Friday, September 22, 2017

From the UK, courtesy of YouTube user ‘A gap tooth grin’ comes this video which begins as a how-not-to example, but ends with two vital how-to tips.

I’m not sure where this undulating bit of British B-road is, but I’m quite sure ‘Gap’, as I’ll call him, is riding like a complete wanker for the first minute or so. I didn’t catch a speed limit sign, but his TomTom Bandit video system includes helpful speed data, showing that his Honda CBR600RR reached over 114 miles per hour on a road with a maximum 60 mph limit.

2 seconds in: The title ‘Near Miss’ is a bit of a spoiler, but the description ‘Lorry pulls out’ doesn’t come close to doing justice to the magnitude of the problem this douchebag’s about to face.

10 seconds in: In case you think there’s any chance Gap’s in control, note his speed as he approaches this intersection. Although he appears to have a reasonable line of sight to confirm no one’s approaching from the left, the paint on the right verge, and directional signage on the left verge indicate that there’s a blind entry in those trees on the right and…

11 seconds in: …sure enough there was a car about to enter the intersection. There are several more examples of this kind of ‘Russian roulette riding’ in the next 20 seconds of video.

25 seconds in: He has no idea what’s just around that hedge, but note the shadow under the rider’s right hand: His whole fist is firmly twisting the ‘Crash Switch™’ into maximum-crash position, and he’s not covering the front brake, which is the ‘Don’t-Crash Switch™’.

33 seconds in: Note Gap’s position in his lane; he’s at least four feet too far to the right in this situation. Considering that he can’t see what’s around the bend, he should be much further to the outside, he’d have a wider line and, more important in this setting, he’d have a much better perspective on the truck, which is just coming into view at the vanishing point.

Gap describes this video as: “Why you shouldn’t ride like a complete prick.” Another way to think about this is, if you’re going to ride like a complete prick, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. The right way would be to...
  • Be positioned on the outside of the bend for visibility, and not fully commit to the turn until you can see the exit 
  • Cover the front brake 
  • Have a laser-focus on that vanishing point, which is only about 2-3 seconds up the road.

This should be his “Oh fuck!” moment but instead, he actually accelerates for one more full second. 

Seriously, WTF was he thinking? The UK standard for road markings is for a 3 meter painted section with a 9 meter space. He’s 15 ‘dots’ or 180 meters from the intersection by that estimate. Based on speed and frame-rate data, I calculated a slightly shorter distance but it was still well over 300 feet. Although it would have been hard to bring the bike to a controlled stop, it was (barely) possible. This guy’s not exactly a demon on the brakes.

2.5 seconds after first seeing the truck: If Gap had seen the truck immediately and reacted in 1/10th of a second, he’d be going 20 miles per hour slower at this point, and the escape route opening to the right, behind the truck, would be viable.

Of course if he’d entered the bend at 10 mph over the limit instead of 25 over, this would be a doddle. He’d have ample time to slow to 30 mph, look under the truck to confirm the absence of oncoming traffic, pull to the right side of the right lane, and pass behind the truck.

3.0 seconds after seeing the truck: If he’d been riding at a fun-but-reasonable speed, paying attention, and had proper brake discipline, he’d make this much more underpants-friendly escape maneuver to the right at <30 mph.

But, since he’s going 70 that’s not an option. At this moment, you can finally hear the ABS working but he is still going way too fast.

Now, however, Gap flicks the ‘Don’t-Crash™ Switch’ by not fixating on the truck but by looking where he wants to go, at the tiny gap to the left of the truck.

There are any number of what-not-to-do lessons you can draw from this video but this is the first and most important to-do tip illustrated here: Look where you want to go!
At this point, he’s still slowing down, and he should be thanking Honda for that ABS system. He’s also illustrating the second thing he did right which was, Don't Give Up

As hairball as this maneuver is, taking to the narrow grass verge; threading between the guardrail and the truck at over 50; there’s one more hazard up ahead: soft mud, a deep rut in the verge, and the edge of that concrete curb on the bridge sidewalk. 

Impressively, ‘Gap’ manages to steer back onto the road and bring the bike to a controlled stop... 50 yards past the point where he should’ve stopped, but alive because saw that gap and went for it. Even crashing on the grassy verge would’ve been a better option than hitting the truck.


  • Riding too fast = Crash Switch™ in on position
  • Not paying attention to blind entryways = Crash Switch™ in on position
  • Not looking ahead in turn = Crash Switch™ in on position
  • Failure to react to truck in plain view = Crash Switch™ in on position
  • Looking where you want to go = flicking the Don’t-Crash Switch™ 
  • Fighting off the crash = holding down the Don’t-Crash Switch™

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Nike creates a sneaker for Baltimore’s infamous “12 O’Clock Boys”

So, this happened: A few days ago, Nike announced plans to release a special sneaker glorifying Baltimore’s infamous “12 O’Clock Boys”.

According to (an ‘Asphalt & Rubber’ for the running shoe industry)
The SFAF1 Mid, designed by Ben Kirschner of Nike, features bold can’t-miss NIKE AIR branding on the upper, “RAISE IT UP” on the ankle straps, and miniature Swoosh logos at the fore-foot, but the true prize is behind the durable materials that can withstand the blazing heat given off by the dirt-bike motors and the shifting of the toes.

Why this caught my eye was not the concrete poetry of the phrase, “…and the shifting of the toes” but rather the fact that Nike’s basically endorsing the 12 O’Clock Boys – a crew (some would say a gang) that exists only to break the law.

Lofty Nathan’s award-winning documentary 12 O’Clock Boys follows Pug, at left, as seeks acceptance in the crew.
“So what’s next, Nike?” I wondered. “Special sneakers for shoplifters?”

There are renegade dirt bike gangs in other cities, including mine, but Baltimore’s famous for the phenomenon, which dates back over a decade to a fateful decision by the Baltimore Police Department, to stop chasing fleeing dirt bikers, after one early chase resulted in the rider’s death. Pretty much everyone in Baltimore’s familiar with the 12 O’Clock Boys, but the group became nationally famous in 2013, with the release of an eponymous documentary film.

The 12 O’Clock Boys movie was made by a young guy named Lofty Nathan who wasn’t really a motorcyclist, or even a filmmaker. He was taking a ‘documentary’ course in art school. He chose the subject on a whim, after seeing the crew popping wheelies with apparent impunity around Baltimore.

Nathan’s inexperience belied his skills as both a filmmaker and storyteller. To be clear: ‘12 O’Clock Boys’ is the best documentary film ever made about motorcycling. Better than ‘Why We Ride’, ‘Dust To Glory’, yes better than ‘On Any Sunday’. Feel free to jump straight down to the Comments section and flame me now without even finishing this essay; I’ll still be right. And that’s not just my opinion. It was selected by the SXSW committee; Toronto’s prestigious Hot Docs film festival gave Nathan its ‘Emerging Artist’ award. The American Film Institute released a short film about Nathan’s film; AFI, FFS!

All of which put the motorcycle industry and media in an awkward position. My friend Courtney Olive scored an interview with Lofty Nathan, and pitched it to Cycle World, which turned him down because, “…it’s not an image of motorcycling we want to promote.”

I admit, the 12 O’Clock Boys’ behavior is prima facie illegal, dangerous, and places innocent bystanders at risk. And I don’t doubt that many of those bikes are stolen property. (Although when I asked the Baltimore PD if it would be safe to assume most are stolen, T.J. Smith, an official spokesman, surprised me by writing, “No. I don’t think that’s accurate at all. The 12 O’Clock Boys don’t necessarily represent all dirtbikes in Baltimore.”)

Whenever I watch urban ‘stunting’ videos I think, first, being really good at wheelying is a lame talent; they’re basically using about 1% of their motorcycles’ potential. And, they’re not really good, anyway. (Cue Toni Bou: “Do you even wheelie, bro’?”) 

But for me to criticize them for sucking, for not being worthy of the bikes they’re riding, would be an extreme case of the pot calling the kettle black. I suck, too. But I still have fun. I think one of the reasons the movie about them left the moto industry shuffling its feet and looking at the ground was, those guys in the movie obviously get all the same things out of riding that we do: a sense of camaraderie, freedom, a break from mundane and constricted lives, adventure & thrills, and an endless opportunity to improve skills.

The 12 O’Clock Boys just add openly taunting the police to that list of satisfactions. And to be fair some of the satisfaction they take in that is understandable.

The foregoing masterpiece of equivocation, however, doesn’t change the fact that I can hardly friggin’ believe that Nike’s admiringly created a shoe for them.

I emailed the one Nike employee, Ben Kirschner, who was mentioned in the news story about the shoe, and got no response. For good measure I emailed Nike’s PR department and they too seemed to have better things to do than justify their decision to legitimize a flagrantly criminal activity.

If you’re a motocrosser who lives in the Northeast and you’ve had your dirt bike stolen, you’d have to wonder, how is creating a running shoe for these guys different than creating one for purse-snatchers?

I get it; there’s a lot of criminals in the NFL, the NBA, etc., and no shortage of athletes with sneaker deals have gone on to appear in mug shots. Sneaker makers have also sponsored rappers who glamorize drug and sexual abuse. But football, basketball, and hip hop are not inherently illegal. This is.

As a marketing decision, tying Nike to the 12 O’Clock Boys is a step into a grey area. But what really surprised me about the choice was, Nike’s legal team should’ve seen this as a black-and-white issue. Not in the Black Lives Matter sense, but in the black print on white paper, legal liability sense.

To be clear, the shoe is not an all-new design, it’s just a styling job on the existing SF-AF1 platform; Kirschner, who SneakerNews called the shoe’s ‘designer’, is a marketing guy at Nike, not a product guy.

But do this mental experiment with me: Imagine some Nike marketing guy pitching a new Antifa-branded riot vest, that is just one of the company’s existing fleece vests, but restyled to look like a tactical bullet-proof vest, with a screenprinted outline of a Glock on it. The legal department would go ape-shit.

I can hear some lawyer doing a spit take with his coffee. “What happens when someone wearing it gets shot?”

By describing the 12 O’Clock Boys shoe as heat-resistant, in order to withstand engine heat, and with toe material that’s resistant to shifter abrasion – to say nothing of printing an image of a wheelying dirt biker and the words ‘Raise it up’ on the shoe – Nike is implying that this shoe is appropriate moto-wear. I don’t care that the star of the movie only wore a backwards ball cap as head protection.

There are a bunch of serious moto people at Nike’s HQ in Portland. So the company could have designed a proper moto boot – it chose not to. Instead, Nike’s opening itself up to a lawsuit from the first guy who breaks an ankle or rips off his toes between his chain and sprocket.

Look… If Nike ever seriously got into moto, it would suck for Dainese, Alpinestars, Sidi, Icon, Fox and the rest of ’em. (Actually it would be great for one of those companies, because Nike would acquire one of ’em as a way to enter the market – MG) But it would be the best thing to happen to motorcycling since Honda’s ‘Nicest People’ campaign.

If Nike really got into moto, it would bring mega sponsorship and technical resources to the table, but mostly it would bring the kind of marketing clout that shapes and influences our whole culture.

Instead we got, “Raise it up.” Oh well. It makes it awkward for me to admit that I think the shoes are kind’a cool.