Sunday, December 20, 2009

Michael Lewis: Going Nomad



Michael Lewis plans to spend the next five years traveling the world solo on his motorcycle. His goal is to reach the top and the bottom of major land masses, while experiencing the people and culture along the way. This is not a travel video; it's a series of short interviews aimed at unravelling the thought process that led Michael to trade his house, his practice, and most of his worldly possessions for a life on the road.

Traveling into the vast and sometimes remote regions south of our border is not for the faint of heart. Mike's candid conversation will make potential travelers aware of some of the factors involved in undertaking an adventure of this magnitude. Mike discusses his route from Seattle to South America, and then on to Africa, Mongolia and back.

We shot this video in March, just before Michael left on his epic journey. This video project consists of six short webisodes, where we discuss different aspects of Mike's impending journey; the route, crossing borders, shipping a bike, health and travel insurance, the costs involved, and how he is not the most likely candidate for this type of adventure. And he discusses Write Around the World, his non-profit organization dedicated to the support of quality education for the underprivileged children of the world.

Mike arrived in Sucre, Bolivia on October 17th and fell in love with the people and culture there. Sucre is the prosperous capital of Bolivia, and it attracts families from rural areas who migrate to the city to work in hopes of a better life. Many of these families are under an intense strain to make ends meet, and often times the mother is left alone to fend for herself. The children have no choice but to work on the streets -- sometimes being the family’s sole earner -- foregoing school in the process. √Ďanta is an alternative education center for the working street kids of Sucre. Mike was so touched by the center that he is planning on returning to Sucre to
volunteer after he reaches the southern tip of South America in December. Please watch Mike’s video introduction of √Ďanta.

Since March, Mike has made it all the way to Puerto San Julian, Argentina. You can follow along by visitng www.mikesglobaladventure.com.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Battery Powered, Ferrari Fast



The Tesla Roadster is an all-electric sports car produced by Tesla Motors. The Roadster is the first production automobile to use lithium-ion battery cells, and the first production EV to travel more than 200 miles on a charge. In October 2009, the Tesla Roadster set the world distance record for a production electric car. It drove of 311 miles on a single charge.

The Roadster accelerates from 0-60 mph in less than 4 seconds. It's fast, it's sexy, and it's electric. We spoke with Jon Taylor, Regional Sales Manager for Tesla Motors in Seattle, WA. Jon is, not suprisingly, passionate about the brand -- and he states quite eloquently why Tesla is a car of the future -- one that just happens to be available today.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Nine-Sixty-Eight



In the book, Fast Women: The Legendary Ladies of Racing, Todd McCarthy noted that the heyday for women automobile racers came in the 1950s. McCarthy referred to the period between 1953 and 1958 as "a privileged moment in the grand sweep of American automobile racing, a small window of time when the sport was accessible to virtually anyone with a desire to pursue it; if you had a car and were good enough, you could drive it to a track and race."

Today, however, women represent a disproportionally small demographic in the racing world, and this appears to be especially true in motorcycle racing. Take the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, for example. Participation is open to anyone, but only 3% of the competitors are women in the motorcycle divisions. The fact is, there are more umbrella girls on the grid than there are female racers.

I am not trying to make any political statements here. Racing is what it is. And there is good news; women are competing, and more women have been entering the fray. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that Brianne Corn was competing in the 750cc motorcycle division this year. The 750cc division is an exceptionally competitive class and attracts a lot of top riders.

Brianne Corn is the motivated, humble, and remarkable woman who was scraping pegs alongside top racing talents such as Davey Durelle and Gary Trachy. She's 40 years old, and she's only been racing for the past five years. What got her started? It was a trip to Italy, and a casual encounter with a couple of fully caged rally cars, power sliding though narrow mountain passes in the shadow of a castle.

We shot this interview with Brianne as she was preparing to race the Peak's grueling 156 turns -- starting at 9,000 feet and finishing at 14,100 feet -- on a bike she put together herself. Brianne was not racing in some powder-puff exhibition class; this was the real deal.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Art of Perseverance: Glen Cox



We spoke with Glenn Cox on July 18, 2009, during a Pikes Peak International Hillclimb practice session held at Devil's playground. 2009 marks the 8th year he has competed at PPIHC, and he readily admits being addicted to the second oldest race in America.

Last year was his first attempt in the 1205cc division, where he rode a KTM Super Duke 990. He reflected on his crash that likely cost him second or third place. Despite his crash, and through sheer perseverance, he still finished the race, passing several riders on the way to the finish line.

You might expect a rider to be gun shy after crashing like that, but Glenn seemed relaxed, smoother, and faster. He said he was determined to make it to the top, and was setting his sites on a top three finish.

Glenn also discussed improvements to his KTM Super Duke, namely the Motobox intake system which added an additonal 15HP to this already potent motorcycle. And of course, he talked about "the skateboard mod." We think he should have left the wheels on...

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Maximum Exposure: Rigging a Motorcycle with FilmTools



Whether its a track day, an off-road ride or a cross country trip, motorcyclists seem to want to record their latest adventures. Mounting a camera to a vehicle provides the most versatility, and to learn more about how to do it, we spoke to Cinematographer, Stan McClain.

Stan has been a director of photography and he's worked on over 50 motion pictures, mostly in aerial units. He was the aerial camera operator for one of my favorite TV shows, Magnum PI. Let's put it this way, Stan knows how to handle a camera, and rig just about any vehicle imaginable.

Stan has built a whole business around supplying trick bits to the Hollywood film industry, drawing from his unique work experience. We met Stan at FilmTools in May, where he tuaght us how to rig a motorcycle and setup creative camera angles. And we captured the whole experience on tape. The reulting video contains simple, clearly explained instructions for how to rig, where to get the tools, and how the new HD mini cameras are opening up new possibilities.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Jack Reynolds: Blazing New Trails in the Motorcycle Rental Landscape



Jack Reynolds and werentmotorcycles.com are blazing a new trail in the motorcycle rental business, renting high-end adventure touring bikes, sport-bikes and unique motorcycles -- dropped off and picked up at your doorstep.

Why Rent? Let's be honest with ourselves. We all love riding, but how much do we ride each year? Not "how much do we want to ride," but how much do we really ride? The average American rider puts 2000 moto miles on the clock each year. When we consider how much money we've got locked up in a motorcycle that may spend most of its time bench-racing with the lawn mower, it's probably not the best return on our investment.

I don't know about you, but we’re working all the time, and when we finally get a day off, it takes a few hours to get to roads that are curvaceous enough to actually enjoy. Despite the fact that we've got $30,000 worth of motorcycles in the garage, our best moto-experiences happen when we fly down to California to rent awesome motorcycles, and ride on awesome roads. That's where we met up Jack Reynolds, who has a cutting edge approach to renting motorcycles.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Quick Rides: 2009 Moto Guzzi V7 Classic



We posted a short, real world review of the R1200R a little more than a year ago. It is by far our most popular video, having been viewed over 62,000 times. I think this review was so popular, despite its crude production, because it had a lot of close-up views of the motorcycle, it captured the sound of the motor, and it expressed my true impressions of that machine. We still get a lot of e-mail about this video, and requests for more of this type of review. So, if you happen to be a Moto Guzzi fan, we’ve got a “Quick Ride” video just for you.

I first saw the Moto Guzzi V7 Classic at a Motorcycle show back in December, and I’ve been wanting to try one ever since. Dave Richardson of Moto International in Seattle was kind enough to set me up on a date with one of these little sweethearts.

The V7 Classic was born during rather brief Aprilia years, when the Aprilia design team put their touch on a few new models in the Guzzi line up. It’s basically a restyled Breva, and the result is a handsome, comfortable motorcycle that that pays tribute to the Guzzi heritage. Aprilia updated the Beva’s two-valve 750cc engine, with fuel injection being the most significant improvement. This motor’s lineage is directly connected to the iconic, air-cooled V twin that Guzzi has been producing for decades, unlike some modern classics on the market today.

I’d describe the whole riding experience as relaxed, mild even, but not boring. This bike is very well behaved thanks to its linear power delivery, with plenty of mid-range grunt, and the suspension is well sorted. And then there’s that beautiful exhaust note, which you can enjoy at real-world speeds. Even if you do ratchet things up a notch or two and take the bike for a spirited ride, the V7 Classic takes it all in stride. The Brembo brakes do a good job of shaving off the speed, despite there being only one disc up front. I prefer having two discs on a front wheel, but it’s certainly not a deal breaker.

To sum things up, the V7 Classic is fun and easy to ride. It will appeal to those who appreciate a classic look without the hassle of maintaining a classic bike. The engine delivers power in a predictable, linear way, and the ergonomics are relaxed and comfortable. This Guzzi is about classic looks and a pleasant riding experience, and I give it high marks for delivering both in a handsome well-made motorcycle.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Trials First, Trials Last



A lot of people think competitive motorcycle sports are fraught with danger -- X-games, Supercross, World Superbike -- where thrill seeking speed junkies surgically remove their survival instincts and drink danger straight from the bottle. Guess what? Not all motorcycle competitions involve grinding down your foot-pegs while rocketing from apex to apex.

Observed Trials is a non-speed event performed on specialized motorcycles. It’s one of the most unique motorsports in history. Think of it as Tai Chi, on two wheels. It’s all about balance, precision, and control.

A trials rider must navigate a series of sections – tight turns, slippery slopes, boulders, logs – pretty much a bunch of obstacles the rest of us would try to avoid. Observers watch, and keep score, as each rider attempts a section. The observer is looking to see if a rider touches his foot down. A dab costs a point. Breaking the tape or riding outside the section costs five points. The rider with the lowest score wins – kind of like golf.

Modern trials has been drifting towards the extreme sport side of things, but Vintage trials, such as the AHRMA event we covered at Gray's Farm in Washington, are relaxed and friendly. I didn’t say easy; some of the trials sections were enormously challenging.

Girl Wonder spoke with the gentlemen who organized this trials event, Derek Belvoir, a life-long trials rider who still competes in the premier heavyweight expert class. He’s been at it for nearly six decades, and his passion for the sport is evident in this webisode. John DeSoto, the legendary motocross champion know as the "Flyin' Hawaiian" also appears in this video.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Touratech



Girl Wonder interviewed the Vice President of Touratech USA, where he explained how and why Touratech engineers their products to such high standards. This is an informative video for adventure touring riders who want to learn about adventure touring accessories.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Alisa Hensley-Lane, Stunt Professional



Alisa Hensley-Lane’s resume includes firearms, fencing, martial arts, horsemanship, swimming, wirework and dirt bike riding. She is a Hollywood stuntwomen at the top of her game. Alisa is a 2nd Degree Black Belt whose wonderfully choreographed martial arts scenes range from movies such as “Charlie’s Angels 2, Full Throttle,” to NBC’s comedy action series, “Chuck.”

When she’s not working as a stunt double for Nicole Kidman or Yvonne Strahovski, you may find her enjoying a relaxing day of motocross racing. Dirt bikes are both a family activity, and part of the training regiment for this V10 Womens Stunt Professional. Girl Wonder interviewed Alisa at Los Angeles County Raceway, during an event sponsored by the Hollywood stunt and film community.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Eddie Mulder's Triumphant Garage



Eddie Mulder was a leading TT Steeplechase and desert racer back in the 1960s. He won The Big Bear Race at age 17, beating a field of over 500 racers -- even after getting a late start because he was in the bathroom instead of on his bike. He is best known for his five AMA Grand National victories, all on TT circuits. Eddie Mulder, was a factory sponsored Triumph racer who ran under National #12, and he's been a Triumph guy ever since.

Eddie retired from professional racing in the mid-1970s, and became a leading Hollywood stunt rider, doubling Clint Eastwood in Magnum Force and other movies. He still works as a stunt coordinator, and he's still a a die hard racer -- especially when there is dirt involved. Eddie and his wife run the West Coast Vintage Dirt Track Series, and Eddie gets out on the track to ride the blue groove whenever he can.

We flew to California in November to interview Eddie about his various motorcycle-related ventures. Eddie runs a small business that builds custom Triumph street bikes closely based on his Triumph racers of the 1960s and ‘70s. Although he does do some restoration work, the bikes he builds have very modern components: Brakes by Brembo, cables by Motion Pro, and Works Performance shocks. The hand crafted motors come with Johnson cams, electronic ignition and all sort of trick bits housed in a C&J Frame. A Carbon fiber tank and body works keeps things light, and Maxxis tires provide the grip. As he said in the interview, "The only thing really vintage on them is the motor and the guy sitting on 'em."

We hung out with with Eddie in his Triumphant garage, where he discussed the West Coast Vintage Dirt Track Series, the beautiful Triumph motorcycles he has in his shop, and what life is like for a guy who has been riding for more than five decades.