March, 2012

March 25, 2012

Masterpiece: The most exquisite production bike in the world

Ducati has created what I consider to be the most beautiful, most exquisite production missle motorcycle the world has yet seen - and it's a drastic departure from the "traditional" design parameters that one normally associates with the Italian Marque. I've spent more than a few weeks at Ducati Corse's workshop and design studios so I'm quite familiar with their capabilities, but this machine, the 1199 Panigale, has completely blown me away with the engineering genius that has shaped every major component, and the technical genius of the entire sporting package. If ever there has been a Masterpiece of modern Italian Design - this is it.


I remember my discussions with powertrain engineers during the development of the SuperQuadro engine (or SuperQuadrata as it was known in its early stages), a radically oversquare v-twin that was destined for extreme RPM's, and I remember the difficulty we had on the GP teams with the packaging of our complex and sophisticated electronics control devices. I won't be getting into the precise details of the materials tested and chosen for the production version of this machine, but I would like to take a few moments and discuss what I feel are the noteworthy and ground-breaking aspects of the 1199; a machine that I will simply refer to as "God-Bike". The laws of physics have been bent; gaps in logic forced open and closed with the high speed precision that can only come from Ducati's signature desmodromic valvetrain. This is truly a stunning machine, especially when the clothes come off and we're left with the naked truth.


Incredibile. Every time I look at this picture I am shocked and stunned by how well packaged everything is. One engine, two wheels. This is often how I describe my personal machines (whatever style you want to call them), and this is the purest distillation of a motorcycle in my eyes. Never have I come across a production "streetbike" that so accurately matches my motorcycling ethos, with the exception of the ABS and the host of other electronic aids, such as traction control and push-button, servo-motored suspension. I could speak at length about all the techno-wizardry that abounds throughout the bike, but the bottom line is that the 1199 is the most well thought out Ducati to roll off the factory floor. People speak about the CoG (Center of gravity) and how important it is to have a bike that rotates well around this, but this machine is the absolute epitome of mass centralization, and perhaps even beyond. Everything works better when the gyroscopic forces of the crankshaft are in the center. Everything here is connected through the motor, but we'll start at the front and make our way back.

The first thing I noticed about Ducati's ultimate twin were the radially mounted front fender, rearsets, and even the subframe (!) - clearly this bike was completely designed using every benefit made available by a computer. This is a marked departure from previous designs that held true to age old traditions . . . Steel frame? Always worked well before, cheap and easy to produce, "let's keep using it". Less work means more time to concentrate on other aspects of the project. The 1199 is a clean sheet design. New motor, new ways to connect all the dots, new people and new ideas bubbling up to the surface - New Thought at the Factory. Electronically adjustable compression and rebound damping in the forks and shock? Great for a touring bike, especially one that will see heavy loads added and removed with frequency, but in my opinion, not really necessary for a sport bike. The great rain riders of our day have rarely made significant changes to their suspension when racing in the wet - CS27 barely changes a thing, CV71 went out with the same set-up as dry conditions, AB4 might have swapped out to some softer springs (he preferred a little more pitch fore and aft when it was wet). VR46? Who knows, haha. The point is, I highly doubt most street riders will take advantage of this novel feature (but then again, what street rider will ever be able to use this bike at anywhere near it's full capabilities?). What this does do is open the door for is a learning algorithm that can analyze and calculate how a rider is using the machine on a closed course (repeatable corners in succession). Too much or too little squat coming out of a corner - corroborated by the traction control - and we have an over-arching bike control system that can alter the performance while the rider concentrates on line selection. Fly-by-wire throttle means that he/she can open it up as much and as fast as they want, but the computer controls the power delivery. Of course, additional pressure sensors will need to be installed in the suspension components for this to be realized, but these early servo-assisted items are just the beginning of a truly active suspension system. The system isn't here, yet (though it was on Yamaha's and Ducati's in GP for a short time just a few years ago), but I'm sure it's coming for the street at some point. Every piece of data is being collected and it will only serve to feed the computer more and more. Digital motorcycles. That's heavy, man.


New monoblock Brembo brake calipers, developed specifically for this machine, are likely just a light evolution of their previous designs, possibly giving more cooling surface to the caliper and weighing fractionally less. Brembo bought Marchesini a few years ago, and in partnering with Ducati to provide their "top-line" products on Ducati's new flagship, I would expect nothing less than the latest and greatest to be showcased here. Lighter forged wheels with a 3 spoke "W" design replace the previous 7 spoke banana design, which replaced 5 spoke "Y" design (my personal favorite). What bothers me a little are the various photos I've come across (recent Motorcyclist Magazine article, Hard Parts cad drawing, for example) that show the brake rotor carrier being offset/rotated so the spokes of the carrier don't line up symmetrically with the wheel (something we've seen before on Ducati's), but it appears as if this has been corrected for the final production bikes.

I'm surprised that the air intakes are mounted so far from the center point on the front fairing, as this would allow for the highest density of intake charge and ram-air effect, but I don't have the volumetric efficiency numbers to determine whether or not the added intake tract length is more beneficial for the entire airbox volume. More than likely, it was a stylistic concern and was chosen so the lineage of the 916/1098 could be preserved visually. Besides, with 195HP on tap, do we really need "more" ram-air effect? 200 HP is a much rounder number . . . and that much scarier. The actual intakes themselves look horrible to me on the faired bike, drooping like saggy bags under the LED headlights (another industry first), and the short, flat windscreen should have been replaced with something that deflects the wind a little better (but then, sales of aftermarket and Corse windscreens would drop, haha). But the overall profile of the front end is wonderful, sharp and distinct, and with a functional "cut-out" for the front fender. It's low down and it means business.


I will always have a preference for the Desmosedici's headlights, and bull nose fairing . . . and I think this front end is my absolute favorite on a production streetbike.


Back to the naked bike; I'm most impressed with how tightly everything is placed relative to the engine, the center piece and center point of the bike. Engines get very hot . . . and one of Ducati's "L-twin" draw-backs is that the front cylinder has always taken up space where the radiator goes. Special racing radiators have been made with a cut away section for the front valve cover to poke through, and despite rotating the entire engine assembly rearwards (which allowed the motor to move forward 32mm, and a longer swingarm, too, by 39mm), there's still no nice way to get around the tall cylinder head, despite its short, short stroke. This leads to agonizingly long radiator hoses coming from the waterpump, nestled deep in the V of the motor. Not that long hoses are necessarily a bad thing, but visible hoses and wires have always been a distraction from the meat and potatoes of a machine, something Ducati has always struggled with (see any testastretta engine'd Monster, for example).

I'm amazed to see the ABS control unit mounted so closely to the engine, as heat and brake fluid don't go well together, and the rest of the parts visible from the right side are so nicely placed . . . the swingarm pivot through the crankcases and bolt on pivot mounts, the mounting design of the rearsets to maximize their strength and reduce flex when a rider is really crawling around the bike on the track and really loading the rear with his feet . . . these are beautiful pieces, little works of aluminum art. Will be see magnesium alloy versions on a "Super-Light" 1199R model in the future? Doubtful, but the potential is there. I'm guessing Brembo's ability to forge and machine large pieces of aluminum might trickle over and we'll see a 1199 version with more forged, billet pieces than the base model. Radiator overflow mounted to the inner rad air funnel? Saw that on the GP bike . . . only this version is much, much nicer.

And those pipes! What a triumph of spaghetti we are witness to - that the primary length of the headers has been stealthily hidden in the muffler, effectively doubling what you can already see and just about replicating the overall exhaust length you'd traditionally see on the previous 916/1098 platforms. Torque is a solid 95 foot pounds, and comes in at a rather high RPM, but this is likely a consequence of the light weight crankshaft and not so much an issue because of the exhaust routing. Engine design is always a compromise, and if you want it to spin past 10K RPM, you're going t sacrifice a little bit on the bottom. The rear exhaust does look horrible, though . . . hanging out like a twisted clown balloon and covered with black plastic. It reminds me of a diaper under the tailsection - but where else is it going to go? Would be interesting to see if future generations of this bike have the airbox going completely over and around the rear cylinder and having the intake/exhaust directions reversed, so that the exhaust pipe comes out from the front side (ala HD XR750, Vincent).

I think what's really going to shock people about this bike is the riding position. Gone is the traditional Ducati torture rack riding position where the rider is stretched out over a long fuel tank and grasping narrow bars over a steep fork. Now we've got something of a hybrid sport bike (at least by Ducati standards), one where emphasis on control is accentuated by wider, flatter handlebars and clip-ons. All the better to save those front end wiggles when the power starts to kick in. The seat is closer to the headstock by over an inch, and that's a huge improvement for normal sized riders. These are big design considerations, because the human interface is the most critical element of a motorcycle, and makes me wonder if the fuel capacity has been reduced by a few liters just to make space. I suppose it's not really a big issue if the 1199 gets a hundred miles to a tank, or 80. No matter what, it's going to get there quickly. Bring it on!


Airbox that doubles as the main "frame" to hold the forks? An idea first seen and proven in GrandPrix competition in 2009, a scant 3 years ago (or about a thousand days, give or take), though the design dates back to the Vincent, the Britten, and less known, a carbon fiber frameless racebike penned by Antonio Cobas, the Spanish "father" of the modern twin spar aluminum chassis. The box frame shown on the Ducati is the jewel of this bike, so simple a concept and now here, for purchase at your local dealer. Only a highly agile company could bring this from the racetrack to the public in such a short timespan, or perhaps it's better said that only Ducati has the conviction and faith to stand behind their prototype race designs so much that they've fulfilled their promise to "sell what they race". Where's my V5, Honda??


Additional genius abounds in this shot . . . and one that will surely enable more of these machines to stay on the road or the track after they've crashed. Low-side and tweak your footpeg mounting area? Currently, if you were to damage the frame of your sportbike, your insurance company would more than likely total the vehicle out because it's not labor/cost effective to replace something as serious as the frame. Not so here! The 1199 is perfectly modular, and this style of design lends itself well to precise part replacement. Everything can quickly and easily be disassembled (or assembled on the Factory lines) in a short time. For racing purposes, the side shock will be a boon for rapid linkage ratio swaps. Since the engine is already a stressed member of the chassis, we won't see any flex through the motor by having the shock mounted on one side, and twist shouldn't be an issue. Swingarm pivot utilizes a hollow axle, held together by a pinch clamp (just like a front fork bottom), once again preserving strength but cutting a large amount of static weight.

What else is there to notice here?


HUGE clutch cover! This is the first time a Ducati flagship model has come with a wet clutch, and this is likely for a couple of reasons. First off, it allow Ducati to source clutch plates from a cheaper source as they're far more commonly available in a wet design. Wet clutches tend to last longer, also, because they're cooled in the oil bath of the engine. Also, going to a wet clutch drastically reduces engine noise, which is something not often considered by the consumer, but it's something the EPA cares about (noise emissions). Yes, I know that the dry clutches are already engaged when doing the "ride by" sound level test, but the noise has always been an issue. Previous Ducati even had sound-proofing materials added to the inner fairing panels just to reduce the audible clatter, even though it was "signature" Ducati. Same reasoning applies to the use of chain drive for the desmodromic valve actuation system. It's cheaper to manufacture and provides a longer service interval than the traditional belts. Also, by having the chain inboard of the engine there's more available real estate for other components to be mounted. Smart, but not entirely perfect. I expect we'll see how much variance the valve timing can have once engine builders get ahold of the 1199 mill because cam chains aren't perfect . . .


I know it's a magnesium clutch cover, and that seems awfully fragile for a sportbike. Especially because it's so prominently displayed on the right side of the bike like an asphalt magnet. I think the aftermarket is going to have a field day with this one - giant billet blocks will be turned into sliders with replaceable delrin pucks, which will also save the exposed and presumably delicate exhaust header. I'm guessing the bodywork will be incredible expensive (as it always is), but a major drawback of this wet clutch cover is that if it breaks open on the road or track, not only does oil leak out, but debris and contaminants get in, and this can be a very bad thing for such a finely tuned engine with incredibly precise tolerances.

What we're seeing is more than likely the future of motorcycle design, completely modular and centered around the crankshaft. New doors have been blasted open and I'm sure that other motorcycle manufacturers are scrambling to have their design departments come up with the drawings and other materials needed to begin walking a similar path. Kind of reminds me of an F1 car. The motorcycle IS the chassis! The electronic aids (ABS, DTC) will make good riders into great riders, and great riders will become lazier, haha. I can't wait to throw a leg over one of these machines and see how far is pushes me to "take it to that next level". With that in mind . . . I know what bike would make an incredible Street Fighter . . . and I know just the person who should be making one ;)


March 21, 2012

Don't become a prisoner of your words

Leave the Ivory Tower and take a moment to share your life with others. Learn from them, teach them, realize deeply that we are all one people, and truly appreciate all the gifts in your life.

Music has been a constant in my life from early days, and it's why I share so much of it here. Oftentimes, I find it replaces words and can more accurately replicate or instigate a mood or feeling. Smile more :)

Don't just sit there.

March 18, 2012

Slip and Slide; crash testing Zorak


I spent Saturday morning running through the Santa Cruz mountains on the way to meet up with a "True Grit" rain or sun ride with a group of hardcore motorcycling enthusiasts. They will often ride in gnarly conditions to learn more about available traction while practicing advanced bike control, and just to have a good time challenging the weather while most folks stay inside (roads are typically more empty, almost no bicyclists, etc). Unfortunately, I didn't quite make it to the starting point of the ride and ended up calling it an early day. I crashed.

I had been having premonitions of a crash for about the last week, no doubt brought upon by reading through a couple crash threads on Barf and watching numerous youtube vids of people losing it on Mulholland in LA (plus some Ghost Rider vids for good measure - hey, I like to have some background media streaming while I go to sleep). I'd been feeling like I'd overstepped my boundaries a few times, not because of any fear exhibited on previous rides, but simply because I had been "enjoying the ride" so much lately, tearing through tires and achieving wear patterns on the front that I'd been unable to on different machines. My finesse and ability to trail brake had greatly improved as I spent more time on the bike, and the front Michelin PP 2CT had progressively gotten better and better as the tire wore into a sharper "V" shape.

I felt like I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. I mentioned this to my riding buddy when we met up that morning at the Chevron on 19th/Junipero Serra - that I was going to "take it easy and ride slow today, because I didn't feel like pushing.". Did I psyche myself out before I had even turned a wheel this weekend, or was I preparing myself because of my gut feeling? I consider myself to be a very competent and experienced rain rider, and the more extreme a road, the more I want to conquer it. I am comfortable with splitting lanes, tight spaces, and putting the machine where and how I want it to be, and I've become something of a mountain specialist over the years. I have learned over time to trust my instincts and have developed a feel for traffic patterns and road conditions that has kept me safe for many years and many miles, both commuting and "recreational riding". Maybe it's because I'd just written about Rain Riding that I felt encouraged or emboldened to tackle the mountain yesterday, after 5 days of heavy rain had fallen on the Bay Area.

Another Barfer just posted a video of the True Grit ride that day. This is the slush that I managed to "avoid" by falling down just as the Skyline was transitioning from cold and wet, to fully frozen and nasty!

I've been reviewing the crash event in my mind's eye for the last two days, because I feel it's very important to analyze everything. Lessons can always be learned and that's what makes a crash valuable in the long run - understanding how and why it happened, and considering possibilities if I'd been able to do something differently. It also lead to some contemplation about the amount of trail that I've got on the current bike (I'm at the maximum with my rear ride height at its lowest configuration) , and I re-checked my settings to see if there was anything out of the ordinary. Crashing is humbling, and it's an excellent reality check.

After having been involved with, and repairing so many crashed bikes in GP, it's fairly simple for me to quickly deduce any and all safety concerns and what is "mission critical" for the machine versus what is simply cosmetic damage. I spent years in motorcycle dealerships rebuilding crashed bikes (police bikes, too), so it's just another part of the game . . . .

Ride, Rinse, Repeat = insert unspoken "Repair" anywhere in the order - it just goes without sayin' - and for a gear head, it's half the fun. The other half is using it!

I apologize for the quality of these pictures; my hands were pretty wet and it was storming, so I didn't get many (and the ones I did are pretty lame; didn't even remember to use the HDR functionality). I wish I'd had the forethought to take my time setting up some better shots of the area, and the 1" of hail buildup that was on 35 (about 5 miles worth according to others that were riding that day). It must have looked magical. I'd already removed my helmet and the hail and freezing rain coming down made for an unhappy Liam, plus, I'd managed to fall into the large puddle with patches of ice floating in it, so pretty much it was a miserable time to be standing around taking pictures.

How it all went down:
A few seconds after I picked myself up off the ground, I starting walking over to Devin and he literally jumped when there was a loud thunderclap that felt like it was just a few corners away. BOOM! The skies were grey and white, and I hadn't even noticed any flashes of lightning until that moment. We ducked under the car port of the home at the corner and waited while the hail really started to come down. I wanted to have a smoke, assess any body damage to myself, and observe my heartrate, which remained remarkably slow despite the adrenalin rush that had to have happened when I hit the asphalt. I think I was more frustrated with myself than anything, because we were in process of pulling off the road because Devin thought he might have had a rear flat because he had no feeling with it. A few corners earlier on a very gentle right hander at moderate acceleration I had the rear step out on me, wiggle wiggle squirm, but assumed it was standing water or maybe a bit of moss/algae making that area slick. The temperature gauge on my trailtech read 54 degrees at that moment, so I wasn't expecting any ice further into the mountains.

Coming around the left hander (Swett road) at about 35mph est, I noticed Devin had slowed and was pulling off the road, so I gradually started to stand the bike up, plan my exit strategy, and began aiming towards the crest of the corner just before the apex. I felt the front wheel lose traction as I backed off the gas and I felt like I started to fall in to the left. It wasn't a full tuck, because the tire didn't fold into the turn (left), it was just a slide - but it caught me by surprise because it was happened faster than I anticipated. What made it odd was that both tires seemed to lose grip at roughly the same time, so I didn't have a clear sensation of one wheel going a different direction than the other - it just felt like the entire bike was moving diagonally towards the outside of the corner. I instinctively counter-steered a little to try and bring the bike inline and more upright and I felt the front wheel regain traction and help stand the bike back upright. I was then headed straight, towards the large puddle of slush just over the crest (raised area at the outside of the corner) but I was moving faster than I wanted to. I'd lost about 3/4 the width of the lane having started the slide from just outside the area that a car's left tires would be traveling, and probably about 5 bike lengths (checked the tire marks in the slush afterwards). I applied the front brake and began slowing, standing up a little on the pegs because I was preparing to ride into and through the puddle (made up of uneven potholes). About 2 feet from the white line at the edge of the road I lost traction again at the front again, and this time the bars instantly went full lock to the right. WTF! I didn't think I'd pulled the brake lever that hard, but I looking back, I have noticed my bike does have a tendency to headshake more than I'd like because I don't have a steering damper mounted (reason for this is because I don't believe a motorcycle needs one, and I like the action of the bars moving when I lift the wheel on bumps and over rises. I'm now reconsidering . . . and have plans for a unique mounting design that will accentuate the overall look of the front end). I'm also wondering if the cold temperatures and wet gloves could have numbed my fingers to the point where I didn't have accurate feeling in them, and over braked for the situation. I was wearing rubber/latex gloves underneath my winter gloves to help insulate my hands and keep them dry (a trick I learned from the racetrack - you never see professional riders using winter gloves, do you?).

I released the brake, cursed in my helmet, but wasn't able to straighten the bars as I went over the crest - and continued sliding completely forward while the bars were still turned. The camber of the up/down crest meant that my bike (still at full lock right) was going straight but down hill with camber to the right this time. I still thought I was going to be able to save it. I straightened the bars and tried to apply the front brake again, but I don't think I gave the tire enough time to bite in, or didn't didn't read the bike's feedback well enough to ascertain how much traction was available, because touching the brake immediately brought the bars back to full lock right. Again!

I finally regained traction when the bike's frame slider dug into the ground , right mirror folded back and handlebar digging in and adding a small twist to the whole event. @&*#$%@%^*!@%&#%)@#%$*MuthaFu@#$(*(&#$(*!!!!!!!! Sigh. Deep Breath, damage control, self control, next steps.

I superman'd my way off the bike, landing mostly outside the puddle on my palms and basically belly-flopping onto the ground. If I'd released the bike earlier, I probably could have jumped and tucked into a ball, or landed on my feet a little bit, but I held on until the bar hitting the ground caused me to let go and sail (bounce) away. With all the concentration I was giving towards keeping the bike on two wheels, I didn't not have any mental currency to spend on bodily preservation, but years of mini-moto crashes and a lot of dirt crashes had prepared my body for what was to come. Relax. It's always a shock when the moment comes, and by moment, I mean the point in time when everything slows down. For me, this was during the crossed up slide I had going over the crest - things felt like they were moving with such agonizing slowness. I distinctly remember asking myself if I should straighten the bars or just try and ride the bike forward with the bars to the right as I was already doing. I did manage to get them straight, if only for a split second, but I out rode myself and probably rushed the moment because at that point, the bike wasn't tilted towards the ground. Lesson learned, relax more if possible.

I immediately got up, stood the bike up from the ride side (so awkward, and then reaching over the seat to pull out the kick stand, oh soooo awkward), and started walking away towards Devin. We stood under the car port for about ten minutes watching the hail and increasingly heavy rain come down, and once I'd finished my cigarette I got out my iphone. Just getting it lit was a chore, with my smokes in a damp box, inside a plastic sandwich baggy, with wet fingers. Bic lighter was in my back pocket in yet another sandwich baggy. iPhone was in my upper chest pocket in a sturdier ziplock bag, around a thinner non-sealed sandwich baggy. Wallet was double bagged, haha. Got baggies?

The view from the carport was actually pretty nice. Note the moss on the tree. This section of Skyline Blvd is just about the start of its own micro-climate. There are several tricky corners that I know to watch out for, but in the dry/warm, this curve can be taken at freeway+ speeds.


That's ice/snow/sleet/slush in these pics. I don't know what you'd call it, because growing up in Hawaii the only similar substance that I know of is Shave Ice.


About ten minutes of hard rain had washed much of the hail away. They were the size of BB's, and they stuck together. Perhaps it was a case of running over a hard floor covered with marbles? Both gloves were damaged, the palms were roughed up and I tore the left thumb. They still work, though, so I'll probably just stitch up the tears for now. Finding the right gloves is difficult, because my palms are a lot wider than my fingers are long (block hands), but the water-proofing of these is gone so it's time to start the search.


Brushed some hail off my seat and checked the temperature gauge on the Vapor Trailtech . . . which now read 43 degrees. Windchill would bring that number down.


Ice puzzle in the puddle of doom:


I've already posted this photo before, but it shows the fold up/breakaway foot peg (and my once pristine brake lever tip). I've since angled the peg to fold up at closer to 30 degrees back instead of perpendicular to the ground.


Everything performed as expected or better than :)



1) The frame slider took most of the hit, though I lost just over 1/2" in length when comparing it to the undamaged left side one (thank goodness I had them mounted - I don't like the way they look so I had taken them off for the bike show last year, but put them back on once I started in the hills again). A new set is on its way; 21 USD shipped, eBay.

2) Carbon/Kevlar cover took the initial hit and some of the slide, and underneath, the outer clutch cover sacrificed itself to preserve the main clutch cover (keeping oil in the bike and debris out!). New outer aluminum cover is 32.68 USD, Ron Ayers. Carbon cover will be made in-house, by me :) and should be ready in a day or two.

3) CRG foldable front brake lever . . . . well, this part is simply going to be sanded smooth and scotch-brited. Some scars are good. As my old friend Martin (Mar-teen) would say, "Skoch-BREE-teh, Skoch-BREE-teh, Skoch-BREE-teh!".

4) Renthal Dual Compound Kevlar grips . . . 16.25 USD, Ron Ayers. I used some dykes to snip off the frayed edges and it looks fine. A quick shot with the air pistol and the grip is rotated so the damaged area isn't visible on the bottom of the handlebar.

5) Upgrade time! Plastic throttle tube from an '06+ R6 will be used to replace the '07 CBR1K one. This will act as a cheap quick throttle (60 degree turn (1/6) versus 90 degree turn (1/4 turn). 17.47 USD, Ron Ayers.

6) I have a spare rear brake lever already on the bike, but it's anodized back, so this "mis-match" will help make sure that I repair the original silver one and get it back on the bike. I'll machine up a new lever tip on the lathe to replace the broken one (or possibly source a folding tip from a motocross bike). The metal bearing the lever rides on is actually quite common and used on skateboards . . . should be just a few dollars to replace the bearing. 3 USD estimate.

7) Stainless Steel mounting bolt for foot peg . . . in my spares box at the garage. Probably less than 3 dollars.

8) Roll pin for the breakaway foot peg, 17 cents, haha. Already knocked the broken one out and replaced. No real damage to the peg itself or plastic spring retainer. These are available on the 1098/1198R model Ducati's, and Desmosedici's. The pegs are ergal/hard anodized and the mounting base is titanium. Very easy to adapt to most brands of rearsets (can be adapted to fit on stock rearsets, as well).

9) Handlebar got ground a little, but this is almost undetectable. I'll smooth the rough edges with a file and sand it smooth. To insure it doesn't happen again, I modified some nice rounded delrin endcaps to fit the Easton motocross bars. A little extra crash protection never hurt anyone. Free.

10) Ducati Street Fighter/Monster mirror got scuffed up. I'm still deciding whether or not to sand it down and media blast it. The left side bears the marks of several SUV/Truck mirrors from lane splitting, so I'm not too concerned with keeping these pristine.

Total: 93.57 USD.

The long handlebars did their job and kept the bike from laying on the frame and tank. The frame slider helped. The footpeg folded up and absorbed kinetic energy. I had added three washers to the mounting base to extend the peg out slightly, 1) to keep my heels off the exhaust pipe when riding, and 2) when the peg is folded up, it's still outboard enough to keep the exhaust pipe and muffler off the ground. I might try to design in some additional protection for the large clutch cover, perhaps something similar to the Yoshimura case savers. This is just another reason I prefer Street Fighters to full on race-replica Sport Bikes . . . It's like riding a giant BMX and there are no fairings to get destroyed!


The damage to my gear was pretty light, also. The rain on the ground meant less friction to tear my textile clothing. My pant's right pocket zipper broke off and the thigh got a little rashed; my vest got
the worst of it, with a ground down button and some cuts through the ripstop nylon material. I'll consider patching it, but I'll probably stitch it up with a needle and thread and call it a day. Gloves, as mentioned, are pretty thrashed, so they'll eventually be replaced. I'll probably start to keep an eye out for another vest, too, maybe something tactical based?


I re-aggravated an old wrist injury from Stockton Motorplex and bruised my right palm. I have some muscle soreness at the front of my right shoulder which feels like I tore something, and some small deep bruising of my upper right femur where it meets the hip socket. Actually, my whole body is a little stiff and sore, but these are the things that stand out. A little ibuprofen and I'll be good to go.


I'm satisfied with this crash. Not happy, but satisfied. The conditions were tricky (Devin and I walked the crash scene and ran our boots over the ground - SLIPPERY, with slush everywhere)! The crash-worthiness I built into my ride worked as I wanted it to, and I rode out (yeah, to *$'s, hahaha).

Street - 1
Liam - 0

I'm fine, the bike is fine (will be back to awesome by week's end, waiting on parts). Do I feel bad about crashing? Not really. I know from experience that the unexpected is bound to happen. I'm not perfect, but I try pretty hard to be the best that I can be. I'm proud I was out there in the first place, and maybe a little embarrassed that I didn't make it cleanly through the day. I do consider myself to be very lucky that the damage to myself or my bike wasn't worse. I'll have a few hours fabricating a new carbon fiber clutch cover guard to think about Why I Ride, and I'll keep this memory in the back of my mind to remind me to stay vigilant when the conditions are changing and nasty. Most importantly:


March 11, 2012

Era Extraña

This afternoon's listening; Era Extraña from Neon Lights. NPR wrote a nice little blurb here

Eras end above us
Eras end above us

I see the headlight halo
I see the headlight halo

Eras end above us
Eras end above us

I see the headlight halo
I see the headlight halo

March 10, 2012

what is love? pt. 1

I've been thinking about you lately, and what it means to Love. Not just the physical act, or the brain's chemical response, but the Power of Love and how it can transcend sheer "emotionality" in the human sense. These thoughts stem from a conversation I had in early January, wherein my friend proposed that "perhaps" we only get one chance at Love.

I tend to use the word Love liberally, bandying it about quite often, but only in my writings. Saying it is a completely different matter, and I haven't done so in a long time. "One chance at Love" is a line that stuck with me, resonating with something deep within my chest but also confusing my mind and sparking questions I hadn't previously considered (or if I had considered them, this challenged their validity that much more). I have always felt that the potential for Love, and to Love, was infinite - a bottomless well of power and energy that springs from the universe itself.

I think Love is a universal constant, the same as gravity. Does the Moon not love the Earth? Does the Earth not love the Sun? All these stellar bodies revolving around one another, sharing Love despite time and distance and space. But how does Love affect us humans, and do we have the capacity for Infinite Love? This is the crux of what was bothering me about my friend's assertion; that as humans, we get only one chance. We explored the subject further and about some aspects, I found myself agreeing.

Love - it is a powerful feeling that greatly impacts the parties involved. When Love strikes, when it embraces the heart and spirit, that individual is forever altered. Can New Love be found after (previous) Love has waned? The answer is undeniably yes, but there's a caveat. Can New Love affect the person with the same intensity and depth as the first great Love? Is there some form of mental and emotional scarring that occurs when Love is first introduced - like the pain of childbirth - that remains in place after Love is gone? The premise of the idea is that Love will leave a lasting and permanent impression on a person's spirit, by having expanded their heart and blowing their mind. Yes, a New Love can also achieve the same level of impact and intensity, but because of the previous Love, the emotional "high" isn't as great. The sine wave of Love, the highs and lows, don't hit and hold with the same strength because as a human, we have already experienced these things and "we're used to it". How can one be "used to Love"?!? The answer may be already out there, as many a mother will say that giving birth to their second child (though equally Loved), was not at difficult or painful, despite the same physical transformation and release.

My friend expounded upon his idea that there is only one time in a person's life where Love has such an impact, and all other Loves after this event are pale by comparison. I've spent the last two months or so thinking about this, over and over. Was there a grain of truth in my friend's statement, or was he completely correct? The optimistic side of me continually hopes that I will find someone who will change all my preconceptions about Love, but the pragmatic side of me believes that I have already experienced Love in its fullness, in all its glory and despair. Yes, I do believe that Love is different in every case, as each relationship between two people is completely unique and its own entity. People are distinctly unique. However, the ability to Love comes from a complete and whole heart, a sound mind and willing spirit, and these are all born from the same person (myself for example). I can't make any form of judgement and say one Love is better or worse than another Love, as both are technically Love which is beauty in all its forms. Can I supersede my previous limitations to Love, and become more than I already am, thereby giving myself the ability to give and receive Love that much more? Does Love grow in the emptiness of space, or is it a conversion of some other force, a transference of one emotion into another? The natural balance and order of things would be preserved here, as light grows darkness wanes, and vice versa.

I also believe that as humans we have an infinite capacity to learn and grow; that none of us are destined to be closed and shut off. Can one not grow to Love more? I keep thinking about limits, numbers, maximums and minimums, and all the other ways a person can describe potential and analyze it. Lovemetrics if you will. There is, obviously, no answer but that which our individual experiences will help us realize. I pray for better tomorrows, meaningful connections, and increased self-awareness, and I hope that all of these things will combine to help me realize my dream of a Great Love with which to live my life fully and completely. I was scared to be open for many, many years, but thanks to some of friends, I'm learning to be myself that much more, just as I'm growing to become that much more. I never want to stop learning, and thankfully, I continue to learn about myself - always and all ways.

Reining in the Rain; Dancing with Grace

I've been meaning to write about the rain for quite some time; how it affects me and its effects on the road. We've had such good weather lately, I haven't been able to get anything down!


As a rule, I don't like the rain. It always means more cleaning for me, as the tires on my bike kick up a lot of dirt and rocks, and I simply don't like how the moisture gets everywhere (sometimes into nooks and crannies that I can't easily clean). Rain can bring about odd and intermittent electrical problems by causing corrosion to form in the bike's connectors and ground paths, and it can chill you to the bone if you're not geared up correctly. I really don't like being wet unless I'm sitting on a longboard waiting for the next set to roll in, or in a warm bath/jacuzzi! There is something very special about surfing amidst the rain in Hawaii; warm water turned cool from the winds, and the rain drops appear to be jumping up out of the ocean. Very surreal and empty, an existentialist plane with a rolling, black-water spiked surface. Here in San Francisco, the rain usually brings dark skies and a natural depression that causes most to curl up with a warm, snuggly blanket and some soup. But . . . . it can be incredibly fun and challenging to ride in the rain, and the ability to do it well is truly an art. The connection between bike and rider becomes that much more tenuous, but can also be enhanced by the danger and treacherousness of the conditions, in part from to the increased focus necessary just to keep it on two. For this reason, I tend not to shy away from riding through the mountains when the rains are upon us. Riding through a storm is a natural way to test your physical and mental capabilities against the elements, to test the fortitude (and water-resistant designs) of your machinery, and to cry havok and unleash the power of your will upon the roads.

Riding in the rain is a challenge that doesn't have to be so intimidating if you've prepared your body and your machine. Familiarity with your bike and tires is your most important safety factor to consider when rain riding, and having a keen sense of self-preservation also helps . . . along with the knowledge that you've prepared yourself and your mount.


It's essential to have quality riding gear that works and doesn't distract you. I would love to try riding with an Aerostich suit, but from what I've seen, there's no provision for internal warmth, just instructions for layering. Gloves that are too tight can be a nightmare, putting extra strain on the thumb/forefinger area which is critical for maintaining proper control of the throttle and brakes - particularly crucial for riding in the rain smoothly. I mostly use my thumb/forefinger to roll on the gas, but depending on the situation, I sometimes use the outside of my palm (pinky side) to manipulate the throttle, and I ALWAYS ride with my middle finger covering the brake lever. It's also the only finger I use when braking. BTW, after riding with some Galfer HH compound front brake pads, I can report that the OEM Honda pads were superior in initial bite/feel and overall braking force. The OEM's are supposedly manufactured for Honda by EBC, and that will be my next braking experiment . . . . once I source some new monoblock calipers from an '08+ CBR (drops roughly 1 pound of unsprung weight from the front end, and it's a direct bolt on for the older '04-'07 CBR's).


I have a good set of kit for riding in all conditions. I typically wear a two piece Alpinestars Drystar jacket and pants combo, complete with internal armor, removable thermal liners, and a nearly 360 degree zippered connection (really handy in the Bay Area, because it does get into the 30's at night, and windchill becomes a serious factor at freeway speeds), an old set of Buell branded winter gloves (twice repaired), an Oakley vest that's filled with Primaloft, and a pair of wonderful Alpinestars waterproof "moon boots", which do a great job of keeping my feet warm. I switch between an Arai Corsair 5 and a Shoei Hornet DS helmet, depending on weather conditions and expected amount of freeway time (the Shoei really gets buffeted at 75mph+ because of the MX style visor), but every now and then I pull out my old Arai GT Tracker helmet, in the familiar red and white Motoliam paintscheme. The vest is probably my main piece of gear, because it zips up with a high collar to keep the wind off my throat, and it has numerous pockets (6 external, 1 internal) to hold a ton of gear inconspicuously (tools, pens, rubber gloves to use as glove liners in the event of a major storm). Mainly, though, I use it to hold my iPhone in the chest pocket, and the material is thin enough that I can easily adjust the volume of whatever music I'm listening to. Yes, gear-nazi's, I listen to music when I ride - but not at the racetrack. Speaking of music, I also use some oversize Sony earbuds with 13.5mm drivers (standard ear buds only have 9mm speakers . . . and I need the bass). Anyway, the vest is great because it easily fits over any riding jacket I happen to wear on the day, and even though it's a grey/black digital camo print, people still seem to be able to notice me. Just kidding, I ride as if I'm invisible most of the time, and my HID headlight is amazing at letting oncoming traffic know that I'm there. Enough about gear, it's all about the riding, right?

I tend to set my bikes up to perform in both the wet and the dry. Many people don't realize how crucial the physical connection points between the rider and the bike are for maintaining control. Grips need to be tactile, they need to work when they're covered with water, and they need to match your gloves so you can hold on and hang off at will without worry that A) they'll slide off the bars, and B) that your gloves will slide off the grips. Spongey grips always piss me off, because it's a millisecond longer to transfer rider input to the bars if you have to squeeze through them. I don't have large hands, so thick grips are also annoying to me, and I prefer the thinner rubber from Renthal in particular.


The dual compound Kevlar grips I'm currently using are the best I've come across to date, with a softer outer skin over a hard/durable casing that directly contacts the bars.


As for the footpegs, they need to grip the rubber soles of your boots and not feel mushy. I notice a lot of manufacturers will add rubber pads to their pegs to help isolate the rider from engine vibration, but if you can't grip the pegs with your feet in the wet, you've just lost 2 of the 5 contact points you have with the bike. I use hard anodized ergal pegs with deep knurling that's sharp and aggressive. It grips the boots well, but when the boots are wet, they're noticeably "less grippy". The least important connection point (for me at least), is the seat. When the going gets rough, the seat is the last place I want to be (static on the bike) because I hustle around (like a monkey) always trying to get my body into the proper position so the suspension can work at its best. Motocross bikes usually have a nice, tacky surface that works at keeping the rider planted under all conditions, but it's generally not very comfortable for day to day riding because there's less "wiggle-factor" and some people report that they're susceptible to chafing if they're stuck to the seat for long periods of time. Never forget, the rider is the most important part of the bike's suspension - what you do with your body affects every aspect of the riding experience, and your legs/core are the best shock absorbers you have. Note the dirty rearsets on my bike, from the excessive amount of cable lubricant I used on my clutch cable (which then spritzed out onto my boot, haha).


Rain riding can be categorized into 2 scenarios - good rain rides, and shitty rain rides. Good rain rides take place when there's constant rain falling, or enough precipitation on the roads for standing water to gather. This is when the roads are clean and wet and it's simply adding another (relatively "concrete") element to the equation of rubber tires and tarmac. Shitty rain rides occur when there has been a light mist of rain, and the roads are slick with dirt and oil and generally have a half/half condition of water/semi-dry surface. If you ever watch the GP practices, you'll notice that there aren't a lot of riders who go out and push in semi-wet conditions. This is because there's not a lot of information to gather about how the bike works in the semi-wet, and it's a matter of tip-toeing around trying not to fall on a slippery track if they're running slicks or semi-slicks. Real rain tires won't last long on a dry or drying track because they're ridiculously soft. However, there is a lot of information that can be gathered in a full-on rain condition with rain tires. This is when the rider can learn the absolute limit that he/she can push the bike and how much the rain tires will let them get away with. I feel the same when it comes to riding in the rain here in SF. While I will ride in semi-wet conditions, I don't explore the limits because it's an exercise of pure survival. The cold exacerbates this, because it chills the hands and fingers and can lead to black ice in the dark corners of the mountains. What I do like is when it's actually raining, or better yet, storming. The roads are swept clear of the dirt and scum build-up, the oil that puddles in the middle of the lanes, and every other piece of garbage that collects from all the litterers out there.


From my facebook page, "There is nothing quite so invigorating, so challenging, and so life-affirming as a night time storm ride. It's black out; slippery, tense, cold, wet, delicate and gentle. It requires absolute faith in man and machine and angels while fingertips dance lightly across the controls. I would gladly race Endurance in these conditions." I should add, "There's nothing so humbling as riding through a storm".

I had just returned home from a super stormy (and windy!) ride that I wasn't quite expecting. I had visited a friend's place in downtown to work on a 1951 Honda CB77, and didn't realize that rains were predicted. This meant a nasty ride back in jeans and a light jacket . . . and nothing humbles you more than being caught out in the rain, the winds on 280 threatening to throw you off the overpasses, water seeping past your pantlegs and running down your socks (into your "waterproof" boots!). Two seconds into the ride, my smile grew and I was loving it - I felt just like a kid again.


Managed to get some shots of the transmission rebuild, as well.


Every time I look at my hands I see my mother's skin and the same knuckles, wrinkles, patterns, spots and weathering.


Thank you for giving me the courage to act fearless in the face of impending doom, Mom! But seriously, I owe a huge debt to my mother, for teaching me to follow my heart and my dreams, and believe in myself.


I feel so alive when I'm riding a bike in the rain. I feel like I'm challenging more than myself. I love how "fluid" everything becomes, and how much more focus I seem to put into riding. I love intimately knowing the fear before every corner, of not trusting the road because there are dangers unseen. I love the trust I have to put into my equipment, and I love knowing that every twist and turn completed is a victory, however small. In the city, there are manhole covers, train tracks, potholes filled with water, and everything becomes a shiny black question mark, especially in the dark. In the mountains, the traction is reduced and certain areas become even more tricky because of the moss/algae build up that happens under the trees, in the parts where the sunlight doesn't often shine. I love feeling the rain striking my body and my helmet, accentuating the wind and putting me on notice that the Elements are out there - and that I'm at their mercy. Rain soaked wind hits even harder!

Is it sheer bravado that makes me enjoy riding in even more dangerous conditions; that macho feeling that comes from knowing that most "fair-weather" bikers won't be getting their mounts out of the garage? Somewhat, yes. I simply enjoy knowing that I'm a more complete motorcyclist than most. I have ridden most forms of motorcycles from harley's and hard tails, to sportbikes, mini-bikes, dirtbikes and super-moto's, and in almost all conditions (save for snow - I have ridden frozen roads with snow on the sides, but never through snow itself). I encourage all of you to try riding different motorbikes as much as you can! There is no greater education than riding in mixed traction conditions.

I love how the dance changes when I'm riding in the rain. I love the interaction between the tires and the road. I feel like I'm skating when the wheels are cutting swathes through the corners, delicate and precise, vigilant for slides, almost holding my breath until I'm back upright and in a straight line. I have lost the rear on 84 (Woodside Rd), resulting a full lock slide that nearly had me on my head. Luckily, I just relaxed, stayed on the gas, and let the tires regain traction as I stood the bike a little more upright. Not to say it wasn't an "oh shit" moment - my left foot (inside leg) came completely off the peg. This is important to note: relax when you're riding. There's never been any good to come out of being tense and stiff on a motorcycle. In most cases, the bike will correct itself and keep going as long as the rider doesn't give it the wrong commands, like chopping the throttle when the rider is scared. And whatever you do, don't ever give it the full stick when the roads are slippery. It's very possible to crash when you're going perfectly straight (ask me how I know, hahaha).

I've always likened riding a motorcycle to surfing on two wheels. For me, the sensations are so similar, and the control aspects are in line with one another. Balance and arcs of cornering. "The Drop" - falling down the face of a wave - is just like the initiation of a hard corner, then your knee skimming the asphalt mere seconds after braking, just like digging a hand into the face of a wave to help pull an even tighter turn, or to reduce speed to pull into a barrel. Suffice it to say, I'm probably a better biker than I am a surfer these days, but some skills your body doesn't forget. Muscle memory is a wonderful thing.

And so here we are in March, almost ready for summer, but always aware that the rains are coming. There's a hint of sadness when the clouds roll in; ominous and foreboding. Strength of spirit and character goads me into stretching my limits, tests my desire to stay inside and hidden from the world, and asks me to rise up and face the streets. I will answer this request, with grace, gratitude, and a familiar feeling - and maybe, just maybe, I'll be reigning in the rain!

hahaha, and then it started raining just after I posted this and rode home!

March 02, 2012

Thoughts on Women and Food; Consummate Consumables?

What can be so honest as a kiss; eyes closed, touching, feeling, exploring, open and vulnerable, exposed, aroused, curious, deft and teasing, heavy, the savoring of another.

Air - Moon Fever, video from '63, Andy Warhol's "Kiss".

Writing, how I have missed you. The self-imposed sense of deadlines and deliverables, this need to put something down and communicate in a way that uses neither my voice or body language, these thoughts floating 'round in my head are finalized into bits and pixels and expressed digitally. This is my new song.

I remember how much joy I would receive when I knew that people were actually reading what I wrote, with interest! It was a pleasure to be able to share my experiences and observations, my travels and travails. And then I stopped.

As I mentioned in the podcast (previous blog post), I was a bit ashamed of not being on the circuit anymore once I'd moved back to San Francisco. After writing about multi-million dollar prototype racing bikes, who would want to read about old '90's bikes coming out of a little garage?

I was, however, very, very happy and proud to be living back in the USA with people I cared very much about - but the trivialities of daily life weren't suitable to write about, or so I thought. I wanted to guard my privacy, and the privacy of my household, and just live. I was tired of the traveling, and the toll that the distances and stresses had imparted was significant. So tired. And thus, I slept. I put my mind to rest for more than a year, just existing, feeling out my heart and learning to put away all the bad habits I'd reveled in while living overseas, out of bounds, without laws and boundaries. I wasn't completely successful - not by a long shot - as certain temptations proved to be too sweet and I "relapsed". It has taken me more than 15 months to begin to feel like myself again, but a new me, and one that I'm prouder to be. In that time, I have grown lonelier, grown inwardly, and grown far more spiritually than I had anticipated.

We all make choices, some for the better and some for worse, but it is in the act of choosing that we define ourselves. I know this sounds like a overly used cliche, but if I could have known then what I know now . . . .

And so, I have begun to wake up! To re-start my life, realize my ambitions, and begin pushing again. I can count great moments in my life on the fingers of a hand; when I knew without doubt that I was making the right decision; a bold decision, a life-altering decision. Fortune DOES favor the bold, and I think I'd learned to become mortal again, once I'd left MotoGP. I came back to SF. I lived quietly. I started to despise drinking, despite some very big nights and weekends. Actually, it wasn't just drinking that displeased me, but rather the culture and complacency of those involved with the drinking culture here in the city. How easy it is to just sit, night after night, in a bar or pub, and just "hang out". Drink after drink to blunt the pain of daily life. I found myself at odds with my life at one point; wanting so much to feel all the magic and joy of being somewhere else, of being someone else. I re-invented myself again. I stopped visiting the bars, I said goodnight to the nightlife. Life was more peaceful then, and for the first time in years, I could taste home cooking. I cooked, she cooked, the feasts we created were magnificent and I have nothing to compare them to, even today.

I knew I needed to change who I was, and by this I mean, I needed to change my actions and the reasons behind why I did what I did. I wasn't even aware that I needed to do this, just that something was "off" and I needed a big change. Previously in my life, I had this feeling in the summer of 2005, shortly before I was to leave for Europe. I had been dating a wonderful woman, and the relationship was good, but I wasn't. Even now I have difficulty thinking about it, but it is one of 2 times in my life that I have split up with someone when the relationship was working and there were no outstanding issues or problems. I felt that I wasn't ready - and it wasn't some fear of commitment or capability to care for my partner that made me feel this way, it was because I sensed that I needed to do more with my life, to prove to myself that I was capable of achieving great things in real life, because obviously, schooling wasn't my strong suit, haha. I left the US on a hope and a prayer, and thankfully, things worked out. I grew quickly; learning enough Spanish and Italian to merge with my team mates and we became a traveling family. I learned about racing at the top level, what the bikes need to be competitive, and moreso, what a person needs to be competitive. I grew too much, too fast. My ego went through the roof, and while I tried to remain grounded by writing about my life, and trying to capture how special and unique it was, I succumbed to the "aura" of MotoGP and began envisioning that somehow I was greater than the sum of my life. In hindsight, it was one of the most fantastic adventures I've ever taken part of, but there is more to life than just racing . . .

I had this same feeling again in the winter of 2010 - the winter of my discontent. I knew a change needed to be made, but I wasn't sure what it was. I separated from my partner at this time, and I look back with questions I don't know if I should ask. What is best for two people? It was the first time I have been truly honest with someone in my adult life, and the tidal wave of information that gushed from my mind would have a profound impact in how I would lead the rest of my life. No secrets, no hidden channels and pathways. I am not sure why this hadn't occurred to me before (previously, I always felt like I was playing a part or a role, fulfilling or exceeding someone's expectations, and no more). I hadn't felt complete, except in the presence of a woman. I hadn't really thought about it until the last few weeks, when I'd just begun to write again. Simple words, documenting words, about my motorcycle. But it started the gears turning in my mind and they creaked to life ever faster and more furiously.

I have always viewed myself as incomplete without a partner, and I instinctively rate/value myself based on the image of that partner. Every one of my previous girlfriends has been stunning in some way, be it through their intelligence, beauty, and charisma. I have never dated someone whom I would consider to be unattractive, and as I become older and more wrinkled, I find myself questioning the validity of my choices that much more. I have found more beauty sitting quietly beside someone and being able to openly express myself than in any bedroom setting. I begin to realize that expression and chemistry are the key elements between two people. I dated an incredible woman last year that helped me to realize what honestly is, and who accepted me for all my flaws. We were able to say anything, any time, and it wasn't about playing tit for tat, or bantering back and forth simply for the sake of "being right". It was unique in my life, because I wasn't playing to be her special someone. I just wasn't playing anymore. Our friendship flourished and we spent one or two evenings a week just hanging out, and being regular people with normal lives, sharing work day stresses and stories, and sharing time with her family. In only the second time in my life, I ended a relationship that had zero issues and no apparent problems. I began to realize that while our friendship was profound, I wanted more in my life and it would not be fair for me to seek this out while she was in tow. While she had developed feelings for me, I was unable to return them to the fullest extent, and this imbalance wasn't right. I knew again that I was about to go through another metamorphosis; to become more than I was before. The path to being a good person hasn't always been easy for me, but I've found that those I hold dear are good people, and they in turn inspire me to be more than I was. I am thankful for everyone that has been in my life, good and bad, because of the wisdom they have imparted (whether I was conscious to receive it or not).

Which brings me to good food. I love food. I love the act of eating food (and I love watching women eat food, particularly if I cooked it!). I remember certain dishes more than others, and ironically, the dishes I remember most I don't even know how to spell or cook. There was always some mystery about them, some foreign flavor and distant memory associated with them. I always felt like I had had them before, maybe in another lifetime, because my mother had never cooked them when I was growing up. Women have come and gone from my life, and so has their cooking. I suppose at some point, I could learn how to replicate the dishes that I love, but that would remove a very large part of their magic, and might even damage the kind memories I have of those eras and the people I shared those meals with. I often use this example to explain to people what it was like working in MotoGP. "When I was younger, I used to listen to Jimi Hendrix and dream about being as accomplished a musician as him. Then I taught myself to play guitar, and I began to learn some Jimi songs. Soon enough I was playing his music, but the magic was gone. I had begun to understand the notes and music so intimately that there was no mystery, no magic anymore." It is the same with food.

Last year I began to see my life in a new light, and all this newness took some getting used to! I'm still not used to it, but that doesn't stop me from trying hard. My perspectives started to flow into more aspects of my life. Honesty, brutal as can be, started permeating my creative process. My bike is a perfect example: It is open for the world to see, plain and simple from the outside, but filled with a myriad of details that would be difficult to spot in one viewing. Ever more complexity abounds within, and even this is simple and plain once laid bare. I didn't just wrap up the wiring harness, I stripped it down to its essentials, lengthening here and there, shortening when possible, and all the while it is pure. My bike is pure. It is as honest and fresh an example of my love for riding through the mountains as I can envision and produce. It runs with vigor, it is polarizing, it is nimble, and it gives me new legs and fast feet to run with the best and push. I have never been able to wear a front tire down to its edge until now, and I've never been able to run down a bunch of 690's and 625 SMC before (sorry Sumo dudes, Pescadero and Alpine are what this bike was tuned for). I'm starting to find that I love living again, not just surviving. Passion is growing within me, and it feels good to be open about it. I know I'm rambling on and on, but I have always maintained that there is purity of purpose when passion is acted upon quickly. Time distances us from emotion and feeling. I miss certain things in my life, people and places. Music has remained a constant. Here are some tracks I've listened to recently:

^^^^ This song actually got me to bust out the ole 'gitar and bang out some chords. Might record an interesting version of my own (really, really like the original). Bonus: Homemade Piano version here on Soundcloud

And finally, a picture of Thit Kho! I'm looking for this in San Francisco! If any of you know a restaurant that makes it (or "deh-jew stew" - yes, I know the spelling is wrong) please email me!

Photo by Tramanh

Peace, and chicken grease!