Monday, 23 November 2015

Brittens at Barber - Meeting the Icons

Britten V1000 Reunion

I, like any other red-blooded motorcyclist, have cultivated a long-held fascination for the work of the late John Britten.

I don't recall the first time I heard about or saw a picture of a V1000. I do remember that I experienced the same reaction most people have when they first encounter a Britten: "what in the almighty hell is that?"

This amazement was followed by an intense curiosity spurred on by the extreme styling, the gaudy colours, the elemental design. After the shock of the whole subsides, the strange little details suddenly pop into your periphery. The machine becomes more and more fascinating the closer you look. Just what is this strange, organic machine painted in bright blue and pink livery?

Then, inevitably, you learn how the Britten came to be: the condensed and mythologized story of a man in a shed in New Zealand building a world-beating race bike, one that had the performance to dance with multi-million dollar factory efforts - and beat them fair and square on the track. You watch the documentaries; you read the articles detailing John's project and the astounding innovation on offer. You learn of his tragic death in 1995, and the myriad "what ifs" that followed his untimely passing. What if he had lived to continue building bikes? What would have been the next step? How could he have topped himself, after he had built one of the most astounding motorcycles of all time?

It's a powerful story, an engaging tale of the everyman beating the world and exposing the weaknesses of a large, lumbering industry mired in tradition in the process. A man with a vision and grim determination takes on the establishment with a home-built special, and does well enough to scare the shit out of the factory efforts - all the while inspiring the notoriously fickle motorcycle market to appreciate an alternative, first-principle design. It is the classic David versus Goliath story arc with a tragic end, one that fits into the Kiwi tradition of self-reliance and DIY ingenuity.

It's a good story, but it is one that is simplified to the point of fiction. The truth is that the story of John Britten and his machines is far more interesting and nuanced than the "man in a shed" myth would lead you to believe, and the motorcycles that Britten and his team produced from the late-1980s through to the mid-1990s are even more amazing than you thought they were.

Monday, 12 October 2015

OddBike USA Tour 2015: Part IV - Mount St. Helens

Aprilia Tuono Mount St Helens

The following day I hit the road alongside Neal. I learn very quickly that at this altitude the Tuono is even more of a homicidal maniac than I'm used to. When a car tries to cut me off in the early morning traffic I give it a handful in first gear to scoot past and the front instantly rockets skyward with the sort of alacrity that is both terrifying and endlessly entertaining. I apologize to Neal for drawing any unwanted attention and gesture to the luggage; the extra weight on the ass end makes this thing ridiculously wheelie happy.  

Aprilia Tuono Spirit Lake Highway

I head down the I-5 through Seattle, painlessly bypassing most of the morning's commuters via the HOV and express lanes. While I’d love to stick around and check out the sights (the Museum of Flight is on my bucket list, but time is too limited this time around) my goal for today is a bit further south.

Monday, 5 October 2015

OddBike USA Tour 2015: Part III - Into Smoke

Aprilia Tuono Grand Forks British Columbia

I awake at dawn, the sunlight reduced to a dull grey glow filtered through the haze of smoke. It appears that the forest fire smoke has grown denser overnight, and a light coating of soot has formed on the tent and my bike by the time I emerge. I prepare a quick breakfast, my on-the-road staple of oatmeal and instant coffee, before I pack my things and prepare to hit the road - I have a lot of ground to cover today, as I'm aiming to be in the Seattle area by evening to meet with an OddBike follower who has offered me a place to stay.

Monday, 21 September 2015

OddBike USA Tour 2015: Part II - Clearing the Haze

Syringa Provincial Park

My journey begins as they often do, early on a cold, grey morning punctuated by the gut-twisting anxiety I often struggle with whenever I'm about to embark into the unknown. Or pretty much every time I get up before sunrise and try to force a meal down when my bowels are going haywire from being awoken at such an ungodly hour. My best laid plans of departing just as the sun cracks over the horizon are usually derailed by a few visits to the bathroom before I even get my gear on, and suddenly my eager 6 AM departure becomes a leisurely roll out sometime around 8. So it was this morning, as per my usual, that I hobbled down to the parking garage with an armload of 30 pounds of luggage well after my intended start time while I silently cursed my overactive gut.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

OddBike USA Tour 2015: Part I - Prologue

Aprilia Tuono Highway 93 British Columbia

Just a few more months. Everything you are doing is towards this goal. You need this trip. You need this escape.

Don't jeopardize it now.

I've been repeating this mantra in my head endlessly over the past several months, a process of self-medication to try and ease my tortured mind. It's a small but crucial balm to soothe my stress and bring my life back into focus.

Forget the drudgery of the day and the cruelty of working mindlessly, endlessly. The goal is on the horizon. Soon you can escape, however briefly.

Monday, 17 August 2015

OddBike Road Test: Harley-Davidson LiveWire

Harley-Davidson LiveWire Demo

"No wheelies, no stoppies, no burnouts, no slingshotting."

It's the mantra of the Canadian test pilot, the phrase ingrained into our collective consciousness through years of steady conditioning. We can rattle off the rules as if they were our name, rank and serial number. Anyone in this country who dares to be so self-entitled as to request a test ride aboard a motorcycle they are considering for purchase will be subjected to the bane of our existence: the heavily regulated demo ride.

Harley-Davidson LiveWire Demo

Canadian dealerships are notoriously strict when it comes to lending out bikes. Unless you are a good friend of a high-level employee, or frequent the sort of time-capsule mom-and-pop bike shops that are rapidly disappearing, odds are you will never be allowed to test ride a machine outside of a tightly controlled, fully supervised, predetermined demo route. Riding a bike that you haven't bought yet is a virtual impossibility when you are dealing with big-box dealerships. There are liability issues, don't you know. They could get sued. One moron wrote off a bike on an unsupervised test 10 years ago and they haven't let anyone so much as sit on a bike in the showroom without a salesperson being present and a waiver being signed since then.

So if you want to try out a bike before you sign the paperwork, you'd better sit tight and sign up well in advance for the one demo day that marque is hosting sometime in the next four months. Or do like most of us do: say "fuck it" and buy the thing anyway and deal with the disappointment of the moto rag reviews not matching the reality later.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Help fund "The Story of the Britten V1000" on Indiegogo

The Goal

In October, 2015 a historic event will be held at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Birmingham, Alabama. As part of the 11th annual Barber Vintage Festival, a once-in-a-lifetime reunion of the iconic motorcycles produced by the late John Britten will be held, the first such reunion on North American soil. 
A similar reunion was held in Britten's home town of Christchurch, New Zealand in February of this year and it proved to be a moving tribute to the legacy of a man and a team of enthusiastic supporters who left an astonishing mark on the motorcycle industry. The ten V1000s produced by Britten's team represented the pinnacle of road racing technology at the time, mixed with some of the most innovative experimentation in chassis design seen in the 1990s. These machines are icons and continue to stun onlookers some 20 years after John's untimely passing, 19 years after they were retired from racing.

They are my icon, the machine that has inspired me to pursue all that is weird and wonderful in motorcycles and to celebrate alternative ideas - and the people who pursue them. For the past year I have been quietly working on an in-depth profile of Britten's motorcycles, and this reunion represents the best chance I have to document the individual machines and interview the owners, riders, and participants in John Britten's attempt at conquering road racing.

So OddBike needs your help to attend the Barber Vintage Festival to further the research needed to complete this article. John Britten's story has been told many times, but never in a way that has fully explored the truth behind the creation of one of motorcycling's single greatest machines, or how a relatively tiny operation succeeded in doggedly pursuing a series of unusual ideas and advanced technology in a bespoke machine that has yet to be equalled in terms of public impact and racing success.  

The Britten story is one that inspires breathless hyperbole, and for good reason, but the true story of how the V1000 came to be has not been properly addressed outside of a singular biography written by Tim Hanna (which, incidentally, I highly recommend reading). My aim is to apply my inimitable style of honest, accurate, and technically detailed writing to the Britten story and offer it for free consumption online. This work will be the crowning jewel of OddBike's archive of unusual motorcycles. I also intend to document my personal journey in researching this subject and examining the machines with a separate editorial piece.
Your support will directly contribute to the writing of this story, a long-form article that will be published on as a free and honest tribute to one of the greatest motorcycles of all time and the people who made it happen. 

The Expenses

The expenses that I am aiming to cover with this campaign are as follows:

Return airfare from Calgary to Birmingham - 600$

Ticket for "An Evening with Britten" charity dinner at the Barber Museum - Prices TBA, traditionally 150$

Three day admission to the Barber Vintage Festival - 80$

T-shirt and sticker printing, shipping fees, and Indiegogo fees - 170$

Further expenses will be out of my own pocket.

Other ways you can help

To keep expenses to a minimum I humbly ask if anyone in the Birmingham area has a spare couch or bed they can offer please contact me at jasonevariste (AT) I expect to arrive Wednesday October 7th and leave Monday October 12th.

If you are in town for the festival please get in touch with me, I'd be happy to meet with some of my followers for some BBQ and beer while I'm in Alabama!

As with the previous OddBike campaign, a few OddBike logo perks will be on offer to campaign supporters! I thank everyone in advance for helping fund this project, and I hope I can meet some of you at Barber - this reunion will be a once in a lifetime event and I would not recommend missing it!

Monday, 3 August 2015

Bimota DB3 - Much Maligned Mantra

Sacha Lakic Bimota DB3 Mantra
Sacha Lakic Design
For any Italophilic sport rider, there are few marques than can equal the beauty and desirability offered by the motorcycles produced by Bimota. Starting with their fortuitous decision to start building bikes instead of HVAC equipment in 1972, Bimota has earned its reputation producing some of the most delectable two-wheeled exotica in the world by assembling world-class sport machines around proven, bought-in powertrains. They are one of the few companies that can consistently take top-shelf engines from already capable machines and then make those donor bikes look staid, slow and boring in comparison to what the folks in Rimini have been slapping together in their laughably tiny "factory" since the Nixon administration.

The DB3 Mantra is not one of those machines. Nor was it ever intended to be. The Mantra represents one of Bimota's bigger missteps, an attempt to crack into a wider market that failed to win over many fans. It was expensive and saddled with some of the most controversial styling ever put into production. It was also one of the most useable real-world street bikes ever produced by the company, a fact lost in the unending stream of negative commentary that has dogged the Mantra since it was unveiled in 1994.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

OddBike Night Meetup at The Butcher's Dog, Los Angeles, California - Saturday, August 29th 2015

The Butcher's Dog, Los Angeles
The Butcher's Dog, LA

As part of the OddBike USA Tour Part II, I'm pleased to announce the first OddBike Night Meetup, set for Saturday, August 29th at the Butcher's Dog located at 11301 West Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles. Hosted by myself in association with Abhi from and Alicia from MotoLady, we will be reserving the patio for OddBike fans, faithful, groupies, and hangers-on from 7 to 11pm.

Come join us for drinks, food, and passionate banter about all that is weird and wonderful in motorcycles. I can guarantee the quality and intensity of my stories and anecdotes will improve in direct proportion to how many drinks I've had. Bonus points if you show up on a cool bike, but don't you fucking dare drink and ride!

Free underground parking (with validation) is available, look for the mass of greenery on the corner of Olympic and Sawtelle and go through the above ground parking lot to get to the garage entrance, located right next to the restaurant.

Look forward to meeting with some of my fans and boring you all to tears in person, rather than in print, for a change. See y'all there!

RSVP on the Facebook event page
Butcher's Dog Website
The MotoLady

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

OddBike USA Tour Part II - Bonneville 2015

In the Fall of 2013 OddBike conducted an experiment. Rather than canvas for advertising or sponsors to fund the continued development of the site I appealed directly to you, the readers and fans of OddBike, to fund a 4000 mile (6500 kms) motorcycle research trip through the Eastern United States. Your contributions, while shy of the ultimate goal, were sufficient to make the trip a reality and gave me the opportunity to gather a considerable amount of photos, stories and research material that have served me extremely well over the past two years. The experiment was a success – the readers of OddBike, through Indiegogo, directly funded the maintenance of the site and the gathering of extremely valuable material for future articles. You helped keep OddBike independent.

The Trip
Given the success of the first OddBike USA Tour in 2013 and the good feedback I received following the publication of the travelogue and related articles, I felt it was due for a sequel. Personal circumstances prevented a trip from happening in 2014, so I'm pleased to announce that the OddBike USA Tour Part II is set to happen between August 23rd and September 5th 2015.

This year’s USA Tour will be travelled along a new venue. As I currently live in Calgary, Alberta, and "Part I" saw me traverse the Eastern states, it only makes sense that this trip should be along the Western coast. An important event is needed to justify such an epic trip, so what better than a stop at the Mecca of speed and performance in North America – the Bonneville Salt Flats, arriving just in time to attend the Motorcycle Speed Trials?
The basic outline of the trip is as follows:
Approximately 4000 miles (6500 kms) overall.
A period of two weeks aboard my 2007 Aprilia Tuono, camping as often as possible to keep expenses low.
Ride from Calgary through southern British Columbia, then across the border into Washington across the Cascade Mountain Range to join the Pacific Coast Highway.
Visit Mount St Helens.
Ride the PCH through Washington, Oregon and into California
Visit the Solvang Motorcycle Museum in Solvang, CA
Visit the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, CA
Ride the Mulholland Highway and make a pilgrimage to The Rock Store in Cornell, CA
Host an OddBike meet and greet in the Los Angeles area in collaboration with fellow blogger and OddBike supporter Alicia Elfving, aka The MotoLady
Head north through Death Valley and ride across the Nevada desert.
Attend the Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
Ride north through Utah, Idaho, and Montana, through the Craters of the Moon and Glacier National parks
I will be departing Sunday, August 23th, aiming to return to Calgary by Sunday, September 6th at the latest.

The Budget
Overall budget for this trip is the princely sum of 2000$ USD. In the interest of full disclosure, the funds are to be distributed as follows, padded slightly to deal with unforeseen circumstance while on the road:
400$ for fuel (estimate between 100-125 gallons, at 2.50$ a gallon average - I hope)
500$ for food (~30$/day)
700$ for accommodations (~50$/day)
400$ to cover miscellaneous expenses, gear, emergencies, and maintenance. The trip will consume a set of tires and require an oil change. I'll also need travel insurance and cell phone roaming coverage.

Why should I contribute?
Your support is more than simply paying for this trip. As on the first USA Tour, the material gathered and contacts made on this journey will contribute to OddBike’s future content. Rather than just take your money and funnel it into “site maintenance” (which, truth be told, is negligible you exclude the hundreds of hours I spend writing), I use your support to make these epic trips happen. Motorcycling is my passion and my life, and my only desire is to ride. So rather than have you pay for my work, you pay for trips like this and I keep providing the content for free, and free of advertising. You are supporting OddBike by supporting my personal motorcycling habit; I don’t ask for anything more… And I don’t ask very often.
Naturally, as on the first USA Tour, I will publish a lengthy travelogue detailing the journey and my thoughts.
No ads, no sponsors, no bullshit. OddBike is independent and always will be, and your support will keep the articles coming. With your support, I will only have to answer to one group, and the only group that matters: the readers of OddBike.
Contributors will be able to choose from a variety of little perks - small tokens of my appreciation, and visible ways you can show your support for OddBike. Be sure to include your shipping information to take advantage of these bonuses.
So I extend a sincere thank you to everyone who contributes and supports OddBike. Let’s make the USA Tour Part II a reality that will dwarf Part I in scope and content.
Other ways you can help
While camping is fun, I'm always grateful for a soft couch and a hot shower when spending long weeks on the road so if you live along the route and willing to open your home/garage to me I will be eternally grateful. Please send me an email if you can help.
I'd also be happy to meet OddBike readers along the way for a beer wherever and whenever possible, and I'm looking for suggestions for interesting stops along the way. Please email me if you have any suggestions for venues, or if you just want to say hello.
A huge thanks to everyone who contributes and shares the campaign. The support and kindness of my readers and my fans are what make all of this worthwhile.

The Perks!

Contribute 25$ and get: OddBike Logo Vinyl Stickers

OddBike Stickers

Show your support for OddBike and proudly display your affinity for all that is weird and wonderful in motorcycling with these spiffy waterproof, UV resistant stickers! Slap them on your helmet, your bike, your car... This ain't cheap made-in-China garbage, these are quality items printed in Canada on heavy laminated vinyl by custom motocross decal provider Mark7 Designs - so these buggers are tough but can be easily removed and re-applied. Shipping is included!

Contribute 125$ and get: OddBike Logo T-Shirt (Includes Stickers!)

OddBike T-Shirt

Sponsor OddBike for 125$ or more and received a handsome black OddBike logo T-shirt, with shipping right to your door. These shirts are 100% heavy cotton and are printed in Canada. To keep the order process simple the shirt will be made to your specs in a bulk run following the end of the campaign: so if you select this perk please message me to specify the type (mens or ladies) and size (S-M-L-XL-XXL). Please allow 4-6 weeks for production and delivery following the close of the campaign.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Guest Post: The Honda RC213V-S - What's the Point?

Honda RC213V-S

This week on OddBike, we present a guest contribution from Rob Fogelsong offering an alternative perspective on Honda's much anticipated and apparently highly disappointing RC213V-S.

With the fanfare of the initial announcement over, Honda’s RC213V-S streetbike has been garnering mixed “reviews” as the impact of the “latest and greatest, fastest ever, MotoGP bike for the road”-type headlines wear off.  Most of the news following the initial press reaction has been centered on the price and the power output of the bike.

The RC213V-S has been one of the most anticipated headline bikes for MotoGP fans, literbike lovers, and Honda diehards for the better part of the last 2 years. Rumors about the possibility of a Honda MotoGP bike for the street have been circulating amongst V4 fans since the sport-touring VFR800 was replaced by the “Goldwing with 170 HP and sport ergos” VFR1200 in 2009.

Honda RC213V-S
The rumor mill started gaining traction when a few Japanese magazines started showing renderings of what such a bike would look like. Eventually (after a seemingly endless period of half-baked speculation - Ed) Honda confirmed a prototype was in the works and late last year at EICMA we finally saw the bike in the flesh, albeit as what Honda called a mere “concept”.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Editorial - The fall of Erik Buell Racing and why it is your fault

Erik Buell Racing

As you have likely heard by now, Erik Buell Racing is in receivership with no apparent hope for a bailout. For the second time in a decade Erik is facing the abyss, except this time he has 20 million dollars of debt hanging over his company's head and his Hero MotoCorp investors have apparently washed their hands of the whole operation despite owning a 49.2 percent share of the company. For those of us in the industry who long to see some fresh ideas in a market that favours bland conservatism and pragmatic design, the closure of EBR is a huge blow. Buell has long been the underdog, the classic American innovator fighting the status quo and achieving remarkable results despite going against the grain in every respect: he made a name for himself by breaking traditions you didn't even realize existed until he designed something different, something better.

EBR 1190 RX

The release of the 1190RX and SX gave us renewed hope that Buell could go toe to toe with the big boys in his own quirky way, and in so doing accomplish something unprecedented: building a competitive American superbike, when everyone else in the USA is content with either aping Harley-Davidson or being Harley-Davidson. With EBR on the rocks, once again we've been disappointed, and once again Erik has to fight and scramble to keep building his inimitable bikes.  

And it is all your fault.

Friday, 29 May 2015

OddBike Road Test: 2007 Aprilia Tuono 1000R

Aprilia Tuono Highway 93 British Columbia

"Ultra Classic - that's a Touring model right? Not a Softail or Dyna?"

The customer stares at me blankly for a moment. He came in asking for an aftermarket stator for his Harley, which I've already told him is a bad idea because the only ones I can get through my suppliers are garbage, and we've already had an incident where one caught fire the first time the bike was started after installation. But he was having none of it, because somebody, somewhere, told him that HD original stators were shit and he needed to buy the cheap Chinese ones instead, because apparently those are fantastic when they aren’t shitting the bed, self-immolating, or just not fitting the application they are listed for.

After a moment he responds. 'Um, can I talk to someone more experienced than you? No offence, but you don't even know what an Ultra Classic is.'

Monday, 4 May 2015

Editorial - Evolution

Aprilia Tuono Big Sky

In the course of working on this site I glean over a lot of road tests, previews, reviews, and rider feedback for whatever weird bike I happen to be in the process of profiling. It gives me an opportunity to get period insight into the machines, and the context surrounding their introduction, which plays an important role in telling the story. For me context is just as important as hindsight when talking about some long-dead company or motorcycle; we have a tendency to view the past through our own lens, which isn't fair or a good way to preserve history. The fact that we motorcyclists are some of the most fickle, prissy and critical assholes out there doesn't help when you are trying to do justice to a design. We will sooner remember it as a worthless piece of shit than the forward-looking product of a starry-eyed designer who must have thought he/she was going to change the world. Or vice-versa.

But that's not what I'm here to talk about. I've noticed an even more interesting undercurrent in the numerous articles and comments I constantly sift through, and that's a noticeable change in the quality of motojournalism. When you read reviews from the past four or five decades and compare them to the work being published today, you notice some peculiar trends. You can trace the evolution of motorcycle journalism. And it's not good. I'd like to address it, and in so doing lay out a new model for what I'm doing here on OddBike.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Mondial Piega - Honouring the Favour

Mondial Piega
Image Source

Take a long-dormant name, add a proven heart, clothe it in Italian design, surround it with high hopes, then end the whole project with crushed expectations, insolvency and some ancillary criminal escapades. It is the classic story of the failed motorcycle company, a trope that gets repeated over and over every few years when someone seeks to play on nostalgia and resurrect some long-dead company to sell vapourware to unsuspecting enthusiasts... Except this story is a bit more interesting and a bit more nuanced, and the revival came that much closer to succeeding. This is the story of the Mondial Piega, a machine that was set to conquer the superbike market through an unprecedented partnership that had its roots in a simple gesture of good sportsmanship that occurred over 50 years ago.