Archive for Reviews

Alpinestars Integrated Protective Gear

Alpinestars Bionic 2 Protector BNS Jacket frontRecently I had a brief email exchange with Ken Smith, editor of Australia-based VMX Magazine regarding the problems neck brace wearers have integrating other forms of protective gear. As Ken pointed out, everything from the bottom profile of your helmet to the shape of your chest protector/body armor can affect the way the neck brace works. Or doesn’t work.

Alpinestars Bionic 2 Jacket rear viewMany of us who have opted to wear a neck device have had to hack up our body armor or settle for a skimpy chest protector. That’s a choice I don’t want to have to make. This morning I was browsing the magazine rack at the local Barnes & Noble store and just happened to pickup the 10APR2010 issue of UK-based MotoX magazine. While thumbing through the pages I saw a blurb about some new AlpineStars body armor designed specifically to integrate with the AlpineStars Bionic Neck Support (BNS) and other neck devices. Read More…

FIM Speedway Grand Prix on HD Theater

Speedway actionLast night I had the chance to watch the Swedish FIM Speedway Grand Prix on HD Theatre. It was my first time to see a complete speedway event.

What a cool race — the speed, color, action. A very action-packed format with lots of four-man, four-lap heat races, everybody full-on sideways, diving in and out. Excellent racing.

I’ve been aware of speedway since I was a kid, and I remember Bruce Penhall’s World Championship runs in the early ’80s. Later Penhall partnered with the caricaturish Eric Estrada in the ’80s TV series CHiPs, when he replaced Larry Wilcox during the 1982 season.

That was kind of a big thing, having a motorcycle racer on a popular TV show. Sorta like when little Ricky Nelson grew up on Ozzy and Harriet and went on to become a popular singer. C’mon, you all remember “Garden Party“, right? Well, maybe not…

Back to the subject — Speedway. Never saw a full race, just pictures in magazines and the occasional video clip. But watching the whole event in HD on a big screen TV was quite the show. I have to say it’s a pretty ballsy thing. Some young Russian kid won the main event after the only American competitor fell out of the semi-finals with a flat rear tire (there were some big ruts in the surface of the temporary track.)

I’d love to see a big-time speedway race in person. I googled speedway racing and found that it’s popular mostly in the northeast and, of course, California. But there’s a little track not far from my old home in Atlanta — Rutledge Speedway in Rutledge, GA — that has a short track and TT races and is supposed to hold some speedway now and again. Wow, for 15 years I lived less than 50 miles from that track and never knew it existed.

If you’re lucky enough to get HD Theater via cable or satellite (I don’t) be sure to check the guide for upcoming FIM Speedway Grand Prix races. It’s a blast BTW, American Greg Hancock finished 4th overall in the 2009 Championships.

Daytona SX definitely the best of the year

I’ll go out on a limb here and predict that Daytona is and will be the best SX race of the year. Mostly for all the reasons that make it the least Supercross-like of all the races — longer track, no 180-degree bowl turns, multiple soil types, varied obstacles, really rough.

What a wild get-off by Austin Stroupe in the 250 main. What carnage in the 450 first turn. What a T-bone by Milsaps on Mike Alessi. What a ride by Stewart to get back to 7th with a busted bike and probably a bang-up headache.

Great coverage on SPEED — the best all year. The ground-level shots were great. The real-time whoops coverage was very cool. Even the SPEED commentary team is getting better. Or maybe I’m softening up. But Shaheen seems to be learning something about the sport and is less reliant on overblown platitudes. Erin Bates’ malapropisms are much less frequent, and less noticeable.

This says they’re trying, and take their work seriously. I can respect that. Let’s hope they keep pushing to improve — just like the racers they cover.

The racing was good. Lots of action. Rough, long track actually made fitness an issue, not something that happens in any other SX race, really. Stewart took a beating in the first-turn crash that looked, to me, like he initiated it with a little too much front stopper. Front wheel went right out from under him mid-pack and created carnage.

Reed got held up but stayed upright, and made a good charge through the pack to catch a pooped-out Jason Lawrence in the last couple laps for the win. Milsaps rammed the crap out of Mike Alessi on the last lap to take third. Stewart managed to work his way back to 7th.

All in all, it was a great race. The best SX I’ve seen in a long, long time. Congrats to SPEED for really doing the show right. Michael Byrne did not rejoin the race after taking a pretty brutal hit in the first-turn melee. And Tim Ferry dropped out a lap or so in with some sort of ankle problem, also after the big crash. Here’s hoping both are ok.

Two-stroke Militia

tsm_logo_blk_webHere’s another helpful and entertaining site in the two-stroke wars — Two Stroke Militia. The site was apparently put together by three guys in the northeast — Jeff Conboy, Tim Weeks, and John Nicholas — and features some of the best analysis and commentary on the two-stroke situation that I’ve seen. I’m happy to see that they’ve picked up sponsorship from quite a few companies that also love the smell of race gas and castor oil.

Check out this page on modern two-stroke weapons. Gotta love that new Maico! Is that cool, or what? Tubular steel frame, two-stroke motor, modern styling… Man, that’s cool. I’d actually buy a pit pass at a National to see stuff like that. Now if they’d just do a twin-shock version…

I’m going to buy one of their t-shirts. Check out their CafePress store and show your colors. I don’t know if that makes me a member or not, but at least they’ll know I’m a two-stroke supporter.

Cool old school motocross art

tn_gp_cssr_500ccm-holice_1973CZ aficionado and webmaster over at CZechPoint, Reese Dengler, posted this reminder on the Cousin Weedy Yahoo list:

http://www.petr-trojan.ic.cz/

Check out Petr Trojan’s moto-cross art at the web page above. He’s added some new prints of some old Czech moto-heros.

Petr has very nice art of motocross, speedway, and rally car racing, including some charcoal renderings of modern MX riders. But I really like his ’60s and ’70s-era motocross and scrambles work. Very nice. He says he will have prints available soon. I hope he does.

MotoTek motorcycle stand

moto-tek_06_smallFollowing a brief exchange over on the CousinWeedy Yahoo! group I realized I needed to add a link to 4 Speeds Forward, the CZ tech site run by Weedy member Craig Walker, to the Resources links here. CW has a great set of online CZ manuals. He also has a nice review of the Moto-Tek 3in1 Motorcycle Stand. This looks like a nice option for keeping your vintage bike in an upright position while you’re clunking around the garage in a stupor looking for that flywheel puller or clutch tool. The price has gone up a bit since CW did his review – it’s $169.95 now as steel prices continue to climb. (Side Note: Here’s more info on just why steel prices are going through the roof. It’s just going to get worse.)

The Freestand Motorcycle Hold Down

tilted_standI overlooked this in my last post, but it’s a pretty cool idea. The Freestand strapless motorcycle tie-down system is from Ivie Racing in Memphis, TN (the dirty south is kicking some new product butt!) This pic shows the dirt bike model but they have variants that fit sport bikes and standard bikes, too. I can’t easily explain how this works, but I’ll try. The stands have a pair of open, semi-circular hooks attached to short stanchions that pivot from the center of the top cross piece. As you roll the bike forward the outer tip of the hooks catches on the inside of the fork legs. As you push the bike into the stand the hooks pivot to horizontal where they lock, preventing the forks from moving forward or backward. There’s a “how it works” video on the site that shows the stand in action.

It’s a cool engineering idea and, as the picture shows, holds the bike firmly in almost any position. There is no pressure on any part of the bike. All the force is transferred right into the fork stanchions and steering head. Best of all, it takes only one person because all you do is roll the bike into place. No chance of dropping it while you reach for tie-downs or fasten the clamps used on other systems like the MX Lock-n-Load or the Parts Unlimited Wheel Shoe (which I use). To be fair, the Freestand costs a lot more than either of those products, ranging from $250 to $350 depending on model. So I can’t see buying a bunch of these to fill your trailer, but I can see how one would be great in a shop or used on a lift in the garage. I almost always work on bikes alone, and getting one secured in the shop can be a little iffy. Talk to your significant other and see if she (or he) can get you one for Christmas.

Tools and tricks from Powersports Dealer Expo 08

I was fortunate to be able to attend the 2008 Powersports Dealer Expo in Indianapolis (called the Indy Show because it is always in Indianapolis) this past weekend. It was a great trip. I had a good time, met some old friends, made some new ones, and learned lots of interesting stuff. I’ll be writing about all of it here over the next few weeks. For a rather more lighthearted look at the show check out the Racer X Films from Day 1 and Day 2.

To start I thought I’d review some of the more interesting little doodads and helper-items I saw. Nothing really big here, and some of them sell for a little more than I think they should. But they are still neat and may give you some ideas of your own.

handymate2First up is the HandyMate from BossMate. Made in Chattanooga, TN the HandyMate is one of those “Duh, why didn’t I think of that?” ideas. It’s just some simple, rectangular braces/brackets through which you slip a 2”x12” board of whatever length you want (probably around 8 feet max.) to create a nice, stable, self-supporting bench. At 21” tall the HandyMate just about the right height to support a long-travel dirt bike. It also makes a nice bench seat for putting on your boots or whatever, as well as a good step stool for reaching stuff on top of the trailer or across the truck bed. If you’re like me and make your loading ramps from 2”x12” lumber, using one of them for a bench seat or bike stand at the trail site is a great extra use. They make all sorts of variations. The HandyMate is the smallest. All you guys with welders and some 1” sq. tubing around can probably make some up yourself, but for a guy like me who doesn’t have that stuff the $45 retail price tag is low enough I can afford to buy a pair. Check them out.

bootbunny1Next is the MX Boot Bunny. It’s basically some 3/16” (or maybe 1/4”) mild steel rod that has been shaped into two upright, sock-like shapes that let you slip your upside-down muddy boots over them for washing. The Bunny holds them nice and steady so you can hit them with the pressure washer or car wash nozzle without fear of filling them with water. The basic Bunny just sticks into the ground, but they also offer a little fold-up base that can be used on hard surfaces like driveways. The base folds flat so the unit can hang on a hook in your trailer or truck. This one isn’t all that applicable for me since I don’t really ride in the mud anymore. Nor do a lot of vintage guys because it’s just too hard on the bikes. But everything needs washing eventually and at $35.95 for the standard unit and $62.95 for the combo with the base and a hanger it’s worth looking at if you don’t like tossing muddy gear into your rig.

park_tool_workbench2The next item is from Park Tool USA and is a nifty portable workbench. Park has been making specialized bicycle tools for decades and is the leading brand in that space. For 2008 they are upgrading and modifying a number of their tools for the motorcycle market. They have a range of things like specialty vises for holding shocks and forks, etc. The portable workbench looks like a nice addition to the pit gear for any racer. It’ll hold as much as 200 lbs (although you shouldn’t try to put a pitbike on it). It has molded recesses so drinks, cans and tools don’t go rolling off. Plus they offer a nice little kit that turns it into a 2-wheel dolly for transporting other pit gear. This item is a little pricey. I don’t remember exactly what they told me, but I think it’s around $150 retail for the table. The dolly kit is extra. That’s a lot.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been happy with the flimsy camping tables from Walmart, etc. The plastic “church” tables tend to fall over easily if the ground is soft, plus stuff falls off them all the time. The Park table has the legs set at a 45-degree angle so even if the ground is soft it will work its way into the dirt and remain stable. The nice, lightweight aluminum tables from places like Pit Posse or Pit Products cost up to $300. That’s totally out of my league. Compared to that the Park table seems like a pretty good deal.

The last item is really a service and web site for ShipMyBike.com. I only talked to this guy for a minute but he seemed knowledgeable and claims to have been serving the motorcycle industry since 1965. His web site has a form you can fill out to get a free quote. Continental US, Hawaii/Alaska, and International services are all available. Here’s a customer quote from his About US page:

“I just got my two Vincent engines shipped by Berklay and they did a great job. Dennis handled it and it came from Mike’s house near Toranto Canada to Texas. Mike wanted it shipped one day after he had them crated and ready. After we got shipping arranged, Mike said they made contact with him, and they were there when he wanted them, had them loaded up and gone exactly when he wanted it. They shipped them to NYC for customs, then to me where I picked them up at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport. No problems, no damage, easy to deal with, very reasonable prices (cheaper than I could have driven there!). The crates looked like they didn¹t have a mark on them. No damage to anything, and a great, quick job.” — Charlie Hamburger

He’s just an expediter, and I don’t know what sort of premium he gets over the basic carrier rates. But it may still be cheaper than Forward Air. And if he has solid relationships with the trucking and transport companies so his stuff doesn’t get screwed up that’s worth a lot. If you’re getting a bike from overseas it might be a real help to have a specialist expediter. OH, he has a gawdawful animated audio thing on his home page. Very annoying. But just ignore it.

Keep your powder dry

hydrosorbentHere’s a nifty little item you might find helpful if you live in a really humid area like I do – hydrosorbent packs from CampingSurvival.com. The self-contained, rechargeable moisture absorbers come in a variety of sizes , change colors to let you know when they’re full, and can be recharged with a few hours in an oven. I put them inside the RubberMaid containers I use to store engines and engine parts, clamp the lid down tight, then slip a big 2ml garbage bag around it. Any moisture that gets in the bag gets absorbed by the gel pack. Over time it will even suck out whatever moisture may be in the engine and really keeps the rust out of the internals. Good stuff and pretty cheap insurance if you’re going to keep a good motor on a shelf for a year or two. (I know, who does that?) From $5-$12 depending on size. Oh, don’t eat them.

How to setup your workshop

motorcycle_workshopOne of my favorite things to do at big races is walk through the pits. Not to see the bikes – they all look the same – or even the racers. No, my favorite thing to see is the factory rigs and the pit setups. I love seeing what sort of cool, labor-saving jigs and tools and setups they have. It’s the next best thing to seeing inside a professional race shop, which I have never done. I am always looking for things to do to my own shop or trailer to make them more efficient. So when I ran across this book from White Horse Press I bought it right away even though I didn’t expect much (I find low expectations are a great way to avoid disappointment.)

I was pleasantly surprised to find the book is nice a collection of reviews of different shops – ranging from small, personal workspaces all the way up to the Yoshimura Racing facility. The author, C. G. Masi, does a great job describing the shop, the work done in it, and the various trade-offs the owner made for space, layout, etc. There are lots of pictures and plenty of helpful advice for anyone looking to revamp a shop, build a new one, or just rearrange the garage. It’s chok-full of tips for cheap storage, effective layout, and guidelines for things like compressed air plumbing. If you like to plan things out before you start renovating you’ll probably like this book a lot. Add it to the list of things someone can get you for a birthday. You’ll both be happy.