Friday, December 8, 2017

STEVE MCQUEEN AND THE DESERT SLED



Cycle World Magazine: June 1964
Steve McQueen’s 1963 Triumph Bonneville Desert Sled race bike.
Winning desert races is what this machine was set up for. It is the mount of actor Steve McQueen, who recently won the novice class in a one-hour desert scrambles. The victory only proved what a close look at his Triumph Bonneville suggests: McQueen takes his motorcycling seriously. It takes some modifications to wing the rough, dusty hare ‘n hounds, scrambles and enduros that are popular in the southwestern desert. McQueen’s machine was prepared in Bud Ekins’ Sherman Oaks, California shop. They started by replacing the stock wheel with a 1956 Triumph hub and 19″ wheel to reduce unsprung weight. The forks were fitted with sidecar springs and the rake increased slightly by altering the frame at the steering crown. The rear frame hoop was bent upward to accommodate a 4.00 x 18 Dunlop sports knobby, and to it were welded brackets for the Bates cross-country seat. The bars are by Flanders, with leather hand guards, and the throttle cables run over the tank, through alloy brackets to the twin 1 1/8″ Amal carburetors.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

THE DAY JEAN-MICHEL BAYLE STUNNED AMERICA


Although only 6,000 fans were there that day to witness the feat, what Jean Michel Bayle accomplished on March 5, 1989 at the Gatorback Cycle Park in Gainesville, Florida was, undisputedly, one of the greatest single victories in motocross history. And while that may sound like some very heavy praise, what the Frenchman pulled off in the Sunshine State was not only a tale about where Bayle was going at that point in his young career, but where he had been.

Despite winning the 1988 125cc World Championship and later that summer battling fiercely with American Jeff Ward at the Motocross des Nations in Versenne, France (“I knocked Jean-Michele Bayle down in the last moto to win the overall. It was in France and he was there World Champion or whatever it was,” said Ward of that day) most everyone in the United States of America knew something close to nothing about JMB. Remember, this was the late 1980s, and the American onslaught on global motocross was in full-gear and, for all intents and purposes, be it a United States Grand Prix, an international supercross or a Motocross des Nations, the Yankees won every race they lined up for. Undaunted, Jean-Michele Bayle, even at that point, made it clear to anyone who cared to listen that he had a dream and a dream he refused to let go of.

“In 1989 my goal was to show what I could do in the USA,” said Jean Michele Bayle recently. “The 1989 Grand Prix season for the 250 world championship was not starting up until April so it was okay for me good to start the SX season that January.”

From there, Bayle, be it buy, beg borrow or steal, and sought out any help he could conjure up. “When I arrived in the U.S., I did not have very much help from American Honda. Instead Mitch Payton and Roger DeCoster (who was then overseeing American Honda’s race effort) helped me a lot. Mitch take care of the engines and Roger and Showa took care of my suspension. The bike was a standard base model with a Pro Circuit engine and Factory Showa suspension we took from my practice bike.”

Mitch Payton, who had only started upon creating his Pro Circuit empire at this point, knew Bayle had the right stuff and was highly impressed by Bayle’s attitude and pioneering approach. “Nobody had been at that level in Europe,” reflected Payton. “He had been a 125 champion but his dream was to come to the United States. He was a very independent, strong minded person and was like, ‘I don’t care what, I’m going to the United States.’”

For a rookie Grand Prix refugee, Bayle performed remarkably well during his foray into the supercross stadiums of America. After crashing out heavily in the season opening race at Anaheim, Bayle bounced back – litteraly and figuratively -  to record five straight top 10 finishes (highlighted by a dazzling second at Miami). “The adaptation for supercross was hard due to the close and hard racing,” said Bayle. “However, I was really motivated to show my full potential at the opening round of the 250cc National at Gainesville.”

Back in the 1980s, the American Motorcyclist Association tossed the orphan Gainesville National smack in the middle of the supercross series and so it was eight days after the Atlanta Supercross that Bayle, working out of the back of a large white cargo van that Roger DeCoster had loaned him, that Bayle was about to go head-to-head with the Americans on what he felt was “neutral turf” (read: natural terrain motocross).

That morning during practice, the paddock was rocked heavily with the news that then-dominate rider Rick Johnson had severely dislocated his right wrist. The “Bad Boy” (as he was known at the time) was out of the race. His understudy and American Honda teammate Jeff Stanton was immediately thrust into the Big Red Machine team leader role. Meanwhile, Jean-Michel Bayle began preparing for the opening moto.

When the gate dropped to launch the ’89 National Championship Series, Honda man Stanton aced the holeshot, leading Jeff Ward (there’s that name again) and Bayle out onto the typically sandy Florida track. Stanton would hold sway during the opening phase of the race, while JMB motored up on Ward. Soon, Bayle was through and after Stanton he went. As he began to file away at the American’s lead, Stanton handed the lead over when he slid out over a small jump. Bayle raced away to win the moto by 25 seconds. The pits went quiet.

Bayle found himself in the lead at the start of the second and all conclusive moto, chased by Stanton and Ward. Stanton would find his way past the “Star Buster” (as the back of JMB’s JT Racing pants read) as would Ward (who would win the moto), but Bayle would hold on to a comfortable third place finish, and with it, the overall victory. It was a stunning result and a result heard around the world.

“Of course I realized then i did something very important,” said Bayle, some 25 years later, “because i proved that i was able to race with the best Americans fighting for the USA title. I was also happy for Roger and Micth because they were the two peoples from America to believe in my challenge. I think, to this day, that when I won they were more happy then me! On this day I think the American motocross people understood why I was there. I was there because my goal was just to race with the best riders in the World.”

That spring, Jean Michele Bayle would go back and make a run at the 1989 250cc World Championship. He won it. For the 1990 season, JMB was hired on by American Honda to race in the U.S. on a full-time basis. By 1991, he was the AMA supercross and 250cc and 500cc National Champion. He was also a revolutionary, the first Grand Prix rider of the modern era to fight a war that would allow future champions (and we all know who they are) to come to America in an effort to prove they were, in fact, the world’s best.

“Yes I was the very first to come to USA from the GP circuit,” explained Bayle of his amazing journey. “Of course I had to open many doors and the road to my titles was not easy. However, it was great to realize my goal and my dream, I RACED AGAINS THE BEST! When you are racing you want to win, but you want to win again the best the world has to offer. I was able to do that.”

Friday, October 13, 2017

JEFF STANTON: TRIPLE USGP WINNER



Team Honda’s Jeff Stanton on his way to winning the 1990 250cc Motocross World Championship race at Unadilla, New York. From 1978 through 1992, the 250cc United States Grand Prix of Motocross ran at the Unadilla Valley Sports Center in New Berlin, New York. Perhaps the greatest natural terrain motocross track in the history of American motocross, the grassy hills, valleys and meadows that made up the place were as world class as the men who lined up to careen around them. Stanton, born and raised in Michigan, won the race in ’90, ’91 and ’92.

Friday, September 29, 2017

LEGENDS: THE SUPERBOWL OF MOTOCROSS


Rider introductions at the 1978 Superbowl of Motocross at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (from left to right): Yamaha’s Bob Hannah, Honda’s Marty Smith, Marty Tripes & Jimmy Ellis, Suzuki’s Tony Distefano & Kent Howerton. 
Smith was America's first motocross hero, the first AMA 125cc National Champion. Idloized by kids across the the entire United States of America, Smith would also win a 500cc AMA title. Hannah would race on to become the first supercross superstar, winning the championship three times. Tripes won the very first true supercross race which was held at the L.A. Colseum a few years prior. Ellis was one of the very first AMA Supercross Champions. Distefano and Howerton were both multifold AMA motocross champions.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

TEAM MCQUENN: 24 HOURS OF LE MANS


Backed by the Porsche factory, in 1970 J.W. Automotive Engineering Ltd. set about to race the Porsche 917K. Powered by a 600-horsepower, 300 cubic Inch V12 engine, and the aluminum space frame/fiberglass bodied car astonished all who watched it race. Keenly cognizant of all this, Steve McQueen, then the biggest movie star in the world, took it upon himself to create a film that would feature both the Powder Blue and Marigold Porsche 917K and the world’s biggest race: the 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans. A 106-minute film named Le Mans, stared McQueen as Gulf-Porsche 917K driver Michael Delany. The film, Le Mans, took the Powder Blue and Marigold paint scheme and blew it up to help make it the most iconic and recognizable color scheme in motor racing history.
“I was in Le Mans with my dad for four of the months of filming over there,” offered Chad McQueen, who was 10 years-old at the time. “Those colors on the Gulf 917 were so iconic. I mean they’re a big part of my life. Seeing those 917s in the flesh was, and still is, extraordinary.”

Friday, August 25, 2017

JEFF LEISK'S 1989 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP RUN


Long before Australian-born Chad Reed became a multifold motocross and supercross champion in the United States of America, Perth, Australia’s Jeff Leisk was making international motocross news by first racing the AMA Nationals from 1986 through 1988. A consistent top five finisher in the 125cc, 250cc and 500cc classifications. For the 1989 racing season Leisk decided to head to Europe to fulfill his lifetime dream of racing in the 500cc Motocross World Championship. Aboard a full-on works Honda, Leisk thrilled Grand Prix fans the world over by leading and winning motos along the winning to placing a stunning second overall in the championship to Honda teammate David Thorpe. Shockingly, at the end of the season Leisk announced his retirement and returned to Western Australia. Here, on the cover of Motocross Action, Leisk leads the way at the Hollister Hills, California 500cc USGP of Motocross.

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.