Pastrana to tattooed and utterly fearless crash-master Seth Enslow. Mothers and wives talk about how it feels to watch events. I was expecting more guitar-laced montages of sweet jumps and epic crashes. Instead, Unchained gives an inside look from the rider’s perspective to an on the edge sport. This movie speaks to anyone looking to be entertained, regardless of their knowledge of motorcycles. MMM
Not Bad For A Girl
Narrated by Josh Brolin, Unchained covers the story of the birth, growth, and back-story of freestyle motocross. It traces the early days of freestyle from the semi-underground videos like the Crusty Demons of Dirt series, to the rise of freestyle motocross as a legitimate form of competition, and on to it’s arrival at the X Games. You see the highs, the lows, the danger, and the reward found in this unique facet of motorcycling.
By Catten Ely
eing a girl on a bike has its ups and downs. The assumption, the judgments, and the snubs are usually offset by the friendly thumbs ups and community acceptance.
voices behind me. I looked over my shoulder and saw a group of men and boys about 15 feet behind me, respectfully drinking Cokes and assessing my mechanical skills. I was relieved to be able to ride away.
Things happen to us that don’t happen to guys.
On a long trip last year, several travelers asked me where I was headed.
I borrowed my riding buddy’s Aprilia RSV Mille yesterday. It’s big and yellow and loud. It’s tremendous fun to ride, and very different from my everyday dual sport. I took the bike to the place I get my nails done and parked in front. I watched three guys admiring the bike but I didn’t want to deal with questions and I had to get back to work, so I waited until they left. Then I tucked my hair up inside my helmet, donned my armor, and rolled out.
“Idaho,” I said. They looked at my Minnesota plate. “Aren’t you afraid to ride alone?” they asked. Not “Where in Idaho?” or “How long have you been riding?” or any other innocuous questions they could have asked, but aren’t you afraid? Sometimes they ask where my husband is. I never know what to say to these questions. Chances are, they’re just curious. But one might have nefarious intentions, and I have to consider that. ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• A few years ago, I had serious chain trouble near Blanding, Utah. I limped into town, found an Ace Hardware, and dug in to figure out what the problem was. Eventually, I noticed hushed
While I was waiting to pull out onto the highway, one of those guys pulled up next to me on his own bike. “Dude! That’s the sweetest ride I’ve ever seen!” he said enthusiastically. I turned to him, flipped up my visor, and said, “Thanks!” His eyes got big. “Holy %#*&! Oh my god!” Pause. “Are you married?”
••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• Last fall, I was riding home and nailed a perfect no-foot-down stop at a light that was just changing. I’ve been practicing this and was pretty pleased with myself. A block later, I was still patting myself on the back when the black cruiser behind me pulled into the lane next to me at a red light.
(no brake lights) he almost hit a sedan waiting at the light, and I distinctly heard metal on pavement -- probably a floorboard. He leveled it out and I suspected that he thought he was magnificently awesome. Until that unmarked squad he almost hit did a U turn. So yeah, I felt kinda smug. For a girl.
“Not bad for a girl,” the rider shouted.
“I’m sorry, what?” I shouted back. “I said not bad for a girl. That stop.” Feeling unusually cocky, I said, “Thanks. I bet I can outride you anytime.” “I don’t think so!” He yelled. The light on the cross street turned yellow and he revved his engine. This was about to get interesting. He tore away from the light all decibels and testosterone, took the next right so wide
Photo by Alan Amesbury
Calendar Ongoing 2nd Monday of the month, 7:00pm Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Gathering Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, 1618 Central Avenue Northeast, Minneapolis, MN. Not Necessary To Be a Member to Attend Gathering.
Every Tuesday, 5:45-9:00pm Ride To Sir Bendicts Sir Benedict’s Tavern on the Lake, 805 E Superior St, Duluth, MN 55802 Have dinner, talk bikes.
1st Thursday of the month, 5:00 pm Dulano’s Pizza Parking Lot Party 607 W Lake St, Minneapolis, MN Hang out, eat pizza, show off your bike, watch the variety of humanity.
3rd Thursday of the month, 6:00 pm Blue Cat Motorcycle Third Thursday
June 2, The Patriots Tour nationofpatriots.com/tour
June 4, 12:30 pm - 3:30 pm Blessing of the Bikes 2017
460 Prior Avenue North, Saint Paul, MN, bluecatmotorcycle.com Two wheel block party. The action starts at 6:00 PM.
The Patriot Tour is a 100-day, 14,000 mile journey of one American flag with stops in all 48 contiguous United States. The flag is shepherded city-to-city on the back of a motorcycle and escorted by groups of volunteer riders.
events.realchurch.org/event/reserve-botb/ Everyone is welcome. Ride through our church & get your bike blessed. (Not everyone can say they rode their bike in church!)
June June 3, 8:00 am — 13th Annual Motorcycle Run - Chuck’s Ride Fury Motorcycle, 740 North Concord Street, S St Paul, MN — chucksride.com Free pancake breakfast for all registered bikers. Driver: $25.00, Passenger: $15.00 (Run fee includes parade & street dance admission). Parade Leaves 5:00 p.m. Drkula’s 32 Bowl, Inver Grove Heights. Street Dance: 4:00 p.m. South St. Paul VFW, Multiple bands – Indoor and Outdoor stages.
June 3, 10:00 am —10th Annual 2 Wheels 4 Heroes American Legion Lino Lakes, 7731 Lake Drive, Lino Lakes — 2wheels4heroes.com There is no registration fee but donations are appreciated. There will be food, door prizes, and an auction. Proceeds will benefit the Minneapolis Poly Trauma Center.
June 4, Flying Dutchmen M/C Road Run Flyingdutchmencycleclub.com 20513 110th Avenue, New Ulm, MN 56073
June 9 - 11 Northwest chapter of ABATE 29th Annual Spring Ride-In St Hilaire City Park, St Hilaire, MN Ride-In rally. Camping. Live music featuring Catalyst both nights! Food, bike games, beer wagon, free beverages all weekend with wristband. $40 at gate, $30 Day Pass (after sat. Noon). No one under 21, ID’S required at check in. EVERYONE WELCOME! See the most current event listings on our website mnmotorcycle.com. MMM will list your motorcycle event for free as a service to our readers. Email email@example.com
Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly® #184 June 2017
Review of the Piaggio Liberty 150
By David Harrington
ur first scooter review of 2017 and it’s a.... Piaggio. The new (to North America) Piaggio Liberty 150 is a wonderful machine. I tried my best to find things wrong with it and all I could come up with is a kind of weak horn. Most OEM scooter horns are pretty lame, and the Liberty 150 is no exception. Oh yes, it was also a bit of a reach for me to the controls, but I have normal length arms and a long torso. That’s not so much an issue with the scooter as it is just one of the many reasons I can find virtually no off-therack clothing that fits me. Once again, Bob at Scooterville in Minneapolis made this review possible. Bob provided me with an “S” version. It’s an extra $100 over the standard Piaggio Liberty 150 and adds some nice cosmetic features such as black wheels with machined sides. Mechanicals are the same on both versions.
Like most scooters we review, the Piaggio Liberty 150 reads optimistically. The speedometer indicates 10% faster than actual speed. An indicated 30 MPH is actually 27 MPH and an indicated 50 MPH is actually 45 MPH. The odometer was very close to spot on. My 11.1 mile trip to the office (GPS verified) indicated 11.1 on the odometer. This was a brand new scooter that was NOT yet broken in. I expect that both top speed and fuel economy would improve after engine break-in. With some more miles on the Liberty 150 AND a rider who DOESN’T weigh 220 pounds, I would expect top speed and fuel economy to improve. Piaggio claims the Liberty 150 has a top speed of 61 MPH and gets 94 MPG. The fastest GPS speed I saw was 59 MPH so 61 MPH is certainly a possibility. I managed 92 MPG during the review which I consider to be very good. That’s right, 92 MPG on a new scooter carting my massive backside around. Hmmmm, maybe Piaggio’s claim of 94 MPG is.... conservative?!?!?
The mirrors are on long enough stems to allow a wide-load such as myself to see what’s going on behind me. They are also high enough to allow an excellent field of view. This is, sadly, not the case with many scooters. Moving down to the dash we see a clean and simple display with a “fan” speedometer display that is biased to miles for those of us in North America who can’t understand why one ten-thousandth of the length of a quadrant along the Earth’s meridian through Paris, that is the distance from the equator to the north pole, is utilized as a standard measurement by the rest of the world. The small digital display below the speedometer displays the approximate fuel supply, odometer and time. The odometer can be switched to miles or kilometers. There are various warning and indicator lights to the sides. The anti-lock brake light to the left of the speedometer comes on at very low speeds and this is (according to the owner’s manual) normal. Did I mention that the Liberty 150 also has a powered seat latch release? Yes, it does, just like its big brother the BV350. It’s just there on the left hand control. Also a departure from the norm is the mode button on the right hand control. It’s used for changing out the mode of the digital display as well as adjusting the
display and switching from miles to kilometers. These tasks involve various states of the ignition switch and holding, pressing quickly, and pressing and holding of the mode button. Consult the owner’s manual for specifics.
The Piaggio Liberty 150 is powered by a 150cc air-cooled and fuel-injected, single overhead cam three-valve single cylinder engine that generates about 13 horses and 10 footpounds of torque. It gets power to the rear wheel through a CVT automatic transmission. Brakes are anti-lock disc front and drum rear. This is a proper anti-lock system with a sensor ring on the wheel. The front tire is a 90/80 16 incher and the rear tire is a 100/80 14 incher. The rear suspension is a single pre-load adjustable shock absorber.
Storage is pretty decent with a glove box and luggage hook on the inside of the front legshield. The glove box is roomier than some, likely because the battery is located under the seat as opposed to front legshield as is the case with the Piaggio Fly 150. I did hang a cloth grocery bag with about five pounds of stuff in it from the luggage hook and it held the load just fine. There is an adequate “bucket” under the seat along with the fuel filler and a compartment for the battery. A full-face helmet wouldn’t fit, but my XXL three-quarter helmet DID fit. Passenger accommodations are nice with a large seat and flip out foot pegs. The features of the Piaggio Liberty 150 add up to a well designed and well made scooter with high quality components. I really didn’t find much to complain about so far as the features of the Liberty are concerned. OK, the horn is weak, even by scooter standards. Really, that’s about all I can come up with. Let’s get the Piaggio Liberty 150 on the road. In goes the key, turn it to “on” and I can hear the fuel pump doing its thing. Grabbing a brake lever I press the start button and the Liberty springs to life. It seems to search for an idle speed for a moment or two and settles into a smooth (for a single cylinder engine) cadence. There is no balking or hesitation as I pull out of the Scooterville parking lot and onto the road to run top off the tank with fuel and begin my testing.
Ergonomics of the Liberty 150 are very good. The seat is roomy and comfortable, the legroom is good and the riding position was quite nice with just the tiniest bit of a reach for the controls. I didn’t feel I was leaning forward too far, but the reach is just not as perfect as, oh, say, a Vespa GTS. My long-suffering wife Beverly and I rode around a good bit on the Piaggio Liberty and her Honda PCX 150. I hate the OEM seat on the PCX. At first, I only disliked it, now I despise that ridiculous added “hump” just at the pilot’s tailbone. The smooth seat of the Liberty felt MUCH better. The PCX also has a tall center tunnel which limits potential foot positions. Something the true step-through Liberty doesn’t suffer from. I did like the control position of the PCX better, but I would give the overall ergonomics nod to the Liberty. There are general differences inherent in the handling of small wheel (typically 10 inch) and big wheel (14 to 16 inch) scoot-
ers. Without digressing into gyroscopic precession, head angle, trail, rake and other elements, I’ll just say that bigger wheeled scooters tend to be more stable, especially at speeds about 35MPH or so. I’ve spent a bit of time riding The Liberty’s stablemate, the Piaggio Fly 150. They are similar machines, but the Fly rides on 12 inchers front and rear with a 52 inch wheelbase. The Liberty has a 54 inch wheel base and a 16 inch front and 14 inch rear tires. Side-by-side the Fly feels quicker to turn and more nimble, but less stable and smooth especially as the speed increases. The Liberty is certainly responsive in its handling, it just takes a touch more effort to turn than the Fly. The Liberty also soaks up road flaws better than the Fly. The front anti-lock disc brake and rear conventional drum work quite well on the liberty. Modulation was easy, I couldn’t lock up the front, but it felt more than strong enough right up to the point of locking. Most riders will not even notice the ABS brakes (other than the dash indicator light) unless they encounter a hard stop in a low traction situation. Then they will likely be quite happy to have ABS on their scooter. Again, comparing the Liberty and the PCX, I noticed that the PCX responded quicker to my inputs but the Liberty held a line better after slightly more effort to initiate the line. I also felt less of a rough road through the Liberty than I did on the PCX. If I could clone two more of myself (an action specifically prohibited as a potential crime against humanity) and ride a Piaggio Liberty, Fly and Honda PCX at the same time I would likely find that the PCX was slightly quicker off the line and the Liberty was overall faster with the Fly right in the middle. The differences in quickness and top speed are not great between them. The real sweet spot for a good fuel injected 150cc class scooter is in “fast” city speeds: 35MPH to 50MPH. The Liberty would be just about perfect for a surface street machine. Not all that many years ago I found missmatched fasteners, misaligned body panels and low quality plastic and operational components on Piaggios. Then came 2013 and the new generation fuel injected Fly 150. Since then, I have continued to be impressed with the design, component and manufacturing quality that Piaggio has shown. The body panel quality and fit on the Liberty is excellent. I went over the headset in some depth and found even seams and perfect alignment. Take a good look at the dash and you’ll see what I mean. Even the turn signal indicator switch works well (a previous sore spot on
Photo By David Harrington
Piaggios and Vespas) and the components appear to be robust enough to last many years. The colored body panels are beautifully done. The seat stitching and seams are perfect. Jeez, you’d almost think I was describing a Honda. Having recently added a Piaggio BV350 to my stable of scooters, I was looking forward to the Liberty 150. It appears that Piaggio is bringing us new products that are not only on par with Honda, Yamaha and other top tier companies, but doing it at a price point that represents an outstanding value. The Liberty 150 ran flawlessly and everything worked. It’s comfortable, looks great, and has big wheels. Fit for the rider is an important factor in selecting the right scooter. For something small, it’s still tough to beat a Genuine Buddy. Then there’s the Piaggio Fly 150 for those wanting something physically bigger than a Buddy but still smaller wheeled. Now we can add the Piaggio Liberty to the “right choice” category for those looking for an outstanding big-wheeled urban scooter. Again, a big THANK YOU to Bob at Scooterville in Minneapolis for providing the scooter used in this review. Twin Cities scooterist David Harrington owns and operates JustGottaScoot.com
Every issue 1996 thru 2017 — www.mnmotorcycle.com
Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly® #184 June 2017
Return Of The Drifter
By Victor Wanchena
handsome. They pulled away, but I held on to 5th staying out of trouble.
ast year MMM went through its midlife crisis and started racing. First was MX. We weren’t very good. But late winter, while at a MX track, I spotted an event poster for an upcoming flat track race. It got me thinking. After a small bit of cajoling from some known flat-tracking friends, I was in and determined to make a go of it. All my misadventures were chronicled in previous issues of MMM at www.mnmotorcycle.com.
The races went down pretty much like the heats with a couple of notable events. In Vet 30+ a very fast rider lapped me, but we battled through one corner shoulder to shoulder. It was the first time I had real contact with another rider at speed. It wasn’t dramatic. We both knew what we wanted and tried to take it from the other, but didn’t do anything dirty to the other. It was actually neat and made me feel like I was in the race more than I was. I also found myself driving a little farther into the corners and trying to roll on sooner. I was getting more comfortable if not incrementally faster.
A quick recap of the season had me learning some lessons in Beginner Class. I won a race and moved up to Open B. Tried riding little bikes in the Mad Dog Class and failed. Decided I needed a vintage bike. Crashed a few times. Went to school and ended the year with a 2nd place in Open B and 3rd place in Vintage 600. I also screwed myself by finishing well in Open B. You see the top 10% of B riders are automatically bumped up to A Class. So I was now an A Class rider, at least in name. I was busy over the winter during the off-season doing a complete tear down of the Yamaha TT500 that I raced in the Vintage 600 class. I stripped it to the frame, removed all un-need tabs, welds and other crap. I added a few new tabs for number plates, a better rear brake master cylinder, and for vanity sake repainted the frame a consistent shade of black. I also solved a few mechanical mysteries. The TT is a dry sump with an oil tank in the frame. It had always wet-sumped where it would drain much of the oil from the tank into the engine. That meant smoky starts, difficult to read oil levels, and other assorted oiling issues. A new check valve buried deep in the motor fixed part of that, but the other win was figuring our why the oil tank was pressurizing. A little Columbo like detective work led me to a plugged oil tank vent. It vents to the valve cover but had become clogged with oil sludge/coke. The motor internals were examined and refreshed where needed.The big win was when I opened the top end. The piston and bore were in nice shape. The motor runs an 11:1 piston and is bored out pumping the displacement to 540.The big piston is paired with an aftermarket mid-range high lift cam. The mid-range cams are preferred for flat track over the full “race” cams, which make the bike too hard to control and don’t run well below ½ throttle. I replaced thecarb with a fresh 38mm round-slide and added a few other small touches in the name of reliability. I also dropped the front forks 3” and added stiffer springs. I decided to try some cheapo Chinese piggyback shocks off E-Bay. They were scary cheap, but work surprisingly well. I also had a new seat pan welded up and ditched the old bread loaf gutless foam stock seat. For this year I was going to move in to the age grouper class running Vet 30+. I ditched my old KTM 520 and went a little silly buying a fully prepped AMA GNC2 bike from a racer that was getting out of the sport. It’s a 2010 Kawasaki KX450F, was his back up bike, and is ridiculous fast. The motor has all sorts of pro-engine build alchemy involving super high compression piston, head porting and some tissue paper thin head gasket. It’s got cop tires, cop brakes, cop suspension…. you get the picture, and runs on leaded 112! Other than starting it a couple times I did absolutely nothing to it all winter. The few rides around the neighborhood had me concerned if my skills were properly aligned with what the hammer blow from the KX could deliver. So fast-forward to late April, I load up and head trackside to Cedar Valley Arena located in New Richmond, WI. This a short indoor track that is
Photo by Tim McBride
perfect for these early and late season races when weather is a gamble. The organizer was offering an evening of practice on the Friday prior to the race. Perfect, this will let me get some seat time and get acclimated to both bikes, especially the KX. I got situated in the pits, into my leather daddy suit, and busted out my new hot shoe. I bought it from a guy in Sturgis who is a nationally renowned hot shoe guru. It’s super light, custom made to my boot, and the bottom is covered with special hard facing for super long wear. I figured I’d get the pain over with first and try the KX. I’d either pack up and head home or be in love. The practice sessions were 5 minutes a crack and we sort of separated into skill levels. Sort of meaning that it was basically a free-for-all vaguely delineated into adults, vs. kids, vs. quads. This is no fault of the track folks; it’s the rabid racer types, which lack any patience. I wait my turn and quickly enough I’m out on the track. The track was a little slick as they had watered it earlier, but it was smooth and the banking was actually steep at a guesstimated 10 degrees. So far so good, I take a couple slow warm up laps and then let the KX buck. To my complete surprise it didn’t instantly throw me off like the rank amateur I am. Instead, it was incredibly powerful in acceleration, but very controlled at the same time. It didn’t get twitchy or wiggly. It would just light up the back end and spin as I rolled on the power. When it hooked up the front end would gently start to climb even with me sitting dang near on the gas tank. Huh, maybe a wellprepped former pro-level bike wasn’t a mistake? I did a few sessions then switched over to the TT. To my surprise all my work hadn’t been in vain on it either. The suspension felt much better and the motor was running pretty good. I ran a few sessions with the TT until … the back end got all loose. Thinking I lost the rear tire I pulled off just as the chain came off the rear sprocket. I roll back to the pits and discover to my horror that the swingarm pivot bolt has lost its retaining nut! Holy crap. I had intended to safety wire it, but ran out of time and thought I hit it with Loctite. Apparently not. I walked the infield looking for the nut, but no luck. I checked the bike and found the rear axle nut was the same size and pitch, but I haven’t achieved trackside gypsy status with one of everything stashed away. After much scrounging a fellow racer found a front axle nut off a late model Yamaha YZ fit. I thoroughly Loctited the new nut on and retired back to the trouble free KX.
Race morning came with me cold and stiff from 6-hours of practice and a chilly night in the camper. I busied myself with all the normal race prep as I tried to loosen up. I had decided to run three classes for today’s race. The TT was in Vintage 600, and KX would be for Vet 30+ class. Last year my strong finish in B class had pushed me into A Class, but Open A is a tough class for a lightly seasoned rookie. The Vet 30+ guys are actually faster many times than the Open A riders, but way more likely to not take the big risks. We’ve learned stupid hurts. It was a good fit. As a laugh I also threw in with the Hooligan class. This is a run-whatyou-brung class with no points, no rules, and a high likelihood of some drama. Why not? Saturday practice was the usual chaos and this time amplified by a large influx of riders from Wisconsin’s District 16. This being an indoor event and zero chance of a rain out had attracted a lot of riders from as far away as Chicago. I got a couple a brief practice sessions in, but wasn’t in a big rush. The track was identical to the evening before and all my track time had me feeling very prepared. First up was the Vet 30+ class heat. There were seven of us in the class. I had got a decent starting position toward the inside and tried to stay loose but focused. The light went green and with that the season was on. The pack surged ahead and I tried to wedge my way into the pack. My inside line got me ahead of a couple riders through the first couple corners, but they were on me like stink on poop. By corner four my timid throttle hand meant I was in last place. I knew how to accelerate down the straights, but couldn’t match their corner speed. I wound down the laps, but the main pack was gone and I held firmly on to last. Next was the Hooligan heat. I decided to run the TT since everyone likes the old bikes. It was a little bit of a knife in a gunfight as there were two Sportsters and a couple other wicked fast machines on the line. My start went great with me getting ahead of a couple bikes, including one Sporty, and holding that position until late in the race when a bobble on my part had me run wide and give up the inside to both racers trailing me. Another last place, but a moral victory. The Vintage 600 heat was last. This was another full class with seven riders. I got my usual mid pack start and settled in focused on not letting the leaders run away. That didn’t happen. The lead guy was on some lightning fast TT and seemed comfortable running high, wide, and
Sunday was pretty much a carbon copy of Saturday. There were a few less riders, but I ran the same classes. In the Vintage 600 heat I had some drama when the leader crashed mid corner. He had just taken the lead, but went too hot into the corner. I was ¼ lap back and could tell it wasn’t going to end well. He low sided mid-corner and was sprawled on the track. The number two rider got past unscathed. The number three rider, known Flying Dutchmen Ryan Schmidt, tried to dive under, but quickly realized that he didn’t have the room. Instead of sliding broadside into the downed bike and rider, he stood the bike up to take the impact square. He hit somewhere around the rear wheel and launched airborne landing in the hay bales. I dive low and miss the carnage and am off the gas, as I knew this would be a red flag race stopper. The bikes and riders are all quickly attended to. Both riders are fine and quick assessed by the EMTs. The original crasher is out and limps off the track. Ryan takes a couple minutes to regain his composure and walks it off a bit, while a couple other riders assess his bike. It jettisoned a couple non-critical parts, but is otherwise no worse for wear. One other rider gets his bike kick started and Ryan limps over ready to make the restart. Because of the crash he has to start at the back on a staggered single defined line. The restart goes well for me and I hold onto 2nd place in the heat, not letting the lead bike get away. The main event races are not without drama either. In Vet 30+ the race was winding down with me in 7th place ahead of one rider. Near the end of the race one rider withdraws with mechanical issues. Then on the last lap two riders crash after crossing the finish. Both riders and bike are spread like a yard sale across the track as I come across the finish line. I quickly scrub as much speed as I can, but my dramatic slide leads to an inglorious low side. I had crossed the line, but it was not my finest move. I’m unhurt, but a little chagrinned. The Vintage 600 main also had my 2nd fail of the weekend. My good finish in the heat gave me second choice on the line. I picked a great spot to the outside with good traction and a nice line to the first corner. We lined up and sat motors humming at a mid throttle. One rider jumps the light and we wait as we get lined up again. We reset, the light turns green, and …. chug. I kill the motor. Crap, crap, crap. I had mis-timed my starting technique of lightly holding the rear brake on launch killing the bike. I quickly rolled off the track and I kick the bike to life but it’s too late, everyone has a ¾ lap jump on me. I pull out and do 10 hot laps with nothing really on the line. It was a great start to the season and my enthusiasm only grows. I am steadily becoming a faster rider and it only grows my awe at what level the pro riders compete at. The next event will be the Flying Dutchmen two-day in New Ulm. What could possibly go wrong? MMM
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