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 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
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.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Editorial - Eulogy

Ducati 916 Tank

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.

Suzuki SV650 Streetfighter

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

Editorial - Industry Observations 2015

Kawasaki H2R Super Charged

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.

Ducati Scrambler

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.

KTM Booth

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 cafĂ©-poseurs to keep things balanced.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Millepercento Moto Guzzis - Filling the Void

Millepercento Alba Moto Guzzi
Image Source

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.

Millepercento Alba Moto Guzzi
Image Source

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

The Bienville Legacy Motorcycle Commission - Interview

Bienville Legacy Motorcycle
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.

Bienville Legacy Motorcycle Front Suspension Detail
Image courtesy ADMCi

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Confederate Wraith Part II - American Iconoclast

Confederate Wraith B120

Part II of the Confederate Wraith story. Click here for Part I.

It is late 2005 and Confederate Motors is in shambles. Fresh from the epic high of securing a high-profile investor in the Middle East, the company’s president Matt Chambers and lead designer JT Nesbitt returned to their New Orleans base of operations to discover that their factory has been destroyed by the winds and flooding brought on by Hurricane Katrina. With their facilities in ruins and their insurance company bankrupted by the claims in the aftermath of the storm, it looks like the infamous purveyor of brutal, radical and rebellious motorcycles is no more. Katrina has seemingly crushed the hopes of bringing Nesbitt’s iconoclastic Wraith design to production.

Confederate Wraith B120 Motocycle

The situation appeared dire and the circumstances were debilitating, particularly for a tiny boutique manufacturer that had constantly fought with debt, flirted with bankruptcy, and struggled to meet the demand for their two-wheeled anti-establishment icons. A few frames and components were salvaged from the ruined factory, as were most of the computer files and company books, but the operation was a long way away from building bikes - particularly when New Orleans was still wracked with instability, crime and resource shortages in the wake of flooding. In spite of the literal collapse of their New Orleans factory, Confederate’s anonymous investor/saviour had maintained his end of the agreement and would provide the capital needed to renew the company. The question remained: with the factory gone and New Orleans in shambles, where would Confederate build its bikes?

Monday, 6 October 2014

Confederate Wraith Part I - American Iconoclast

Confederate B91 Wraith Black Bike
Photo Courtesy Brian Case

Part I of the Confederate Wraith story. Click here for Part II

There are rare instances in the realm of motorcycle design when there emerges an icon. These are machines so radical that they serve as a clean break from the standards of the past, thereby setting a new template and pushing the high-water mark up the wall a few extra feet. To truly be an icon, they must influence subsequent processes and inspire a new thread in motorcycle design; one-off machines that immediately fade into obscurity won’t do. They can be new standards of beauty, or of performance, or of chassis design, or templates for hitherto untried categories (or some combination of all four). These motorcycles are often the product of years of research and countless design hours, produced by multi-billion dollar corporations that can afford to take a risk once and a rare while. They are not often produced by a tiny boutique manufacturer that has built less than a thousand machines, conceptualized by men who were not classically trained “designers” with decades of experience under their belts.

Confederate Wraith XP-1 Motorcycle
Image courtesy Brian Case
The Confederate Wraith was one such icon of that emerged from Southern Louisiana like a thundering slap in the face to all that the motorcycle industry held dear. It was an absolute break with tradition, a bold insult to the long-held standards of a conservative industry, and a new way of conceiving of the motorcycle that was unlike anything that had preceded it. It was a product of looking forward while respecting history, a curious mixture of old and new ideas blended into a stunning machine that was as brutal as it was intelligent.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Editorial - Authenticity

Harley Davidson No. 1 Logo

The whole concept of authenticity (and what is or is not authentic) is one of those paradoxical topics that seems simultaneously important and utterly trivial. The term serves an accusation / accolade directed at whatever fad du jour is grabbing the attention of the public, but it also seems to be a product of our recent cultural aspirations. The whole business of following your passions, aspiring to greatness, and generally expecting the best for ourselves no matter how lazy or shiftless we are is a recent development that has enveloped our culture. To lack authenticity is to contrive against some notion of “true” passion – or worse, to debase those passionate pursuits with monetary concerns. To exhibit an idealized form of authenticity is to be in tune with your loves and desires without corrupting them with too much rationality or materialism. Upon reflection it’s all a bit ridiculous, but bear with me, I’m sure I have a point brewing here somewhere.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Hunwick Hallam / Hunwick Harrop - Aussie Innovation

Hunwick Hallam X1R Motorcycle
Photo Courtesy Richard James

There has been a remarkable amount of innovation in motorcycle design that has come from Down Under. Australian and New Zealander designers and tinkerers seem to have a particular penchant for crafting some of the most interesting and forward-thinking machines the world has seen, all in isolation from the existing networks. These clever displays of ingenuity often seem driven by a variety of factors – perhaps it is their distance from existing industries, or their down-home ingenuity brought on by that isolation from the rest of the world, and more than likely it is their strong fondness for all things loud and fast. One company came to the fore in the late 90s with the promise of putting an Australian-made motorcycle on the world stage, with a radical clean-sheet design that made the rest of the industry take notice. The Hunwick Hallam almost single-handedly kickstarted an Australian motorcycle industry that would have dusted the competition the road and the track, but the realities of the market would doom it to obscurity.