Category Archives: General Motorsports

2018 Cleveland Progressive International Motorcycle Show Highlights


This year’s Cleveland Progressive International Motorcycle Show delivered its usual charm to Northeastern Ohioans. While the show seemed a little smaller than previous years, it nevertheless allowed motorcycle enthusiasts to escape the reality of winter and load up on information about new bikes and products for the spring. The show featured its usual combination of OEM displays, vendors, seminars, a stunt riding show, and a custom bike show.  

One of the biggest differences from this year’s show to previous years was the weather. The unseasonably warm weather allowed attendees to actually see the parking space lines, as well as not have to navigate a slippery, icy parking lot. While ice and snow were missing, so was a major OEM. Ducati had had a display at the Cleveland show for several years but were noticeably absent this year. The number of vendors appeared to have gone down slightly as well. Other noticeable absences included the Penton Owners Group and the Iron Pony (spare its Bell Helmet display). 

The brands and vendors who did return to the show made the show enjoyable. It was great to see many of the same brand representatives returning to the show and taking the time to chat about new products and answer attendees’ questions. Here are my highlights from this year’s show: 

 

Bridgestone T31 Sport Touring Tire 

I stopped by the Bridgestone Tire display and had a long chat with sales rep Jim McDeavitt. In addition to discussing our mutual interest in MotoAmerica, Jim and I discussed the new Bridgestone T31 sport-touring tire. Jim explained that the T31 was not as radical of a redesign as the T30 had been, but still boasted improvements in compound and construction. Jim and I also discussed the possibility of the TWPH doing a product review on the new Bridgestone T31s later this year. Hopefully the TWPH will be able to provide our sport touring listeners with a full review of the T31s on my new-to-me 2008 Yamaha FJR1300.  

 

 xsr700

Yamaha XSR700 

The XSR700 is the retro variant of Yamaha’s FZ-07 mid-sized naked sport bike, and little brother of the FZ-09 derived XSR900. The bike boasts an attractive retro-modern appearance, and I particularly liked the bike’s neutral ergonomics. Yamaha designed the bike to be easily customizable and therefore attractive to professional bike builders and amateur enthusiasts alike. The combination of the XSR700’s new rider-friendly engine, comfortable ergonomics, and customization potential could attract more new riders to motorcycling than its more modern-looking competition. It will be interesting to see how this new model performs on the sales floor compared to the larger XSR900, the closely-related FZ-07, and other motorcycles in the popular mid-sized twin class. 

 

Vstrom 250 

V-Strom 250 

Kawasaki’s release of the Ninja 300-derived Versys 300 last year was a game changer in the small motorcycle market. The model defied the convention that dual sport motorcycles had to remain firmly inside the single-cylinder heritage of most small-displacement off-road motorcycles. Suzuki appears to be following Kawasaki’s lead by developing its own small-twin ADV motorcycle. The V-Strom 250 on display boasted the same styling as its larger brethren, while sharing its 248cc, liquid-cooled parallel twin engine with Suzuki’s GSX250R and GW250. While the little Strom’s specifications are similar to the Kawasaki, the Suzuki appeared to be the better choice for new riders. The seat height on the Suzuki was noticeably lower than the Versys 300.  The ergonomics also felt a little more street-oriented, and likely more comfortable for on-road riding. I have not seen any official notice as to whether the little Strom will make it American dealerships this year. If it does, Kawasaki may have some unexpected and strong competition in this emerging motorcycle category. 

 

paul

Long Haul Paul 

Yamaha’s display at the show featured an appearance by “Long Haul” Paul Pelland. The TWPH first met Paul at the AMA’s Vintage Motorcycle Days in 2016, where he put on a seminar about long-distance motorcycle riding. The Yamaha Super Tenere-riding Pelland is using his love of motorcycling to raise awareness of multiple sclerosis, as well as raise money to help fund research on the autoimmune disease. Despite being afflicted by the illness, Paul has committed to riding one million miles with his condition. In an interview with the Two Wheel Power Hour, Paul stated that he rides every day, rode his current Yamaha Super Tenere to the show, and is 300,000 miles into his million-mile journey. Our interview with Paul can be heard this coming Tuesday (February 6, 2018) on the TWPH show on Youngstown, Ohio’s 570AM WKBN, as well as the iHeart Radio App. We wish Paul the best on his journey and look forward to checking with him in the near future. Follow Paul’s journey at http://www.longhaulpaul.com/, or on Facebook or YouTube.

 

Condor 1

Condor 

Making its second-consecutive appearance at the Cleveland show, motorcycle storage and lift solutions company Condor was showing off its wide range of products. From its wheel chock that won the TWPH’s wheel chock shootout in 2016 to its motorcycle dolly and trailer/ramp unit, Condor’s products are known for being high quality and easy to use. The TWPH chatted with Condor’s founder and owner Teffy Chamoun, who gave us a sneak peek at an exciting new product Condor is developing to complement its existing product line. We cannot share more details yet, but we will bring you more information about Condor’s newest innovation as soon as it becomes available. 

Cleveland Progressive International Motorcycle Show 2017 Highlights


This past weekend’s Progressive International Motorcycle Show at Cleveland’s I-X Center proved to be a little smaller than the previous year, but offered attendees a couple new vendors and a wide range of OEM displays. Here are some of my highlights from this past weekend’s exhibition:

 

(1) Dunlop: The most exciting story I was able to cover at the show is the upcoming release of Dunlop’s new Roadsmart III sport-touring tire. According to Dunlop’s representative at the show, the new Roadsmart III has been several years in the making. While the tire’s construction and rubber compounds are reported to have not changed dramatically, the Roadsmart III features an upgraded sidewall construction and a radically new tread design. The Roadsmart III will also feature the same dual-compound rear tire design introduced in the original Roadsmart tire.

Dunlop’s stated goal at the beginning of the Roadsmart III’s development was to design a tire that would outperform the Michelin Pilot Road 4s, which Dunlop considers its strongest sport-touring competition. Internal testing by Dunlop showed that the Roadsmart III is on par with the Pilot Road 4 for comfort and dry weather performance, and substantially stronger in wet weather grip and cornering. Inadvertently, Dunlop retained the same independent testing firm that Michelin uses to test the new Roadsmart III’s longevity. That testing demonstrated that the Roadsmart III front and rear tires outlasted the Michelin Pilot Road 4s by several thousand miles.

Oddly, Dunlop is one of the few companies that does not have a GT-spec sport-touring tire for heavier sport-touring motorcycles like my FJR1300. If I can get a hold of a set, it will be interesting to see how well the front tires perform. Every other tire I have run on the front of my FJR has cupped early on despite running 40-42 psi.

 

(2) Kawasaki Versys 300: I was really excited to see the newest addition to the Kawasaki Versys lineup. This new model features the same 296cc, liquid-cooled, twin-cylinder motor as the immensely popular Kawasaki Ninja 300, along with a slightly longer wheelbase than its sporty cousin. The Versys 300 also features a 19-inch front wheel and dual sport tire sizes, and a super light 385.9-lb. wet weight.

Sitting on the bike, I was impressed by its light weight and spacious ergonomics. While the engine size yells beginner bike, new riders under six feet tall may want to try sitting on one before pulling the trigger on buying one. Unlike its sporty cousin that has a new rider-friendly 30.9-inch seat height, the new Versys 300 features a taller 32.1-inch seat height. An inch or so may not sound like a lot. However, to put my point in perspective, I am 6’2, and I was barely able to get both feel flat on the ground. There was barely any room between the seat and my nether region when I tried standing above the bike. While I did not have a chance to test ride it, I wonder how the power delivery will be from a sporty, high-revving twin compared to a single-cylinder engine. A side-by-side comparison between the new Versys 300 and BMW’s upcoming G310GS model is likely coming to a fine motorcycle magazine in the near future.

Overall, I was impressed by the little dual sport ninjette. For the experienced off-road rider who is new to road riding, this may be the perfect bike for getting to the trails, riding the trails, and then riding home. Just be aware that it is a new rider’s bike in every department but the seat height.

 

(3) Indian: While I am not much of a cruiser guy, I have been truly impressed with the job Polaris has done since it re-introduced a mass-produced Indian lineup in 2014. The motorcycling community seems to agree. There was a constant crowd around the Indian display both Friday and Saturday. I tired sitting on a Scout, and I have to say it was very comfortable and commanding. I am not a fan of forward controls (just a personal preference), but if I were going to a cruiser, the Scout 60 would be near the top of my list.

 

(4) Condor Lift Products: Condor is a brand that the TWPH has had the pleasure of doing a product review for last year, and it was great to see them at the Progressive International Motorcycle Show. The TWPH had a chance to talk with Teffy Chamoun, the owner of Condor Lift Products, about the garage motorcycle dolly that Condor was demonstrating at the event. Chamoun also indicated that Condor is developing a new product that will help lift a motorcycle. We will release more details on Condor’s new product as it becomes available. All of us at the TWPH are looking forward to working with Condor more in the future.

 

(5) Kawasaki Z125: While the Honda Grom has been the staple of the truly introductory motorcycle market the last couple of years, Kawasaki is making a bold statement with the introduction of its Z125. The Z125’s lines and styling are much sharper than the Grom’s, although its seat is almost two inches taller than the Grom’s. New riders tend to values a bike’s looks before any other feature. It will be interesting to see how much of the Grom’s previously unchallenged market share the Z125 can claim, and if any other OEMs enter the 125cc road bike war.

 

American Motorcyclist Magazine Full Interview


Back in August, I was asked by American Motorcyclist Magazine Managing Editor Jim Witters for a interview concerning my involvement in the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA)’s EAGLES program. American Motorcyclist is the official magazine of the AMA, and I was delighted to see it highlighting the AMA’s political advocacy program.

The motorcycling lifestyle is under threat from several angles. Environmental  groups attempting to curtail responsible access to public lands. The sport continues to be damaged by a negative media image, and the sport touring segment continues to age without enough young people coming up through the ranks. Programs like the AMA EAGLES program are essential to combating those conditions and others that threaten the future of the motorcycling lifestyle. By equipping volunteer members who can advocate for the motorcycling community on the local, state, and national political levels, the motorcycling community is able to make its diverse community seen and heard.

I was one of several individuals interviewed for the article in American Motorcyclist. Due to space limitations, my full responses to Jim’s questions could not be reproduced in the article. My full, unedited responses can be read below.

How long have you been riding motorcycles?

I got into motorcycle riding a lot later in life than many of the other riders I know. I got my motorcycle endorsement in 2006, when I was 23, but did not start riding until Spring of 2007. I grew up in Upstate New York, and I took the MSF course in October (the weekend after a massive snowstorm). So I waited until old man winter had finished wrecking havoc before buying my first bike.

Is you riding mostly street or off-road?

I have been a strictly on-road rider. While I originally got into motorcycles after seeing what my friend’s Yamaha YZZF600R could do, I did not have the money for a true sportbike and ended up with a 1982 Honda CB450T for my first bike. I started riding back roads just to learn how to ride better, and gradually got hooked on doing longer distance rides rather than trying to ride at break-neck speeds on public roads. I am working on building a track bike to appease the speed demon in me, but am primarily a long-distance/sport touring road rider for now.

What is your current bike(s)?

My road bike is a 2003 Yamaha FJR 1300 that I bought in January 2015. The only real farkles I have added are a Sargent World Sport Seat and Spiegler brake and clutch lines. Since 2009 when I bought my previous bike (a 1998 Suzuki Bandit 1200S), I have been averaging 10,000-15,000 miles a year.

When did you decide to become more politically active in motorcycling issues? What prompted that decision?

It has been a gradual decision due to my life-long interest in politics and public policy. One of the first things I did when I started riding was join the AMA. At the time, I was trying to learn more about the sport, and the information for new riders on the AMA website proved to be very important to getting me into motorcycling the right way. As I read the American Motorcyclist magazine and reviewed the AMA’s position papers on motorcycling issues, it became apparent to me that motorcycling is facing tough challenges in the public policy arena on several fronts. For years I had used my knowledge of both motorcycling and politics to develop ideas about how to confront the motorcycling community’s public policy challenges that were both technically feasible and politically viable. When I became aware of the AMA EAGLES program, and immediately realized the potential opportunity to put my ideas into action with the support of the AMA.

Were you politically active before that on non-motorcycling issues?

Not particularly. I keep abreast of a wide range of political issues as part of my interest in the political arena. I have also done a couple minor volunteer things (e.g. door to door campaigning) for friends’ causes. That said, have shied away from direct involvement due to some of the goals I have set for my future political career. I have long been disenchanted with what I observe as the diminishing quality of what I see coming out of Washington, DC. However, when I see stories about drivers who injure motorcyclists being shown leniency, or have been stuck in the queue for a motorcycle-only checkpoint, or am forced to buy an original equipment exhaust system because an aftermarket exhaust system (that would pass the AMA’s SAE-approved sound meter test) would mean risking getting a ticket for an equipment violation, it is apparent something has to be done.

Is your EAGLES participation prompted by your desire to become more politically active? Or just to help out the AMA as a volunteer?

It’s a bit of both. Once I get my Ph.D I will become very politically active and will begin my career in elected politics. However, the more important issue here is furthering the AMA’s goals of protecting our freedoms to both ride and race. We, as a community of riders right across this country, are faced with a wide range of challenges. Many of those challenges are from sources that do not hate motorcycling, but simply do not understand it. Environmentalist groups who want to practice conservation of open land are laudable. However, those same groups need to understand responsible off-road riding on those lands, in general, does not pose a threat to their conservation practices. Similarly, towns and villages that pass so-called “bike bans” need to be educated about motorcycling, and provided with counsel about developing policies that address the issue of excessive motorcycle noise without punishing all motorcyclists for the actions of a few riders.

Have you taken direct political action on a motorcycling issue? If so, please explain what the issue was, what you did and why? What was the outcome?

Not as of yet. A college I was attending appeared to have a somewhat hostile attitude towards motorcyclists. While many of us who rode into campus parked on sidewalks and were not ticketed, the “official” motorcycle parking area was on the far end of campus, and only four spaces were provided. I ended up leaving the school before I took action. However, I had drawn up plans for something I called a “ride-in.” If my efforts to lobby on behalf of the motorcycling community at the college had failed, I was going to contact the AMA and other motorcycling organizations I am involved in and organize a protest event. Basically, the plan would have called for a large of a group of riders  to meet at a designated off-campus location, then ride into the campus area together and take up as much of the on-street and visitor parking as we could. It would be a great demonstration of both the unity and diversity of the motorcycling community. I still keep that idea in my back pocket just in case I run into a similar situation one day.

What are your plans for becoming more involved?

The first steps I plan to take are coordinating my efforts with the AMA’s needs and building up my contacts in the political arena. Based on my unique background and knowledge of public policy, I want to coordinate my efforts to make sure my talents are making the biggest impact they can for the motorcycling community. As a future politician, this is also an excellent opportunity to begin networking with elected and appointed public officials who I will be working with on a wide range of issues in the years to come. As the Road Racing Reporter for iHeart Media’s Two Wheel Power Hour Motorcycle Show, I have built up a list of contacts within the motorcycling community. By developing a presence in the political arena, one of my goals is to bring together members of both communities, on an as-needed basis, to foster the development of effective public policies that affect the motorcycling community.

What would you say to AMA members who may want to get involved, but are hesitant?

I would tell them that they do not need to do that much to make a big difference. A former classmate of mine in graduate school had a saying, “Each one, reach one, teach one.” I had adopted a similar mentality toward the discipline of professional motorcycle road racing in the U.S.. Wayne Rainey, Chuck Aksland, and Richard Varner have done a phenomenal job with developing the MotoAmerica brand. However, there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of rebuilding the sport. What the sport needs is each fan do just a little to help the series grow. Whether it is volunteering at a MotoAmerica event, providing sponsorship to a MotoAmerica rider, helping a family afford getting their kids into racing, or just inviting friends to come with them to events, if we each move the sport forward one inch, just one inch, there is no telling how far and how fast we can move the sport forward, together. It is the same with motorcycling in general. You do not have to be a big name lobbyist in Washington, DC to make a difference on the issues that affect the motorcycling community. If we can grow the AMA EAGLES ranks and equip more AMA members with the knowledge and skills to advocate for motorcyclists’ interests, and we can each make even one inch of progress on the issues the motorcycling lifestyle is facing, just imagine how fast and how far we can advance and protect our freedoms to ride and race.

What else would you like to get across in this story?

I would say one of the biggest challenges the motorcycling community faces is the image of motorcycling. Walk up to random people in your local shopping mall and ask them what comes to mind when they hear the word “motorcycle”. Chances are they will say biker gangs, kids popping wheelies down the freeway, or stunts in movies. A lot of times when I talk to non-riders about motorcycling, I feel like I am having to work hard to show I am neither a cautionless thrill-seeker or a juvenile delinquent. While we, as a community, cannot directly stop those who propel the prevailing negative media image of motorcycling, we can do an awful lot to advance a far more positive image of it. Sometimes I am rushing while I am touring, trying to get to a destination on time. But when I stop at an Interstate rest area and someone asks me about riding, I always take time to answer their questions and be friendly. Should I have to do that? Probably not, but I realize the importance advancing a more positive, friendly, safety-conscious, inclusive image of the sport. I think it is important that groups like the AMA and MotoAmerica work together to positively challenge the negative media stereotype of our community. In the public policy arena, people come up with brilliant public policies all the time that are never adopted. Real progress on public policy issues, motorcycling-related or otherwise, is a product of consensus. For us, the motorcycling community, we need to gain the support of the non-riding community on many of our issues in order to have a more effective voice at the state and national level. However, it is impossible for someone to effectively support something they do not understand. This is not to say we need to make every American a rider (though that would be great). What is needed are two things: (1) A better, general understanding of our community and chosen lifestyle, and (2) a better realization that our freedom to ride is tied to a culture of personal freedom. We need to do more to invite non-riders into our community. This is not meant to be a method of recruiting new riders, but rather recruiting new supporters. Those who want to curtail our freedoms to ride and race often know very little about our lifestyle or passion. Often they are trying to solve a problem they do not fully understand. It is important that those individuals are given the opportunity to learn more about the motorcycling community, so that they can understand how much some of their ideas or policies may unintentionally harm our freedom. We, as a community, may also want to look at building alliances with other groups whose freedom is also under attack. We absolutely need accountability with motorcycling to ensure the freedoms to ride and race are not abused. However, as I am fond of saying, accountability is a method of ensuring freedom; not unilaterally suppressing it. The freedom to ride and race and fundamentally part of a culture that promotes individual liberty and accountability over high-handed micro-management by government.

I would also like to make a particular note about getting young people involved in advocating for the motorcycling lifestyle. As a member of the up-and-coming generation, we have by-and-large become disenchanted with our Western existence. While we are blessed with a quality of life many do not have access to, it has been opined countless times that the later Generation Xers, Generation Yers, and Millennials are very apathetic toward politics and public policy. I would argue differently. Look at some of the politicians that have struck a chord with my generation. Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and even Donald Trump have, on the average, better engaged younger people than more traditional politicians like John Kerry and Mitt Romney. My theory for this is that the traditional political marketing techniques, which center around repetition, targeted personal attacks, and appealing to deeply-held values, are a turn off to the best educated and economically depressed generation in American history. Many of us grew up following what we were told to do: Go to school, get good grades, and you’ll get a good job and you will find economic security. The reality has not matched the bedtime stories for many of us. It is nearly impossible to convince this generation of the reality of the American Dream when many of us are living at home or move in with our friends to dingy apartments while working retail jobs and volunteering to try and get experience. We are also a tech-savvy generation that is not as wowed by marketing schemes. In the YouTube world we now, and for the foreseeable future will exist in, young people now have access to far more of the reality of so many parts of the world than what the 30-minute evening news could ever deliver. Our difficulty to impress with fancy, inauthentic marketing gimmicks and our financial struggles have made us a very cynical generation, and for good reason.

On the surface, this makes the outlook for the motorcycling lifestyle and the advocacy for it appear bleak. A generation that does not have the disposable income previous generations have had, and a lack of enthusiasm or even distaste for what is commonly viewed as a stale, ungenuine political system does not appear to be very reassuring. However, to me, the very core of what motorcycling is is what will make the difference for us. For those of us who ride, what is more real than the feeling of riding? The freedom, sensation, and adventure that gets our souls revved up every time we put the kickstand up is about the most authentic thing I have ever experienced. Motorcycling is also very personal. Unlike so many corporate goods and services we can obtain in a shopping mall or a big box store, each motorcycle and rider is a unique pairing. Whether it is the type of motorcycle we buy, the accessories we put on it, the roads we chose to ride, or the places we chose to travel to, each pairing is a unique, exciting, authentic story unlike any other. What we need to do is not try to tell the up-and-coming generation to ride. Rather, we need to share our experiences and lifestyle with them, and show them that our community and lifestyle is all about what they are all about. As for advocacy, we are a resourceful, creative, motivated, and compassionate generation. Thanks to the likes of social networking outlets, we are staying close to friends and family that in generations past would have been long forgotten. We are interacting with more other members of our own generation that generations past. With each of those interactions, we are learning a little more about each other and the many cultures and places we all come from. So when it comes to advocacy for the motorcycling lifestyle, I firmly believe this up-and-coming generation, with our strong sense of connection with each other, mastery of technology, intolerance for the inauthentic, and ingenuity is primed to promote and protect the motorcycling lifestyle in new, creative, and more effective ways. This generation has shown itself to be one to stand up for a good cause. We only need show them just how much the freedoms to ride and race are worth standing up for.

 

Fresh Out of the Trenches, Pits, and Paddocks: Looking Back at My First Year as a Motojournalist


I had been an avid fan and supporter of motorcycle road racing in the United States for nearly a decade. I had watched hundreds if not a thousand motorcycle races on TV, assembled an impressive library of recorded races, and had built up a fair amount of knowledge about the sport. But I always felt that there was something more I could do. I had had a notion for the longest time that I could take everything I had learned and everything my mind is capable of and contribute to rebuilding the image and popularity of the sport. In 2013, the year before the sport’s salvation appeared in the form of the KRAVE Group and its MotoAmerica brand, I tried to help the sport. I prepared a 60+ page strategic plan for how to turn the sport’s fortunes around. I will probably never fully know whether that plan made a difference in the sport’s direction. However, even then, I still believed there was more I could do. I still believed I had a bigger contribution to make to the sport that has given me so much.

Last year, an opportunity presented itself to make a bigger contribution. I had met Larry Ward and Roy Dyckman from iHeart Media’s Two Wheel Power Hour Motorcycle Show (TWPH) way back in 2009. It was sheer chance that we stayed at the same Super 8 in Greenfield, Indiana, which would become our annual meeting place for the next five years. The more we saw each other during our annual pilgrimage to the MotoGP weekend, the more Larry and Roy were able to see both my passion for and knowledge of the sport. Larry was even kind enough to give me airtime on the TWPH back in 2013 after I had mailed out my plan to the American motorcycle road racing establishment.

After I moved back to Ohio in 2014, Larry, Roy, and I began to see each other more often at motorcycle events, and eventually we hatched a plan to create a social media platform for the TWPH. As Larry is fond of saying, “Members of your generation probably cannot even find the AM band.” In an evolving world of media, I was able to assist the show in reaching new listeners and positioning it for future growth with a strong social media presence. It was a couple months after we launched the social media platform that the door opened for me to join the ranks of motojournalists.

That opportunity began with the cancellation of the MotoGP race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for 2016. One of my friends and I were planning on riding to the MotoGP race at Circuit of the Americas in 2016. Both Larry and I realized the opportunity to cover the MotoGP event for the TWPH. We immediately found some airtime for me to acclimate myself with being live on-air, as well as obtaining media credentials for both the MotoGP event and the MotoAmerica season.

I honestly was not sure what to expect as a new motojournalist. I knew a couple of riders in the MotoAmerica paddock, and had been to a dozen professional motorcycle road racing weekends. However, aside from writing an occasional article for the high school newspaper, I had never “covered” an event in my life. Larry and Roy gave me a few pointers on what they normally did when they covered an event. I also talked quite a bit with my friend Natalie Liebhaber, who covered the old Champ Car World Series for years and continues to cover the college football scene. I figured it was going to be different from the typical fan experience at an event. I realized I was not going to be able to spend every practice session snapping photos from every corner of the track or be able to peruse the vendors on the midway. Little did I realize just how different it would be, or how much I would end up enjoying it.

The MotoGP/MotoAmerica event was probably not a great choice for my first foray into covering a motorsports event. Upon walking into the media center (which is also doubles as a conference/event center during non-motorsports events), I was overwhelmed by both the sheer number of media personnel there (several hundred) as well as the plethora of information available about media scrums, press releases, and lap time sheets. Just trying to find an open spot to set up my laptop in the media center was a challenge, as there were few seats left unclaimed. It was cool to be walking through the VIP/media area behind the garages and seeing the likes of Keanu Reeves just hanging out in a team’s hospitality center, or walking by Yamaha MotoGP team boss Lin Jarvis like he was just any other bloke. However, the entire experience was a bombardment of both the senses and the mind.

To complicate matters more, I has also elected to cover the AMA Pro Flat Track race that night, and had to rush over to the dirt track to pick up my media credentials in time. I texted Natalie at some point that day, and she helped me realize I needed to be selective about what I was covering. While I was at a MotoGP event, I realized I would primarily be covering MotoAmeriva the rest of the year. So I decided to focus more of my attention there. There were just so many riders I wanted to interview, people in the MotoAmerica paddock I wanted to see or meet, and places around the track I wanted to watch the action from. Another usual part of the CotA experience were the restrictions on where I could and could not go as a media person. At most MotoAmerica events, I am allowed to work the back of pit lane. I tried going out the podium celebration, and was kept back by security. It was confusing, to say the least. Overall it was a successful weekend from a media perspective, but I quickly realized that I had an awful lot to learn.

After CotA, I was able to settle into my role as a motojournalist. Without the overwhelming environment, I was able to get to know some of the other personalities in the MotoAmerica media community and eventually began to feel like I belonged. One of the biggest parts of my job was doing interviews. My graduate coursework in qualitative research methods really came in handy. A lot of the interviews I did I didn’t record. I realized this was my first year in the press box and I needed to establish my reputation with the MotoAmerica rider community. As the season went on I was able to do just that. At the end of the season, when Josh Hayes walks into the media center and knows you by name, that’s a big success. I was still able to get out and take some pictures like I did in my fan days, but did not have nearly as much time for it. While I miss it a little, I really enjoy the media work even more. I also spent a couple weekends honing my media skills by covering the Ohio Mini Roadracing League’s event at Circleville Raceway Park and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

One of the other things I had to get used to doing was being live on-air. It sounds cool to those who have never done it, having so many people listening to what you have to say. However, it is also live: there are no second chances. If your mind slips for a second or you are not prepared, there is no take two. However, eventually you get used to it and know how to prepare and keep things brief. Though, I have to admit, I still hate hearing the sound of my own voice on the podcasts.

The most important thing I learned about media work is the importance of working together. After all the racing was done, media people do not go back to their hotel rooms and lounge around. We would all be there late, writing press releases or daily summaries. We would be sharing information back and forth, answering each other’s questions and helping each other get out of the media center at a reasonable hour. Another important skill I was able to improve on was building professional connections. Among the people in the paddock I got to know this season were Richard Varner (who met on a paddock shuttle at CotA), Wayne Rainey, Josh Hayes, Cam Beaubier, Jake Zemke, Chris Fillmore, Jake Lewis, Caroline Olson, Valentin Debise, Ashton Yates, and Jody Barry. On the minimoto side, I was able to get to know Kent Klawon and Brian Conrad from the Ohio Mini Roadracing League.

Even though it was overall a positive first season, I have a number of things I want to improve on for next season. First and foremost is my pre-event preparation. I usually did not get to the events until Saturday morning. I did not give myself enough time to review the practice times from Friday, let alone the past performance of riders and teams at each track. Also, for example, I made a mistake asking Cam Beaubier a question about qualifying times. I had forgotten that MotoAmerica had switched to using a qualifying-only rear tire in 2016. I cannot afford to make those kinds of mistakes in media work.

I also need to get into writing more. Even though I am in the radio business, I am not on the air until Tuesday night, and need to be in the business of doing more reporting from the track. I also need to do a better job at getting photographs of the riders, team members, etc. who I get interviews from. I may also transition to doing more video interviews when possible.

My first season as a motojournalist would not have been an overall success without the help of several people. Chief among them is TWPH host and editor, Larry Ward, who gave me the opportunity to show what I could do. My other associates on the TWPH, Roy Dyckman and Bob Wentzel, also provided me with support and advice during me rookie season. Richard Varner, the CEO of MotoAmerica, took the time to talk with me about the direction of the sport, and I am indebted to him and the other members of the KRAVE Group for all the work they have done to revive the sport. In the media center, I could not have learned as much as I did without guidance and advice from Sean Bice (Yamaha) and Matthew Miles. I am indebted to both of them for showing me the ropes of media work. I am also indebted to photographer Michael Brock for giving me pointers on both media work and photography. It was a pleasure to meet and chat with Brian J. Nelson, whose photographic work I have admired for years. I also need to thank Natalie Liebhaber, whose counsel and media experience was invaluable to my development as a motojournalist. To all of you, thank you so much for everything you did to help me in my first season as a motojournalist. I owe each and every one of you, and look forward to continuing to work with all of you in 2017.

Why I am so excited about Nicky Hayden’s move to World Superbike


At first glance, Nicky Hayden’s move from MotoGP to World Superbike seems like a step backward. Hayden is moving from a series where a crankshaft is probably as expensive as an entire superbike. This is something we have seen other riders do toward the end of their careers. Talented riders like Carlos Checa, Max Biaggi, and Marco Melandri (all of whom had the misfortune of racing in MotoGP during the Rossi era) have made the same transition when they were no longer as competitive in the “premier class.” Superbikes, despite their name, are usually several seconds slower on the same track than MotoGP machinery. They do not lean as far, accelerate as fast, or turn as nimbly. Some equate the difference even more extremely, and compare MotoGP to Formula 1 and World Superbike to touring car racing.

So then, why is this author so stoked to see a name that many American motorcycle road racing fans practically worship taking such a big step down? Because to the author, it is anything but a step down. Technical sophistication, lavish hospitality tents, and absurd factory budgets do not, alone, beget great racing. Sure, MotoGP, as a championship, is even older than Formula 1. World Superbike (as we know it today) did not emerge until the late 1980’s. But to the author, what matters most is the quality and authenticity of the on-track product. It does not matter how many millions of dollars a MotoGP machine costs when “grands prix” turn into really, really fast motorcycle parades. Nor is the domination of a couple teams on budgets alone impressive. Nor the nearly NASCAR-like rule-making MotoGP is beginning to become accustomed to. With the exception of Johnny Rea’s dominant season in 2015, World Superbike has historically produced the best racing on the planet. There is usually a battle at the front, or at least several good scraps in the midfield. A number of different riders win races each year, and manufacturers have had a much easier time getting to the front. Moreover, the machinery and environment is much closer to what we here in the States are accustomed to. In short, MotoGP may be the technical pinnacle of the sport, but WSBK has, time and again, proven to be the “sporting” pinnacle of road racing.

Moreover, Nicky is now in an arena where he will finally be able to show how great of a rider he is. He may not have gotten on the podium at Phillip Island. That said, to score a P4 and P9 on one of the oldest bikes on the grid speaks volumes. Nicky’s stop-and-go, throttle happy riding style will find a compliant home on WSBK’s soft-carcass Pirelli tires. Nicky hasn’t lost a thing. Rather, he has finally shed a series that was designed around one particular riding style. Moreover, Honda is rolling out a brand new, redesigned bike in 2017. This will give Nicky a chance to test the new bike and provide feedback to Honda. Perhaps next season Nicky will get a bike that matches his talent for the first time since 2006.

So why is the author so happy for Nicky? Because Nicky is racing in a series to means more to many of us for many reasons, and will let the world see just how good he still is.

History, Safety & Speed: Should World Superbike Continue Racing at Imola?


As I watched the World Superbike races last weekend at the Autodromo de Enzo y Dino Ferrari (a.k.a. Imola), I could not help but think of the circuit’s recent past. The place is steeped in motorsports history. Who can forget the images of World Superbike greats like Bayliss and Edwards going like hell in the “Showdown.” While I was not a World Superbike fan at the time, Imola will always have a special place in my heart. I have only seen the circuit through a television screen, but it held the first Formula 1 grand prix I ever watched. I was mesmerized not only by the technology and sexy-fast appearance of the F1 cars, but also by the evident challenge the circuit posed to drivers and teams alike. The circuit’s flowing yet challenging nature drew me to it. In particular, I fell in love with the Piratella corner. It is fast, flowing, technical, and visually stunning all at the same time.

Despite my long-held affection for the place, Imola’s recent reception and impact on the World Superbike community makes me wonder whether World Superbike should continue to race there. Yes, I am aware that Ducati’s factory and headquarters is right down the road from Imola. However, for a company so deeply immersed in a history of competition, Ducati should understand as much as any other OEM the value of safety to their brand. I am not talking here of the death of Ayrton Senna. As the motorsports community recently took pause on the anniversary of his tragic passing, the impact of losing Senna sent tidal waves through the grand prix racing community. Changes were immediately made to the circuit and the series to redress the oversights and failures that led to his unfortunate passing.

However, World Superbike has taken a very different approach to Imola compared to Formula 1’s actions 20 years ago. My reservations about Imola began when Joan Lascorz, a very talented rider riding for the Kawasaki factory team, crashed and was paralyzed in 2012. Reports indicate that Lascorz was coming over the crest into the Piratella when his bike had a violent tank-slapper, crashed, and Lascorz’s back struck an exposed concrete wall. As I watched the race this year, I tried to pay careful attention to that wall, looking to see if the wall had been moved or covered with air fence. While there may have been a tire wall behind a lime-green cover to match the rest of the track’s barriers, it appears that the concrete barrier that took away Lascorz’s ability to walk and race remains firmly in place. Moreover, Steve Martin’s color commentary for the last 3 years makes clear that there is insufficient run-off room at the entrance to the Piratella complex. The same could be said for the Variante Bassa. Despite the low speeds it is designed to create, it provides riders little to no margin for error as they exit the chicane.

In a sport that is presently marked by unavoidable danger (e.g. the Marco Simoncelli accident) and a hooliganistic media image, the sport cannot afford to sacrifice safety in the name of either history or profit. While the aura of racing in venues like Imola and Monza may be attractive, motorcycle road racing’s leaders have the responsibility of protecting and improving the sports’ image and protecting riders from having to choose between going racing and personal safety. For a problem that has had such dire consequences as well as pointed media attention, what does it say when a series continues to host an event in spite of obvious danger? World Superbike is not alone. While I will discuss AMA Pro Racing’s failures of this sort in a separate article, World Superbike needs to understand that the best safety practices are proactive, not reactive. Unless structural changes are made to the facility, World Superbike runs the risk of having to learn the hard way the lessons Imola painfully taught Formula 1 over 20 years ago. I am not writing this because I have a perfect solution. Rather I am merely pointing out the severity of an obvious problem that could have a lasting, painful impact of the sport’s future.