Track Days Are Great Learning Opportunites for All Riders - Classic Track Day

March 02, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

The right track day can prove incredibly useful to riders of all levels. Experienced riders who have frequented the track know this well. Those who are new to the track begin to see the benefits almost instantly. If you have never been, I encourage you to do so at your earliest convenience. If you live in Southern California, Classic Track Day should be at the top of your list of track days to experience because the community of riders are cool and welcoming.  

 

Looking at me sitting atop my Street Triple might be one of the funnier things to witness on the internet. I look like a gorilla f***ing a football and at 6’5”, there are few motorcycles I look “normal” on.

 

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To be serious, all I can do is cringe when I look at these shots from my last track session with Classic Track Day at Streets of Willow out in Rosamond, CA. There is nothing wrong with the photos shot by Scott Murphy but rather, there is a lot wrong with my technique. 

 

There is a lot to unravel looking at the photos but let’s start with the positives and then dive into some deep self-flagellation. If you plan to become a better rider, then a self-critical eye is a must. 

 

The Good:

The hardware is tight. The Triple is unbelievably planted and dialled in from a performance perspective. I'm carrying a lot of speed and I’m feeling much faster overall. My skills are sharp, I’m smooth in all my inputs, and my confidence is high on the circuit. All good stuff, yay!  

 

 

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The Bad and Ugly: 

 

The list is long. Most obvious is my body position. Everything feels tight. My hips are super stiff, my right leg has not regained 100% range of motion, and my lower back pain has been....well, a pain in the ass. I’m suffering from a lack of physical mobility. I’m also not accustomed to being folded up like a pretzel.

 

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I need to actively stretch, so I can get my body off the bike and create that triangle of light. I also need to get my butt back and give my upper body more latitude to move. Some of this is also being hampered by my size and the Triple’s ergonomics. But I think beginning to limber up and focus on some small bodywork, I can carry less lean and just as much speed. 

 

One thing compounds another. My lack of body position has me riding to the point where I’m maxing out my clearances at lean. That’s a solid testament to how amazing the Dunlop Q3+ Sportmax are but I cannot get my toes and big ass feet any further back on the stock pegs. In numerous turns, I’ve begun to drag peg and even my toe sliders so aside from limbering up, the next big bike upgrade will be rearsets. Ugh...I can hear the maxim being shouted from the cheap seats, ”track days are expensive.”

 

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To be thorough, I sought some outside analysis from my bud and expert level rider, Rennie Scaysbrook who confirmed a lot of what I already thought. “Rear sets are always a good move, get your ass further back and give your arms and chest more room to move,” he went on to say, “mate, you need a bigger bike, you look cramped on that thing.”  

 

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Triumph Motorcycles America, if you happen to have a spare Speed Triple lying around, gimme a holler. 😂

 

I have no intention of racing or becoming a racer. I don't have the ambition or the finances to do so. But I completely love what the track offers me. A place to push me and grow as a rider. This triple will remain in my stable because it’s all I have and I’ll be honest, I love this f***ing bike. It’s a total weapon and a blast to ride fast.

 

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SAM'S BONAFIDE LIST OF AWESOME GEAR
I get zero out of this, it's not sponsored in any way, I receive no kickbacks. I want you to know about brands that make rad shit. It's that simple

Alpinestars Missle 2 Race Suit with Tech Air

Alpinestars SMX6 Boots

Racer Gloves USA

AGV Sportmodular Matte Carbon
 

 

 

 


LOVE FOR THE BIG CAT - The Tiger 800XC Crosses 17,000 Miles

July 25, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

As my Tiger crosses 17k miles in just under two years of ownership, I’ve been thinking about my time with this bike but this one thought stands out amongst the rest.


There is a special bond one develops when you own your own bike.

 

I’ve ridden well over 100 different motorcycles in the past 3 years and it continues to be a privilege that I’ll never take for granted. Of those bikes, there are 10 that truly stand out that I think about to this day. Bikes I would consider smuggling cocaine in a cavity so I could go out and buy one. Mind-blowing machines that are truly a marvel of engineering, hyper capable, strike a visceral chord in my soul and bring me immense joy.


They come and go back to their respective press fleets and at the end of each goodbye, I revert back to my Tiger 800XC. It’s the motorcycle that greets me every day when the garage door opens whether or not I am taking it out for a ride. Without fail, the sight of it always makes me smirk with satisfaction


Though it was third in my list of ADV bikes to buy at the time, it’s a purchase I don’t regret. Consistently coming to that conclusion as time passes is the hallmark of a great bike. Not weight, horsepower, and spec sheets, etc... It's how it makes you feel every day. How it compliments or enhances your lifestyle and skillset as a rider. 

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I've taken great pains to maintain and protect this bike from my own carelessness in the dirt and so far, every piece of armor has paid for itself ten times over.  The most consistent issue has been the stock suspension. It’s notoriously soft and improperly setup for my weight and riding style.  This month it will receive the last and most important upgrade to I’ll make for a while: a fully adjustable suspension system courtesy of Ohlins and Andreani. Once installed, I’ll seek out legendary suspension expert Steve Biganski to dial it in for me.

 

This kitty is about to become a beast! 

 

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Making a Motorcycle Video Series is Hard Work

July 25, 2019  •  Leave a Comment
I wrote this as a Facebook post but it evolved into something else entirely so I put it here instead.
 
For all of my friends that know nothing about motorcycles other than my constant infatuation with them, I've taken to YouTube on behalf of The Progressive International Motorcycle Shows to help introduce non-riders to the world of two wheels during the tour's off-season. Understanding---and even getting into---motorcycling can be a daunting subject. I had a shit ton of questions when I bought my first bike and really did my homework. I became a student of motorcycling as a result. Now I have become a bit of a teacher and instructor. I think with the right mindset, these machines are more approachable than people think and the emotional return is second to none.
 

This is the first time I've been fully responsible for planning, producing, filming, co-starring, editing and delivering content throughout the whole video process. It's been a great learning process but it's in no way easy. It take a lot of work to produce a tight sub 4-min video that doesn't look like shit. :) Like all things, I'm a student of the craft and learning how to be better at video production whether it's polishing my editing technique, color grading, narrative development, cinematic drone flight, managing audio, etc.... If you would kindly give it a watch and subscribe on YouTube it would mean a ton to me.

 

 

With so much vitriol on the internet I aim to be a positive influence and inspiration for anyone that comes across my work and for anyone who is eager to learn how to ride. Ever since I got back into motorcycling six years ago—and shortly thereafter the industry itself---I was inspired and excited to do big things on behalf of all motorcyclists. I get to thank Marc Cook and Jessica Prokup for that initial opportunity that had me go on assignment for Motorcyclist Magazine. But it was Zack Courts and Ari Henning who were the first people on the internet I sought out whenever I needed to understand something about motorcycles. At the time they were doing On Two Wheels, MC Garage and so much more. Their enthusiasm, knowledge and skill on a bike set the aspirational bar for myself. Those two guys continue to inspire me, as do so many other people in this industry. Whether it’s those who teach us how to be better riders, those who create beautiful content, those that create amazing products that keep us safe or enhance the ride, or those that are just our friends who are there to support us in the various facets of our lives. There is is truly is an amazing community that unfurls and coalesces around this unique machine.


One last thing, outside of the obvious cool factor motorcycling imbues, We all really need to continue to inspire and embrace a new generation of people to get into motorcycling here in America. Hell, just get more people on two wheels. It’s a daunting task but if it’s not addressed now it will have cataclysmic results for our beloved hobby in the future. And the problem is not going to be fixed by those trying to sell motorcycles, it needs to be a movement of the people….Shit, this sounds like global warming doesn’t it? 

 

Ok, I digress, this post became more self-reflective and a massive thank you to so many people that have come into and affected my life whether you know it or not.

 

 

The Best Motorcycle Travel Gear: Velomacchi 28L Roll-Top Pack and 50L Duffel Bag

January 04, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

 

I'm an absolute monster to all my motorcycle gear. My fiancée calls me "a little hurricane" because I cannot walk past something without the possibility of it getting utterly destroyed. When I get home my boots get ripped off, my bags are thrown to the corners of the apartment, not gently placed on the ground, and my phone even gets tossed on the table. I'm cautious with only my cameras, helmets, and computers but even they seem to take a fair beating too.  

For the past seven months, I've been battle testing a couple of products from Velomacchi, a small outfit up in Hood River, Oregon. Founded and run by Kevin Murray, Murray holds a degree in Industrial Design and worked as the Global Design Director at The North Face in Italy where it pioneered the Adventure Travel and technical carry gear categories. After leaving The North Face, he went on to create Syren Industrial a full-service product design and strategy house building award-winning product and brand solutions in the Technical Outdoor, Fire/Rescue and Military/Tactical categories.

Velomacchi is a completely made up word which essential means “velocity machine”. Derived from the latin veloci- for velocity and machina for machine. It sounds sexy, fast, and Italian. Kinda like me, except I'm not Italian.

I asked him why venture out on your own to create a line of gear for motorcyclists and those geared toward an adventure lifestyle? 

“Over the last 20 years I watched large brands turn technical products into a commodity,” says Murray. “Fast fashion has driven timeline and price points down and killed innovation in certain categories. As apparel and footwear categories tend to drive more revenue, carry gear and gloves have not received the attention and detail they deserve. I felt that my background would benefit that space and my wife and I chose to put our efforts into making an amazing product.”

Did Velomacchi achieve its goal?  

The Velomacchi 28L Roll-Top Pack

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This may just be one of the best backpacks I have ever worn. Not only is the main compartment watertight and holds up to 28 liters,  the patent-pending three-point harness system and magnetic sternum coupler are the design elements that make the Velomacchi 28L Roll-Top bag so versatile and INSANELY comfortable. You might look a bit like a turtle wearing one but when it’s loaded up to the brim exceeding 30-40 pounds, none of that will matter. Especially when you are relegated to your bike for the day. The pack remains immovable, as though it was custom cast to your body. 

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While weight distribution is such an amazing feature of this bag, fitment plays an important role. Looking at the 28L Roll-Top bag, you’ll immediately notice that there are no dangling straps. Everything is self-contained, adjustable and tucked away for streamlined aerodynamics. A slapping strap on a motorcycle at 65 mph is not only a liability but it's insanely annoying. 

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What else about the 28L Roll-Top bag is so great? Its design really catches the eye of almost anyone I talk to.  It's unique enough that invariably I have a discussion about the bag once a week. It has survived and protected my gear in a steady downpour when riding through Thailand and a number of falls when riding dirt in the Mojave desert. 

The addition of a medical emergency pouch in one of the shoulder straps means I can keep all information for EMS teams in the event I get injured out in the field. A tire pressure gauge sleeve doubles as a pen holster on the left shoulder strap and the camera plate allow any wearer to sticky mount a go-pro to the bag itself for an awesome first-person perspective when riding. 

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What about it could be better?

I would like the main compartment to be bigger. Luckily, Velomacchi just introduced the 40L Roll-Top bag which I am testing now. I’ll have a full review in a couple of months.  

The Velomacchi 50L Hybrid Duffel Pack

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Is it a duffel bag or a backpack? Well, it’s both but I have only used it as a duffel bag on regular week-long to weekend travels. 

Billed as a high speed, watertight and versatile convertible duffel/pack. Constructed out of high quality 1000 Denier competition fabric, the Velomacchi 50L Hybrid duffel features a watertight #10YKK zipper and stretch panels that enable closure of an overstuffed pack. Additional features include mounting points for roof racks, motorcycles, and whatever you might want to strap this bag down to along with shoulder straps that can be tucked away and out of sight without compromising volume for packing. 

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Since I got the 50L Hybrid Duffel, it has joined me on a number of road trips from Los Angeles to the Bay Area and up to Oregon and back to LA. It has even joined me on-assignment halfway around the world and to a number of states in the U.S.  

50 liters may seem like a small bag but when you pack conservatively and really plan out what you need, it will more than meet your needs for a weekend trip. I always find that I take more than I need but I have learned to pack lighter and leaner. For my seven to 14-day trips, I was able to use the 50L Hybrid Duffel strictly for my clothes, food, and camera kit. Other essential tools and camping gear became relegated to my 38L Dryspec bag. 

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A Handy Weekender Bag

Strap it down and go. 

If you are not purely camping off the bike and plan on staying with friends, family, or in a hotel, the 50L Hybrid Duffel Bag makes for a perfect travel companion. The side pockets make storage of small items easy to access. I stuffed them with zip-ties, my CB radio, utility knife, and a couple of Clif bars. The Velomacchi 50L Hybrid Duffel also meets Federal Aviation Administration carry-on requirements and can go with you on any plane. 

What about it could be better?

I would like to see Velomacchi add mollie webbing or rubber loop anchors to the top or sides of the bag which would make it more versatile for motorcycle travel applications. On a number of trips where I did not want to wear my 28L roll-top pack, I strapped the 28L to the 50L with a set of Rox Straps through the carrying straps. It was a bit janky but it worked. I would also like to see a redesign of the mounting straps so that the portion that attaches to the bike need not include a plastic buckle. A reinforced loop would suffice and leave no dangling bits.   

So far, each of these bags has endured almost everything Mother Nature could throw at them outside of fire, lava, and lightning. Some people like to travel with Louis Vuitton but this rugged motorcyclist will happily rock a couple Velomacchi bags when checking in for travel at LAX. 


I Bought A "New" Adventure Motorcycle and I Could Not Be Any Happier

September 28, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

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I have the honor and pleasure of riding a lot of different motorcycles, whether it is through friends or assignments as a journalist. I live a pretty blessed life in that respect but none of those bikes are mine. Like a perpetual playboy, I fall in love with each machine for 2 to 3 weeks at a time. I pick apart every nuanced genius that went into making them and every critical flaw that perturbs me, but these machines never grow with me, I never enjoy a true connection. 

However, the time and opportunity to invest in myself and my continued career as a versatile motorcyclist have finally come. I was faced with a decision to either buy another car or an ultra-capable motorcycle. With the support of my family and fiancee, I am now the proud owner of a new (relatively new if you want to call 2014, "new") Triumph Tiger 800 XC. 

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There are few motorcycles that attain the capability to cross genres. It can be argued that the adventure class fits that mold. They are extremely practical machines capable of everyday commuting and long distance touring. They have been referred to as “dirt bikes on steroids” and can handle off-road situations with aplomb with the right set of knobbies. Slap on a solid pair of road tires and you'll be treated with the power and engineering to tackle a twisty canyon or vast interstates without missing a beat. For this reason, I have been drawn to these bikes for the last 6 years since I ventured into the motorcycle industry. 

I was introduced to the Tiger 800XC when I worked at Triumph Motorcycles America. We had the special edition black and red bike in the east coast fleet which was open to all to use if the press was not utilizing it for a story. I quickly laid my hands on it and rode it from Atlanta to Asheville and back in a single day. All to visit my friends from Rawhyde, ride a couple off-road trails, and return home. It was a pretty full day of riding. The Tiger never faltered. For a number of months, The Tiger 800 XC SE was my daily rider until we moved it out of the fleet. 

 

Rally Ready Tiger 800 XCThe folks over at ICON put together this Tiger 800 XC a number of years back to take on the gnarliest terrain. I was fortunate enough to ride it briefly at Barber Vintage Fest and it completely ripped!!! This bike will always serve as inspiration for what my Tiger can become.

The power plant in the Tiger 800 is the same found in the wildly popular Triumph Street Triple but with an increase in piston stroke. The result is 125cc more displacement and lower overall horsepower. What the Tiger lacks in top end speed it makes up for with more torque and mid-range power. It's riding geometry is perfectly balanced for my svelte 6'5" frame and its Street Triple soul pulls on my heartstrings at every twist of the wrist. 

I am utterly in love with this bike and have no regrets. I did spend the last 5 months researching, negotiating and conversing with a couple trusted colleagues on which bike would best suit my lifestyle. My first choice was a KTM 1090R followed by the Honda Africa Twin but neither were anywhere near my price range. The Africa Twin was too new to buy used and the KTM’s have only become reliable in the past few years. I had to contend with real financial decisions and popular to what most people think, being a motorcycle journalist is a tough racket which yields no livable income. It's a wonderfully fun industry but I needed to make a realistic decision. 

I found this Tiger in nearly perfect condition with insanely low miles. It seemed like a match made in heaven. One I could not ignore. One trip out to Santa Clarita for a test ride and I knew instantly that this was destined to be. I have already managed to put on 1300 miles on the Tiger in the past two weeks and it has been blissful. I added a pair of Continental Trail Attack 2's before hitting the road up north, this rubber really makes the Tiger ultra-capable on the tarmac, provides excellent grip and feedback. 

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The next year will be spent molding this machine into a capable and proper ADV machine capable of surmounting anything in my path but for now, it will remain locked to the pavement and maybe the occasional fire road. I'll also be aiming to hone more of my off-road skills because the machine is only as good as its rider. 

I am ready for adventure! Good god am I delighted to have my first---relatively new—adventure motorcycle. 

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