Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Today in motorcycle history, February 27, 1977

  Janet "The Flying Angel" Lee jumps over 34 motorcycles in Anthony, New Mexico, on February 27, 1977. 


  A native of Midland, Texas, Janet Lee started her stunt career in Texas after watching the "Deathriders" perform in the summer of 1973.  It was at their third show that she was hired by stuntman Billy Ward after he heard her volunteer to get in the box with Danny Reed, aka "Mr. TNT", to be blown up.  The first show she appeared in was June 22, 1973 doing precision driving.  Over the next few months she would be crashing cars, driving though dynamite, being a human battering ram, crashing through ice and even having a head-on crash with another female driver.

  The Flying Angel’s high-flying career crashed to the earth on June 25, 1977 during the ’77 Fiesta del Concho.  As the featured performer in the summer celebration, she tried to jump a motorcycle over the North Concho River (her third attempt in 2 years) in downtown San Angelo.

  She didn’t make it.

  The crash broke her elbow in three places (ouch), split her lip and gave Janet a concussion that knocked her silly.

  The crash, her second in 35 days, persuaded Janet to give up stunt riding.  It also persuaded Fiesta officials to quit paying riders to try to jump the Concho River.

  Then the 23 year-old Janet Lee decided to find a new career, she became a professional flagpole painter.

  “I painted flagpoles, radio towers, water towers in the southern and western parts of the country until 1994,” she told the San Angelo Standard-Times in 2007.

  Her tallest flagpole, you ask? A 95-footer in Safford, Ariz.

  From ’94 to ’98, she found a more down-to-earth career as a karate instructor in Fredericksburg, Texas.

  “I won’t say I’m brave,” said Janet, who now lives south of Los Angeles. “I just love to do something different.”

  Her latest adventures include annual trips to China and Tibet.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Today in motorcycle history, February 21, 1959

   On a cold, but beautiful Michigan winter day, Bart Markel weds the love of his life, JoAnn Overton. 


   Bartlett D. "Bart" Markel, was the godfather of flat-track racing in Flint, Michigan, and one of the greatest racers in American Motorcyclist Association history.


  A former U.S. Marine and two-time Gold Glove boxing champion, his aggressive riding style earned him the nicknames "Black Bart" and "Bad Bart".   According to the AMA, at one point, Markel was suspended from racing for his rough riding style.   Quoted on the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum Web site, Markel said he just "didn't like following anybody," and if they gave him an inch on the track, he took a foot.



  It was in the dirt, sliding motorcycles tire-to-tire around racetracks at high speed, where the Flint native left major national marks.

  Teamed with sponsor Bert Cummings of Cummings Harley-Davidson, Markel helped fire up a slew of famous Flint-area racers -including Jay Springsteen, Scott Parker and Randy Goss - in the gritty arena of flat-tracking.

  Markel, Springsteen, Parker and Goss collectively won 17 Grand National titles, according to the AMA.

  Bart competed in more than 140 AMA Grand National Series, winning the AMA Grand National Championship three times during the 1960s.


  Bart Markel was inducted in the AMA Hall of Fame in 1998.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Today in motorcycle history, February 20, 2005



  Hunter Stockton Thompson dies in Woody Creek, Colorado, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.


  I think it's fair to say that he liked The Edge and things that would bring him to The Edge and nothing got him (physically) there faster than motorcycles.  And he had a long-time, passionate, often tumultuous, love affair with the 2-wheeled beast.  A65 BSA Lightning, Triumph T120 Bonneville, Ducati 900 Supersport,  numerous 1970's Honda 750 Supersport demo models (the salesmen are still shuddering), Harley-Davidson Softail, to name but a few.  Instead of boring you with useless information about his bikes I thought I would share a few of his motorcycle quips/quotes...


“But with the throttle screwed on there is only the barest margin and no room for mistakes. It has to be done right . . and thats when the strange music starts, when you stretch your luck so far that the fear becomes exhilaration and vibrates along your arms. You can barely see a hundred; the tears blow back so fast that they vaporize before they get to your ears. The only sounds are the wind and the dull roar floating back from the mufflers. You watch the white line and try to lean with it . . . howling through a turn to the right, then to the left and down the long hill to Pacifica . . . letting off now, watching for cops, but only until the next dark stretch and another few seconds on the edge . . . The Edge . . . ” – Hunter S. Thompson describing riding his BSA in '..Hells Angels'

  On riding his Vincent Black Shadow..."A genuinely hellish bike. Second gear peaks around 65 -- cruising speed on the freeways -- and third winds out somewhere between 95 and 100. I never got to fourth, which takes you up to 120 or so -- and after that you shift into fifth gear."


  "Cafe Racing is mainly a matter of taste. It is an atavistic mentality, a peculiar mix of low style, high speed, pure dumbness, and overweening commitment to the Cafe Life and all its dangerous pleasures... I am a Cafe Racer myself, on some days - and it is one of my finest addictions."   "I am not without scars on my brain and my body, but I can live with them. I still feel a shudder in my spine every time I see a picture of a Vincent Black Shadow, or when I walk into a public restroom and hear crippled men whispering about the terrifying Kawasaki Triple... I have visions of compound femur-fractures and large black men in white hospital suits holding me down on a gurney while a nurse called "Bess" sews the flaps of my scalp together with a stitching drill."

 "That is the Curse of Speed which has plagued me all my life. I am a slave to it. On my tombstone they will carve, "IT NEVER GOT FAST ENOUGH FOR ME."

Today in motorcycle history, February 19, 1950

  With the sun on his back and sand in his teeth, Billy Mathews and his Norton Manx tear up the 3.2 mile beach-hiway course with an 81.26 mph average on his way to winning his second Daytona 200 at Daytona Beach, Florida.

  Hailing from Toronto, Canada, Billy, though known as an all-around racer in his homeland, is best known in America for his two victories in the Daytona 200.  His 1941 win on the beach course at Daytona Beach marked milestones in several respects – it was the first victory by a foreign rider and the first win for a non-American motorcycle (Norton).  Mathews came back to win the 200 again in 1950 and became the only rider to win both before and after World War II.

  His 1941 victory at Daytona was totally unexpected.  The Harley-Davidson and Indian factory efforts were at the race in full force.  Harley was debuting its new WRTT model and was riding a three-race winning streak at Daytona and fully expected to make it four.

  Mathews rode to the early lead on his Norton, but a crash put him behind the leaders.  Fortunately for Mathews, his Norton wasn’t damaged and he was able to climb back on and continue the race.  He charged back through the field and bobbed and weaved his way back up to second behind Indian’s Jimmy Kelly.

  Kelly appeared to have a safe lead, but with just four laps to go the engine on his Indian decided to quit and Mathews moved ahead and cruised to victory.  Despite crashing, Mathews set a new record speed for the 200 averaging 78.08 mph.  His Norton Manx's 500cc engine was the smallest to win Daytona to that point.

  Billy Mathews was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Today in motorcycle history, February 18, 1987


  Moto Morini.  Moto Morini. 

  Alfonso Morini began building Moto Morini motorcycles in Bologna in 1937.  But the age of sixteen, Alfonso opened a small workshop.  Then in 1925 Mario Mazzetti, impressed by Morini’s work, asked him to build a single-cylinder 120cc two-stroke racing bike, making Alfonso the designer, constructor, and racer.  They were a successful team, racing under the MM name.


  Then WWII interupted things and in 1943 the factory was bombed.


  Undeterred, in 1946, a new three-speed transmission, single cylinder, two-stroke T125 emerged from the new Bologna factory.  In 1953 a 175 cc pushrod OHV four-stroke model appeared in production.  Models like Gran Turismo, Settebello, Rebello, Supersport, Briscola, Tresette, and Tresette Sprint also appeared.  In 1956 Moto Morini moved to a larger production facility at Via Bergami.


In 1948, Raffaele Alberti won the Italian Championship for Lightweight Motorcycles on a two-stroke 125 Competition. Umberto Masetti won the Italian Championship for Lightweight Motorcycles in 1949, on a 125 SOHC four-stroke that produced 12 hp (8.9 kW) @ 10000 rpm, and could exceed 140 km/h (87 mph).  In 1952 Moto Morini won races outside of Italy with the 125 SOHC four-stroke, as Emilio Mendogni won both the Nations Grand Prix, and the Spanish Grand Prix.

  In 1961, Giacomo Agostini began his racing career on a Moto Morini Settebello “Short Rods”, coming second at Trento-Bondone. Agostini was Italian Cadet Champion in 1962, and Italian Junior Champion in 1963. Tarquinio Provini, riding a Moto Morini 250 GP, won the Italian Championship in 1961 and 1962. In 1963, Provini convinced Alfonso Morini that they should try for the World Championship. Provini would wage a season-long battle with Honda's Jim Redman for the 250 world championship.  Each rider won four races and the title wasn't decided until the final race in Japan, with Redman winning the championship over Provini by two points!

  In early 1971, Moto Morini launched their first 72° V-twin motorcycle with Heron heads.  The Morini 3 1/2.  Great start to the decade but, by the late 70's the good times began to fall due to bad design and limping sales. 

   The early 1980s did not go as well for Moto Morini, with labour disputes and diminishing sales both dragging them down. Then on February 18, 1987 hope arrived when Gabriella Morini sold the firm to the Castiglioni firm, Cagiva.  But, despite their assurances that Moto Morini was important to them, the company was allowed to decline.

  In 1988 the Dart 350, a fully race faired version of the 72° V-twin, appeared.  In 1989 the last enduro version, the Coguaro appears, in 350 and 500 versions, and another cruiser version, the New York.

  Franco Lambertini had a new 60° engine design, so he jumped ship and went to Piaggio-Gilera.

  The Via Bergami factory was closed and by 1993 Excaliburs are assembled at Agostini works.

  In 1996 Ducati and the Moto Morini name are sold to TPG. There were no plans to revive Moto Morini.

  Finally, in July 2011, the company was sold to Eagle Bike, a newly formed company that is run by two Italian entrepreneurs, Sandro Capotosti and Ruggeromassimo Jannuzzelli, for 1.96 million Euros. The factory was not included in the sale although they are thought to have a two year lease on the premises.

  In March 2012, the factory re-started producing a limted edition of the Rebello 1200 named Giubileo.  Other models are hopefully following, including the Corsaro Veloce and the Scrambler.  

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Today in motorcycle history, February 16, 1979

  Valentino Rossi is born in Urbino, in Marche region of Italy.

  One of the most successful motorcycle racers of all time, with nine Grand Prix World Championships to his name – seven of which are in the premier class.

  Following the path of his father, Graziano Rossi, Valentino started racing in Grand Prix in 1996 for Aprilia in the 125cc category and won his first World Championship the following year.  From there, he moved up to the 250cc category with Aprilia and won the 250cc World Championship in 1999.  Then riding for Honda he won the 500cc World Championship in 2001, the MotoGP World Championships (also with Honda) in 2002 and 2003, and continued his streak of back-to-back championships by winning the 2004 and 2005 titles after leaving Honda to join Yamaha, before regaining the title in 2008 and retaining it in 2009.  He announced he was leaving Yamaha to join Ducati, the news of which was greeted with cheers throughout his homeland, for the 2011 season, but, alas, the excitement was short-lived as it was confirmed in 2012 that he would rejoin Yamaha for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

  Valentino Rossi is first in all-time 500 cc/MotoGP race wins standings, with 79 victories, and his 105 all-time overall wins standings are second only to Giacomo Agostini's 122.

Rossi at the 2006 Italian Grand Prix

Friday, February 15, 2013

Today in motorcycle history, February 15, 2002

  Twin Motorcycles opens.  Sportster freaks worldwide rejoice.

  What started as a small shop with big dreams and great ideas has become the World's Biggest Beull shop.  Everything Beull, XR 1200 and Sportster.  They eat, drink and sleep all things Buell.  An absolutely amazing shop.

 What they do, in their words...

 Develop exhaust systems for Buell and Sportster and Fine tuning for these exhaust systems. We hold worldrecords with them.

 Complete engine repair, rebuild and revision from new valves to complete 88" big bore conversions (drool), development and testing of maintenance products for the future, belts, clutch and pulley cables, pulleys, brake discs and more.  

 What ever happens in the world, we will keep Beull alive, and keep devolping parts.

  Planning a trip?  Not sure where to go?  The Colosseum?  Stonehenge?  Easter Island?  The Vatican?  I have a holiday destination for you-Twin Motorcyles, IJsselstein, Netherlands.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Today in motorcycle history, February 13, 2002

waylon-jennings Waylon Jennings dies from complications of diabetes.   He was 64. 

 To say Waylon Jennings was a hugely influential country singer, songwriter and musician of the genre’s “outlaw” movement of the seventies would be a vast understatement.  I know you're thinking what the hell does this have to do with motorcycles?  Everybody knows Waylon didn't ride, so how are you going to tie this into bikes?  Just watch me...

  First a bit of of his first jobs in music was as a disc jockey at a local Texas radio station.   It was there that he met an up-and-coming rockabilly singer named Buddy Holly.  Before long, Jennings was playing bass in Holly’s band. 

  Waylon tells the story of during a tour in May of 1958 while in Lubbock, Texas, when Buddy Holly decides to buy a motorcycle.

  "... they went over to Miller’s Motorcycles, which specialized in English bikes. There, Joe B, and J.I. (Allison) bought a Triumph each, a TR6 and Thunderbird, respectively, while Buddy picked out a maroon and black Ariel Cyclone, with a high compression 650cc Huntsmaster engine. They paid cash, bought matching Levi jackets and peaked caps with wings on them, and rode home through a thunderstorm.”

  Buddy Holly’s father had kept the motorcycle until 1970, when he sold it to someone in Austin, Texas. Then in 1979 for Waylon’s 42nd birthday, the two remaining Crickets Joe B. and J.I. tracked down the same Ariel Cyclone, bought it back, and had it hand delivered to north Texas where Waylon found it sitting there in the middle of his hotel room after walking off stage that night.

  “What else could I do?  I swung my leg over it, stomped on the kickstarter, and it burst into roaring life.  First kick.  It was midnight, and it sounded twice as loud bouncing off the walls of that hotel room.  I knew Buddy wouldn’t mind.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Today in motorcycle history, February 12, 1945

  MV Agusta, originally Meccanica Verghera Agusta, is founded on February 12, 1945 in Cascina Costa, Italy.  Simultaneously, tears of joy swelled in the eyes of every Italian 2-wheeled racing fan.

  The company began as an off-shoot of the Agusta aviation company formed by Count Giovanni Agusta in 1923.  The Count died in 1927, leaving the company in the able hands of his wife and sons, Domenico, Vincenzo, Mario and Corrado.  Count Vincenzo Agusta together with his brother Domenico formed MV Agusta (named for the hamlet, Meccanica Verghera) at the end of WW II as a means to save the jobs of employees of the Agusta firm and also to fill the post-war need for cheap, efficient transportation. 

1954 MV Agusta CSTL 175 Turismo Lusso



  Count Vincenzo and Domenico Agusta also had a burning passion for mechanical workings and for motorcycle racing.  They, too, were determined to have the best Grand Prix motorcycle racing team in the world and decided to spare no expense on their passion.

  The company began by manufacturing small-displacement, CafĂ© racer style motorcycles (mostly 125 to 175 cc) through the 1950s and 1960s.  Then in the 1960s small motorcycle sales declined, and MV started producing larger displacement cycles in more limited quantities.  A 250 cc, and later a 350 cc twin were produced, and then a 600 cc four-cylinder which eventually evolved into a 750 cc.

  MV Augusta started a domination in all every GP class in 1956.  They won the 125 cc, 250 cc and 500 cc class simultaneously in 1956, 1958, 1959 and 1960.  The manufacturer won 270 Grand Prix races, with legendary riders such as Giacomo Agostini, Mike Hailwood, Phil Read, Carlo Ubbiali, Gary Hocking and John Surtees.

  Yes, I said 270 Grand Prix races. Two-hundred and seventy.

  "Racing experience at the service of mass production."

Monday, February 11, 2013

Today in motorcycle history, February 11, 1934

  John Surtees is born in Tatsfield, Surrey.

  The son of a south London motorcycle dealer.  He had his first professional outing in the sidecar of his father's Vincent, which they won. However, when race officials discovered Surtees's age, they were disqualified.  Surtees entered his first solo race at 15 in a grasstrack competition.  In 1950, at the age of 16, he went to work for the Vincent factory as an apprentice.  At 16 I washed dishes at a Ramada Inn.

  Norton race chief Joe Craig gave John Surtees his first factory sponsored ride for Norton in 1955.  He responded by finishing the year beating reigning world champion Geoff Duke at Silverstone and then at Brands Hatch.  However, with Norton in financial trouble and uncertain about their racing future, Surtees accepted an offer to race for the MV Agusta factory racing team, where he soon earned the nickname Figlio del Vento (son of the wind).

  In 1956 Surtees won the 500cc world championship, MV Agusta's first in the senior class.  In this Surtees was assisted by the FIM's (bastards) decision to ban the defending champion, Geoff Duke, for six months because of his support for a riders' strike for more starting money.  In the 1957 season, the MV Agustas were no match for the Gileras and Surtees battled to a third place finish aboard an MV Agusta 500 Quattro.

  When Gilera and Moto Guzzi pulled out of Grand Prix racing at the end of 1957, Surtees and MV Agusta went on to dominate the competition in the two larger displacement classes.  In 1958, 1959 and 1960, he won 32 out of 39 races and became the first man to win the Senior TT at the Isle of Man TT three years in succession.

   In 1996, Surtees was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.  The FIM honored him as a Grand Prix "Legend" in 2003.

  Already a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2008.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Today in motorcycle history, February 8, 1997

  Motorcycle stuntman Corey Scott dies in Miami, Florida.


  Scott's interest in motorcycle stunt riding began at the age of 15.  So upon high school graduation in Dacatur, Indiana, in 1987, Corey moved to Florida.

  Performing for years with the Joie Chitwood Chevy Thunder Show.  Corey specialized in wheelies, the motorcycle-car precision driving exhibition and the motorcycle-pick up jump, where he jumped a moving truck with a ramp attached to the back.  Scott performed in over 2,000 shows with the Chitwood organization.  While with Joie Chitwood, he performed stunts such as the Human Battering Ram (??), the Slide For Life, the Leap for Life, the Aerial Wing-Walk, the Roman Rider, the Motorcycle Firewall Crash and Crash Rollovers.  Corey eventually left the Chitwood organization and formed Scott's Super Stunts.

  In 1995, he took a break from stunt-riding to recuperate from a head injury, but in 1996, he went back to performing.  On February 8, 1997 at the Orange Bowl stadium in Miami, Florida, he was supposed to drive his motorcycle off a ramp and land into a net that was hoisted high into the air, a stunt he had performed successfully a number of times previously, Scott was suppose to grab the net upon hitting it, but he missed and fell 60 feet to the ground.  He was killed when he landed on his head, breaking his neck.  Corey Scott was 28 years old.


  I want you to think about this the next time you go off high-flying into a net somewhere.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Today in motorcycle history, February 6, 1977



  French stunt man Alain Prieur leaped over 16 buses in Monthery, France on February 6, 1977 riding a 1976 Yamaha YZ400 motocross bike.  It was declared a new distance record at 195 feet.

  At that time Bob Gill of St. Petersburg, Florida held the old record of 171 feet.  Gill established the record in 1973 in Seattle, Washington.  Gill's attempt at the 200 foot distance ended in tragedy in August of 1974 when he crashed attempting to jump the Appalachia Lake near Bruceton Mill, West Virginia.


  Before you get your panties in a bunch cryin', "What about Evel?!  I bet he did three times that, man!"  Evel Knievel's career best was 141 feet at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas in 1967.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Today in motorcycle history, February 5, 1965

 Svend Oluf Heiberg dies in Syracuse, New York.  Svend Heiberg was a silviculturalist, born in Copenhagen, Denmark, on July 22, 1900.  He came to the United States in 1926, becoming a naturalized US citizen in 1934.  Heiberg received masters degrees in forestry from both the Danish Royal Veterinary and Agricultural College in Copenhagen and Yale University.


 On September 9, 1924, Heiberg and his friend, Aksel Svane, who would later become Governor of Greenland, ventured on an historic world-tour on Svend's 1922 Harley-Davidson JD motorcycle.  Interested in studying "the forest reserves... of the world", their route took them from Copenhagen, through Europe to Turkey, from there to Iraq, "by steamer to India", then to Sri Lanka, Malaysia, China, across the United States, and back to Europe.


 After their arrival at the Harley-Davidson factory in Milwaukee on March 27, 1925, the two Danish grad-students tell reporters from the Milwaukee Sentinel, "Crossing the Arabian desert was a difficult job, but was accomplished with only the loss of our tent and rifle, which were stolen by brigands while we slept." said Heiberg.  "Keeping ourselves in gas was another problem, but we solved that with a supply of leather bags attached to the rear of the motorcycle." 

 Svend Oluf Heiberg was awarded the Order of Dannebrog for his contribution to the sciences.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Today in motorcycle history, February 4, 2010

    Dubai Bike Week kicks off.  With 30,000 expected to show up for bikes, music, food and fun.  That's right, I said Dubai Bike Week. The following is from a flyer for the annual event...


The Gulf Bike Expo 2010 & Dubai Bike Week at Dubai Festival City brings us Dubai Bike Festival!
 Calling all Boys, Babes and Bikes. 3 Days of pure Motorcycle culture. Bringing together all your favourite Stock Bikes, Customs, Off-Road and Biker Clubs.  Plus, clothes and accessories from all the leading manufacturers such as Harley-Davidson, Kawasaki and Ed Hardy and many, many more.

 Concert Series by LiveNation brings 6 Bands to the Piazza Stage with Nickelback & Status Quo rocking the Mainstage.


  Ed Hardy?!  Status Quo?!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Today in motorcycle history, February 1, 1983

  President Ronald Reagan grants Harley-Davidson their wish.  In 1981, after years of shoulder-shrugging management and piss-poor quality control, a group of 13 investors headed by Vaughn Beals and Willie G. Davidson by the company back from AMF (we used to say it stood for A Manufacturing Forgery) for $80 million.  They petition the government for import tax relief to help them get their legs up.  In a rare act of bi-partisanship the government agrees to help. 


  Subject: Motorcycle Import Relief Determination


  "Pursuant to Section 202(b)(1) of the Trade Act of 1974 (P.L. 93 - 618, 88 Stat. 1978), I have determined the action I will take with respect to the report of the United States International Trade Commission (USITC), transmitted to me on February 1, 1983, concerning the results of its investigation of a petition for import relief filed by the Harley-Davidson Motor Co., Inc., and Harley-Davidson York, Inc., producers of heavyweight motorcycles, provided for in item 692.50 of the Tariff Schedules of the United States (TSUS).

  After considering all relevant aspects of the case, including those set forth in Section 202(c) of the Trade Act of 1974, I have determined that granting import relief is consistent with our national economic interest..."


The Evolution models are released in 1984 (Ending production of the shovelhead. Heavy sigh.) and US bikedom is changed forever.