• Jul 29 2011

    Jackson Strong Landed a Frontflip in a Comp!


    In the X Games yesterday, Jackson Strong landed a front flip–the first front flip ever landed in competition. It was a little bit off axis, but after so many failed front flip attempts in competition we’ll let it slide. Congratulations Jackson, that was awesome.


    It’s been relatively easy to snatch “world firsts” in Freestyle Motorcross; the sport is so young that it wasn’t terribly long ago that backflips and 360s became de rigeur, and people have been doing double backflips and backflip 360s for less than five years. Master one of those tricks and throw in a one-hander, nac nac, or superman and a world first can’t be too far off.


    The most elusive trick in the FMX world has been the front flip. Besides the suspension, the big advantage motocross bikes have over BMX bikes is the power. Power means that backflips are just a big twist of the wrist away—if the spin isn’t happening fast enough, it is possible to spin up the rear wheel with the throttle and to rotate the bike in the direction of the backflip. If the flip is rotating too much, grabbing some rear brake can slow down the rotation.


    A front flip is much less natural. A rider must approach the ramp at speed and then throw his weight forward or grab a handful of front brake at the last second—after leaving the ramp, there’s not much control over the spin; grabbing the throttle will only slow it down, and it’s hard to spin forward quickly enough in the first place. Jackson Strong connected all the dots and landed a front flip at the X Games yesterday.


    Some front flip history:


    Paul Rosen tried a frontflip at the X Games last year but it went horribly wrong. He didn’t get nearly enough rotation and wound up landing upside down.



    Mark Monea mastered what could be described as a front flip 360 earlier this year, but it was really a failed attempt at a straight front flip, and was thus easier. He says in the video “When I’m on the bike, I think it’s just a dead-straight front flip, but when I look at the footage it seems to flatten out and do all sorts of weird things.”



  • Jul 27 2011

    Getting a Motorcycle License, Part 2 – the MSF Course

    Our friend Sarah has earned her motorcycle license! In Part 1 of this series, she got her permit. A month later, she took an MSF course. By passing the two tests during the course, she earned a voucher to take to the DMV to exchange for a full motorcycle license. Below is her account of her class.

    Last weekend I took the 2.5 day MSF course after having my permit for one month and not spending a single day on a motorcycle! I went in on Friday night about ten minutes late. This caused me to miss the initial introductions but I soon came to know my nine classmates. There were four women and six men—most of us had no or very little experience. I was surprised to discover that three men with absolutely no experience has already bought their bikes—one guy is having his custom Harley delivered next week (just in the nick of time)! Two of the women had taken private lessons the week before but both went on to fail the course, so I have mixed thoughts on how necessary that private class is!

    The ten of us spent three hours on Friday going through the first half of the booklet we had been given and went over some of the material that had been on the permit test. I walked away on Friday night without feeling that I had learned anything new but more confident for riding the next day.

    Class started at 7:30 AM on Saturday and the parking lot was filled with shiny black Suzuki 250s. I was relieved that my feet could touch the ground and that I could manage the 300lb bike quite easily. We started by learning how to step astride the bike properly and then spent some time playing around with the levers and throttle.

    Then we were off! Sort of… We put the bikes into first gear and kept our feet on the ground while we crept around the parking lot. I felt relieved because I knew how to drive a manual car and understood a clutch and this felt just like the Honda I had ridden before.

    The rest of the day consisted of switching up into second, light braking and some light weaving. After the morning class we spent the afternoon discussing and studying a riding manual and had to take a test after. I was worried about the test but it was incredibly easy and everyone got above a 90%. I was very excited for Sunday morning’s class and practical test.

    The teachers must sense your confidence because first thing Sunday morning they managed to break mine down within ten minutes. The first drill of the day was practicing U-turns within a narrow box and the objective was not to cross over the line. I crossed over those lines and then some!

    One of the most important things to do when riding a bike is to look ahead and when turning to look where you want to turn. With a U-turn you pretty much have to pull a move from the Exorcist and I truly believed I was going to die if I looked that far over my shoulder while riding.

    After four dreadful attempts of doing this without the proper technique I finally decided to give it a go and lo and behold I managed to do a U-turn. It never ended up being the prettiest maneuver that I did but I am pretty sure I will survive my first U-turn on the road. After the U-turns my legs were shaking and I was nervous about what might be coming next.

    What came after ended up being my favorite parts of the whole weekend. We got to ride over 2×4’s, stop during corners, manage turns and weave at 20 MPH (20 MPH seems really fast to beginners). I could spend all day weaving in that parking lot; it was without a doubt my favorite thing to do. The weaving eventually came to an end and it was time for our evaluation.

    The first evaluation was fast braking—cruising in second gear and stopping as quickly as possible after the instructor waves to you at random. Fast braking can be difficult for beginners because you have to remember to use both brakes hold in the clutch and go into first gear all in what seems like a split second. Not to toot my own horn but I had the best braking time of the class and stopped 5 feet short of the goal. The second exercise was my beloved U-turn and while I did it poorly I did not put my feet on the ground. Even so the U-turn ended up being the only exercise that I had points deducted on.

    After the U-turn we did a fast maneuver exercise which has you start at one end of the parking lot and accelerate briskly before swerving sharply at the last second out of the way of an obstacle. Swerving is fun for me so no problem there. The last exercise was cornering which required us to slow down before a turn and accelerate through it, all without using our brakes. This was an exercise that I enjoyed doing during practice so it was pretty smooth sailing during the test.

    After the final assessment we waited in the trailer for our scores. The three people who had struggled the most all weekend did not pass. One girl who had also struggled received a 20—the lowest passing score. The Harley guy and his friend both received 8s and I received a six along with the experienced rider and another beginner.

    I took away many things from the weekend but some important things I would point out to new riders would be to practice driving a manual car so you get used to the idea of a clutch; try borrowing a friends scooter or small motorcycle and spend a few hours in a parking lot getting used to the weight and balance of a motorcycle; don’t always listen to experienced riders advice when you first start out—they are sometimes doing things that you are not at the skill level to do yet.

    If you are thinking of buying a motorcycle I would highly recommend taking an MSF course. The lone experienced rider in my class had learned some pretty bad habits having learned on his own and taking a class will help keep you from developing bad habits or get rid of them if you already have them. It is also fun to meet such a random group of people—none of whom you would see in the grocery store and think, “man I bet that person rides a motorcycle.”

    In a month we all plan to meet up for a drink and to discuss our adventures on the road at which point I will check in with you and let you all know how it feels for a beginner to ride in the real world rather than in a parking lot. I already have grandiose dreams of selling my car and getting a motorcycle but I will try to keep it to baby steps for now. Ciao!

    To schedule an MSF course visit the MSF Website.

  • Jul 26 2011

    Ever Been to Sturgis? It Sounds Wild.


    After researching Sturgis for our article about the demo rides being offered by Victory Motorcycles, we’ve been wondering what Sturgis will be like next month when the whole world shows up to ride. We were leafing through an article detailing the latest news about two popular bars, the Broken Spoke and the Full Throttle Saloon, when something caught our eye:


    [The] Full Throttle Saloon’s daily entertainment lineup…includes performances by the Flaunt girls, midget wrestling, the Wall of Death, a zip line, burn out pit, mechanical bull and theme nights. To its credit, the Broken Spoke still offers cheap camping sites in the shadow of Bear Butte and has its pool and tiki bar working to its advantage. But its lineup of the Little River Band, Foghat and Jasmine Cain just don’t quite stack up to Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Ted Nugent, Hinder, Theory of a Deadman and Blackstone Cherry at the Full Throttle Saloon.


    Midget wrestlng, tiki bars, and Ted Nugent? Forgive us for thinking that Sturgis was about cruising through the mountain roads of South Dakota! It sounds like the whole event may have become a bit of a celebration of debauchery rather than being solely about great riding through the countryside.



    We haven’t been there, so we asked our Sturgis veteran friend Andy what it’s like. He said “Riding through the Badlands and the canyons around Sturgis is awesome. During the week, Sturgis and everywhere around it is all motorcycles everywhere you go. There are no helmet laws, and it feels pretty comfy going without a helmet when the only people on the road are motorcyclists.”


    “If I went back I don’t think I’d go back into Sturgis except to say I went. I prefer the riding around it. The Badlands is a section of desert East of all the mountains, and it looks like a fictional, rocky, mini-Grand Canyon. Make sure to take a tour of Jewel Cave, and go see Mount Rushmore, against all odds, the busts look incredibly good.”


    Inspiration from Motorcycle-Usa


  • Jul 25 2011

    Harley 2012: ABS Available Range-Wide. Softail and Touring Models Boosted to 103ci


    Harley customers have been very pleased with the 100 ft-lb Twin Cam 103 engine, and so Harley is shoehorning it into a few more models for 2012. The lucky bikes to get the upgrade are the Softail and Touring models and many Dynas (the exceptions are the Dyna Street Bob and Dyna Super Glide Custom). The bikes should have a noticeable increase in performance, as the Twin Cam 103 can generate 6% more torque than the Twin Cam 96 it replaces. It’s easy to spot the upgraded engine, which has an automatic compression release. The identifying marks are badges on the derby cover, timing cover, and air filter trim ring.


    Harley’s Security Package is nice feature now available on all 2012’s and standard on the CVOs and the Road Glide Ultra, Electra Glide Ultra Limited, and Road King Classic. The package protects both bike and rider—an Anti-Lock Braking system helps keep the bike upright in emergency situations, and an immobilizer means that the only way someone can steal the bike is to pick it up and toss it in a van. A hands-free key fob rounds out the package; it allows the rider to hop on and go without having to fumble with keys.



    More power, ABS, keyless go and a security system. These new Harleys boast some real technology. The combination of timeless style, a good engine note, and improved safety, speed, and security gets us excited. We looked on Harley owners forums and the vast majority of the commenters thought the Security Package was worth springing for. It sounds like everyone’s amped up about these 2012s.


    From (inc. pics)


  • Jul 22 2011

    Spin Cycle—What it’s Like to Ride in England



    We spent the last week exploring Cornwall, and the roads were glassy smooth and wound through rolling hills. There are a few key differences between the English and American road-building mentalities, add them up and riding is quite an experience.


    The most glaring difference is that everyone drives on the left side of the road. In a car that is a big change. The cars are right hand drive, and on first contact it feels as though you’re completely vulnerable on the right side and that there’s a car-sized tumor on the left side of your head. It isn’t even clear what is being displayed in the rear-view mirror, which is to the left of the driver. The pedals are still laid out clutch-brake-accelerator, and the gearshift pattern is the same pattern and is not mirrored.


    In a car you get a reminder that something is off each time you step inside. English motorbikes, on the otherhand, are exactly the same as American ones. Throttle and brakes on the right, gears and clutch on the left. If you turn onto a country lane with no lane markings, there is nothing to remind you that you’re in England. We’ve heard stories of people bombing along over back roads and cresting hill after hill on the wrong side of the road after their senses were reset after a few empty sweeping corners. Riders beware.


    If you’ve ever bristled at a red light while gazing at an empty intersection, you’ll love driving in England. The roads are chock full of roundabouts, which are a great aid to progress. English roundabouts are generally small and symbolic compared to America’s heavily signed and landscaped numbers, and there isn’t much to mastering them.


    When approaching, stay in the right lane if planning to continue straight or turn right, and the left lane if turning left. Signal your intention well before entering. Give way to anyone who is currently in a roundabout, and come to a stop to wait if necessary. Leave a turn signal on until the last exit before yours, and then signal left. When in a roundabout, you have priority over everyone to your left, and everyone to your right the right of way over you.


    It’s a pleasure linking roundabouts together, whether it means flowing through a big city like London (rather than stopping at countless lights) or cruising through a village in the countryside without having to stop and lose precious time.


    And then you get to the wonderful roundabout like the one at the southwest corner of Heathrow (pictured above). It is like driving inside a clock. A string of mini-roundabouts are wrapped around one normal one–traffic flows clockwise around the mini ones and then counterclockwise if the inside one is used (check out the dark stripe in the fourth quadrant. We suspect that route is the motivation for the roundabout—it’d be much more comfortable for bus passengers or a long truck to do that squiggle). It is as complicated as a medaling science fair entry; but works well in practice. It’s little surprises like that magic roundabout that make tackling foreign roads so worthwhile.



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