Friday, August 18, 2017

WRECKING CREW: THE TRIO OF TERROR



In 1932, the American Motorcyclist Association created Class C for Flat Track motorcycle racing, and in doing so, the prestigious AMA Grand National Championship was fought out in a one day race called the Springfield Mile, and was held on a frighteningly fast, 130-mile-per-hour circuit based at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. During that period, two American motorcycle manufacturers – Harley-Davidson of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Indian of Springfield, Massachusetts – went to war, throwing everything they had at winning the Springfield Mile. From 1947 through 1950, Harley-Davidson held sway, but beginning in 1951, a trio of factory-backed Indian racers got the better of their bitter rivals from Milwaukee. Dubbed the Wrecking Crew, Indian riders Bobby Hill (far right in this photo), Bill Tuman and Ernie Beckman ruled the sport with an American iron fist, Ohioan Hill and his 44.72 cubic inch V-twin Indian Scout winning the title in both 1951 and 1952.

Friday, August 4, 2017

WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS


1982 was an amazing year for Americans in global motorcycle racing and the cover of the January 12, 1983 issue of Cycle News certainly illustrated that epic season. In the back row of the cover shot, (from left and all in white) Johnny O’Mara, David Bailey, Danny “Magoo” Chandler and Jim Gibson backed up American success at the 1981 Trophee and Motocross des Nations by winning the ’82 versions of the Olympics of Motocross in Germany and Switzerland, respectively. In the front row (also from left), after over a decade of trying, California’s Brad Lackey (in yellow) won America’s first FIM 500cc Motocross World Championship. In the center, Bruce Penhall won the FIM Speedway World Championship, while to the right, Danny LaPorte, in his first full season in Grand Prix motocross, won the 250cc World Championship. Interestingly, all seven men were born in California.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

OSCAR STORY: KURT MILLER



I’ve always been a Ducati guy and I’ve never owned anything non-Ducati. This brand is the whole reason why I got into motorcycling. I saw one for the first time and I knew I had to have it, right then and there. It was like seeing the girl of your dreams and all of a sudden, everyone else disappears.

There has always been a temptation to switch to a bigger bike, don’t get me wrong- you know, go to the 1299 or whatever else- but I convinced myself that 160 horse power and 420 pounds fully fuelled was definitely more than my skill level. I’m also the type of person who ends up, to my own discredit, spending more time adding parts to the bike than I enjoy getting to ride it; half because of my busy schedule and the other half is because I turn into a huge poser with these carbon fiber sparkplugs and things of that nature.

So it had to be this 2016 Ducati Panigale. It was way out of my league but still in sight as far as my skill level and at the end of the day, when I look at it, I don’t see any other bike I would rather have.

I’ve been riding for about 10 years now. I wasn’t inspired by anyone in my family. My mom still calls it a “death machine,” and does not know that I ride, to this day. My influence was my childhood best friend, who was a total gear head. He had this 916 poster on his wall and I looked at it and asked, “What’s this?!...Tell me more about it.”

It sort of festered for 9 years until I was financially independent. Then one day I saw a new Ducati 749S and I was completely obsessed with it. I learned everything I could about it. I found one for sale on craigslist and knew it had to be mine. I didn’t even have my motorcycle license at that point. I ended up getting my license and over the weekend I did the MSS course, solely because of this purchase. On Tuesday or Wednesday, I bought a one-way ticket to Seattle. The owner of the bike met me at the airport. I bought it, hopped on the bike and rode 800 miles home along the coast back to California over the next two days.

The first time I had ever ridden down a street was when I swung a leg over the bike at the airport and I took off. The owner knew. As I hopped on, he gave me a look like, “Oh, this is going to be a mess.”

I actually got an email from him asking, “How was the ride back down? Did you crash? Are you in the hospital?”

When I was younger, maybe 7 or 8 years out of college, I was the “Boiler Room” guy and I was always chasing money. I was doing the Wall Street, fun financial job until the great recession hit. I had front row seats. I got to see how some of the policies the company I was working for were negatively affecting mom and pop shops and the like. I was still in New York City by the end of the recession (2011-2012), still working in finance at a major bank.

One day I was sitting on the couch and my fiancĂ© looked up and said, “You look so unhappy. You look so stressed out. Why are you doing this?” and I was looking at a message board or blog about Ducati’s. She goes, “Why don’t you do that? You clearly spend all of your free time on it.”

That following week I quit my job, walked out of the bank and walked straight into Ducati, in New York City. I walked back out and walked back in a handful of times for the next 2 or 3 weeks. I wanted to get into the motorcycle industry and I knew we were moving back to the Bay area, where Ducati North America was located. I figured I might as well try to get some intel on the industry if I’m even going to have a chance. After weeks of borderline criminal harassment of the owner, Steve Rad (of Ducati NYC) he asked me, “What do you want? Why do you keep coming in here?”

I said, “I’ve sent you my resume 4 times and have not received a reply. Here’s my deal; I’m moving back to California… I love Ducati and I’d like to come work for you the next three months that I have left here.”

He said, “I’d love to help you but we just filled our last position.”

To which I replied, “I think you’re not understanding me. I’m not asking to be paid. I just want to come in and learn as much about this business as possible.”

I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse and he said, “I guess I’ll see you on Tuesday.”

He finally gave in.

Steve was great. He had me doing everything from looking over the books to hand washing the bikes. I got to learn the dealership side from the ground up and within two months, Steve called the CFO of DNA and said, “You’ve got to hire this Kurt kid!”

A week later I got a phone call. After that, I eneded up working at DNA for the next four years.

Right now, I’m in a great place in my life. If I’m riding, I will always be in a good place.

Friday, July 28, 2017

CAPTAIN COBALT



1975 AMA 250cc Supercross Champion Jimmy Ellis is a name synonymous with 1970s American motocross and Team CanAm. Ellis, shown here on the cover of the 1976 Texas Supercross race program, signed with the CanAm factory in 1974 to ride the U.S. National Motocross and Supercross Series. And for three straight years Ellis was a perennial threat in any race he lined up for, racing his funky CanAm to a number of top three finishes.

Friday, July 14, 2017

STEVE MCQUEEN: TWO WHEELED GOD


In 1963, American cinematic actor Steve McQueen was cast in the film The Great Escape, directed by John Sturgess. McQueen did most of the motorcycle riding featured prominently in the film, although the movie is best remembered for the border fence job which was executed by American stuntman Bud Ekins (a good friend of McQueen’s). With a break in the shooting of the film that summer, Ekins trekked over to Czechoslovakia to participate in the ISDT (International Six Days Trial), clinching a gold medal upon doing so. Word got back to McQueen who was enraptured with the idea of creating a U.S. team to compete in the ISDT the following year.

With McQueen’s help, and from September 7 through September 12, 1964 in Efrut, East Germany, the American team, consisting of McQueen (Triumph TR6 750), Cliff Coleman (Triumph TR6 750), Bud Ekins and Dave Ekins (Triumph TR5 500s), formed the America Vase effort.

More at home in the desert of the American southwest, the Yankees struggled in the deep and gnarly East German mud, but soldiered on to earn respectable results. McQueen also impressed with his riding skill and speed, but was thwarted by crashes and mechanical issues. Even today, what McQueen did in 1964 to compete with the world’s best off-road riders is considered to be the stuff of motorcycle racing legend and folklore.





Friday, July 7, 2017

JOHN DESOTO: THE FLYIN' HAWAIIAN




Straight outta Honolulu, Hawaii where he learned to ride motocross in the pineapple fields and on the mountain trails of the 50th State, John DeSoto was drawn to the mainland in the late 1960s. Initially living in a car in North Hollywood, California for nearly a year, the “Flyin’ Hawaiian” ultimately caught the eye of the West Coast distributor of the Montesa brand and his career duly took off. DeSoto would compete in the first half of the 1969 250cc World Championship series before suffering a grave arm injury and heading back to California. Undaunted, he kept at it and in 1973 picked up a ride with CZ to compete in the Trans-AMA and Inter-AMA series. The highlight of DeSoto’s career came on Sunday, July 22, 1973 where at the Inter-AMA/AMA 250 Motocross National at Delta Motorsports Park outside of Toledo, Ohio, DeSoto placed fourth overall behind winner Jaroslav Falta of Czechoslovakia, Heikki Mikkola of Finland and Antonin Baborovsky of Russia. Scored as the top American rider - as was customary during that early period of American motocross - DeSoto took the victory over fellow Yankees Jim Pomeroy (who became the first American to win a World Championship round when he rode his Bultaco to victory at the Spanish Grand Prix at Sabadell Terrassa that April), Brad Lackey and Gary Jones. The one and only major victory of his career, DeSoto retired from the sport in 1975 and was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999.


Monday, June 26, 2017

OSCAR STORIES: STACIE B. LONDON


I grew up in Culver City, California and I’m a third generation Angelino. My family didn’t ride motorcycles; my dad actually grew up with boats and building race cars as a teenager. He ended up designing engines and made a couple of land speed records in 1965-66 in Bonneville. I grew up being a gear head, surrounded by gearheads, so when I went away to UC Santa Cruz and started working, I knew the first thing I wanted to buy was a motorcycle.

I didn’t know anything about bikes. I just knew that it was time for me to start riding. I signed up for a motorcycle safetly class and on my lunch break I opened up craigslist to start looking, and there it was. A 1969 BMW R 60US. My first bike.

When I started riding in 2009 I immediately started riding with clubs. I saw and appreciated the comradery these male motorcycle clubs had, but they didn’t allow female members and there weren’t any female clubs out there. I was like “ok, I guess I’ll have to start my own.”

I started a Facebook page and tagged women that knew how to ride. Right away I started having meetings and organizing events. Everything started to pick up around 2010 and little by little there were more and more female riders. I never thought of this as a job, my day job is in art and design, so for me it was a way to make events that were charity driven, awareness driven or just to bring women together. We are a small group still. It’s hard to be a strong feminist woman and have confidence in all of our ideas or our femininity. We’re still breaking barriers and breaking stereotypes. I think it’s really interesting that even though it’s 2017, there’s still women that are looking to find the courage to get on a bike.

Right now, the Eastside Moto Babes has a monthly meeting where we talk about our frustrations, about being marginalized and being disrespected. It is a sisterhood that gives unconditional support and inspiration, and helps us go on. I call it the “Sorority For Rebellious Girls.”

I still have my first bike and I’m never getting rid of it. I gave the bike a new life and the bike gave me a new life. It taught me survival, patience, and discipline of perseverance. It’s taught me how to respect and be respected. It has taught me to be grateful and as long as you have those things, you have everything.

Friday, June 23, 2017

THE 1993 USGP AT LAGUNA SECA



With John Konciski and Mick Doohan giving chase on their potent 500cc machines, Kevin Schwantz (No. 34) leads the start of the 1993 USGP at Laguna Seca. A sinuous circuit situated in the foothills of both Salinas and Montery, California, the Laguna race was a bittersweet affair as at the round before, American, Wayne Rainey crashed out and suffered injuries that would both cost him the world title and end his career. Nonetheless, Schwantz and his Suzuki carried on and would clinch the ’93 World Championship. The Laguna Seca round was epic in that John Kocinski, yet another American, would ride the underdog Cagiva for all it was worth to win the USGP that bright and sunny afternoon in Northern California.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

OSCAR STORIES: MICHAEL JOHNSON



My name is Michael Johnson and this is my 2007 Benelli CafĂ© Racer, 1130CC, triple. It’s more of a work of art than anything else but it’s lovely to ride as well.
I race motorcycles and I own 7 of them. The majority of the bikes I own are race bikes so obviously they can’t go on the street. The Benelli is just great on the road and on the freeway. It’s a nice, smooth and fast ride. You can get away from anybody. 
If there were a fire in my garage and I had to choose, it would definitely be this Benelli, because I can’t replace it. This one is a rarity. You know, you can get an insurance check, but it just wouldn’t cover it. I have a Ducati, which I can go out and get another one tomorrow. I have a track bike, I can probably get a better one tomorrow, but this one is definitely the one I’d go for. 
If I’m standing in the garage, I’m the type of guy that will start wiping her down. 

Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted a motorcycle. So much so, my father would always say, “You’ll have a motorcycle over my dead body.”
About a week after he died, I bought my first motorcycle. 
Now I’m a racer and it’s a part of my life. I defied my father because once I got on a bike, you instantly feel the addiction. If I’m off of my motorcycle for more than a week, I feel a sense of urgency to get back on. The bike, the lifestyle, it is a part of me now.

Friday, June 16, 2017

THE STEEL SHOE SYNDICATE





American Flat Track racing was born out of the blisteringly fast board tracks and dusty horse racing circuits of the early 1900s, where towns such as Dodge City, Kansas, Laurel, Maryland, and Fresno, California played host to “Class A” 1000cc national events. In 1954 the American Motorcyclist Association Grand National Championship was launched with San Jose, California’s Joe Leonard winning the number one plate for the Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Harley-Davidson Motor Company. By the early to mid-1970s, Flat Track was a wildly popular form of motorcycle racing in the United States. Captured so vividly by Bruce Brown’s camera in the seminal film On Any Sunday, riders such as ’69 champion Mert Lawill, Gene Romero, Gary Nixon, Dave Aldana and a young Kenny Roberts (who would later trade in his trade in his steel show Flat Track accolades for three 500cc World Roadracing Championships).


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

UNION GARAGE ITALIAN BIKE SHOW AND ALPINESTARS POP-UP

More info here: Union Garage + Alpinestars Pop-Up

Great times with our friends at Union Garage in New York, putting on a show for the "Italian Sporting bikes of the 70's" -- Our Alpinestars pop up shop is now open until June18th at: 103 Union Street in Brooklyn -- So stop by!

Get an up close at our Tech-Air airbag system being sold exclusively at this location.








 








Monday, June 12, 2017

OSCAR STORIES: ALEX CHACON


My father always had a motorcycle in the garage. I think I was around 2 years old when he first put me on his Honda Shadow and I remember that he never put any more than 500 miles on a motorcycle…so I took that as a challenge. I said “You know what? I’m going to ride more miles in one day then my dad did in his entire life!”

I grew up with motorcycles and I’m usually a GS guy but on my last trip, riding through South America, I took a KLR 2016 because I sold everything I owned; my clothing, my car, everything. It was either buying the GS and not be able to go anywhere or getting a KLR and be able to finish my adventure.

A bike allows me to connect with people directly, in a more profound and deep way with anyone around the world. So any biker on the road is a friend. I really don’t know if I am in the right place or the wrong place in my life right now but I do know that where I am has provided the most opportunities in benefiting people around me, which is very important. It has been the pinnacle of my life to this day.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

AKIRA WATANABE: 1978 WORLD MX CHAMPION




In the history of the World Motocross Championship, riders representing upwards of 15 individual nations have claimed world titles. However, interestingly, amazingly and almost unbelievably, only one Japanese rider has won only one World Championship. His name is Akira Watanabe and in 1978 he won the 125cc World Motocross Championship. During the 39 years which have followed, no rider representing the nation of 127 million inhabitants has been able to win a World Championship.

Akira Watanabe was born in 1954 in Utsunomiya, Japan and first became intrigued by motocross by seeing 50cc race bike inside the store front window of a motorcycle dealership. He took to the bike quickly, and within two years was racing. Excelling in local and regional races around the nation, by the age of 17, Akira had caught the eye of the Suzuki Motor Corporation and was hired to test, research and develop the brand’s motocross bikes. In 1974, at age 19 and already a professional, he won the Japanese Championship in both the 125cc and 250cc classes. One year later, he fulfilled his boyhood dream of being sent to Europe to contest the 125cc World Championship Series. “Of course I remember Akira,” exclaims Roger DeCoster. “He was based in Belgium, actually, when he raced in Europe. That was during the Gaston Rahier days. He actually spent some time living with Gaston on the East Side of Belgium. He also rode with me. Akira raced the Trans-AMA Series, as well. He was a good rider – a very good rider. I mean you don’t win a World Championship without being a decent rider. Akira was very focused and he really wanted it bad. He came to Europe, which was not so easy for a Japanese rider.

Monday, June 5, 2017

OSCAR STORIES: JON BEKEFY



My name is Jon Bekefy and this is my 2015 KTM 690.

My old man got me hooked onto motorcycles. I grew up listening to stories from my mom about my dad being a wild man. He was a motorcyclist, lumberjack and a bit of an outlaw.

The man was legit. The first thing I learned about my dad was the scar down the middle of his face was there because of getting bashed on the head with a beer bottle in a bar brawl.

That was my male role model growing up. He was a badass.

My mom’s brother was also a rider but quit right after getting into an accident. In my brain, at that age, I was like “well, that’s unacceptable, clearly my dad is fucking awesome.”

I’m first generation North American and my mom and dad lived in Vancouver before then. My dad was an immigrant and his favorite person when I was a kid was Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was a Gold’s Gym t-shirt wearing type of a guy. By type, I mean that was legitimately my dad. While my Mom was in the hospital giving birth to me he was pumping iron.

In high school I was doing a lot of BMX and mountain bike racing and finally dragged home my first Honda as a garage project. I decided I was going to be a motorcyclist. I remember Top Gun also inspired me along with my dad and all of that kind of pop culture explosion of motorcycling. It was a done deal. Tom Cruise was the man. He is a legit and talented rider and talented car driver. I know he is a little kooky but as a role model, when I was a child, Top Gun and Maverick were just so rad. Maverick was a total fuck-up and successful at the same time and when I was a kid, I thought “hey I can be goofy or stupid and be totally awesome,” and that’s powerful...unintentionally powerful.

I’ve lived in San Francisco since 2000, so riding in San Francisco and going on the track, will always be for me. But being into motorcycles and being on a bike is the sharp end of the stick. It is something that will totally fuck you up more often than not. And more often than not, it has NOT shown me what I’m good at, but it reminds me of what I’m really fucking terrible at...like riding.

Even working on bikes is always a lesson in humility. It’s really cool to stay alive and stay somewhat fast and to be smart in what you’re doing. It’s more about focusing on what you don’t know.

Friday, June 2, 2017

MARTY MOATES AT THE CARLSBAD RACEWAY


In the month of June, during the summer of 1980, Carlsbad Raceway and Marty Moates would become synonymous with one another. On that sunny afternoon Moates, the consummate underdog as an empty-pocketed privateer, rode his LOP Yamaha to victory at the 500cc USGP, a race that until then was dominated by visiting European stars. It was the one race every American rider dreamed of winning, though no one had pulled it off up to that point. But in Cinderella fashion, Moates, born and raised in nearby San Diego, pulled off what remains arguably the single biggest upset in motocross history.