SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher
Is it just me, or is february the most challenging month for most motorcycle riders? Daytona Bike Week is still a month away. By now most of us Northerners have parked our bikes for the winter, and we’re itching to get back on the road. I know I am. In the meantime, if we’re lucky enough to have a heated garage or shed, we can spin wrenches and dream about spring riding.
I consider myself fortunate to have a heated work space that can hold several motorcycles and projects. No matter how many hours I spend in the garage wrenching during the riding season, I never seem to get far enough down my “to-do” list.
I’m not complaining as this is my passion, but sometimes I need to stop what I’m doing, step back from the workbench, take a deep breath, and reprioritize my winter projects. Know what I mean?
Entry-Level Motorcycle Choices
Most riders probably didn’t start their riding days aboard Harleys or Indians. Many of us had our first motorcycle experiences on small-displacement imports. Perhaps on a Honda, Triumph, Cushman, Hodaka, or Ducati. Most likely those bikes had single-cylinder engines that we had to kickstart before we could ride.
Anyone interested in an American entry level or “learner’s bike” in the last decade or so has not had many choices other than the short-lived Buell Blast and a few others. So what do you do when your friend, kid, or neighbor tells you he wants to learn to ride? Few of us want to loan our pride and joy to someone who’s never ridden a motorcycle before. Too many things to go wrong, especially on a full-size bike.
It appears that the big American manufacturers recognized the need of entry-level models and have been hard at work expanding new-rider options. Harley started with the Sportster Low models a couple of years ago, before adding the 500 and 750 Street models. Indian came out with the Scout about a year ago, and recently unveiled the new 2016 Scout Sixty (see Dain’s ride review on page 72), and now rumors are stirring that Victory has a small-displacement entry-level bike in the works. Good news indeed!
One of the most exciting and lethal forms of motorcycle racing was boardtrack racing, popular more than a century ago. Those daredevils would race around crudely built wooden boardtracks at speeds over 100 mph. OK, so that doesn’t sound so fast when compared to fast street bikes today. But consider that those early rigid-framed race bikes didn’t have brakes, clutches, transmissions, or more than an inch of fork travel. Basically, a boardtracker was little more than a fire-belching engine stuffed into a bicycle frame.
If this sounds like fun to you, plan to join a handful of moto-loonies at the new Sons of Speed event. Billy Lane, the mastermind behind this madness, is handcrafting less than a dozen similar boardtrack race bikes with various 1000cc antique motorcycle engines to be raced at the New Smyrna Speedway just south of Daytona Beach. We (yes, I will be piloting a Harley-powered race bike) have practice scheduled on Friday, March 11, with racing on the docket the following day. Keep your fingers crossed and wish us all luck. I’m still trying to figure out how on earth I got wrangled into this madness. Maybe it has something to do with these long, cold winter months.
Ride safe, ride smart, have fun.
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