Monday, December 24, 2012

Three rides, man: Merry Christmas from Backmarker

I haven't posted much lately. I was up in Canada visiting my family and a few old friends, then came back to Kansas City just in time to get ready for Christmas. I didn't have much bandwidth left for blogging.

Last week, winter finally came to KC, about a full year late -- last year, we had a long, beautiful fall that just kept going until we an early spring arrived. Global warming seemed like someone else's problem, until we had weeks of 100 degree-plus highs all summer.

Anyway, we're guaranteed a white-ish Christmas now, since our one good dump of snow so far has not yet melted. Mr. Chubbs, my dog, saw it for the first time and went bananas. That was entertaining.

I'm gambling that, like last year, I can get away without winterizing my bikes; hopefully I'll be able to start them and ride them at least every couple of weeks. That's pretty pathetic, eh? It's not that they don't deserve some seasonal maintenance, but until I get a garage the best I can do is just ride 'em. At least that way fuel will keep moving through the carbs, oil will still circulate, and fork seals will get a tiny bit of exercise.

It's that time of year when people tend to look back, and forward. I won't bother with the looking-back part; we all lived the same year in the grand scheme of things, and although I've got nothing to complain about personally, my year was mostly just a daily grind, leavened primarily by gym time. I must be training for something, but what? I find myself poring over Craigslist and pausing at stuff like trials bikes.

I've got a bunch of stories I want to write up over the off-season, and hope to find the time.

  • My friend, the artist and motorcycle racer Bill Rodgers recently completed an amazing series of paintings and drawings that incorporate track maps. I can't wait to show them to you. 
  • I'm fascinated by the seeming fall of Falcon Motorcycles. The company, it seems might have been more appropriately given another 'flying' name: Icarus.
  • I'm also fascinated by the paradoxical rise of motorcycle print magazines. What's with those Iron & Air guys deciding to go to print? And I'm aware of two newish British 'zine start ups: Benzina, and Sideburn. I'm going to try to interview the publishers of all three.
  • Any week now, I could have great news about my book, Riding Man, and the long journey it's taken towards becoming a feature film. Who's shopping it to who; who's interested in acting in it, writing the screenplay, and/or directing... that stuff's not a secret, but I'll wait until there's an official announcement before I fill in the details.

Is 2013's single biggest 'question mark' how Rossi will fare, back on Yamaha?

I was thinking about him the other day; how for so long he really seemed to be in league of his own. But it can't last, can it? No matter how dominant an athlete, eventually his rivals catch him -- and it's not because the athlete necessarily ages (though that happens too, of course.)

The first really organized motorcycle racing actually grew out of bicycle racing. At the turn of the century, bicycle racers in velodromes trained behind -- and in some events actually raced behind -- motorized bikes. Such a vehicle was called a 'derny'. It was inevitable that before long there would races between the dernies. But that's not the interesting part of the derny story...

The use of dernies was eventually banned in most types of bicycle racing (though they are still used in 'keirin' competition, and is six-days racing, I think.) Bicycle coaches thought, "Hmm... how will I set  my rider's pace if I can no longer just be there, in front of him?" Some enterprising coaches realized they could shine a spotlight on the track, and their riders could use that as a pacing cue. Although the spotlight 'target' didn't confer any of the old derny aerodynamic advantage, the spotlight was such a powerful psychological aid for riders that that technique, too, had to be banned.

Think about that; just having that thing to chase made them so much faster that it had to be banned.

So it was when riders like Stoner (good riddance), Pedrosa (whatever), and Lorenzo (smooth=quick, eh?) came up through the ranks and encountered Rossi at his peak. And, although it took some time, they got as fast as he was.

On the face of it, that should not have happened. I mean, Rossi was in many people's opinion the best rider of all time. What were the odds that, within a decade, several more riders as fast would surface? (Very small.)

But Rossi was that light ahead of them on the track. Ironically, he was the advantage they needed to rival him, and eventually beat him. Personally, I doubt that Rossi will resume his dominant status. Evidently, Yamaha's racing department shares my opinion, but the marketing department seems to feel the old Rossi commercial magic can be rekindled. The truth will out.

For now, though, Merry Christmas, eh?

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