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Thursday
Mar192015

A Day On the Ice

Winter is always a rough time for motorcyclists who don’t live in a warm climate. It means we have to actually winterize our bikes and find something else to do that doesn’t involve motorcycles. We have to park our machines and count down the months before we can ride again.

Or does it?

For another group of motorcyclists, the month of December is also spent winterizing our motorcycles. But instead of putting fuel stabilizer the tank, we’re mounting studded tires and breaking out the starter fluid. We’re getting our bikes prepped to ride on the ice.

I used to hate winter. I was fortunate that one of my mentors invited me to try out the ice early in my riding career, because suddenly winter became an equally amazing time of year for motorcycling.

A Day on the Ice …

It’s ten o’clock on a cold winter Sunday morning, and we’re just parking the car at a frozen lake in the middle of nowhere in Wisconsin. We aren’t the first ones here, and in fact it’s difficult to find a parking spot. I take another sip of my hot coffee before exiting the car.

My friend Bob has been kind enough to haul our bike to the lake, along with another friend’s bike. He’s already unloaded the bikes and is gearing up for the day. There must be fifteen other guys out here doing the same thing, or they’re trying for the 20th time to get their bike to kick start. One guy gives up on his bike and lets a friend give it a round. On a cold morning, you find out who your true friends are.

I know how to properly gear up for the day. There’s a substantial difference in layering when it’s 10 degree versus 30 degrees outside, and I’m at the point where the cold doesn’t really bother me. Besides layers, I wear all the typical things I’d wear for any day I ride: armored jacket, armor pants, sturdy motorcycle boots, a dirt bike helmet, and gloves. Heated gloves, actually - they are a true game changer for staying comfortable. It takes me a little while to put everything on, but after a 10 minute dance in the car I’m ready to go ice riding.

When I tell people I go ice riding, they immediately assert that I’m crazy and that ice riding sounds incredibly dangerous. To be honest, it’s no more dangerous than other type of motorcycling. And it actually prevents me from going crazy during the winter, because I don’t have to deal with a parked motorcycle for half the year.

The other concern I usually hear is about falling through the ice. If you’re careful, this is actually pretty difficult to do. When the ice is just freezing over or the weather is starting to warm up, a group of guys will start drilling all over the lake to ensure the ice is still thick enough. But once it gets very cold out, there really isn’t much concern. The ice gets so thick during the season that plenty of people will drive their trailers or trucks straight onto the ice without fear. But that isn’t to suggest that someone hasn’t accidently sunk their vehicle due to lack of proper research – and that’s always an unfortunate day when that happens.

There’s a few lakes that we venture out to. Some have a flat track style course laid out, while others have a road style course with left and right turns galore. Today we’re at a flat track style course, and one of the guys has his kids measuring the track so it can be perfectly plowed. The kids are pros at this, they always have to go measure the track for everyone else. Once they set up a few markers, one of the guys drives out on the ice with his truck and plow. It’s very cold, there is no danger of the truck sinking today.

My boyfriend and I started riding on his DR-Z 400 this season, and last year we split my DR 200. Often times, we have one of the newer bikes on the lake. It’s always fun to see what turns up on the ice. Jeff of Godfrey’s Garage shows up on a bike named “The Mongrol.” It’s aptly named from the variety of bikes it’s been built from. Others show up with an assortment of weird and old bikes that aren’t happy to start up in cold weather, but are a hoot to watch once they do.

Riding on the ice is completely different from riding on the street. On the street, you lean into a corner. On the ice, you want to keep your body upright while you push the bike down underneath you. As you approach a corner, you want on your weight on the front tire. If you’re doing this right, you don’t even feel the back end sliding around. All you feel is the intense amount of joy that comes with motorcycling – the freedom, the excitement, the thrill. It’s taken me some time to get used to riding this way, but now I look forward to it when the street riding season is over.

We get into our typical routine: my boyfriend goes out for a few rounds, then I go out for a few rounds. If I come back in but still want to ride, someone inevitably offers me to try out a different bike. It’s a pretty amazing community of riders, as the motorcycling community often is. Often times I end up parking myself in various corners of the track with my camera. The day is as fun for riding as it is for taking photos – and after a full day of wrangling a motorcycle and running to get photos, I’m pretty beat.

Another good Sunday on the books …

I know the guys are done riding when the beers and cigars come out. The light is starting to fade, even though it’s not even close to dinner time yet. That’s a part of winter that I never liked.

My camera is full of great shots and my inner thighs are sore. I’m ready to pack up. We roll the bikes back up and begin to wrap the tires back up with their protective covers. The bikes get loaded and everyone makes plans to get brats, beer, and cheese curds. It is Wisconsin after all! After a well-deserved meal, we part ways while I look forward to a great night’s sleep. It’s been a perfect Sunday, and I’ll be back out there next week if it’s warm enough.

 

~Jen Tekawitha

(Guest Contributor for Cafe Racer XXX, writer and photographer. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram

Wednesday
Jan282015

Naked Speed Premiere launches

Unless you've been completely unplugged for the past 6 months, I'm sure you have heard that Cafe Racer TV has a new show called "Naked Speed". Cafe Racer XXX is proud to have one of our partners, Kevin Dunworth kick off the season with his build for Olympian Kaillie Humphries.

This is what Kevin had to say about it... 

"I am super excited about people seeing one of my favorite builds on this season of Naked Speed. I had the opportunity to build a Mono-shock xs 650 for the very talented speed freak Kaillie Humphries.  She is a two time Gold Medalist in the Bobsleigh, and world cup champion. Her intensity and drive can be felt thru the phone and added a new element to my typical build process. As you will see in the episode on Velocity Channel, I was attempting to do a Buell Tube frame style lower shock mount. After setting it up and taking a ton of time I deemed the set-up risky and went for a more traditional set-up. The overall experience was awesome with Bryan Fuller and the producers being super fun to work with. The friendship with Kaillie is priceless!! I personally find her and her story very inspiring. When you are around her, she makes you want to be a better person. The bike, the Client, and the entire process have been a highlight of my motorcycle building career. And I appreciate all the support from Sasha and CafeRacerxxx that I receive daily to keep me motivated as well.  It's cool to work with positive and forward moving people in this super fun industry. --Kevin Dunworth

Here is another shot of the build. Full spread on the Silodrome

 One of the hosts, Bryan Fuller of Fuller Moto had this to say:

"I'm particularly proud that Naked SPEED highlights real craftsmen making their dreams reality.  We focus on the trials and tribulations of an individual making art into Velocity. Each show will focus on 2 builders creating speed machines from scratch.  In the end, we test each bike at an iconic track to see how their tire burners perform.  Strip, Build, Test...Hero or Zero , you be the judge! Kevin Dunworth is our first builder on the premier episode. He takes on a Canadian National Hero, hoping to build a bike that will rival her daily driver...a 100 MPH bobsled!
Tune into the Velocity channel tonight at 10 PM EST 

 

Tuesday
Dec232014

Helmet Stories and Garage 52

At Cafe Racer XXX, we are HUGE fans of Helmet Stories and their breathtaking photos and adventures through the diverse landscapes of India. Recently, our friend Cristi Farrell adventured East for her own set of moto travels and had the opportunity to intersect with both the local culture and the personalities behind Helmet Stories and Garage 52. Cristi is someone I personally admire due to her numerous solo motorcycle adventures in all corners of the world. Thanks for sharing with us Cristi!   ~ Sasha Valentine

Uniting a lifelong love of motorcycles, the inevitable wrenching of motorcycles, adventure motorcycle touring, and the motorcycle community at large, Vir Nakai and Harsh ManRai of Helmet Stories joined forces with automotive journalist / test rider / motorcycle mechanic and builder Josh Crasto of JC Moto and Mumbai’s own legendary motorcycle mechanic Mario Pereira of Mario’s to collaborate on their first project – Garage 52, a moto collective.  Garage 52 at a minimum represents a place for like-minded motorcycle enthusiasts to gather in the Banda neighborhood of Mumbai, India.  The stake of offerings at Garage 52 goes far beyond social gathering as it was truly designed to provide a communal work space with guidance for riders wanting to wrench on their bikes, check out one of Josh’s latest rare vintage motorcycle projects, or hear about the untapped Indian wilderness few city dwellers experience at all let alone on two wheels. 

One would think that in India – where the motorcycling community is 52 million strong and expansive real estate runs premium – communal garages coupled with social activity would be in abundance.  The marketing and statistics however of the motorcycle community are indicative of a completely different mindset than that of its US-based counterpart.  India Bike Week annually draws up to 7,500 participants in Goa whereas its US equivalent held in Daytona Beach annually draws up to 500,000 participants.  While there are smaller events and coast to coast rides scattered across the country with a handful of local motorcycle clubs in existence, India lacks a strong sense of community within its motorcycle population.  The answer is likely rooted in the vast majority of the Indian riding population being commuters, using the motorcycle as a tool to get to/from work; whereas the bulk of motorcycling in the United States is driven by a sense of community within a largely recreational rider population.   

For Vir and Harsh of Helmet Stories, therein lies the problem – how to convince India’s motorcycle commuters that beyond the big city lies thrilling, challenging adventure, an experience that will not only showcase the beauty that is India but that which can only be tapped using two wheels.  In my opinion, the only stigma to growing the adventure touring segment of the Indian market is the widespread coverage, accessibility, and low cost of public transportation in India.  In a country where median per capita income can hover in the ballpark of $616 annually, cost is key and long distance travel is expensive at $4.50/gallon, not to mention slow by American freeway standards at under 50 miles/hour. 

That is where partnering with well-known motorcycle mechanics Josh Crasto and Mario on a new business model, a motorcycle collective / co-op, made the most sense with respect to exposure, tapping into the necessity-based wrenching commuters fit to gather at Garage 52.  At the shop, you can learn from a knowledgeable staff the basics of welding, electrical wiring and metal fabrication while renting a lift or just by bringing your motorcycle in for repair.  Bike rental and storage options are also available.  The degree of interactive experiences that Garage 52 offers to its rider community within its first year, apart from lift access and invaluable wrenching assistance, will continue to grow with its popularity, including adventure touring presentations, weekend barbecues, music and art shows.  A little conversation, photographic evidence, and Vir’s infectious laughter is destined to capture the interest of those who can make adventure touring a priority with Helmet Stories’ premium accommodations and meals, polished and tuned Royal Enfield Bullet Classic 500s, a support team, and "off-bike" activities to integrate the unique local culture into your personal travel experience. 

While Josh Crasto and Mario Pereira draw in motorcyclists wanting to be more involved in their motorcycle maintenance, Helmet Stories will continue to entice Indians and foreigners alike with their tours which promise to be a more culturally immersive experience, given that they utilize local support (room/board) whenever possible.  Harsh and Vir have been travelling through these remote areas for years developing an intimate knowledge of off-the-beaten paths and the communities in which they are located, proving to be an advantage over tours which spend the bulk of their time on major thoroughfares and distance themselves from the general population.  Keep an eye out for Harsh and Vir’s plans to expand their tours into what they consider to be India’s last great frontier, the northeast region occupied by West Bengal and Sikkim. 

~Cristi Farrell | Guest Contributor | Freelance Journalist at Moterrific Media 

 

Garage 52 on Facebook 

Garage 52 profiled on Autocar India

Garge 52 Location: 58, Chuim Village Rd, Chuim Village, Danda, Pali Hill Mumbai, Maharashtra 400052 

Josh Crasto / JC Moto India 

Visit Helmet Stories 

For a sense of the personalities you will see on a Helmet Stories trip, watch a portion of the 10-part video series for NGV GoodTimes where Vir and Harsh first met doing what love: adventure touring - http://www.ndtv.com/video/player/road-trip/en-route-to-pangong-tso/217071

Friday
Nov212014

Ogri: Lap of Honour

The original cafe racer cartoon hero is pulling on his boots for one last great ride. Ogri, the legendary character created in 1967 by British illustrator Paul Sample, is the subject of a huge book of collected strips due for release next year - and the star of a Kickstarter campaign aiming to raise the funds needed to print it.

At a massive 440+ pages, The Ogri Compendium will bring together every single surviving Ogri cartoon strip - including several never before published - plus extra material, including interviews and history. The strip first appeared in the short-lived ‘Chopper’ magazine, but quickly found a regular home in the radical lifestyle-oriented ‘Bike’ magazine, running from 1972 right up until 2013 - a near-unbroken run of over forty years in a single title, making this one of the longest-running cartoon strips ever.

"I've got better at drawing over the years”, says Paul, and bringing all the strips together in one place does really show how his style has evolved during the decades since he first doodled a clean-shaven, golden-locked dude in one of his college sketchbooks. Ogri’s barely aged in all that time, and his old-school rocker dress sense (plus, of course, signature winged helmet), has stayed just as retro as his attitude to authority and idiots. His mighty Norvin, ‘Armageddon’, has also endured.  As materials and print technology have evolved, though, the tight black-and-white line of early strips gave way to a banging use of colour that ventures firmly into psychedelia and stays there. Groovy.

Looking at Paul’s work, the names of James Gillray and Robert Crumb inevitably spring to mind. Like both these great graphic artists, his characters are so full of life that they leap off the page - and the background detail means that a six-panel joke can have you studying its frames for far longer than is reasonable. Unstoppable Ogri, together with his busty, ball-breaking girlfriend Mitzi, hopeless but ever-willing cousin Malcolm, and faithful companion Kickstart the Dog, are characters from cafe racer history we all need to know.

As well as hardback and softback copies of the book, the publishers have put together a one-time-only selection of rewards - including the chance to meet Paul at the Ace Cafe London’s ‘Triton and Cafe Racer Day’ next year. Check out the Kickstarter campaign or sign up to the Team Ogri mailing list.  Kickstarter campaign closes midnight GMT on Sunday November 30th.

-Claire Leavey (Guest Contributer)