Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Racer Notes - Privateer's Garage = Great Customer Service

Yesterday I had a brief exchange of e-mails with the guys at Privateer's Garage about a few things I needed for the Buell 1125R race bike. I'd seen the Woodcraft front stand, and the Woodcraft site specifically said their stand would work on my bike.

I asked the guys at Privateers for a quote, and got one back in minutes. Kyle also let me know he could get me the Vortex front stand for the same price, and why he liked the Vortex stand.

I thanked Kyle for his help, and let him know I'd take his advice and go with the Vortex stand.

This afternoon, I got an e-mail letting me know my new Vortex stand had been delivered to Privateer's Garage and was ready for pickup any time.

Now that's good customer service. No, wait- it's great customer service. That's how a new business makes it in a tough economy. I wish every town had a shop like Privateer's Garage, and I'm not shy letting people know when a business treats me right.

Total cost to race thus far:
Race bike (Buell 1125R) $6.500.00
Vortex Front Paddock Stand (incl. tax): 173.99
Total so Far: $6,673.99
Number of races run: 0

Do you know a local business that deserves recognition? Let everyone know by leaving a comment below.

Monday, December 28, 2009

New Racer Notes - The Bike Is Just A Start

As I prepare for my foray into motorcycle racing, it's become crystal clear to me that the race bike was just first of all the equipment I'm going to need (and pay for) before I even hit the track for my first race.

Forget about the cosmetics at this point. The bike needs new race tires. After I buy and mount those tires, they're going to need tire warmers. And a generator to supply electricity for those tires. And an air compressor or air tank to fill them.

I'm also going to need more equipment, like a back protector.

I figured out that the max tongue load of my Jeep won't allow me to load the bike into a carrier on the trailer hitch, so I'm going to have to borrow Matt's F-150 for race weekends, and I'll need a ramp to get that bike on/off the truck.

I'll need spare parts in case something breaks while I'm on the track, so add the cost of spare shift levers, brake levers, brake pads, etc.

I asked good folks at BadWeatherBikers.Com what they recommend for a typical track day. Here are a few responses:

Gearhead recommended:
Raceday Check-off List
Bike w/key - Put the key in the bike after you load it so you don't forget it!!!!
Tie-down strap box -
Fuel can - 5 gallons
Radio - some tracks use an FM signal to broadcast 1st & 2nd calls plus other info
Clock - more important than you'd think!
Under Armor - I forgot to pack mine once, I was very uncomfortable the whole day in my leathers
Generator & key - Don't laugh, I drove clear up to Road America last year only to discover I'd left the Gen key at home
Yellow & black drop cords - for tire warmers
Helmet w/both visors - unless you wear sunglasses under your helmet, have a smoked and a clear visor
Tire warmers
Spare tire & jack - for trailer
(3) Chairs
Cooler / water
Work carpet - easier on your knees than knealing on asphalt when check tire pressures, etc.
Buell Racing banner - REPRESENT!!
Box of Rags
Extra brake pads
Pit Bull stands
Bicycle - I always take my mountain bike, lots easier to get around than walking everywhere
Buell tool kit
1/2 drive breaker bar
Axle nut
Firebolt manual
T-27 Wrench
Big allen wrench for rear axle pinch bolt
Race tool box
T-27 Screwdriver
Safety wire & pliers
Torx hex set
2 qts. - AmsOil 20/50
Allen head set
Pint of synthetic brake fluid
Air pressure gauge
Pocket knife
22mm wrench
(2) pliers
22mm 1/2 drive socket
(2) Adjustable wrenches
(3) straight screwdrivers
Air tank
Electrical tape
Duck tape
Side cutters
1/2 torque wrench
Notepad and pens
Race log notebook
Clutch lever
Brake lever
Shifter assembly

PatrickMitchell's list was even longer:
Keys to your bike
Extra $$
Trailer or Ramp
Tie Downs or other way to secure your bike during transport
Locks- To secure your bike from theft if left outside at night
Free standing canopy- 10x10 minimum
Front and rear stands
Folding Table/s
Paper towels
Cloth Towels - Large & Small
Distilled Water
RedlineWater Wetter
Chain lube
Chain Cleaner
Axel Grease
Brake Cleaner
Brake Fluid
Gas - 5 to 10 Gallons
Keys To Bike
Food/snacks - You will get hungry
Drinks- Water/Gatorade etc... No Alcohol
Shaded/Clear Helmet Visors
Gauntlet Riding Gloves
Riding Boots
Leathers - One or Two Piece (2 Piece must zip together)
Back Protector - If required...Good Idea even if not required
Chest Protector - If required...Good Idea even if not required
Under garments - Something like UnderArmor for under your leathers
Change of clothes
Wet Ones towelettes
Hand sanitizer
Chap Stick
Garbage bags
Paper Plates
Plastic Utensils
Tent - If camping
Sleeping bag - If camping
Blow up mattress & Pump - If camping
Wife/Girlfriend to take Pictures
Riding Forms if not provided at Track
Service manual
Keys to Bike
Spares - Wheels, Levers, Rearsets, Tires...etc...
Tire Warmers - If Used/Required According to Tires
Lap timer - If you have one
Tools-Including but not limited to:
Misc Screwdrivers
Sockets & Rachets - 1/2 in, 3/4 in & 1/4 in
Torque wrench
Allen (Hex Head) wrenches/sockets
Torx Sockets (Star Headed Sockets)
Safety Wire
Wire Cutters
Safety Wire Pliers
Zip Ties
Duct Tape
Cordless Drill
Drill Bits
Lock Tite
Valve Stem Tool
Air gauge
Electrical tape
Wire brush
Small diameter rope/String
Double Face Tape
Air Tank
Hanging or Free Standing Light
Rubber Mallet
Extension cord/s - If track has power outlets
Generator - If track does NOT have power
Power Strip
Battery Tender

I've got a sinking feeling I should have bought a less expensive motorcycle to use on the track.

Total cost to race thus far:
Race bike (Buell 1125R) $6.500.00
Number of races run: 0

If you race, I'd be very interested in reading what you bring to the track. Please leave your comments and suggestions below!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Another Step Towards Racing - The Buell Racebike

There it is.

Kindly delivered this afternoon by Shawn Higbee himself. Now it's my track bike. Used at the Daytona 200, the bike had a couple of impromptu body mods done at New Jersey Motorsports Park, so it's not a picture-perfect bike, but it's the more than enough to start racing locally.

Yes, it likely would have been smarter to start in the 250cc class at Willow Springs Motorcycle Club events, then work up to the bigger bikes, but my Buell prejudice is showing. I didn't just want to race. I want to race Buells.

I've always looked to get the best equipment, whether it was sports, military gear or IT equipment. Now without equipment as an excuse, I've got to develope the skills to match the bike.

It's going to be fun!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

2010 Is All About Racing

With Erik Buell's focus on racing and race bikes, I thought it was appropriate to refocus the SoCal Buell Rider's Club on racing and track days.

I've updated our calendar to show track days at Willow Springs, Chuckwalla and AutoClub Raceway.

The gang at Privateer's Garage are excited, as well, and looking forward to helping us get our bikes track-ready.

I'm still in the process of finding that track-only bike, and will update as soon as there's news on that front.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Separated at birth?

Ok, it's not Buell related, and I'm not the first one to notice, but... are the Honda VFR and Cylon centurions long-lost brothers?

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Death of Privateer Racing?

I've tried to give DMG the benefit of the doubt. I really have, but their recently announced changes for the 2010 season are the end of it.

First off, Moto-GT is gone. Forget about it. No more.

In American Superbike, the purse is only paid for 1st ($3,500), 2nd ($2,000) and 3rd ($1,000) place finishes, based on the entire weekend, not for each race. If you and your team come in 4th place- tough. You get bupkus.

The picture is a little better for Daytona class, with bigger payouts (five, three and two-thousand for 1st, 2nd and 3rd) and payouts go deeper, with 4th through 10th places getting $1,500 and 11-20th places getting a thousand bucks each.

SuperSport class will pay $1500 for a 1st place finish, $1,000 for second and $500 for third through 10th.

Now think about this. How much would you have to spend to transport your bike(s) to an AMA race, pay for hotel room(s), food, gas, tires etc for each weekend of racing? Could you pay a mortgage or rent and support a family? Likely not.

DMGs new rules spell the end of the professional privateer.

Maybe it's time for something along the lines of the rodeo model. AMA ProRodeo sanctions rodeos put on by local rodeo producers and keep tabs of points totals. Purses are determined and paid out by the local rodeo and riders choose which ones to go to. You want bigger names are your rodeo, you put up a bigger purse. The result is a lot more rodeos, from small, locals-only rodeos where a new guy can get a little experience, to the bigger, more well-known rodeos that attract the top 15.

In southern California alone, we could have races at Willow Springs, Chuckwalla, Auto Club speedway and Las Vegas. Travel a little further and you can add Laguna Seca, perhaps Infineon.

If racing means anything to the manufacturers, they're going to have to get in the game with sponsorship money and use it to help shape motorcycle racing in the USA into something worth watching.

More on this topic at the sites below:
Hell for Leather
RoadRacing World
Superbike Planet (incidentally, never a friend of Buells)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Rider's Review: Arai Corsair V Helmet

I've been using the Arai Corsair V for several months now, so I'm ready to share my impressions.

I bought the Arai Corsair V from SportBikeTrackGear.Com for a little over $700. It's not an inexspensive helmet, by any means, but I've always believed in buying the best safety gear you can afford. I got the solid black model and promptly had it custom painted.

Innovations on this helmet include a slightly larger front opening. Five millemeters on each side doesn't sound like a whole lot, but I can tell you it makes a big difference when you do a head check before a lane change.

It also has cheekpads with high-viz orange pull tabs to allow paramedics to remove them to faciliate safe helmet removal in case of an injury accident. A great idea, but I do find the pull tabs tend to fall out despite my best efforts to tuck them in securely. Not a huge deal, as they're small.

Another new feature is the small, adjustable winglet at the back of the helmet. It's meant to reduce drag and keep the rider from tiring, but I have to confess, I don't notice much difference.

The helmet is light, and the shape is a little shorter front-to-back than on any of my other helmets. It's the only one I have where I can actually kiss the inside of the helmet. Putting it on can be a bit difficult, and I find once it's on, I have to reach in past the cheekpads to rescue my ears from being folded in there. Once that's taken care of, the helmet fits snugly, as it should.

Ventilation is very good, with two brow intakes on the face shield, one in front of the mouth, two more intakes at the top of the helmet, and four exit ports to the rear. The downside to all that airflow is a little more noise. The helmet does include a pull-down chin spoiler that's supposed to reduce the low-frequency noise from air rushing past the opening at the bottom of the helmet, but I still think ear plugs are needed for this helmet.

The helmet came with two shields, one clear and one tinted. The shields can be removed and replaced without tools, but I found the process to be a bit tedious, and wound up leaving the tinted shield on and only using the helmet for daylight rides. I imagine with practice and patience, interchanging the face shield might come more easily.

The Arai Corsair V is supposed to be a pro-level helmet, and may be designed for use at the high speeds pros reach on the track. The latest addition to the Arai family, the RX-Q, is similar to the Corsair V, but with wider vents and some slight changes to the contours that are supposed to make it more suitable for road (rather than track) use. It also has a larger bottom opening designed to make it easier to put on/off. My ears might appreciate that. The RX-Q is also a much less expensive helmet, starting at $300 less than the Corsair V.

Bottom line, it's a good helmet, but unless you really intend to use it on the track frequently, the Arai RX-Q would likely be a better buy.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Next Chapter

As a Buell fan, it's likely you already know Erik Buell is leaving Harley-Davidson to work at Erik Buell Racing, where he'll concentrate on what had become the focus of Buell Motorcycles- racing.

The official announcement says "Erik Buell Racing will specialize in the supply of race-use-only Buell motorcycle parts and race preparation services for engines and motorcycles, and the building and sale of Buell® 1125R-based race-use-only motorcycles under license from Harley-Davidson, as well as providing technical support to racers of Buell motorcycles."

How many teams will stay loyal to Buell bikes remains to be seen. Richie Morris Racing has already announced that Danny Eslick will ride a Suzuki GSX-R for the 2010 AMA season.

I've been monitoring the resale prices for 1125Rs and it seems the bargains have been snapped up, and anything below five thousand miles is selling in the $7,000 range. That's a lot for an amateur looking to pick up a track-only bike, but I'm hopeful prices will go lower in the future.

The SoCal Buell Riders club is looking into arranging Buell trackdays. If you've never raced, or never ridden a track, but are interested, please let us know at Info@SoCalBuellRiders.Com

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Buell - Buy, Sell, or Hold?

It's been a little more than a month since the closure of Buell Motorcycles was announced, so we've had some time for the dust to settle.

Just after the closure announcement, some Harley-Davidson dealerships began dumping Buell inventory. Sites like BadWeb, craigslist, etc were rife with posts of unbelievable bargains. There was also a lot of talk about the incentives that were offered to the dealerships for each Buell sale. Sales by owners of Buells also seemed to jump for a while, likely from riders worried about parts and support for their Buells, but a lot of the prices seemed to indicate something else- speculation.

Ebay postings also showed more listings for rarer Buell models. With only 50 XBRRs produced, at one point, I think I saw three of them for sale. Bison, Hals HD, Laconia and San Diego Harley were all selling their XBRRs. I also saw listings for RS1200s.

So is it time to buy, sell, or hold? I think the answer depends on who you are and what your motives are.

If you've got one of the rarer models and you never ride, it might be a good time to sell. The initial scramble is over, but collectors and enthusiasts are still looking for bikes to add to their stables. Just don't expect sky-high prices.

If you don't have a Buell, there are good bargains out there. But you can always find a good deal on a Buell. I'm no longer surprised at the number of low mileage Buells I see for sale. I guess people buy the biggest bike they can (whether or not they can afford it), then quickly find that a sportbike just isn't right for them. Don't be in a rush to buy the first Buell you find. Take your time, see what's out there. Visit several sites and dealerships. Good deals can often be found at non-Harley dealerships. A BMW dealer who takes a Buell in on trade may be more inclined to want it off their showroom floor than your local HD dealership.

If you do own a Buell and you ride, don't panic. There will be parts available for the vital components of the XB and tuber bikes for a long, long time. 1125R and CRs will also find support and parts probably past the time you're ready to trade your bike in for something else. If you enjoy your Buell, as I do, ride it hard, and have fun!

After posting this, I came across another article on the same question. And I have to admit, the analysis is better than mine. Enjoy it at AsphaltAndRubber.Com - The Good, Bad, And Ugly of the Used Buell Market

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Buell Barracuda - The Buell that never was

What you're looking at is a photo making the rounds of the internet of what appears to be a new Buell model that will never see production, thanks to H-D pulling the plug.

I remember talking with some people at Buell (including Erik) who dropped hints of something really great to come in 2010. Now it appears we know what that would have been.

Though clearly based on the 1125R, some refinements are clear. There's a more angular look to the opening in the upper fairing. The radiators are faired with nice, trapezoidal openings that look great. The seat/tail is just plain sexy. Looking at the front wheel you can see the ZTL braking system, but the spokes appear to have been milled to remove additional material from the center of each spoke, leaving a triangular opening. An all-around great-looking machine.

Those in the know say the Barracuda had a 1199cc Rotax engine, qualifying for WSBK, chain-drive and was lighter all around than the 1125R. The wheels in particular were said to be extremely light and strong, a clear refinement of the Buell philosophy of low unsprung weight.

I'm sorry I'll never get the chance to ride the Barracuda, and wonder if there are any shops out there who'll take inspiration from this to build one from a stock 1125R.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Does Zero Motorcycles just not get it?

Recently a photo taken at a demo by Zero Motorcycles came to my attention. Here it is:

I've been considering buying an electric motorcycle to add to the stable, and had it narrowed down between Brammo and Zero, but after seeing that, I think Zero is out of the question.

Why would the folks at Zero think that was a good thing to put on a demonstration machine? Did they not think it might offend some potential buyers, or did they just not care?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

My Letter to the CBS Evening News

Erik Buell started building motorcycles in a dairy barn in Mukwonago, Wisconsin. Since 1983 he grew Buell Motorcycle Company into the only American Sportbike company, built more than one-hundred thousand Buell motorcyles, and gained a passionate following among people who ride Buells. I'm one of those fans.

In September, Danny Eslick won the 2009 American Motorcycle Association Daytona Sportbike championship riding a Buell, proving that a small American Company with only 300 employees could compete with the big motorcycle companies and win.

In October, Harley-Davidson, who bought Buell, announced it was shutting it down and discontinuing the brand.

A lesser man would have crumbled or turned bitter. Erik Buell did not. He thanked his loyal Buell riders in a video released the day of the announcement (http://www.buell.com/en_us/company/). This week, many Buell owners took a "Last Ride" to the Buell factory in East Troy, Wisonsin to bid goodbye, and Erik Buell was on hand (See the Fox news report on this ride at http://www.fox6now.com/videobeta/watch/?watch=7feec448-49b4-4fdf-9168-767c6e812f4f&src=front ).

Take a look at the loyalty his riders have for him, for the people who worked at the factory, and for the bikes themselves by reading the comments on their facebook pages - http://www.facebook.com/buell and http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1669824900&ref=nf

Erik Buell is a man who started with a dream, saw it become a reality, lose it to the current downturn, but still vows to move on in the spirit of innovation and "can do." I think this sort of determination exemplifies the American Spirit, and I hope you'll agree and feature him in an episode of The American Spirit on the CBS evening news.



So what do you think? If, like me, you think Erik Buell exemplifies The American Spirit, let the CBS Evening News know by writing them at theamericanspirit@cbsnews.com

Saturday, October 3, 2009

We are not a social club.

The point of owning a motorcycle is to ride. The point of a sportbike is to ride quickly, preferably along a challenging course. So what's with these bike clubs that seem to mainly live in parking lots?

Their whole point seems to be to ride from one parking lot to another parking lot, traveling in two parallel rows along a highway, so they can admire each others' bikes and swap chrome stories, I guess.

Those bikes aren't sports equipment. They're accessories. They're big fringed handbags. They put-put serenely from one parking lot to another. "Hurray, we made it!" they cheer. They may as well be doing it on Lark scooters. With tassels.

I briefly joined another sportbike club here in San Diego, but very few of their events had anything to do with riding sportbikes. They met at bars, sports bars, hookah bars, whatever those are. Sadly, and probably not coincidentally, that club of three-hundred members has had three fatalities in the past year.

I know there are people who joined SoCal Buell Riders to make friends and enhance their social life. They joined and have never yet come on a ride with us. Not one. I guess we're not riding to the right parking lot for them.

So let me lay it out plain and simple: We are not a social club.

If you want tea and biscuits with the girls, this is not the club for you. Talk to those guys over there with the fringed handbags with the big chrome skulls. But if you want to ride, welcome to the pack.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The sky is not falling at Buell

Buell just announced a two month shutdown starting October 30, 2009 through January 4, 2010. That, along with blog posts claiming to have insider information have led some to conclude that the end is near for Buell. Supposedly Harley Davidson execs are eager to divest HD of Buell.

That would be a mistake, but I'm not worried.

Harley has nothing for the sportbike rider. Even the XR1200 series, for all its attempts to recall the glory days of the XLCH and cafe racers, won't appeal to the sportbike rider. Losing Buell would leave a gap in HD's lineup. They'd be ceding that market space to the Japanese and Europeans.

The problems at Buell stem directly from HD neglect and dealer apathy. Buell's recent rise in sales can likely be tied directly to the 1125R and CR with a Rotax engine. HD should have given Buell carte blanche to develop non-HD sourced engines long ago. The fact that MV Agusta isn't even thought of by people who look at Ducati and Aprilia also speaks to the attitude at the Milwaukee headquarters.

Dealers only exacerbate this problem. Ask Buell riders about their experience with their dealerships, and you'll likely get tales of long waits for replacement parts, ignorance by the staff, and a complete lack of aftermarket upgrades. In the vast majority of HD dealerships, Buells are socked off in a corner somewhere with a few dusty bikes for sale, if they carry Buell bikes at all.

I've always felt Buells should be sold in standalone dealerships. They need a completely different vibe than a Harley dealership. The Buell dealership of my dreams would be bright, clean, devoid of chrome skulls and leather fringe. Race bikes would be front and center. Lightnings would have backdrops of stunters. Track suits would be sold along with aftermarket upgrades. It ought to feel like an American Ducati.

Even if HD were to be so foolish as to cut Buell loose, I'd be unworried. Canada's Bombardier (BRP), maker of the Can-Am Spyder, Sea-Doo jetskis and Ski-Doo snowmobiles is also the parent company of Rotax. They have manufacturing in six countries, and sales presence in another eighty. A Buell-BRP partnership seems a natural.

Finally, there's Erik Buell himself. After twenty-five years as the guiding hand at Buell Motorcycle Company, and with his previous hard-driving attitude as a racing privateer, I seriously doubt that Buell the man or the company will go quietly into that dark night.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Don't be a sheep!

I like 90% of all the Harley riders I meet. I'm grateful for the capital from H-D that has helped Buell grow into the company it is so far. But sometimes the differences between those two companies and their riders is amazing to me.

The 1953 movie "The Wild One" with Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin first put the idea of the bike-ridng rebel in the public consciousness (as an aside, do you realize Brando didn't ride a Harley in that movie? It was a Triumph Thunderbird - an English bike!).

1969 gave us "Easy Rider," where again, bikers were shown as counter-culture rebels. Throngs of wannabe rebels worldwide bought Harleys (and anything with a Harley Davidson logo on it). Worldwide supplies of chrome were depleted. Countless Harley riders wanted to make a statement: "I'm a rebel- a rugged individualist!"

Just like everyone else.

I've always thought this, but I never thought I'd see the day when Harley Davidson and their ad agency would so clearly portray their own Harley riders as flocks of sheep, following the leader.

Buell, on the other hand, really does embrace individualism. Maybe it comes from Erik Buell's privateer roots.

The Book of Buell is rife with examples. "A Buell won't make you any friends." and "It's ok not to wave back." come to mind. Even the new logo (which I love) is supposed to be shorthand for "I don't care what you think." Now that's individualism!

Don't be a sheep. Ride a Buell.

Monday, August 24, 2009

"I can't ride behind him"

This past weekend, the SoCal Buell Riders Club went on a ride down Highway 94 and up Sunrise Highway, past Julian.

At one of our stops along the way, I heard one of the guys remark, "I can't ride behind him. He moves around on his bike too much. It's distracting!"

I was leading the ride, so I didn't get to see the rider they were talking about, but I was glad to hear it. Whoever they were talking about, he was riding a Buell the way it was meant to be ridden.

Watch a top pro surfer. He doesn't stand on the board like a wooden statue. He's always shifting around, moving on top of the board to cut the right line across the changing wave. That's how we ought to be riding our Buells.

As the "Book of Buell" says, "Sitting is not a sport."

Part of me wishes I hadn't been leading that ride. If I could have watched this guy, I might have learned something. Even at slower speeds, I try to at least shift my weight around. I'm not dragging my knee at 25 mph, but even slow speed corners are more fun (and more instructive) if I use them to practice moving around on the bike.

Wait. Is it possible they were talking about me? I don't know. What I do know is that I'll keep moving around on my Buell, learning new moves and how they affect the line my bike takes. Riding a Buell is supposed to be a ballet on a stage moving at 95 mph. Oh, sorry officer, I mistyped - 65 mph, of course.

I want to hear from you. Post your comments.

See the photos from our ride at http://www.meetup.com/SoCal-Buell-Riders/photos/694487/

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Good Start at Virginia International Raceway

We're off to a good start at VIR.

Buell riders are doing pretty well in qualifiers.

In Daytona SportBike Group A, Taylor Knapp took second spot, with Danny Eslick in 11th place, and Shawn Higbee in 23rd.

Shawn also came in 19th place in Friday's American Superbike practice round.

Michael Barnes took second in Group B, with Walt Sipp taking 16th.

And to top off the day's results, Taylor Knapp was won his first SuperPole of his career. Congratulations to Taylor Knapp and Latus Motors Racing!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Buell is Missing Out on the Aftermarket

Talk to anyone in the parts department of your local motorcycle dealership. They'll tell you a motorcycle is a platform on which to hang your accessories.

The average new bike owner spends an additional $5,000.00 accessorizing his/her bike in the first year!

Bravo to Buell for finally releasing the side fairing kit and belly pan for the 1125R. Buellers have been clamoring for that on the discussion boards for as long as I can remember.

Walk into any Harley-Davidson dealership. Fringed leather saddle bags, chromed everything, skull-themed doodads, screaming eagle clutch covers are everywhere. And Harley riders buy them by the boatload. Harley riders want to belong to that vast fraternity of Harley owners. But they don't want to get lost in the crowd.

Buell owners often cite wanting a bike unlike all the others on the street as one of the reasons they were attracted to Buell in the first place. But if you own a Buell and want to truly make it your own, you'll have to turn to third-party aftermarket vendors like American Sport Bike, Ilmberger, or Sport Twin. I went to my local HD shop and saw American Sport Bike parts. Buell factory accessories? Not so much.

Buell also recently revised its logo to rave reviews from the faithful. Everyone wants a shirt with the new silver and black pegasus logo. Where is the merchandise? Missing in action. Apparently they do exist, but only at the factory.

Erik Buell is a brilliant, innovative engineer. Here's hoping they can get a team together that can be as innovative and ruthless with marketing the brand.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Avoid the 'Noid

A week ago, I rolled my 1125R out into the driveway, ready to hit Palomar. I turned the key, and...


The problem was eventually traced to a fault in the instrument panel. Something for which SD Harley didn't have a replacement. My bike would be out of commission for a week.

But this story has a silver lining. Christopher at SD Harley did the amazing - he lent me a 1125R so I could lead this morning's Buell Club Ride out Sunrise Highway.

That alone would have been a great story. But there's more. After I took the key from Chris, I got on the bike and started it up to take it down the street to top off the gas. I twisted the throttle, and the bike lurched forward eagerly, much more easily than on my own 1125R.

The difference between my bike and Chris' is that his bike had been de-noided.

De-noiding is the common term used to mean removing, disabling or disconnecting the Air flow control solenoid. Search the Buell boards and you'll find a lot of talk about this mod. (Click here for a good example of the procedure). I'd always been a bit skeptical, figuring the factory would put out the best product it could. I was wrong. De-noiding the 1125R is definitely the way to go.

On our Buell Club run along the Sunrise Highway over Mount Laguna and on through Julian to Santa Ysabel, I found myself enjoying the bike in ways I never could with my own. Power through the corners was predictable, linear and limitless. The only reason to end that ride was to get to my own bike to do the same modification.

To their credit, Buell does sell a resistor that plugs right in where you'd remove that solenoid (Buell part Y0248.1AM (solenoid eliminator plug) sells for $6.00), which tells me they're aware of the difference this makes and the demand for that mod.

So, take my word for it. If you ride a Buell 1125R or 1125CR, avoid the 'noid.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Are You a Fan or a Spectator?

I know a lot of people who describe themselves as race fans. My buddy, TJ is one of them. He knows who’s where in the point standings, all the way to the twentieth place. He had to upgrade his Tivo because his old unit was full of AMA and SBK race videos he couldn’t bear to delete. The last three times I’ve been to his place he’s asked me if I want to watch the last lap of the Catalunya race again. It was thrilling the first three times. Now, not so much.

Bring up the topic of the Buell motorcycles in AMA racing and he goes borderline apoplectic (He’s a die-hard Suzuki GSX-R guy). Sometimes I’ll start on that topic, just to spin him up.

With all that passion, I was surprised at his response when I asked him what he did to support motorcycle racing. He looked at me like I was nuts.

“Support! What do you mean, support racing? I watch it all the time! You don’t know anyone who’s a bigger race fan than me!”

Poor TJ. I didn’t know how to break it to him. He wasn’t a fan. He’s just a spectator.

A fan is a fanatic. Fans’ passions spur them to action. To be a true motorcycle race fan, you have to actually DO something about it. Get involved. Here are my suggestions for going from a spectator to a true fan:

Get out and race. The best way I can think of to really get involved in motorcycle racing is to race. Seriously. I don’t expect you to crash the next Isle of Man TT, but several local clubs have track days at Willow Springs Raceway or Glendora. Getting on the track is a great way to hone your skills for the street and gives you a better appreciation for what’s going on the next time you do watch the pros race on TV (or better yet, on the hill overlooking The Corkscrew at Laguna Seca Raceway). Check out the Willow Springs Motorcycle Club (http://wsmcracing.com), Take it 2 The Track (http://ti2tt.com) or the Red Hot Riders (http://www.redhotriders.com/) as examples. If you’ve never ridden on a racetrack, don’t worry. They all have orientations and classes for first timers, and you’ll ride with other newbies at first. One last point about racing – keep it on the track and off the street.

Work on your own bike. A lot of races are won or lost in the pits. You’ll have a better appreciation for what the pros are doing when you hear the announcers talk about a suspension tweak or tire change if you’ve actually done it yourself. If you think you can’t work on your own bike, try going to a clinic put on by one of the local bike clubs or Privateer’s Garage (http://PrivateersGarage.Com)

Meet other fans. Go for rides with other fans and stick around afterwards to share a meal. I know in the age of the internet, it’s less fashionable to actually meet people face to face, but sharing a day with other people who share your passion, and learning from them will do wonders for your appreciation of the sport, and you’ll likely make friends who’ll ride with you to your next track day or race day road trip.

Put your money where your heart is. If you want to support motorcycle racing, how about supporting motorcycle racers? Not every pro gets the big contract and lots of endorsements. A lot of racers, like rodeo cowboys, live off the purse. If they don’t win, they don’t eat, and that makes it tough to get to the next race with a working bike and good tires. A small donation to your favorite racer or team is a way to be part of the action. Watching your favorite pro on TV is a lot more fun when you know you’ve paid for the tires on that bike. Shawn Higbee, for example, has a button on his website (http://Higbee-Racing.Com) where you can donate to the team via PayPal. If you’ve ever been inspired to work on your riding skills or spent an enjoyable afternoon watching racing on TV, drop a few bucks in your favorite racer’s inbox.

TJ really thought his slavish button-pushing and TV-watching made him an ùberfan. I almost didn’t have the heart to tell him he was a mere spectator.


Did I mention it was fun to get him all worked up?

I love feedback, so please leave your comments, suggestions, and irate rants by clicking on the comments link below!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

An Open Letter to Erik Buell

I bought my first Buell in 1998. A beautiful pearl white S1W with the reactor purple frame and wheels. I loved how the wide gas tank tapered down to a narrow waist and a tiny saddle. It looked like a cobra, and handled like a mongoose on Red Bull. I loved the thundering sound, and how it vibrated at the stop lights. I learned to love its twitchy responsiveness. When my brand-new bike decided to blow the top off its oil reservoir and leak all over the place, I forgave it. Buell was the outsider, the underdog. I was a part of something that would be one of the greatest motorcycle companies ever.

When the XB series came out, I sang its rapturous praises like a faithful acolyte. Fuel in the frame! Oil in the swingarm! Genius! Buell has to be the best-engineered bike ever! Nevermind that they still used the same basic motor as the old '98 S1W. Buell had to be on a roll, now. I remained one of the faithful.

I got my current mount, a 2008 1125R, and felt that Buell had truly made it right. I've put up with the stumbling at low RPM, the occasionally balky ECM and air intake solenoid, the false neutral between fifth and sixth gear. It was still the best bike Buell ever built. I was envious to hear how the 2009 1125R's motor was smoother and more compliant. For 2010 Buell gave us an oil level sight glass and an optional fairing, and released the 1125RR race-only bike into the wilds of the AMA.

Uhmm... Yay?

And then there's BoB.

The Book of Buell is the new Buell manifesto. The little red book for The Bueller Nation.

Prepare for the cultural revolution.

People are already quoting from the Book of Buell as if it were gospel. Allow me to appoint myself Grand Inquisitor of the Faith.

The Book of Buell says "Sitting is not a sport. ... Before you buy a Buell, take a moment to think about what you really want to do on it."

I'll tell you what we want to do on it. We want to win. We don't want to be competitive. We want to crush our enemies, see them flee before us and let the lamentation of their women be our lullabies. Be ruthless in your engineering, Buell. We want our weapons.

The Book of Buell includes some heresy. Quoting "Our competition employes thousands, and that's not even counting the robots. Buell is 200 people building motorcycles by hand in East Troy, Wisconsin." Sorry. We're not going to buy that anymore. We don't care if there are bigger kids on the playground. If you want respect, hit harder than the bigger kids. I'm confident Buell can do it. Be ruthless.

I like the new logo. I see where you're going with that silver and black shield. The BoB says it's "shorthand for 'I don't care what you think.' " "A Buell won't make you any friends," and "we don't engineer motorcycles for acceptance. We engineer them for performance. And we engineer them without mercy." If you want Buell to be the Raiders of motorcycling, make sure it's the Raiders of the late 70's and early 80's, not the hapless collection of felons who now wear the silver and black. Just win, baby. On the road and on the racetrack.

So there we are. You set the standard, and we're going to hold you to it. Never again will I buy another Buell because of sentiment, or to support the struggling underdog. I'm not buying a Buell unless it's the absolute best sportbike I can get. I want the precision of a scalpel and the force of a sledgehammer. I want to win. To quote from the Book of Buell, "And while racing and sportbikes have always been important at Buell, they are now officially the only thing that matters."

We want to win. The Bueller Nation and our privateers want to win. It's the only thing that matters. Give us our weapons, Mr. Buell. And engineer them without mercy.
Shawn Higbee, our favorite privateer

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bye, bye, Blast

They did it. They killed the Blast. And unlike South Park’s Kenny, I don’t think we’ll see a magical resurrection in the next episode.

The news started on the bulletin boards. The first poster described what he’d seen his newly arrived September issue of CycleWorld. Then it spread to Twitter. A link to a twitpic photo showing the horror- a mangled, twisted Buell Blast, crushed into a cube. But, the ad said “it makes a killer ottoman.”

I wonder how the many Blast owners who shelled out good money for their Buells feel about that. An ottoman.

I never owned one, and you probably don’t either. That’s the problem. But the Blast was there for those who wanted to get into motorcycling, but weren’t ready for a Firebolt or a Lightning. We thought it would always be there. I always thought it might be the foundation for a neat little off-roader, a mini-Uly. Or an electric bike.

Any marketer will tell you it’s easier to retain a customer than to convert one. Someone who starts out with a Ninja 250 is likely to remain a Kawasaki rider for life. The rider who learns on a Honda Rebel in a Motorcycle Safety Foundation class stands a good chance of going on to buy Hondas. The Blast was a gateway drug for Buells.

So what now?

Erik Buell has spoken. There is no appeal. The Blast is gone. We move forward, right? That’s progress, isn’t it?

I wonder what will happen to those Riders Edge classes. They won’t be riding around on the Blast anymore.

What will happen to the small but hopeful crop of niche companies who were going to create new bikes based on the Blast? Companies like Mac Motorcycles who were showing us what could have been with the Blast. What of those Blast owners who customized their little single-cylinder rides with much love and pride? Will they move up to Firebolts or 1125Rs?

Above, the Mac Motorcycles Spud. Below a Blast customized by Hellcat Customs

And if, as that ad says, racing and sportbikes “are now officially the only thing that matters,” what does that mean for the Ulysses?

I’m trying to stay positive about this. I’m trying to hold to the hope that this will mean better Buells in my future. Maybe next year I’ll be able to trade in my 1125R for a street-legal RR like the one that Taylor Knapp debuted at Mid-Ohio.

I’m holding out hope that Gixxer riders will look in awe as I ride my next Buell down the twisty side of Mount Palomar.

But I keep coming back to the image of that poor Blast. Crushed. Crumpled like the draft of a bad resignation letter, tossed aside to start something new.

It deserved better.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Final Scramble Before our Higbee Benefit Ride

Right as of this writing, we've got about 20 Buell riders registered to ride on Saturday to support our favorite Buell privateer racer, Shawn Higbee.

Jerry just shot over photos of items he and Kathleen are donating to the auction. I'm posting them below so they're on the 'net and can be linked to from our Meetup calendar page.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dyno Day at Privateer's Garage

The great folks at Privateer's Garage held a Dyno Day at their location.

I was a little hesitant to put the 1125R on the dyno, as it's just barely broken in, but decided to do it just to get a baseline so I can make comparisons later when I start adding mods.

Here Louie from L & L Motorsports is doing the initial calibration and set-up.

This is the initial run.

Checking results.

The bike pulled 124.56 HP at around 136 Mph. Not bad!

If you'd like to join other Buell riders at events like this, we'd be happy to meet you. Check out our calendar at http://www.meetup.com/SoCal-Buell-Riders/