Monday, 23 November 2015
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
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.
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
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
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
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
"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.
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
Monday, 3 August 2015
|Sacha Lakic Design|
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
|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 Bike-urious.com 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
Wednesday, 15 July 2015
Monday, 29 June 2015
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.
Monday, 22 June 2015
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
"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
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
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.