Top Six Editor Highlights of 2013 Staff
by Staff

A motojournalist’s life isn’t quite as glorious as it might seem. Endless hours chained to our computers, researching and cranking out words for your education, illumination and, hopefully, entertainment steal time away from what we most enjoy – riding motorcycles. A colleague of ours, Aaron Frank, succinctly described a motoojourno’s job thusly: “It’s the best job in the world two days a month.”

So You Wannna Be A Motojournalist

So, as 2013 has just come to a close, we’ve decided to bring you a sampling of our most glorious and special highlights of the year, with each editor choosing their outstanding experiences from the past 12 months. Come along as we reminisce about our exceptional days on motorcycles in 2013.

Four-Thirds Shootout

By Evans Brasfield, Associate Editor

My best motorcycling moment for 2013 came from MO’s recent Four-Thirds Shootout. My reasons for this choice are two-fold. First, I love Triples. I can still remember – way back in the last century – the first time I brought a Speed Triple home from work. My wife walked out of the house to ask what the cool-looking bike was. I foolishly said, “That’s the bike I’m going to get arrested on.”

For someone who started riding on parallel-Twins before moving on to inline-Fours, a Triple feels like coming home – only better. With much of the throaty growl and torque of a Twin and the minimal vibration of a multi, I believe Triples combine to make the ideal engine configuration. Throwing a leg over the latest generation of the first Triple I ever rode was a simultaneous blast-from-the-past and revelation of the current state of motorcycle technology. Everything I loved about the Speed Triple was there – only better. (Are you noticing a theme here?) Switching to the other bikes in the comparison only heightened this experience.

Imagine, four Triples vying for your dollars in a class of motorcycle that for so long was, essentially, a class of one. Then there’s the breadth of pricing and technology available. And it’s Yamaha’s release of the FZ-09 that, I think, is the best indication of how important Triples will be in the near future. Getting newer, less experienced riders hooked on relatively inexpensive Triples should increase the demand for them.

But the main reason why the Triples shootout held such great importance to me was more personal. After working for 12 years as a freelancer and being a one-person operation, I am part of a team again. Rather than riding, writing and shooting (with a hired rider) a road test by myself, I’m working with people I enjoy and respect. I’m back in an environment where the casual discussion of motorcycles is part of the daily routine. The cross-pollination that occurs in these conversations can’t be overemphasized.

The team at MO is a group of hard-core motorcyclists that strives to bring their very best efforts to our readers – all while having a good time. Riding with the MO gang during the Triples comparo, I felt like I’d come home – only better.

Racing Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

By Troy Siahaan, Features Editor

This past year has been filled with memorable moments, but without a doubt my moto highlight of 2013 was competing at Pikes Peak. In case you forgot, I was asked to be a last-second replacement rider for Harlan Flagg, owner of the largest Zero dealer in the country, Hollywood Electrics, who was fielding a team (an entire class, actually) comprised of Zero S and FX models. I would be riding an FX modified to full supermoto trim and running the same motors as the S models. Theoretically, the FXs would have the advantage, as they’d make the same power as the S models but weigh about 100 pounds less.

Coming into the event, I thought my racing background would serve me well, but nothing prepared me for the week to come – altitude sickness, daily 2am wake-up calls and very limited practice time was a rough way to learn the 12-mile, 156-turn course. Then breaking my foot in practice only hours before my wife arrived to see me race put a damper on things. That was a fun conversation in the car explaining to her why I thought this was a good idea…

Regardless, not even a broken foot was going to stop me from getting to the top, and the 12 minutes, 24 seconds it took me to do it flew right by. I could stop this story here and have a very memorable tale to tell of how I scored third in class at Pikes Peak – with a broken foot. But the part that truly stands out to me was the massive fan reception at the end, as all the competitors made their way back down the mountain. These strangers had camped out on the mountainside for about 20 hours and were there to greet, cheer, and high five everyone regardless of finishing order. Without a doubt, the fans made my Pikes Peak experience something I’ll never forget.

Yamaha YZ250F Media Launch at Alabama’s Monster Mountain MX Park

By Scott Rousseau, Contributing Editor and Editor

About 10 years ago while discussing the abundance of new and revised models that were being pumped into what was then a vibrant and dynamic period for the motorcycle industry, former Sport Rider editor Nick Ienatsch said something that has always stuck with me, “Scott, right now is really a good time to be a motorcycle journalist.” It always has been, even through the critically lean times at the end of the last decade, and yet sometimes those of us in the motorcycling press are guilty of forgetting just how fortunate we are.

But then the occasional gig comes along that can snap even the most jaded journalists out of a funk. That was certainly the case when MO asked me to accept Yamaha’s invitation to sample its all-new reverse-incline-motored YZ250F at Monster Mountain MX Park outside of Birmingham, Alabama. Excitement and trepidation fought for the holeshot in my brain as I packed my riding gear. While I’ve ridden and raced just about every class of motorcycle imaginable during my career, my recent professional life had been spent mostly on streetbikes, and it had been years since I had ridden on any motocross track.

The day finally came when I was sampling Yamaha’s new quarter-liter marvel on the most perfectly groomed red clay racetrack I’ve ever seen. The place is a Valhalla for berm bashers, with perfect traction, fun elevation changes and plenty of jumps to challenge any rider. And when rain tried to spoil the second day of riding, we had a blast tearing up Monster Mountain’s sandy vintage track located adjacent to the main track. I realized what a great time I was having, and I found that I still have the desire to ride motocross (off-road racing and trail riding are already perennial faves).

Since then I have been hitting some of the local Southern California tracks at least once a week, and my confidence is already far greater than it was at the 250F intro. I plan to continue that trend in 2014, as I’m enjoying it way too much to stop. Now is a really good time to be a motorcycle journalist.

Ice Racing

By Tom Roderick, Content Editor

When fellow editor Troy Siahaan left for a one-year visit to Chicago I made a single request: Put together an opportunity for us to go ice racing. Soon thereafter I was on my way to the Windy City for an overnight at Siahaan’s place before travelling north to Kettle Morraine Lake to compete in the18th Annual Steel Shoe Fund three-hour endurance race.

While our practice session the day prior was an enjoyable experience atop a vacant lake on a clear and relatively warm afternoon (just below freezing), race day was anything but. Temperatures dropped overnight to -30 degrees with wind chill. The traction I enjoyed on the virgin frozen water was gone, replaced by man-made snow – the result of dozens of spiked-tire motorcycles shredding the ice.

Negative temperatures nearly turned Content Editor Roderick into a Tomcicle.

Twenty or so corners into my first lap of 6.75-mile course I was down, sliding for what seemed like forever across the slick, frozen lake. The YZ450F’s motor had stalled and by the time I got it restarted I was sweating bullets beneath the layers meant to keep me warm in the frigid temperatures. I remounted the Yamaha and tentatively finished my session.

The race was a gruelling test for a SoCal resident completely out of his element. But you couldn’t pay me to change the experience. The cold, pain, suffering, learning, camaraderie, fun, laughter and all the other sensory inputs, emotions and memories comprise the ice racing high-point of my career. I can now check off ice racing from my personal bucket list, but that doesn’t mean I’ll never do it again.

I actually enjoyed ice racing so much I wrote a poem: An Ode To Ice Racing.

Slide It Like Sykes

By Sean Alexander, Verticalscope Powersports Editorial Director

Easily my personal highlight from 2013 was discovering, beyond all expectations, that Kawasaki World Superbike Rider Tom Sykes is a true hooligan who thinks and acts just like every great MOron I’ve ever known. He curses like a sailor, and will race/compete with any and everyone around him in or on anything available. This realization was solidified when Sykes joined the Kawasaki PR team last September for a fun day of ATV slick-track racing at (not-so) glamorous El Cajon Speedway in Southern California.

That event was an attempt to find something fun and entertaining to occupy the time of the media guests at the Kawasaki Dealer Meeting, prior to the closing night’s festivities. Kawasaki’s PR team originally planned on racing KLX110 minibikes on a rinky-dink track lubed with vegetable oil, but the surface was so slippery that there would be zero notice before the bikes lost traction and slammed a rider into the pavement. Wisely, Kawasaki made the decision to switch the event to mini ATVs.

Though not originally designed for it, the Kawasaki KFX90 ATV may in fact be the perfect vehicle for maximum fun on a slick-track. Call me a weirdo if you’d like, but I guarantee you it’s absolutely the most fun you could possibly have on a tiny paved track that’s been coated with a hundred gallons of vegetable oil!

One might think Sykes was just hamming it up for the camera…. But that was pretty much his attitude for the entire event. The dude was having a blast. (Photo by Brad Puetz)

And then Sykes showed-up! We had worked with Sykes at prior events, so we knew he was a great guy, but we’d never had a chance to actually bench-race and ride with him. Sykes hit the track like a tornado… the bragging, cussing, taunting and lying were matched only by Tom’s enthusiasm and the balls-to-the-wall manner in which he attacked the track.

With only four ATVs and over 30 participants, we were forced to divide the editors and staff into multiple heats and semis, a WSBK-style Superpole session and two mains. At the end of the day, Sykes was won his heat races, took the Superpole and won the gold in his main. I won the other main.

Want to have fun? Ride a mini ATV on a slick track. Want to have more fun? Invite Sykes.

Utah to Colorado on a BMW F800GS Adventure

By Kevin Duke, Editor-in-Chief

Riding Ducati’s animalist Panigale R at the sensational new Circuit of the Americas near Austin, Texas, was unforgettable. And seeing the Harley-centric crowds at Sturgis fawning over Indian’s new Chief lineup showed that the cruiser paradigm had instantly changed with the reemergence of that iconic brand.

But the highlight of my year began in Moab, Utah, where BMW was hosting the press intro for its F800GS Adventure. It was my first time in this spectacular wilderness area, and it surpassed even my lofty expectations for its rugged, natural beauty. And the Adventure version of the F800GS impressed over and through the many natural obstacles the Utah/Colorado border area can serve up.

But the trip became more memorable the next day when I borrowed the GSA for an excursion eastward to Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb where I’d see Troy Siahaan race – a special treat in itself, seeing Pikes for the first time and riding up to its 14,000-foot summit. Normally, each time I’m on a motorcycle I’m stuck in a schedule and route of someone else’s making or pressed for time trying to bag the maximum amount of photos and video before the suns sets.

But on this day, there was no schedule, no route and no negotiating with a riding partner of how the day would play out. I set my own course, choosing routes that would satisfy my desire for either speed or beauty, and I stopped where and when I – and only I – chose. It reminded me of the reasons why I first fell in love with motorcycling. Traversing the western half of Colorado – one of this country’s most naturally beautiful areas – was as therapeutic for me as a week meditating with Deepak Chopra. Staff Staff presents an unrivaled combination of bike reviews and news written by industry experts

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