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.

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.

147324829_c672f7b755_mThis is a product I’ve used in my shop for over a year. It works really well with ca 1969-1975 CZ motors. From what I can tell it will work with almost any vintage single – two-stroke or four-stroke. It’s highly adjustable, easy to use, and Mike Kincaid over at Rampant Racing is a great guy.

When you buy a lot of products over the internet, sight-unseen as I often do, you never know what’s going to show up at your door. Often it’s a decent product taped into a shoebox or grocery bag or somesuch. Mike doesn’t deliver that kind of nonsense. The Rampant Racing stand came fully broken down and fixed in a custom wooden shipping fixture. It was the best-engineered shipping container I’ve seen and made sure that everything arrived in order and undamaged no matter what the chimpanzees at the freight company did.

That might seem silly, but a guy who puts that kind of thought into how to package his product isn’t going to make a cheesy product to go in it. You can bet the engine stand is first-rate — solid engineering, excellent manufacturing quality, nice finish, and easy assembly. If you work on engines out of the frame this is a tool you wqant under your Christmas tree.

rxrlogoGot my RXR Protect Organic chest protector today. Thanks to Chris Favro of RXR Protect North America for fixing me up with a sweet deal so I can test this with the new Leatt Brace. After talking with Chris we determined that the best path forward was to just get one and see how it worked. The RXR is not designed specifically for the Leatt, and some riders have liked it, others not. I promised Chris I’d test them together and share my findings with the VMX community via this website and McCookRacing.com. Unfortunately, it looks like that’s going to be a little ways down the road, as work and travel are making it almost impossible to get any saddle time and it will be hectic until the Holidays. But hopefully I can get in a little riding before then.

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red-cross-flagToday I ordered some modern protective equipment – a neck brace and a couple of different chest/body armour units to try with it. The neck brace I bought is the Leatt, the new and somewhat controversial HANS-style device invented and patented by South African Dr. Jeff Leatt. For core protection I ordered an EVS Revolution 5 that is designed for the Leatt, and an RXR Protect Organic.

First released about a year ago, the Leatt has gotten a lot of publicity and raised a lot of arguments both for and against its use. Former riders such as David Bailey and Danny Chandler have spoken out strongly in favor of the brace. As far as I know there haven’t been any riders speak out strongly against it, but it certainly hasn’t been adopted by riders everywhere, for a variety of reasons.

The most common argument against the device is the absence of substantial field-level proof that it actually works as claimed. Such arguments are inherent in any new equipment of this type and will be resolved over time – either favoring or discrediting the Leatt. In the meantime there are a number of riders who feel the unknowns about the device make it not worth the cost, inconvenience, or restriction in range of motion.

But for me it seems to be the right choice to try one. From what I read of the riders who use the Leatt it takes a little getting used to but soon fades from your perception as a rider, blending into the background such that you hardly notice it. This has certainly been the case with the Asterisk Cell knee braces I use. Once laced up and seated on the bike they all but disappear from my consciousness. If the Leatt provides even a modicum of protection against Spinal Cord Injury (SCI), and I suspect it provides more than that based on my reading of the design and research papers, while tasking me no more than my knee braces I will be a very happy camper.

But before making this decision I had to resolve a couple of vintage issues in my mind. Vintage racing is fun, and one of the enjoyable aspects of the hobby is reliving the atmosphere and environment from “back in the day.” For me that meant wearing vintage leather Hi-Point boots, an open-face helmet, old hockey-style shoulder pads, and other early-‘70s era gear. That was part of the fun. But the reality is we’re still racing motorcycles, and we still fall off. While I’m a pretty conservative and thoughtful rider – taking care to stay within my limits and keep my head on straight – there are still times in each race where things can go wrong. And I had to ask myself, “What’s more important – having the look and feel of the ‘70s in my outfit, or taking advantage of the vastly improved technology we have today to minimize my chance of serious injury?”

Giving up the vintage look is not a small matter. It’s not the same to be out on the starting gate with a bunch of ‘74 MX bikes and guys in rugby shirts when you’re decked out in the latest techno-garb. But then again, my goal is to keep riding as long and as healthily as possible, not pose for the best pictures. And then there is the “macho” factor – is all that protective gear really necessary? Anyone who’s ever suffered an SCI will tell you yes. Hell yes. Wear the gear. Get the brace, Whatever. Just take as many steps as you reasonably can to prevent SCIs. We all know riding and racing motorcycles is riskier than babysitting, washing the car, or playing basketball. We all know it’s more dangerous than watching football on TV. But that doesn’t mean we blithely accept the idea of debilitating injury. Bumps, bruises, and even the occasional fracture are part of the game – especially as we get older. But we’ve still got to go to work and make a living. Wheelchairs are not part of the long-term plan.

I’m guessing there’s not a single motorcycle-related cervical SCI victim today who wouldn’t go back in time and wear a device like the Leatt – proven or not – if they could do so before their accident. Life with an SCI is miserable. Life with a cervical SCI can be worse than death. So I will try to accommodate the vintage fashion police by keeping my helmet white, my pants and jersey plain and unadorned by modern graphics. I’ll keep most of my specialized protective gear under my clothes. But my boots will be modern and among the best our modern technology can provide. My helmet will be a new full-face model with modern features. And my neck will be surrounded by the best device that modern medical research and development has yet devised.

I can still get hurt. I can still suffer an SCI. Hell, I came really close 10 years ago when I broke three vertebrae in my lower back by rolling a pickup truck at 50 MPH – a far worse injury than I ever suffered on a motorcycle. Nothing is perfect. But I’ll feel better knowing I’ve stacked the odds a little bit in my favor. And I suspect my subconscious will let me ride a little freer, a little looser, have a bit more fun. And that’s what this is all about anyway.