Angeles National Forest – Still Recovering and Still Dangerous

My bike in the foreground, burnt trees in the background

The ghastly Station Fire in August 2009 devastated huge portions of the Angeles National Forest, making much of the famed Angeles Crest Highway look like a wasteland. It will take decades for the forest to recover, but eventually it will. As for the area’s roads that many of us have enjoyed for so long, they remain under constant repair due to complications arising from the fire and subsequent landslides due to the lack of vegetation. They also remain as dangerous as they’ve ever been.

If you’re a beginning sportbike rider aspiring to take a run on one of southern California’s most famous roads, keep in mind that it’s not a competition out there. I had a great ride up there by myself last weekend, but that same day a fellow rider didn’t make it home. If you’re ever up there, take it as easy as you need to. If faster riders are behind you, let them pass. If the group you ride with starts going “super squid” on you, stay back and ride your pace. The goal is to enjoy the road and make it home safe.

MotoGP 2011 Has Started!

Nicky Hayden
Nicky Hayden, MotoGP Laguna Seca 2010

If you’re new to sportbikes, becoming a MotoGP fan is a great way to learn about bleeding edge motorcycle technology and give yourself something to talk about amongst fellow sportbike enthusiasts. MotoGP is the motorcycle equivalent of Formula 1: the bikes are 100% custom prototypes costing millions of dollars, there are factory (manufacturer-operated) and satellite (manufacturer-supported) teams, the races are held all over the world and the season runs from March through November. The top racers can’t walk down a street in Europe without being mobbed, and the sport’s most visible star, Valentino Rossi, is one of the world’s highest paid athletes.

So how do you become a MotoGP fan? Here’s the 3 step plan:

If you missed Sunday’s season opener, Australian rider and 2007 champion Casey Stoner (Honda) won the race while last year’s champion Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) took second. The top American racer is Ben Spies (Yamaha), who got a bad start and finished 6th.

Have fun!

The Best New Starter Bikes – 2011 Edition

Honda CBR250R
The all new Honda CBR250R

2011 is going to be a great year for beginner motorcycle riders looking at sportbikes. That’s because Honda came out of nowhere and introduced the brand new CBR250R, an entry-level stunner aimed directly at the Kawasaki Ninja 250R and its dominance as the best beginner sportbike available in the U.S. It’s terrific to see some variety at the entry level.

Continue reading “The Best New Starter Bikes – 2011 Edition”

2010 International Motorcycle Show

Ah, the International Motorcycle Show. New bikes, test rides, moto SWAG, the latest gear, vendors showing their wares and models in skimpy outfits taking pictures with greasy biker dudes they’d otherwise never talk to. The show stops in my area every year in December so I spent my usual Saturday there checking things out. If it stops in your town, it’s a terrific way to sit on the newest bikes without having a salesperson breathing down your neck. The test rides are my favorite part as test rides are hard to come by, though they canceled the test rides this year due to rain. You can also find good deals on moto gear and “interesting” custom bikes like the one below. If you’re into that stuff.

For the love of everything good, please make it stop.

How To Not Look Like a Moto Noob – Part 2

Which foot should you put down at a stop, your right or left? Or both? The second hint in my Hot To Not Look Like a Moto Noob series is… use your left foot. It’s not as important on a completely level surface where you can safely use both feet, but anytime the road is tilted slightly uphill or downhill, putting your left foot on the ground allows you to keep your right foot on the rear brake, freeing your right hand to do whatever it pleases. This is especially key when stopped pointing uphill, because you can keep the bike from rolling backwards with the rear brake while you use your right hand to work the throttle to start moving forward. It’s a lot easier than trying to work both the front brake and throttle with your right hand on uphill starts.

New Honda CBR250R Sportbike!

I definitely didn’t see this one coming. Honda has just announced the brand new CBR250R, a surprisingly competent looking single-cylinder 250cc sportbike aimed at new riders. Super-sharp looks, fuel injection and available ABS make this an incredibly attractive starter bike. No word on pricing yet, but it looks like Kawasaki’s Ninja 250 has some serious competition here in the U.S.

Update 12/01/10:  It’s only $3999! Or you can get the ABS version for $4499.

Angeles Crest Highway Update

Newcomb's Ranch on Angeles Crest Highway

California’s budget problems will prevent the CHP from receiving a grant that was supposed to help them step up enforcement on and around famed Angeles Crest Highway. That’s not to say they won’t still be up there; they just won’t have the presence they were hoping for. For those of you who live close by but have never ridden it, I’ll be posting a riding guide for Angeles Crest Highway a little later this year.

Source: La Cañada Valley Sun,0,4426477.story

How To Not Look Like a Moto Noob – Part 1

Do you lock your arms like a couple of two-by-fours when you’re riding?  This is one of the tell-tale signs of a moto noob and a habit that needs to be broken to get to the next level.  The first hint in my How To Not Look Like a Moto Noob series is… keep your arms bent.  To keep things brief, having your arms bent will benefit many aspects of your riding including steering, braking, bump absorption and good body positioning in the corners.  It will also help you stay a little more relaxed.  Keep your arms bent and maybe I won’t be so quick to yell “Noob!” when I see you riding (assuming you’re not riding in a t-shirt and shorts).