Tom Roderick's Final Top 10
My motojournalism career may be ending, but at least I still have a student loan to show for it
It’s been a good run. In early 1990 I began my powersports career selling motorcycles at a small Honda shop on California’s Central Coast. Twenty-seven years later and I’m bidding adieu to full-time motojournalism. The period between beginning and end has been a tragicomedy chain of events, a frayed yarn of two-wheel adventures, and an experience I can’t imagine having lived differently.
My six years as a MO editor will certainly be some of the fondest, as my friendships with most of the staff date back prior to my official hiring in 2011. In addition to forming fond memories, my time at MO provided me the opportunity to check off some remaining items from my personal moto-bucketlist, as well as partake in some very cool extracurricular activities. The following are 10 highlights during my time at MO, but hopefully I can make an occasional cameo to fill an extra seat during the next multi-bike shootout.
For those still lamenting the loss of former MO editor Troy Siahaan, say hello to Ryan Adams, Troy’s younger, more attractive replacement. Here to better represent the youthful side of motorcycling, Ryan comes complete with tattoos, stretched-out earlobes, a metrosexual personality, but no beard. Ryan’s resume already has a history in the powersports industry, and he owns some respectable motorcycling skills. In fact, he was just telling me how he recently crashed his KTM 1190 Adventure… but I digress. As for me, I’ve been told I’m irreplaceable.
When Monster Energy was looking to promote the possibility of Speedway Grand Prix returning to the United States, the energy drink company, along with Costa Mesa Speedway and Industry Racing invited journalists to spin some laps aboard a speedway machine. An irresistible opportunity to pilot a light and powerful motorcycle sans front brakes around a too-small oval lined with unforgiving plywood. Count. Me. In. Bucketlist item checked.
9. Iron Butt
Evans Brasfield and I are the only MO staffers brain-damaged enough to not only volunteer to do an Iron Butt qualifier, we actually facilitated the activity. Partaking in an actual Iron Butt (11,000 miles in 11 days) was my original goal, but after having successfully completed 1,000 miles in 24 hours, I can honestly say I’m satisfied. However, I’m still waiting for Evans to please submit the damn paperwork so I can get my Iron Butt pin and t-shirt!
8. Ice Racing
Ice racing must be a pretty cool activity because former MO editor, Troy Siahaan, also listed it in his 10 Best MO Memories prior to departing last month. Had it not been a bone-chilling 12 degrees below zero, the experience may have been more comfortable but not any more memorable. Literally freezing made racing in the Annual Steel Shoe Fund three-hour endurance race all the more fun, and one I’d gladly do again in a heartbeat.
7. The Scottish Highlands & Haggis
A lot of American men of my generation are fans of the original Highlander movie (there can be only one). Its influence on me is undeniable, but I also have a fond attachment to the 1954 movie production of Brigadoon starring Gene Kelly. So when the opportunity came to ride Triumph’s new Trophy through the Scottish Highlands, it was like a childhood fantasy realized of me strolling through the heather on hill. I also got to eat haggis, something I won’t try again, but I can always say I did.
6. Monster Movie
The press launch of the Monster 821 was a little lackluster, hampered by rain, compared to warm sunshine of Tenerife that engulfed the Monster 1200 launch a few months earlier. However, after feasting on delicious Italian cuisine in Bologna, me and some fellow journos stumbled across a very cool scene. In the downtown square a large movie screen had been erected, and on it was playing an old black and white Charlie Chaplin movie. Below the screen was a live orchestra, and in front of it hundreds of chairs placed for people to sit and enjoy the free show, which is exactly what we did.
5. MotoGP Exotica
Pooh-pooh Honda’s expensively underpowered RC213V-S all you want, but given the chance, you’d fly to Spain to ride one too. The V-S is as close to a Honda MotoGP bike you’re ever gonna get unless your name is Marquez or Pedrosa. Truth be told, we were given one 10-minute session aboard the stock model pictured above, and one 10-minute session aboard the race-kitted version on a (for me) unfamiliar track, and told that crashing wasn’t an option. So I made the best of the situation, riding at about 80%, but it’s an 80% trackday I’ll never forget.
4. Honda’s Shark Cage
Following a 22-hour flight to South Africa, Honda afforded us an opportunity to acclimate to our southern hemisphere time zone before putting us to work riding the new Africa Twin. Somewhat rested from Honda springing for business class seats with lay-flat arrangements, me and some other journalists made the best of our spare time by partaking in a local tourist activity; shark cage diving. Real great whites, real close. Best shark week I’ve ever had!
3. Dinner At Le Schwantz
My flight to Austin, Texas to ride Suzuki’s new GSX-S750 emergency landed due to a mechanical malfunction at a small airport in podunk nowhere, Texas. Lacking the parts to fix the plane, passengers were forced into rental cars for the remainder of the trip. For me and a couple strangers it was a three-hour drive to Austin. Of course I arrived late, missing the product presentation. The next day’s weather was Texas-size bucketloads of rain and a shortened ride route. That night, however, we feasted on Texas BBQ at Kevin Schwantz’s crib, and look what I found in his garage.
Tomfoolery – Dinner At Le Schwantz
2. KTM Super Duke R
You ride a lot of motorcycles doing this job, but it’s rare leaving an event feeling as though the motorcycle you just rode is akin having insider information on a stock prior to its IPO. After attending the press launch for the original Super Duke R in 2013, I remember well repeatedly telling my fellow MOronic editors how the Super Duke R was poised to dominate the super naked category only to be patronized (probably because I tend to exaggerate). After riding the SDR they came around to my way of thinking awarding it Bike of the Year in 2014, as well as it being a multi-time shootout winner. The event was also memorable for it taking place at the privately owned Ascari circuit in southern Spain.
1. Frito Pie
At the top of one of our favorite testing routes resides Crystal Lake Cafe, and on the menu Frito Pie. The combination of chili, cheese and Fritos is available at a lot of places, but I will always associate it with testing bikes for MO and scarfing lunch at Crystal Lake Cafe. The road getting there, Highway 39, is an ascending mountain course rising from a few hundred feet above sea level to more than 6,000 feet. Years ago Highway 39 connected to the famous Angeles Crest (Highway 2). A rockslide forever closed it as a throughway, so traffic is limited to the few motorists willing to drive to a dead end, bicyclists, and people camping at Crystal Lake Campground. During weekdays the only folks you’ll see are other people lucky enough to not be working that day. And MOrons.
Pushed out for someone younger and cheaper with a functioning amygdala. I have my doubts about the ability or desire of people who need mirrors to take selfies to form any kind of complex sentence.
Well damn. Sorry to see you go, Tom, and wish you all the best in whatever lies ahead.