Squid to Fogey: Four Phases of a Motorcyclist

1. Birth

You’ve bought your first bike. But first you have to hide it from your parents or your wife. You have to figure out a way to lock it to the carport, or in a storage unit. But you didn’t really think about where you’d put it, once you got one.

Everything is as intimidating as it is new, exciting, as it is frightening. No matter how old you are, you’re born for the second time, given another chance to live life the way you’ve always wanted to. The roads are your freedom; your wheels are your ticket to the most amazing day you’ve ever had. This is your shot at adventure, to renewed vigor, your escape from the mundane – but at a price.

You drop your bike a hundred times for stupid things like missing your footing at a gas station, or haphazardly moving your bike in the garage. You curse words you don’t remember learning. What you wouldn’t give for an indestructible brake or clutch lever. But that’s okay. Nothing a sticker and some zip ties won’t fix. Oh, and you’re the butt of every joke with your riding buddies. They call you a ‘squid’ and make fun of your chicken strips. You really have to learn what that means.

The other day, you took one hand off the handlebar and felt like Evil Knievel. Some might say Malcolm Smith or Jason Britton. You have no idea who the hell they are, but everyone has supposedly ridden with them. You might have even popped a first gear wheelie by accident. You really need to figure out how to do it on purpose because that was AWESOME! You talk to every rider you meet and ask a hundred questions to which, unfortunately, there are a hundred, completely contradicting answers. So you find forums to get your information and learn all about that thing called ‘trolling.’

You find a good group to ride with and you grow.

2. Childhood

You never miss a bike night, or a stunt show. You click ‘going’ to every bike event on Facebook. And afterward, you leave a smiling mug shot on their page. You take pictures and video of EVERYTHING. You ride everywhere, anytime. Who needs an invitation? You’re happy to go it alone. You might have even ridden all the way to Arizona just to touch the border at 3:00 am because you were bored, before turning around and heading back home. My name is Danger!

Someone says you should try the ‘twisties.’ Someone shows you how to do wheelies; or you watched YouTube and learned yourself. But now that you know how, you can’t stop. It becomes a habit and the tickets start piling up. You know the motor cops’ names that operate in your city or your favorite ride spot by heart. You start learning where all their hiding places are.

You go to the motorcycle conventions just to watch the stunt shows and sit on new bikes. You’re not buying one right now, but making a list because your beginner bike feels too slow – time to move up.

You’re learning who all the professional Moto GP riders are and you follow all the stunt riders on Instagram. You spend every night at the stunt lot, and then ride some more after, just to see how fast and far you can go before your gaslight comes on.

You start getting pretty good at this whole riding thing, but the tickets are getting old. Damn the popo’s for profiling. But hey, at least you’re finally getting rid of your chicken strips. Only…it’s scaring the shit out of you. So you decide its time to try some more training, or maybe track days. And then you grow.

3. Adolescence

Just like teenage angst was a cliché the first time, not much has changed the second time around. You have your click you’ve fallen into whether it be the vested riders, the stunters, the canyon carvers, the retro-emo boom or the track junkies. You pick one and talk crap about all the others. Sure he’s fast, but he can’t wheelie like me. And vice versa. You get the picture.

You’re doing track days every month. You’re commuting miles and miles to and from work. You’re racking up seat time, miles and credence. You know everything and you’re still staying out late riding with your buddies.

And then …

Somebody crashes. Everybody crashes. You crash. The unfortunate mishaps come in threes, only to end very badly. Maybe you’re in the hospital for the first, second, third time. Maybe you’re going to your first, second, third funeral. Your family is getting worried and they’re on your case. They don’t understand you. Maybe you don’t understand you either. All you know is riding is who you are now. Maybe you’re lucky enough to meet a partner who understands and accepts it. They’re the ones who hold your hand after surgery, the ones who stand by your side at the funeral. They’re the annoying one who blows up your phone while you’re splitting lanes through traffic at the worst possible time. You make a note to put it on silent, but you don’t think about the feeling they get when you don’t answer.

But you’re good at this now. You can’t quit. You race. People know who you are. You’ve climbed your way to the elite. Everyone in the canyon inflates your ego by constantly reminding you how fast you are, especially if you’re a girl. It’s extremely addictive and despite the run of bad luck, you keep pushing harder and harder, as fast as the bike will go. Maybe you even competed and won a championship or two.

One day, you realize that very few of your riding buddies are left. The person who held your hand before is probably gone, replaced by a newer, more efficient model. Or at least one that doesn’t complain as much.

Now you’ve crashed a hundred times, fixed your bike countless more and you’re tired. And then you grow.

4. Adulthood

You still commute to work because you have to, but you’re not splitting lanes thrice the speed of traffic anymore. That’s for kids. You’re not waving your fist at other drivers either. You haven’t crashed, or dropped your bike in quite some time, but you may still get a ticket or two because everyone knows cops have stiffies for motorcyclists. No, but really, you appreciate what they do, and are thankful when they pull a ladder from the roadway that you might otherwise would have hit.

You don’t really go to many events anymore unless you know friends might be there. You’ll definitely ride to a Moto GP race, visit the local speedway or take your vacation at a motorcycle rally nearby. But you’re over the whole bike night thing.

Your chicken strips are back and that’s okay. At least you don’t have to spend as much money on tires. If you do get a wild hair and feel like scrubbing in (on a perfectly fair day – not too hot or cold), you leave really early, you know, before all the squids get to the mountain. You still do track days, but you ride in the intermediate group. The demon comes out long enough to get your adrenaline going, but not long enough to satiate your thirst.

Your gray hairs are coming in a little early. You scoff at hearing about ‘rider down’ on the radio. You’re a member of the AMA. You’re an instructor. You’re an explorer and you fantasize about a cross-country trip on the bike. You might even take it because you finally have the PTO to cover it, since you don’t call in sick to work all the time anymore. You don’t go conventions because there’s nothing there you haven’t seen at the dealer or in the magazine. You like the bike you have. Still, a second one would be nice. You know, one for commuting, one for track. But that’s mostly all talk.

You still keep in touch with your still-living riding buddies, but mostly through Facebook. You still see them once annually at a rally or bike meet-up, maybe even lunch. But they won’t make fun of you if you drive.

The great thing about getting to this point is you’ve passed through the guillotine and survived. You can take your bike apart and put it back together which saves you a ton of money on maintenance. Your insurance rates have FINALLY gone down.

You know your boundaries. You’re smart. And you can complain all you want because you have experience. You know what you can and can’t get away with. You know the consequences and which rides are worth the risk. You’re picky about who you ride with and for good reason.

And yet, the squid completely ignores your advice. No big deal. You shut up and nod your head, confident with the fact that you don’t have to prove yourself anymore, especially to him/her. The new rider asks you a question and you take the opportunity to mentor. You give him him/her the hundredth different answer, but don’t argue when they say someone else told them different. At least you tried. And you hope they grow.

How much oil is the right amount?

Pay special attention to the fill line. You should be able to see the oil level in the window.

Pay special attention to the fill line. You should be able to see the oil level in the window.

Recently, I’ve come across a few bikes in my garage where the right amount of oil has made the difference between a cheap repair and a major one.

I just want to remind you if you do perform your own maintenance, to pay careful attention to the amount of oil you’re putting inside your engine.

For racers: Depending on the type of racing you’re doing, sometimes more oil is recommended to prolong the life of your engine. If you’re racing sidecars and are running oil baffles, it’s good to run a quart or more over the usual amount to make sure you don’t starve your bottom end (crankshaft and connecting rods) for oil. This may seem like you’re going against the grain, but the added oil ensures the extra lubrication reaches the connecting rod and crankshaft bearings under high rev scenarios like hard first gear take-off’s, high rev drives into corners and extended time in the higher r.p.m.’s in the straights. When you’re racing, it doesn’t take much to spin a bearing, so in your case remember “lube is your friend.”

For street riders: Your sight window on the clutch cover is your assurance that the right amount of oil is in your engine. If you’re can’t see the top of the oil level in the window, you have too much oil in the engine. Don’t fret though, because you can simply unscrew the drain bolt enough to drain the excess oil if you go over the recommended limit. Make sure to let the engine cool first, as the oil will be hot.

Also, if your motor utilizes a screw-in type oil dip stick, make sure to screw in the dip stick until it seats into the case, then unscrew it to check the oil. If you merely touch the top of the dip stick to the case without screwing it in, you may think the motor has enough oil if it reaches the full line, but you could in fact, be over.

Lastly, don’t forget to let the bike idle for two to three minutes after an oil change. Once the bike is warm, let it sit for another two to three minutes, then check the oil level again to add or take away as necessary.

Excerpt from the 2010 Kawasaki ZX-6R service manual.

Excerpt from the 2010 Kawasaki ZX-6R service manual.

These simple details can mean the difference between a happy engine and a complete top end rebuild. If you over fill the oil, the pressure from the excess oil could force it’s way past the piston rings into the cylinder, causing the spark plugs to foul and the engine to lose compression or power. In which case, you’d have to remove the top end and repair the damage, which could require several hours of expensive labor time. If you have over filled the oil, you will see blue smoke coming out of the tail pipe. This is a bad sign. The sooner you catch the mistake, the better.

I recommend purchasing the service manual for your motorcycle if you plan to do your own maintenance. It has a wealth of information and as long as you follow it, you can stave off the high costs of a mechanic.

Rough Season for Syck Bubblegum

Jeff Godfrey and Michelle Ducky Hovanec in the thick of a sidecar pile

Jeff Godfrey and Michelle Ducky Hovanec in the thick of a sidecar pile

Before the crash, Michelle and Jeff G. managed to acquire a few trophies while the goin' was good.

Before the crash, Michelle and Jeff G. managed to acquire a few trophies while the goin’ was good.

It’s been a tough season for Syck Bubblegum to say the least. What started off with a lot of optimism definitely ended up with events testing both the patience and endurance of all involved. But if I’ve learned something about Heather Rowe and Michelle Ducky Havonec, it is that they’re not quitters.

With the loss of her first partner at the beginning of the season, Heather set out to find a new one and that’s when she met Michelle. Michelle rode for the first time with Jeff Godfrey (who flew out for a brief time from Australia) on Syck Bubblegum at Victorville and placed third in the main. Then Michelle rode with Jeff Rowe on Superbeast, the R1 powered sidehack, at Pirate. If you don’t know what to expect, nor what muscles are needed to hold onto a sliding beast on three wheels, the fact that Michelle dove in with no experience is my definition of pure balls. But Michelle’s luck ran out at Costa Mesa, where she injured her leg.

During Michelle and Heather’s first team appearance at Pirate Speedway, several hands were involved in Syck Bubblegum’s set-up and with a quarky throttle cable and hard starting issue, Heather and Michelle found themselves dead in the water at the starting line. It was a disappointing first showing for the twosome, but they were determined to keep practicing until the next race.

While Heather and Jeff G. were racing at Industry Hills Grand Arena, however, Jeff found himself in a gaggle of third wheels and whipping clouds of sand. While doing his best to snap the handlebars back from oblivion, Heather was sent flying off Syck Bubblegum’s keel, head first into the dirt.

The sidecars are one of speedway’s most grandiose yet dreaded attractions as without the presence of much safety precautions, racing sidecars in the United States is an extremely dangerous sport, especially for the monkey’s riding the sidecars stern with nothing much to hold onto other than a grab rail, a piece of the rider in front of them and the floor board. Broken limbs, broken backs, fingers and collar bones are common, and those who are said to love this sport are just a hair short of bonkers. In the words of a spectator, “Every time my wife hears these guys get onto the track, she disappears. She’s fascinated by them but they freak the heck out of her!”

Unfortunately, Heather’s get-off sealed her season for her, as she suffered a severe case of whiplash after the fact and will probably spend the rest of the season recuperating. With Heather and Michelle both suffering injuries, they will have to wait until next season to get back behind the bars.

A starting line shot with Jeff G. and Heather.

A starting line shot with Jeff G. and Heather.

In the aftermath of injury and mayhem, Jeff Rowe, Heather’s husband attempted to resurrect Syck Bubblegum after Jeff Godfrey’s departure by racing it at the track himself. However, Ms. Bubblegum seemed hesitant to leave her usual suspects at the sidelines and declined to start, running with two cold cylinders. After checking the header pipes, it appears one of Ms. Bubblegum’s pick-up coils decided to conk out, perhaps out of sympathy for her team. Still, she will have to remain in the garage until she is repaired and perhaps, her cohorts are ready to return behind the bars.

Until next year when the dirt is flying and the audience is gasping with clasped fingers and phones held out to capture the carnage, I bid you goodbye until the racing starts once again.

Racing photo, mid-drift through the corner.

Racing photo, mid-drift through the corner.

A corner shot of Jeff G. and Heather.

A corner shot of Jeff G. and Heather.

News release for Team ALL GIRLS – M1GP 24 Hour Endurance Race

For Immediate release

October 5, 2012

Full Tuck Racing/Concept Five ALL GIRLS team takes Third place in class and fifth overall in the 3rd Annual M1GP24 Hour Super Endurance Motorcycle Race, a full-fledged endurance race for mini-class bikes, that was held over the weekend.  The team consisted of seven girls from several different race organizations: Michelle Wilcox, Jennifer Lauritzen, Tania Davidson, Kimiko Donahue, Sarah Lahalih, Kitty Brooks and Issey Wiriyahyuttamar.

The M1GP24 Hour Super Endurance Motorcycle Charity Race is held at Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, Calif., every September and brings racers from all ages (10-to Adult) with various riding backgrounds to challenge a 24 hour race without having to go to France (Le Mans).

The team would like to thank their sponsors for backing their efforts: Full Tuck Racing, Airtech Streamlining, Concept Five, Russ Brown Motorcycle Lawyers, and Texas Tea Oil.

For more information about Team ALL GIRLS, go to: www.facebook.com/AllGirls24Hour. For more information about the event, go to: www.facebook.com/m1gpracing or M1GP24.com

Team ALL GIRLS Set To Compete In M1GP’s 24 Hour Super Endurance Race

M1 Grand Prix Endurance Race, 2012

M1GP has its first team completely signed up for the M1GP 24 Hour Super Endurance Motorcycle Race to be held on September 29-30, 2012, on the kart track at Willow Springs International Raceway, Rosamond, CA. Racing Team ALL GIRLS has eight members and will feature female riders from several race organizations: Michelle Wilcox- M1GP, Jennifer Lauritzen –  AFM, SMUSA , Tania Davidson-CVMA, Kimiko Donahue-CVMA, Sarah Lahalih, Kitty Brooks-M1GP, Issey Wiriyahyuttamar-CVMA, M1GP and Melissa Paris-AMA,WERA . They will be fielding a Honda NSR50 and each rider will be completing 1 hour stints. 
Michelle Wilcox, team captain of ALL GIRLS, had this to say, ” I am really  looking forward to this event. Last year’s 24 hour race was a very good learning experience for me. I decided this year to field an NSR50, instead of anNS50 modified , and asked riders with good experience to be a part of the team. Having Melissa Paris and Jennifer Lauritzen onboard for this is also phenomenal, they are such a strong riders. I think I’ve put together a team that will be very competitive, and being first to completely register gives us first pick of pit spot and pit board area. I’d really like to thank the team sponsors for backing our efforts: Full Tuck Racing, Airtech Streamlining, Concept Five, Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys, and Texas Tea Oil.”

For more information about Team ALL GIRLS, go to: www.facebook.com/AllGirls24Hour. For more information about the event, go to: www.facebook.com/m1gpracing or M1GP24.com