~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Identity Crisis, Part Two

A while back I expounded on the current sorry state of motorcycle clothing fashion. That there is even such a thing as motorcycle clothing fashion is a sorry thing in my estimation. Anything that one could call honest style peaked with the waxed cotton Belstaff Jacket. It has been down hill ever since and I am saddened to report that after reading this month's Cycle World it is clear that things have only gotten worse.


Women will want you if you wear this jacket. Trust me.

"Icon," a brand conjured up by motorcycle parts wholesaler Parts Unlimited, has the above ad on page 31 of Cycle World. A black leather jacket with large, doofus skulls on the front and sleeves, Icon calls it their "Skull Motorhead Jacket." Numbskull Motorhead Jacket would be more appropriate. Note also the subtle imagery of the big pipe at the guy's crotch. Oh yes, wear this jacket and you'll be tough, a stud. Just as you always imagined, women you have never met before will want you. Icon has their name emblazoned in red above the main skull. Nice touch for all those who find their personal identity in a clothing brand.

Racer replica jackets are one thing if you are indeed a race fan, a Harley logo is one thing (but usually over done too), but ridiculous half skulls on a $600 jacket are just dumb. This may be the ultimate poser jacket. I hope I never run into some guy wearing one of those things because I know I'll laugh and then he'll decide he has to live out his poser fantasies and try to kick my butt and he'll probably succeed because I'll be laughing too hard to defend myself. It won't matter of course 'cause he'll still be a dumb poser in a silly $600 jacket.

So I've been shopping on and off for a few months searching for a replacement for my old Spartan riding jacket. After 20 years of use the front zipper is on it's way out and worse, the jacket has no features. My gosh, how can you have any kind of riding jacket these days without features? What kind of motorcyclist am I?

Ah, features... features like pockets big pockets that would make Captain Kangroo proud. Pockets specifically for cell phones, endless zippers, fabrics that are stronger than leather -- lighter than cotton, warmer than wool, cooler than a cucumber -- zip out liners, zip off sleeves, enough armor to protect a rhinoceros, and a price tag that would make you think it was all spun from gold. And lest we forget: Style! Oh yes, style. Blazing colors, slashing colors, exotic stripe patterns created in shabby tattoo parlors or by people learning to do bad imitations of Von Dutch. Then last but not least, the ultimate feature: The jacket maker's name emblazoned everywhere.

OK, of course some of those features are actually good things which is part of the reason for me shopping for a new jacket instead of getting the old repaired. My old jacket lacks certain features that I can no longer live without.

The tattered Spartan, which by the way has exactly one small logo on the cuff of the sleeve (where it would be under a glove when riding), is a little lacking in the pocket department. It also has no vent zippers, a feature that I miss when a day starts out below 50° and winds up in the 80's which is not uncommon here in Arizona. The jacket that works so well for cool-to-cold weather quickly turns to a denier nylon cooking bag as the sun climbs in the sky.

So shopping we go...what to buy? The challenges are many. First, I want vent zippers on the sleeves, chest and back. That leaves out the vaunted Kilimanjaro Jacket which lacks the sleeve vent zippers. At least the ones in stock at the cycle accessory store lacked them. I tried on the Kilimanjaro and liked the fit, the Capt. Kangaroo pockets, it's reputation for keeping people warm and dry. Very nice but again, no zippers where I wanted zippers. Fairly tasteful logo usage though. I was tempted. $249. Within budget. Decisions, decisions. Where to compromise on features? Should I compromise on wanted features?

The local Cycle Parts store carries tons of the Frank Thomas brand stuff, stuff to which I have an aversion because Frank's name is all over everything and my name doesn't happen to be Frank Thomas. OK, I admit it, I liked one of the Frank Thomas designs real well, it met all my criteria but the weight of the outer shell which seemed a bit light for colder weather. Despite what you might think, it can get darned cold here in the desert in the winter.

The price of the jacket was right: $169 marked down from $199. I actually pretty much talked myself into the FT jacket but got sidetracked yakking with another rider who was also there shopping for a jacket. He was a late forties guy riding a red limited edition Hayabusa and looking for a flashy red jacket to go with it. In talking to him it seems that he possesses more throttle restraint than I; he'd had the 'Busa for several months and not been pulled over yet or even worried much about having only gotten the big Suzuki up to 130 mph on one occasion. You have to admire a man with that kind of discipline. For me it would be "Buy a 'Busa, go to jail." As Dirty Harry said, "A man's got to know his limitations."

So Frank made a sale to the Hayabusa guy with a little help from me (just because I don't like something doesn't mean that nobody else should). I suppose if I rode a red Hayabusa I might get flashier too. No wait, I rode an even flashier red Aprilia Falco and I remained just as stylistically boring as ever. Anyway, I talked to the other guy long enough that in the back of my mind I also talked myself out of the solid black version of the FT jacket like he was buying. I left Cycle Parts to jacket shop elsewhere. Sorry Frank.

Up the road a ways is a mega store bike dealer, just the kind of place where I hate to spend money but they do often have a good selection of accessories. Into the chrome and glass candyland I went to see what was to be had today. Much to my delight they had some jackets on sale including Tourmaster's Cortech GX touring jacket in an assortment of colors and including my preferred black/gray non-color. Much to my surprise they even had one that fit me. I'm built sort of odd and getting a jacket to fit is a chore. Just an FYI: the FT stuff runs 1 size small and the Cortech 2 sizes small unless you're skinny or have biceps like Barney Fife.

The Cortech jacket is heavy textile, zippered vents on the sleeves and body front and back and zippered cuffs too. The gray patterns on the jacket were barely ok, not too over done but not as understated as the black and gray Kilimanjaro I'd tried on. Marked down from $249 to $149 the Cortech seemed the way to go, something of a bargain in fact, so I did.

A rubberized 3D Cortech logo is sewn to each sleeve, the collar flap, and the back of the jacket and I don't much care for them but at least they are not garishly done like the Joe Rocket stuff or someone else's name that isn't mine (you-know-who). The logos might even be reflective so there might be a useful safety aspect to them.

Jacket purchased, I tossed it in the car (raining today, no bike), and headed for home. Arriving at the palatial 40onTwo Estate I looked the jacket over for cleaning instructions and then I realized that our Cortech friends had actually out Frank'ed, Frank Thomas. Egad. How did I miss that? Every blessed zipper has a nice strong zipper pull on it just as it should but every zipper pull is clearly the Cortech logo. Count them.... 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...mutter, mutter....14..FIFTEEN freaking Cortech labels adorn the jacket! Fifteen! Tourmaster, was that really necessary??

Why friends, cannot manufacturers show simple pride in their work like Spartan did with their single label on the sleeve? Why do they think that every motorcycle rider out there wishes to be a rolling billboard for every company from whom they buy an accessory or article of clothing? It's absurd. Hey, motorcycle clothing people, why don't you put your corporate annual report on the back too?? Your stock prices?? Maybe pictures of your wife and kids and cat? I'm sure lots of idiots would buy it. As H.L. Mencken famously said "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public."

Before I counted all the logos I had tossed around the idea of cutting of the main Cortech logos just out of orneriness. After realizing Tourmaster's attempt to turn me into something resembling a Cortech Christmas tree with little logos dangling from every limb, I'm not only going to remove the main logos but every zipper pull is going to get removed and replaced with something else even if it's just an expired dog license tag from one of my dogs. I'd rather wear my furry friend's name than some ego maniac corporation's logo.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Back of the Shop


BSA 441 Victor.
Back when there were still real motorcycle shops, around the back of the shop was were riders and lesser beings would gather during the week late in the day or on Saturdays to swap stories, tell lies, give bad advice and perhaps drink a root beer or two. 

For young men in the alley behind the shops, standing peering through the wide doorway into the dimness of the motorcycle shop work area there were things to be learned about motorcycles and life and occasionally everyone's other favorite hobby: women. Nearly every shop had at least one girlie calendar or poster on the wall and the older guys would sometimes comment on the attributes of the young lady in the picture. If you were too young though, too young by some indefinable standard, one of the mechanics would tell you to stop staring, "You're too young for that stuff!" Much blushing would ensue which of course meant that you really were too young for that stuff. These days most shops couldn't put up a girlie calendar lest someone be offended and not spend money there or worse, be sued by their own employees for sexual harassment.

Saturdays were not usually late days as the bike shops closed at 2:00 PM or so. Does your local shop do that? Do you know why? It's a hold over from the times when dinosaurs roamed the earth and everyone would be getting ready to go to the flat track or TT races on Saturday night or leaving to race the desert on Sunday AM. These days some shops still close early on Saturdays just because they want to. Some stay open later to make those last few dollars. Some are open on Sundays to make even more dollars. Real motorcycle shops are closed on Sundays to attend the Church of the Open Road or Tabernacle of the Trail.

Mostly the real motorcycle shops are gone, replaced by chrome and glass stores more likely to be owned by a car dealer than a motorcycle enthusiast. With hourly rates for shop work at $60 - $75 hour no owner wants the wrenches to sit idle while people BS about bikes. Not likely to happen in most places anyway as customers are carefully separated from the mechanics lest the customer slip on a bit grease and sue the faceless corporation that owns the shop. Customers can be as merciless as the nameless, faceless, corporations that own the shops these days. Maybe they deserve each other but real motorcycle enthusiasts, whether they be shop owners or bike riders, deserve better. Hey, it's the 21st century and that's the way business is but it's too bad there aren't more of the old style shops around where the young whippersnappers of today could learn a few useful things from their elders.

These days there are few shops like those old ones; most of them are now vintage oriented shops or hardcore racer shops. I miss the days when going to the bike shop was a visit with friends and a time to absorb more of the mystique of motorcycling. I doubt that mechanics as a species have really changed much over the years except now they are now called technicians, earn more than starvation wages if they are really good, and computer skills are as important as knowing how to grind valves. Wait, do they even grind valves on bikes anymore? I'm not getting down on mechanics either, the good ones are worth every penny the earn, it's the culture of the shop that has slipped a little too far into the corporate world and left behind the essential feeling of uniqueness, of being someplace special, that a proper motorcycle workshop should have.

When I was in my teens I'd wander from shop to shop to see what was new and stand at the back door chatting with the mechanics. None of the guys wore multicolored paddock shirts or had a pierced tongue, even an ear ring would have gotten you laughed out the back door. I was about 17 years old when I wandered in the back door of the local Honda shop to say hello to Steve, a grizzled old mechanic and former pro racer. He must have been about 35 at the time. Steve was a bandy legged little guy, ornery, profane, and funny.  He could also ride like the wind, even at the advanced age of 35.   I learned to go fast down hill in the dirt by following Steve on a scrambles course one day.  Another story for another time.

The workshop at the Honda place in those days was a tin roofed add-on to the main building. A girlie calendar (tame by today's standards) was on the wall of course, also posters for up coming races five years earlier and an advertising banner for Castrol R. Sitting in the work area was a BSA 441 Victor in dirt racing trim. To whom the big, oily Beezer belonged to or why it was in a Honda shop is anybody's guess because at that point in the racing world, Husqvarna, CZ, Bultaco, and Maico were already dominating scrambles and the new sport of motocross and the 441 Victor was viewed as something of a relic even though it was only a couple of years old.

That day with the BSA sitting there, talk amongst the mechanics, customers, and assembled sages turned to the joys of kick starting a big four-stroke single. Done properly, they were not too bad to start, done wrong and you were assured by the sages of the shop, they would break your ankle and pitch you over the handle bars. Half-hearted kickers need not apply. Failing to know "the drill" for starting a big four stroke single could prove painful and possibly lead to a heart attack after a dozen fruitless kicks. No finely tuned overhead cam, computer controlled, electric start, automatic compression release engines in those days. Big motorcycles were started by men with the ability to start them, men who understood and could perform the drill. Of course if it was a full on race bike in was bump-started but even then, without the drill, you'd just lock up the back wheel and push yourself blue in the face which wasn't any easier than kicking until you were blue in the face but was less risky to the foot and ankle.

Steve commented loudly that he could kick start the 441cc BSA with his bare hand. "BS!" was heard all around. "No one can do that!" "You'd break your %$^% arm if it kicks back!" "Ya just gotta know the drill, ya dumb a__" said Steve. "Bet you $5 I can do it." Five dollars was about an hours wage for a good mechanic in those days and about four times more than I made in a hour pushing a broom at the local dry cleaners.  One of the guys said "You're on! Somebody get ready to take him to the hospital to get his arm splinted."

Steve stepped over to the Beezer, turn the petcock to on, pushed the kickstart lever through with his hand until he felt the piston come up on compression, pressed the tickler button on the Amal carb just until gas dribbled out the over flow hole a precise amount, pulled the compression release to move the piston past top dead center, released the compression release, took a vise like grip on the kickstart lever with his left hand and with without hesitation slammed it downward and let it flip back up on one bullwhip-like motion. The big Beezer popped to life and Steve reached over to blipped the throttle to keep it running. People laughed and shook their heads in disbelief. Steve rev'ed up BSA, it made a thunderous, ear hammering noise in the tin roofed shop; he rolled the throttle shut and hit the red kill button on the right handlebar. The bettor, smiling and shaking his head, pulled out his wallet and produced the five bucks he'd just lost. Said Steve "See ya dumb a___, I told ya, ya just gotta know the drill."

Many, many years later I went to look at a Suzuki DR650 that was offered for sale in the Cycle Trader. The DR is Suzuki's big, 650cc single cylinder dualsport bike. When I'd called about the bike the owner said it was really clean but that the compression release was non-functional, the cable connecting the release to the handlebar mounted release lever had let go. Apparently they had not been able to start the bike for some time because of the stiff compression and 650cc of stone cold single cylinder motor. Before I left my house to look at the bike I grabbed a motocross boot, a right one. I suspected there would be man's work to be done and a tennis shoe would not be adequate to the task.

Arriving at the seller's house and looking at the big Suzuki I decided it might be worth buying but definitely wanted to hear it run and to ride it first. The owner said I was welcome to try and start it but he'd tried and when it kicked back it darned near broke his ankle and tried to toss him over the bars. I put on the motocross boot and swung a leg over the bike. No, I would never try to start a big 4-stroke single with my bare hand. I might be crazy but I'm not that crazy. I've done some small two stokes that way and that was scary enough. The 650's compression release lever flopped uselessly, the cable broken at the lever. I turned the petcock to on and flipped the choke lever. Next I pushed the kick start lever through until I felt the piston come up on compression, then just past. Taking a deep breath I gave the kick starter a huge, full on stomp. Nothing happened. One more time. Nothing. Puff, puff, wheeze, wheeze. Please God, let this thing start. I had about one more big stomp left in me and let it fly. The big Suzuki thumped to life and I gingerly fiddled with the throttle and choke so it wouldn't die and I'd have to repeat the stomping and wheezing. The owner looked amazed and said "We haven't been able to get that thing started since the compression release broke." "Ya well" I replied, "Ya just gotta know the drill with these things." I didn't call him a "dumb a___" because most likely the poor fellow, being young, never had the chance to be properly educated at the back of a motorcycle shop by guys like Steve.

Friday, January 21, 2005

More Art by Jason Watt

Jason Watt has begun a new series of drawings entitled "American Flyers." The first in the series is this wonderful work of Randy Mamola, Kenny Roberts, and Mike Baldwin in what I believe is the famous "corkscrew" turn at Laguna Seca in 1984.

Jason's work is rapidly becoming better known so if you have ever wanted to dispaly some excellent original art in your home, acquire some of Jason's work now while it's still affordable to us ordinary folk. I've got dibs on the Kenny Roberts/Freddie Spencer battle when Jason gets to it.

By the way, Jason also does some especially nice drawings of Native American subjects. His drawing of "Chief Joseph" of the Nez Percé Indians is supremely evocative. If you enjoy history like I do, read the story of Chief Joseph and see an example of true greatness in a human being.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Two More Bike Blogs

Christopher Froeschl A.K.A "Motorplow" who's located in rural Virginia has begun writing about the resurrection of a Yamaha 550 Vision:

"I own a 1982 Yamaha XZ550RJ Vision. I found this bike in someone's garage, so covered with dust, that I could not tell what color it was. That was in November 2003. Since then, I have gotten her to run rather nicely. Here is the rest of the story..."

Motorcycling: Callaway, Virginia

It doesn't matter what make, model, or year of motorcycle you own, if you're passionate about motorcycles it's a Good Thing.

Over at HManPhoto's Random Musings Christopher Pyle has begun holding forth on the Suzuki Hayabusa as a sport touring bike and camera topics also. Those are Good Things too. I've wanted a Hayabusa ever since they came out but my experience with the Aprilia Falco has taught me that I'm be better off with less horsepower and therefore less likely to wind up visiting with Sheriff Joe and wearing pink underwear.

Both blogs are pretty new and the color scheme on HMan's place looks oddly familiar. One of these days I need to learn enough about Blogger's clunky code to customize things here a little bit, maybe use a different shade of black for the background or something crazy like that.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

A Mouse In The Corner

There's an expression when one wants to know what's going on but does not wish to be noticed. People will say "I'd like to be a mouse in the corner when THAT is being talked about." As I've rolled through my decades of motorcycling I guess in some ways I've been a mouse in the corner, seeing what was going on, hearing, scarcely being noticed myself, just another rider out there who loves bikes but achieves no great fame or notoriety. Happily for me I've managed to cross paths with some interesting bike people over the years and I enjoyed the experiences however minor the occasions might have been. Those occasions have built up a ton of motorcycle memories that fit together inside my head like a patchwork quilt -- a riot of color, shapes, pictures, images, impressions, no one huge event, just a wonderful and interesting collage of motorcycle life.

In 1971 when I lived in California over in the Thousand Oaks area the offices of the late, great Cycle Magazine were located in Westlake Village just up the road a couple of miles from my home. I was connected with UniFilter then as a sales rep, their first one for the L.A. area, and part of my work during my stint with them was to call on Cycle Magazine and the other bike magazines based out in L.A.

As a bike nut and inveterate reader of motorcycle magazines, getting to work around the bike industry, getting to meet the "Big Kahuna's" of the bike magazine world was the next best thing to riding. While others merely read Cycle or Dirt bike, and others, I actually got to walk their hallowed halls, listen to their harangues against each other, and learn that really, really talented people can be a little temperamental.

I quickly came to understand a little of the reality about the motorcycle magazine biz and the people who wrote for the magazines. It wasn't really about making tons of money as a writer and receiving the adulation of the motorcycle masses, it was about getting to ride cool bikes for free. The tons of money part wasn't and probably still isn't true.

Some of what I saw was good: Cycle Magazine was populated with people who were genuine bike nuts just like me but smarter and more talented. The not-so-good was discovering that some magazines would put as little as 75 miles on a test bike and then write a feature article about it. All in all though it was a grand opportunity to meet and get to know, just a little, some of the supreme motorcycle journalists of that time.

The leading light of the motorcycle press back then was Cook Nielson at Cycle Magazine. I had the good fortune to wander in and out of the Cycle Magazine offices periodically until about 1975. The offices were unimpressive, business-bland just like any other business office but the people that worked in them were doing what is in my opinion and the opinion of others, the best motorcycle journalism ever. I believe that time period between the Floyd Clymer ownership of Cycle and the departure of Cook Nielsen as editor as the best years for Cycle and maybe ever for any motorcycle magazine.

At Cycle, Cook Nielson was funny, candid, sharp tongued, occasionally rude and funny, and set a tone for the magazine that provided fertile ground for Gordon Jennings, Phil Schilling, Dale Boller, Dave Holeman, Jess Thomas and others to express their knowledge and passion for riding in ways that stodgier times or editors would not have permitted.

Later on, after Nielson left Cycle the magazine became more socially aware or sensible. Someone even bragged about it in an editorial one month. I don't think any bike magazine should be proud of being too responsible. Riding bikes is inherently dangerous and deep within the dark little heart of most motorcycle riders is an irresponsible streak. We should all be responsible riders but speed limit signs for example, are merely "suggested speed" signs for most of us. Fiscal responsibility is a good thing unless there is a hot new bike out and you've got bike fever. At Cycle Magazine in those days they knew how to tap into their reader's technical awareness, bike fever, disdain for pretense, and inner urge to push the limits and they did it with lucid writing and a strong sense of what is at the heart of motorcycling.

I got to know the guys at Cycle a little better than the other magazines because they were conveniently close to home and were more willing to put up with a 22 year old bike nut trying to get them to use the new brand of foam air filters from UniFilter. Filtron filters were the name in foam/oil filters then and foam was foam, why change? I was persistent though and Cook Nielson would always accept whatever stuff I pushed at him although not much if any of it ever turned up in the magazine as UniFilter had hoped.

In time the Cycle staff accepted me as an inevitable nuisance and I could get past the receptionist without much hassle and then wander around to people's offices asking questions, trying not to be impressed, but still a little awestruck to be in the inner sanctum of such a very special motorcycle magazine. I was standing out back behind the Cycle workshop area one day and someone asked me to point to an airbox assembly or some such thing laying on the ground. I squatted down, pointed, a photo was snapped, and a few issues later a picture of the airbox with my finger pointing at it was in an article. Wow! Not as good as my crash picture in Cycle World but it was still me and when you're 20-something and bike mad getting any part of you or your name in a major bike magazine was very cool. At least I thought so.

One afternoon I stopped in and poked my head into Cycle technical Editor Gordon Jennings' office to say "hi." Jennings was probably the prototypical "motorcycle curmudgeon." Nobody since even comes close. He could find fault, analyze, and scathingly or delightedly detail things mechanical and do it all with eloquent words written or spoken. I don't propose here to do any justice here to his exalted place in motorcycling journalism, just to reminisce a little.

That afternoon that I visited, Gordon and I started discussing bikes we'd like to own someday and honestly, I don't remember a lot about the conversation. As always I was excited to be trading comments with a man so vastly more knowledgeable than I about bikes that I could remember little of what he said. I do recall with some exactness telling him that I'd always wanted a Velocette Thruxton, a silver one with the half fairing. He actually looked surprised, as if I'd just farted in his office. He had a deep and serious voice, a little gravely, and looked at me and said "Young man, you would be a fool to own that motorcycle. It will take all your money and break your heart." He then launch into a minor diatribe about oil leaks, suspension and electrics.

In the early 1990s Gordon got mixed up in a pre-Internet on-line project called "Wheelbase" and we had occasion to speak on the phone for the first time. I recounted to him the story of our conversation in 1970-something and his comment about the Velocette and he responded chuckling "I was absolutely right, of course!"

After leaving UniFilter I did a very short and unhappy stint with Yoshimura Racing in their first attempt at outside sales to dealers. I was perhaps the worst ever at it but then Yoshimura wasn't quite the mega image it is today either. The Yoshimura name and the idea of stocking high priced, low mark up parts were of minimal interest to most motorcycle dealers then. I think I lasted a month, maybe three, before I was fired.

My only happy memories of Yoshimura were getting to meet Pops a couple of times and workshop lunches of Mama-san Yoshimura's curry chicken. Mama-san would bring in a big pot of her spicy chicken and the mechanics would push together some 55 gallon drums, a sheet of plywood was placed on top to serve as the table, and we'd all pig out. Good stuff.

Another Yoshimura memory, a different kind of happy, was riding one of the race prepped Kawasaki Z1's down the Simi Valley Freeway. Someone offered to let me take it for a little spin and foolishly thought I would stay in the industrial park where the shop was located. A Yoshimura race prepared Z1, open 4-into-1 pipe with no baffles, the bike didn't even have a sidestand. Yeah, I'll be careful. Heading straight for the freeway and getting on at the first entrance I simply pinned the throttle and held on until the next exit. I'm not sure how fast I was going since I had neither helmet or goggles on and the wind and general rush made the insturments a blur. Later that year the bike ran something 150 mph at Bonneville on pump gas. I guess I could be a little squidly back then.

One day at the urging of the guy running Yoshimura's US operation I took one of their 800cc kit big bore kits for the Honda 750/4 to the Cycle Magazine offices in hopes that the magazine might do a Honda hop-up article. I'm not sure what had transpired in the past between Cook Nielson and the folks who ran Yoshiumra in the US in those days, clearly some bad blood existed that I was unaware of, so when I handed the box to Cook he dropped the parts behind his desk, yelled at me for suggesting a stupid article that had been done "by every magazine in the world already" and then for good measure took a swipe at the reliability of Yoshimura's parts an issue or two later in Cycle. Cook Nielson was a really interesting man to know then, influential, talented, and extremely good rider, but I would surmise one not always easy to deal with.

When I bought my beloved 1974 BMW R90S back in late 1973 one of my first stops was the Cycle Magazine offices to show it off. They had been mightily impressed with the R90S when they reviewed it and Cook told me he considered it second in the motorcycle world only to the Ducati 750 Super Sport which he'd just purchased. Nielson walked out the Cycle offices to look at my bike. We talked a about BMW, the things that were unique, the things a little less than perfect, and finally I asked him "Would you like to take if for a ride?" Cook replied almost immediately, "No, because then I would have to let you ride my Ducati and I couldn't stand that." Honesty sans humor. Ouch.

I wish I could say that reading the magazines back then and getting to know some of the magazine people made me the great writer I am today but I'm not a great writer, just one guy rambling out some reminisces about minor events of a long time ago. I re-read a few articles by Cook and some others from those days and I wish I could find half the wordsmithing skills they showed. Those guys made a strong impression on me though and I feel privileged even at this late date to have been able to catch a glimpse of them at work and I still appreciate the time they gave to skinny bike nut bothering them while they were busy doing some of the best motorcycle writing ever.

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"When my mood gets too hot and I find myself wandering beyond control I pull out my motor-bike and hurl it top-speed through these unfit roads for hour after hour." - T.E. Lawrence



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