1. After an awesome week in Chicago, we got back in town last night just in time to catch the sunset on a great Backfire Motorcycle Night here in Seattle. Here’s some selects from my iPhone, including a gorgeous original GSX-R 750. 

    See my other posts from previous Backfire Moto Nights here.

  2. AMA racing behind the scenes with Johnny Grudzien

    My friend Johnny works for Dainese doing rider support at AMA race weekends. He’s helping all the Dainese sponsored racers, which means he’s working with some big names and up-and-comers in American motorcycle racing.  This past weekend, AMA was at Mid-Ohio. Man’s Gotta Do is exclusively bringing you his behind the scenes impressions and photos from the experience. From Johnny:

    "Perhaps I’m hypersensitive as a born and bred Illinoisan displaced to the West Coast, but there is something distinctly American about the Mid-West. US-built autos of questionable quality dominate the roads, slowly being returned to the earth by rust or their own lack of durability. The summer howl of cicadas serves up a reminder that yes, the sticky blanket of heat is heavy, and going nowhere soon. The smaller towns, such as Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course’s Lexington, have lived through better decades. I imagine post WW2 was a heyday for such a place, with proud 4th of July parades and jobs for all who desired to work hard. But those are memories now, just as the shells of the homes that once bred families here. Like me, I imagine they got out. But for over 50 years, the race track has remained - a testament to our love for speed.

    It was a weekend of fresh experiences for me. I rode my first electric motorbike, a Zero supermoto. It’s exhaust note was a soothing whir from the motor accompanied by linear torque all the way up to 25 mph! Hey, I was in the paddock. The front brakes were terribly mushy, but I was assured there was a front brake master cylinder recall aimed at rectifying the issue. One must think scooter when they saddle up, or flail around with left hand and foot searching for clutch and shift lever. The owner said he’d taken it out for a bit of sumo fun, and the battery overheated - a common problem. Unfazed by this, I’m still quite enthusiastic for the future development of e-bikes, though I’ll miss the inspiring song of internal combustion terribly.

    Overlooking the 3-hour time difference between Lexington, OH and LA, CA, I arrived at the track early Sunday morning to find the entire Yoshimura Suzuki team crammed into their rig watching the GP from Mugello on satellite cable (I’m accustomed to 5AM European races). I huddled in with them and loved listening their commentary. These guys have all worked with their share of American GP studs. I talked the talk too, albeit it begs the obvious question…

    In my constant and ongoing battle to git ‘er done, with Richard Stanboli and Steve Rapp, we firmed up the design for the custom Dainese race suit he’ll don for the Laguna Seca and Indy rounds of MotoGP with less than two weeks to spare. As Stanboli told me, “You don’t get to race MotoGP everyday!” Point taken. Steve extended the offer to drag me in tow to their first and only CRT test pre-Laguna Seca. I’m not obliged to say where, but we’re flying there in Steve’s single-prop Cirrus (look it up), and landing on the track. I don’t remember if I said “yes”, but I’m fairly certain my goofy grin got the job done.

    To close out the weekend, I joined the Jordan Suzuki SuperBike team for middle Ohio’s version of a cultural affair, dinner at the Olive Garden. Buona! Running a bit late and suffering the effects of exhaustion and a terminal case of being weird, I received a hero’s welcome. Did win a race? Maybe for fastest guy to clean bugs off of leather (blame Polish heritage). Like any really great shindig, it was the conclusion of a lot of rewarding hard work accompanied by hilarious stories involving motorcycles and instigated by spirits. Two podiums didn’t hurt either.”

    Thanks to Johnny Grudzien for the words and photos. P.S. Rumors were circulating that the CRT engine that Steve Rapp will ride as a Wild Card rider in MotoGP at Laguna Seca was housed in the ZX-10 you see above for break-in. We’re looking forward to Laguna, where we’ll be joining Johnny and the AMA circus as MotoGP comes to California next week.

  3. AMA Superbike Spoiler Alert…

    My friend Johnny that used to work at Pro Italia recently left his job there and took a position with Dainese helping out with rider support at the AMA races. With names like Blake Young, Ben Bostrom, Josh Herrin, Steve Rapp, James Rispoli, and Tomas Puerta, we’re talking about some seriously fast riders. This past race weekend at Road Atlanta was his first time working with the racers, and what a weekend it was. I typically don’t follow AMA racing very closely, but I might have to start if the races are anything like Saturday’s Superbike Race 1.

    Blake Young is the only AMA rider using the Dainese D-air Racing system leathers, and he ended up being the first rider to ever test them in a race setting on American soil when he tangled with Josh Hayes coming down the hill towards turn 12 at Road Atlanta on Saturday. Having ridden at Road Atlanta, I can personally attest to the steepness of this hill, cresting as you go under a bridge at the top and then plunging down for one last corner before the starting straight. This would be one seriously frightening place to crash. The race was red flagged as Young appeared shaken up from the crash, initially writhing on the track. Eventually getting up, back to the pits, and displaying some good sportsmanship about it with Hayes, it was then his team’s job to get his bike ready before the restart. Meanwhile it was Johnny’s turn to help get Young out of the depressed D-air suit and into a fresh one for the restart.

    Penalized for the crash, Young had to restart the race from the last spot on the grid. Making a rocket start, by turn two he was up to seventh place, and he didn’t stop there. Riding like a man possessed, he was on a serious mission that ended in a thrilling victory that came down to the last corner, beating out Hayes and the R1 on his GSX-R. Take a moment to watch the Speed TV highlights here.

    Photos by Brian J. Nelson (Note the photo of Young’s team fixing up his bike, Kevin Schwantz in the background).

    Keep an eye out for a couple of upcoming posts featuring Johnny Grudzien as we recount his 2009 Latigo Canyon incident and the two and a half year Ducati 900 SS custom build that followed…

  4. Man’s Gotta Have A Cave

    Spring cleaning! Let me know if anyone wants a 1989 Yamaha XT 600 or a 2004 Yamaha Zuma 50.

  5. Man’s Gotta Ride

    Chalk up another failed forecast as we had a gloriously beautiful day here in Seattle. Keep ‘em coming!

  6. Man’s Gotta Ride — Just bought this 2003 SV650S. Needs a little TLC and some upgrades, but overall I’m very happy to be an SV owner again. Rode the Mercer Island Loop and the little twin made me smile. Sure, the stock suspension leaves a lot to be desired as mid-corner bumps unsettled both the chassis and my nerves, but that’s what shock swaps and aftermarket suspension upgrades are for. I got a great deal (thanks Jeff!) making the knowledge that I’ll have to put a little extra into it easier to swallow. Just counted it up, this is my 14th bike since I began my love affair with motorcycles in 2004.

  7. Man’s gotta have a cave. Be sure to see my earlier post on this. Say hello to some two wheeled friends.

  8. Man’s gotta ride. Test riding a 2003 SV650S today. Yep. #gogogo