Part II –We Go Racing
One of the best things about going to the races is that there are bikes everywhere. Parked up, splitting lanes next to you on the freeway, lulling you to sleep with the Slovakian song of Akrapovic. Mostly sportbikes, but plenty of sport tourers and, surprisingly, Harleys.
Ducati is hugely overrepresented. There are Ducatis of every size, style, and stripe. How many new Panigales have been sold? They were all in Monterey last weekend. At first we were taking note (“Look, there’s a new Panigale! That’s sicker than Elvis in rehab!”), but when they’re as common as Honda Civics the thrill wears off and by Saturday night even a Tricolore only brought a casual second glance. By the time we left the track on Sunday, in order to get us to pay attention to a Panigale it had to have been farkled by the Starboyz or be ridden topless by Monica Bellucci.Check out her boots!Not just one Rune…but two! Oh, and another damn Panigale tricolore.Not just one Honda Trail 70…but two! Panigale just out of sight to the right.This custom bracket was tasty. Also looks kinda like a Restoration Hardware floor lamp.
Just a few years ago, it was 100F in the stands during the MotoGP and Laguna Seca was giving away free bottles of icy cold water to keep people from passing out. But this July, it was in the fifties and foggy when we arrived at the piste
All manner of race fans were there. This nail of an old Honda broke down and gave up not fifty feet from us, with the unfortunate rider unable to get it going again. The tableau was complete when his girl started casting a roving eye at any bike passing them that had a decent pillion seat.
Ducati thoughtfully provided this desmodromic ping-pong table on Ducati Island.
Honda, Yamaha, and Suzuki were nicely represented with large manufacturer tents. We sat on the second generation V-Max. It’s the 1970 Buick Riviera of motorcycles: Long, luxurious, outrageous as a chrome golf cart, and flaunting a huge lump of an engine. From the seat, it’s deceptively normal but there is a LOT of motorcycle extended out behind you.Ken and Flip are impressed by the rear view video cam for backing up.
The sun came out during the electric bike race, which is appropriate since the batteries for the Barracuda entry, leading in the light blue paint, are charged by a big solar panel array.
The Barracuda racebike won the nine lap race handily. Maybe I’m just geeky to the core but this race was engaging and the technological pace of electric racing development is fascinating. Engineering of the bikes is progressing so quickly that this year’s field is noticeably faster than last year’s and the race is one lap longer. It’s as if Rossi and company were riding eighties superbikes last year, and then 500cc two-strokes this year, and next year show up with pod racers.
There’s some strategy involved in the racing, most of which is to conserve energy. The bikes at the back of the grid slow down noticeably by the end of the race. However, the winner still was driving hard out of turn four on the last lap and probably could have done another couple of laps at speed.
The electric motorbike pit is a bit different that a regular pit. Note that there are really no tools or tires or various racing stuff hanging around. Just stunta sized sprockets and a couple of laptops for tuning.
And really, is this the attitude you want to see in a race paddock? Software engineers sipping vodka tonics and laying down a couple of lines of bad-ass C++ to get those elusive tenths? C’mon, gimme Gerry Burgess tossing spanners and cussing in Australian English any day.
Finally it was time for MotoGP. The stands were nicely full…
And here they come. Jorge Lorenzo with Stoner and Pedrosa right behind. Those three quickly left the pack and zipped away in their own little alien triumvirate. OK, I cheered a little bit when Stoner passed Lorenzo for the win.
One more race: AMA Superbikes. As usual Josh Hayes dominated, but the coolest thing on the grid was the lone KTM RC8. My people know that I loves me some European sportsbikes, and if I don’t have an Aprilia to cheer for this KTM is almost as good. Here goes the Austrian sachertorte
down the corkscrew, brainy as Boltzmann, fast as Mach and sound effects by Doppler…Austrians all.
Here’s a proper pit after the race, orange as a safety cone at sunset, with burly guys slinging exotic parts around and the incense of expensive racing oils.
I commented to one of guys in the pit that this was the finest thing in the Superbike race. “Yeah, Josh Hayes, whatever,” I said. “Every lap I was waiting for the RC8 to come around.”
The KTM guy grinned and said, “You want to sit on it?” Well, now yes I did. As giddy as a twelve year old I hopped on board before he could change his mind.
After the races, we hit the road for the Sierras again. Thing about motorcycling in California is, after you’ve spent a few hours on the freeway doing this…You lookin’ at me?
You get to do this.
We spent the night in Markleeville. Despite that it was founded in 1861, and its lofty status as the County seat, there are only about twelve buildings in town. We rode in exhausted from days of riding twisty roads in the California sunshine and nights in lavish accommodations.
And parked up in downtown M-town (OK, everywhere in Markleeville is downtown) were a couple of bad-ass motorbikes. A 2002 Yamaha R1 and a Honda Blackbird. I hunted down the riders (OK, it wasn’t that hard) and turns out they’re righteous brothers. They were roommates in college twenty years ago and have kept in touch. Robert lives in Reno; his buddy Mark flew down from Spokane, and they rode Robert’s two motorbikes to Monterey for the races.
“So,” I said. “You’d lend a friend your motorbike, eh? I bet you’re the kind of guy who would help move a body.”
Without dropping a beat, Robert says, “I’m not doing that again.” Deadpan. “It almost went sideways last time.”Mark on the left, Robert on the right.Morning in M town
This trip we crossed the Sierras on Highway 49, the LaPorte Quincy highway, the Oroville-Quincy Highway, and Highway 108. To make it a nice even five count I took Highway 70 on the way home. Highway 70 winds its way down the Feather River canyon, features a long ribbon of sweepers and is ridiculously scenic. Downside is that traffic can be tough so you need to choose your time carefully.
I came across a couple of guys from Reno on BMW’s. This is the Bucks Creek Powerhouse, where the engineering solution for running out of room in the canyon was to put the transformers right over the road.
Every trip I learn something, and given my limited mental capacity it’s often learned for the second or third time. This trip I learned that BIKE magazine thinks that the most fun bike is the Triumph Street Triple. And while there’s no doubt that the Striple is guaranteed fun, as are Tuonos, Dukes, Hypermotards and Speed Trips, I was reminded that the most fun bike is sitting in your garage. You’ve got the root password to it and get to ride it whenever you want.
So jeez, stop reading this tripe and get out there!