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.
Thursday, 12 March 2015
As my upcoming article is taking quite a bit longer than expected to finish and awaiting feedback from a few sources, I'm taking a break this week to present a personal editorial. Enjoy.
It's August, 2006 and I'm dicking around on the computer during a work break. I'm working for minimum wage as an unlicensed mechanic in Montreal at a British bike specialist while I attend McGill, completing a degree in history while getting my hands dirty during the summer months. I've been working on greasy old Brit iron for several months, fixing all manner of Triumphs, Nortons and the odd BSA or Enfield. Everything from show winners to bodged-together relics pass through the shop and while I'm semi-capable of doing the work I'm truly out of my element. I'd consider my skills somewhere around advanced-shade-tree, likely far from what you'd want to have working on your pride and joy but you really could't expect much for 55$ an hour. I muddle my way through it with the guidance of the grizzled owner without making too many egregious mistakes - though there were a few, thankfully none that manifested themselves outside the walls of the shop.
I'm idly browsing the Auto Trader wistfully looking at bikes for sale. I'm currently riding a '04 SV650 I bought new in the fall of 2004. Being a cash-strapped student I financed it for approximately a trillion years and skipped full coverage insurance because as a then 18 year old rider my insurance company seemed to view my premiums as a way of balancing their books against all those born-again middle-aged HOG riders they were undercharging. It was a fateful decision, because in 2005 I made the bonehead move of lending my SV to a coworker who claimed to be a proficient rider. After he skidded across the road in front of his house, narrowly dodged a passing car, and then flung the bike into a five-foot ditch not 100 yards from his front door I had learned, the hard way, he was completely full of shit. With no collision coverage and the bike effectively written off (severed forks, split rim, busted radiator, crushed exhaust headers, twisted bars, etc…) I made a deal with Fucknuts to fix the bike myself using GSXR takeoff parts, which is de rigueur for anyone who wishes to address the main shortcomings of the SV (i.e. garbage suspension and mediocre brakes) while still saving money compared to buying OEM replacement parts. I diligently showed up at his workplace every payday and escorted him to the nearest ATM until his debt was paid, and I ended up with a neat streetfighter once all was done.
Monday, 19 January 2015
It's the new year, and a time to take stock of the new series of motorcycles that has been trickling out of the gate over the past few months. It’s also the nadir of our Canadian winter here in Calgary, so of course this is the perfect time to attend a flashy, disappointing motorcycle show to examine this year's newly minted cash grabs and dull rehashes in the hopes of finding a few gems in this post-Economic Apocalypse era.
For some sadistic reason all the major Canadian motorcycle exhibitions are held in the middle of our bitter winter, when we are at least three months away from turning a wheel in anger. It's a chance to admire shiny new contrivances of the two wheeled variety to briefly distract ourselves from the misery of our cold, cycle-free season. Really it seems idiotic. Despite optimistic displays loaded with the latest (and leftover) gear and temporary finance offices throughout the show floor, this isn't the time of year when you are going to be buying bikes. Even taking delivery of them is a chore, shuttling them home on a trailer or pickup just so you can wistfully gaze at them in your garage for 4 months, then take your first wobbly, familiarizing ride on sand and salt caked roads the moment the snow recedes... Test rides are virtually out of the question at Canadian dealerships any time of the year, outside of heavily regulated demo days where you’ll have to sign up well in advance to ride the latest base model at 5 under the speed limit for 30 minutes.
Calgary seems to get the short end of the stick when it comes to the show circuit. I've attended the Montreal and Toronto shows in the past, and they are usually well stocked and exceptionally well attended (i.e. crowded as all fuck). This in spite of the significant anti-biker sentiments and associated legislation (not to mention obscene insurance/registration fees) in Quebec and Ontario. Alberta is one of the most free and accommodating provinces in the Confederation and exhibits precious little meddling with its motorcycling population. From my perspective in the industry, motorcycle sales here are fantastic given the population size, with a perpetually booming oil economy feeding an amazing level of disposable income in the general population – rig pigs like their toys. Not only that, but we are less than an hour away from the Rockies and a lot of beautiful motorcycling routes, and not that far away from British Colombia where you can find some of the best roads in North America. Unlike out East, sales of shitty cruisers don’t dominate the market and colour the entire industry with a faux-badass chrome and leather sheen. Here capital-A Adventure bikes are king, along with pure off road machines and a good smattering of tourers, standards and sport bikes. Metric cruisers are sales floor deadweight. People out here appreciate bikes that are versatile and can go around corners, though there are plenty of dorky hipster gangs with unrideable choppers and café-poseurs to keep things balanced.
Monday, 5 January 2015
Moto Guzzi has lost its way.
The boys at Mandello del Lario represent the oldest continuously operating brand in Europe in spite of operating in a near-constant state of flux due to catastrophic insolvency and unstable sales. Over the years the products emblazoned with the eagle crest have attempted to fill nearly every conceivable niche - sometimes successfully, more often not. Despite their attempts to crack into various categories with sometimes ill-advised oddball machines, Guzzis of old channelled a certain spirit that made them appealing to a certain type of rider who lusted for something peculiar. They were sporting machines, but not sportbikes. They were a bit rough and charmingly unpretentious, but refined enough to be pleasant. They were unique, but somehow familiar, and backed up by decades of heritage – passionate machines with antiquated guts. Moto Guzzi excelled at building the prototypical gentleman’s sports machine, exemplified by iconic models like the Le Mans, the V11, and the Daytona. They were not the fastest, or the most agile, or the most useable – but they were some of the most charming.
But it was not to last. With their finances in shambles and profits needed to keep the lights on, a new strategy would be needed. It was a boring solution, with practicality and rationality taking precedence over passion. When the Piaggio Group took over Moto Guzzi in 2004, the company gradually phased out the true heirs to the company’s heritage in favour of dull, safe products that would appeal to the masses. Thus we ended up with wallflower machines like an asthmatic retro throwback, a chrome-addled American-esque cruiser, and a Teutonic-aping capital-A “Adventure Tourer”. Guzzi weathered their near-demise to fight another day, but at the cost of all that made them interesting.
Monday, 15 December 2014
|Image courtesy ADMCi|
James McBride from Silodrome.com asked me to interview JT Nesbitt about the now nearly completed Bienville Legacy motorcycle. This is the result.
“So tell me what you think, man.”
JT is wearing a shit-eating grin and holding a tallboy of Coors. He’s beaming because today is the first time his incredible creation has been rolled out of his New Orleans workshop into the public eye. I’m standing outside the Motus factory in downtown Birmingham, Alabama on a warm fall evening in October 2013. I'm barely able to process what I'm seeing, let alone formulate any meaningful opinion about it.
I recall my immediate reaction as being “What the fuck does it matter what I think?”
The thought comes in a moment of pure intensity for me. It followed a long, difficult day spent running around in muggy Southern heat while attending the Barber Vintage Festival. I've dragged myself here to meet the man who I've been following and conversing with for several months, an enigmatic and controversial motorcycle designer who has been keen to share his ideas with me. Today is the day his baby gets unveiled to the public. This marks the first time I've met JT Nesbitt in person, and it’s the first time I've seen his handiwork outside of a computer screen. And I'm completely awestruck.
|Image courtesy ADMCi|