Sideburn 31

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#31 £6

Sideburn is published four times a year by Inman Ink Ltd

Editor: Gary Inman Deputy editor: Mick Phillips Art editor: Kar Lee Entertainments officer: Dave Skooter Farm Poet/Test rider: Travis Newbold ©2017 Sideburn magazine ISSN 2040-8927 None of this magazine can be reproduced without publisher’s consent

This page and cover: Riccardo and Cristiana by Raffaele Paolucci Back cover illustration: Lennard Schuurmans

It doesn’t get any easier to put Sideburn together, but it would be impossible without these great folks: Raffaele & Riccardo; Brad Peterson; Anthony & Melissa at Enginethusiast; Cory & Shayna Texter; Dave Bevan; Pierre Robichaud; Johnny Lewis; Lennard Schuurmans; Scott Toepfer; Gene at AFT; all at RSD; Joe Kopp; Kirk at Foam & Function; Adi Gilbert; Martin Ontiveros; Menze Kwint; Ryan Roadkill; Gary Gray at Indian; Jeff, Haley & Zach at BrandAmp; Mitch Friedman; Paolo Sormani; Gary Margerum; Denis Boussard; Gianluca at Tredici; Johnny Bronze; Carl at CFM; the DTRA; Mick Stones; Mablethorpe Sand Racing Club; and all our advertisers. Without them...


will be published in February 2018. To subscribe go to





Here’s Johnny


Mestiza Beautiful Bultaco


Veni Vidi Vici

Indian’s 2017 Wrecking Crew gave the AFT field a lesson in Latin

Regular SB contributor Johnny Lewis gets his hands on an FTR750 and sparks fly


The Inquest Harley, what went wrong?


Indian FTR1200

Brand new concept street bike based on the winning FTR750


Blueprint: FTR750

Indian Motorcycle’s product manager, Gary Gray, talks us through the all-conquering V-twin


Pure Evil

A Yamaha TZ750 like Kenny Roberts raced, running wild on US streets


Wood Work

Ron Wood’s Honda Africa Twin-powered framer debuted at Perris, and we were there to document it


#31 67


Portfolio of the nostalgic Dutch illustrator

Ducati street tracker with a hide of recycled oil barrels

Menze Kwint

Vibrazioni Art Design

Illustration: Lennard Schuurmans


Broken Freedom Song

Dave Bevan’s road trip through California’s offgrid underbelly


Stealth Tracker

The skinniest Suzuki to ever rip a racetrack


Article 58

A counter, counter-culture death machine


20 Interview: Shayna Texter 36 Get Schooled with Cory Texter 106 Shop: Union Garage NYC 108 Directory: Services for Sideburners 110 Project Bike: Honda 650 sand racer 113 Sideburn merchandise 114 Trophy Queen


1. Think of the most intimidating dirt tracker ever built. 2. Put it on the road. Words: Brad Peterson Photos: Pierre Robichaud Lettering: Martin Ontiveros

> 7

BRAD PETERSON IS NOT A MESSER. He owns an ex-AMA XR750 in a C&J chassis with bare carbon-fibre bodywork that he made road legal and then raced at DirtQuake USA. We featured the bike in SB18. We’ve met a number of times. He attends DirtQuake with his wife and daughter, towing an enclosed trailer behind a late-model SUV. He is, from what I’ve seen, the model of a mild-mannered, professional, father-husband. He’s a man I’d happily take pension advice from. He just happens to own a thoroughbred, remote-start-only, American V-twin race bike that he likes riding on the road. Then he bought a new bike, and when I saw a smartphone video clip of him riding it down a small-town American main street I was shocked. There was no mistaking it, Brad had put a TZ750 flat tracker on the road. What possessed him to recreate the meanest, loudest, nastiest race bike ever built, then ride it in Washington state? Brad, please take up the story… GI

t is the meanest, loudest, nastiest bike ever built. I also like to use the words ‘violent’ and ‘angry’ when I describe this bike’s character to people. I’ve been talking about this for years, like, a lot of years, and never really thought I could make it happen. It seemed too far of a reach. I struggled with finding parts, which made it really frustrating, but at the same time there was this sense of the possibility of it coming true, which is what kept me trudging on. I really like that some things are really hard to come by and how much time you invest to get them. The hunt is what really makes me appreciate it all the more. I was watching the vintage bike markets and making contacts for what seemed like forever. Then the hunt went idle for a while. I stayed with it though and it eventually paid off with me finally finding the TZ I wanted so badly. There were only ever six Champion-framed bikes built, for a short and single season. Cleek, Roberts, Baker, Hocking, Aksland and Vesco all had one back in 1975. I only know of one that ever gets run occasionally and the rest are tucked away or lost to time. I have spent years obsessing about a TZ street tracker. For me it was to be the ultimate. The TZ comes with this legend of a bike so fast, so uncontrollable, that Kenny Roberts, the best flat track racer in the world at the time, perhaps ever, said they couldn’t pay him enough to ride it and it was soon withdrawn from competition. Who wouldn’t want a bike with that title? By far the most difficult part to come up with is the complete motor itself. The people who have them don’t often let them go. I’ve found it’s far easier to buy a complete road racer than a lone motor. I toyed with the idea of parting out a road racer to build what I wanted, but struggled with that as it would be a huge added cost for my [relatively] small budget. I started what turned out to be a huge notebook of people I’ve talked to about TZ parts. They all know who has what and most stuff gets traded internally among them. I constantly kept in contact with several guys, always hoping they would let something go or know of something coming up on another person’s chopping block and it eventually paid off. A friend I met along the way, Jeff Palhegyi, had built four repro Champion frames [like those Roberts won on]. By the time I met Jeff all the frames were sold long ago


and he was pretty clear that he was out of the frame business, but one came up for sale and that was a huge starting point, but without a motor... The guy selling the frame was Scott Guthrie, a TZ legend. He’s succeeded at every form of racing he’s ever taken part in. I’d spoken to him several times along the path to purchasing the frame and when he said he had a motor that he would include in the package the deal was sealed. The motor has some interesting history. Scott had owned it for a long, long time. It was a successful road racer into the mid ’80s then spent some time on the salt, land speed racing into the ’90s before it was retired. It holds numerous speed records in many engine classes. Scott had configured the motor all the way down to 125cc and back up to 751cc. [Like Roberts did] I’m using Lectron carbs, a tuner’s friend for sure. I can’t tell you in this little space how they work. I’ll just say it’s magic. When I called to purchase them the voice on the other end excitedly says, ‘No problem!’ The engineer goes on to tell me some history that they have with carbs for Kenny Roberts’ 750 dating back to the ’70s and how they can set carbs up for me no problem. He asks me about the motor and what kind of racing I’ll be doing. ‘Do you need top end, midrange..?’ I say, ‘I’m going to ride it on the street.’ There’s a long silence, then a single word, ‘Oh.’ Then the same questions are fired at me, ‘Top end or mid?’ I repeat, ‘I’m going to ride it on the street.’ Again another long pause… ‘OK then, probably don’t need that big of a carb and you’ll want an idle circuit I would guess.’ We laughed and they eventually sold me what I needed, set them up at their facility and begged me not to touch anything. They have always run perfect, right down to the idle speed, so I guess Lectron know their stuff. The street legal part of all this was challenging. None of these bikes ever came with a title [ownership or registration papers], because they were all race-only. So I had to go through the process of creating a title. Once you have that you can proceed to the licensing portion. You need to meet a certain amount of criteria to be considered street legal – lights, mirrors and stuff. I’ve been down this road before with my XR750, so I had some sense of how to get through it all, but there’s always the risk the authorities could say no and that would be a bummer for sure. The frame was modelled off an original and everything else is pretty much a loose interpretation, and it’s fitted with more modern suspension and brakes. I really like to be able to use the bikes I have and I love the minimalistic look of the flat trackers, void of all the things you don’t need, like a starter, charging system, kick stand… (some of those might be nice though). Most people don’t have a flat track at their house or even regular access to one, but there are always endless miles of road. Every bike I have

becomes street legal so I can play with it. I’m not starting a museum, motorcycles need to be ridden, seen, felt, smelt. When I’d finished building it, I had so many thoughts floating through my head that I was second guessing all my work. I finally took it down to my friends at BBRP (Brian Billings Racing Products), my local race shop, for them to have a look over it. Brian and his team have a long history with Yamaha and setting up race bikes so I figured having several sets of eyes scrutinise the bike wouldn’t hurt. We spent about half a day double and triple checking. Making sure the killswitch worked was very high on the list. I actually thought about not starting it at one point. Finally, their shop tech, Bonzai, told me to get out of the way, because I was obviously hesitating for what seemed like forever. He threw his leg over the seat and yelled ‘Push!’ So I pushed him down the alley next to their shop and damn if it didn’t just fire right up. The noise it made, while Brian and Bonzai warmed up the motor, caused people to boil out of their town homes near the shop to see what was disturbing their quiet city block on an early morning Saturday. I can’t put all the feelings into words hearing it for the first time, but a big sigh of relief comes to mind.

‘I was really excited to get to ride it on the street, but that excitement turned to fear real fast’


I really underestimated how violent and nasty these bikes are. I think it’s got to be as scary as the originals, only with a licence plate. There’s no way you can sneak around on this thing. It makes an enormous amount of noise, smells like race gas with a little bit of Yamalube R, and smokes a lot (that’s 24:1 drooling out of the pipes). I once had a lady at a downtown traffic light try to explain to me using sign language how loud it is. She was using just her middle finger to summarise. The fuel range is pretty limited, so I have to pick a fairly local grocery store when I’m running errands. But I have found that a round trip to my favourite local bar takes exactly what the tank will hold. I got a chance to ask Steve Baker, one of the six recipients of the original champion TZs, if he had similar feelings as Roberts about the TZ750 dirt trackers. In typically humble fashion he just shrugged his shoulders and simply replied, ‘I didn’t think they were that bad.’ Words only a 750 world champion would say.

‘I have let just a couple folks ride the TZ. One happened to be Steve Baker, the second was Joe Kopp’

Baker sure hasn’t forgotten how to powerslide a TZ around on the dirt and Joe Kopp seemed to give it all he had. Crazy as it sounds, I enjoy it more from afar than actually being on the bike itself. It’s that whole sight and sound thing. They just don’t make city streets long enough these days for this bike to really stretch its legs. It pulls so hard for the first three gears it leaves me shaking, and I’ll admit to everyone that I have only hung on to it almost to the top of third. Almost. Call me weak, but this thing can wheelie, send the back tyre sideways, or just spin up violently at any given time or speed. Possibly all three at the same time and in no particular order. The power comes in so violently (there’s that word again) you can hear the revs jump as the back tyre loses traction when you’re already well into the powerband. You can’t predict when all this might happen either, it just happens when it feels like it. It is sort of a liability and I really don’t want to hurt it or anyone, including myself. I don’t mind getting it dirty though and I’ve yet to park it next to another. It’s cool to just look at, or sometimes just to fill up the shop with the smell of two-stroke exhaust.


RACING THE PETERSON TZ750 WORDS: Joe Kopp Photos: Enginethusiast

When the former AMA #1 turned up at DirtQuake USA to race in the Superhooligan class, Brad took the chance to approach Smokin’ Joe… The owner came up and asked me if I’d like to give it a ride or two that night. At first I said no as I knew that a smaller track like Castle Rock wouldn’t be the best place to ride a beast like that, but after I looked at the bike and saw what a beautiful piece of work it was I decided to give it a shot. You only live once, right? I wouldn’t say that I was really that nervous, as I was mainly hoping that I’d be able to give the crowd a show on a tight track, but I knew it’d be tough to ride a TZ750. So yeah, perhaps I was nervous. My main goal was to just let her spin and make as much noise as possible, because the noise that thing makes just grabs your attention. I had it making noise, then it almost killed me as we came off turn one on the first lap in the main and I tried to let her spin up. Wham-bam. Oh shit! Somehow I managed to save it from total disaster. The main difference is how a big two-stroke comes onto the power down low [in the rev range]. It has a very harsh hit and then it mellows out in midrange and then comes on like an animal at the top end. A four-stroke twin, like an FTR750 or XR750, is very mellow down low, which makes it easy to pick up the throttle, and then they make real smooth, gradual power all the way to the top. On the TZ I knew that once I picked up the throttle I couldn’t afford to get back out of the throttle, as that initial hit was just too harsh. I would try to have it pointed in the general direction I wanted to go and then try not to chop the throttle until the next corner. Between the exit of one corner and the entry of the next I was just along for the ride. These TZ750 motors are definitely not suited for dirt track racing, especially on a little track like Castle Rock. I nearly ate shit just trying to take it easy and have fun. I had the opportunity to ride Roberts’ TZ750 at the 2017 Sacramento Mile during opening ceremonies, as Kenny was the grand marshal for that race. Two very similar bikes but very, very different track sizes and conditions. I’ll take a TZ on a mile track any day! Brad’s TZ ran very well. The biggest problem was the size of the track as it felt like the gearing would let it do 100mph in first. We weren’t dialled in on the set up – Brad brought the bike and I jumped on it. I’d love to give it a shot at a GNC race against the current twins out there. I think it would do best at a track that we raced at a few years ago, the Virginia Mega Mile. Sign me up guys, let’s do this!

Joe Kopp scaring the bejesus out of himself in DirtQuake USA’s street tracker class, Castle Rock, July 2017. Check those expansion chambers, chamfered for ground clearance



l 1977 Yamaha TZ750D motor l Replica Champion frame built by Jeff Palhegyi Design l Replica exhaust by Jeff Palhegyi Design l First Klass Glass bodywork in Steve Baker #32 Yamaha Canada red, painted by the owner l R6 forks and front and rear brakes l Race Tech rear shocks l Wheels by Santa Fe Motors. Quick-change rear hub l Silencers by TZ Mike l Flanders bars l Brembo clutch and brake levers l Pingel petcocks l Lectron carbs l K&N filters

THANKS I really need to thank some of my closest friends for help and encouragement: my ‘pit crew’ Tom, Kent and Rick. And, of course, Brian, Bonzai and Cody down at BBRP for their expert technical assistance and putting up with all of my endless questions and visits.

Who? What? When? Why? Where?

Shayna Texter Interview: Gary Inman Illustration: Adi Gilbert/99Seconds

You’re the most successful woman rider in the history of flat track, with five national wins in the 2017 season alone, but when was your first motorcycle race? It was actually on concrete, when I was four years old I used to go to Middletown, New York and do the indoor race put on by Keith Jacobsen, father of PJ Jacobsen.1 It was an oval with Coke syrup on it. I rode a JR50, my first motorcycle. I’d only do these winter races until 2003. I used to battle with those guys, but I didn’t really go full-time racing until 2003. My dad raced professionally and didn’t retire until ’02. So when he retired, that allowed my brother and me to start racing on dirt. I started at Trailways Speedway in 2003. I decided the night before that I wanted to race and my dad, owning a Harley-Davidson shop, went and got two Buell Blast tyres for my Yamaha TTR125. I don’t remember a whole lot, it seems like a lifetime ago, because if I look back from 2017 to 2003 at all I’ve accomplished and been through, I don’t remember much, but I’d seen my brother race, Cory, who is four years older than me, and decided I wanted to. He did the same thing as me, race in the

winter, but didn’t start on dirt until dad retired. We had other hobbies, he played ice hockey and I played soccer, in defence and midfield. I haven’t looked back since, so I must have really enjoyed it. When did you turn pro? I raced amateur, the amateur nationals, and my first pro race was in August 2007 at Castle Rock, the TT and short track national. I did a Hot Shoe national there. 2008 was my first full pro year. That was with my dad, Randy Texter, I was on a Suzuki RMZ450. There aren’t many women involved now, how many were involved back then? Very few. I knew the majority of women involved in flat track, and unfortunately most of them have retired and Charlotte2 has passed away. There weren’t many women of my age racing. I did some women’s racing in District 73, but the competition wasn’t as tough as racing against the guys. What has been the most memorable win of your career, so far? They’re all special for different reasons, but definitely winning my first [national] race in Knoxville,

Iowa on 9-10-114. It’s a day I’ll never forget. My dad passed away in August 20105, so I went to that race with no mechanic. My grandfather helped put gas in the bike, but it was one of those days where I showed up and just rode the bike and won. It was special because my grandfather had been inducted into the hall of fame6 out there the year prior and I missed the induction ceremony because I was racing, so I was able to give him the victory lap, and that was really special. What is your favourite track? I probably have two of them that are really my favourites, just because of memories. The Sacramento Mile, I’ve won it three times, and I don’t think I’ve ever finished worse than third there, so that’s a special place for me. Also Knoxville, Iowa, because it’s the home of my first win, but it’s also the place I first qualified for a national main event. People say, ‘Of course she does well at the miles, look at the size of her,’ but if you struggled people would say, ‘Course she struggles, look at the size of her.’ What do you put your success down to? It’s easy for people to say, ‘She’s small, course she does well on the miles,’ but they don’t understand


1 PJ Jacobsen – former AMA pro flat tracker, who is currently racing in World Supersport, where he was 2nd overall in 2015. In 2017 he raced an MV Agusta in World Supersport and came 5th overall. 2 Charlotte Kainz, who died as a result of injuries after crashing while racing a twin in the GNC2 class at the final AMA Pro Flat Track race of 2016 at the Santa Rosa Mile. 3 The AMA split the country into regional districts. 6 and 7 cover Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington DC, Delaware. 4 Shayna beat Briar Bauman, now her boyfriend, into second at the Knoxville Half-Mile. Other riders in the Pro Singles main that day included current and former GNC1/Twins racers: Mikey Martin; James Rispoli; Jake Shoemaker. 5 Randy Texter, the 1990 US Twin Sports champ, and owner of Lancaster Harley-Davidson, died of heart failure in August 2010 aged 48. 6 Both Shayna’s grandfathers were racers. Here she’s talking about her maternal grandfather, Glenn Fitzcharles, who was a sprint car champion and is in that sport’s hall of fame. Grandpa Texter was a motorcycle dealer and racer. 7 Shayna came third in the 2017 AFT Singles standings. She won more races than any other rider in the class. These were: Arizona Mile; Sacramento Mile; Oklahoma City Mile; Rolling Wheels Half-Mile, NY; Lone Star Half-Mile, Texas. She was also on the podium at: Atlanta Short Track; Charlotte Half-Mile; Red Mile, Kentucky; Black Hills Half-Mile.




the other side of being small. I can barely touch the floor on the startline, and starts are important. I sometimes struggle with wheel grip compared to the guys, because I can’t get my butt up over the back. It’s give and take, but this season I’ve proved to everyone that I’m more of a well-rounded rider, not just a miler. We got five wins this year and they weren’t all on miles. And we got podiums too and they weren’t all on miles or half-miles7. Overall, I think this season was really good to show I’m more of a rounded rider. What has changed? Experience is a lot of it. I think I’m a lot smarter now. I have more patience than when I rode singles in the past. But definitely you’ve got to have a great team behind you. I think it’s more important to have the right people in your corner than be the fastest rider on the day. On an AFT race day, you’re there for 9 in the morning until 10.30, 11 at night. What’s your favourite part of the day? One of my favourites is the fan walk. A lot of guys don’t like to do it, but for me it’s a time to interact with younger kids. As crazy as it sounds, as much as I’m inspiring them, they’re inspiring me in return. They’re a big part of the reason I continue to race, when the days are tough, so that’s always an important part of the day for me. And another part of the day I enjoy is when the main event is over and everyone is packing up, that’s when you really see the flat track community come together. The seriousness is away and everyone begins to crack jokes and have fun.

What’s the best motorcycle you’ve ever raced? The bike I’m on this season is pretty dang good, y’know? The Honda CRF450. If I didn’t say this year’s bike, I’d go back to a 2005 or 2006 KTM 125 I raced when I was younger. For some reason that bike has always stuck with me as one I loved to ride. I raced it up and down the whole North East, District 6 and 7, chasing the amateur titles. Home is Willow Street, Pennsylvania. There are a lot of pro racers from Pennsylvania and we’re all in a 40-minute circle. And what’s the worst bike? The Triumph twin, the Bonneville I raced in 2014. It wasn’t the engine, but for some reason the chassis didn’t like me on it and it used to shake. I made four main events on it, which is crazy to think about now, but at the same time it made me a little bit afraid of riding motorcycles. Since I first raced twins in 2014, I don’t feel I’ve been on a fair bike. The bikes have always been in development. Even here, at Richie Morris Racing, it’s well known the bike Jarod [Vanderkooi] is racing, is still in development. I feel like, if I can get on a [twin] in the future that has been developed, suits me and my riding style, I think we can do some things. For now the 450 fits me. So does the way American Flat Track is structured now, with two very definite championships, singles and twins, suit you? Well, in a way it does suit me, but I wouldn’t mind riding twins on miles and half-miles. It’s the short tracks and TTs I’ll really struggle on, on a twin.

What’s the best thing about being a professional motorcycle racer? Like most racers, racing is my life. Motorcycles have been a part of my life since I was born. When I’m not racing I’m constantly doing work to improve as a racer, so just being able to ride a motorcycle every weekend. If you’re a true motorcyclist, every time you get on a bike, whether you get the result or not, you have a passion and love for it. That’s the best part. People dream of riding motorcycles for a living and here I am doing it. And the worst thing? The travel, being away from home. I’ve got two younger siblings and missing part of their life, them growing up, and just being away from home. I’m a really familyoriented person and it’s hard to be away for a month at a time. And yeah, I’m an auntie now, so I spend as much time at home in the winter to make up for it, but it’s still not the same. It’s hard when your family is going on vacation and you’re headed out to a dirt track. Who is the toughest competitor you’ve raced during your career? I’ve raced some pretty tough guys in the Expert class, but the toughest out there is Jared Mees. He has a refuse-to-lose, never-give-up attitude and just when you think you’re going to get the better of him he’s worked something out and bang! He’s back in front of you. Overall he’s the toughest guy. What’s next for you? For 2018, I don’t know. We have talks for next year, I’m just not sure where I’m going to be, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be on a single somewhere. I just want to keep winning.

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L A MESTIZA Born from the burning memory of another, the Iberian crossbreed with fire in its blood Photos: Raffaele Paolucci


HIS IS THE SECOND Mestiza built by Riccardo Chiosi, who is a motorcycle designer for Fantic. They look the same, but if the two were parked side-by-side you could spot a few differences. That’ll never happen though, because Mestiza MkI was burnt to a heart-breaking crisp in a garage fire along with Riccardo’s 1956 Gilera Americana (see SB15), a Supermono prototype using a Yamaha 660 engine, photographer Raffaele’s 600 flat tracker and a whole mountain of parts. ‘Yes, it is weird that I built the same bike again, but the truth is that I never rode the first bike, it went in the fire seven days after the first start-up, and the motivation was the same as when I decide to build any bike, I want to use it.’

Not one piece of the original Mestiza could be resurrected. Both have used old Bultaco two-stroke singles, but MkI had an Alpina engine, while the replacement has a more powerful Pursang 250cc motor. ‘For the other components, I made the same choices I had done in 2015,’ explains Riccardo, ‘including the body that I shaped again from scratch.’ Mestiza is this Italian’s name for his ideal bike. It’s a take on the old Spanish word for a person of mixed heritage, part Spanish, part-Native American. The core of the bike is Spanish, the attitude and look is North American desert dweller. Now read Riccardo’s second-language stream of consciousness, written having finally ridden La Mestiza after two builds punctuated by one infernal kick in the testicles. GI

> 27

Escape from the sea…

On a sticky Sunday in July, the desire to invent a Mojave corner assails me and I find myself travelling along the SS309, the Romea Way in Northern Italy, in the opposite direction to the big and immobile flow of cars heading eastward to the resorts of the Adriatic Sea. Judging by the sad faces of people, happiness might be in the west, so I go west. Los Bravos on the radio sing ‘Quiero una motocicleta que me sirva para correr…’ In the van, accompanying me on the getaway, is a Spanish chica, the kind who enjoys herself, and our time together, whatever the destination.


Mix is good

La Mestiza is the toy that can do it all, a cocktail of ingredients that combines an agile trials frame with a generous and spicy motocross engine; comfortable flat track handlebars with an unlikely pair of trials and speedway wheels, all covered by a classy body, that’s a little bit Brit, but always evoking the spirit of Bultò.

God bless the building crisis

An abandoned construction site, where would rise another useless mall, will be our playground. It has wide roads, started but never paved. We’ll act a bit like Little Fauss and Big Halsy and Vanishing Point. ‘Open those beers. In this heat they won’t stay cold forever.’ Meanwhile, I prepare some two percent mixture. Today we’ll be dirty.


LA MESTIZA II FRAME l Modified Bultaco Sherpa 1972 ENGINE l Bultaco Pursang 250 MK7; Dell’Orto PHBE34 carb; Tony Vian exhaust SUSPENSION l Betor Bultaco Alpina forks and triple clamps; Betor shocks WHEELS l Front: Akront 19in rim, Aermacchi 175 hub, Goldentyre 3.75x19in. Rear: Akront 18in rim, Bultaco Pursang 250 hub, Goldentyre 3.75x18in BODYWORK l Fiberglass monocoque by owner HANDLEBAR l Tommaselli flat track Tommaselli Matador controls

Make the best of a back row start ALL TOO OFTEN, for a mind-boggling combination of reasons – perhaps a crash, set-up SNAFUs, mechanical issues, trapped wind, or maybe everybody just happens to be racing better than you – your heat race and/or semi-final results mean you’ve made it into the main, but by the skin of your teeth. Now you’re facing a back row start in the only race that really matters and you don’t have a lot of time to change anything. There’s no denying that lining up three rows back cannot be prettied up or viewed as anything but a disadvantage when it comes to bringing home the bacon, but not all is lost.

Hitting your shifts

We asked AFT Twins racer #65 Cory Texter if there’s any way to turn it around. Here’s his advice on how to limit the damage. It’s a long season, remember?

On some tracks, the front row can be drier than the second and third rows. If it has been used all day for different things, practice starts, whatever, then the other rows can maintain more moisture. The less people that have been on it, the more moisture is still there. If it’s a daytime race on a clay track and still extremely tacky on the back row, it’s feasible to grab the holeshot. It’s down to experience. A lot of kids think, ‘Wow, front row start!’, they pick a big ol’ dry spot, spin the rear tyre, don’t go anywhere and go into the corner in 16th place! There is some sunshine back there, it’s not all gloom.


I take a lot of pride in getting good starts. Everyone in the paddock knows me as the guy that can make a good start and sneak my way in there. Whether I’m on the front row or back row, it makes no difference to me. I always feel I can get up in the mix from early on in the race. I was at the Arizona Mile earlier this year, where I struggled with qualifying and was on the back row. The other back row guys were saying it kinda sucked to have a back row start, I said I was going to be second or third going into the first corner... and they laughed at me. I almost got the holeshot! The biggest thing is having the confidence and belief that you still have a full race to make it all happen, even though you are already 25 feet back before the lights even change. In flat track, the holeshot is sometimes 90 percent of the race, maybe more, it’s crucial you get a good start. If you go into the race thinking you are going to get a bad start, then that’s almost certainly what will happen.

Cut a good first corner

There is a lot of chaos at the start, especially in the Pro ranks, and from the back row you have to cut a good first corner. It is equally important, if not more important, than the initial jump off the line. A lot of times guys get a great start but then they tense up in turns one and two and blow it. If you don’t get a good start, be smart. If guys are screwing up the corner, blowing the apex, then tuck underneath them. If they slow up in the turn, then ride round the outside of them. It’s really important what your position is as you come out of turn two. From the startline, if you go into the corner in eighth and cut a good first corner, you can easily move up to second or third coming out of turn two.

Nobody seems to put any emphasis on gear shifting. There isn’t a lot of shifting to do in modern flat track, so make sure those you do have to make are really clean and that you don’t miss shifts. Some guys short-shift, going up a gear lower in the rev range than they really should, but I prefer to carry the gear as long as possible, all the way into the corner. Even on bigger tracks, if I’m on the second or third row I won’t bang top gear until the exit of turn two.

There is some sunshine back there

Back to front

Everything is so different from track to track. On a clay track you approach things completely opposite of what you do on a cushion track. Take an indoor, concrete, ‘bull-ring’ short track with six-second lap times. I think a front row, outside spot can be worse than a back row inside spot. Inside first and second on the front row are obviously the best, but anything else beyond that I’ll pick back row on the inside all day!

Never give up

On the bigger tracks, it’s not quite so much of a blow to start at the back, but unfortunately the further back you are the more chaos you are going to have to deal with. Never give up, even if you are at the back. Don’t panic, pick ’em off, it’s a long race.

Be fast and smart

It’s weird to say it, because I’m racing a lot of idiots, but flat track really is a thinking man’s game. That’s why Chris Carr has been so successful over the years. He’s a really talented guy, but he’s also super intelligent. Some racers just have more composure and are capable of thinking about what’s going on, others just like to twist the throttle: the guys who have a combination of fast and smart are the ones that win championships.

Words: Dave Skooter Farm in conversation with Cory Texter Illustration: Ryan Quickfall


Photo: Geoff Kowalchuk

V ENI V IDI V ICI Indian came, they saw, they conquered. What now for American Flat Track?

Words: Gary Inman Photos: Scott Toepfer


T WAS A ROUT. 18 rounds and 14 wins, thanks to the best riders on the best bike. How could it be anything different? The Indian FTR750 wasn’t head and shoulders above the other bikes, otherwise they’d have won all 18, but it was victorious on TTs, short tracks, half-miles and miles. Undoubtedly, that beautiful custom-designed engine helped massively. Indian were allowed, completely legally, to run a race engine, no homologation required, though they are building 50. Among other things, the FTR has throttle bodies with slides, rather than the butterflies the road bike derived engines must use. The benefit is the slide moves out of the throat of the intake, leaving it unobstructed, as opposed to a butterfly that pivots within the throat. So for a given diameter of throttle body, the FTR has an advantage. Now, instead of limiting the Indian, like the GNC would have done in the past, AFT look set to allow other teams to fit slide-style throttle bodies to their road bike engines. This seems at odds with AFT’s desire to embrace manufacturers and their road bike engines and will add more expense for the privateers. AFT’s CEO, Michael Lock,1 who we’re big fans of, keeps saying that manufacturers will enter the sport, and hopefully they will, but both Triumph and Ducati have ducked out recently. The success of Indian’s factory team and of privateer Johnny Lewis (see p46), points to more FTRs entering the fray. That’s no bad thing. Remember how many XR750s used to line up?2 But a lack of factory teams limits the series’ earning potential. It’s going to be hard to beat Indian, especially if they keep Mees and Smith on board. You’ll see Wood’s new Honda in this issue, but really, which manufacturer has the fight in them to take on the Wrecking Crew? And will any develop a specific race engine, too. It’s allowed, after all. Turn over for our take on the official Harley team’s 2017 >


1 Read our interview with him at: 2 We’ll tell you. We picked one half-mile round at random from the 2007 season. In a 20-rider main at Hagerstown, there were 17 XR750s, two Suzukis and one Aprilia (that was a DNF).

Jared Mees securing win number ten of the AFT season. Perris, CA, October 2017


t he inque s t

One podium in the whole season? What happened, Harley?


Words: Gary Inman

T’S DIFFICULT FROM the outside to pinpoint one flaw squad, the rest are privateer teams, some of them very that undermined the official Harley-Davidson team’s good, some run on less than a shoestring. 2017 AFT season, and futile too. It’s unlikely to have That one H-D factory podium was Johnson’s third place been a single element. Instead, at the season’s finals at the Buffalo Chip TT. In the season standings, Robinson at Perris, we talked to a few well-informed engineers, who finished seventh, Johnson 12th, Coolbeth one place asked to remain anonymous in print, for their opinions. behind. At the end of 2016’s 14 rounds, with the team We also spoke to Terry Vance, of Vance and Hines Racing on the XR750, Robinson was third overall (one win, two (VHR), the firm contracted to run the H-D factory team. podiums), Johnson fourth (one win, one podium), Coolbeth At Perris it was rumoured that neither Jake Johnson seventh (one win, four podiums). From 14 rounds of mains nor Kenny Coolbeth would stay with the H-D team in 2016, both Robinson and Johnson made every one, for 2018. A downbeat Johnson admitted it to me. Coolbeth missed two. They were in the top ten of the 2016 Contractually, it was too early to say where he’d be next mains 67% of the time, exactly double 2017’s success rate. year, but he has a lot to offer a team, both senior riders So, with proven riders, scrutiny turns to the machinery. do. Johnson scored the XG750R’s first, and so far only, VHR are one of the most successful tuning companies podium result in top-flight flat track. in American bike sport history, succeeding in various It looks like Brandon Robinson is remaining and, at the disciplines, and dominating on the drag strip. Surely they final half-mile of the year, his bike’s engine was noticably can squeeze 100 usable horsepower and the right torque different to that of his spare bike, or either Johnson’s out of a modern, liquid-cooled 750. Don’t forget, this isn’t or Coolbeth’s XG750Rs. The barrels, the XG750R’s debut season, Davis heads and cam covers all looked like Fisher ran it at every suitable round one-offs, confirmed by an industry in 2016 (see SB26). Was there a lack expert stood next to me as the bike of testing between races? Word has was worked on in the pits. If you’ve got it there was no testing after April, limited new, improved parts you give but the strength of this squad was them to the leading rider. The official decades of experience, surely a few line was there was nothing different. tests would have helped get it dialledIt suits Harley and VHR’s narrative in. AFT races are intense. There aren’t that the XG750R is a production-based long test and qualifying sessions like engine taking it to the Indian race in MotoGP. You’re on it or you’re out, engine. And, for the most part, the with eight, sometimes a maximum of engine is just that, but Harley fans 15 laps before the elimination heat want to see the factory bike in the races and semi begin. This may lead to hunt for podiums week in, week out, safe decisions over experimentation by any means necessary. This year and risky leaps. Elsewhere in this they had to look to privateers like issue Ron Wood explains how he had Jeffrey Carver on the XR750, with no chance to practise on a half-mile, an outstanding win on the model the but he’s an 87-year-old in an aging Robinson’s XG750R, seemingly with hot new factory retired at the end of 2016. I get parts, ran strongly at the last round, till it broke minivan, surely Harley can afford to the angle, racing (kind of) what you track test. They can’t afford not to. can ride on the street, but if the results aren’t there, both Teams and sponsors point to progress to show they’re race bike and road bike are tarnished. moving forward. At round two, the Atlanta short track, The team did suffer some freak bad luck, including the team scored 10th, 11th and 15th, enough for 21 riders accidentally taking each other out, but there championship points (the winner gets 25). 16 rounds were numerous DNFs and many failures to progress to later, at Perris, they scored 12th, 17th and 18th and took the main. How many? There were 18 mains in the 2017 home just 10 points. Robinson finished 4th in his Perris season, multiplied by three riders, that’s 54 in total. The semi, but his XG broke on the startline in the main. team failed to make the main nine times – three times for There are always periods when other teams dominate, each rider, that’s nearly 17% of the time. And that’s just it’s healthy. In the 1960s and ’70s Brit twins were trying to make the 18-rider main, not getting a top ten. winning; for a few years in the ’80s and ’90s Honda You want the top ten percentage? From those 54 mains dominated; but each time the champion had to beat the team scored 18 top tens, that’s just 33%. Remember, a really hot Harley team to lift the title, and I want to this is in a series with just one other three-rider factory see that happen again.


h e r e ’s

johnny! When Johnny Lewis became the first to race a privateer Indian FTR750, with just days to prepare, he chopped up the form book

WORDS: Johnny Lewis PHOTOS: Scott Toepfer, Johnny Lewis, AFT


HILE SITTING in New Brunswick, Canada, after running a JL10 rider school, I got a call from legendary tuner Dave Atherton, father of former GNC contender Kevin Atherton and tuner of the Dodge Bros XR750 on which Brad Baker won the AMA Pro Flat Track Championship in 2013. Dave and I worked together earlier this year when I raced Dave Zanotti’s XR750, that Atherton had built and tuned, at May’s Springfield Mile. Long story short, that weekend we managed to top the timing charts in the final round of qualifying on my first ride on that bike and really only the second time I had sat on an XR750. When the racing came around the lack of top speed compared to the Indians, Kawasakis and Yamahas became an issue. I wasn’t able to stay in the draft and had to make passes mid-corner just to stick with the guys. We came home with a ninth place after a what felt like a never-ending main. When Dave called me this time I was hoping it was to put me back on an XR750 for the upcoming Lone Star race in Texas, as I knew that this slippery, banked, clay halfmile could be a place for the Harley to shine. But, in typical Atherton style, he got right to the point and told me he had an Indian FTR750 to go racing with, belonging to a guy named John Wise, and asked if I wanted to ride it. Oh, hell ya! was my response, before I realised the race was in six days, and I was 1800 miles from home, then another 1000 miles from the track in Dallas. That night my buddy, Frankie Valentine, and I slept

for about three hours, jumped in the van, drove the 14 hours to Pennsylvania, where my wife and kids had been staying with my family, then I took off from there to get back to Florida by Tuesday. We found cheap plane tickets that got me into Texas midday Friday, booked a rental car and found a hotel by the track. That Friday I met up with Dave Atherton and Charlie Gerencer at the track. Charlie, a former 10 Training student of mine, was actually supported by John Wise for years and managed to score a podium in the GNC2 class at the Oklahoma City Mile last year, but decided to focus on college this season instead of racing. When the Indian FTR750 was unloaded on Friday evening it was the first time I had ever sat on one, but we already had a plan for Saturday. When I was offered this ride, the first person I called was Jonathan Cornwell from Öhlins to find out specs of the suspension. He just said, ‘I’ll see you Saturday and

Dave Atherton preps the nine-day-old FTR750 for its first ever day of racing

I’ll handle it.’ We were also set up to meet Dean Young from S&S Cycles, one of Indian’s partners in the FTR project, who would go over data, download the information and make sure the motor was running like it should. I also asked multiple members of the other Indian teams about gearing. When I asked Kenny Tolbert, Jared Mees’ tuner, what gearing we should start with, his response was ‘Fourth gear’. Saturday morning was actually the first time I heard the bike start up, I got to ride it around the pit area and man, it felt good. I almost thought something was wrong with the motor because it was so smooth in first gear. I’m used to the other brands having such a short first gear that it’s almost pointless and way too responsive, but not the FTR750. Then Jonathan ‘Corndog’ Cornwell showed up. He’s well known throughout the AFT pits and across the world, not only because he’s the Öhlins man in AFT, MotoAmerica road racing and World Superbike, but he is also a multiple Canadian champion in flat track, road racing and a former American Flat Track (AMA) national number1. We pulled the front wheel out, so Corndog could remove the forks, dump out the oil and adjust the damping and topout spring. It was all done on the fold-up table like it was a MotoGP garage space. I was the first Indian rider to run the production Öhlins suspension in a race, as this season both Howerton’s programme 2 and Mees’ have been replacing the Öhlins components with a Penske shock and R6 forks with different internals, so Indian seemed happy we were giving the stock components a test.



After some modification to Charles’ NJK leathers, with magical work by my wife Alysha and some duct tape, I was looking good in the white and gold team colours when we hit the track for the first time. The surface was a little sketchy as it was dry slick in spots and wet in others, so I just kind of rode around making sure I was driving across the wet spots straight up and down. When I rolled off the track I spotted Charlie with a big smile on his face, holding up the peace sign. I didn’t think we would have been second fastest, but we were. We didn’t make any changes and since the track wasn’t in great shape the organisers gave us another round of free practice. The track wasn’t much better that time either. Still, we came in one spot better, fastest twin of that day’s sessions so far. After looking at the data and checking RPMs we opted to keep the bike as it was. That meant we hadn’t made a single set-up change, besides flipping the wheel around to scuff in the tyres for the heat, semi and main event.3 Time for the first qualifier: now the pressure was on... or was it? This truly was my first day on the brand new FTR750 and we were having a perfect one. I didn’t feel any pressure or expectation, I was just excited to be there and riding a motorcycle to my potential, and it was showing. I wrapped up qualifying as the only person in the 20s-a-lap range with a 20.878. After two rounds of qualifying I was 0.1s faster than Carver, who was on an XR750, so I was right about them working well on this track. Guess what changes we made: little to none. This season’s new format is a series of elimination rounds with


a heat followed by a semi-final, then the main event,4 so it’s now a little tougher to get pumped up for the heat when you still have a semi-final to progress through to actually make the main. I knew it was important to make the semi-final straight from the heat (usually the top eight go to the semi), because your night can get a whole lot longer now if you have to go to a Last Chance Qualifier, just to make the semi if you don’t transfer. My goal was to get a good start and put myself on the front row for the semi with a top three finish in the heat race. Unfortunately, this was my first

The team didn’t carry out many changes, a bit of suspension and footpeg tweaking. JL10 can take advantage of the tiniest adjustments

fail of the day and I discovered one weak point of the FTR750 is its clutch and it meant I didn’t get off the line as well as I hoped. After learning the clutch pack is relativity small in diameter and uses KTM clutch plates from a 450 model and also fewer plates than your typical 100bhp street engine, it made sense why we were having

issues. It sounds like the regular Indian teams were replacing clutches more often than teams using other engines. After the bad start, I was able to work my way through the pack to second and almost caught Davis Fisher on the line. I ran the fastest heat lap time in heat one at a 20.8s. Corndog pulled me over to the fence to watch the next heat, pointed out a few of my weak spots, and showed me what Jared Mees and Jeffery Carver were doing differently. Damn if they didn’t run 20.7s lap times. Now I knew I had some work to do. Before going out for the semi we finally made some changes to the bike, giving it a little more swingarm angle to get a better bite off the corner, and made some adjustments to the clutch cable and the cable arm to give it a little extra free play to provide a little more feel off the start. Then I focused on what I needed to do to allow the bike to roll off the corner exit like Mees and Carver. I got a better start in the semi, but Carver had become a new man. A little wizard magic had leaked out. I ran a 20.6 lap time, but Carver was consistently faster with a 20.4 best and was 1.5s ahead at the end of the ten-lap semi, meaning we were only good enough for second place. That still meant our bike became the first privateer-owned Indian FTR750 to make an AFT main event. The bike, that had been purchased from a dealership just a week and a half before, had qualified on the front row. It had been a long time since I sat on the front row of an AFT main event. The Indian FTR750 provided me a smooth power delivery from bottom to top of the rev range that allowed me to focus more on the

1. In flat track terms, a national number is someone who has qualified for an 18-rider pro Grand National Championship main event. It doesn’t matter if you’ve raced a whole season as a pro, if you’ve never made a Twins/Expert main, you don’t get a national number. Until you do, you run with your district letter as a suffix. 2. Though all three Indian riders appear to be part of the same team, Smith and Baker were in the official factory team, under the guidance of Rick Howerton (who Smith won the championship with on the Kawasaki Howerton built). Mees was in a satellite squad run by Kenny Tolbert. All had the same level of factory support, but weren’t forced to share data. 3. Most motorcycle race tyres are uni-directional, but flat track tyres are designed to work whichever way you put them on the rim. So when one shoulder gets worn, the tyre can be flipped to wear the other side. 4. Previously, riders could progress straight to the main, the point-scoring final, straight from the heat race. That changed for 2017. NOTE: The action shots in this feature were taken at Perris, Johnny’s second outing on the Wise-owned FTR750.




chassis. I joked with a few guys when asked about the power, that it’s about 90 per cent of an XR750 off the bottom and 110 per cent of a Kawasaki 750 on top, and that’s out of the box, with still more to learn about the bike. And the neat thing about the FTR750, unlike the XR750, is you can look over the data, studying RPMs around the track, and adjust the mapping to get it closer to the XR750’s unreal, smooth power off bottom, which then provides that crucial element of flat track: traction. Knowing we had some clutch issues, I picked a spot on the track that I knew I wouldn’t have to slip it as much off the line, but it meant I didn’t get to do any practice starts because I didn’t want to risk burning the clutch up and ruining what had been the best night I’d had in a long, long time. Again, my start wasn’t great and got worse when I missed fourth gear coming out of turn two. I had a little western ride half-way down the straight and was back in sixth.


The end of the first ever day riding an Indian saw Johnny on the podium with Carver and the new champion, Jared Mees. Not a bad day’s work

I picked off the fifth- and fourthplace riders quickly but Carver, Mees and Smith, on the factory FTR750 Indian, had already gapped me pretty well. I finally felt like I was one with the bike and

was inching closer to Smith. With five laps to go I noticed I was better out of turn four than him. With the white flag lap in sight I gave it a go. Driving off turn four towards the outside of Smith I knew he was getting tight going into the turns, so I drove it in harder as he shut off and got into his back tyre to let him know I was there. It worked out like I hoped. Going into turn three on the final lap, Smith ran it in deeper than he had the last couple of laps, but his body language was also physically tighter in his shoulders. He slid about two feet wider on the groove, giving me the room I needed to poke by, leaving me to drive off to the chequers and my first podium in five years.5 JL10 and the Indian FTR750 may not have stolen the show in Texas, but we made an impact in showing what this store-bought Indian race bike will be capable of in 2018 for non-factory-supported teams, and it got me seriously thinking about a full AFT season again.

5. JL’s most recent previous podium was Hagerstown, 2012. His 2017 AFT rides and results: Charlotte Half-Mile (Kawasaki) DNF due to vapour lock; Springfield Mile (XR750) 9th; Lexington Mile (Ducati) 9th; Lima Half-Mile (Ducati) 9th; Rolling Wheels, NY, Half-Mile (Kawasaki) DNF due to seized crank; Springfield Mile 2 (Ducati) 11th; Williams Grove, PA, Half-Mile (Kawasaki) DNF due to chain jumping off; Lone Star HalfMile, TX, (Indian) 3rd; Perris Half-Mile (Indian) 6th.

FLAGSHIP STORE NOW OPEN THE MUTT HOUSE 77 Upper Trinity Digbeth Birmingham UK B9 4EG


Scout FTR1200 tears it up in the LA River. How long before we see a production version on the streets?


Indian. Brave

Official street concept is heavily inspired by the all-conquering FTR750. Will it become a reality?


Photos: Indian Motorcycle

HAT WE HAVE here is the Indian Scout FTR1200, Indian’s concept bike unveiled in Milan six hours after this magazine actually went to print, but we got hold of the photos early, having signed an official secrets act, so we could squeeze it in, we were that excited by what we saw. The street tracker was built inhouse in conjunction with Indian’s race team and looks remarkably like the FTR750, with some obvious differences. First the similarities; the bodywork is identical to the racer. Swingarm and suspension is very similar to that which Johnny Lewis used to great effect in Texas. The frame itself is totally different, because the FTR1200 uses the Scout’s street-legal 1133cc motor. The Scout engine is physically bigger, with a wider-angle V at 60 degrees compared to the racer’s 53 degrees. The engine lengthens the wheelbase, but that’s no bad thing, the FTR750’s sharp geometry would be a liability on many real roads. The exhaust pipes, from Indian’s racing partner S&S, exit on the opposite side on the street bike. Generations of race fans have looked at flat trackers and said, ‘If they made that for the road, I’d buy it.’ No manufacturer has come close to making a mass-market street tracker, and new EU regs, that the global OEM motorcycle market must work to, don’t make it easier. Changes would have to be made to this 1200 before production, such as more fuel capacity, catalytic

converter, something to cover more of the rear tyre, bigger front fender, turn signals… Not impossible, but not easy to implement without changing the all-important proportions. The FTR1200 certainly has the right stance though. Indian are on a crest of a wave, so it’s conceivable this bike could reach showrooms. Why wouldn’t they want to cash in on track success? Indian is still small enough to be able to react to the demand for a street tracker, while being big enough to make it happen. Perhaps they don’t need the relatively large numbers of sales some other manufacturers require from new models. The success of the FTR750, and its widely publicised $50,000 price, has cut a path for a premiumpriced FTR1200 to follow (think Ducati Panigale money). But we’d be much more excited about something that is inspired by this concept, but costs Bobber money and doesn’t come with Öhlins and S&S pipes, but offers both as an option. Build it and it will sell. Just keep the proportions.

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2017 1/3

The inside line on fast-building a title winner from scratch


Words: Gary Inman Illustrations: Courtesy of Indian Motorcycle Racing




T’S AMAZING HOW fast we went from the underdog at Santa Rosa last year to the one everyone wants to beat,’ says Gary Gray, Indian Motorcycles’ product manager. ‘I prefer being the underdog and beating the giants. I’m guessing there are some pretty big R&D dollars being thrown at some of the bikes, but in the end it’s not all about how much you spend, it’s about the people on your team, and we have the best.’ I don’t remember it exactly the same way. I was at Santa Rosa in September 2016 and before that debut I’d read, at length, about the development of the scratch-built engine, created by Swissauto, a company owned by Indian’s parent company, Polaris. Joe Kopp put the bike on the front row, before tiring in the main, on a hellish track, eventually coming in seventh. Five hours later, Indian announced their wrecking crew, made up of the new champion, the previous one and the one before him. Not the behaviour of an underdog in a sport perennially propped up by privateers, but that’s not taking anything away from Indian. Their vision was audacious. When it came to riding talent, they didn’t rob the bank, they just offered the best riders – ambitious men – good deals and a package all three thought they could win the title on. They were right, all could have won the title on the bike, but only one did, Jared Mees, with two races to spare. Plus, with those riders came expert teams and tuners, some of whom have been winning titles since Berlin had a wall. It turns out you can buy knowledge like that. On the eve of the final round of an incredible season, we asked Gary Gray more about the nuts and bolts of the bike that dominated 2017. ‘The project was kicked off in September 2015 by



2017 2/3


Engine 748cc DOHC, liquid-cooled, 53 degree V-twin Bore x stroke 88 x 61.5mm Transmission 4-speed, chain Power 110bhp (est) Weight 140kg (309lb) Frame tubular chromoly steel duplex cradle monoshock with bolt-on subframe Wheelbase 1397mm Wheels Roland Sands 19in forged alloy Brakes single rear disc, 1 x 2-piston caliper Fuel capacity 8.3 litres (2.2 gallons US)

Most of the FTR750 is simply best practice, the 53Ëš V-twin, and the riders, made the crucial difference



our president, Steve Menneto, when he announced our return to flat track racing in 2017 or 2018. The initial design work started in December 2015 with the engine. The first step in engine design is understanding the power requirements and designing the combustion chamber, everything else fits around that in the smallest package possible. [The development] was excessively fast even for us, but Josh Katt, who works for me, kept everything moving to get the bikes done in time for Daytona [2017]. ‘The Indian Motorcycle Racing Team designed the chassis from scratch using known geometries from past successful flat track race bikes. The frame is different diameters of tubular 4130 chromoly steel, depending on stiffness requirements. It’s MIG and TIG welded. ‘Our bike needed to be adjustable to go through race development very quickly, so everything was designed to change quickly. The wheelbase, rake, trail, swingarm pivot and swingarm angle are all fully adjustable. The bike also needed to be stiff and strong enough to survive a TT, but flexible enough to stay hooked up on rough miles. ‘It was important to build a bike that the fastest riders would feel comfortable on. We benchmarked all the other bikes and built the Scout FTR750 in a way that would feel familiar to the rider. We didn’t want to build something exotic that would feel odd or foreign. ‘It is challenging to build one frame for all the tracks we ride in one season. Ideally, we would have a different frame for miles, half-miles and TTs but time and money prevented us from doing so. For now we have a frame that is the ideal combination for all three types. ‘We quickly learned that this isn’t a game of horsepower. It is a game of feel, traction and reliability. That is the true strength of the FTR750.’ Incredibly, for a new squad running three brand new bikes, all in title contention, the team has had only one mechanical DNF through all year, Brad Baker at the Charlotte Half-Mile back in April. ‘In short, his battery died,’ says Gray. ‘The long story is it takes at least five things to go wrong before a plane will crash, not just one, and this was the case with Brad’s bike. The charging system was spec’d for a lead-acid battery but the team swapped to a lithiumion battery. The voltage regulator didn’t like the change and failed. We never checked the battery all day, if we had we would have known something was wrong. We also never pulled a data download all day, which would have caught the lack of voltage. Lastly, the battery wasn’t charged all day in the pits, if it were it was large enough to run the entire main event. So we quickly corrected all of the above; John Fox from our engineering department spec’d in a proper voltage regulator, we charge the battery after every heat and we pull data after every heat to check for


‘Incredibly, for a new squad running three brand new bikes, all in title contention, the team has had only one DNF all year’ issues with the bike. It was a great learning moment and helped us find many other potential issues throughout the season. So while frustrating and unfortunate, it made us better as a team. ‘We learned a lot through the season and made a lot of minor improvements. Nothing major has arisen, we could be a little better on short tracks but we have some ideas as to how to go faster there. Any place the bike came up short Jared Mees, Bryan Smith and Brad Baker made it look phenomenal regardless, so most of the credit goes to them. ‘Every race created a list of asks and wants, we simply prioritise them and knock them off one by one. The key is not changing too much at once and making sure each change is reliable. Kenny Tolbert [Mees’ crew chief] and Ricky Howerton [Smith’s crew chief] run pretty amazing crews and they made adjustments throughout the season. We will make more changes at the end of the season. We have to get better because everyone else will get better.’ In late September, Johnny Lewis’ podium finish riding a privately owned FTR750 at the Lone Star Half-Mile in Fort Worth, Texas, his very first day riding an FTR750, proved the Indian has impressive potential for privateers. ‘I thought it was absolutely amazing and completely believable all at the same time. The bike they bought from our dealer is the same bike our race team gets. The only adjustments made to his bike were fork oil weight and three clicks on the rear shock. Good enough for a podium straight from the factory. Our race team manager, Dean Young, helped him get set up the night before, checked his calibration and showed his team how to pull downloads and track data. The rest was up to Johnny and his team and they did an amazing job. Johnny rode the wheels off the FTR.’ Gray confirms that they’ve sold a number of Indians to privateer team owners, but have more to sell to racers or collectors. ‘We did one build of 50 bikes for public sale and I doubt we will build any more. So even as a collector’s item they are really valuable.’ The 2018 American Flat Track Twins champion will be riding an Indian FTR750. There’s never been a safer bet in the history of motorcycle sport.

3/3 SIDEBURN #31

2017 n/a CHASSIS


If anyone is interested in buying an FTR750 they should email

wood work

It’s a special and extremely rare occasion when a new Wood Racing bike hits the track. We were there to witness the Wood Honda CRF1000L do just that WORDS: Gary Inman PHOTOS: Scott Toepfer

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HE FINAL ROUND of the 2017 American Flat Track series might have seemed a dead rubber. Going into the Perris HalfMile in early October the top three places were settled – Mees, Smith, Baker – and were so tightly tied up that not even Smith’s lateseason dip and Baker’s broken jaw made a difference. The manufacturers’ title (that I’m convinced only manufacturers care about) had been sewn up by Indian before the summer solstice, but there is rarely something that could be described as a bad AFT race, especially if you have a pit pass and all day to stare at the best bikes in the business. So I was still itching to get to Perris. What I didn’t expect was to be an eyewitness to an occurrence so rare it makes a solar eclipse seem as common as a carpet warehouse sale: the unveiling of a new Wood Racing motorcycle. At the perimeter of the pro paddock, down with the hooligan racers, sits Ron Wood in his almost trademark uniform of a white, elderly American gent – tan shorts, polo shirt, white trainers, sun hat, wraparound sunglasses. His snowy moustache is military neat, his skin spotted from a long life under the California sun. He’s sat on a fold-up chair behind the back of his old minivan, painted 30 years ago and looking time capsule perfect (except for the Trump bumper sticker). It’s the same van he drives to his workshop every day. On the pale and parched Perris dirt, and under a plain, three-metre-square E-Z Up, like a hobby racer would use, is the Wood Honda Africa Twin. Other teams have been sniffing around the engine since Honda released the CRF1000L, their newgeneration adventure bike, for the 2016 model year, but Wood bit the bullet and spent the previous five months building the parallel twin before painting it his trademark red with white and black pinstripes. ‘I just wanted to try something different,’ explains the 89-year-old before timed practice begins. ‘I looked at what was out there and thought this [motor] had potential. I like that it had two counter-balance shafts, it’s a smooth, torquey engine. It’s totally stock at the moment, 90 horsepower with 75lb.ft of torque. It has a good bottom end, but I’d up the compression with new pistons from 10:1 to 13:1, change the camshafts, clean the ports and head. I think it’ll make 115 – 120bhp and work really good.’ All that’s been changed on the engine is the addition of a Dynojet Power Commander to tweak fuel and ignition maps, K&N filters replace the airbox and there’s a stainless pipe with a 1990s ‘boombox’ silencer. ‘I had that in the workshop. I never throw anything away. [The noise limits] are bullshit. I think the bikes make the same noise wide open.’ He’s probably right. AFT felt forced to introduce noise testing, like so many motorsports have, to secure their future and maintain access to certain

racetracks. When the new limits of 105dB were imposed, most teams kneejerked and fitted this style of boombox, not used since Scott Parker was racing, but by the end of the season most had reverted to redesigned, regular-looking race silencers. When it comes to exhaust design, Ron says, ‘I’ve made a lot in 40 years. I have a knack. I know the size, length and the cone dimensions through years of experience.’ But it’s frames that Wood is best known for. I’ve spoken to dozens of engineers and mechanics about the design of the ideal flat track chassis and the flex designed into it to give a rider seat-of-the-pants feel. Wood is dismissive, ‘This frame isn’t going to flex,’ he says pointedly. The new race chassis is a mixture of square, round and rectangular sections. ‘Square’s pretty nice to work with,’ says Ron. He designed, cut, bent and shaped the frame himself before sending it for welding to someone he’s long worked with. ‘I was the first person to use rectangular section for swingarms and I’d hear people say they’d never work, because everything at that time was round section. Now look at everyone’s swingarms.’ While the frame has the trademark rear loop, it’s not Wood’s prettiest chassis. That engine mount above the clutch is tricky to tie into a design, and painting the frame red makes the square section stand out. The Penske shock is laid down, horizontal, and fastened at one end to the loop of the swingarm. I ask about the fundamentals of frame design. ‘You don’t want the centre of gravity too low. The crankshaft centre line is critical, and the relationship between the output shaft and the swingarm pivot. I left enough clearance to take the head off without removing the engine.’

‘I DESIGNED IT THINKING ABOUT THE WORKABILITY FOR THE MECHANIC’ I press him more about the decision-making process of the frame design. ‘I’ll let other people work that out,’ he says quietly. The tank is the same shape as that on Ron’s previous big bike, the 800cc BMW/Rotax that he finished in 2008 (see SB3). Ron retained Honda’s fuel injection for this bike, whereas he converted the BMW to carbs. ‘He’s still learning stuff as well as taking on new challenges,’ says Ron’s son, Gar, referring to his father’s first foray into fuel-injected race bikes. The rest of the Wood Honda is a mix of Ron’s own work – some of which, like the design of the rear brake lever and exhaust hanger brackets, are just like those of the 30-year-old Wood Rotax design – and more


The 2017 AFT Twins season was book-ended by two very different Honda entries. M3 Racing raced a 1980s RS750D (see SB24) at Daytona. The 2016 CRF1000L finished the season at Perris

unconventional Wood Racing items, like the rear brake caliper hanger on the outside of the swingarm. Then there are the industry go-to components, like the Performance Machine wheels, a small Evans rad and GPS Racing triple clamps. ‘The machine work is like a piece of jewellery,’ Ron says, with admiration. The Honda bears the 49 plate of Californian rider, Chad Cose. ‘He approached me a couple of days ago,’ says Wood. ‘This is the first time it’s been on track. There’s nowhere big enough to practise before a race.’ There are short tracks for practice and racing up and down the West Coast, but, unless you have the budget to rent a half-mile for a test, there are no opportunities except race days, and the last big-track race day in California was the Willow Springs West Coast weekend, during which Ron had Jeffrey Carver on his Rotax chasing race wins, and just coming up short to Mees and the FTR750 that day. ‘The motorcycle is beautifully crafted and built,’ says Cose, no faint praise, he regularly has the cleanest, most eye-catching bikes in the paddock. ‘We knew going into the race it was going to be an experiment, the bike had never seen the track before.’ It was a big ask to put the Wood Honda in the main, but Cose and Wood didn’t embarrass themselves. In the Last Chance Qualifier he put in a best lap of 21.262s, within 0.25s of the best laps in the same race as those of Ryan Wells, Davis Fisher, Bronson Bauman, Scooter Vernon and Austin Helmholz, all on tuned and dialled-in Kawasakis, and Jarod Vanderkooi, a guest on Brad Baker’s Indian FTR750 (another illustration of how amazing Johnny Lewis’s performances were on the private Indian, see p46). ‘I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of power and torque the engine produced, with it being box stock,’ says Cose. ‘We tried a few new things, such as a prototype swingarm and various characteristics that weren’t necessarily the normalcy in flat track. The only issue we ran into, that held us back a little, was clearance. We drug the left-side case and that hindered what we could do, but I have no doubt with Ron’s knowledge he’ll get that fixed and that bike will be capable of main events in the AFT twins class.’ I’ve given up trying to second guess marketing departments, but Wood says Honda were ‘really nice and helpful’. So many want the association without wanting to pony up to support a rider, but Honda are rooted in racing, and surely chucking a motor and some tech assistance to Ron Wood is a low-cost, lowrisk way to see if the Africa Twin can compete with the FTR750 and the other Japanese twins. If Honda America’s top brass aren’t asking themselves, ‘What would Soichiro do?’ they don’t deserve their reserved parking spot and corner office. I have one last question for Ron Wood. Why build a new bike? I stop short of saying, ‘at your age’. His answer? ‘I want to win one of these days.’ Honda, please help make that happen.

I have quite a big folder of images on my computer. While browsing it for inspiration I sometimes see things that aren’t there. This is a prime example, seeing a sort of native American warrior outfit in a fairing

Menze Kwint

The Dutch graphic artist who melds sci-fi, grotesque, comedy and gore bound up in a web of nostalgia Interview: Mick Phillips Illustrations and captions: Menze Kwint

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ou know what it’s like, we’ve all been there. You’ve packed your panniers, strapped on the bedroll and set off on that long-awaited road trip. Then, bugger me, up rears a giant mutant grub being ridden by a masked, spear-toting lunatic with a fur fetish. And, of course, this always happens just as you’re footing your way in first gear across a massive pile of human skulls, which makes digging out your sub-machine gun a little more awkward than you’d like. Bloody typical. Well, typical if you’re Dutch illustrator Menze Kwint. Perhaps surprisingly, Groningen, the university town in the northern Netherlands where Menze grew up and still lives, is mercifully free of giant mutant insects. ‘It’s a nice little student town. I never left because it’s a great place to live,’ he says. ‘And with most of my work taking place online, my physical location is not very important.’ Work for Menze is wide-ranging. Event posters, such as the pipe-smoking zombie for last year’s Sideburn x HebTroCo’s Yorkshire Ride Out; apparel for the likes of El Solitario and Fuel; advertising; magazine illustration; shopfront artwork; product packaging... But a feel of the 1950s and ’60s pervades much of This was part of a small series of works that involved useless instructions. Instructions that might be picked up while looking at all the cool social media pictures

Quite often I get asked to do logos for companies, sometimes really cool companies, and this was one of those. A young guy was about to take over a business from a man who was retiring. There was an existing logo but old and in need of an update, but with respect to the old logo and the existing clientele

Opposite page: Poster for the third year of the Long Way Up event, named as a nod to the famous long-range trip by Obi Wan and Boorman. So I wanted to show a biker on his own long distance trip through a sci-fi world.

the 31-year-old’s work, tugging us back to the graphic styles, colours and treatments of half a century ago. ‘I love everything old, not just artworks,’ he says. ‘It’s very hard to pin down why, but I guess I like that old things have a place in history where they belong. Connected to that place are certain feelings and emotions, and the ’50s and ’60s in particular make me feel comfortable. Looking at modern designs doesn’t do anything to me, so I tend to make my work as if it could’ve been from a time gone by.’ As with many artists, Menze started young. ‘Basically, for as long as I can remember I’ve been drawing. For my 30th my mom actually gave me a framed picture that I did when I was four years old.’ After leaving school, he went to Groningen’s Kunstacademie Minerva art college, but the timing was bad and the course not all it might have been. ‘I started in 2006, just before the financial quagmire that the world would find itself in. Most of my education there was based on the


notion that you would get out of college, start as an illustrator at a firm and stay there until you receive a gold watch and a handshake. But of course, by the time I finished, four years later, that had all changed. Illustrators had to work for themselves, starting businesses and finding other ways to make a living. But sadly I’d never learned how to do that. Just recently I hired an intern from that same college and when I asked him what he wanted to learn, he came up with the exact same things that were missing in my time at college. Getting a lifelong passion to pay the rent and put petrol in the tank is rarely easy, but determination – and the motorcycle world – finally turned things around. ‘In the beginning I used to do shitty jobs alongside my illustration work to make a living, but at a certain point I didn’t need that anymore. It happened gradually while working for several very different clients, but I guess the moment I got asked by El Solitario to do some designs for them was pivotal. That must have been late 2013. They actually approached me because they liked a design I did for myself and they wanted to produce silk scarves with that design. From then on I got asked more for jobs in the motorcycle world, and because I was doing more work more of my work got seen by other clients, and then it was a snowball effect.’ So what, or who, has influenced that

There is a motorcycle shop in the Netherlands that organises a small show they call Custom and Cruiser Day. This was a poster to promote it. Also, it was where they presented the new Yamaha Abarth, so they wanted that to be on the poster

While browsing the web I spend most of my time looking at the weird and wonderful. I came across an image of a boy riding an ostrich that I thought was the coolest thing so I tried to turn it into artwork. But it turned into a Star Wars sort of character. Gadso from Karoo Motorcycles saw it on Instagram and asked if he could put it on shirts

‘In the beginning I used to do shitty jobs alongside my illustration work to make a living, but at a certain point I didn’t need that anymore.’

Fuel motorcycles out of Barcelona organise a motorcycle trip to Africa they call Scam Africa. One of the participants wanted himself and his motorcycle immortalised as an Aztec warrior conquering the desert... naturally

distinctive style now bringing in the commissions? ‘Besides a whole bunch that I follow on social media but cannot remember by name, there are a few classics. For example, Ed Roth and Coop. Starting out, I really looked at the way they did their sketches, not so much the final pieces. Also, old Metallica T-shirts, ’50s ads, old-timer cars, videogame concept art, and from this plethora of influences evolved my style. The content is more based on my interest at that particular time. It could be a movie I’ve seen, game I’ve played or place I’ve visited. Just recently – I know, terrible – I got introduced to Robert Crumb, the way he draws hefty ladies is phenomenal. And also the works of Syd Mead really inspire me, even though his techniques and style are nothing like my own. ‘Do people ask for me for what I do, or do I do things because people ask them of me? Right now it’s hard to say. Once you’ve reached a certain style that’s your own, it is expected of you to deliver this to the client.’ Working over such a range of media and

My wife is from Slovakia and as a result I spend most of my holidays in that country. This piece is based on the traditional folklore artworks that I saw there. After finishing it and posting the piece to social media, El Solitario approached me to use the artwork for a silk scarf they planned to make


‘Do people ask for me for what I do, or do I do things because people ask them of me?’

Every year, around May, there is a great motorcycle event in Bruges called Fly Low and for the third running they were looking for a new logo, hence this creature came about


Same as with the previous piece about useless advice, but this one I painted on a wall over at Hermanus in Bruges

I like making inanimate objects come to life. Also the spark plug is a visually very appealing object. If you combine this with a clever quote you get an inappropriate spark plug, and who doesn’t like that?

Coming back from a motorcycle trip though France, I noticed that my hair looked shitty in every picture, but rather than taking this as something to be embarrassed about, wear it with pride. Be a hero

This one I did for a guy who took his Africa Twin and rode it from Belgium to Africa. As a memory of that event, he wanted himself and his motorcycle immortalised on paper

formats means that Menze’s creations aren’t always destined for printed material, let alone magazines, but when it is, it’s a bonus. ‘Seeing your work in print adds a little extra. If I’m featured in a magazine or newspaper, I tend to save it. While a website that has my work on it I won’t even bookmark. ‘I like drawing for products that end up in the supermarket. Maybe it’s because the supermarket is the opposite of an art gallery. No one consciously cares about what

We bought our new home around this studio after using the living room for years. It has doors to the road, so I park my bike in here

a product looks like, but still they pick one product instead of the other. Most likely it was because that particular item was on offer, but for the rare occasion that someone mindlessly throws something in their basket, it might have been my artwork that made them do it. And I dig that.’ Bikes feature plenty in Menze’s work and, naturally, they’re mostly pre-millennial. Early-model Africa Twins, Triumph Hurricanes, Honda 750-4s, Yamaha SRs, airhead Beemers... ‘No one else in my family rode a motorcycle growing up, so where it comes from... no idea. But I always wanted a motorcycle, so after having ridden shitty mopeds for years I bought my first bike when I was 18. And being 18 it had to be badass and make a noise. So it was a Yamaha XVS650 [aka Drag Star]. Terrible handling and fake Harley looks, but that’s what you want when you can go to high school on a motorcycle. At least, I did. ‘But older motorcycles have a story behind them. And not just why and how that particular model came to be, but also the story of the individual motorcycle. Right now I’m in the process of tracing the owners and stories of my own bike, a 1989 BMW R80GS, and doing so you meet the nicest people – not just on a Honda. Figuring out where your bike has been, in my case on trips to Scotland and Spain, puts it in a whole new light. And while listing the previous owners, it makes you realise that you don’t really own a classic bike, you’re just a custodian.’ Custodian? Fine. But if that means keeping them from the ravening clutches of giant mutant grubs and be-masked psychotic fur fetishists, it might become a problem.

For a couple of years now, starting with my R100RS, I’ve been in love with airhead BMWs, so naturally I incorporate this into my work. I sell these as stickers now



The Italian artisans who take industrial oil drums and cut, beat and fuse them into vivid new creations Words: Paolo Sormani Photos: Callo Albanese


A! INSIDE THE INTERIOR design world we’re the motorcycle guys, while bikers consider us kind of furniture designers. It’s our contradiction, we can’t escape it.’ Alberto Dassasso, 35, and Riccardo Zanobini, 37, both smile when describing what Vibrazioni Art Design are and how they’re making their mark on motorcycle aesthetics, in bright colours, steel sheets and rust, with the blue of the welding flame and the red and the yellow of sparks. Plus there’s the green that surrounds their shop, set in the silence of the Romagna countryside, Italy’s ‘land of the engine’. At their workshop in Massa Lombarda, just a few litres of gasoline from the Imola race circuit, the two-wheeler harks back to its experimental and very human origins. Rough and charming at the same time, a Vibrazioni Art Design creation stands as a typical one-of-a-kind, made in Italy. It was 2007 when the two friends embraced the idea of recycling metal drums from oil, gasoline and fruit jam – the area is renowned for its jam and fruit juice production, as well – to create furniture. They started looking for drums in scrapyards to give them a second life as chairs and tables, lamps or shelves. ‘Old 44-gallon drums have their own beauty in vivid colours, with brilliant logos. They continue to tell individual and collective stories.’ Esso, BP, Volvo, Texaco, Shell, John Deere, Caterpillar, Vanguard, Agip, Tamoil, Petronas, Mobil, Bardahl… Practising pop art principles, these humble metal cylinders are

reborn into new shapes destined for living rooms and showrooms. Then Alberto and Riccardo realised they could do the same with motorcycle bodywork. ‘We felt kind of bound to. Both of us ride Moto Morinis – a Granpasso and a Corsaro 1200 Veloce, purely emotional choices, maybe influenced by the proximity of Bologna. Anyway, what results is a niche product. We’re allround artisans: give us a bike and in a couple of weeks we’ll have made something that wasn’t there before.’ First came the Zolla (Clod), a Cagiva SX250 born to escape off road, now displaying its odd beauty on the Virgin Radio HQ carpet in downtown Milan. The colourfulness of the boxed steel used on the bikes shares the industrial mood of the interior design pieces. The genesis is the same: the drum is opened into a sheet and plasma-cut into the desired shape. Then the piece is brutally hammered on the bare concrete floor – if you’ve ever done this, you’ll understand why vibrations are so closely associated with their art and design. The steel is then folded, welded, polished and coated with a thick transparent enamel. The result is powerfully tactile and invites fingertips to slide over the irregular surface and enjoy its bruises and imperfections. From a single drum, in three days the Vibes boys can get either a chair, a couple of lamps or some 3D box lettering. The thing is, the two love to mix sheets and colours following whatever’s inspiring them at the time. ‘Every piece is unique. Even if they’re


Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it, No one wants to be defeated, Showin' how funky and strong is your fight, It doesn't matter who's wrong or right

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If you spotted Raticosa started life as a 749 you deserve a biscuit

the same model, you never get two identical chairs.’ Same for their hand-built bikes, like the new Ducati 749 Raticosa. The name comes from a twisting Appennine pass well known by local speed seekers. The Raticosa’s rough and rugged metalwork style and the flat track, hooligan stance would probably horrify Pierre Terblanche, designer of the original 749. There’s no rational thinking here, just guts. Little has survived of the original, parts traded with those from other Ducati models. The tubular trellis frame and sub-frame have been modified, while the swingarm was traded for a Ducati 1098 job and the forks are from a Streetfighter. The in-house exhaust system has been fitted with a short, GP-like end can that enhances the unmistakable rumble of the V-twin. And if you feel you’ve already seen that blue and yellow gas tank before, yes, it’s from the Ducati Scrambler, but cut and welded to match the Sunoco tail and the vented front plate with vertical headlight. Vibrazioni Art Design are not news for Borgo Panigale: after providing the Ducati Museum with original metalwork lettering, the mutual collaboration brought the SCRumbler build for Pirelli, possibly the best business card for their new MT60 RS tyres, and also raced at SnowQuake. A quick google will turn up another Vibrazioni Scrambler, the Flamingo. Besides these, ever hiding behind their welding masks à la Daft Punk, Alberto and Riccardo have worked on a couple of BMW K100s, the ’70s/’80s endurance-styled Finale 1000 and the Trofeo 1000. ‘But ask us where to find the core of our art and we’ll tell you to look out for our Honda CB750 Pennzoil, built for the same customer who commissioned the Finale 1000. All our love for racing motorcycles is there. It’s particularly touching for us, like it was built by itself.’ All Vibrazioni’s bikes share the same rough visual approach, in contrast with a love for fine detail. Like the petrol that many of the drums contained, they’re refined from raw, primordial material, from humble ingredients transformed into luxury objects. To define the Vibrazioni Art Design style is more futile than difficult.



‘To us, a motorcycle is speed and low bars. The important thing about our bikes isn’t the search for Zen, but to transmit their spirit, their previous life, in a different form. By oozing abrasiveness, they make you feel like a wheeled superhero, you know, with the brightly coloured costume and all.’ It’s metal, a bit heavy and that rocks hard. Besides the steel drums, Alberto and Riccardo have started playing with other materials, mixing steel with Kevlar and carbon fibre... ‘It’s a good way to experiment with motorcycle parts and we’re loving it.’ But their ambition is starting to outstrip drums and

It's a street tracker, but thanks to 749 guts it's one that breakfasts on 40 miles of barbed wire and uses a cobra snake as a neck tie (opposite top) Vibrazioni's twist on the iconic XR tail design. Taller, chunkier, with added number boards and all hand-beaten, on a bare concrete floor with a big hammer

bikes (‘Sometimes four wheels can move your soul too…’), as well as the space in their family garage. ‘Yeah, we’re supposed to make the great jump and set up Vibrazioni Art Design as a small firm, with workers and tooling that can make us independent in terms of production.’ ‘Work hard, dream big, never give up.’ That’s what’s written under the Raticosa’s tail. Even if they’re looking to the future, watching them handmaking motorcycles like a century ago is heartwarming, a real comfort for those who fear the cold dawning of the era of CAD and 3D printing.


Broken Freedom Song A life-changing road trip

way out west



DIDN’T GO traipsing up and down the west coast of Northern America specifically looking for Freedom. Out there among the deserts, rivers, mountain ranges and bustling cities, the wilderness dotted with occasional metropolis, wild folks and wilder times, a little piece of Freedom came looking for me. Footloose and fancy-free works well in America, where it seems that freedom might just be where you think it is. In time, I wound up crashing with a friend in Tucson, Arizona, where I had too much fun and got too broke to leave by conventional means, until a friend of this friend professed he had a bike that needed transporting to LA, and how’d I fancy transporting it? I had a way outta Dodge and a Kawasaki to get me into, and hopefully out of, trouble. Tucson, AZ – Felicity, CA Between Tucson and Gila Bend, on the old Route 86, there is desert, acres of saguaro cacti, massive skies streaked with wispy almost-clouds, the odd circling vulture and very little else. The Kwak hums along at a steady 90mph without ever breaking a sweat, or anything else, which having only ever ridden a BSA Bantam and an oily old Enfield Bullet before is somewhat of a revelation. Post Gila Bend I pick up Highway 8, which has an extra lane but not much extra action than the 86, and it’s here I first learn to steer clear of open-topped aggregate trucks, as rogue pebbles hitting you at 90mph feels like you’re being shot at close range with a BB gun, at 90mph. Felicity is a strange place, in the classic Californianmiddle-of-nowhere-strange-place fashion, but with added weirdness in that Felicity proclaims itself The Center of the World and is home to a small villagesized monument called The Museum of History in Granite. It is perhaps a grandiose title for a dusty crossroads, a petrol station, a few burnt-out RVs and some engraved lumps of stone. I roll off the freeway as the sun falls into the ocean further out west, the burnt oranges and pinks of dusk illuminating the engraved granite slabs that comprise The Museum, lending it a further strangeness it wasn’t already short of. As I wander around, half reading the jumbled quotes from Kipling, Marx, Hitler et al, half wondering where I’m going to sling my tent for the night, a tiny Asian lady materialises and reads my mind, or maybe sees me eyeing up the perfectly manicured square of grass out front of the museum, because she’s quick to note that I definitely can’t spend the night there, before adding I could probably camp near the burnt-out RVs over by the petrol station. The RVs are creepier up close, as is the selection of pre-packaged sandwiches in the petrol station. Midway through pondering how many packets of Polos I’d need to constitute my five a day, the door swings open and in blazes a Honduran, tweaking his brains out, yelling blue murder and hell fire. I promptly

decide to sleep elsewhere that night. The sun has completely dropped by the time I’m bouncing along a desert dirt road in near pitch darkness, the Kwak’s main beam and the faintest sliver of a crescent moon on the wane provide the only light for miles in any direction. The headlight illuminates a large, hand-painted sign which reads ‘Sidewinder Pass, The End of the World – The desert creeps into our souls, strangely beautiful… fascinating, frightening, at once a glimpse of the beginning, AND THE END’ which at this point seems just about right to me. I’m too tired to be spooked by anything less that drug-crazed madmen, so bump off the gravel track, partially hide the bike behind some scrub bush, lay my sleeping bag out next to the bike, crack a beer and promptly pass out to the sounds of far away dog communions and desert insect life, trying not to think too hard about whatever END the sign may have been referring to. Felicity – Salton Sea – Salvation Mt. – Slab City I awake shivering at first light having found out just how cold the desert gets at night. I make a fire out of last night’s camouflage and revel in the almost silence and wide-open nothingness of the place. Then I load up, head back to the petrol station to fill up before turning my back on that particular End of the World. Headed north, up the 111 towards the Salton Sea, the sun traverses the sky east to west, throwing long, snaking shadows in front of the forward momentum, which is fluid and uninhibited on this thin streak of grey, cutting the dusty and desolate land in two. I hit a police roadblock, and in the absentmindedness lengthy spells in a hot saddle can produce, I have a minor panic that I’m inadvertently crossing the border into Mexico. The guard stops me and asks where I’m coming from and I go completely blank, I must look at best stupid, if not guilty. They must be used to baked, vacant folks in that part of the world as he lets me slide past, back into the desert. Salton Sea is an inland lake sitting atop the San Andreas Fault. Formed in its present incarnation in the early 1900s when the California Development Company diverted sections of the Colorado River into the area, submerging the small township of Salton while they were at it, creating this inland ‘sea’. It’s a strange and fascinating proposition. I ride north along the coast, the salty smell hitting me square in the nostrils, the bright blue, alkaline waters glinting below as I head towards the (ghost) town of Bombay Beach. During the 1950s the place was a bustling holiday town. No one accounted for the perpetual increase in salinity of the water, however, and as the fish and other wildlife suffered, so did the tourist trade. These days, Bombay Beach is a few square blocks of boarded-up huts, abandoned trailers and decrepit caravans with a handful of inhabited dwellings and camper vans in and among it all, though

Above: Felicity. You know it. Near Yuma, AZ. The mayor, a Frenchman, founded the town in 1985, named it after his wife, and had the local Board of Surveyors name the street. Why not? Below: Salvation Mountain, not far from the Center of the World. This area is a magnet for kooks. Right, Dave?


it’s not always obvious which is which. It feels like a place on the brink, hanging on for dear life or maybe grim death. I wander about, baking in the low-lying desert heat, digging the scene, seemingly the only living boy in Bombay Beach. A Jolly Roger hangs limp in the hot anti-breeze. Flies buzz incessantly. The odd gull squawks to a companion somewhere out on the water. The air hangs so thick and still, it feels I could cut it with a knife and take a slice with me, should I ever want to re-experience this place again. I find the one shop mercifully open, buy a drink and ask about the closest fuel stop. There’s an odd couple in the shop; the guy is tall, really tall, and sporting the classic mullet/death-metal T-shirt uniform of white, working class nowhere America. The girl is blonde and short and shy and finds everything that comes out of my mouth hilarious for some reason. Both seem a little perplexed as to why I’m here, and I don’t have a good answer. While drinking my pop, I ask what goes on around there and receive blank stares in reply. I find out that the closest fuel is 17 miles back the way I’ve come, in Niland. ‘Watch out for the cops round here,’ the tall fella says in leaving, ‘they’re ALL assholes.’ His words hang heavy as I approach the check point from earlier, though this time I know where I’ve just been and I’m waved straight on through. While filling up with gas and supplies in Niland, the mood in the store drops distinctly when I ask which turn off I need for Slab City. The red-faced attendant shoots me a look before shuffling out back, where I hear a muffled voice talking on a phone. Reappearing to take my money, begrudgingly he tells me I need to hang a right on Main Street. ‘And that’ll take me to the Slabs?’ I ask, wondering if I’ve imagined the change in tone. I receive no answer. I buy an ice cream, hoping it’ll cheer me up at least, and sit on a kerb out front of the store. Before I’ve got down to the joke on the stick, a police cruiser pulls up behind my bike and a young officer climbs out, the bright afternoon sun darting about off of the omnipresent mirrored shades. He tries to strike up conversation, straining towards friendliness, but his questions are laboured and obvious. I’m evasive and vague, though not enough to provoke heavier questioning. We’re engaged in a strange dance of mild dishonesty; he trying to sound non-threatening, me trying to sound non-guilty, though of what I’m not sure, all the while I’m sat on a kerb eating ice cream. A battered Civic pulls up and out climbs a guy in a floor-length leather coat and tribal facial tattoos. He looks us over on his way into the store. I nod hello, the cop sees that he’s flying a more obvious freak-flag than I am and trails off to bother him. Sensing my chance, I head out, looking for Main Street. Blue collar Niland, the last vestige of ‘normality’ before the turn off to Slab City; ‘the last free place in America’ feels very much like a town under siege to

'BOTH SEEM A LITTLE PERPLEXED AS TO WHY I’M HERE, AND I DON’T HAVE A GOOD ANSWER' Clockwise from top left: Slab City, an off-grid community centred around a former WWII military base. Self-governed, left to its own devices and with no running water, sewers or electricity. Not great feedback on Airbnb, it has to be said; Welcome to Venice Beach. We’ve been expecting you; Sunset at Big Sur; The utterly faultless ‘Kawasaki chopper thing’ that took our correspondent on A Journey. The parallel twin cruiser was in Kawasaki’s model range for 19 years. Who knew?; Oakland skyline

its freewheeling, druggy neighbour just three miles up the road, and several worlds away spiritually. Down Main Street, before you get to the Slabs, you hit Salvation Mountain, which is actually more of a hill, that a devout fella by the name of Leonard Knight spent his lifetime daubing in adobe, brightly coloured paint and semi-maniacal religious fervour. I fall into conversation with a sweet family of drifters who’ve been living off the side of the mountain in their trailer for the past few months. We watch as a carful of hip young things, tripping balls on magic mushrooms, stagger about the Technicolor dreamscape. ‘This is as close as those guys ever get,’ the teenage son tells me, nodding at the trendies. ‘They come here, trip out on the mountain till the sun sets, then head back to wherever they come from… They never go down to the Slabs.’ ‘Why not,’ I ask? ‘Um, it gets kinda strange over there, after dark,’ he replies. ‘Strange is good,’ I find myself muttering as I pull up beside a small dead bush resplendent with dozens of pairs of worn-out shoes hanging from its branches, a very handmade SLAB CITY sign fashioned out of crudely welded bike frames, brass plumbing pipe and other detritus. The sun is casting long shadowphantoms across the wide-open spaces littered with trailers, vans sans wheels, ad hoc tent set-ups, prowling dogs and the occasional broken-down boat. The first human life I see is a guy who looks like he escaped from the set of the first Mad Max and has been living out here ever since. He’s riding through the dust on a Frankenstein of a pushbike, somehow managing to push two smaller, though no less strange bikes along with his right hand. I wave and he flashes a huge, toothless grin as he passes. Further down the track I see an old hippie driving a length of 2x4 into the side of his caravan using a bicycle seat as a hammer. I say howdy and ask him if anyone minds if I put my tent up somewhere for the night. ‘You plannin’ on bein’ a fool, boy?’ he asks in a southern drawl. I reply I wasn’t necessarily planning so. ‘Then stick yer tent where yer please! Ain’t no one gonna say shit, if you ain’t causing shit… ’s why we live out here…’ he says, looking down from his DIY for the first time, underlining his point by launching a large gob of phlegm into the dust beside me. Later on, I find myself huddled round a raging bonfire out back of the oasis, one of two makeshift social hangouts in the Slabs. I’ve just eaten two courses of good, hot food served from huge communal pans along with about 20 semi-permanent Slabbers, washed down with some harsh communal whisky. There’s no animosity towards me, despite having just turned up unannounced and no one knowing me from Adam. I guess my windblasted and sunburnt fizzog and lack of agenda or stuff sets me apart from the odd movie crew who happen by the Slabs every once in a while, looking for that slice of reality, or whatever, to give their product some credence.


There’s a bunch of folks with guitars and other instruments sat round the fire and the songs are traded round and round in a circular motion, along with the beer, whisky and hashish. It’s a mixed bag; there’s an older Slabber called Bill, who plays lo-down blues and sings in a register so deep as to be almost inaudible. He’s got a great song called The Slab City Anthem, which details how Insane Wayne freaked out and scared the crew of that Sean Penn movie, Into the Wild, half to death. Sitting next to him is a really intense younger guy. He plays equally intense versions of ’70s soft rock classics on an acoustic bass, with long, extended solos and over-wrought renditions of Doobie Brothers et al. He gets upset when others who are jamming along get a chord or rhythm change wrong and he makes everyone start over again. Across the way is a girl dressed in ethnic garb with native American-ish symbols painted across her otherwise chaste face in swirls of blue and green. I don’t know what she’s been eating, but sitting there transfixed by the flames, barely breathing, it seems to be working. After a few hours of fire gawping, the girl pulls some panpipes out of her poncho and what I initially, cynically, expect to be a shit-show is actually somehow really beautiful. There’s an almost stunned silence as the last note trails off into the fire smoke, which is a nice counterpoint to the macho posturing of the acoustic bass guy. Next to me is a greying longhair called Chance. He looks and sounds not unlike Neil Young, if Neil Young had been living outside by his wits for the past 40 years. Chance is somewhat of the Renaissance man; song writer, actor, carpenter, glass-blower… though his marbled self-blown glass pipe is packed with some sort of schizophrenia-inducing black oil and we get pretty well baked between us. Out of the haze of that evening, one of his songs, Highway 420, emerges from the fog as something approaching genuinely beautiful. The night and the drugs wear on, folks float away from the oasis back to their own trailers or trucks or whatever they’ve cobbled together for shelter. I’m too wasted to sort my tent out, so hunker down inside my sleeping bag and pass out next to the fire. I wake intermittently throughout the night and drown in the cosmos in full swing above. At one point, I wake to distant mechanical noise and blearily watch three US Army Chinook helicopters cutting across the stars.


Arrowhead – Mt. Baldy – Hollywood The mountains look and feel less threatening come daybreak, though not without a keen sense of pure death. It’s icy and a long way down in places. Still not wanting to deal with LA, from Arrowhead I take the old mountain roads, the 18-becoming-the-138becoming-the-2 and completely underestimate how far that detour takes me. It’s a good thing long swathes of this part of the journey are downhill, as I slip the bike into neutral and freewheel down those long, winding roads for mile after mile. I’d definitely run dry and be stranded up in the wilds otherwise. The towers of downtown LA suddenly appear out of the clear blue mountain mists, miles below, as I round a long, right-hander and somehow they look almost as beautiful as any of the natural wilderness I’ve seen so far; from this distance at least. That first shot of civilization is startling and from here on in the city and all its unhinged craziness, vice and excess encroaches on the psyche, leaving the mountains and deserts in its wake, ready for the next great escape. I ride down Hollywood Boulevard, not really caring whether or not I can remember where it is that I’m meant to be going, and happen upon a bad scene; a silver Audi is wrapped around the concrete central reservation, its front end is concertinaed up and rests somewhere around the driver’s door. A gaggle of shellshocked onlookers stands gawping at the wreckage. There are several police cars flashing blue lights and as I pass I see a cop ducking out of the ex-car, retrieving two bottles of vodka, both somehow still intact. I’m very much back in and among the world, but not completely. I know that I’ve left little parts of myself behind; scattered them across the wild, wide open spaces, across the high mountain peaks, left them with the weirdoes out there figuring out how to make it, on their terms, not the rest of the world’s. And I know I’ll have to return, one day, and try to reconcile them. Los Angeles – Big Sur – San Francisco – Los Angeles I can’t hack LA the second time round. Following all those miles, it seems a lonely and harsh place to be aimless and lonely, so I ring the guy whose bike it is and ask if he wouldn’t mind me putting another few hundred miles on it, riding up to SF to my brother’s and back, in time to drop the bike off and catch my flight home to the UK in a couple of weeks. Thankfully, he says he doesn’t. It’s one road; Highway 1 all the way from LA up to my brother’s house, so I switch my brain off and dig the twisting, rugged coasts of Big Sur and northern California beyond. I change the oil and filter at my brother’s house and give the bike a once over, ready for the last leg back down to LA, but it’s all a formality, the damage (to me, not the bike) has already been done. Once you’ve gone so far, how do you ever go back?


If Tredici Custom Casting’s Suzuki DR600 were any skinnier it wouldn’t cast a shadow Photos: Denis Boussard


> 90

GC The bike looked like a standard, beaten up, 1987, white and blue Suzuki DR600 when it was delivered. YT I met Gianluca three years ago, because we both knew Seb Loretz [featured in SB7, on the cover of SB8 and the man behind Sultans of Sprint race series] and we met, for the first time, at Glemseck in Germany, where we learned we live just 10km from each other. GC We discussed a lot, what kind of build, or style, or colour. YT After he started work on the bike, Gianluca would call me and say, ‘I have this great idea. What do you think about this?’ Then the next day he’d call again, ‘I have another idea…’ Eventually, I said, ‘Do what you want, I trust you.’ GC Freedom! My head was already fulI of hazy visions, all clashing into each other, to create the ultimate weapon using ninja skills, digger coffin tanks, sharp-cut lines of a stealth aircraft, sorcery, a steel monocoque, 19in wheels, and a lot of fun and metal. I wanted it to be as light as possible with a savage look, and to be as rideable as a BMX bike, while remembering that the build was for a tall guy. GI The first time I saw the Suzuki I thought of the Howerton Kawasaki Bryan Smith raced in 2015-’16. GC The Howerton Kawasaki really blew my mind and that kind of design is quite unusual on dirt tracks. Like the Howerton design, I was also inspired by monocoque race bikes of the 1980s, I love them, and the one-piece tank and seat principle that I think is rad and used on many set-ups. The lines also remind me of the Bultaco I built [The Grey Coffin, SB19]. It has the same philosophy and language and comes from the same mould. I made the tank and seat combo from steel, and the tank holds 2.4 litres (0.63 US gallons). That’s enough for 10-12 laps of a short track. GI The DR600 is a monoshock, why did you convert to twinshock?

'Create the ultimate weapon using ninja skills, digger coffin tanks and sorcery'


GC Gianluca Curulla, the builder

YT Yves Trabac, the owner GI Gary Inman, the editor

GC For the weight. I removed almost 12kg (26lb) of scrap, a lot more than I had to install for a twinshock set-up. And I prefer the look of twin shocks. YT The frame was originally going to be bare. GC Mika, my friend who did the paintjob, said that he had a bucket of matt grey paint they use on military planes. We laughed first, then two weeks later the frame was matt grey. YT I originally wanted a standard-looking flat tracker, but the more I got to know Gianluca the more I was open to his ideas. GC Besides the fact that Yves is a really a top bloke, he’s also a motorcycle freak and a true enthusiast. So he was perfect as a client. I made it clear that from the day he gave me his white and blue bike he was not allowed in my workshop until the end of the build. That was the hardest aspect of the build, stopping Yves’ several attempts to infiltrate the workshop during that time. When he came to collect the finished bike it was hidden under a sheet. He was nervous and told me he hadn’t slept the night before. The look on his face when I unveiled his Stealth Tracker was memorable. Then we had a party in the workshop for everyone involved with his bike. That was memorable too... YT Thanks to Vintage Racing Spirit we now have some flat track events to ride bikes like these in France. The first time it was ridden on track was at the Café Racer Festival, Montlhéry. I’m not a good enough rider for this type of track so I let Alexandre Artz ride it there. GC I don’t have a favourite part, I like the whole bike. When Yves came to collect it I didn’t want to let it go, so he had to use his kung fu to recover it. YT In dust we trust.

Gianluca, the builder. He added the bar that runs parallel to the tank, after tests. The rider needs something to put their right leg against


Alexandre Artz debuting the bike at the CafĂŠ Racer Festival, battling with the Metisse of Frank Chatokhine (who featured in SB17)



STEALTH TRACKER DR600 CHASSIS l 1987 Suzuki DR600 frame with one-off subframe l Mono to twinshock conversion l Modified swingarm to fit a 19in wheel l Tredici monocoque saddle and tank l Tredici knee bar l Paint by Mika ‘Vilain Garçon’ Aba Perea l Saddle by 12 Leather Stuff ENGINE l Mikuni 40mm carb l BMC air filter l Tredici exhaust with King speedway silencer SUSPENSION & WHEELS l H-D Sportster forks in Suzuki yokes l Suzuki T500 shocks l 19in H-D front wheel l Stock rear hub laced to 19in rim l Mitas flat track tyres OTHER l Handmade aluminium front and side plates l Hacksaw-blade-style ignition cut-off WEIGHT l 113kg (249lb) with fuel and oil

18 19 20 21 JANUARY 2018 - VERONA (ITALY)


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Stocks of Orchard Pig cider are always carried for emergency nerve calming. Note seat pan is easy to hose clean


COUPLE OF YEARS back, I accidentally became the owner of a 1988 500cc Jawa 897 speedway engine with a Norton N15 gearbox. Flummoxed at my methanol-burning eBay steal I spent a long time wondering what the hell to do with it. At first I hung it in a Honda RS125 road race chassis, but decided against going any further because I have no aluminium welding kit to do the mods and I had a plan for that chassis anyway. Six months passed and the Jawa was still sat on top of the piano in my kitchen. After a visit to my friend Andy’s vintage bus/ workshop for a brainstorm about his crazy dragster build I had an epiphany. Or was it the AK-47 and Special Brew?1 I would build a sprint machine. Coincidentally, my phone rang the next morning. Jake and Shaun from Revolt Motorcycles (the friends behind the Revolution Show, Hoxton Moto, Vintage Engineering) asked if we could collaborate in the build of a machine that they would film and I’d race at the Malle Mile in London. Like usual I just said, ‘Yeah, why not?’ ‘It’s in six weeks,’ they laughed. Well, the flop of their purple velvet gauntlet on my croquet lawn was enough to spur me into action. Much to-ing and fro-ing ensued. I’m based in Somerset, in the south west of England, and they’re in Sussex, in the south east. It’s 180 miles door-to-door and not an easy 180 miles either. I donated a spare 1957 Ariel VH500 frame that had a V5 2 . It was a mid-’50s, swingarm type that had been in the shed for donkey’s. Will Robbins (Jake’s son) was commissioned to do the frame mods we needed and a decision was made to make brand-new forks to an old speedway design. I had tried telescopic forks, it must have been ten different sets, but they looked crap. My Husqvarna supermoto wheels were liberated, and looked good. The KTM calipers and 320mm wavy disc are awesome, and the finished forks cope with everything you can throw at them. Being seamless drawn, cigar-tapered steel means they’re strong. The idea is to distribute the stress better, giving less vibration through the bars. A pit bike rear shock mounted on the front soaks it all up nicely. The bike came together quickly. Standing back and looking at it we wondered what we could call it. I’m not into naming bikes really, but at the time I was reading weighty tomes by, and about, former Russian gulag political prisoners and the TerrorFamine of the 1930s: The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn; The Harvest of Sorrow by Robert Conquest; Varlam Shalamov’s Kolyma Tales;


1 AK-47 is a strain of very strong marijuana made from a mix of Colombian, Mexican, Thai, and Afghani varieties. Special Brew is super-strength lager, also known as tramps’ central heating. 2 British title documents all vehicles must have if they are to be used on the road.



‘A methanol Jawa. Life-changing in the blink of an eye’ Forever Flowing by Vasily Grossman, and Martin Amis’ Koba the Dread. It’s harrowing stuff.3 I’m convinced reading these contributed to me developing shingles.4 The books describe categories of actions of a counter-revolutionary nature, the ones that would make you disappear in the middle of the night, next stop a Siberian salt mine. They are crimes against the motherland, and these are lumped together under penal code Article 58. I thought that was kind of fitting for this little agitator. The authors described being denounced, arrested and deported to Siberia as life-changing, in the blink of an eye. Being flippant, the methanol Jawa felt the same. It just grips and pulls instantly from nothing to the 8000rpm redline. We finished the build two days before the London gig and I finally got it back to Somerset for some lastminute shakedown rides. The old Ariel frame and its road documents were handy for a bike this ridiculous and came in useful when testing. Believe it or not, this bike is road legal: taxed, tested and insured. We turned up at the Malle do and ran it up their eighth-mile dirt drag and it went well. Because we had no starter rollers and it was a bugger to bump start, we had to push the back wheel up to the front wheel of my Ford Transit van and run the van in reverse to get the bike going. I’d robbed the handlebars from my Husky dirt bike and I’m bloody glad, too. I needed the leverage. The back end comes round quick when you shut the throttle on dirt. After the race it stood under a sheet in my workshop for over a year while I got on with life and scrambles. I popped some wonky old ace bars on, because they’re better for sprinting, relocated the oil tank, fitted a speedway exhaust from a four-valve Weslake and made the Hades vegetable spiralizer sprung seat. It is finished, but what is it? A counter counter-culture death machine concept? Or just some blokes having fun? Peace and love.


3 Here is the second sentence of The Harvest of Sorrow, about the Soviet state’s actions under Stalin, which led directly, the author writes, to unfathomable amount of deaths: ‘We may perhaps put this in perspective in the present case by saying that in the actions here recorded about twenty human lives were lost for, not every word, but every letter, in this book. That sentence represents 3,040 lives. The book is 411 pages long.’ 4 A painful inflammation of the nervous system with an accompanying skin inflammation.


How was it for you? Johnny Bronze and Article 58 in postcoital bliss. Hastings, UK, September 2017

UNION GARAGE NYC We could make a lot more money selling T-shirts, surf boards and seasonal sweaters, but we’re serious about quality motorcycle gear, says Union Garage’s Chris Lesser


Photos: Ethan Covey, Blaine Davis

Tell us how Union Garage began? The genesis was in 2012, next door at Moto Borgotaro, me flipping through one of Peter’s parts catalogues blindly wondering what helmet I should get, having unanswered questions and no place to get answers. It was much the same boat a decade before when I got my first bike – no place to go to buy good gear. The business was born out of necessity. We opened a 300sq.ft store and quickly outgrew it. Through divine luck the guy we sublet from went belly up and we took over the building, upgrading to 3000sq.ft. New York doesn’t seem known for its moto culture… Keeping a bike in NYC is tough. It presents some unique challenges. Road surfaces are third-world, traffic is chaos, parking is dicey. I always say it’s testament to how cool motorcycles are that people jump through these hoops to keep them here. But, there are 25 million people in the NYC metro area, so it doesn’t matter what you’re into, there are a lot of people into the same thing. We’re open seven days a week and there are always people coming through the shop. Tell us about your neighbourhood. We’re in a little mixed-use residential/ industrial strip between two Brooklyn neighbourhoods. For any traditional retail it’s no-man’s land. We’re a tenminute walk from the subway and most of our customers, by definition, have their own transportation, so the location is perfect. I want to be clear we’re not just some hipster bike shop one might assume by our Brooklyn zip code. We take the task of being an outfitter of quality motorcycle gear very seriously.

Chris Lesser. Serious about quality, advice, customers, fun

How do you remind people Union Garage exists and deserves support? I don’t know how innovative it is, but we give a shit about our customers. We’re honest with them, we go the extra mile, we try to give them good, considered advice. We’ve pissed people off too. A few times we’ve paid bicycle messengers to flyer parked motorcycles with $10 off vouchers that look exactly like NYC parking tickets. Most people got a laugh from it, some not so much. I’ve saved some voicemails. We also host events several times a year: speaker series, rides, pop-up shops... Give people a reason to justify coming to the store. We’re not a coffee shop but we have a commercial set-up and we get fresh coffee from a roaster down the street, espresso or amateur cappuccinos are always free. We could have all the gear in the

world in here but it’s the staff that makes this place hum. Everyone who works here is on board with what we’re doing. We’ve been lucky finding good people. The shop is incredibly impressive, was it difficult to decide on the decoration of a Brooklyn moto store? We basically started with a blank slate and, using everything we learned in the 300sq.ft starter shop, built out this 3000sq.ft space with custom racks with storage for product hidden in huge cabinets, and water jet-cut custom figures to hold size runs of big heavy motorcycle jackets. The gear is the decoration; the helmets, jackets, boots, gloves and accessories. Plus a rotating cast of cool motorcycles – European classics from next door and one-offs from local builders. We have a Zero FXS on display currently that’s just begging for trouble.

Leather-onleather squeaks reach deafening levels, but the sofas stay 20,000 volt electric fence is a controversial new development


Does it attract some, repel others? Most people visit the website and see what they’re in for and know what to expect. We stock some high-end products, but also quality entry-level options too. All of our staff are riders and to some degree gear nerds, and nobody works on commission. It’s a very soft sell. We do a lot of honest education, then we let people shop the store themselves. And we try to listen. Listening to customers informs a lot of our buying decisions. And we never stock something expensive just because it’s expensive – it’s got to have value. Ruby helmets, for example, fall outside the zone. Sure they’re beautiful, but the function and performance doesn’t justify the price tag. And I don’t like status symbols. I feel like if we sold a $1500 Ruby helmet, or a $2000 leather fashion jacket, it would impeach our credibility with everything else we’ve selected.


Our Robinson Jacket $699

Working on products or events 20%

Fitting helmets, installing phone mounts, coaching customers through gear options 20%

Absolutely unaccounted for… 10%

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On the phone – actually talking on it, or staring at email and Instagram10%

What’s next for Union Garage? We’re working on a new website and we finally launched our second jacket collaboration with Vanson, called the V7, because it took seven prototypes over two years to settle on the final version. And more ride events...


1. Aether 2. Alpinestars 3. Arai 4. Bell 5. Belstaff 6. Kriega 7. Rev’It 8. Roland Sands Design 9. Shoei 10. Vanson

TIME BREAKDOWN Wrangling text and photos for the website 40%

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Also, we’ve started to use the old store space next door for pop-ups. We proved the concept with a big Alpinestars pop-up this summer, and are following it with a multi-brand women’s pop-up next week. It’s a fun way to keep the tempo up.


Sideburn Directory

The specialists, shops, artists and cafés you need to know



Café, bar and lifestyle store on Bristol’s Harbourside built on a lust for escapism. Winner of Bristol’s Best Breakfast and encompasses all things Ride Culture: surfboards, custom motorcycles, pushbikes and related apparel.

Motorcycle stuff retailer located in Toronto, Canada. Since 2012 we’ve been selling great riding gear, bike parts, accessories, maintenance items and other cool stuff for any moto lover. Visit us online!



w w

Commercial and editorial lifestyle photography and short films. The great outdoors, hollow waves and two wheels.

w w @ tombingphoto


w w


Artist and illustrator producing screenprinted and original works. Subversive, anti-hero art for the everyday man, woman and the undead!

Newcastle-based custom motorcycle chassis fabricator, specialising in dirt track and street tracker frames, tanks and parts. Get in touch to discuss any projects, from road bike conversions to full race bikes.



w w w.roadkillar

Tracker and inappropriate motorcycle builders and vintage moto accessories store at the deep Bucharest downtown in Romania.


Retail and online moto lifestyle shop. Check out our website for a curated selection of top brands in motorcycle gear and cool casual clothing. Cool stuff for your sexy body!

Homed in Birmingham, the historic centre of British motorcycling, along with the wider Monday Mo Co family, of Mutt Motorcycles and Boneshaker Choppers, our aim is to curate a selection of the best products that reflect contemporary motorcycle lifestyle. @mondaymoco

sur @sur vivorcustoms

Learn how to ride at the UK’s only flat track school. Novice riders to advanced, on our bikes. Year round schools, one-to-ones, practice sessions, with indoor and outdoor tracks in Lincolnshire.

For details on how advertise in the next Directory, please email

w w w.flat

Turd-polishing a speciality. Looks good enough to pound into atoms on a Lincolnshire beach


Words: Gary Inman Photos: Gary Inman, Mick Stones

Honda sand racer is transformed in time for winter season

AST ISSUE, I outlined a huge to-do list to prepare our sand racer. It seemed ambitious, but surprisingly, every job got finished and I made the second meeting in mid-October (I was in Perris for the AFT finale for the first). Here’s how the modifications went down.

back together. The pipe was finished in high-temp coating, by C&J Powder Coating, Grimsby. Waterproofing is crucial, so I made a deflector from sheet alloy to keep the worst off the forward-facing spark plug. I also made an alloy mount for the CDI unit and riveted it to the frame.

the pivot from the bush on one side. My ears are still ringing now. C&J coated the frame and swingarm in a blue I picked off a colour chart that reminded me of Greeves frames. Next, I riveted the exhaust side and rear alloy panels and screwed on the air filter panel.



The Hagon shocks were working but looked like they’d been salvaged from the Mary Rose. I ordered a new pair, 25mm (1in) longer to give more ground clearance. The Honda has no brakes, so I shaved the caliper brackets off the fork leg, removed the damaged paint and then stripped the forks for CFM to fit new seals. A used Honda CRF450 MX rear wheel was picked up for £100 and a £68 Maxxis Maxxcross SM fitted. It’s as close to a paddle tyre as I’ve ever seen. To get the chain run straight for the new Renthal sprocket, CFM machined down an

The engine needed very little. Cams and rockers were checked for wear; a thread in the head was helicoiled to cure an oil leak. The exhaust was a bigger job. The existing two-into-one (it’s a twinport single) ran under the engine, its silencer under the swingarm, and didn’t give enough ground clearance. I bought crusty XR600 headers off eBay for £50, then cut and shut them to curve under the seat. Carl at CFM, Sleaford, tacked it up and found an old BSA peashooter silencer, that I cut the middle section out of then Carl welded it

The area under the seat was boxed in with dirty, white, sheet plastic and looked naff. I’d bought two 500mm square sheets of 1mm thick 6082 alloy for £22. I cut the sheet as neatly as I could with tin snips and tidied them with a little pneumatic sander. It would’ve been neater and quicker with an industrial guillotine, but I don’t have easy access to one. Carl welded up various holes in the frame and I ground them back flat and cut off brackets. The swingarm was a bastard to remove, a good five minutes with an air hammer to free



old CRF sprocket to act as a spacer. The front wheel was powdercoated silver. It’s so corroded after years on the beach, those nipples are never coming out, so coating over them is no problem. The lack of brakes makes fitting a new rear wheel much easier, but it needed new bearings and spacers.


The little Honda tank and XR seat made the bike look tough, but it wasn’t comfortable. I cut up a scruffy Suzuki DR350 seat to fit the tank and had it recovered for £40 by Watson Upholstery, Sleaford, choosing grey for a change. I painted the tank in domestic appliance white and did an OK job till the second coat of lacquer reacted. It’ll do for now. CFM made a new footpeg bracket from plate and old handlebars, with a footpeg left over from the Sideburn Enfield welded to it. The right peg is a speedway swinging peg, bought for £27. It’s fitted to a rod that slides into the frame and is secured with a big R clip. The peg

needs removing every time the bike is kickstarted, but I can’t think of a better way around it. The new alloy bars had been hanging in my garage for nine years. Anthony Co-Built thinks they’re AFAM, but there are no markings except ‘DT’. I fitted a new Domino clutch lever, ODI grips from Lucky wheels in LA, and CFM made up new clutch and throttle cables from Venhill universal kits. The final piece of the jigsaw was a £16 universal rear mudguard, trimmed to fit and screwed to the bottom of the seat.


There’s nothing much better than the first four laps of practice at Mablethorpe beach, before it’s churned up into a rutted mess. Pick a line, any line, and pitch it in. The Honda felt unfamiliar, but ran fine. In the first race the rear tyre did what I hoped it would and I got one of my better starts. I took second in a neck-and-neck finish from a grid of 11. The next race I got a better start, but for the first time

felt the bike was less powerful than last year; maybe the new smalldiameter headers are strangling it. Still, another second, by a clear distance this time. Third race, another second, each time behind Steve Lomas, a beach specialist and former semi-pro speedway rider with a spectacular full-gas style. By the fourth race the corners were as loose as a goose and the lack of side grip from the Maxxis rear was showing why not everyone likes them. I lost the rear end, but it could have been down to my body position, because I just held on, not thinking about my body English, unlike when I’m flat tracking. Still, I kept the bike running and got a point for finishing. I crossed the line in the final heat in third, behind Adam Grice, who pipped me for second overall on the day. There are no finals, the heat results are all added together to determine the podium. The little trophy was a bonus, because the main aim for the day was to finish all the heats and not have to push off from the middle. Result!


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Transcript of a phone conversation with Bryan Villella, #65 Subject: Ascot ’86

SB: Bryan, thanks for talking to us. So this is Ascot Park in 1986, is that right? What do you remember about it? BV: Yeah. Well, I can’t really remember that much about it. I’ve got that picture here in the house and I look at it every day. I was getting the points lead back and ended up winning the junior championship that year. And just being back at Ascot, I always had good luck there and that was my sponsor Ron Wood’s home track, so I was always excited to be racing there. There were some guys I was racing with on 750 Harleys and I was on a single cylinder Rotax, but [others] were riding them there also, so I guess it was pretty fair. But then I came back there the next year and raced that same bike with the 750s as an Expert and made the Camel Challenge and did really good, got Rookie of the Year there. So yeah, Ascot was always my favourite track, I always had good races there. SB: How old were you at this point? BV: I was 17, just about graduating high school. I’d been racing since I was five years old. I turned pro in ’85, so I’d been on the pro circuit for a couple of years. SB: You’re there with Vivian Chadbourne, the trophy queen. Did you see Vivian around quite a lot? BV: Well for those couple of years there I was in the winner’s circle a few times, so while she was the Camel girl for a couple of years, yeah... SB: You’re still racing, right? BV: Yeah, I took a little time off, but I’ve maintained racing pretty much every year since then. Now I’m riding a 450 Honda DTX bike. I crashed last week at a race and I don’t heal as good as I did when I was younger, feeling a little sore still, but luckily didn’t hurt myself or the bike, just a little bruised up. I’m just getting ready to do some ice racing on a hockey rink here [in Michigan] in a month. Hopefully the lakes are gonna freeze and I’ll get to do some practice out Stonewashed 15 denim 15% on the ice here. SB: What else does the photo make you think of?


BV: It’s a good photo and those days were the good days. And I’d like to really thank that sponsor, Ron Wood, for making it all happen for me back then. 40

Ascot Park 1986 15

35 Statue of Liberty 35%


Generous handguards 23%

Duff microphone 10%


Cigarette sponsorship 17%


Photo: Mitch Friedman


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