It’s hard for me to believe, but right around this time 10 years ago I got my start as a motojournalist, working for Rider magazine under the tutelage of Mark Tuttle, who still helms the magazine today. It’s been a wild and crazy ride this past decade, and every so often I still pinch myself just to make sure this isn’t all a dream. Over the past decade, I’ve been lucky enough to travel to some of the most exotic locations around the world and pilot some extraordinary motorcycles. To celebrate, here are some of my favorite memories from the past 10 years.
Edelweiss MotoGP Mugello Tour
In 2008, I had the opportunity to take part in a special Edelweiss tour. An Edelweiss tour is already special in itself no matter the locale, but this one was particularly memorable for me because the destination was the famous Mugello circuit in Italy to watch the MotoGP race. If you know anything about motorcycle racing, then you’ll know Mugello is like Mecca for any true race fan. The trip started and ended in Germany, then wound its way through Austria and into Italy, going as far south as Florence, before heading back north to Deutschland. The roads were wonderful and so were the people. In fact, I still keep in touch with many of my tour mates to this day.
Having been to MotoGP at Laguna Seca, I was aware of what to expect on track, but what took me most by surprise about Mugello was the party atmosphere surrounding the track at all hours of the day and night. People attaching car engines on crates and installing megaphone canisters to the exhaust headers sticks out the most. Their purpose? Simply to make as much noise as possible.
AMA Vintage Days at Mid-Ohio
Getting a chance to attend the AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days at Mid-Ohio, and being offered the chance to race on the historic track is something I won’t soon forget. Seeing so many classic motorcycles, and the people who love them, all in one place was a testament to the appeal these rusty old machines have on our hearts. For me, that excitement centered around racing in the AHRMA-sanctioned “Thruxton Cup” aboard identical Triumph Thruxtons.
The details of that race are rather hazy in my memory banks (I don’t even remember where I finished), but my favorite memories involve the friends I made that weekend. My competitor–turned–friend, Jonah Wasserman, was competing in the championship, and with me finishing one spot ahead of him in my one-off appearance, he lost some points in the championship. We laugh about it now because the picture below shows him yelling to himself as we’re heading toward the checkered flag.
Riding Jason DiSalvo’s World Supersport Triumph Daytona 675
What an honor it was to be invited by Triumph as the only U.S. journalist to come to Valencia, Spain to ride the World Supersport-spec Daytona 675 piloted by American Jason DiSalvo. (You forgot that stint in his career, didn’t you?) It was so exciting, in fact, that I forgot my passport and missed my original flight out. Thankfully, that didn’t stop Triumph from putting me on the next flight, because this experience was quite a treat. It was remarkable how quickly the bike turned from side to side compared to the stock 675, and the WSS-spec engine was pure heaven – it made great power and sounded awesome! Better still, I got the opportunity to get to know Jason, his wife, Bethany, and his teammate that year, Chaz Davies, as they continued their testing program after the journos were done riding. Quality people, all three of them, which makes it great to see the success Chaz has been having lately in the World Superbike championship.
Taking the Win On A Zero
The TTXGP was a relatively new electric motorcycle racing organization, and the 2012 Zero S was the first electric motorcycle I’ve ever considered to be legitimate instead of toy-like. So, getting the opportunity to race one at Portland International Raceway against a field of other Zero S models was an offer I couldn’t refuse. The picture above shows just how tight the race was, with all four riders taking their turns at the front throughout the race. Being in the right place at the right time gave me the draft I needed coming out of the final turn to pass for the lead – and the win – just as I crossed the checkered flag.
For a brief period I relocated to Chicago, which is only a short drive north to Wisconsin, where there are plenty of lakes that freeze in the winter. Upon my move Tom Roderick said to me, “If you can find a way to go ice racing, I’ll be there!” Challenge accepted. With some emails and phone calls, suddenly we had a Yamaha YZ450F with studded tires ready for the ice. True to his word, Tom made the trip, and the two of us, plus Yamaha’s media liaison at the time, Tim Olson, froze our butts off as we competed against other teams who were far more prepared than we were. By that I mean they were used to the single-digit temps, while we California boys were shivering next to the space heater. Still, if the opportunity presented itself again, we’d say yes in a heartbeat!
Elbow Down On a $40,000 Ducati
One of my favorite memories on the job is captured in the picture above. It was the press introduction for the Ducati 1098R – Ducati’s flagship sportbike of the time and the first production motorcycle with traction control. Cost? Roughly $40,000. It goes without saying that crashing is never an option, but this is especially so when Ducati hands you the keys to its pride and joy. However, as soon as I got up to speed at the wonderful Jerez circuit, going fast seemed so easy on that bike. With loads of front-end confidence, I felt like I could place the thing wherever I wanted with endless amounts of lean angle. So of course, when I saw the photographer standing in this corner, I had to prove my point. I only touched the elbow down for a brief moment, and after I did so I didn’t tempt fate again. Luckily, the photog got the image above and it’s been one of my favorite pictures ever since.
Getting to spend a day with Michael Czysz was an experience I’ll never forget. Many of us know his accomplishments in the motorcycle world, but I’ll cherish the time we spent just talking about life, sitting on the bench in his back patio. I got to know a different side of Michael Czysz that many people don’t get to see. While he’s doggedly determined and seemingly fearless, like any true family man, the love of his wife and kids is what matters most to him. For those wondering, he’s still with us and in fact, will be taking part in the Portland Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, raising money to help find a cure for prostate cancer. Click here if you’d like to donate to the cause.
Rubbing Elbows with Troy Bayliss
Apart from having a great name, Troy Bayliss has been one of my heroes in motorcycling for a long time. Naturally, getting the chance to meet – and ride with – him is one of my most cherished memories from the past decade. Despite being one of the best to ever throw a leg over a motorcycle, Bayliss was one of the most humble and down-to-Earth people I’ve ever met. The event above was the Ducati 1198 press intro at the Portimao circuit in Portugal, and when it came to take riding photos on track, I asked Bayliss to stay close. Once we started, I playfully put my elbows in the wind and TB21 willfully played along, meeting my elbow with his. Later in the lap, as I was cresting the final turn, a long right-hand sweeper, I felt a nudge on my arm. It was Bayliss, gently resting the 1198’s mirror on my arm! I couldn’t help but laugh once I looked over. “I told him to stay close!” I thought to myself.
Of course, there are so many more great memories, but these are the ones that truly stick out. Thanks to all of you who have followed me throughout the years, and here’s to seeing where the next 10 years will take me.