Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto: Blog en-us (C) Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) Wed, 03 Mar 2021 06:22:00 GMT Wed, 03 Mar 2021 06:22:00 GMT Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto: Blog 120 80 Track Days Are Great Learning Opportunites for All Riders - Classic Track Day 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.




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!  





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.




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.”  




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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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




]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) classic track day Street Triple track day Wed, 03 Mar 2021 06:22:07 GMT
LOVE FOR THE BIG CAT - The Tiger 800XC Crosses 17,000 Miles 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. 


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! 


20190713-XT2X9786Tiger 800XC Amidst the Sierras 20190712-XT2X977220190712-XT2X9772

]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) Long-Term Motorcycle Tiger800XC Triumph Thu, 25 Jul 2019 23:29:50 GMT
Making a Motorcycle Video Series is Hard Work
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.


]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) IMS Motorcycles Rides Thanks Thu, 25 Jul 2019 19:03:31 GMT
The Best Motorcycle Travel Gear: Velomacchi 28L Roll-Top Pack and 50L Duffel Bag  

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


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. 


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. 


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. 


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


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. 


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. 


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. 

]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) backpack duffle bag gear gear review velomacchi Thu, 04 Jan 2018 19:00:00 GMT
I Bought A "New" Adventure Motorcycle and I Could Not Be Any Happier IMG_2830IMG_2830

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. 



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. 


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. 

]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) tiger800 xc motorcycle project tiger triumph triumph tiger 800 xc Fri, 29 Sep 2017 03:12:12 GMT
YOSEMITE SCRAM. BMW’s R nineT Scrambler Takes On The Sierra Nevadas

Written by Sam Bendall.

Originally Published for Pipeburn

The sun is rising, the air is cool and crisp, and the wildlife outside my tent sporadically announces the start of a new day. As my eyes open and begin to adjust, the faint scent of hickory wafts through the air as the covered embers emanate amid a semi-silent dawn. As I emerge from my tent, I see my friend Yoshi in his own shelter rustling about. My other friend Erik is at the picnic table prepping food and getting coffee ready. I turn to look over at the BMW R nineT Scrambler that brought me up here, and realize how cool it looks poised beside Yoshi’s Land Rover. I think to myself, “There’s a lot of manliness going on right here. Every weekend should be this amazing.”

Praying for curves

Twenty-four hours earlier, I awoke early to mount all my gear to a lovely 2017 BMW R nineT Scrambler prior to meeting up with Yoshi at his place in Highland Park. As this was only a three-day trip, I opted to pack as lightly as possible with only a tent, sleeping bag, and whatever I could fit into my 50L Velomacchi Duffle Bag. You might be thinking, “Why would you take an R nineT Scrambler on a trip like this?” My response would be a sassy “Shut the fuck up. I drink overpriced, fair-trade, hipster-roasted coffee out of an Aeropress, and I’m on this bike because I want to look cool. Also, I have a scrambler addiction.”

As far as support vehicles go, that’s a good’un

But semi-seriously, I like many of the modern scramblers OEMs are producing and I had yet to test the R nineT Scrambler. Also, I like to punish myself. I did just ride a 2009 Triumph Scrambler 2000 km over six days through Thailand a couple months earlier, and it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time on a motorcycle.

Though short-lived, this quick trip up north would be a  much-needed camping getaway with two fun and immensely talented photographer friends, Erik Jutras and Michael “Yoshi” Jasionowski.

DAY 1 – The Longest Road

Yoshi and I met up around 9:45 a.m. at Highland Park Cafe for some much-needed caffeine. We agreed to stick together along the Angeles Crest Highway but that didn’t quite go as planned. Immediately my wrist became liberal with the throttle once the roads began to get twisty. I was off into the horizon. Yoshi’s Land Rover became a speck in my rear view, but as the gentleman that I am, I called him to say I’d meet him at the start of highway 14. I needed to get in my moto fix. I was also curious to know how well the BMW R nineT Scrambler could handle the twisties of “The Crest.”

Loaded with 40 extra pounds of gear, the BMW R nineT Scrambler was capable of mashing through the corners at a considerable clip. The 1172cc boxer engine pulls well on corner exits, power delivery is smooth and crisp. According to BMW, the R nineT Scrambler puts out 110 horsepower, and max torque is achieved around 7,500 rpm; however, most of the  power is felt in the lower to mid range. With no tachometer to read engine speed, it would take me a little while to learn the characteristics of each gear, and when to shift to obtain that maximum fun factor. Once found, there is a lot to love about this engine.

The R nineT Scrambler doesn’t dive into the corners with the lightness of a sport bike or the finesse of its predecessor, the original RnineT. Many of my colleagues have attributed this to the slight variation in the front fork rake, as well as the Karoo 3s, and the scrambler-spec suspension. Maybe I’m a simpler and dumber motorcycle journalist, but I had no problem pushing this bike into the corners, holding my line, and scraping the pegs. Could it have been easier? Does it take a little work to get this bike where you want it to go? Is the regular R nineT a more nimble and road-focused machine? The answer is yes to all of those questions. Still, the Scrambler is an incredibly fun bike on the road. In fact, I was surprised in my ability to manhandle this bike given its size and weight. I was even more surprised that the Karoo 3s provided such excellent grip on the tarmac.

We stopped briefly at Jawbone Canyon in Mojave to sip some java and relieve ourselves. We also discovered that the howling and relentless winds of the mighty mojave laid claim to Yoshi’s newly purchased Land Rover’s front-right turn signal.

As we neared Lake Isabella, the winds began to kick up, and I could feel a serious chill in my bones. Once we turned onto CA-155, we were met with a stunning scenic mountainscape being enveloped by clouds and fog. The winds kicked up harder and harder. I pulled off to the side of the road to bundle up. On went my insulated mid-layers and winter gloves. I closed up my jacket vents and cranked the heated handgrips to their highest setting.

“The mountains welcomed us with progressively thicker fog. It felt as if we had been magically transported to Vermont during fall.”

The mountains welcomed us with progressively thicker fog, but before it did, we came upon these beautiful trees and winding roads. It felt almost as if we had been magically transported to Vermont during fall. The color and vibrancy of the trees contrasted with the muted grey of the asphalt and fog which presented a photo opportunity we’d be insane to pass up. After snapping a few shots we continued on. About a quarter-mile down the road I got a call from Yoshi. His Land Rover would not start. I guess it’s not a true adventure until someone breaks down. I turned around and pulled up next to the Land Rover to find Yoshi huddled over the engine with a flashlight.

“The battery is dead. It won’t turn over,” he said.

I asked him if he had any jumper cables. Unfortunately we were without. After standing by the side of the road, I was able to flag down a good samaritan who fortunately was able to lend assistance and jumpstart the Land Rover.

Continuing on, 20-foot visibility relegated us to a snail’s pace. As the wind faded, cocooned inside my helmet was the soothing sound of the Bimmer’s seamless, second-gear purr. My mind went straight to Stephen King’s movie The Mist. I expected a monster to jump out at me. Instead, around a bend we were greeted to three cows standing in the middle of the road. They all began to slowly move out of the way, but the baby of the bunch began sprinting down the highway as though he stole something. I slowed down not knowing which direction he would zig or zag but the calf ran with us for almost a minute before darting off into the valley below.

Just oozing rebellion

Eventually the fog dissipated and we continued our descent toward Delano. The road was devoid of all traffic, featured beautifully paved tarmac, and a combination of sweeping turns and technical esses that begged to be attacked. This particular section of CA-155 between Glenville and Delano became one of my favorite roads of the trip. I once again began to wring out the scrambler through some corners. So much fun.

Just before we hopped on highway 99, we stopped for gas. Yoshi’s Land Rover also decided to stop working, too. The culprit again a dead battery. Luckily, the local auto parts store was across the street and still open.  We slapped in a new battery and prayed it would solve the problem instead of being the tip of the iceberg.

We made a judgment call to stop at the local market and grab a sizable amount of firewood and beer. Really, if there are two things you cannot have too much of at a campsite, it’s firewood and beer.

After nine hours of riding and driving, we arrived at camp. The Sun was beginning to set, so we quickly set up camp, sparked a fire, cracked open some beers, and cued up the tunes. Forty-five minutes later, Erik arrived and we all got settled in for the night. By settled in, I mean we drank beers, laughed excessively, and kept trying whiskey every half-hour to see if we still liked it. Science proved that we, in fact, still enjoyed whiskey.

Day 2 – In the Valley of Heaven

I faintly remember one of the guys saying, “We won’t sleep past 7 a.m. The Sun will rise and it will force us awake.” I looked at my watch and it read 9 a m. Yeah, so much for that theory.  Erik is already up and about, I’m slogging along trying to get out of the tent, and Yoshi, too, is in the process of rising from his sleepy grave. Gathered around the picnic table, we consumed perhaps one of the most satisfying campground breakfasts ever, along with coffee so strong I felt like my heart was going to hop out of my chest. Once we were properly fueled, we ventured on toward Yosemite.

Yosemite is easily one of the most beautiful national parks in the United States. It’s also one of my personal favorites. John Muir, an American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States wrote eloquently of the Sierras and the Yosemite region as being a place where, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.”

Where we’re going we don’t need roads…

As I began to ride through the park on this well engineered, modern, and powerful machine, I could not help feeling the energy and witness the glory of the land I traversed. Gone was the need to test the limits of the machine, but rather enjoy it as a vehicle that brought me to this wonderful place. When navigating through the park, the R nineT Scrambler moved along perfectly. The proven boxer engine was delightfully torquey and powerful enough to move me past RVs and minivans with a flick of the wrist. It even looked glorious parked among the trees and by the side of the road overlooking the Yosemite Valley. I cannot imagine anyone being upset or disappointed after purchasing this motorcycle.

We found ourselves at the top of Glacier Point Road, which had just opened for the season a couple of days before our arrival. Prior to the trip, we all agreed it was mandatory for us to visit this spot of the park because of its iconic view of Half Dome and El Capitan. It surely did not disappoint.

Sam beats a hasty retreat from the Half Dome

So the R nineT works well in the city and on back roads, but does it Scramble?

While it retains the scrambler name, we all wondered if it possessed the chops to navigate dirt and gravel roads or any kind of technical routes. We found an OHV park on the outskirts of Yosemite, and I began to put this bike through its paces.

“We found an OHV park on the outskirts of Yosemite, and I began to put this bike through its paces.”

The R nineT Scrambler offers all the power to push itself around off-road. The motor has excellent shove, and just propels the bike forward like a laser beam into outer space. The Karoo 3s provide excellent feedback and grip, especially when you choose to get a little sideways. The ability to disable the ASC /traction control and ABS systems puts the bike fully at your command, and makes for a spirited off-road ride. Standing and shifting one’s weight forward over the front forks can be difficult due to the shape of the tank, but it can be done. The hydraulic clutch provides perfect and easy control at slow speeds and throttle control is beautifully smooth and immediate.

Overall, the R nineT is capable and comfortable on fire roads and moderately uneven terrain, but there are times where you have to keep your speed up to keep all that weight from bogging you down in the softer stuff like mud and sand.

The thing that concerned me most about riding the R nineT Scrambler off-road was its lack of ground clearance. I first learned to ride in the dirt on a BMW R 1200 GS, and this bike is far from that level of off-road pedigree. However, knowing how to ride a big adventure bike translates into riding the R nineT Scrambler quite well. Both are heavy and powerful machines that require a different type of finesse when compared to regular dirt bikes.

Testing the traction control

I found a fun, but small section of rocky trail and gave the Scrambler a chance to prove and challenge itself in something other than a finely groomed dirt path. Though I was careful and took the section slowly, I did manage to bottom out the suspension and sustain a good whack to the header and undercasing. Like its GS sibling, the R nineT Scrambler took the abuse without flinching. It’s not a “dirt bike”, but it is a dirt-capable bike, and by God does that still translates to tons of fun if you choose to venture off the asphalt.

As the Sun began to fall, the light and landscape developed this effervescent glow. Erik, Yoshi, and I were giggling like five-year-old school children.

“Oh man! Look at that path, and look at the light breaking through the trees!”

“Do a burnout, kick up some dirt, and ride through it!”

“Go around that bend and just goose the throttle!”

Goose, but no Maverick

We were having way more fun than adults should be allowed to have. Sit for a moment and enjoy the photos that these two grown men created. They are pretty awesome.

We were all so eager to see the photos from our daily outing, but before the computers came out, the whiskey began to flow and the fire temperately licked the air. Yoshi, being the designated DJ of the trip, put on a spectacular playlist consisting of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Muddy Waters, and many more. As freely as the whiskey flowed, so did the jokes and conversation. The funny thing about our relationship is that Yoshi, Erik, and I had never hung out together prior to this trip. We all bonded over our love for motorcycles, photography, coffee, avocados, the great outdoors, and camping. It served as a great reminder to never underestimate the power of mutual interests and travel to bring good people together.

Hot dogs, anyone?

Day 3 – Death By Interstate

One day is simply not enough time to experience and enjoy Yosemite. Erik, Yoshi, and I conversed and made a strong case over morning coffee to stay an additional week, bucking any adult responsibilities or commitments we had for the upcoming week. But alas, the need to pay rent, keep jobs, appease and take care of significant others, and attend school usurped our innate desires to be mountain men.

Instead of taking the long way back to Los Angeles, Yoshi and I opted for a straight shot back via highway 99. With 231 miles and about 4 hours and 20 minutes of straight — and I mean straight-up boring — highway in front of me, I expected the R nineT Scrambler to be fairly uncomfortable, but it was not. The bike cruised along quite easily in 6th gear as I averaged about 85 mph. My ass began to get a tad sore around the three-hour mark, but for a scrambler, that is downright comfortable and pretty amazing. I have to give BMW kudos for designing such a lovely and comfortable saddle.

“It’s more than capable of taking you on an adventure while allowing you to feel a sense of accomplishment.”

Even at speeds north of 65 mph, I didn’t find wind buffeting to be immensely uncomfortable. Occasionally I would tuck into the wind and hug the tank, but the R nineT Scrambler felt more comfortable than most other bikes I’ve ridden without a windscreen. Though I doubt most people buying the R nineT Scrambler will be taking it on a long-haul trip, you might just do so after reading my take on it. It’s more than capable of taking you on an adventure while allowing you, the rider, to feel a sense of accomplishment.

Understandably, the R nineT Scrambler is not the road-going piece of perfection that is the original R nineT. It does, however, exude a particular level of charm and style that will make you and every passerby fall in love with the machine. It did for me and every fourth person who walked past the bike during our trip. In the city, it made commuting, splitting through traffic, and rocketing past cars a breeze. It took me on an adventure where I could attack canyon corners one moment, tear ass down fire roads the next, and stand at the altar of giants and gaze upon magnificent vistas with two good friends.

As I arrived home, I pulled into my garage, took my helmet off and walked away. Just before closing my garage door, I glanced back at the R nineT Scrambler. It stood poised and dirty like a confident child in overalls, covered in mud, grinning at their parent. I could only smirk and think to myself, “Not bad. Not bad at all.”


– The heated handgrips were a lifesaver
– Great low and midrange power
– Great ergonomics and amazingly comfy seat
– Overall a superb, well-balanced machine

– No tachometer, gear-shift indicator, or fuel gauge
– Suspension is not the best, but certainly not the worst
– Low ground clearance when riding off-road

About the Author

Sam Bendall is Pipeburn’s U.S.-based Editor-at-Large. He is a man of many talents, but what matters most to him is his coffee in the morning and his whiskey at night.

[ Photos by Erik JutrasMicheal Jasionowski and Sam Bendall | Helmet from AGV. Jacket and hoodie from Aether. Pants from Aether. Boots from Alpinestarss ]

]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) bmw bmw motorrad r nine t scrambler Tue, 11 Jul 2017 04:18:04 GMT
Minabear – 1983 Yamaha XS650


By Sam Bendall | 

Originally Published on Throttle Roll 

“Don’t call me Minabear!” screeched the fire-haired young lady at James. She was clearly blessed by some recreational substances – but none the less, with that name James’s ’83 Yamaha XS650 had now been dubbed. This chance encounter with a stranger on the street would be the perfect match for this vagabond machine and it’s adventures.

Growing up in Illinois, James had a ton of space to kick about on as a kid. With his buddy next door owning two Honda Express 50cc mopeds, the opportunity for adventure was ripe. “We’d race those things around our connected yards, jumping into the ditch off the drive way and bashing into each other along the way. We’d break these machines; then scavenge parts off of a donor moped, fix them up, and get back to race bashing.” Bigger bikes would now follow, as nature intended. “Left to my own devices, I scored a sweet deal on a `71 Suzuki 125 Enduro for 25 bucks at a garage sale down the street. It was caked in mud and grease, and had been sitting for nearly 20 years with flat, rotted out tires. Naturally, I forked over some of my lawn mowing money I had made that summer and dragged it home.”

With this truly decrepit new (read: old) bike sitting sullenly in his family garage, new skills were to be learned in order to get it running – if it would ever run again. Fortunately for James, his Dad – like all Dads, was handy and was able to donate some knowledge upon the young wrencher. “My old man showed me how to rebuild the carb. I then put some new tubes and tires on it, a fresh spark plug and oil. Sure enough, she fired right up! I rode that beast for the next seven years or so. I kept up on maintenance and fixed things as I broke them, pushing that old bike harder than it was ever intended. I ended up selling the bike to a friend and moved out west. He still has that bike, and rides it to this day around his farm.”

Since this James has beaten about on just about all styles of bike. Everything from Modern motocross bikes, vintage enduro’s, sports bikes, you name it – he’s fanged it. Then he came across this particular machine in question, his 1983 Yamaha XS650. “This bike has been a group effort between a very close friend of mine and myself. I had wanted to do a full ground-up custom build for a while now, and my best friend Luke had this crusty old 650 he’d been riding around for the last few years that was in need of some TLC. Having just moved to the city, I felt this was the perfect opportunity to put together a custom motorcycle to showcase my work and help my friend get his wheels done up the way he had always wanted at the same time. So we went over everything he wanted, set a budget, and I got to work.”

This bike had originally been picked up stock a few years back, before having some brat style mods applied to it. “He swapped his factory tank straight up with a friend for that cherry XS400 square tank that sits on it now. I keep saying he stole it. He changed out the bars, rims, and some bits here and there and basically rode it. He wanted a dual purpose type of bike that he could commute to work and hop around the city on, but one that would also keep up on the dirt trails and fire roads we often find ourselves tearing down on camp runs. So, staying in line with his needs, I kept the build in the direction of more of an urban scrambler.”

“My main goal with the bikes I work on is to preserve these vintage moto’s that are often either cannibalized for parts, or left to rot somewhere. There’s a great satisfaction I get out of taking rusty old metal that has been forsaken, and putting my blood, sweat and time into it, transforming it into something new again. I’m a big ‘form-follows-function’ guy and don’t put anything on a bike unless it serves a purpose. I feel like that creates an honest, and clean looking motorcycle. I also like to retain as many original parts as possible for sake of not simply buying a bunch of modern parts and bolting them on, but also it preserves the character of these classic machines. So things like progressive springs and heavy racing oil in the forks updates the performance of an otherwise unassuming front end.”

Despite staying true many of this old bike’s sensibilities and style, it would still receive some kick to make sure walked as good as it talked. A complete top to bottom rebuild on the motor would be completed with performance firmly in mind. The engine would be rephased, a big bore kit, port and polish the head, hot ignition, upped the jets – all the things that could be done to squeeze the most out of this road and track basher. “I’ve built exhaust systems for hot rods before, but never one for a motorcycle, so this was a first for me. Many hours of cutting, grinding, and welding later, and the exhaust was able to move from the head out to the rear in a manner I felt was aesthetically pleasing.”

“This bike represents a lot of firsts for me. I’ve been restoring cars with my old man, and maintaining and modifying my bikes in my garage basically my entire life, but always on the side. The last few years or so I’ve been operating under the name L`Moto Designs. It’s a mash up really, the L for my last name (Licari), and my lineage coming from Italian craftsmen. I just moved to LA, while still very much a garage builder, I’ve dedicated full-time to building these custom bikes in my home workshop. With my background in engineering and manufacturing, I decided to apply my skills and experience to reviving vintage bikes with a modern twist for myself, not some corporation. While I’ve built many engines, done plenty of performance and fabrication work, made complete wire looms from scratch, and painted more than I care to recount on one bike or another, I’ve never had a chance to do all aspects at once on a single bike as a major project like this. I will say though, it is far less time consuming than restoring an entire car! This was my first ground-up, frame-off restoration on a motorcycle, and it was my first fully commissioned custom build to suit someone else’s needs. I thoroughly enjoyed building a performance oriented XS650 engine, and will continue building these killer motors in my home based shop here in LA. I’ve already started on the next one, actually. My goal is to turn them out, offering engine building services locally as well as to continue building one off bikes, resurrecting rotting 40 year old motorcycles so that they can once more rip down the streets to cafes and bars.”

“In the end, I’m really happy with the way the bike turned out. It has the aesthetics and design cues both my buddy and I drool over, and it meets the needs originally intended for it, making it a very functional machine that gets ridden daily. I’ve owned XS650s before – have one now, and worked on plenty. However, this was the first XS650 motor I’ve built from scratch, and I’ve never done a rephased crankshaft before. So I was beyond stoked when the engine came together so well and fired right up without issue. It didn’t take much tuning to get her dialled in which was nice, that’s thanks to the fact that I’ve been playing with these Mikuni BS series carbs for a long time. They transform way this bike performs, it’s one of those things where you just have to ride it to understand. Before it was torquey, but it was harsh, and it vibrated so bad it would just shake itself apart, no matter how much thread locker you squirted on. Now, the thing has the smoothest power curve, just roll on the throttle and she rips, “gobs of torque” as the Harley guys say. It idles perfectly; you get that front tire shake at stoplights, but its not jarring your teeth. Then there’s the exhaust note, perfect for in the city. Its quiet and tame at idle, just a subtle lope to it. When you open up the throttle though, the beast roars to life and everyone notices. Its deep and throaty, yet refined, not obnoxious. Hearing that gets me excited every time.”

Photos – Sam Bendall

Words – Pete Cagnacci

]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) Tue, 20 Jun 2017 17:30:34 GMT
Murray’s Triumph Thruxton

By Sam Bendall | 

A life of travelling the globe planted the seed of adventure in Murray, which only naturally would bud into motorcycling. Using one of the greatest forms of creating adventure, Murray and his Machine have forged a bond through thick and thin – and picked up something special along the way.

In his travels, Murray found himself adventuring on a variety of bikes as he explored over 50 countries. This pure form of transport became the essence of adventure, and as his life became more grounded, a solid machine was on the cards. “I decided to get my full licence and become legal, so I completed my riders test in the UK the day before flying out to Canada. I landed in Vancouver, and in that very day went to a dealership to find the machine that would be for me.”

That dealership happened to be a Triumph dealership. “I wanted a Triumph as it was a brand that was synonymous with exploration and heritage, for me. I was originally looking for a Bonneville but I fell in love with this pre-loved British racing green Thruxton as soon as I walked in. I then had it done up as a classic style café racer as it was intended to be. Adventure called once again, and I was on the road, headed for Mexico.”

“It was on this trip that I met someone very special, and it was actually because of this bike that I had met her – but more about that later. After a lot of riding – and I mean a lot, I decided riding a café racer wasn’t the most comfortable so I started changing the bike into more of a street sled. I removed the air box, put a two into one system on and did a few more engine tweaks. I added some Biltwell tracker bars and stripped everything off I didn’t need, opting for led strip signals and brake lights.”

The next morning, after spending about two weeks in the garage working on his bike, Murray and his machine were ready. “Five minutes into my ride I felt the back of my bike lift up, and heard metal crunching and plastic tearing. I was being pushed into a main road and had no control of my bike.” A young driver with a brand-new 4WD had decided whatever was on his phone use was more interesting than paying attention to the road, and so Murray found his adventure machine half devoured by the large four-wheeled beast. “Her truck was lifted off the ground – they’re tough bikes, but I was gutted. All that work, and all those miles.”

It was in the ambulance to the hospital that the situation really sank in for Murray – the bike was done for, or was it? (plot twist!) “Now, as you may remember, I had met someone very special on my trip, Well, she’s now my wife. I had some met some guys in Mexico and ended up riding to Arizona and back to LA with them – one of the guys was dating a chick down in Orange County. I cruised over with him, and little did I know but they had set up a blind date for me with her best friend. It was super awkward, so to break the ice I asked if she wanted to come and grab a pizza with me, on the bike. We jumped on, and we knew that was it. Fast forward to the ambulance. I realised that this bike was more than just transport, more than just the first bike I owned, more than the bike that had got me through snow, rain and hail driving through the Rockies in January, it was the reason I met my wife.”

Murray knew this bike was not done for, that he could breath life back it – but not without a fight. The bike had been declared totalled by the insurance company. Not taking this as a final answer, Murray took it to Triumph, who inspected it for themselves. “It was only the sub frame that was slightly bent. I got the insurance money, bought the bike back and immediately began planning how to rebuild it. First I replaced and upgraded the brakes, shocks, chain and cogs. I then had to address the sub frame and the fact the seat wouldn’t fit anymore.”

“If necessity is the mother of invention, then this was a necessary move. Personally I loved the look, slightly tracker, slightly bobber, slightly cafe. The big problem now was it was a little waspy in its handling, it was front end heavy. I took all the wiring and hid it under the tank, removed the headlight and gauges and started looking for options. I went down the face plate route with LED lights to keep in with removing everything unnecessary.”

“I love the memories of this bike. Everything I’ve been through in the last four years, this bike has been there with me. It’s forced me to take the hard route and discover unseen lands, meet new people and remind me that the world is a lot smaller than it seems. The bike is a vehicle, but not in the main sense of the word. It is a vehicle for movement, it forces involvement and it drives life.”

Photography by Sam Bendall

Words by Pete Cagnacci

]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) Thruxton Triumph Wed, 07 Jun 2017 06:13:32 GMT
Rob’s ’76 Honda CB750

By Sam Bendall | 

The need for 2-wheeled hoonery kicked off 24 years ago for Rob, from humble mopeds to more adventurous dirt bikes with mates he ascended the motorcycle hierarchy. It would be classic Hondas that would really drive his passion for riding and customization, with his latest being a classic cafe racer styled machine with that famous CB750 charm.

Fond memories of Rob’s first bike, a 1978 Honda CB400, still illuminate his mind as a much younger version of himself would ride this machine till he could ride no more. “I can remember the first time I ever took that bike out onto the Highway. I rode straight to Connecticut from Long Island NY. I was truly addicted from that moment on.”

This addiction was not simply for motorcycles, but 1970’s Hondas it would seem. This current fix is a 1976 CB750 Supersport, the 6th classic Honda Rob has owned and what will no doubt be among the ranks of many more. “I owned a ’77 CB750 before this one, but it got totalled in a hit and run accident – I was very lucky to have walked away from that. I knew I wanted another ‘70’s CB750, so was on the lookout for just the right one. I always like to buy a bike as stock as possible. This means I can start with a blank slate and change or customise things to really make it my own.”

Hours of trawling through adverts of CB750’s for sale would provide him with a win. An orange Supersport, that was (mostly) stock, just what the doctor ordered. “This would be the first Super Sport I’ve owned. I liked the idea of the longer wheelbase and tank, which I felt would provide a really great basis for a café racer build. The second I saw this machine I knew the design I had in my head would fit it perfectly.”

The work behind getting this orange stock CB750 to a mean green café racer machine would start with a major top to bottom engine rebuild, some exhaust work, tidying up the electrics and switching out the pod filters that had come with the bike. “Most of the work would be aesthetic. I cleaned up the whole front end, removed the gauges, lowered the ignition with a spacer, chucked on some clubman bars and ran the blinkers out of the headlight to keep things tight. I removed the entire seat and rear end to add a single cowl unit. Next would be the knee indents in the tank and a few other fun little tweaks to get it how I wanted, but nothing too crazy. There was no need for rear sets as the position fit me perfectly.”

The end result is a culmination in very British cafe racer aesthetic mixed with Japanese super bike legacy. A massive nod to some iconic ’70’s design and performance. “I think the design of this bike is really simple. That’s what’s so great about these machines. It took a few months to really get it dialled in mechanically, but it looks and rides and exactly how I envisioned it.”

“I love everything about my bike. I feel like it’s an extension of myself in so many ways – I just love riding in general. Riding forces you be present, be in the moment. There’s no better feeling than that.”

Photography by Sam Bendall

Words by Pete Cagnacci

]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) CB750 Honda Thu, 25 May 2017 06:19:00 GMT
WEAR & TEAR. Pando Moto’s ‘Karl Indigo’ Jeans

Written by Sam Bendall.

Originally Published in Pipeburn

My Pando Moto Karl Indigo jeans smell like the inside of a garbage can at this point. That’s because I’ve been wearing them for almost 4 months straight and they’ve never been washed. I wear them to the market, I wear them on the couch, I wear them in the car, I wear them at the cafe and, well, wear them everywhere. Especially on my motorcycle. My fiancé gets especially annoyed when I wear them at home because she cannot believe they are just as comfortable as my super-hero lounge sweats. Maybe they also don’t smell as bad I led you to believe because she has not said anything either.

I’ll be honest, I like to look good. In my profession, I believe that wherever I go, there is an opportunity to do business and my outward appearance and attitude is a reflection of my style. Because I am a motorcyclist in Los Angeles it is imperative, that whatever I am wearing, protects me in the event of an accident.

As the motorcycle industry begins to shift toward understanding the mentalities of young working professionals and cool, hip riders that are growing in number, so are many motorcycle apparel companies. Riders have shouted loud enough that “we want look good off the bike and ride protected in case of an accident.” Some brands heard the call and even newer ones have stepped into the fray with new products.


I was intrigued by Pando Moto having never heard of them prior to wearing my current pair. Pando Moto is a Lithuanian company that hand tailors premium Cordura denim with embedded Kevlar panels. They are also one of a few companies making apparel with a fabric known as Dyneema which is 50 times stronger than steel and thus ultra abrasion resistant.

Other features Pando Moto features in their apparel are removable SAS-TEC® CE approved knee protectors that can be inserted or removed from the outside and flex points at the knees to facilitate a motorcyclists’ stance whether on a cruiser or a sport bike.


The stinky and awesome pair I have been wearing for the last 4 months is the Pando Moto Karl Indigo. The first outing with the Karl Indigo came when I was tooling around town on the Rev’it #95 Double Dare. Knowing I would experience a potential fall in the dirt, I opted to toss in the SAS-TEC Knee Protectors. Luckily for me the only time I went down on that bike was at a stop in some very slippery mud. The rest of the time in these jeans were spent on my own bike, and an awesome Vespa commuting and running errands in and around LA.


The Karl Indigo fits my tall frame well and the sizing runs true to size. In the last year, I’ve gone up to a 36 waist (too much work, and iffy diet and not enough time in the gym) and I have always been a 34 inch inseam. My thighs and posterior have some definition and that has proven difficult in the past to find pants that fit very well. It’s either a battle between waist and hip fit versus leg fit. The latter is naturally compromised leaving me with an ill-fitting pant in the leg.

Regarding the Karl Indigo, the fit in the waist is comfortable and fitted but not too tight to restrict any movement or create serious “swamp-ass” on a warm day. The thigh and leg portions are also nicely fitted with a little room to breathe. “Baggy” or “skin-tight” are not the words I would ever use to describe these pants. They are simply perfect. Having a little room along the waist and thigh also makes for comfortable and roomy pockets. Fitting in my field notes sized leather wallet and iPhone 7 Plus in the front pockets is easily achieved and there is no pressure on them in a seated position. The same can be said for the back pockets as well. On occasion, I have stuffed my riding gloves in my back pocket when dropping in and out of a store.

My favorite feature is the removable SAS-TEC® CE approved knee protectors. I often do not have the knee protectors in but they alway manage to stay in my bag in the event I choose to put them in for some spirited riding. Being able to toss them in without having to remove my pants is very convenient. Once in position, they are secured by a heavy-duty velcro strip and fit snugly over my patella and 4 inches down my tibia. There is very little wiggle room once they are in place.

Nothing is ever perfect but these jeans come close, so what are the pain points regarding the Karl Indigo’s? Because it’s something I have been so use to all my life, the Karl Indigo is missing the ever-present “fifth pocket” just inside the right front pocket. I never realized how much I missed the little stash pocket until it was gone.

12.5 oz Cordura denim has incorporated “CoolMax” technology that allows for breathability but when coupled with Kevlar lining, the jeans do retain body heat. On hotter summer days, like the ones that are coming up and the few that have descended upon Los Angeles in the last couple weeks, I don’t anticipate these jeans being that comfortable off the bike for extended periods of time. However, I believe that is a natural compromise if you demand a durable fabric to protect in a slide.


I have never really been down in these jeans, and I hope I never have to experience it. But I have experienced the abrasion resistance of kevlar and cordura in the past. The quality of the fabric in the Pando Moto Karl Indigo is top-tier and I believe will protect you during a prolonged slide. The reinforced chain stitching of each Kevlar panel to the Cordura denim uses Kevlar thread which means it’s not coming apart. From a style perspective, they look utterly fantastic and my friends, family, and students have been oblivious to the fact that they are protective motorcycle jeans.

So, if your body type is like mine (athletic and trim) the Pando Moto Karl might be your best bet for a three season riding pant that’s also suitable for everyday wear off the bike.

At $236 USD (€199, A$320) the Pando Moto Karl is a steal. It comes in at nearly $70 less than other competitors which try to pull off this similar style with none of the aforementioned protective fabrics.


Pando Moto – Facebook – Instagram | Additional Photos by Dylan Patrick and Errol Colandro 

]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) Jeans Karl Indigo Motorcycle Gear Pando Moto Pipeburn Sun, 14 May 2017 18:45:00 GMT
George’s 1981 Suzuki GS1100EX

By Sam Bendall | 

When you look at George your first thought might be “total surfer dude”. Contrary to this, he’s a die-hard motorcycle nut who has been racing most of his life. For the past decade, he has been a regular at Willow Springs International Raceway, taking out the title of vintage heavyweight champ in 2006. We got wind that George had a Suzuki GS1100EX with a story behind, so we had to go check it out.

“My father and I rode motorcycles all my life. It’s something we both bonded over and engaged in for years. It all began as an 8 year old kid, my father took me to a race track in Bridgehampton, NY to see the races. I was immediately drawn to them. The sounds and smells, it was like nothing I had ever experienced. I was addicted, it was like a drug. In 1973, my father then bought 2 Kawasaki Z1’s for himself and a Honda QA 50 for me. The day he brought the big bikes home, my sister cried saying that I got everything and she got nothing! From that day forward I never looked back.”

Throughout the years George has owned many bikes but this Suzuki GS1100EX holds a special place in George’s heart. Back in 1980, his father built a turbo charged Honda CBX and it was in need of constant repair.  That same year he bought this 1981 Suzuki GS1100EX while the Honda was in the shop. Like any motorcyclist that owns a bike for a little while, the desire to make it better came to the surface. The GS found it’s way into the shop. His father added a big bore kit, cams, racing carbs, dymag wheels, cal fab swing arm and more. The bike became a rocketship. In college, George became the guardian of the GS when his father became preoccupied with other life issues.

Passed on from father to son, this 1981 Suzuki GS1100EX was bought brand new and has known no other owners for almost 37 years.

To own a motorcycle with such a personal history makes one ultra connected with a machine. As George suits up to ride, he talked about how this bike makes him feel. He remarks that it’s the raw power, the sound, and connection to the analogue creates a unique connection. “It’s not something you really experience with a modern bike, there is so much about this bike that is pure,” George remarks. As far as handling, the GS1100EX is remarkably stable at high speed. It’s a planted machine. George employs a steering dampener which helps but he enjoys the raw feeling of the bike.


For a motorcycle that has gone everywhere with George, he jokes, “I’ll likely be buried with it.” When he returned to LA in 2002, the bike had sat idle and needed some professional love so in stepped friend, famed crew chief and engine builder, Carry Andrew, to bring it back to tip-top shape. After she was breathing again, George’s friend and fellow vintage racer, Ed Milich of EPM Engineering helped George modify and mount the modern front end from a 2007 Suzuki GSX-750 and also put on a swingarm from a 1987 GSX-750.  His buddy and fellow racer Rick Carmody did the Wes Cooley paint scheme. “The bike has always been a collaborative effort and I always try to seek out the best guys to help me. To date, there are so many people that have helped make this bike into what it is”  George laughs and says, “Man, so many people have touched this bike in one way or another.”

George’s Suzuki GS1100EX is an amazing machine that harmoniously blends the allure of classic motorcycling with accents of modernity.

On top of his obsession for riding bikes, George runs a boutique motorcycle rental and tourism business out of Santa Monica, CA. His goal is simple: To expose new and continuing riders from all over the world with a bike and access to the most amazing roads in southern California. His fleet is stocked with a handful of sport bikes and a set of adventure bikes being added to the fleet in 2017. You can learn more about his business and the experience at

]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) Tue, 02 May 2017 06:45:00 GMT
Beach Moto’s Ducati GT1000 Sport Classic

By Sam Bendall | 

On a strangely overcast yet humid morning in Southern California, I am sitting outside the Shack Cafe in Playa Vista sipping on a much needed cup of coffee. In the distance, I hear the unmistakable rumble of a Ducati from down the block. Dennis is stopped at the lights. With a fervent and throaty roar, he approaches, pulls into the lot and parks 4 feet in front of me on this beautifully customised 2009 Ducati GT1000 Sport Classic.

We got to talking as motorcyclist’s do about the machine before us. Dennis acquired the bike originally from a friend out of state after trading a Moto Guzzi V7 for the GT1000. It turns out the owner of the GT1000 had a soft spot for the V7 and it became a win-win for everyone involved.

Ultimately I asked Dennis, “What compelled you to buy this bike and use it as a base for a custom project?” His answer was simple and to the point, “The GT1000 Sport Classic is by itself a beautiful motorcycle which retains a modern classic look. I like the simplicity of the air cooled engine and feel like the engine has loads of character.”

Dennis stressed to me that he himself is not a “bike-builder” however, he is fairly mechanically inclined. “There are always times in building or customizing a motorcycle where some custom fabrication is needed to really pull the bike together. Sometimes parts do not fit, screw threads need to be re-threaded, or a part made. This was case regarding a few design elements on this build.” To make it all work, Dennis sought out the assistance of StradaFab for custom fabrication and design troubleshooting.

Their first and largest contribution was a full custom exhaust system which produces a lovely deep-throated tone at speed. The rear turn signals were elegantly mounted and the rear brake reservoir is completely hidden due to a custom mounting bracket. While it took a ton of research and time to design, the results are undeniably beautiful. The GT1000 has a classic vintage appearance without tasteless mods and unnecessary shiny bolt on parts. Everything on it manages to be functional and practical.  A full list of aftermarket additions on this lovely machine can be found at the end of our article.

What also sets this bike apart is the paint scheme. It retains a level of flash without looking overtly flashy. “To achieve this we sought out our friend, neighbor and tattoo artist, Zach (@themachine13). Zach too builds wicked motorcycles and we really wanted to utilize his amazing artistic and creative talent for our bike.”

While a lot of work can go into designing and creating a custom motorcycle, none of that matters outside of the ride. The visceral feeling of being in the saddle. “This bike was never meant to be a track weapon even though it’s probably really capable. We were able to strike some weight with the removal of some of the stock parts and the addition of a light wheel set and awesome suspension,” Dennis tell me, “It is mostly used for city riding but the the power delivery makes this bike very fun. I mean it’s under 400lbs and has nearly 100bhp on tap, that always manages to put a smile on my face when I twist my wrist.”


OZ Racing Piega forged aluminium wheels

Brembo 4 piston front calipers custom painted black

Brembo 2 piston rear caliper custom painted black

Brembo T-drive brake rotors  

Brembo RCS19 brake master cylinder

Brembo RCS16 clutch master cylinder

Rear brake reservoir hidden custom mount

Oberon clutch slave cylinder

Custom brake and clutch lines

Corse Dynamics under swing arm rear brake caliper bracket

Corse Dynamics 7” headlight

Corse Dynamics upper and lower triple clamps

Andreani front forks inserts

Ohlins rear shocks

Ducati Monster 1200 brake and clutch reservoirs with Rizoma custom mounts

Driven clip-ons

Rizoma mirrors

Biltwell grips

Beast-R high inflow intake kit with K&N filters

Custom blacked out valve covers

StradaFab custom belt covers

StradaFab custom exhaust system

StradaFab custom exhaust hangers

Ducati Hypermotard oil cooler

Ducati Hypermotard oil lines

Diopa tail

Custom seat

Custom Woodcraft rearsets

Rizoma turn signals with custom mounts

Biltwell brake light with custom mount

Words & Photography by Sam Bendall @livemotofoto

]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) Ducati GT1000 Sport Classic Tue, 14 Mar 2017 06:30:00 GMT
The REV’IT! #95 Double Dare - An All Wheel Drive ADV Monster


Photography by Sam Bendall, Jonathan Klein, Dylan Patrick and Bob Nybe

Originally Published on Ride Apart 

I have worn and tested a lot of different motorcycle gear and the past couple years and I keep coming back to Rev’it as my go-to for adventure and urban gear. From day one it always seemed to fit my massive frame and perform admirably. When I found out REV'IT! had built an adventure bike I had to ask them for a chance to ride it. I ended up spending two rainy and muddy weeks playing around with this machine.

Design and History

There are no dials, no instruments, no fuel gauges – just man, motor, and the world. The REV'IT! #95 does a magnificent job in tapping into those primal feelings sought after by adventure motorcyclists.

The REV'IT! #95 began its life as a KTM 950 Super Enduro Erzberg Edition but evolved to include a massive 12-gallon custom fuel tank, Christini all wheel drive system (more on that in a bit), a wild cafe seat, naked back end, and custom-made exhaust.

The 942cc 75-degree V-twin puts out around 98 hp and the power shows as the REV'IT! team was able to lighten the overall weight of the stock KTM by 15 lbs. This reduction in weight comes from the elimination of the original subframe and replacing it with 7/8-inch chrome-moly tubing with an .049-inch thick wall, and TIG welding it to the stock chassis. This modification also allows for the subframe to remain very strong.

The electronics were relocated and organized under the seat in a custom aluminum electronics tray and a lightweight lithium-ion battery replaces stock. Additionally, many of the stock parts – like plastic cowlings, seat, and exhaust systems – were scrapped and replaced entirely with lighter components.

Standing out visually is the almost-out-of-character brat-style seat. The designers at REV'IT! saw it as a way to pay homage to their urban line of clothing, going so far as to wrap the top layer of the seat in the same leather used in the REV'IT! apparel line.

The Ride Experience

When I went to pick up the bike, I spent 10 minutes trying to find the ignition; it is inconveniently tucked under the handlebars. I felt like an idiot but allowed that feeling to fade. I mounted this franken-bike dressed half like a hipster and half like an adventure motorcyclist with my REV'IT! Sand 2 jacket, selvedge denim and Red Wing Boots. Appropriate in my mind for a custom bike that looks like the result of a ménage à trois between an ADV, enduro, and café racer. Whatever you want to call this bike, I immediately felt at home. The wide handlebars and knee cutouts in the tank are close to perfect for someone of my height; the throaty exhaust is a devilish symphony to the ear; and the narrow seat and aggressive rake instantly made me feel as though I was atop a beastly supermoto.

As I pulled out of the lot, sprinkling rain began to fall more more steadily. But the rumble from the exhaust begged for an open throttle. And open it I did. Torque in first gear lent itself to a nice power wheelie. Second gear, more of the same with a little dumped clutch. Oh man, this bike was feisty. Soon, though, I put the front wheel down – allowing my rational mind to override primal desires. The rain came a little harder and on the oil-soaked streets of Los Angeles, I could feel grip wavering at the higher speeds and in corners. Finesse was required, outright ballsy fun restrained.

But rain, of course, means mud. I found a piece of untouched earth and began to play. Once removed from the pavement, the REV'IT! #95 becomes ultra capable and balanced. A vicious dirt bike on steroids. A pure adventure motorcycle.

Thereafter I could not live without dirt. I was like a heroin addict searching for his next fix. Even in the city, a voice inside me compelled me to look for dirt at every corner even if it was just a patch. I wanted to feel the tires spin, shake the back end loose and hear the engine cry. Once, on my way home I found a Christmas tree lot and began doing donuts and power slides.

I needed to get a full day fix so I fueled up and went out to Rowher Flats OHV to let this dog off its chain. Looking at the massive fuel tank, one might believe the bike to be difficult to manage, but it's entirely the opposite. It remains well balanced at speed and in low-speed maneuvers. The knee cut outs in the tank allow for near perfect knee hugging, whether seated or standing.

Where this bike really shines is when the 1WD / 2WD switch is flipped to the 2WD setting. Utilizing a Christini all-wheel drive system, a secondary chain attached to the motorcycle’s main transmission drives the front wheel at a lower rate than the rear wheel.

According to Christini: "Under optimum traction conditions, the rear wheel is actually driving faster than the front AWD system. One-way clutches within the front hub allow the front wheel to freewheel under these conditions. At this point, the AWD system is effectively passive. Though the front AWD system is turning, it is not actually transferring power to the front wheel. When the rear wheel loses traction, the drive ratio, relative to the forward speed, changes. The AWD system engages, transferring power to the front wheel until traction is reestablished at the rear wheel.”

The result: high-speed power slides are easy. As the rear wheel loses traction and begins to slide, the front wheel pulls the bike forward. Hill climbs are also easy. Approach a hill and pin the throttle; the bike climbs effortlessly. Sand and mud are no longer the worst surfaces to ride through. It had rained the day before I went to Rowher Flats, so most of the trails were super muddy. The AWD system is an awesome aid in difficult and loose terrain.

Back on the highway, the bike is a tad buzzy at higher RPM, even in 6th gear. But you know what? That’s OK. I never cared because this bike’s happy place is in the dirt. I could only imagine what would happen if we slapped some road tires on this machine and ran it up the coast.

I have to give a big thanks to REV'IT! Sport International for loaning me this bike. They've built a hell of a machine.

Rider Stats:
Rider height: 6 foot 5 inches
Build: svelte and athletic
Usually Rides: Anything with two wheels. Sam is a capable rider on pavement or dirt. He is generally relegated to street riding and commuting living in Los Angeles but yearns for dirt or adv riding whenever possible.

Sam's Gear:
Helmet: Schuberth C3 Pro

Jacket: Rev'it Sand 2

Pants: Pando Moto

Shoes: Forma Adventure Boots

Backpack: Velomacchi 28L Roll-Top pack

]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) ADV Moto Bike Review Double Dare Rev'it Tue, 07 Mar 2017 18:45:00 GMT
The Best New Motorcycles You Can Buy As A Beginner

Original Article Published for Thrillist

Best bikes for Beginners


When beginning the deep dive into the world of motorcycling, most people have one question that overrides all others: "What motorcycle should I buy?" It's a good question, albeit a very loaded one. Like so many other things in life, there is no absolute and correct answer, since there are a number of factors to consider when purchasing a motorcycle.

Let's first take a look at the most important things to consider, then we can break down a number of general types of bike you should consider as a novice rider. There are a lot, and I mean a lot, of motorcycles you can buy, and the recommendations below are just the tip of the iceberg of the excellent selection of machines beginners can safely enjoy.


There are four main things to consider when buying a bike:

1. How and for what purpose are you going to use the bike?
Are you planning on using it for day-to-day commuting? Do you want to get away for the weekend and tour from state to state? Are you passionate and do you idolize Valentino Rossi or Marc Marquez and want to drop a knee on a racetrack or zoom around your local canyon road? Did you get the travel bug after watching Long Way Round and now want to ride around the globe? These questions should serve as your ultimate barometer because there are many bikes out there designed to suit a particular riding style and function.

2. How much bike can you honestly handle?
While you're still learning to operate a motorcycle well, it's important to not be hindered by a bike that is too big, too heavy, or too powerful. Knowing what you can manage not just physically, but mentally, is very important. Ensuring you can place both feet firmly on the ground and reach the controls is a good start, but also think about how good your hand-eye coordination is. If you buy a bike that is powerful and fast, do you have the discipline to refrain from doing stupid, stupid things with that power?

3. How much money do you really want to spend on your first bike?
"Dropping" a motorcycle when you are new to riding is a reality. Damage to a bike means having to fix it, which costs money, and smaller, less expensive bikes are easier and cheaper to fix compared to their larger counterparts. Also, larger engines typically mean higher insurance payments for the first three years you have your license.

4. Do you love it?
The last, but in many ways, most important factor to consider, is this: When you look at the bike you have chosen, does it speak to you? Does it motivate you to get out and ride and experience the world around you? When you walk up to the bike, or walk away from it after a ride, do you have a hard time looking away? Do you think to yourself, "Damn, that's one beautiful and amazing motorcycle, and whoever gets to ride it is one lucky SOB?"

If so, you've chosen well, my friend.

Scramblers are Great beginner bikes


What they are: A lot of manufacturers are throwing around the term "scrambler" now, because it's "hip" and "cool." A true scrambler gets its name from relatively small dirt bikes built for racing on off-road courses with low jumps. Scramblers today are more of a throwback to those bikes, identifiable by their high tailpipe, semi-knobby or knobby tires, slightly longer travel suspension than a road bike, and wide-set tracker bars.

You should consider one if: You want to channel your inner Steve McQueen, but only on weekends. Scramblers do a good job at bridging the gap between working well on paved roads and dirt roads, but don't expect to become an off-road god(dess) on one.


2017 Triumph Street Scrambler

Price: $10,700
The new-for-2017 Street Scrambler is a beautiful both inside and out. It combines the aesthetics of old scrambler-style motorcycles from the '50s-'70s with new modern technologies like traction control, ABS, throttle-by-wire, and efficient fueling. Simply put, it's all of the great looks without the ride-ability and reliability downsides that you have to overcome on an original.

Scramblers are good beginner bikes


Ducati Desert Sled

Price: $11,395
When Ducati made its Scrambler line a couple years ago, everyone begged for the legendary Italian company to make a truly off-road-capable machine. The new Desert Sled is as beautiful as it is capable, refined, and hungry for dirt. Ducati engineers were sure to include beefed-up components nearly everywhere -- all crucial steps to ensuring off-road durability.


Adventure bikes are crazy fun


What they are: Adventure motorcycles are essentially your go-anywhere, do-(almost)-anything bikes. They're capable of eating up highway miles, tackling off-road sections, daily commuting, or carrying tons of gear. Most of the best bikes in this category have tall seat heights, so they're not very accommodating to beginner riders who are vertically challenged. The dominant bikes here are the BMW R1200 GS (shown above) and the KTM 1290 Super Adventure, but you can save yourself some cash by springing for an excellent alternative.

You should consider one if: You're relatively tall and want a good all-around bike that you can take to work or school every day.

Adventure bikes are great all-rounders


Honda Africa Twin

Price: $12,999
The Honda Africa Twin is a long-awaited adventure motorcycle that comes with a traditional manual transmission and Honda's automatic dual-clutch transmission. Think about that for a second: It's a motorcycle with an automatic transmission. It is more than capable of going anywhere and doing anything -- and of being ridden by virtually anyone.

Adventure bikes are great all-rounders


Kawasaki Versys-X 300

Price: $5,399
Kawasaki recently jumped into the small adventure bike market with the Versys-X 300. It's a good choice for anyone looking for a fun, nimble bike that's pretty much good at everything. Spring for the optional ABS (think of it as $300 well spent), and the Versys will make for a great everyday commuter and serve to tackle the dirt roads on longer travels once the pavement ends.


^ Art Department Error. Sport Bikes are not aslo called Naked Bikes. 

Be careful with sportbikes


What they are: They're the supercars of the two-wheeled world. The thrill of speed combines with aggressive lean angles to provide an adrenaline rush that can rarely be matched. It's imperative on sport bikes to be ultra-smooth in the application of throttle, clutch, and brakes, so for beginners, powerful sport bikes can often result in expensive medical bills, not to mention a broken bike. Smaller sport bikes, meanwhile, allow for just as much fun and can be ultimately forgiving when riders make mistakes.

You should consider one if: You love the idea of riding fast, can check your ego at the door, and deep down, you know the 1980s peaked with the Top Gun chase scene.

Smaller sport bikes are best for beginners

Yamaha YZF-R3

Price: $4,999
The little Yamaha R3 is the perfect beginner sport bike. The twin-cylinder, 321cc engine performs well at highway speeds, and overall, the bike is nimble and powerful enough to raise your heartbeat when the roads get twisty. As with the Kawasaki above, think of the ABS system as a $300 investment in not scratching the beautiful matte (black or white) bodywork.

Smaller sport bikes are best for beginners


Triumph Street Triple

Price: $9,400
If you can handle a bigger bike and you possess the self-discipline to handle extra power, the Triumph Street Triple is one of the best. It won't break a sweat at the track or on canyon roads, and it's docile enough to handle everyday use. The upright riding position is less aggressive than a traditional sport bike, which makes it particularly well suited to longer stints in the saddle.

Cafe Racers are immensely popular


What they are: Born from a bit of a snide comment about sport bike riders in the 1960s who would "race" from one coffee shop to the next, today cafe racers, aka modern classics, are hugely popular because they look great and are highly customizable to match your own personal aesthetic. Naturally, that means they also have a budding hipster community to boot.

You should consider one if: You think of a motorcycle as a fashion accessory as much as a riding machine. Cafe Racers make for excellent everyday commuting motorcycles and are often customized to be a tad sporty. These are some of the prettiest motorcycles on the road today.

Cafe Racers are Immensely popular


Triumph Street Twin

Price: $8,700
Triumph recently revamped its entire modern classic motorcycle lineup, and everyone is raving about the bikes for good reason. Whether you call them modern classic or cafe racer, the new generation of bikes comes with modern tech like traction control, ABS, different ride modes, better fueling, and a bigger engine, all while harmoniously blending in the allure of old style.


Cafe Racers are immensely popular



Honda CB1100

Price: $10,999
The Honda CB1100 oozes an undeniable air of svelte retro sexiness. Sporting a large, 1,142cc fuel-injected engine, the ride experience is both smooth and forgiving. The CB1100 also comes with an option for ABS. The bottom line is that this is a perfect, classic motorcycle for those who want to grow with their bike for a number of years.

Cruisers are great bikes for some people


What they are: When you think about cruisers, Harley-Davidson instantly comes to mind. The pride of Milwaukee has spent well over a century solidifying itself at the head of this class. That's not to say there aren't amazing alternatives, though. Bear in mind that by most objective measures, cruisers are not fantastic motorcycles: They don't really do anything better than other genres of bike... except for looking good, both while sitting still and cruising down the road. As a result, they remain the most popular motorcycle class in America

You should consider one if: You want to emulate Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson on a multi-state journey. Or you need a day-to-day bike.

Cruisers are the Classic Highway bike



Honda Rebel 300 or Rebel 500

Price: $4,399 (Rebel 300) and $5,999 (Rebel 500)
Honda redesigned the Rebel for 2017, and it's perfect for riders with a shorter inseam. The 300 has a very manageable engine for those riders who need a more forgiving machine. The 500 is for those seeking something with a bit more power. Regardless of your engine choice, Honda has long been known for making very reliable machines.

Cruisers are the classic highway bike


Yamaha Star Bolt R-Spec

Price: $8,399
The R-Spec is a great cruiser with appealing looks, a torque-y engine, and fantastic design. The wide handlebars make steering considerably easier and give it a more stable feel, which in turn inspires surprising levels of performance for a cruiser, but most of all, they result in smiles. The seat is pretty low here (just over 27in off the ground) so you don't need to be particularly tall to ride.

Dual Sport bikes are more sport than road


What they are: Dual-sport motorcycles are essentially dirt bikes that have been adapted to ride on the street and come with headlamps, turn signals, and everything in between to make them road legal. They are incredibly fun to ride around town and can handle themselves in dirt on the weekends.

You should consider one if: You're looking for a fun weekend bike to get you started down the two-wheeled path.

Dual sports bikes are great for novice riders


Honda CRF250L

Price: $5,149
The CRF250L's main draw is a roughly 3in lower seat height that makes it ideal for shorter riders. It's just as capable on pavement as it is in the dirt and is a great beginner bike for anyone. Available as a $700 option, the CRF250L Rally sports even more aggressive bodywork, and a windshield to protect against flying rocks, in case you're riding behind anyone.

Dual sport bikes are great for novices


Suzuki DRZ400S

Price: $6,599
The DRZ400S has a huge fanbase and can pull double duty on the road or in the dirt... but make no mistake here: The suspension has nearly a full foot of travel, marking this out as a serious off-road performer first and foremost. It's been around for a while, and between its history and an expanse of aftermarket parts available, the DRZ400S can be made to suit basically anyone's needs.

There's always the used option, too

Once you factor in some of your personal criteria and shop around, you will have a better idea as to what bike is best for you. Sometimes a brand-new bike just isn't in the cards financially, but a lot of these bikes have been around long enough to have a solid secondhand market. Aim for one with less than 20,000 miles and you should be good.

]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) Africa Twin Beginner motorcycles Bolt Buy a motorcycle Ducati Honda Kawasaki Street Triple Thrillist Triumph Yamaha motorcycles new motorcycle not your typical beginner motorcycles Sat, 11 Feb 2017 07:06:35 GMT
Why Riding A Motorcycle Will Make You A Better Car Driver Originally published for Thrillist 


For many, it's a dream to strap on some gear, hop on a motorcycle, and experience the freedom and rebel spirit of the open road. But it goes without saying that riding a motorcycle is not as easy as driving your Audi. In fact, motorcycles are 38 times more dangerous to operate than cars, and require far more attention and skill.

Which is why when you're learning to ride, you develop both a supreme set of riding skills and an excellent sense of judgment. As a very welcome bonus, honing these skills on a motorcycle makes you a better and safer driver of any type of vehicle. My students (I'm a motorcycle safety instructor in California) regularly tell me how much more aware they are after spending even one day on a bike, because it forces you to be keenly alert and aware of the world and hazards around you. Here's why motorcycle riders are some of the sharpest drivers on the road.


You train yourself to constantly recognize danger and risk

In a car, it's all too easy to feel safe and untouchable in your comfy leather seat, protected from the elements by metal and glass. On a motorcycle, it's vital to accept that what you're doing is dangerous. Complacency on a motorcycle can result in serious injury or even death, and while many high-end motorcycles include technology packages that contribute to a rider's safety, no amount of technology can effectively replace the human element.

Riding safely out in the world means recognizing and avoiding all the things that are trying to kill you. So on top of having to hone the skills and confidence to control the bike itself, riders must fine-tune their situational awareness to recognize the dangers around them. The biggest offenders are the multitudes of oblivious drivers, but it could just as easily be gravel in the middle of the highway, a pothole, a soccer dad making an oncoming left turn in the intersection you are approaching, wet leaves... the list goes on virtually ad nauseam.

Pretty soon you develop and retain that mindset of actively looking out for potential risks -- a skill that's beneficial no matter how many wheels you have, since operating any vehicle is dangerous. Once you've ridden a motorcycle, chances are you'll take your daily commute far more seriously.


You have to deal with hazards before they're a problem

Situational awareness means actively training your eyes, ears, and brain to pay attention to the world around you. As an example, while on the 405 recently, I encountered a piece of a 2x4 on the double yellow line between the fast lane and the carpool lane, but because I was looking far ahead, I saw it well in advance, and safely passed it. My instinctual reaction was that the object was a hazard, and I began to run through how I would handle that obstacle if it were in my path. Could I go around it? Over it? Could I stop in time? A decision like this is made in mere hundredths of a second, so every millisecond you gain from identifying a hazard earlier has a huge impact on your ability to effectively manage the situation.

Ask yourself this: When was the last time you turned your head a full 100 degrees to the right to look over your shoulder before changing lanes in your car? How many times do you check your mirrors in four seconds?

Especially if you're commuting or riding in urban areas densely packed with motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists, knowing when to prepare yourself to brake immediately or slow down to avoid a potential hazard can save your life. You just have to look around and be actively engaged with everything that surrounds you.


The result? You develop excellent driving skills and habits.

When I'm driving a car, I look over my shoulder when I change lanes. Every. Single. Time. My eyes are constantly scanning the road ahead, my rearview mirror, and my side mirrors every couple of seconds. I can bring my car to an emergency stop from 45mph without relying on the antilock braking system, and can feel when I begin to lose traction. Those habits and instincts get hardwired into your brain with prolonged experience on a bike, which is why motorcyclists are some of the most attentive drivers out there.

IMG_8535 (1)IMG_8535 (1)

And you learn a ton about the physics of driving

When compared to motorcycles, it's fair to say that cars are rather stable. They have four wheels, they cannot simply fall over, there is less chance of injury, and at slow speeds, they're easier to manage. What that means is that suspension and steering dynamics are very, very different on a motorcycle, and you can feel subtle changes far more than when you're driving a car. Because suspension changes are more noticeable, you're forced to fine-tune your steering and throttle usage.

The end result is that you have a much greater sensitivity to what's going on with your vehicle, and a solid appreciation for how your every action impacts it. At the end of the day, you're a safer driver with greater control when the world around you gets dicey.


Words by Sam Bendall

Photos by Sam Bendall & Bruce Steever


]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) ADV Awareness BMW Ducati Education Honda LiveMotoFoto Moto Camping Motolife Motorcycle Motorcycles Real Riders Revit Safe Riding Sam Bendall Sport Touring Sport" Thrillist samuel Bendall Photography Wed, 28 Dec 2016 22:40:43 GMT
2016 Honda VFR1200X Ride Review Originally published for Ride Apart


The Honda VFR1200X has been available in Europe, where it’s known as the Crosstourer, for the past few years but it only made its way to the United States in 2016. While it looks like a big adventure motorcycle, it is classified as a sport touring machine and we found that it is capable of pounding the pavement on long hauls and eating up the most twisty canyon roads. Between the heft and the street-friendly design, I don’t really see it be a true adventure bike, but I will get more into that later on.

After spending a week and a half logging about 1,500 Miles on the VFR1200X, I came away with a pretty good idea where this bike belongs in the motorcycle universe. My goal was to leave Los Angeles and get lost on the VFR, so I packed my bags, strapped them down on the passenger pillion, and suited up for an adventure.

Where would I go? I was not too sure. I didn’t even pack a map. I know enough about my home state that I can’t actually, you know, get lost. So, I just headed north. My travels took me to Rosamond and past Willow Springs Raceway as I aimed for the coast. Along the Pacific, I rode past Big Sur, Monterey, San Jose, and back down to San Luis Obispo before making my way back to Los Angeles. Ninety percent of the time spent on the VFR1200X was on pavement with about 10 percent spent exploring some fire roads in the Los Padres National Forest.


Riding the Mean Streets of the Big City

Looking at this behemoth, one would imagine the VFR1200X would be a bit of a beast in and around the city but it is surprisingly manageable. While riding in Los Angeles, I’m keen to focus on a number of factors specific to urban riding. How does the bike hold up when splitting lanes? Does it have the power to get me out of a sticky situation (i.e. stupid drivers)? Is it nimble enough in those situations? How does the suspension fare on both beat up and well-paved roads? How bad is engine heat in stop-and-go traffic?

I split lanes all the time. It’s imperative for city riding in LA because traffic is so horrible. To not split lanes means you are just as miserable as those poor souls sitting in their cars. The VFR1200X, while it is a big bike, manages the day-to-day task of splitting lanes fairly well. The ride height allows for a fantastic view of traffic and puts you well above the roofs of any sedan. Some spots were a bit tight to get through but, overall, I found the VFR1200X well equipped for the urban commute. The low speeds of lane splitting and navigating parking lots are where the VFR shows its heft, all 603 lbs. of it.

The suspension on the VFR is adjustable for compression dampening on the back but I never took the time to adjust it because it felt good right out of the box. The response in handling over potholes felt adequate and comfortable in and around the city. The hydraulic actuated clutch is effortless and is fantastic for dealing with day-to-day squeeze and ease, in and around urban areas. The standard-mount calipers grip onto two 310mm discs up front that is capable of bringing the big VFR1200X to stop in a hurry.

Total Control Festival Willow Springs! - 357Photo by Joe Bonello

Riding on the Highway to Hell

The majority of my time in the saddle of the VFR1200X was spent on the highway. I firmly believe that every OEM makes a crappy stock saddle but the VFR1200X was not too bad. It wasn’t great either. After about an hour, I began to feel a few hot spots, began to squirm and move around a little bit and stood up on the pegs to stretch my long legs. Overall, the ergonomics for long-haul touring make the VFR very comfortable, especially for riders around my lanky stature of 6 feet 5 inches. The handlebars are tall and easy to reach, the 33.5-inch seat height provides a nice standard seating position too. This bike is purpose built to eat up miles.

At Home on the Back Roads

Once off the highways and onto the twisty canyon roads, the VFR1200X handles its own quite well, especially for such a big bike. The suspension is geared more for comfort than performance but I felt comfortable leaning off the saddle and managed to muscle it around corners with confidence. In tighter turns, I even found myself grinding the footpegs. Honestly, I was surprised by this as I didn’t expect to be able to lean it over that much but I did and it handled it well. The 19-inch front end provided good feedback and never felt light or wavering.

I could not help but take the VFR off-road. Now I didn’t do any heavy off-roading but managed some light fire roads and some trails with a bit of gravel and it did pretty well. The 1200X is capable, especially with the big 19-inch front wheel. However, this is not what this bike is designed for despite its ADV styling. In the dirt, the VFR felt heavy and the worry of dropping it became a real concern. At 608 lbs, with another 70 lbs of travel gear, it would be a nightmare to handle alone if the bike went down. Furthermore, the shape of the tank really inhibits the rider's ability to comfortably grip the tank with his or her legs from a standing position.

2012 Honda VFR 1200 X Review

What Everyone Else Says

The one review I agree with almost word for word was done by Bradley Adams over at CycleWorld. He spent some time with a more loaded out version of the VFR1200X in Moab, Utah, and said this: “In fact, in a lot of ways the VFR1200X is exactly what you’d expect from Big Red. It’s polished, refined, and misses very few marks. I think that, for the riders who are honest with themselves and admit they will not be doing any off-road riding, it will be worth a look.”

I’ll also add, that if you are OK with throwing around the weight of the VFR, then, yeah, it’s a drop-dead reliable bike that will make you happy day in and day out.


The Little Things

Every bike has something that annoys its rider. Some have more issues than others but let me take a moment to address my gripes with the 1200X. My first question is: why doesn't this bike, which claims to be a sport-touring motorcycle, not come with cruise control?

Second gripe: the bulbous tank design could be slimmed down in future iterations. Regardless of off-road ability, I would like to be able to stand up occasionally and not have the tank mashing into my thighs. Third: either the foot pegs are too small or my feet are too damn big.

Fourth: I really like to have options. Of those options, I want to be able to turn off the ABS. I can select a variety of TC settings, why can I not choose my ABS settings? I’m just saying.

Fifth: I have never liked digital tachometers.

Lastly: the 5.68-gallon tank and low fuel economy kind of puts a damper on the idea of putting a ton of miles on this bike. When I was nursing my fuel, I got almost 190 miles out of a tank before the panic-attack feeling of, “OK, it’s time to find gas,” began running around in my brain.

Total Control Festival Willow Springs! - 358Total Control Festival Willow Springs! - 358

The Best Things about the VFR1200X

Here we go, what stands out? What about this bike sang to me like an angel from the heavens during my 1,500-mile trek? First, I really like the engine. It’s not remarkable but rather predictable and smooth. The 76-degree V4, 1237cc powerplant has smooth and nice, even power delivery along the low and mid-range. It provides excellent power to punch through any and all traffic and enough zest to be fun in the canyons. Even at higher RPMs the engine maintains a tolerable amount of “buzziness” and cruising at 88 mph in 6th gear for miles after miles of highway proved effortless.

Press the traction control button three times to deactivate traction control and power wheelies are easy after that. The VFR1200X is a heavy beast, so bringing it down gently is a necessity. However, if you are buying this bike you’re not in it for the wheelies.

The adjustable windscreen is a godsend for both the long hauls and short jaunts along the interstate. With the flip of a lever and a push-up or down, the windscreen is adjustable on the fly and can be set at multiple heights. In the down position, there is considerable buffeting and wind noise. Put it up, and you become wrapped in the cone of silence. The windscreen does a good job for someone who is as tall as I am; for those who are shorter, the windscreen is fantastic. I am happy that Honda chose to make the windscreen adjustability analog rather than electronic. There’s something about the basic nature of a lever that gives me confidence that it won’t falter.


Honda offers a fair amount of luggage options for the VFR1200X but they get a bit pricey. I am a simple man and if there are points where I can fit a cinch strap around something I’ll just strap down some dry bags and go. Which is exactly what I did. The openings where the hard case panniers attach to the bike were wide enough to feed through a couple of tension straps bought at REI for $8 and voila – instant waterproof luggage.

The 12v charging port made it easy to keep my phone and little portable power banks charged while riding, and I enjoyed the readability from the digital speedometer and having a clear display that tells you what gear you are in. This bike actually looks really nice with its ADV styling without being an ADV motorcycle. It is a big bike but you know what? I like big bikes because I am a big dude. Touring- and budget-minded owners will also like the enclosed shaft drive. No chain maintenance to deal with on this baby.


Would I Buy It?

If it were my hard-earned money would I be dropping my stack of Benjamins at the Honda dealership for this motorcycle? Sadly, no, and here is why:

Let me first remind all of you that this is my own opinion based on my own preferences as a motorcyclist because I can see the potential appeal that the VFR will have for others.

At $15,599 for the manual transmission or $15,999 for the DCT transmission (my press bike was the manual transmission version). I feel like there are a few other motorcycles out there that would prove just as highway worthy, offer better fuel economy, and enable me to sport-tour while also allowing me an option to go off-road. Now, with that being said, I grew to enjoy the VFR1200X in the sense of it being a sport-touring motorcycle. If what you are looking for is a reliable, straightforward big bike that can travel and nothing else, then the VFR 1200 X is worth consideration.

The VFR1200X comes in a little less than its European competitors, like the Aprilia Caponord, BMW R1200 RT, and the rival Japanese, Yamaha Super Ténéré. For this reason, it’s the bargain motorcycle. However, for an extra one or two thousand dollars with the other brands in the same displacement category, you get more features that will add to your adventure sport-touring experience. On the other hand, you could get away with an equally enjoyable motorcycle capable of handling highway, back roads, and city riding by jumping down to the 1000cc sport-touring specific motorcycles and save quite a bit of cash.


VFR and KTM On HillVFR and KTM On Hill

Rider Stats

Name: Sam Bendall - @livemotofoto
Height: 6 foot 5 inches
Physical build: Rugged and manly. Seriously, though, athletic and slim.
Riding experience: 8 years with an emphasis on street, commuting, and touring. 3 years riding dirt and adventure.

Helmet: Schuberth C3
Jacket/Pants: Rev’it Lombard Jeans
Riding suit: Revit Sand 2
Gloves: Racer Mickey
Boots: Alpinestars SMX Pro


Words and Photography by Sam Bendall

Riding Photos by Joe Bonello 

]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) ADV Big Sur Bike Review Honda LiveMotoFoto Los Angeles Motorcycle Motorcycle Review Revit Revit Sport Sam Bendall Schuberth VFR1200X Willow Springs samuel Bendall Photography Fri, 18 Nov 2016 03:22:16 GMT
Alpinestars Launches Oscar Collection at ARCH Motorcycles AlpineStars Oscar Collection and Brad Pitt's Custom TriumphAlpineStars Oscar Collection and Brad Pitt's Custom Triumph on display at ARCH Motorcycles

When I get off my motorcycle, the last thing I want to look like is a motorcyclist. The only physical object that should inform others that I am riding a bike is the helmet I am carrying. Otherwise, I want to be able to walk into a bar, attend a meeting, or go out on a date, and be perfectly comfortable and looking fresh and fashionable in my threads.

More and more companies are finally understanding this demand from riders who want protective motorcycle attire without having to actually look like a stereotypical motorcyclist. 

Alpinestars, one of the world's largest motorcycle apparel and technical garment manufacturers, launched their Oscar Collection this week. Held at ARCH Motorcycles in Torrance, CA, the Oscar Collection is a heritage inspired line of protective motorcycle gear and lifestyle attire for 2017. It includes an array of jackets, jeans, and boots with CE protection ratings. Effectively mixing a vintage aesthetic with modern technology.   

In 1963, a leather craftsman by the name of Sante Mazzarolo began producing the first products bearing the Alpinestars moniker. At that time, a new sport called motocross was establishing itself and becoming quite popular across Europe. Very much aware of the sport, Sante realized an opportunity to apply his talents and technical acumen to design a new type of footwear that would meet the protective needs and demands of this beautiful yet brutal form of athleticism.

This is where a rich heritage in motorcycle racing was born for Alpinestars. The company then branched out into road racing in the late seventies and spanned into nearly all disciplines of motorsports from motocross to Formula 1. Though Alpinestars has evolved over the years, the timeless rebel-style of motorcycle racing and the refined Italian aesthetic of the early sixties continue to drive the brand. 

The Oscar Collection is an homage to those beginnings. 

Alpinestars is also launching a new Instagram profile that will center on the Oscar Collection while encouraging motorcyclists to engage with the brand in sharing their own stories and their love for motorcycles with the hashtag: #NiceBikeAlpinestars

On top of showcasing the new Oscar Collection, Alpinestars displayed their current Spring 2017 Men's clothing line which they have been growing with the goal of captivating everything from heritage esthetics all the way to the modern racetrack. 

In addition to featuring great products, Alpinestars featured some truly historic and one-of-a-kind motorcycles including, Roger Decoster personal 1975 Championship winning Suzuki MX Bike. Decoster was also present at the event and was one of the first championship riders for Alpinestars. He was discovered by the founder of the company, Santee Mazzarolo.

Woolies AgoTTWoolies AgoTT FFXT4791FFXT4791   FFXT4799FFXT4799 FFXT4804FFXT4804 FFXT4807FFXT4807 FFXT4814FFXT4814 FFXT4816FFXT4816 FFXT4823FFXT4823 FFXT4837FFXT4837 FFXT4917FFXT4917 FFXT4920FFXT4920


Photos by Sam Bendall

]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) Alpinestars Brad Pitt Commercial Photography Event Sam Bendall blog motorcycle photography samuel Bendall Photography Fri, 28 Oct 2016 20:19:00 GMT
Generations Video for the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride FFXT2440-2FFXT2440-2

Some of the best things in life are passed down from father to son. For me, one of the greatest gifts I was given from my father was my love for motorcycles. 

However, all that can be taken away if one neglects their health.  For this reason, it's important that men get checked for prostate cancer. Second to heart disease, Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men in the United States. 

Ninety-eight percent (98%) are alive after 10 years, and 95% live for at least 15 years. For men diagnosed with prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, the 5-year survival rate drops to 28%. It is beyond imperative to catch this disease before it spreads. 

My dad was one of the lucky ones. He is still here with me today and I 

He is still here with me and the thought of not having him around pains me. I can only imagine what others have gone through. Who they have lost.  

If you wish to give a little please do so at the link below. 

Donate now, support my ride, and give a little to the cause. Thanks! 


Video Produced by Jason Federici and Errol Colandro 

Editing: My Media Sydney

]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) cancer canyon motorcycles dgr distinguished gentleman's ride family father los angeles los angeles motorcycle ride mental health awareness motorcycle movember research ride dapper sam bendall samuel bendall photography triumph Fri, 30 Sep 2016 18:21:51 GMT
Flat Tracker Done Right - Mike Zehner's Triumph Bonneville by Mule Motorcycles triumphtriumph

There is no shortage of custom Triumph Bonneville builds out there in the world but Mike Zehner’s flat track inspired bike by Richard Pollack of Mule Motorcycles is simply too good not to showcase. 

In its stock form, the Triumph Bonneville is a bit of a pig. It’s a beautiful bike but it lacks the power and handling of a performance motorcycle. Granted one does not buy a Bonneville for these reasons but it does not mean it cannot achieve these traits after the fact. That is exactly what Mike Zehner sought to do and with the help from renowned motorcycle builder Richard Pollack of Mule Motorcycles. The result is a pavement pounding, dirt chewing, monster of a motorcycle. 


The build began as a stock 2007 Bonneville T100 and first on the chopping block was weight. Accustomed to riding single track and lightweight dirt bikes, Zehner wanted to ensure his everyday ride would emulate his riding style. With this in mind, Pollack was able to knock off almost 100 pounds from the portly classic by adding a lightweight fuel tank made by Fred Muelenhort and a fiberglass single seat cowling. The most noticeable modifications are beefy but lightweight spoked Sun rims running rubber from Maxxis in the rear and Dunlop up front, inverted front forks from an MV Agusta F4, RaceTech Suspension at the rear, recessed Sportster headlight, 2-1 upswept exhaust, and wide flat track bars for added control off-road. 

Zehner’s Bonneville Tracker also features an upgraded 6 piston brakes up front, Mule oil-cooled kit, air box eliminator kit with K&N air filters, a small LED brake light hidden under the rear fender, a small and discreet Acewell gauge and controls from a 2007 Triumph Scrambler to fit the 7/8 inch bar.  

“This bike came out exactly as I had hoped. It handles the urban commute very well and when I get it in my mind to tackle some dirt, I just go,” said Zehner. “My dad owned Triumph’s when I was young so they were some of the first bikes I fell in love with. Now, I have my own that does everything I could ask it to do. It rocks.”

I happen to agree. This bike looks mighty sweet. 

Photos by Errol Colandero (@EL3_Productions) and Jun Song (@nostalgia_memoir)


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]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) Bonneville Tracker Triumph Fri, 05 Aug 2016 21:45:00 GMT
The Woodsman Makes Me Want to Get Lost In The Woods MG_8613-640x427MG_8613-640x427

Based out in San Jose, California, Blood Brothers Inc. is a small motorcycle company known for their military ammo box mounts for Triumph modern classics just released their first motorcycle build. A swank looking forest hopping machine called “The Woodsman. “

The motorcycle’s new owner (Marcus) made the bold choice to cash-out from the tech world and focus on life's essentials. He relocated his family to Sweden, bought a 400-year old farm and retired from the rat race.


“When Marcus asked us to build him a motorcycle, his story supplied all the inspiration we needed. “The Woodsman” is our first custom build,” said Steve Mummolo, co-owner of Blood Brothers Inc.

“The bike is a blend of grit and grace, this custom scrambler is built to handle the rigors of a working farm while preserving the iconic beauty the Bonneville is known for.”

The guys began with a bone stock 2008 T100, stripped away all but the frame and engine and began to build. They seized the opportunity to collaborate with and showcase a favorite bike of theirs with shops and partners from around the world. 


The Woodsman breaks down like this:

Blood Brothers Inc. Custom Designs:

  • 3 Beam ¼” Aluminum Plate & Headlight Rig
  • Wiring alteration to accommodate headlight, tail light & signal array
  • Quick Release Leather Hatchet mount 
  • Hand Lettered Low Mount Quick release .30 Cal Ammo Can 
  • Hand crafted Aluminum Speedo mount
  • Side Cover Shaping & Screen installation

Partner Contributions:

Photography by Matthew Wardenaar / @omfgitsmateo
Josh Jackson / @calijax
Paulo Lopez / @pauloroid

MG_8624-640x427MG_8624-640x427 MG_8341-640x427MG_8341-640x427 MG_8450-640x427MG_8450-640x427


]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) Bonneville Motorcycle T100 Triumph Thu, 04 Aug 2016 21:23:42 GMT
Out Shooting The 2016 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang for Automobile Magazine "Hey, what are you doing on Saturday?" Asked my friend, Jonathon Klein. 

"Nothing of note," was my response. "Probably going for a ride or doing a little writing." 

We're doing a video with a track designed American muscle car and I am going to see if I can make my dad puke for his 6oth birthday. Do you want to come shoot this craziness? 

"Yeah, I'm down but I want whiskey and food. I get bitchy if I can't drink and eat afterwards." I replied. 




Jonathon Klein happens to be a good friend of mine who I met at a press launch a year or so ago. A kindred spirit of equal nerddom. Our friendship developed over our love for cars, motorcycles, and science fiction. Currently, he is an associate editor at Automobile Magazine so he's always messing around with some cool or mediocre automobile, you know, for work's sake.  He is a talented driver, elegant wordsmith, and an all-around amusing dude who I am happy to call my friend. Friends are also the only people I allow to pay me in food and whiskey. 

I drove up to Santa Clarita with our mutual friend Manuel and was introduced to Jonathon's family. They happened to be in town for the holiday. The agenda for the day: Take Jonathon's Dad out to the canyons and give him a birthday present he would never forget. A bone-crushing run in a 526-horsepower Ford Shelby GT350. Oh yeah, and we would film his reaction the entire time. You all will have to wait to scope out that video at when it comes out next month. I guarantee you it's going to be fantastic. 


You see, Jonathon's Dad has never been in a car like this before, and by some transitive property of logic, he has definitely never been in a car like this with his son behind the wheel. This was bound to get interesting.  


I did what I could to get some cool shots during the day which included: hanging out of a sunroof, climbing a cliff, and having a 2-ton muscle car barrel past me just inches from my lens. 






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After Jonathon ran his dad through the wringer, I was able to hop in the passenger seat as we needed to go farther up the hill to get some beauty shots of the GT350. 

"Seriously dude, don't pussyfoot around now that I am in this car. Give me what you got. Or at least whatever grip is left on those tires." Of course, I would instigate my friend. It's what we do. 

Jonathon unleashed the beast and man, what a ride! The entire time Jonathon whipped through the corners, I tried my hardest to talk a little bit about the car. I think I spent more time laughing than talking. 





]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) American Muscle Automobile Magazine Ford Mustang GT350 Muscle Car Pony Sam Bendall XT1 blog livemotofoto mustang photography samuel Bendall Photography travel Wed, 27 Jul 2016 07:45:10 GMT
Ducati Globetrotter 90 Project: The Final Seven Riders

It’s official! I have been chosen by Ducati as one of their adventure riders in the Globetrotter 90 Project. Myself and six other riders (all of us are below) will rally around the world utilizing one Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro in celebration of Ducati’s 90th anniversary.  
Not only am I truly honored to have been chosen after proving my abilities in Tuscany but I am also unbelievably stoked to be working with Ducati on this project. It brings me even greater joy to continue doing what I enjoy most in the world.
Currently, specifics surrounding the routes are being hashed out but the best advice is to follow us all on our Instagram feeds and our travel journals on the official Ducati Globetrotter 90 Project website. We will all be documenting our journey in our own unique way while visiting points of interest that relate to the history and identity that is Ducati.
And yeah, we all are gonna be looking for some fun off-road sections to mash on during our trip. I certainly will be. This is an adventure bike after all.    
Since this project is a social one, you will have the opportunity to meet up and share the road with us along each of our routes if you feel so inclined. 
We all hope to see you on the road. 
DRE_END_20160614_0171I do this because I truly love motorcycles. There is nothing else quite like it.
DRE_END_20160614_1161Vir Nakal and myself trying to figure out how an iPhone works Jess Leyne face says it all. Happiness is playing in the dirt on motorbikes.
DRE_END_20160614_2522Rather be riding than fixing but it's all part of the job. Timo Shcafer Steve Fraser and Hugo Wilson Eduardo Generali and myself taking selfies.
]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) ADV Adventure Motorcycle Adventure Rider Ducati Globetrotter90 Italy Multistrada Enduro 1200 Tuscany motorcycle photography samuel Bendall Photography travel Tue, 28 Jun 2016 06:25:08 GMT
The Ducati Globetrotter 90 Boot Camp

We all have bucket lists. Places we wish to travel or things we want to do in life before we pass on. High on my own list was a trip to italy. I envisioned myself simply enjoying delicious food, drinking wine, and taking in the countryside via motorcycle or scooter. Nothing major. Last week I got that chance---if only for a day---and it nothing short of surreal. I’ll definitely be going back for more. 
For, those that know me know my enthusiasm for motorcycling borders on pure obsession. My eyes light up and my smile grows large when motorcycles are around or are being discussed. These machines have fundamentally altered my existence and that has been a great thing. So when I got a call from Ducati to be one of the 14 finalists in their Globetrotter 90 rally, I jumped at the opportunity to prove myself in an arena that I have been practicing my skills in for some time now: adventure motorcycling.  
At Ducati’s request, myself and 13 others arrived in Florence, Italy. We all remained focused and ready to show one another no quarter for a chance to become one of the final seven that would relay a Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro around the world. Quickly, our bloodthirsty competitiveness had been replaced with camaraderie, teamwork, and new found friendships. Something I have found to be quite common in the adventure motorcycle community. I wonder if Ducati anticipated this because I am sure it’s not going to make their decision process any easier. Especially since we all did quite well in our riding trials. 
Regardless of which seven riders are chosen, it has been an honor to have represented the United States in this celebration of Ducati’s 90th anniversary. At the end of the day, I walked away with 13 new friends from all over the world, my first visit to Italy and a taste of Ducati’s ability to produce a truly amazing adventure motorcycle. Me oh my the Multistrada 1200 Enduro is fantastic bike that was simply delicious to ride both on and off-road.
Below is a bit more about what Ducati had to say about our crazy day. 
The magnificent Castello di Nipozzano, in the Chianti hills, provided a stunning backdrop to the rider selection bootcamp for Globetrotter 90, the round-the-world relay organized by Ducati to celebrate the company's 90 years of success.
IMG_7393Our steeds for the day. The Multistrada 1200 Enduro
Fourteen finalists from all over the world (India, Australia, United States, Malaysia, Chile, Colombia, Italy, the UK, Germany and many others) took part in off-road riding sessions and tests on the Multistrada 1200 Enduro in a breath-taking natural setting that is also the venue for the Ducati DRE Enduro riding courses.
Too many selfies and a whole lot of laughs. Too many selfies and a whole lot of laughs.
At the start of this tough day the candidates competed in an (on-foot) orienteering trial in the grounds around the Castello to check out their navigational and problem-solving skills.
DRE_END_20160614_0549Legendary Dakar rider and our lead instructor, Beppe Gualini, preparing us for orienteering.
DRE_END_20160614_0627RUN!!!! DRE_END_20160614_0767Beacons were hidden in the most random places. A keen eye is the key to success. DRE_END_20160614_0781Victor might be small but he is mighty and pretty quick. Never underestimate the little guy.
DRE_END_20160614_0044GPS can fail. Maps do not. Any smart adventurer will carry a paper map and compass.
IMG_7360It was a warm day to be running around but hey, we were in Italy at a castle. Not complaining at all.
Following this physical test, the group mounted their bikes and, under the guidance of Beppe Gualini, went through a wide range of off-road riding challenges.
DRE_END_20160614_1319My buddy Fonzie gave me a cool riding buff / bandana with a world map on it. As a fellow adventure rider, the point is to shade in places you have conquered on the map.
DRE_END_20160614_1943Wheeeeeeee!!!!!! Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro
DRE_END_20160614_1440The finalists head into the trails of Tuscany DRE_END_20160614_1474Intrepid Adventurers. The Ducati Globetrotter 90 Finalists
IMG_7394One of our awesome motorcycle guardians and instructors.
DRE_END_20160614_0171Take a moment and hug your motorcycles people. For everything they do for us, they need love too.
IMG_7384Riding in the Tuscan rain was unbelievable!
Following this test of their riding capabilities (made all the more difficult by the rain that greeted them as they entered the woods), the candidates enjoyed a brief rest and some great Italian food before getting stuck into the second part of the day.
FFXT7375Lunch: Caprese at the Nipozanno Castle FFXT7381Lunch: Rigatoni with Asparagus creme and parmesan
In the afternoon the competitors were put through a timed tests of their abilities in wheel-changing, puncture repair, brake pad replacement and handlebar/lever assembly: the tests were tough, but the skills are a must for solo globe-trotting.
Together with the mechanical trials, the aspiring Globetrotters also had to show they could be confident in front of the camera by putting together a brief video presentation and posing for a photo shoot.

DRE_END_20160614_2764Changing wheels was the hardest part of technical training. DRE_END_20160614_2751DRE_END_20160614_2751
FFXT7441Learning the ins and outs of the Multistrada's braking system. DRE_END_20160614_2501DRE_END_20160614_2501 FFXT7478Tire spoons FFXT7447Patching tires
Only seven candidates will make it through the final selection process, but all of them have already demonstrated passion, tenacity and preparedness, not to mention inspiring team spirit.
This is heterogeneous, multi-cultural group immediately succeeded in getting on and having fun together, establishing a great rapport that made the day a rewarding one.
DRE_END_20160614_2888New found friends and one group of amazing adventurers.
The selected Globetrotters will be announced soon, while the departure of our first round-the-world hero or heroine is set for 4th July, from the Ducati factory in Borgo Panigale, Bologna.
Follow the #globetrotter90 trip on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. 
Photos by Sam Bendall and Pietro Bianchi
]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) Ducati Globetrotter 90 Multistrada 1200 Enduro Sat, 18 Jun 2016 05:15:22 GMT
2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800 Review  

I'm currently writing this article from seat 14c in economy class somewhere over the Atlantic. I lucked out and my tall ass got a full row to myself for the longest portion of the trip. Destination: the lovely Spanish city of Marbella, right along the Mediterranean Sea, for the MV Agusta Brutale 800 World Press Launch. I'm killing the 15 hour flight with movies, countless cups of really good in-flight coffee, and reading up on the little Italian motorcycle company.

Bike Background

Amongst the many middleweight naked bikes, MV Agusta is a relatively exotic Italian brand that is most often compared to Ducati but the majority of the company remains privately owned and is no where near as massive. MV Agusta's popularity in the United States is not quite as developed as its Italian cousin due to a lack of dealer network and low unit sales. Last year alone, MV Agusta’s CEO Giovanni Castiglione told me they only sold around 1000 units in the U.S. Further inquiry led them to express that they seek to change this in the coming years as they have partnered with Mercedes Benz' AMG division and received a sizable financial investment from an Italian financial group in 2015.
MV Agusta is banking that it will help them increase brand awareness, overall sales, and the ability to expand thier reach more into the United States. Sean MacDonald over at Lanesplitter reported on this issue in early and mid-2015 when he worked at Revzilla. Including the some of the info above, he expressed confidence in MV Agusta’s US subsidiary attaining this goal when they hired a new leadership team including CEO Helen Vasilevski, a woman with the experience and a proven track record for producing results within the motorcycle and other big business industries. You can read his article here

Since its introduction in 2012, the Brutale 800 was plagued with ride-by-wire power delivery issues, which journalists and riders alike were quite vocal about. Many complained that throttle response and fuel injection was jerky and unrefined, ergonomics were a bit unpleasant, and to ride the bike well you needed to be a seasoned rider capable of handling the Brutale. It was not made for the novice.

MV claims that the 2016 Brutale 800 is the solution to those aforementioned issues.

"We have redesigned this entire bike from the ground up to make it more accessible to newer riders while retaining the same sense of character and excitement for seasoned riders," said Brian Gillen, MV Agusta's Director of Technical Development and R "We've reworked the chassis, electronics package, and engine to provide all riders with one amazing motorcycle."

What’s New About the Brutale 800

The list of improvements is not short. MV really did re-engineer almost everything on this bike.

The chassis continues to retain the signature MV Agusta styling, but the front section is now made with ALS steel tubing and aluminum alloy side plates, which increases stability and handling. The wheelbase has been extended 20mm (a total of 1400mm), trail has been extended to 103.5 instead of 95mm on previous models, and the head rake has been adjusted to 24.5 degrees, thus adding to the Brutale 800’s ability to remain firmly planted and nimble.


The suspension has been developed to provide the best balance between performance and comfort. In the back is a single Sachs shock absorber and the front relies on a 43mm Marzocchi upside down aluminum fork with 125mm of travel. Both units can be adjusted for compression, rebound, and preload.

MV Brutale 800_020

Braking is achieved with Brembo 320mm dual discs with four-caliper floating discs in the front and a single two-caliper 220mm disc at the rear. Braking systems also in incorporate a Bosch 9 Plus ABS system.

MV Brutale 800_041
MV Brutale 800_038

The engine has been completely overhauled, including new cam profiles and timing, new pistons, and an entirely new intake and exhaust system to comply with new Euro 4 standards. The new improvements allow for a 25% increase in maximum torque, delivering a claimed max 116 horsepower at 11,500 RPM. Though the new Brutale 800 produces less power than the previous model year, refinements everywhere else may make up for the drop.

I personally don't care about overall power, I care about how the package delivers an excellent experience. Much of this experience comes from how all the power is delivered. Throttle inputs are managed by the new MVICS Ride-by-Wire throttle management system, hydraulically assisted slipper clutch, and EAS 2.0 Up Down quick shifter. The electronics package also features three ride modes (Rain, Normal/Touring and Sport), one custom setting with increased options, eight levels of traction control and switchable ABS. The Brutale 800 also incorporates a counter rotational MotoGP derived crankshaft (first introduced on the F3 675), which contributes to decreasing inertia and allows for faster directional changes.

MV Brutale 800_052

The Ride

While I never rode the Brutale 800's previous model, I do have a solid amount of saddle time with all the major players in this category—the Street Triple R, FZ-09, Z800 and Ducati Monster 821—so the bar is gonna be set pretty high for the Brutale 800 as far as first impressions go.

Our day begins at the lovely Villa Padierna resort in the heart of Marbella. Our route would take us along the main highway and up the winding roads to the picturesque town of Ronda where we'll enjoy a quick coffee and loop back.


Physically, this bike oozes sex appeal and I would expect nothing less from the Italians. The design lines and aggressive nature are said to mimic a closed fist, but I see so much more and its beauty is evident from every angle.

Straight on, the Brutale looks like a disco-passionate dragon ready to feast on the meat and bones of its crisped victim. Directly from the front, it's poised and streamlined, the newly designed headlamp with LED integration is retro, yet futuristic. Its signature slash cut triple exhaust pipes are eye-catching, and the trellis frame and the angular tank add loads of appeal. The Brutale's slim saddle with negative space underneath adds style and class. The tucked away tail light and svelte design make for a very sexy package that's delightful to behold.

I'm not going to lie, the Brutale 800 makes me horny. Remember the story about the guy that tried to sue BMW because he claimed his bike gave him a perpetual erection for a year? Well he would have died from that erection just by looking at this motorcycle. The new Brutale 800 is simply stunning.

MV Brutale 800_045
MV Brutale 800_026

Jumping onto the Brutale 800 one thing is clear, this bike fits me. At 6'5, most bikes are not built to accommodate a man of my size, but the Brutale 800 fits me the best of any naked bike I've sat on before. Whether you are 5’8 or 6’5, the Brutale 800 nails it in fitment. Being 20mm narrower due to its new design, it feels remarkably closer to a Supermoto than a fairing-less sportbike.

MV Brutale 800_053
MV Brutale 800_043

The upright handlebars are easy to reach and make for a good blend of standard and aggressive positioning. Clutch, brake, and controls, everything else in between are well positioned and are comfortable to access. Engine map modes are intuitive and easy to adjust while stopped and on the fly when riding.

MV Brutale 800_049

As we set out, the first leg of our ride took us past the urban center of Marbella through a number of roundabouts, and along the highway. From stop-to-go, the Brutale 800 feels a bit twitchy on the throttle and there is a lack of feedback at low speeds. However, once I acclimated to the bike’s inputs things smoothed out.

MV Brutale 800_050

On-ramp to the highway, bang! The Brutale 800 has some zest and gets up to speed in no time at all. This engine has character and retains a voracious grumble, which also means it's bit buzzy at highway speeds no matter what gear is selected. However, I'm not sure how much that will matter because that's not why you're going to buy a Brutale 800. You buy it to do what I'm about to do: Get totally fucking moto loco along twisty roads, or go balls out on a race track. That's where everything about this bike shines and I was totally unprepared for the marvel that was about to cast its light upon me.


For those that do not know this road, it has a lot of sweeping corners and not a lot of tight technical turns. It makes for a relatively fast ride and it's definitely possible to get a knee down in some sections. I accidentally took a left hander aggressively and tore my REV'IT jeans (Oops). Luckily I had my CE armor knee pads in the pockets.

I'm not the fastest guy, and if anything I've slowed down in the past year to really focus on my fundamentals to become a better rider. There is really something to be said, however, when Italian World Superbike racer and factory test rider Frederico Sandi leads the pack toward the end of the day at a spirited pace and I'm capable of staying on his ass the entire way. I was never past my own limit—Frederico was only at about 30% of his—but a lot of my ability to keep up that pace had to do with how comfortable I had become on the Brutale 800 toward the end of the ride.


I lived in third and fourth gear for the majority of the ride, second gear remained usable on the few tight sections, and I punched into fifth and sixth along some straights. Speed limit laws were easily broken a number of times and there was more than a wheelie or two popped.

What's truly fantastic about the new Brutale 800 is that MV has broadened the power delivery in the middle of the rev range where most riders ride and this makes the bike incredibly friendly, yet zesty to pilot. The new fuel injection algorithms have smoothed out power delivery and the jerkiness and lag reported in the past models are gone. Some of the other journalists I rode with confirmed the improvements. The new system provides generous power and torque between 6000 and 12000 RPM, and it's simply there when you want it with just the right dose.


Braking was also incredibly forgiving. The group came around a corner where we needed to apply braking to avoid running into a car, and in that instance, the brakes provided just the right amount of feedback and control when leaned over while pulling the bike up to a more upright position. Later in the day, I performed a few panic brake procedures just to test out the ABS and found the system to be very, very good.


The three most impressive features I came to enjoy on the new Brutale 800 were the hydraulically assisted slipper clutch, EAS 2.0 quick shifter, and the Pirelli Diablo Sport Rosso III tires. You won’t find that trio stock on any other motorcycle in this class. Not once in the canyons did I pull the clutch lever, except to remind myself that it was there. Shifting was effortless and spot on. The Brutale 800 did a fantastic job at matching engine speeds and rear wheel rotation on aggressive downshifts. Never once did I miss an upshift or experience rear wheel hop when downshifting into a corner. Bravo MV, bravo.


As for the new rubber, the Pirelli Diablo Sport Rosso IIIs, holy fuck balls—sticky, sticky, sticky, grabby, grabby, grabby. And this was in temperatures that never rose above 68 degrees the entire day. The feedback and grip allowed me to push harder and faster than I had previously thought possible once I became familiar with the bike. Simply wow. The Brutale 800 is the first production motorcycle to feature this rubber. MV execs said their decision to utilize these tires was due to their high-performance ability in dry conditions, but also their ability to retain grip in wet weather, making for the perfect all-around tire for Brutale enthusiasts.

For the majority of my time in the saddle my traction control setting stayed at level 4, ABS stayed on, and I jumped back and forth between Sport and Touring/Normal mode. As much as I wanted to fiddle with all the options, especially the increased options in the custom map, I wanted to focus on riding the hell out of this bike. Don't worry, I'll get into all the guts with a long term loan. Traction control engaged only once on myself and every other journalist in the group when we were capturing our press photos along a wet and tight corner behind the resort.

This was the only time any of us realized the activation of traction control. With the back end stepping out just a hair, I could feel it engage and diminish power only to regain traction within a fraction of a second. It worked very well.

One journalist in our group even joked, “Wouldn’t that be such an ego bruise to lay this bike down at 10mph after hitting the back roads at the speeds we were going.” All I could do was smirk because sadly, I know that feeling too well.

Areas for Improvement

I have to reach deep to find something to complain about with the Brutale 800 bike. If I had to nitpick, my complaints would be as follows:

1) The saddle is too firm and could use a little more cushioning.

2) The engine buzz at highway speed can (and will) get annoying after 30-45 minutes in the saddle.

3) I don’t like digital tachometers...but I say that all the time.

4) I would have enjoyed the addition of a programable shift light.


Pricing for the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800 is expected to be $13,499 and is available in three colors: Ice Pearl White / Matte White Metallic, Red / Matte Silver, and Black Matte Metallic / Matte Silver.

Final Thoughts on a First Impression

I waited a few days before writing this conclusion because I feared my objectivity would be clouded by the excitement of this being my first world launch for RideApart as well as attaining redemption for when I broke my ankle in Marbella a year and a half ago.

I can say, without equivocation, that the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800 is one mind-blowing motorcycle. It was so good that I have had dreams about it for the last three days, and that rarely happens.

I cannot wait to get more time with this bike as my lust for it remains.

I will even go a step further and say that the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800 has intermittently dethroned the Triumph Street Triple R as my favorite naked middleweight. And with the Brutale 675 coming out in April of this year, I'm even more excited to see what MV brings to the table next.

Of all the naked bikes I've been on, the MV Agusta Brutale 800 fits me the best. I think it looks marvelous, it exudes a palpable character in the cockpit, and the handling characteristics are magnificent. I also enjoyed the multitude of options offered with the new electronics package (all of which work very well).

Every single time we stopped to regroup there was a smile on my face followed by a "WhooHoo!" That's how a motorcycle should make you feel. That's why we ride—to experience moments of voracious love and excitement. The Brutale 800 delivered all of that in spades.

If I had to pick one naked bike to have in my garage, I would put my money down in a heartbeat to have this new Brutale 800. I do hope MV succeeds in expanding their dealer network in the United States in the coming years, and making service and availability of their bikes more accessible to interested motorcyclists.

Lastly, if I had one phrase to describe this bike it would be: A work of visual art that is refined, yet enthralling to ride and exudes character like no other naked bike on the market today.

MV Agusta succeeded in putting their money where their mouth is with the 2016 Brutale 800. Kudos, guys, you have succeeded in gaining this journalist’s undivided attention and appreciation for your motorcycles.

2016 MV Agusta Brutale Spec Sheet

2016 Brutale 800 Spec Sheet

Photos and Video footage curtesy of Gigi Soldano and MV Agusta.

Sam's Riding Gear:

Schuberth C3

REV'IT! Red Hook Jacket

Racer Mickey Gloves 

REV'IT! Lombard Jeans

AlpineStars SMX Plus Boots

]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) Brutale 800 First Ride MV Agusta Motorcycle Reveiw Tue, 02 Feb 2016 21:42:00 GMT
A Month with the 2016 Kawasaki Z800 - Full Bike Review  

Naked bikes/streetfighters are svelte, sexy, aggressive, fast, and oh so much fun in the city and back roads. Primed for wheelies when hopping on any freeway or jumping off the line at a stop light (not recommended, but easy to engage), nimble and perfect for splitting lanes during times of congestion, and delightful in the canyons or on the track for those days you want to get a knee down.

The crème de la crème naked sport bike on many aficionados' list would be the Triumph Street Triple R, a motorcycle that solidified itself in the genre and still holds a place as top dog according to many in the industry. Others opt for the wildly popular Yamaha FZ-09, beastly fun KTM 690 Duke, or the Suzuki GSX-S750. If you have the money or want to buy used, Ducati has a Monster for you. There are no shortages of great naked bikes to choose from...but where does the Kawasaki Z800 come in?

First Impressions

For the last month I’ve rather enjoyed the Z800 in most facets. I have ridden it throughout the greater Los Angeles area for daily errands and meetings, did a couple long commutes from my home in Santa Monica to Irvine and Carpinteria, and rode it on a number of fun, aggressive canyon days through Mulholland, Topanga Canyon, Latigo Canyon and Angeles Crest Highway. On the top line, I like this bike, but let’s dive in a little deeper to see why it’s good and where it falls short.

Engine and Performance

At the heart of Kawasaki’s Z800 beats an 806cc in-line four, liquid cooled engine, which produces a nice and buttery smooth amount of power that is enough to get you going at a decent quip. The top speed I achieved was 137mph before backing off.

I would say that the Z800 has a bit more character than some of the other in-line fours I have been on in the past, but not by a huge margin. For those wanting the exact power figures, Cycle World reported that the Z800 puts out 98.4 hp at 10,160 RPM, and 56.3 ft. lbs. of torque at 7,810 RPM. From a full stop to acceleration, the Z800 has a satisfying amount of pull, which is evenly deliverable throughout the rev range. It feels very linear and, honestly, expected for a bike with this kind of engine and displacement. Some buzzing comes above 6000 RPM, but I didn’t mind it at all when riding. Gear shifts are fluid and never missed a beat.

Everything about the Z800 is smooth, friendly, and satisfying. Never once did I feel like this bike would get away from me. There are no ride modes, no traction control, no added technology. It’s all on you to manage the power and delivery. But don’t let that scare you, it’s a fantastically engineered analogue-esque motorcycle that delivers.


If you are feeling so inclined, a bit of a heavy throttle hand will induce a smooth and manageable power wheelie in first gear, and with a little clutch play in second, the front wheel comes up with confidence. I'm not an advocate of performing wheelies on city streets, nor am I as badass as my contemporaries at holding a wheelie, but the Z800 is certainly capable. I've actually found myself practicing a wheelie or two in a closed safe space.

Backroad canyon carving with the Z800 is a pleasure, but due to some colder-than-usual temps here in Los Angeles, paired with viciously windy days, I had to alter how hard I was going to push myself and the motorcycle in the twisties. Even after a good amount of riding, the roads and tires were not at their optimal temps and I was simply unable to ride as fast as I have been accustomed to.

However, the Z800’s back-to-basics, no frills, and no added rider aids/technology enables you to understand its dynamics at all times. This Z800 inspires a good amount of confidence, due in part to everything working so incredibly well together. The Z800 feels planted on the straights, especially when diving into corners based on its excellent frame construction and a solid stock suspension. When pushing it, I found myself getting on the brakes later and later when entering corners more aggressively, and this comes from someone that is still on the cusp of being a beginner and intermediate rider.

The Nissin four piston brake calipers operating on a pair of 277mm wave rotors in the front provide great feel and ample feedback when slowing the weight of this bike. And that’s needed because the bike is heavy. The single piston single 216mm wave style rotor in the back enabled adequate back braking, but felt secondary. That being said, it functioned fantastically in the canyon and especially when dragging the brake when performing slow speed maneuvers and splitting lanes in and around town.


The inverted 41mm KYB fork, which is adjustable for rebound dampening and preload, felt solid and not too spongy or stiff under my heavy braking. The rear KYB mono shock with a piggyback reservoir capable of adjustment for preload and rebound too, handled the twisties just as much as the bumps along Wilshire Blvd. Unless you are a very experienced rider who beats the hell out of your brakes and suspension, I think you are going to find the Z800 stock setup more than adequate for most daily applications.

Being someone that rides in the urban jungle of Los Angeles on a daily basis, there is no shortage of hazards ready to take you off your bike. One fantastic instance and testament to the Z800’s braking ability came during slow speed lane splitting on Santa Monica Blvd. I believe I was moving at around 15 to 17mph, but it's certainly possible I was moving a tad faster.

Out of nowhere, with a dollar in hand, a panhandling homeless guy who received some money from a driver was making his way back to the median when he stepped into my lane. Before becoming one of those fail videos so commonly seen on YouTube, I was able to initiate a panic brake. The ABS kicked in and I came to a complete stop, leaving only a few inches between my front tire and the clearly terrified homeless dude. I can attest that the ABS and brakes on the Z800 work quite well.

Where the Z800 Falls Short

The Z800’s major failing is its weight. Coming in at 509.4 lbs with a full tank of fuel, this bike is a fatty for something claiming to be a “naked bike." After 30 minutes of aggressive riding and transitioning through corners, I was like, “Damn, I’m in good shape, but I’m exerting a lot more effort than I want slinging this bike around.” I came to this conclusion after I had just got done abusing my buddy’s Triumph Street Triple R. I can only imagine the horror on the face of those who own the Yamaha FZ-09 or KTM 690 Duke.

To gripe about ergonomics and body position is sometimes not too fair as I'm such a tall guy (my feet are always flat on the ground.) The overall seat height of the Z800 comes in at 32.8 inches and maintains a moderate aggressive stance, I found it less aggressive than a Triumph Street Triple, but more comfortable. It's not as upright as Yamaha’s FZ-09 or KTM 690 Duke and, of course, nowhere near as light. The stock seat could use some plushness as it is a bit flat, but I haven't found it as annoying as many of my contemporaries. It’s more tolerable than the two bikes above and only became an annoyance after about an hour and a half in the saddle.


For the fuel conscious, Kawasaki includes an Eco mode notification on the dash that comes on when you maintain an engine speed under 6,000 RPM.

With a 4.5 gallon tank, I would have easily been able to make it from Santa Monica to Ventura and back on one full tank, but I wanted to find out exactly how far this bike would go on a single tank, so I extended my trip up through Ojai and over to Carpinteria. I have to say that the fuel gauge read out and the range estimator didn't inspire confidence or curb anxiety. Range to empty and no bars appeared around the 90 mile mark—the range estimator displayed dashes afterward.


Sadly, the fuel range estimator on my bike was completely useless. It jumped around more than a six-year-old on a sugar bender. When I filled the tank it read 120 miles, five minutes later it read 180 miles, ten minutes after that 100 miles ,and then six minutes later it read 160 then back to 140 then back to 190. Only towards the end of my loan did the fuel estimator start functioning correctly, but it's still not consistent.


I brought along spare fuel can just so I could get an accurate reading as to what a full tank would provide. Based on a majority of highway riding and an 80 percent focus on keeping the bike in "Eco Mode," I was able to squeeze 146.6 miles out of that 4.5 gallon tank for an average 32.5 mpg. Even though this is in the "Where the Z800 Falls Short" section, I would most definitely say that this is not bad at all for a naked sport bike.


Highway cruising in sixth gear was a delight on the Z800. There's little to no vibration on the controls and smooth power delivery when dipping in and out of lanes. You have to be cognizant because the Z800 will zip along easily around 90 mph at 7000 rpm in sixth gear. Bring that to a even 75-80mph, and you'll stay right under the aforementioned 6000 rpm range and activate "Eco Mode."


Design, Style, and Gripes

For everything I like about the Z800 (performance, handling, suspension, ergonomics) the way it’s designed is not anywhere near the top of my list and that saddens me to say. The Z800 borders on “meh” and “kinda ugly.”

I will start with the abundance of plastic on the tank. I'm a tall guy (6’5'') and these plastic bits don’t allow for me to hug the tank and streamline my body as much as I have come to expect on a “naked bike." In fact, now that I’ve spent a little time on the Z800, I'm taken back to the days when I played catcher in Little League. My legs mimicked the same type of splaying when crouching. The Z800 is already a portly bike and these plastic bits don’t help it look or feel anymore svelte.


You can tell this bike had some success in Europe because the headlight assembly looks like it was ripped off or inspired by a scooter that zips happily around the streets of Paris or Florence. Kawasaki says that it’s maintaining a “menacing face,” but if anything I think it looks more like this angry puppy:

Angry Puppy

The massive and boxy muffler is atrocious—I just can’t. I don’t know what to say other than we might have discovered where all the extra weight on this motorcycle is hiding.


While it's easy to read, the instrument display looks like it was stolen from my grey scale digital alarm clock from 1995. The one that would blare at me to wake up and cycle through the numbers when setting my alarm. The Z800 display has everything you need though: fuel gauge with estimated range left in the tank, dual tripmeter, odometer, engine temp gauge, clock, digital speedometer and tachometer. I would have loved it if Kawasaki included a gear readout and shift indicator. Both the Street Triple and FZ-09 have a gear readout and only the Street Triple has a shift indicator.

Let’s talk about the vertical, Donkey Kong-ladder style tachometer for a moment without talking about it too much. I already have a thing against digital tachometers—I simply do not like them. I never hide that feeling, but what the hell is this? Every time I glance down to check engine speed I'm momentarily confused. This is the first bike I've ever been on with this kind of tachometer design and it’s just strange. No, no, and no.


I very much like being able to walk away from a bike and leer at it, but I don’t ever feel that way about the Z800. The bigger, badder Z1000 embraces its funkiness and oddity, but the Z800 just misses the mark. However, Kawasaki definitely went the extra mile to make sure you remember the letter “Z” in Z800. It’s integrated into the back taillight assembly and plastered all over the seat. You know, in case you forget.


Regardless of however ugly I deem the Z800 to be, I cannot say that its design is without merit. All those bits and pieces on the tank, and even the headlight contribute to some pretty fantastic aerodynamics, which I noticed on longer rides. Wind that hits the front of the bike is scooped up by the headlight and directed over my head and around my body. I felt very little head buffeting or body fatigue after an hour in the saddle. Although my legs were splayed, those plastic tank bits catch the wind and redirect them out and down. I suspect this adds to better stability at higher speeds.


For anyone looking to get into a naked middleweight, the Z800 is certainly priced well at $8,399. It’s cheaper than the Triumph Street Triple R ($10,399) and KTM 690 Duke ($8,999), but a tad more than the $7,990 Yamaha FZ-09. I'm not even going to include the Ducati or BMW in here because if you want those bikes you're going to buy those regardless of whatever I say.

My Final Verdict

As you can already tell, my only knock on the Z800 falls on its design and its heft, but after a month I've grown to really appreciate the Z800 and have slowly begun to forget about these pain points. It's a very capable machine, and it handles the day-to-day grind like a boss all while remaining fun when you want to get aggressive.

The Z800 does what I would expect from a Japanese engineered motorcycle, it starts every single time I hit the ignition, it performs flawlessly out on the road, clutch feel and brake inputs are all direct and simple, and the ergonomics are surprisingly manageable for someone of my size, so I’ll assume for smaller riders it would pose less of an issue.

Serious motorcyclists looking for strict performance are going to hate the weight, but that could possibly be amended in future iterations. So could a revised design. I think Kawasaki should go balls out and commit to the "weird alien-esque spaceship that had a baby with a fighter jet” design. I see both of those design elements in the Z1000 and the insane H2. While those two bikes look a bit strange, they own their weirdness. The Z800, however, doesn’t quite pull it off.

I would recommend the Z800 to someone who is perhaps in the market for a naked bike after coming off something a bit smaller and wants a well-rounded bike to cut their chops on, and maybe even do some longer weekend rides.

]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) Bike Review Kawasaki Motorcycle Z800 Tue, 19 Jan 2016 21:48:00 GMT
Big Man, Small Bike - LiveMotoFoto Does UMRA Mini-Moto I am insistent on telling the world about the marvels that can be had with small displacement motorcycles.  

Today I went one step further. You may have caught a recent article detailing my instant addiction to Mini-Moto racing after witnessing a UMRA 24 endurance race. I got it in my head a couple weeks later to head out to Adams Motorsports Park in Riverside California to get a little taste of the action first hand.


Mini-Moto is all about discipline, focus, family and yeah....having fun.

Safety First Y'all!

First things first...I needed to gear up. I met up with my friends at Alpinestars, and got set up head to toe with some of the best gear on the planet: GP Pro GlovesSMX Plus Boots, and Motegi One Piece racing suit.

Located out in Riverside, California the Adams Motorsports Park is a 13 turn (optional course) go-cart course right off the 60 freeway. I came out on the invite of UMRA founding members Ryan O'Neill and Christina Orris to get a taste of what it's like to race mini moto.

Ryan O'Neill prepares my Honda XR100. This will be my steed for the day.

Ryan greeted me upon arrival. For those that do not know Ryan, he's a very friendly dude with a great sense of humor, wicked mustache and an affinity for good cigars. After we exchanged a few pleasantries and caught up on past events, he walked me over to the Honda XR100 that would be my mule for the day. After a brief run through and understanding its quirks, he set me loose onto the track.

Suited up and ready to go, I felt like a total badass. A motorcycle race suit is a unique garment, and in our industry, it's pretty ubiquitous and rarely discussed unless it’s for a review. But a race suit seriously makes you feel like a superhero.

I walked around the XR100, did a quick inspection, and then threw a leg over. I may or may not have bottomed out the suspension. Once in the saddle I did a quick look around, checked the brake lever and the clutch lever to make sure everything was operational, and kicked her into first gear.

The XR100 is incredibly light. Even with my fat ass in the saddle, the front wheel wanted to come off the ground as I yanked the throttle. The torque produced a big grin under my helmet. Once out on the track, I pushed through the gears and was underway.

Smooth is Fast

It was almost a year to the day since I had been out on a track. My last experience was at Barber Motorsports Park on a Triumph Street Triple R. No one would disagree that that is one spoiled way to spend a day and one awesome bike to rip around a track on. Even better, I incured no incidents on track and learned a ton. However, a year later, there was nothing smooth about my operation on this little bike. My first session was abysmal. I found my corner entry speed being far too fast, the brakes of the XR 100 we're squishy and provided very little stopping power. The result was me low siding five or six times within four to five laps. I pulled into the pits and said to myself, “Okay, I need to slow down. Smooth is fast. Smooth is fast.”

While not a photo of me, I experienced a fair amount of low-siding my first time out on the track. Becoming familiar with your motorcycle and the track means taking it slow and planning your attack in each corner.

I have friends that are world class coaches and many others that are simply light-years ahead of me in skill. Lucky me, because they always push me to be better. There is a mantra in the world of motorcycling: "Smooth is fast." Rogue inputs, jerky responses, and sudden reactions are not well received by any motorcycle. Of course, uttering this phrase is one thing, enacting it is very different. Learning to be in control is what divides good motorcyclists and better motorcyclists from the best motorcyclists. Like anything, mastery is attained only with practice, discipline and time.

Ryan came over and said,” Hey dude, you look like you're having fun out there? I have never seen someone so happy to lay down a bike. Anyone ever tell you you make lowsiding look really good?” We had a chuckle and proceeded to ask me if I wanted some advice and my response was, “Of course.”

He replied: "Don't worry about the kids on the NSR50s or some of the other racers on the track. They are always going to be faster than you and there's nothing you can do to catch them. The brakes on these bikes are shit, so instead of relying on the brakes, downshift and incorporate some engine braking. That technique is going to be your best friend. These bikes are super squirrely and don’t have the stability of bigger bikes, so this means they are a lot less forgiving. Focus on your body position, holding your line, hitting the apex of each corner and seeing you're going to see an improvement tenfold."

Ever since I got back into motorcycling four years ago, I have not stopped learning. I don't think I ever will. I am grateful and perhaps luckier than most because I have had some of the best people in the world teaching me how to be better rider.

I got back out out on the track for the remainder of the session and made it six laps without incident.

Learning is a slow process. The best way to do it is take it slow and smooth.

Learning is a slow process. The best way to do it is take it slow and smooth.

Racing: The Super, Super Abridged Version

The key with these small bikes (and motorcycling in general) is learning how to carry your speed heading into a corner, finding the correct line while setting for the next turn and utilizing engine braking in conjunction with regular braking. That is my super abridged version. There are books and schools dedicated to mastering race mechanics and by no means am I being super conclusive, but I found those focal points to be an amazing start when approaching a track day. Also critically focusing on body mechanics, head position, and smooth throttle inputs made a world of difference.

Remember, smooth is fast. Me doing what I needed to to keep the rubber side down.

Remember, smooth is fast. Me doing what I needed to to keep the rubber side down.

Round 2

I wanted more so I headed out for my second session and all was going well. Lap after lap, no problems. Until something went awry entering turn 5 toward the end of the session. I must have misjudged my line and tried to re-correct halfway through. Big mistake. Instead of just pushing through, my front tire completely washed out and I took a nice tumble. I was fine, but little did I know that someone had been following me closely and bam!

Out of my periphery, I saw a bike and a rider go toward the interior grass area. It was an NSR50 and underneath it was not an adult, but a kid. I said to myself, "Oh shit, I've killed a child." Like it was nothing, I picked up the NSR50 one-handed and tossed it to the side. Ryan ran out from the pits and we ended up picking up the kid and taking him back to the pits—his ankle was a bit busted up.

My buddy Seth after he decided to run his bike into mine.  We got him patched up and back in the saddle in under two hours.  He would go on to take first place in his class the next day.
My buddy Seth after he decided to run his bike into mine. We got him patched up and back in the saddle in under two hours. He would go on to take first place in his class the next day.

I felt horrible, but he said, "Don't worry man it was my fault, I locked up on my brakes and folded my front end. I over-reacted and down I went. This is just the nature of racing.” I could not help but smile; a kid was philosophically schooling me in the art of motorcycle racing.

Seth: the Man, the Kid, the (Future) Legend

This young man happened to be Seth Hauer, a 13 year old from Mentifee, California. He has been racing mini-moto for the last 4 years and has more maturity and insight into the world inside and outside of motorcycling than most young people I come across. He and a number of other kids practicing on the track that day happen to be some of the sport's best racers for their age group. I was literally racing with kids that are likely to be the future stars of motorcycle racing. I think that’s pretty f**king cool. The nearly taking one of them out part...not so much.

You make friends in the strangest ways when you get into motorcycling.

You make friends in the strangest ways when you get into motorcycling.

I sat with Seth to ensure he was ok. We shared some laughs, wrapped his ankle and got him ice. Luckily nothing was broken, but he would have to sit out for a couple sessions. He would be back in the rotation in under an hour. This kid is hardcore.

Seth asked me, “So, how long have you been doing mini-moto?” I laughed and told him. “Prior to our little wreck, about 35 minutes. This is my first go on these little bikes.” With absolute positivity and encouragement he replied, “That’s awesome man. We need and want more people to get involved in this. You’re pretty tall, you should try one of the Honda Grom’s instead of the XR100.”

“I’ll get to a Grom soon.” I said.


Round 3 And Beyond

On Seth’s encouragement, I geared up for another session. I was not going to get better at this race thing by sitting with him. By the last session of the day, everything had come together and bordered on butter smooth. Corner entry speeds were fast and manageable. My body position was on point, I was dragging a knee into almost every corner and I was consistently holding good lines and hitting every apex. It was a damn good feeling. I was becoming more comfortable on the XR. I approached the point in a number of corners where I could feel the moment the rear wheel would begin to slide and compensate back into control by manipulating the throttle and my body.

When I was out on the track I recalled a conversation I had with Shawn Thomas, my dear friend and rider coach who introduced me to off-road adventure motorcycling. Observing my gung-ho and often fearless nature to learn, he said my biggest challenge would never be my lack of gusto, but rather the need to temper my inclination to push my own boundaries in a short amount of time. The trick to becoming a good rider is not always about pushing yourself past boundaries but rather having the wisdom to live at those plateau points. Become comfortable with where you are. When that plateau becomes second nature, it becomes the new base for future advancement.

After 4 hours of hitting the track and 6 sessions later, I could see a noticeable improvement in my ride ability. I also had a better understanding of what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong. I was in control of my mind and body. This is where motorcycling takes on the Japanese art of zen.

I am a giant next to these bikes.


A Mini-Moto Star Is Born?

By no means did I become a Mini-Moto God on my first go, but my understanding and comfort on a small bike increased tenfold just like Ryan said it would if I took the time to focus.

It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or veteran, learning and practicing on a track is one of---if not the---best ways to increase awareness and hone your skills as a motorcyclist. It’s also the best place to make mistakes. The absolute benefit of mini-moto is that the skills you learn will translate to larger motorcycles, the costs to get involved are minimal, and there is a fantastic, welcoming, and warm community of participants that will embrace your desire to learn.

I never thought my obsession and passion for motorcycling could increase beyond its current state. I was wrong.

Much thanks to UMRA for inviting me out to have a go on one of their bikes, to Ryan and Christina for the pointers, and to Seth for being the coolest young motorcyclist I’ve encountered to date. Also to Alpine Stars for keeping me safe. I’m convinced if anyone in the motorcycle industry wants something battle tested for the next couple of years, I am likely the right guy for the job.


  • Alpine Stars Motogi One-Piece Race Suit
  • GT Pro Gloves
  • SMX Pro Boots
  • Schuberth SR2 Helmet

Additional Photos from the Day:

My day was done, so I went out to the track with my camera to watch and learn from Seth.  Here is back in the saddle after a couple icing session. The kid knows how to get low on his NSR50.

My day was done, so I went out to the track with my camera to watch and learn from Seth. Here is back in the saddle after a couple icing session. The kid knows how to get low on his NSR50.

Every good motorcyclist taps into a reserve of focus before hitting the track.

Big bike or small bike, head-to-toe protection is required.

Animals are welcomed.

Ryan O'Neill gives a new rider some pointers before heading out onto the track.

A rider on a Honda XR100.

As funny as it looks, it's 20 times more fun to experience.

Seth Hauer, back in the saddle.

Age has no bearing when it comes to Mini-Moto racing. Everyone is welcome.

The chase is on!


Easily one of my top ten most enjoyable motorcycle experiences to date. I don't care how ridiculous I look on these tiny bikes. They are so much fun.

]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) Honda Honda XR100 Motolife Motorcycle Experience UMRA motorcycle Wed, 09 Dec 2015 21:59:00 GMT
Living (and Dying) with the Royal Enfield Continental GT - Full Bike Review There is no denying that cafe racers continue to trend in the United States' major urban areas. Cruisers still dominate overall sales, but you can't throw a rock in Los Angeles, New York or San Fransisco without hitting a Bonneville, vintage CB, or BMW.

Since this is the current trend, a little company (well, not little) out of India named Royal Enfield has been pushing into the American market for the last few years with a number of models, including the Continental GT.

Does this bike have the chops to compete? Is it worth your money? What are the highlights and what does Royal Enfield need to improve on this bike? What should you expect and consider? I will try to answer these questions based on my experience.

For two months, I pushed the GT through the canyons, used it as on and off the highway commuter, around town errand runner, and bar hopping machine. I also took it up the coast to Santa Barbara and back for the day.

Let's begin with what is good about the Royal Enfield Continental GT.


Right off the bat you're going to notice the styling on this bike. Designed by Xenophya Design Studio in the UK, the British influence and classic lines are readily apparent: two simple gauges, unobstructed view of the engine, Triton inspired fuel tank, classic round headlight, and Lucas style taillight.

For a small cafe-racer, the ergonomics are sublime. The cut-out sections in the tank, the ability to slide back into the rear cowling and keep myself as narrow as possible when splitting lanes is fantastic, and that’s saying something for someone of my height (6'5").

Big Man, Small Bike

I do wish the rear seat cowling could be removed to include the option for a passenger—something similar to the Triumph Thruxton. The top fork mounted clip-on handlebars add cafe styling while remaining surprisingly upright. There's an almost perfect balance between a cafe/standard seating position with the GT.

The GT handles incredibly well and is lightweight despite it’s 406 lbs curb weight. It also happens to be quite forgiving and a blast to take into corners. There were a few times I almost got a knee down, but didn’t because I wasn’t wearing a race suit.

The stock equipped Pirelli Sport Demon's provide excellent grip and make for a planted yet comfortable ride whether in the canyons, on the highway or around town. Just above the rubber, Braking on the GT comes from a Brembo 300mm floating disc, 2 piston caliper up front and a 240mm disc, single piston floating caliper in the back. Stopping power is adequate, but the front forks are soft and dive heavily under intense braking. The rear Paioli reverse piggyback springs look damn good and never felt inadequate or soft. I always felt like the back end was well planted when throwing the bike around no matter where I was riding.

Shockingly, the stock muffler produces a soul loving exhaust note. The dual tone horn also blares loudly enough to inspire some confidence when out and about and also alerts drivers to your presence.

Fuel economy on the Continental GT is pretty damn good. For a 3.56 gallon tank, I was able to manage almost 165 miles on a full tank. It cost me about $11 at the time (California gas prices) to fill up. While a little nerve-racking toward the end, I managed a full round trip from Santa Monica to Santa Barbara on one tank.

The GT comes standard with a center stand, which is a very nice addition for chain maintenance and other repairs you’ll make on your bike. I only used the stand once but knowing it's there is a bonus.

Yay for a bike that comes with a center stand.


At $6,000, the Continental GT is ridiculously affordable for a brand new cafe-styled bike. For those not wanting to worry about the used motorcycle market, the Royal Enfield Continental GT might be a good place to start, especially if you want a cafe-styled motorcycle.

The Dark Side

Now for where the Continental GT falls short and leaves room for improvement.

The folks at Royal Enfield and owners of this bike are going to hate this section, but it needs to be said. I'm not being a hater for hating's sake, these are real concerns I have after living with and riding this bike.

1. When you style a motorcycle to emulate a cafe racer you expect some kind of mirrored performance. If you're purchasing the Continental GT for that reason you're going to be very, very disappointed.

Performance and power are not adjectives I would use to describe the Continental GT. The 535cc, single cylinder thumper produces a tad under 30 horsepower, and the need to hammer through the five speed gear box faster than a three toothed alcoholic hillbilly puts away a mason jar of moonshine.

2. In each gear along the rev range, there's this window where you think, “Oh yes, here is where the power comes in," but're greeted by the redline and rev-limiter at a measly 5500 rpm. I cannot tell you how many times I yelled "F**K!” inside my helmet. It took a couple days (almost a week) until this became a non-issue, but now and again it would recur and cause almost homicidal levels of frustration.

3. The instrument cluster is pretty and serves its purpose. Analogue dials, odometer, two tripmeters, and fuel gauge. Where it becomes frustrating is the MPH figures are unreadable due to small font and relentless vibration at-speed. KPH figures are prioritized over MPH on the dial and because this bike is being sold in America, I would expect Royal Enfield to cater to their market.

The instrument cluster has a lovely glow but the KPH and MPH readouts need to be flipped for the American Market.

When I first jumped in the saddle and began barreling down the 405, I glanced down to see how fast I was going. 140?! Seriously? No. Even though it made me feel like a total badass, Royal Enfield...fix this for US production bikes. Flip the readouts.

4. Throttle response and rider input Not that hipster, Echo Park, interpretation of vintage, I mean it really feels and behaves how you would expect an old bike to behave. The engine itself is over 40 years old with some fuel-injection slapped onto it, but nothing about the throttle and power delivery feels sharp or tuned. Delayed, uneventful, and tame are the most appropriate adjectives.

5. Vibration is absolutely brutal. It’s not bad on the body or in the saddle, but where it stings is in your right hand. I had the same experience with Classic 500 when I did a first ride review a couple months back.

You say, "Well, Sam, it’s a single cylinder thumper, it’s supposed to vibrate." I say to you, “Silence, fool!” This is 2015 and I have been on other single cylinder motorcycles very recently and I have not experienced this level of annoyance—Especially from a road going motorcycle.

Where I would expect this level of vibration is on a Harley with nearly double the displacement. Vibration is apparent almost immediately and within 30-40 minutes of riding, and you're really going to to be fatigued by it. I took the GT up to Ventura and back one weekend and it sucked. It sucked really hard.

6. ECU and fuel injection needs to be upgraded, refined, whatever. Even after fiddling with the idle screw, which is inconveniently located under the seat and only accessible with a screwdriver, the engine would continue to die at a stop. Feathering the throttle is mandatory. There were countless instances when I would be at a stop light and the bike would just cut out. Other times, I would pull in the clutch to get underway and the engine would die.

You know what…I've never been on a NEW motorcycle yet in my life where I wanted to throw my hands in the air and say “F**k it, I'm out. I'll walk home,” and leave the bike right there in the middle of an intersection for everyone to witness. There's no reason a modern bike bought new in 2015 should behave like this. What is more troubling is that I thought this occurrence was relegated only to me. I did some research and turns out this is an issue that other’s have experienced.

7. I'm also completely baffled by this "safety feature." When the kickstand is down and the bike is in neutral, which engineer made the decision to disable ignition and relieve the rider of the ability to run the bike at idle? Seriously?! Why?! How else am I going to look cool at the cafe while waiting for my ride to warm up?


When you get on a Triumph, Moto Guzzi, or Ducati Scrambler and look at what you're sitting on, you get the feeling that the designers and engineers took a moment to make sure powder coats looked clean and ensured wires shrouds were not exposed—or at least flush with connection points. When you buy one of the aforementioned bikes, you also know your extra $3,000 (the average you’re going to pay extra for either of those bikes over the GT) goes to these kinds of things. You're paying for more engine too.

I'm discerning of quality and the first thing I notice about anything I see and touch is its quality. The Continental GT, while beautifully designed and sexy from afar, loses points upon closer inspection. The parts just look made by the lowest bidder.

This leads into the last and final gripe I’m going to mention because my own negativity is making me depressed.

Back to vibration: You will need to check your bike periodically. In my two months of GT possession, the dual tone horn mounts experienced metal fatigue and snapped and the left foot peg assembly became insanely loose after repeated tightenings, as did the front clutch lever.

Finally, the piece de resistance, I returned home after a nice ride into the canyons to discover my license plate was no longer attached to the license plate mount. I guess it was as tired of the vibration as my right hand. Unlike me, it did give in and just say, “F#*k it, I’m out!” If you buy a Continental GT, go over every major bolt you can find and hit it with some blue Loctite just to be safe.

Both horn mounts snapped due to metal fatigue.

Both horn mounts snapped due to metal fatigue.

The kickstart is novel and great if the battery dies in which I can say it never did when I had the GT. I went ahead and used the kickstart and it worked the one and only time I tried it. After all I have dealt with on this bike, I guess it would be best to end right here on a positive.

But I'm not going to do that.

You know that blue-ish purple-ish color that sets in once you put a couple hundred miles on the bike? That happens on the headers of this bike, but it also happens on the muffler. I'm not sure it’s supposed to do that. When I say "I'm not sure," I mean to say I'm absolutely 100% positive that the exhaust muffler is not supposed to change color.

Bluing of the muffler?

Bluing of the muffler under 4000 miles?

A Dim Light at the End of the Tunnel

Okay, fine, here's a positive:

I discovered the GT's "unicorn zone." What is this you ask? Well at any gear, at exactly 4500 rpm, the vibration from the thumping single cylinder seems to reach its mellowest point in the rev range. It still exists enough to where you're going to feel it on a distance ride. Some motorcycles come down to finding the enjoyable quirks.


The Royal Enfield Continental GT is far from perfect and has numerous “quirks” for a brand new motorcycle that costs $6000. If I had spent my money on this bike, I would be "Royally" pissed off right now. Royal Enfield is going to need to improve upon these faults if they're going to be a contender in the US market.

While the GT is the least expensive among other cafe-styled bikes, and better than the Yamaha SR400 (that bike scared the s**t out of me), the price comes at a cost, namely everything listed above. And I feel the engine itself is in desperate need of an upgrade or redesign. I get what Royal Enfield is trying to do here, but if I had a choice I would take their Classic 500 over the GT any day of the week just so I’m not confronted with having a disappointing cafe racer.

Many intermediate and advanced riders will find the Continental GT lackluster and disappointing, but honestly, for all its faults and headaches, I still like this bike. I know it’s hard to imagine me saying this, but here is why and also why it's a fantastic choice for beginners.

It looks fantastic. There are no motorcycles at this price point that look this good.

Because of its lack of power, solid ergonomics, ride feel and superb fuel economy, beginners can rest assured that the bike will not get away from them; therefore, it's a great platform on which to learn. New riders can focus on ride mechanics, body positioning and things to make them a better rider knowing that the bike will stay firmly planted on the pavement.

Perfect for entry level riders.

Perfect for entry level riders.

The Continental GT is as close as you will get to owning a vintage cafe racer without going out and buying a vintage cafe racer. All the failings and issues I experienced with this bike will introduce you to the wonderful world of motorcycling. You're likely to meet some amazing people in our community that will help you, answer questions, and show you how to fix things that are likely to go wrong. You will also quickly learn how to use a wrench and learn some basic motorcycle maintenance.

If none of these things sound appealing to you, go buy a Honda.



Would be prettier if that damn horn had not snapped off it's mount. 

I rather do like the cockpit layout. Just the layout. 

Burnouts in the dirt.

Burnouts in the dirt.

While lacking in power, the Continental GT is peppy and fun to throw around in the canyons.

While lacking in power, the Continental GT is peppy and fun to throw around in the canyons but you could do this with any 250cc and have equal amounts of fun.

]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) Bike Review Motorcycle Motorcycle Photography Motorcycle Review Royal Enfield Royal Enfield Continental GT Royal Enfield Continental GT Review Royal Enfield Review Sam Bendall motorcycle samuel Bendall Photography travel Thu, 03 Dec 2015 22:13:00 GMT
Mini-Moto LeMans - The UMRA 24 Hour Endurance Race It’s 4pm, 92 degrees, and I'm in 3rd gear barreling down a dirt road at 70 mph somewhere in California's Apple Valley. The All Wheel Symmetrical drive on my Impreza is fully engaged as I loosely skate along the arid surface. Minimal inputs keep me in control. More aggressive inputs force controlled drifts through a couple of corners. I figure before I get to wherever the hell I am going, I would get in a little of my own fun and test my new Suby's rally pedigree. I was not disappointed.

Around the bend and in the middle of Apple Valley, the Grange Motor Circuit appears. Filled with a grid of motorcycles, a race is already underway.

Christina Orris, one of UMRA's executive members.  Everyone here races. 
The guys from getting their Grom on. 

Mini-Moto In Action

I’ve photographed professional events at racetracks before, so upon arrival I asked if there was a media or safety briefing. Do I need to sign anything?

One of the organizers looked at me a smiled, “Don’t get hit and look both ways before crossing the track. Oh…and here’s a yellow vest.” I chuckled. Then I signed a safety waiver.

I had about 19 more hours of motorcycling to watch so I thought before I got lazy with my friends, it would be best to get out on the track and get some shots of some racers before the sun set. I bounded onto the infield and took in the race for 10 minutes before getting down to business.

Some of these racers were badass, others I could figure were a shade more novice and many fell in-between. From afar, mini-moto bikes do not appear to travel fast, likely 40-45 mph along the straights and vary in the corners. That all changes close up when a knee goes down and that throttle opens up after hitting an apex. You feel like you’re watching MotoGP from the stands. But I'm only feet away.


I set up and got my photos, but I would pause frequently, in serious awe of some of these riders. The slow speed and square nature of these small bikes actually lend to understanding the technical nature of motorcycle racing. One can see how riders position their bodies and prepare for corners, the action is not as blinding as it is on bigger bikes.

For that reason, I found it incredibly interesting to watch and learn. I could feel the urge to hop in the saddle creeping up in my thoughts.


After an hour in the infield I decided it was time to take a break, meet up with my friend Sarah and get properly introduced to her team.


The Mini-Moto People

Sitting in the pits with 16 hours of racing in front of you generates a number of questions to an ignorant observer: How much are these bikes? How do I get involved? Where can I go to learn more? How did you (the royal you) get into all of this? Are there age requirements? What are the different classes? Where is the food and cold beverages? I’m hungry.

I found food and drink and began getting answers to my questions. I sat down with Ryan O’Neill and Christina Orris of the UMRA—that’t the United Mini-Moto Racing Association. Most race series at the amateur level, especially moto racing, are organized at the grassroots level. It’s not about big money, just passionate people learning, teaching and enjoying some good old-fashion motorcycle racing.


What Is A Mini-Moto?

Pretty much any motorcycle under 150cc. The bikes on the track tonight are Honda Groms, Honda XR100, Honda NSR50, and Yahmaha TTR125.

Rules, Age Requirements, Etc.

Remarkably, anyone can race Mini-Moto and have the time of their life. Whether you are 40- or 8-years- old, there is no age requirement and you don’t need a license to race or participate. That’s awesome.

Getting Involved

Getting started in Mini-Moto is as easy as buying a cheap bike. Start by looking at the XR100’s and NSR50’s, they can be found for under $2000 used. The Honda Grom is a bit more expensive because it's still fairly new, but you can use that bike on and off the track if you are so inclined.

The next big purchase for anyone will be protective gear. That means race leathers, boots, gloves and a helmet. This will cost almost as much as the motorcycle, but safety is never something to compromise on when racing, trust me.


Another added benefit is that overall maintenance for these smaller bikes is minimal compared to larger sport bikes. In the event you have to replace components after a wreck, you are not going to be crying at the cost of parts.

For more questions and want to know about upcoming events, I recommend following the UMRA Facebook page. They are super nice and will answer all your super detailed questions if you have them.

Racing Mini-Moto

Specifically, this 24 hour endurance race. It’s a simple concept: Get a team of your best friends, one bike, a ton of camping equipment, chill in the pits and then, every once in a while, take to the track and battle it out with your fellow competitors. The team with the most laps at the end of the race wins. Just hope your bike doesn’t break.


I am going to get back to all of you on this because my time here has purely been as a spectator. I am going to do it and that is going to happen sooner than later.

Back to the Track at Hand

It’s already around 10pm and my friend Sarah is about to get out on the track, so she begins to suit up. One of her teammates rolls into the pits and hops off the bike. The team moves in to top off the tank, check key components and bolts. Sarah and Mike had a quick interaction; a chat among warriors said more with energy and haptic gestures than words. I could feel the team's camaraderie. Sarah moved into position, mounted the little XR100 and was off.


I got out onto the track to get some shots. What else are friends for?

When I got to the infield, Sarah and another rider were in a fierce battle for 5 or 6 laps. It was epic. Then I realized that I needed to take pictures and do my job.


Back in the pits lounging in a beach chair, jotting down notes and writing this article, it is almost 3am. To my right is the track, there's the sound of racers coming and going in the darkness, and to my left are the race pits. Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, and The Temptations groove out of a Bose Sound Dock, a number of people are sleeping, a few others are organizing tools, and some are lounging around in fold out chairs and laughing about the tribulations of life. I have been here at the UMRA 24 Hour Endurance Race for 13 hours and the overall feeling is a paradox of excitement and calm.


All of a sudden there was a commotion coming from the tent across the way. Flashlights were out, tools clanged and shifted around, indiscernible and sharp phrases were relayed. Five men and a woman gathered around a bike, moving with purpose. It turns out an engine exploded on the track and a replacement was being swapped in. Within 12 minutes they were back out on the track.


I caught a second wind, but dialed it down and figured I would try to get some shut-eye. The sun would come up soon, it would be too warm to sleep during the day and some interviews could wait until morning.



While I was asleep, the team that exploded one engine had exploded a second. They were all sitting in their tent with metaphorical DNF stickers on their foreheads. One would expect them to be in a state of sadness, but this is motorcycle racing and it’s simply par for the course.

With smiles on their face they waved me over and invited my half-asleep, zombie walking ass over for some breakfast. I obliged and was treated to one damn fine breakfast burrito. It also gave me the opportunity to talk with easily the fastest guy in the grid that day, Ichiro Horabi.



I noticed Ichiro (aka “Ichi”) when I first started taking track photos. He had a very peculiar riding style and was scary fast. It was like he had ants in his pants. He would constantly move around in the saddle, never quite sitting still. At one point, I even thought I saw him reach down with his left hand to grab the shifter. Turns out, Ichi has broken/injured his left ankle so many times he has no dorsiflexion (upward mobility) ability and therefore cannot shift up through the gears. So, like the badass that he is, he upshifts with his left hand. I needed to know more.


Ichi has lived in the US for the last 15 years and began racing small motorcycles when he was 14-years-old (he is now 40). In Japan he competed for a number of years in the MFJ (Motorcycle Federation of Japan) in the 85cc class where he was the East Coast Champion. Later, he achieved the same success in the 250cc class. He would eventually end up working for Bridgestone, testing new tire technology for profession road racing series. When he came over the the US he raced more for pleasure than competitively and now owns a shop in San Diego. We spoke for the next hour about bikes, life, technique and mechanics.


The 12:00 hour rapidly approached, and marked the end of the 24-hour endurance race. The grid was substantially smaller than when the race first started, but everyone from the pits was out on the bordering fence in good spirits and cheering on the final group of racers.


I have to say that after being on-site for just over 20 hours, I am officially hooked and I want on a mini-moto bike as soon as possible. Keep an eye out for my next story as I have arranged a time to hook up with the UMRA and get a dose of what it’s like for a total newbie to get on an XR100 and rip around a track.

UMRA 24-Hour Mini Moto Endurance Race Results:

Thunderbike Class:
1st Place: TTR Maniac
2nd Place: Spring Riders
3rd Place: Wolfpack

Grom Class:
1st Place: Top Gromen
2nd Place: America Fuck Yeah
3rd Place: Short Bus

Spec 50 (Stock XR100) Class:
1st Place: Holy Heat Haters
2nd Place:5 Guys, 1 Girl, 1 Cup
3rd Place: Wild Ones

More Fun Photos from The UMRA 24-Hour Endurance Race at Grange Motor Circuit




]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) 24 Hour Endurance Race Ichiro Horabi LeMans Racing UMRA mini moto Tue, 24 Nov 2015 22:25:00 GMT
First Ride - Royal Enfield Classic 500  


Today I feel like i’ve traveled back in time and it was a pure delight to have a little feeling of analogue in this modern digital world. The Royal Enfield Classic 500 is just that, a bare bones modern classic that undeniably captures the era of yesteryear while incorporating some creature comforts of the modern age. 
When I would tool around town on a Triumph Bonneville, I never thought I could get more leering eyes on me. That was until today. The Royal Enfield Classic 500 has surpassed the Bonnie in “passer-by-awe-factor” by leaps and bounds. Its moderately powered engine is a delight to the rider almost as it is to pedestrians and drivers because it allows them to sip from cup of glory and design when the bike rolls past. 
I almost feel guilty for not wearing a pair of aviator goggles and leather satchel as it would have completed the ensemble. 
Many of you might be thinking…yeah, ok, it looks good…hell, it looks great, but what’s the Classic 500 like to ride? I say, hold your horses…we’re getting there. I really want to revel in beauty of the Classic 500 for another 12 paragraphs.
Just kidding, I’ll get on. 
Like usual, today was another beautiful and perfect day in Southern California for a bike ride. We are truly a blessed bunch out here on the best coast….ahem…west coast.
My good friend Sarah ventured out mid-day and took the Classic 500 through Santa Monica, up through Topanga and back through some super secret side roads to simply get feel for the basics.
You sure won’t be winning any drag races or setting any lap records on the Classic 500 but that is simply not the point of this machine. For god’s sake, this 500cc single produces a whopping 27hp and vibrates with gusto at high RPM’s, so it’s best to stay in the mid-range and low end for comforts sake. Thankfully the 5-speed transmission allows you to stay lower in the rev range for most of your day-to-day riding and thus preventing any of that discomfort you might otherwise experience in your nether regions. From a full stop to 60 mph you are looking at something around 8 seconds, I won’t lie, i stop caring after 6 seconds and anything under 4 is enough to get my hair standing on end and my adrenal glands pumping excitement into my stomach and loins. 
On paper, the engine looks severely underpowered and unimpressive for a 500cc single and it is when compared to many bikes on the market but that didn’t matter to me. I had an almost transcendence experience on the Classic 500 today. From the moment I put the kickstand up to the moment I finished my riding, I was all smiles. 
Even though the Classic 500 is a new bike, it somehow captures the janky and odd characteristics of an old vintage engine while remaining modern. What I mean by this is that the throttle sometimes needed to be feathered at a stop to keep it from stalling, there were a couple times here and there when I would miss a gear shift, and I felt a lag in setting off from a stop. For most bikes I ride and review, this would be a problem but strangely, I expected these nostalgic quirks to be ever present in the Classic 500 when I mounted up. I kinda enjoyed that they were there.
In and out of the canyons the Classic 500 feels remarkably well planted. Its light, easy to throw around and just as happy as you are to be on a ride in a sunny 70 degree climate. Just as comfortable in traffic and out on the open road, the Classic 500 is remarkably well-balanced for practicing and honing slow speed maneuvers. While Sarah was topping off her fuel tank I took a moment to practice my tight turning circles and figure-eights in and around the pumps.  The gas attendant was actually amused.  I chalk that up to the Classic 500’s sexy factor. 
Finding your line in and out of the corners is easy-peasy and I attribute this to the nicely wide handlebar setup and standard riding position. When in the saddle, there is never a moment when you feel like the Classic 500 will get away from you. It just can’t. For this reason alone I think the Classic 500 would make for a perfect MSF training course bike. It would surely look and perform better on the range than those old ass, beat up Nighthawk 250’s I was forced to endure when I got my M1 endorsement.  
20150622-XPRO270920150622-XPRO2709Sarah's new nickname is Moto Snoopy
Braking on the Classic 500 is not impressive but it’s neither inadequate. Fitted with a single 280mm disc brake up front and a drum brake in the back, it took a heavy right foot to lock up the back wheel and induce a skid and the front brakes felt acceptable under panic braking and regular stop-and-go commuting. Remember, you won’t be tearing ass on this bike so it’s not like you need a set of Brembos to bring you to a halt.
From a comfort perspective, let me sing the praises of the dual rear suspension. You have twin gas charged shocks with 5-step adjustable preload on the frame with 80mm of travel and springs under the saddle.  Double the pleasure and double the fun…seriously.  Its sublime because not only are there two sets of springs but the saddle looks like it was ripped off a beach cruiser and padded with clouds.  My ass has never been happier in a stock saddle…EVER. 
20150622-XPRO287720150622-XPRO2877Hey...this moto reviewing is hard work.
The only real issue I had with the Classic 500 during my ride today, which might also bother many of you, is that at the higher rpm’s the vibration from the engine becomes readily apparent and for some reason, would transfer solely to my throttle hand.  This somehow needs to be addressed. 
I would love to get some extended time with the Classic 500 to iron out some issues and really dive deep into this bike. Maybe head out for a long weekend and see what this little 500 is capable of tackling but for now, I have been pleasantly surprised and delighted by this beautiful modern classic for its nostalgic appeal, classic design, cheap price point ($5695), and ease of operation. 

]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) Bike Review First Ride Royal Enfield motorcycle Tue, 30 Jun 2015 00:30:00 GMT
A Motorcyclist's Addition to: Motorcyclists: Please Stop Being Sanctimonious Assholes IMG_9033IMG_9033


There’s an article going around authored by Damon Lavernic in Lanesplitter asking Motorcyclists to stop being sanctimonious assholes. I happen to agree with almost every word of his article, but there are some points that need to be added. Here are my two cents...

I ride, commute and split lanes every day in perhaps the most offensive “use your phone while driving city:” Los Angeles.

For the most part, I don't care when someone comes to a complete stop to check their phone.They are not in motion, and there is little likelihood they will perform a maneuver at the moment. I know we all get frustrated from time to time and MANY of you—like Samuel Ayers who wanted to voice off and tell drivers what to do.

Oscar Wilde once said, "If you want to tell someone the truth, make them laugh otherwise they will kill you."

Unfortunately and sadly for Samuel Ayers, he said what he said quite aggressively and that brought upon the absolute worst and inexcusable kind of recourse.  He surely was not expecting it and that driver is hands down one of the worst people in the world. I sincerely hope the authorities find the assailant who knocked him off his bike, and I also hope the community helps him with his injuries.

In my own riding experience, I have ALWAYS been keenly aware of vehicles in motion and when I see egregious behavior (mainly veering into another lane), I lay on my horn for a good moment. This immediately focuses a drivers attention away from their phone and back to the road.

Do not…I repeat DO NOT, pull in your clutch and rev past drivers. There are two good reasons for this:  First, drivers do not associate the sound of your revving engine with a warning, and second, you're no longer in control of your motorcycle. Don’t be (and stop being) that guy/girl. One of the first mods I made to my bike when I got it was a loud ass horn.  I’ll lay on that bad boy daily when I think a driver is driving like a fool. It’s remarkably effective tool not many seem to use. Seriously.  It’s great.

If you are going to say something, any of the following words are just going to ALWAYS exacerbate the problem: Douchebag, asshole, motherfucker, bitch, etc… You're asking for trouble.

This brings me to the point all motorcyclists need to abide.  If you're going to say something, you have to do it kindly.  You have to be the better person…the bigger person.  You already know that you are correct in your criticism.  You know that the person in the car knows they are breaking the law and that their actions are unsafe.

You cannot be a dickhead about saying what you want to say. You just cannot.

I've encountered a number of people that I've had words with and most (9 out of 10) have complied with my view because I have done it kindly. Afterward, I allowed them to drive off and I put distance between us both. I'm always thinking about my safety as a motorcyclist and most importantly, I do it with the calm of a buddhist monk.

For example:

I had an encounter with a driver here in Los Angeles just prior to leaving to work for Triumph in Atlanta.  After leaving my office in Century City, there was a guy in a very nice two door Mercedes flying down Olympic Blvd.  He was all over the place veering into other lanes. At first, I thought it’s a bit early in the day to be that drunk.  Second thought was he had to be on his phone.  Traffic was beginning to get a bit more congested and he almost rear ended someone.  While he was stopped, I pulled up next to him and knocked on his window.  I was greeted to a, “What the fuck do you want?”

Did I beget rudeness with rudeness. No. I said to him, “Look man…I’ve been watching you drive for the last couple blocks, you’re all over the place.  You’re going to wreck your sweet ride, hurt someone else, or the worst case, kill someone like me on a motorcycle. It’s not worth it dude.”

He took what I said to heart and recognized his error. Did I forever change his actions…probably not, but maybe. He will remember me as being a kind motorcyclist, and that is one step closer to changing the very real and negative image problem we motorcyclists have been tagged with in our society.

Now sure, this could have gone the opposite way and he could have told me to “fuck off and mind my own business,” which is exactly what happened on another occasion with another driver.

My response to this guy was “Ok man…be on your merry way. I'm going to just sit back here and watch you continue to drive horribly. I won’t be your next victim.” The guy drove off.

You cannot change the mind of everyone and I accept that, but I'll always try…with kindness.

Serendipitously, three blocks down the road, I saw a LAPD car on the side of the road. I pulled up next to the driver’s side and told the cop that the driver ahead was driving erratically and using his cell phone while the car was in motion.  The cop followed the guy and caught him in the act of using his phone.  Ah yes, the sweet taste of justice and revenge.

What have we learned today? We as motorcyclist’s and we owe it to our community to look out for ourselves and others. We owe it more to society to not be utter asshats. As a whole, maybe we can start promoting a “killing them with kindness” campaign and begin uploading those videos to YouTube instead of seeing our fellow motorcyclists becoming victims to irrational angry drivers.



IMG_2150Be a happy motorcyclist. Don't be a douchebag.

]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) Op-Ed Sound-off opinion Thu, 11 Jun 2015 23:11:03 GMT
2015 Star Bolt C-Spec Review Where café racer meets cruiser, the Star Bolt C-Spec is a fun new take on the wildly successful Bolt and Bolt R-Spec. I had the opportunity to get some saddle time with the C-Spec over the course of a couple weeks. This won’t be a huge tech review of the bike, there are plenty of articles on specs out there for the gear heads to nerd out over…this will be more of a common man’s perspective on the C-Spec, and what it’s like to live with it in the urban jungle.

Walking around and looking the C-Spec, I have to say I was impressed.  For a stock motorcycle that you can purchase straight off the dealership floor, the bike possesses an air of custom already built in.  It has an aggressive streamlined profile, single instrument cluster, swooped up café-racer seat, rear cowling, clip-on handlebars, tightly tucked in headlight, re-positioned turn signals, a funky LED rear taillight, piggyback shocks, and fork gators. The Star Bolt C-Spec oozes "coolness.”

However, as much as I love the overall styling and design of this bike, I cannot help feel a bit of vomit come up into my throat when my eyes pass over the exhaust. It really is the only feature that takes away from the bike, but on the positive side of things, the exhaust note sounds nice and it will look and sound even better with any of the countless aftermarket exhausts being developed for the Bolt lineup.



Once in the saddle, I took a moment to review the controls and view from the cockpit. I like the simplicity of the speedo with its chrome bezel and mirror black face, but excitement turned a bit to disappointment when I discovered there was no tachometer built into the display unit. Seriously, I was really bummed. I love having a tach, and if push came to shove, I would take one over a speedo. The speedo is this pretty and clear LCD readout; however, not in direct sunlight. At that point, it becomes utterly useless.

Hand controls are nicely designed—the horn button is awkwardly placed and should be relocated for future models making it easier to access; the ignition button and kill switch are integrated into a single slide mechanism (a first in my experience); the inclusion of a “pass” trigger is a nice addition; and brake and clutch levers are easy to pull and modulate, but I would have liked adjustable levers already included.




Out on the open road, I immediately realized that the ergonomics of the C-Spec are not made for a man of my stature (6’5”). This would eventually pose a problem over the course of reviewing this bike.

It took me the better half of the hour to figure out how to get comfortable on this strange café-cruiser hybrid. The air cleaner on the right side would constantly dig into my calf and was an annoyance every time I put my foot up onto the peg. To add to the café styling, the foot pegs have been moved 6 inches rearward and 1.5 inches up, placing them directly under the seat.

Though the saddle on the C-Spec is narrow, much of that is mitigated by the position of the pegs and even with long legs (I'm a 34 in. inseam), I found myself awkwardly needing to put my feet forward and down when coming to a stop or sprawl them out like I was stretching for a marathon. Shorter riders might have some issue with this starting out, but I wouldn’t know. Once you settle in, it just becomes one minor obstacle to overcome.

Over the course of my ride, I began to notice a lot of my weight was falling on my wrists and fatigue would kick in faster than almost any other motorcycle I’ve ridden to date. I thought this was a fluke, but over the next two weeks of riding the C-Spec to and from Santa Monica to Downtown LA, the same issue would arise.


Like the R-Spec and original Bolt, the engine remains unchanged. The 942cc V-Twin engine on the C-spec pulls nicely off the line producing 54.1 ft-lb of torque and you’ll be able to rocket up to 41mph before hitting the redline and needing to shift. The torque will gently slide you back into the cafe inspired seat if you mash it wide open. Shifting to second and third gear on the C-Spec is about all the fun you’ll have if you nail the transitions correctly.


The throttle response is smooth and receptive; torque is not overwhelming, yet it remains satisfying. This bike is not going to make you grin giddy like a bashful school girl or impress seasoned riders, but you’ll have a good time nonetheless. I tried a couple of times, but I never once hit triple digits on this bike. Ninety five mph was my best go, but based on specs the C-Spec will get up there, you just have to keep pushing. New riders graduating from smaller displacement bikes to the the C-Spec will certainly have lots of fun. Smashing into the rev-limiter is easy, especially in first and second gear, and what should be a warning sounds like a pitiful putter.

Shifting transitions are spot-on and smooth for the most part thank to the multi-plate wet clutch,but there were a handful of times where I missed a shift from first to second. I ran into this same issue when I first rode the Bolt two years ago.

Lane splitting was easy enough on the C-Spec but not without some  focus on my part at slower speeds. With the foot controls in a more aggressive position, really needing to reach to grab the bars and coupled with my insane height, low speed maneuverability is not entirely well balanced on the C-Spec. Again, I'm sure shorter riders (anyone under 6 feet) will experience a bit more ease when traversing the urban jungle.

The combination of a single dial instrument cluster, slim fuel tank, clip-ons and mid-mount foot controls instantly transport you into the cockpit on a vintage—yet modern—cafe-racer. As a result, I found myself riding a bit more aggressively than I typically would on any kind of cruiser. This is what makes the C-Spec a bit more fun to ride.

A couple days later and after a bit more city riding, I found myself riding up PCH. I was yet again reminded that the cruiser I was piloting had all the aesthetics and characteristics of a café racer just in a bulkier, sportster-like package.


As I moved into the canyons of Malibu, I was eager to see how much café-breeding this Bolt C-Spec had in her. Starting at the top Mullholland Dr., the short wheelbase (62 inches), low seat height (30 inches) and low center of gravity lend the C-Spec to being quite agile and easy to throw around in the corners. The race-inspired clip-ons are generous in changing entry and exit lines while in a corner and aid in throwing the weight of the bike back and forth.

The Michelin Commander II tires fitted to the C-Spec gives the 542 lbs. bike some good footing. Over the course of riding it I always felt confident that the bike was planted firmly to the ground. They provide ample traction, and instill confidence in the twisties and when cruising, which is always a good thing for beginner to advanced riders.

Fitted with two piston caliper, 298mm single wave discs on both front and rear, the braking on the C-Spec proved to be quite soft on the front end. To get maximum stopping / slowing power, I found myself using all four fingers on the brake lever and really giving a good squeeze when approaching corners. The tendency to lock the back brake occurs easily on the C-spec, so finding the sweet spot in your touch is recommended.

In the front are KYB 41mm nonadjustable shocks that afford 4.7 inches of travel, and in the rear are adjustable preload KYB piggyback shocks (faux-ohlins based on the color scheme) with only 2.8 of travel.


The stock suspension on the C-Spec is firm and keeps the bike planted in the corners. The result (along with the tires) is a motorcycle that feels very planted, but not overly stiff or soft. When the roads get a little dicey (potholes, speedbumps, etc.), you will find yourself standing up on the pegs to transfer the impacts to your legs.

When pushing the bike in the canyons, front fork dive is nearly non existent as the majority of the weight is distributed toward the back of the bike. As such, the C-Spec feels well planted.

Shifting through the 5-speed transmission remained smooth and responsive as was the power delivery from the 948cc 60-degree v-twin. I found it to be adequate in the canyon and through the corners—it never felt out of control or too much to handle.

When you throttle up on the C-Spec, you don’t feel overwhelmed and it's a particularly forgiving bike for those with a heavy wrist or in the process of learning how to fine tune their power control. Halfway through my first run, I was reminded of my first disappointment with the C-Spec...I really wished I had a tachometer. I say this because I bumped into the very muted rev-limiter a couple of times and lost power when I wish I had not.

Downshifting on the C-Spec brought along some moderate engine braking that was more friendly and easier to manipulate in and around the city. It was more of a pain in the ass when in the canyons and of course…there was the tried and true "cruiser clunk" when dropping down in gears.

I would love to chime in here about where I felt I got the the most power along the RPM range, but without a tachometer or the chance to get the bike on a Dyno, I'm sadly going to be leaving you with nothing than the stats at the bottom of the page.

Though the foot controls have been moved 6-inches to the rear and 1.5 inch higher, there was only an increase of four degrees added to the overall lean angle (37 degree lean angle as opposed to 33 degrees found on the original Bolt and R-Spec). Regardless of this added feature, I found myself scraping the pegs in every corner and I felt like I was sacrificing a whole lot of comfort for not a whole lot of lean.

After pushing the C-Spec in the corners I followed a sweet looking Ford GT through Mulholland, down Topanga Canyon, back onto PCH, through Santa Monica and Marina Del Rey, and along the coast to Manhattan Beach. After stopping for a coffee, I headed home. In the regular rigor-moroe of urban commuting, the C-Spec is fun around town minus the lane-splitting and any ergonomic issues I have with the bike.



Final Thoughts After Two Weeks Riding Around Town

You can't help but feel cool on the Star Bolt C-Spec. I mean seriously, it’s a great looking bike. Whether at a stoplight or getting ready to hop on the C-Spec, there will be no shortage of “Yo man, that’s a cool bike.” Believe me I had my fill of compliments. It has an awkward but fun feeling about it and it's a great alternative if you are in the market for a Harley Sportster 883.


The C-Spec manages to be a little bit of a road warrior, a little bit café racer, and a little bit sportster in one well-designed package. Star is certainly attacking the Harley Sportster buyer with this machine Bolt. They are also gunning for those looking to buy a Triumph Thruxton. There is no denying the hipster café-racer market is trending and has grown in recent years. The C-Spec is great for beginner and intermediate riders that want to pull up to the coffee shop, look the part, meander through the winding highways for the half-day, and get around town.

All this praise for the C-Spec is not absolute. When I first started riding the C-Spec I thought, "This bike is novel and quite fun. It’s a cruiser that taps into a cafe-racer mindset." Over a couple weeks of riding, that novelty wore off and I realized that due to its hybrid nature, the C-Spec falls into this weird gray area: I like it, but I also despise it. It’s not comfortable at all in the corners and the lean angle is limited, so the cafe-spec is more for show than functionality. Once you start feeling like you can take a turn aggressively, you are rudely reminded that you cannot. It’s certainly doesn't scream practicality in any way, and if I want to put a passenger on the bike, I have to pay $100 to get the “passenger kit” from Star. I don’t like that. It’s not about the money, it’s about the principle. Throw that kit in at the time of purchase.

It does excel in design and pushing the boundaries of what a motorcycle can look like off the showroom floor, I praise the engineers and designers at Star for making such a beautiful bike. The engine is great: It's smooth, responsive, mildly torquey and doesn't rattle to the point where you feel like you've peed yourself after and hour in the saddle.

Every time I walk away or approach the C-Spec I think, “wow, what a great looking machine,” but once in the saddle, I would murmur to myself “why the f**k am I riding this thing today?” The C-Spec is that dumb supermodel that is really nice to look at, but when you experience its personality and learn its quirks, you’re just put off and want nothing to do with it after spending time with him/her.

It does excel in design and pushing the boundaries of what a motorcycle can look like off the showroom floor, I praise the engineers and designers at Star for making such a beautiful bike. The engine is great: It's smooth, responsive, mildly torquey and doesn't rattle to the point where you feel like you've peed yourself after and hour in the saddle.

Every time I walk away or approach the C-Spec I think, “wow, what a great looking machine,” but once in the saddle, I would murmur to myself “why the f**k am I riding this thing today?” The C-Spec is that dumb supermodel that is really nice to look at, but when you experience its personality and learn its quirks, you’re just put off and want nothing to do with it after spending time with him/her.

If I wanted to be in an uncomfortable, aggressive riding position while retaining the ability to lean into canyon corners and stay within the realm of a cafe-racer, I would buy a Triumph Thruxton, no question. I went out and found a friend with a stock Thruxton—ust to confirm what I was 99 percent certain of—and the Thruxton is actually more comfortable than the C-Spec (and I think it's a damn fine looking bike)!


The riding geometry of the C-Spec had my legs bent more due to the lower seat height, I was reaching over further to get to the clip-ons, and as a result, my back was more extended. The Thruxton had me in a more natural, yet aggressive riding position (not as aggressive as the C-Spec) with the ability to hunker down if I chose to do so. There is also more room to move around in the saddle on the Thruxton.

The Thruxton is $809 more than the C-Spec and produces less torque (44 lb-ft compared to the C-Spec’s 54.1lb-ft.), but is also lighter (507 lbs. vs. C-Spec’s 542 lbs) and produces more top end power (61.7hp vs C-Spec 48.5hp) than the C-Spec. The Thruxton is an entirely different bike than the C-Spec, but if you're in the realm of 5’6” and 6’5”, the Thruxton is going to be better machine. It's more fun and most importantly—more comfortable.

If I wanted a cruiser in the same class that would afford me some comforts and standard-ish ride position, then I would sooner opt to buy the original Bolt or the Bolt R-Spec than suffer through the C-Spec day-to-day. To me, the C-Spec just misses the mark and succeeds at being a “lifestyle motorcycle" and not much else.




2015 Star Bolt C-Spec Specifications

Engine: Air-cooled, SOHC, 4-valve V-twin
Displacement: 942cc / 58 cubic inches
Bore x stroke: 85.0 x 83.0mm
Compression ratio: 9.0:1
Fuel delivery: Fuel injection
Transmission: 5-speed multiplate wet clutch
Final drive: Belt


Front: Telescopic fork, 4.7 inches of travel
Rear: Twin shocks, 2.8 inches of travel


Front: Wave-type disc, 298mm
Rear: Wave-type disc, 298mm


Front: Michelin Commander II 100/90-19M/C 57H
Rear: Michelin Commander II 150/80-16M/C 71H


L x W x H: 90.4 x 30.5 x 45.7 inches
Seat height: 30.1 inches Wheelbase: 61.8 inches
Ground clearance: 5.3 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.2 gallons
Estimated fuel economy: 51 mpg
Wet weight: 542 pounds
Colors: Envy Green; Liquid Silver

2015 Star Bolt Spec-C MSRP: $8690


]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) Bike Review Tue, 09 Jun 2015 22:39:41 GMT
Los Angeles to Portland On A Honda - Part One February brought about cold temperatures across the United States, but not so much on the west coast.  In southern California, we are plagued with nearly perfect weather 95 percent of the year, and much of that good fortune extends up toward central and northern California. Along the coast, our statesman to the north experience moderate amounts of cold, rain, and fog year round, but never arctic like conditions like those in the Midwest and East Coast. Here in California, motorcycle riding is a year round luxury. Upon my recent return home to Los Angeles, I had a handful of free time and the chance to travel on a whim.

So, I packed up my gear, charged my camera batteries, pulled out a paper map and decided to tackle a bucket list item that has stagnated on it or a while now: Embark upon a long-haul motorcycle adventure along the Pacific Coast.

I had made plans months earlier to attend The One Motorcycle Show and see a number of friends and colleagues, but now that I was home in LA, I jumped at the chance to cancel my flight and ride north.  My journey from Los Angeles to Portland and back would mark the longest solo motorcycle trip I've done—I was excited.

I hope this story inspires you to carve out a little time and go on your own adventure. As for a first go on something like this, I think it went pretty damn well.

A Word to the Wise for Any Solo Trip

Plan your route. Stick to it, but also be keenly aware of alternate routes to get you where you’re going. Always have a paper map and religiously check weather reports along your route. Remember you are a motorcyclist riding in the elements, so proceed and prepare accordingly. Also, let friends and family know where you plan to be.

In my case, I prepared for two likely elements I could run into during this trip: rain and cold. Because I was to remain very close to the coastline for my whole trip and at a low altitude, I knew I would not encounter snow or ice.

Getting the Right Gear for your Trip

First, look at your motorcycle. With some common sense and logic ask yourself: What bags can I put on the back of this thing? There are a variety of luggage systems for all the different motorcycles out there, and at times it can be nauseating and complicated to figure out. Back to common sense, my advice is stick with simplicity whenever possible.

Dry bags are awesome and protect your gear from the elements, plus they are relatively affordable. My two main bags for this trip consisted of a 90L Redverz dry bag and a 38L Twisted Throttle DrySpec dry bag. Coupled with a few Rok Straps for the Redverz bag and the supplied universal mounting software for the Twisted Throttle Rigid DrySpec bag, I managed an amazing luggage system for under $260 that performed PERFECTLY for the whole trip. You can't beat the price—it's nothing compared to the use you will get out of it in the years to come.


The CB1100 DLX loaded up for 10 day of adventure

The CB1100 DLX loaded up for 10 day of adventure


Above is all the gear I packed onto my bike before and after. This can be done in an unlimited number of ways but this is how I did it:

 The 90L Redverez bag housed all of my camping equipment, supplies, and items not needed for throughout each day of riding. All heavy items should also be loaded in the bottom bag to ensure balance and stability (again, common sense).

Redverez 90L Contents:Tent, compressed sleeping bag, inflatable sleeping pad, dehydrated food, stove and fuel, utensils, dishware, extra cinch straps, hatchet, extra pair of boots with a couple pairs socks inside the boots, medical kit, medications, matches, spare flashlights….  

 Twisted Throttle Rigid 38L Dry Bag Contents: Clothes, secondary camera equipment, snacks, tool bag, tire puncture kit, flashlight.

Outside / Quick Access: Strapped tripod, water canteen, and spare fuel canister outside of dry bags with straps. Bungie net used to strap down my backback to the top of the Twisted Throttle DrySpec bag.     



Clothing can take up a lot of space so the key thing is pack as minimally as possible. Wear the same clothes as much as possible and accept that you will be grubby by the end of your trip. To minimize stink and potential itchiness, invest in merino wool base layers and undergarments. Anything that touches your skin should be 100 percent merino wool. Merino wool is a magical fabric that repels odor and does an excellent job at regulating and insulating body heat.

Also, think in layers: Merino wool base layer, insulated middle layers, motorcycle armor (pants and jacket), and a rain suit that fits over everything. With a clothing setup like this, you can be sure to stay comfortable in most climate's warm to cold.

The Trip and Route

Each ride day consisted of 8-10 hours of saddle time, so it was critical to get going at first light and get off the road when the sun went down. I would stress to anyone and everyone planning a route like this to never ride at night—bad things happen at night.

Day One - Santa Monica, CA to Novato, CA (484 Miles)

The first day was one of the longest days in the trip; however, it was necessary due to the need to arrive in Portland for the One Motorcycle Show. Leaving Santa Monica at 6am, I had 451 miles of highway in front of me with my destination being in Novato—a city just north of San Francisco in Marin County. I had done this drive in a car in just under six hours, but on a motorcycle that whole equation changes. Stops are more frequent, the need to eat and drink is more important, and the need to recognize fatigue becomes a real issue.

Starting point. Santa Monica, CA

Starting point. Santa Monica, CA

Ninety-two miles into my journey, my stomach advised me it was time to eat. I found myself in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara just off on Milpas Ave. I stopped in at one of my favorite breakfast spots in the city to enjoy a bowl of the “The Best Damn Oatmeal” and a cup of coffee. Sitting on the curb enjoying my meal, I was approached by a young man named Arlo on a bicycle that commented on my bike and asked where I was headed. I kindly replied by telling him was on my way to Portland and he said he was too.


Enjoying a bowl of "The Best Damn Oatmeal" at The Shop

Enjoying a bowl of "The Best Damn Oatmeal" at The Shop


Arlo and his bike in Santa Barbara

Arlo and his bike in Santa Barbara

Naturally, I was intrigued as he was on a bicycle, so I asked him where he started out his journey.  He told me he started his trip in Boston….BOSTON! Intrigue gave way to astonishment and I did a proverbial double take.

“What? Boston? Ok, hold on, back-up. Tell me how you ended up here in Santa Barbara,” I asked.

Arlo took me through his story and it was unbelievable. At 21 years of age and with nothing but a bicycle, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and a couple pairs of clothes, he started out in Boston and cycled down the east coast through New York, Maryland, the Carolinas, and Georgia. He hopped on a train and ended up in San Diego where he biked up to LA and back, then proceeded north to the moment in time that was our encounter in Santa Barbara. I'm sure there aren't too many kids these days embarking upon grand adventures similar to what Arlo is experiencing, but for their sake, I think they should.


Taking a break along the 101

Taking a break along the 101

I pushed on from Santa Barbara along the 101 passing through central California and into the Bay Area. Rush hour traffic became thick around San Francisco (as one would expect), but good ol’ lane splitting kept me from sitting still, and I made it through the city with very little time added to my planned route.

As I was passing over the Golden Gate Bridge, dusk quickly set in and I needed a quick break before reaching my final destination in Novato. There was no better vantage point than a rest stop overlooking San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.


Overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco

Overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco

Twenty more minutes on the bike and my day was complete. Mike Kumelis, a fellow motorcycle buddy, and his family graciously hosted me for the evening. Mike, in addition to being an avid adventure motorcycle rider, is also the owner and vintner of Mantra Winery in Sonoma County. After 10 hours of riding with no windscreen, my body was beaten and exhausted.  There was simply nothing better than sitting around the dining room table, conversing with these amazing individuals, drinking some AMAZING wine, and enjoying a home cooked meal.


Enjoying a glass of wine at the end of a long day of riding

Enjoying a glass of wine at the end of a long day of riding


Day Two - Novato to Sunset Bay Beach, OR (461 miles)

I woke up the next morning aiming to leave Mike’s at 7am, but that turned out closer to getting on the road at 9am. This was partially due to overwhelming soreness and a mild hangover from all the wine I imbibed at dinner—it was simply too good not to enjoy. Mike’s wife made a fantastic greasy breakfast, which helped me get back to neutral around the time I had to swing a leg over my steed.

From this point on in my journey, I was in unknown territory. I've traveled all around the state of California, but never in the north region of the bay area. To be able to experience this for the first time on a motorcycle journey was the icing on the cake. I soon was enveloped in a swath of Douglas-Fir, Cedar, Redwood, and Pine. The smell and sight of these trees transported me to a far off place in my mind and the crisp clean air reminded me I was venturing into an area sparsely populated by humans.

The day was remarkable—around every bend was a vast vista to gaze upon, a corridor of asphalt and nature, and quaint shops and local establishments to explore. I would have stopped every couple of miles, but there was ground to cover and only so much daylight in reserve.

The 101 north of Novato.

The 101 north of Novato.

When I lived in Atlanta I frequented an amazing coffee shop in Grant Park called Octane Coffee and Bar. The ambiance and service is second to none and I'm convinced that they make the best vanilla latte that has parsed my lips. I posted such a cliché photograph on my instagram feed a couple months ago and received a comment from The Black Lightning Motorcycle Cafe in Eureka, CA. They touted that they made a latte of equal measure. Because I have a sick obsession for the perfect cup of coffee and could never pass up such a challenge, I planned my route north to include a lunch break at this fine establishment.

Outside the Black Lightning Motorcycle Cafe

Outside the Black Lightning Motorcycle Cafe

Located in the small coastal town of Eureka, The Black Motorcycle Cafe is owned and operated by Jeff and Cassandra Hesseltine. Established in October of 2013, the Black Lightning Motorcycle Cafe initially sought to become a community service garage, but evolved—out of necessity—into a premier cafe and destination for both local and traveling motorcyclists. Jeff grew up with a deep love of motorcycles and spent years riding dirt bikes on his family farm in Lodi, CA, and over time, his passion for motorcycling guided his decision to create the cafe.

I arrived in Eureka around noon and parked my bike just outside the cafe in the motorcycles only parking spaces. Upon entering the cafe, I was greeted by Sarah, a lovely young woman with piercing blue eyes and a “light up the room” smile. I inquired with her if Jeff or Cassandra were available, but unfortunately they were in the process of leaving town for the weekend. A bit disappointed, I focused my attention toward quelling my hunger so I went ahead and ordered the Black Lighting Breakfast Sandwich and a vanilla latte. The sandwich was hand’s down one of the best breakfast sandwiches I’ve enjoyed in a very long time. It was quite tasty and very filling.

Inside the Black Lighting Motorcycle Cafe

Inside the Black Lighting Motorcycle Cafe

I spoke with Sarah for a short while, and serendipitously Jeff and Cassandra stopped in before heading out on their week vacation. I spent a little time speaking with them both about the shop and motorcycles before pressing on toward Coos Bay.

Leah and Sarah. Baristas at the Black Lightning Motorcycle Cafe

Leah and Sarah. Baristas at the Black Lightning Motorcycle Cafe


Back on the bike, I soon came to the California-Oregon border. My first thought upon entering Oregon was I would no longer be able to split lanes. This made me sad, but said sadness quickly departed my thoughts as I came around a bend and was treated to a simply majestic view of a craggy coastline with rolling fog.

Crossing the border. I had to remind myself that I was no longer allowed to split lanes.

Crossing the border. I had to remind myself that I was no longer allowed to split lanes.


I had expected cold and rainy weather on this trip, but thankfully I didn't encounter rain. Cold weather, on the other hand, had became a real issue once in Oregon and I was kicking myself hard for not having any heated gear or heated grips. I unfortunately had no other option other than to push through and get to where I was going.

Darkness began to fall and the last 15 miles into Coos Bay was definitely starting to take its toll on my physical being, so I stopped into a 7-11 to warm up and grab a cup of coffee.  After a quick break, I pressed on 10 miles west to a campground in Sunset Bay that I reserved a couple days before leaving Los Angeles. Located on the Oregon coast, Sunset Bay Beach State Park offers travelers huts and camp spots at a pretty cheap rate. I pitched camp, got comfy in my tent, broke in on some dehydrated food, and made dinner before knocking out for the night.


Oregon's beautiful coastline

Oregon's beautiful coastline

Cooking dinner at the Sunset Bay Beach Campground

Cooking dinner at the Sunset Bay Beach Campground


Day Three Coo’s Bay to Portland, OR (231 miles)

I woke up at 8am to the sound of crashing waves and cool temps. After making some breakfast and breaking down camp, I loaded up my gear and bundled up hoping the weather would warm up.

Breakfast at Sunset Bay Beach campground.

Breakfast at Sunset Bay Beach campground.


I was back on the road around 9:45am. I exited the campgrounds and was instantly greeted by a postcard view of Sunset Bay. Because I arrived under the veil of darkness, I had no idea this picturesque landscape existed. In Oregon, interstate 101 becomes the de facto coastal highway. It hugs the coastline closely and affords travelers with a plethora of magnificent views around every bend. Such spectacular visual beauty allowed me to ignore the numbness in my fingertips for the rest of my ride into Portland.


One of many coves along Sunset Bay Beach

One of many coves along Sunset Bay Beach

Filling up before hitting the road for the day

Filling up before hitting the road for the day

A happy pup at the gas station

A happy pup at the gas station

Always pack paper maps. ALWAYS.

Always pack paper maps. ALWAYS.

One of many rivers in Oregon along the 101

One of many rivers in Oregon along the 101


I could have stayed on the 101 all the way along the coast, but could not afford the time to ride it all the way north. I cut over to the I-5 courtesy of highway 126 and arrived in Portland just before the sun went down.  The next three days would be spent enjoying the good company of friends and experiencing The One Motorcycle Show.

]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) Honda Motorcycle Motorcycle Trip On the Road Travel Mon, 25 May 2015 20:30:00 GMT
The 2015 Honda CB1100 Deluxe Bike Review Modern. Refined. Retro. Timeless.


The 2015 CB1100 DLX harks back to the days of the old. Emulating the spirit and design of the Honda CB750, it does a fantastic job of melding classic aesthetics with modern design. Honda really went all out in designing this bike and it shows. At first glance, the Honda CB1100 DLX looks a bit boxy (mainly because of the fuel tank) but after walking around this meticulous machine, it’s difficult to deny it’s beauty. Much like the Triumph Bonneville and Moto Guzzi 8V SE, the Honda CB1100 has a commanding, vintage presence. It causes pedestrians and drivers to turn their heads and leer uncontrollably as if it were Scarlett Johanssen walking down the street in a beautiful red dress and Louboutin heels or Micheal Fassbender in a tailored suit (for the ladies).





After pacing around the bike a number of times and looking at it from various angles, it was time to put the CB1100 DLX between my legs. I mention to most of my readers that I am a tall guy, 6’5’’ and a svelte 210lbs, so out of necessity, I gravitate toward bigger motorcycles. I will ride almost anything but when bikes dip under 750cc’s, I end up looking like a turtle humping a tic-tac or a grizzly bear pedaling a tricycle.


Pulling the bike off the kickstand and into its upright position requires a little “umph” but at rest, the 570lbs CB1100 DLX feels remarkably well-balanced and is not as heavy as it reads on the spec sheet. The upgraded, ribbed gel bench saddle affords ample seating area and also provides a comfortable area for a passenger or soft luggage. The standard seating position accommodated my stature well and my legs did not impact the tank in an awkward way, nor were they bent at an uncomfortable angle. The handlebar ergonomics feel comfortable and all the controls were simple and easy to operate. The brake and clutch levers have a nice range of adjustability for riders of various hand sizes and the mirrors offer adequate visibility.


My only gripe with the controls layout is the position of the horn and blinker buttons.  The horn button is positioned above the blinkers and I am just accustomed to that being the other way around.


My favorite visual aesthetic on the CB1100 DLX is the instrument cluster. It’s nearly perfect for a stock bike. Two beautiful, easy to read analogue speedometer / tachometer combo with a lovely dark-green background, an LCD display dead center offering a digital clock, 2 trip meters / odometer / mpg consumption, digital fuel gauge and large gear readout (in case you forget what gear you are in), all of which are easily seen under bright lighting conditions. At night, the cluster glows a beautiful shade of blue. Simply stunning. Honda’s design team nailed it.


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First Ride Impressions

From the moment you hit the ignition and begin riding, the only adjective that fully encompasses the nature of the CB1100 DLX is that it’s “smooth”. From the get-go the engine idle remains smooth, pulling out of the lot and onto the streets of Torrance, everything from the pull of the clutch, the throttle response, power delivery, cycling and gear smooth.  There is no other adjective in the english language that aptly describes the nature of the CB1100 DLX. It is smoother than a jar of Skippy peanut butter and just as delicious and nostalgic to ride.


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Possessing an almost uncanny smooth throttle response and power output, with no startling torque peaks or shift issues, the Honda CB1100 Deluxe trades liveliness for incredible refinement and forgiveness. My first week riding this machine I could not get over how forgiving this motorcycle was in almost every way.


It is almost hard to imagine that between your legs breaths a 1142cc air cooled inline 4 cyl engine. Many will say that this bike is underpowered and too heavy.  It is but that’s not why you’re buying this bike. Even if you were, there are a number of modifications you could potentially make to give it a bit more zest. The power output of this bike produces only 87 bhp and 66 lbs. ft of torque---so again, you are not looking at a super sporty bike---but when you want it, the CB1100 DLX produces the go-go juice and fulfils ones “occasional need for speed”. Merging onto the highway, zipping along on surface streets, passing cars on single lane highways, the Honda CB1100 Deluxe is far more than capable. The power comes on so smooth and even, it almost feels like an electric motorcycle.


Peak power output occurs in between 5500 and 7000 RPM in first through fourth gear with no real noticeable loss in power on the top end. Fifth and and sixth gear offer a bit of pull between 4000 and 7000 RPM but at these highway speeds and in these gears, the CB1100 DLX loses the fun levels of torque found in the lower gears and simply creates a smooth cruising experience.


This 2014 model includes the addition of a sixth gear, which makes the aforementioned highway cruising smooth and comfortable, but the bike could benefit from shorter gearing. There were a couple times when I was cruising along the highway in 6th gear between 70-80mph and I found myself needing to drop down a gear or two to find the power to overtake another vehicle.


Due to the displacement and compression of this engine, the CB1100 DLX produces some rather noticeable engine braking when downshifting and closing the throttle. It took a couple runs up and down the canyons to get accustomed this characteristic but once I found my groove, I came to employ it readily in and around town and on the highway.


The exhaust on the DLX is remarkably quiet...too quiet actually for my own taste but on my  long trip it was welcomed. The addition of the 4-2 exhaust system on the DLX over the 4-2-1 on the base model, aesthetically makes the bike very beautiful, but it adds no additional power benefit and adds weight to the bike.


Exhaust gripes aside, through and through, the engine on the CB1100 is very well engineered, smooth and tame. After acclimating to its nature and personality, you can have reasonable amounts of fun with it and unlock its understated potential.


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The CB 1100 Deluxe comes with Nissin 4 caliper triple disc brakes (two in the front and one in the back) so braking on this big cafe bike is impressive and inspires confidence, especially with the linked ABS system. I put the brakes to the test on a couple of occassions and I was impressed by how smooth and refined they were at not only stopping the bike in a short distance but how it maintained weight distribution.  For those looking to disable the ABS on the CB1100, you’re out of luck.  I spent the better half of an hour pouring through the owners manual, searching online and fiddling with buttons to try and disable the ABS. I had no luck.





With Showa 41mm adjustable forks offering 4.2 inches of travel in the front and adjustable spring preload shocks with 4.5 inches of travel in the back, the 2014 CB1100 DLX has an average suspension package. Most of my time in the saddle on the CB1100 DLX was spent with the rear suspension set to 2 (1 being the softest - 5 being the firmest). I ratcheted down the pre-load to 5 for some canyon runs and it firmed up the suspension a fair amount, but nothing that would make a huge difference for the seasoned rider. For the everyday commuter and the occasional long haul trip, the suspension is a little above average will feel good enough day in and day out.





The CB1100 DLX does a pretty good job at maintaining a low center of gravity with its steel-tube full-cradle twin-loop frame and aluminum swingarm. Because of this, the CB1100 handles well at all speeds and inspires confidence in the mind of a young rider.



Fuel Consumption

Fuel Consumption faired pretty well.  At best the CB 1100 Deluxe averages 50 mpg when ridden calmly. That number drops down to 36-40 mpg when ridden aggressively. The 4.6 gallon tank averaged about 165-190 miles and never cost me more than $11.00 to fill. I did fill it to the point of no return, took to the highway and rode it until I ran out of gas. I got exactly 210 miles out of the tank. Not too shabby.



The Little Things

They say its the small things in life that make the difference.  I could not agree more.  Honda adds in a few little accessories on the Deluxe model (I am not sure if they come with the standard model) that I very much enjoyed.


The first being the extended tie down bolts under the passenger seat.  They served as excellent mounting points for my Twisted Throttle DrySpec 38L bag and Redverz 90L bag. Because of these little bolts, I was able to stack em’ high and lug around 150lbs of gear for 11 days on the back of the CB without having to rig straps to the frame.


The CB1100 comes with a helmet lock built into the frame for: your own helmet, a standby helmet for eventual passenger, or both!  #HondaForTheWin


The engine oil viewport has a wiper blade to give you a clear view of where your oil level is. Awesome.


The stock provided dual-tone horn is adequately loud and distinct.


Under the seat (the release button is located just behind the helmet lock) there is a nice little stash space for your tool kit or a can of Pabst, your flask or you know...other personal items hipsters and aging hipster want to carry around.  Also included  under the seat, is a storage space purely designed to carry a heavy duty U-Lock. Perfect for those times when when you must park your bike in the shadier parts of town and want to ensure its still there when you come back.


Comes with a centerstand. Always a nice option for routine bike maintenance and loading gear for a multi-day trip.


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In recent years, retro styled bikes have been making a comeback and Honda’s attention to detail with the CB 1100 Deluxe puts it in the creme de la creme class and so does it’s price tag. The base CB1100 comes in at $10,399 and the Deluxe at $11,899. It by no means comes in low on the pricing totem pole but with that cost it feels like you are getting an incredibly well built machine that has the pedigree and history of reliability Honda has been known for, for decades. The Deluxe model only comes in a candy red with black and grey pinstriping. In direct sunlight it is vibrant and poppy and in the shade it almost maintains a deep rich rose color.




The Honda CB1100 DLX is a premium level, hearty, yet tame, retro cafe inspired motorcycle that Honda pulled no expense in creating. You will love this bike every time you throw your leg over it and pull out onto the street.  Not for its insatiable performance and multitudes of rider-incorporated technology but rather for its simplicity, bespoke nature, and homage to yesteryear. It is a more than capable, comfortable commuter motorcycle, that affords any rider the ability to venture to moderately far off places when the mood strikes. I would even go so far as to say the Honda CB1100 is the perfect big bike for beginners or larger/taller individuals and for those seeking a beautiful cafe-styled bike with more power and performance than a Triumph Bonneville or Thruxton while remaining cheaper than the Moto Guzzi 8V SE and BMW R-Nine T.


Sam's Gear

Jacket: Rev'it Redhook Jacket 

Gloves: Racer Gloves - Mickey Glove

Helmet: Biltwell Bonanza with Bubble Shield

Boots: Red Wing 84206 



Photography and Words by Sam Bendall -

Additional Photography courtesy of Nik Wogan


]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) CB1100 Cafe Racer Honda Review Mon, 23 Mar 2015 20:48:24 GMT
The Best of The One Motorcycle Show  


Whether it's a bike built in a shed, a garage, a living room or done by a master builder that makes more profit on his t-shirts than bikes, you'll find them all under one roof at the One Motorcycle Show in Portland. Only in it's 6th year, the show has grown exponentially, pulling in builders and fans from all over the US.

We decided to take the long road to Portland from LA this year, mounting up on a brand new Honda CB1100 with camping gear on the back and the twisty roads in front. The only problem we had was deciding which was more fun: the ride or the show.


Housed in Portland’s South East district just blocks from popular watering holes and local fare, the One Motorcycle Show was held on a single city block site complete with warehouse, parking lot, mini bike track and vendors selling merchandise.

With a beer in hand, I waded through a sea of plaid, leather, steel and rubber with the option of purchasing cool show swag, a cup of fresh coffee from See See’s Motorcycles, or a slice of pizza from Roman Candles. All that aside, no matter where I walked I was greeted on all sides by beautiful works of art. There were motorcycles from different era’s and genre’s—some modernized, some restored, all unique and infused with touch of personal flair from their builders.

XPRO1135Magpul Ronin and the BMW RNineT

During my three days at the show, there were three motorcycles that I found myself walking past again and again. I was fortunate enough to take time to speak with each of the builders about these bikes. For the sake of space, I've included cliff notes below (stay tuned for the full character and bike profiles in the coming weeks).

The most impressive bike in the show—in my humble opinion—was a beautiful custom Honda VT500T with a turbocharger built by Dagos Toma of Strange Coast Moto.

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Local Portland based builders Lance and Kyle, came together to put together and restore of a Yamaha RD400 bought on Belmont Avenue from an old man that was hesitant to sell. This bike was the result of one year of tinkering and rebuilding in order to bring it back to life.

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The last of the three was a Honda CL450 Desert Sled totally tricked out by Jason Paul Michaels and Will Benedict of Dime City Cycles—with sheet metal work by Frankie Bowman. I particularly like this bike because not only does it look like something that you would want in the zombie apocalypse, but also because I've seen it romp around in the mud and it's every bit as practical as it is beautiful.



]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) Livemotofoto Ride Apart editorial Sat, 21 Feb 2015 07:45:00 GMT
Velocity's Naked Speed Is The Show Moto-Heads Deserve Thank bejesus the boys from Orange County Choppers are not angling for a revival. Instead, we moto-heads, wrench monkeys, and cafe racer aficionados are pressured to show it's all about lean, mean, garage built, performance- oriented machines designed for the urban jungle and race track. Get ready ya'll, for Naked Speed!

Master hot-rod and motorcycle builder Bryan Fuller from Fuller Moto and Mike Seate from CafeRacer will traverse the world to strip bikes down to their bare metal components and take viewers through their transformation into fast, stylish, race-ready machines. While building bikes is the foundation for Naked Speed, Fuller and Seate incorporate great human interest narratives with their guest builders and clients.


Naked Speed


This past Friday in Atlanta, guests at the SweetWater Brewery were treated to an advanced screening of the first episode of Naked Speed. It showcased Bryan Fuller and Kevin Dunworth from Loaded Gun Customs breathing new life into a 1972 Yamaha XS650 for Canadian bobsledder and Olympic champion, Kaillie Humphries. Mike Seate and California motorcycle builder Dustin Kott rescue a scrapyard Honda CB750 from utter neglect and turn it into a track worthy speed machine for Ben and Eric Bostrom.




I don’t know about you, but I'm stoked to see what Bryan and Mike create with their future guests. Naked Speed should prove to be a

fun, entertaining, and educational look into the custom cafe racer scene by focusing on the bikes and the people building them—not the errant family drama, emotional outbursts, and gaudiness of previous build shows of yesteryear.




Season One of Naked Speed premieres TONIGHT Wednesday, January 28th at 10 p.m. / 9p.m. CST on Discovery’s Velocity network. Each new episode runs one hour every Wednesday, and concludes on March 4th with a first stop at London’s Ace Cafe: It provides a historical look into the true pioneers of the cafe racer movement.



]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) editorial event livemotofoto Wed, 28 Jan 2015 08:00:00 GMT
A Final Saturday Bike Ride in the ATL My departure from Atlanta is nearing and . I am heading back to the land of sunshine, winding roads, and endless beaches. Im going home to LA. Leaving Atlanta is a bit bittersweet because I was just getting a feel for this awesome southern city. At first, I did not enjoy Atlanta but it began to grow on me. I think that is the case with any big move to a new city.



I came here eight months ago to work for Triumph Motorcycles America to head up their public relations department and on top of numerous duties, I focused on really getting to know the Atlanta motorcycle community as much as possible. I was very fortunate to have met some honest-to-god amazing individuals. I did some great work for a brand I love but nothing was more important than getting to know the local ATL moto-community and those that have become good friends. The last three days however have been particularly special.


My favorite dude is my man Steve West of Silver Piston. He’s practically knows everyone and anyone because he’s an old man that has lived in Atlanta for 10 years but he also makes kick ass jewelry for kick ass people. Our relationship began after a night of We both wanted to organize a local bike night so we did in the back space of Octane Coffee and Bar in Grant Park which was welcomed with great success.  Even sweeter, we did it on nearly no budget and in under three weeks. Ballers.


Matt Jones. Met this guy recently and now I'm regretting it. Not really, he’s a great dude. Give him gin and watch the hilarity ensue. Give him a camera and he’ll get some remarkable shots. There are few photographers I will outwardly endorse but Matt is one of those shooters. The man is awesome. Beware of el ceviche.


Brother Moto.  These guys are awesome and purveyors of the old airhead BMW’s. They have excellent taste and I am beyond excited to see their own shop open up in the East Atlanta Village in the next coming months (mid Feb / early April).


The Lady Fingers. These gals are such badasses. I only met them this week and sadly I will not have another opportunity to ride with them until I return back to ATL. Hopefully that moment will come sooner than later.  


Jason Michaels and Leticia Cline. There have been numerous conversations back and forth between the three of us but finally we managed to get together for a ride. Both Leticia and Jason are two of the kindest and down-to-earth folks ever. They also carry fantastic conversations and embody so much of what it means to be a motorcyclist in the 21st century: Intelligent, handy, stylish, and embracing of all who wish to ride on two wheels.


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]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) Atlanta Community Moto-Community Moto-Life Motorcycle. Sun, 25 Jan 2015 05:25:48 GMT
If You Buy A Motorcycle You Will Not Die, You Will Live


Recently, I read an article on Gawker that really struck a nerve, titled "If You Buy a Motorcycle, You WILL Die." Sarcastic notions aside, the article - along with the Wall Street Journal article it references - suffers from a case of click-bait-itis, where the journalist skews the facts to draw an absolute and concrete conclusion about motorcycling that's plain-old incorrect.

While you can try and skew the facts to prove a point – and trust me, guys on both sides of the aisle in Washington have been doing this forever – when it comes to riding, where life and death really means life or death, fallacies have no place on the web…except, of course, in the comments.


Buy a Motorcycle - You Will Not Die, You Will Live

The piece perpetuates a super-negative paradigm about owning a motorcycle. As a new rider that has been fully and totally committed to riding every single day - rain or shine, warm or cold, in sickness and in health -  for the past three years, I can tell you that if you buy a motorcycle, you WILL truly live. Not just live, but damn it, thrive.  Don't believe all the negativity out there about motorcycles. Much of what’s been said is said out of ignorance and fear - not experience.

My advice to any new or returning rider is as simple as pie: as long as you learn to ride properly, adhere to ATGATT – all the gear, all the time - and ride with a modicum of discipline, you can enjoy the amazing world of motorcycling and not die.


Bikes are awesome, all of them; dirt, street, even those side-by-sides, they're all awesome and I'm happy to ride anything with two wheels or even three.  It’s an unarguable fact that riding a motorcycle is a fantastic experience - liberating, pure and absolutely addicting. It's happiness and cheap therapy imbued in metal and rubber, all of which will become your little slice of heaven in everyday life.

So, how do I get into this slice of heaven, you may be asking. The hardest step is pulling the trigger.

My own experience of venturing into the wonderful world of motorcycling was met with a lot of negative reactions from friends and family, all except my father. My father highlighted the risks, but he pointed out the beauty and marvels of riding and working on a bike. Not only did he encourage me, he told it to me straight:

"Always make sure you're fully insured, wear good safety gear and never get on your bike unless you're mentally ready to ride…You have a greater responsibility on a bike versus when you drive a car.”


I hear my father's voice in my head everyday; it typically preludes my own personal soundtrack before stepping out of the house. I will go a step further to tell anyone looking to get into motorcycling - please take a few additional courses to expand on your skills as much as you can.


While some will take this advice as a testament to the difficultly and lack of safety in motorcycling, honestly everyone on the road should follow the same advice, even the guy in the SUV next to you on the highway texting along at 70mph as there are some seriously atrocious drivers out there on the road…but I digress.

Keep learning those new skills that are invaluable to increasing your level of safety, which truly will raise the level of enjoyment on your motorcycle. A lot of riders out there think just because they've obtained a M1 Motorcycle Endorsement through an MSF course, they're adequately competent and prepared to pilot that brand new GSX-R 1000, BMW GS, Yamaha R6 or Triumph Bonneville to the best of your ability. Guess what? They're not.

It means you know how to operate it on the most basic of levels. You need to get to riding, but you also need to go BACK to school to get your Masters and PhD in Motorcycle Bad-ass-ness.


IMG_0229IMG_0229 To continue your eduction and grow your confidence, check out the following schools. Prices may vary, but in the end, it is entirely worthwhile and it will enhance your growth as a rider:MSF Advanced Rider Course (Look for a review soon)

RawHyde Adventures

SoCal SuperMoto

Jimmy Lewis Off-Road Academy

Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic

SportBike Track Time

California Superbike School

Moto Mark One


Once you actively take an interest in learning how to ride, all the benefits of owning and riding a motorcycle become immediately apparent. The fears society spouts about motorcycling become nothing more than an irrational argument.

Since buying a bike and taking an active role in learning how to become a proper and better motorcyclist - I am still learning new things every day - I have developed new and amazing friendships.  I’ve learned how to work on my bike and become an alright mechanic. Parking in and around town is practically free no matter where I go.


But most of all, the long road home after work is something I embrace and enjoy, no longer a journey to be despised. Traffic is not a source of stress and, strangely, learning to operate a motorcycle has made me a more aware and much better driver too.

I can’t imagine my life without a motorcycle and not a day goes by where I don't think about the next winding road, the next journey, or the next friendship I'll make because of my part in this population of riders.

I've never felt that way about driving my car - and I've had some awesome cars.

Don’t let those people who know very little about motorcycling scare you out of enjoying one of life’s greatest adventures. Talk to someone that actually rides and we will be nothing but honest and truthful. In the end we all die, but if you buy a motorcycle, you will truly live.



]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) Livemotofoto Ride Apart editorial Fri, 16 Jan 2015 07:45:00 GMT
AltRider Taste of Dakar 2014 The Dakar Rally, there are those that have heard the name, there are those that know the intimate details of this event and there are those that have never heard of it all together.  If you are the latter of that list, there is a good chance you are an American. The Dakar Rally is a 6000 mile race that traditionally ran from Paris to Dakar and is considered the worlds most difficult off-road endurance race.  It is open to professionals and amateurs, occurs once a year, lasts two weeks and is a true test of man and machine versus the elements.


Organized by AltRider, The Taste of Dakar is a one day, 180-mile ride through Nevada/California desert. Primarily designed by Jimmy Lewis, podium finisher of the Dakar Rally and Overall Winner of the Baja 1000 and Dubai Rally, the course contains every terrain imaginable.  

Morning Briefing Before Training


Before heading into the Taste of Dakar, I was fortunate to join a number of fellow riders for a one day intensive course taught by Jimmy Lewis and his amazing team.  Much of what I learned in this course I had already reviewed but Jimmy’s hands on approach and teaching method forces new and returning riders to confront bad habits, learn and master skills, and approach riding from a new perspective. It was an intense and highly valuable day.


Class began promptly at 8am with Jimmy going over details of off-road riding and safety measures.  If there is one thing Jimmy stresses more than anything in the beginning of class it’s balance and how much control you can exude on your motorcycle through the foot pegs and body position.


Getting Situated


Our first exercise was to try and balance our bikes in a stationary position with the side stand up.  On a bicycle I can do this quite effectively, on a 300lb KTM 350 SX-F it was surprisingly difficult, and I cannot even imagine trying to do this on a big BMW R1200 GS. Jimmy, as bad ass as he already is, could balance on two wheels like he was standing on the ground.  Truly remarkable.  My skills bordered on balancing the bike for about 4 to 5 seconds before loosing it entirely.


The Balance Board


We all geared up and headed toward the dry lake bed where class would be held for the first half of the day.  We all burned through a little trail section before arriving on the bed and met with Jimmy for a little pow wow before we began our lessons on the various methods of braking, steering, clutch-play and application of body position and balance.  Our training course was a ¼ oval circuit on the dry lake bed marked out by cones. We had all the space in the world to play around in.  


In a couple exercises, Jimmy came up beside me to give me some critical pointers on how to smoothly transition body weight and apply the front and rear brake more efficiently.  He also told me to slow down and really focus on burning these actions into my muscle memory. “It is the only way you will become a skilled rider.”


The most awkward exercise of the day was locking the front wheel and engaging the throttle to experience exactly what NOT TO DO on a motorcycle. Under no circumstances, whether you are on the dirt or on the street, should you engage the front brake and apply throttle. The exercise was to demonstrate the feeling of something very wrong occurring while still being in control of the bike and how to recognize the problem when it occurs in the real world.


After a number of valuable lessons and practice runs we lined up for the last exercise, a start/stop drag run to our designated coach about 500 yards away. Up until this point the weather had been cooperating and none of the storm systems had passed our way, that changed. Halfway into the exercise the rain came in hard and fast.  The coaches were in full round up mode signaling for us all to get off the lake bed.  For a moment it felt like a meteor was about to strike and the coaches has advanced warning and were trying to save us all from imminent danger.  


I looked down at the dry lake bed and what was once a hard surface began to transform into a sticky, sloppy, slippery, pancake battery clay. I noticed my man Fonzie in his van bustling about with his camera equipment, I rode over and told him, “Fonz, you gotta get out of here man otherwise we’ll be van camping out on the lake bed tonight.” He started up the van and made haste to get off the bed.  I proceeded in front of him only to come upon numerous BMW GS riders that were dropping like flies in the muddy mess, it was like witnessing the downfall of titans.  I was far more fortunate on my little KTM.  I simply skated across slippery surface with ease.  


The Muddy Mess During the Storm


We proceeded out of the dry lake bed area and over to the a local pizza parlor for lunch.  The whole ride was very wet and very cold.


We stopped, we ate, we enjoyed each other's company, dried off (as best we could) and we saddled up for an afternoon of more learning.


We snaked down and few highway and found ourselves in a dirt quarry with 30 degree inclines on all four sides.  It was the perfect place to practice some very fine-tuned actions on a motorcycle, of which were: getting a fallen bike down off an incline, performing a hill start on less than favorable terrain, hill climbs, more slow speed maneuvers and wheel lofting.

So Wet Beyond Wet...All DayPhoto by Alfonse Palaima

Orange Hand Courtesy of Lee Parks. Still the Best Gloves EverPhoto by Alfonse Palaima

I did well in all these except for the wheel lofting.  It was a technique I need constant practice.  While I did not drop my bike or lay it down heavy as in previous adventures, I ran into my dreaded "focus zone".  For me it's a moment where my competitive nature to push limits and hand eye coordination become finely honed and I get a fine feeling on everything around me.  


The problem with this is that I begin to go faster than I should at this beginner phase of my learning.  My coaches to date have been surprised that I have not epically wrecked a bike for someone so “young” to adventure riding.  Jimmy Lewis was not delighted in my hot dogging.  He told me later in the evening.  He also told me what few other have told me too that I have some very real potential to be great.  I think it finally sank in.


Figuring It OutPhoto by Alfonse Palaima Front Wheel LoftingPhoto by Alfonse Palaima Slow Speed Turning...Or Dropping. Whatever.Photo by Alfonse Palaima Rippin' ItPhoto by Alfonse Palaima


The evening was spent around the campfire with good peoples but soon we would turn in and prepare ourselves for the day ahead of us. The 180-mile loop that is the Taste of Dakar. - All Rights Reserved


The next morning began with the typical mass morning meeting and ride outs.  I put myself in the beginners group so I could focus on the fundamentals and get a real feel for what I learned the day before….the only problem is that my team left without me and I was forced to tackle the route with an advanced team of riders. One of which being AltRider President and owner, Jeremy Lebreton. Others in my group were Brad Barker, Alfonse Palaima, and Scott Rousseau.


Fonzie and Scottie My Crazy Group


The first leg of the Taste of Dakar was super fun, we traversed some intermediate roads through the Nevada desert with numerous twists, turns and elevation changes. We rode hard and fast, well...Scottie, Jeremy, Brad and Fonzie rode hard, I remained focused on taking it slow and trying to figure out the ergonomics of the little bike I was riding. Also, anyone trying to keep up with Jeremy is insane. That's because he is insane.


Jeremy Jumping the GS

Jeremy In a Turn Scottie Jumping the Beta


Unfortunately about 80 miles into the ride my good friend Fonzie took an epic spill that heavily damaged his ride and threw him 30+ feet off his bike.  Amazingly, he walked away from the incident with only a banged up wrist. To care for my friend, I back tracked my way to camp to get the van and some whiskey to evacuate him and his beat up husky out of the desert. It is important to note that motorcycling has it's dangers but because Fonzie was wearing full armor and a helmet, he was able to walk away with minor injuries.


Brad Tending to Fonzie

Loading the Beta into "The Van"
\ Muh Man Fonzie.

A Fallen SoldierThe AltRider Engine Guard did exactly what it was designed to do and because of it, this bike will live to ride another day.

Look at that Crash Bar...Damn.

The experience was not all lost. We ended up finding some of the most amazing beef jerky i have ever had from an RV on the side of the highway and a cooler of beer. After dropping off Fonzie's battered bike we grabbed our camera equipment and headed out to the dry lake bed to photograph the riders completing the final leg of the Taste of Dakar. I hope that next year instead of photographing the riders tearing ass across the flats, I will be the one riding across. If all goes to plan, I will be doing the Dakar on a nicely tricked out Triumph Tiger 800 XC.



Pancake Batter on the Lake Bed Always in Good Spirits A Dude on a KTM The Final Leg of the Taste of Dakar One Last Splash Tracks in the Lake


]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) ADV Adventure Motorcycling Advmoto California Dakar Nevada Taste of Dakar Sat, 30 Aug 2014 04:43:10 GMT
LiveMotoFoto Honest Review - The Rev'it Sand 2 Adventure Suit  



When I embarked upon my first ever adventure motorcycle experience my first thought was not whether or not I would succeed in this new challenges but rather, what would I wear, what would keep me safe?  Safety is of my utmost concern on a motorcycle no matter where I ride. Venturing into the dirt for the first time ever, I knew that I would need gear that would protect me from numerous falls. I began my research and most companies out there offer a ton of great options for keeping you safe and protected but ultimately I find that my decision for choosing a brand boils down to 3 main criteria: Price, Style, and minimal branding.



I inevitably ended up with the Rev’it Sand 2 Jacket and Pant.  A perfect, middle of the road, adventure suit that has removable waterproof and thermal linings and a host of particular features that would ensure its versatility in the California desert. To learn more about the intricate details of the suit, click the links above.


Right off the bat, what I liked most about the Sand 2 was the white on black design, vent locations, strategically placed 3M reflective strips, and minimalistic design elements. I thought for a moment that the white textile fabric would get easily dirty but then I remembered someone saying to me “if you aren’t getting dirty then you’re doing something wrong.”


Sand 2 Jacket - Front and Back

Sand 2 Pant - Front and Back



The Sand 2 jacket fit perfectly as I threw it on for the first time. When I tightened the waist straps it fit better and was comfortably snug where it needed to be. Instantly I could tell this was no cheaply made jacket, it was a bit heavy but still lightweight, the weight I was feeling was from the CE approved shoulder and forearm armor.


The stock back protector felt nice but like most “stock” items that are meant to be upgraded, I swapped it out for the Rev’it Seesoft CE2 back protector. Thicker and more robust, it was noticeably better the minute I put the jacket back on.  


I walked around my house and began to sweat a bit, the internal thermal lining seemed to be doing a proper job in keeping my internal body heat where it needed to be...inside the jacket. I figured this would be a good opportunity to take out the thermal lining and put it back in as it would be something I would need to do on the fly if the weather changed on my trip.  Two zips, three buttons and the liner came out in one swift motion.  It's not rocket science, and as easy as it was to remove, it was just as easy to put back.  My trick, which I'm sure countless other motorcyclist do, is to put on the thermal lining then throw on the jacket, zip the front zips, attach the sleeve buttons and finally, button the collar button.  In all it took less than a minute to accomplish.


I picked up the pants and figured why not try on the whole shebang.  The Sand 2 pants were snug in the waist so and I had to pull them up high and suck in my gut a bit to get them buttoned.  I may have had one too many beers this winter but I attribute it to more of a european cut.  Again...I felt bulletproof.  Knee armor in the right position, hip pads and good movement overall.  The pants felt cozy. No outstanding complaints except for my front pockets were a bit tough to get into as the pants were fitted.  Instead of using them, I utilized the cargo pockets as my "go-to" pant pockets.   


With all my joints and vital areas well guarded the Rev’it Sand 2 looked good and felt good, now would it keep me safe?


My training was to take place over four days at RawHyde Adventures, a BMW Motorrad North America endorsed off-road training center in Southern California. A destination for any new or experienced adventure rider, RawHyde Adventures seamlessly blends together the professional environment of a world class training facility with the luxuries of a weekend vacation.  Surrounded by good people, a talented staff of ride coaches and support staff, I find it difficult for anyone to not enjoy their time at RawHyde.  I came away from my four day experience with a greater knowledge and increased confidence in operating a bike on and off-road, new friends, and an experience I will never forget. To read more about my time at RawHyde Adventures click here.


Moving through the SandPhoto by Bruce Steever Through the MojavePhoto by Bruce Steever




With the exception of a pair of jeans, I practically lived in my Sand 2 outfit for 4 days straight and the entire time I was comfortable.  The temperature over the course of four days ranged from a 40F - 85F (4.5C - 29.5C) with it being cool and crisp in the morning and hot in the middle of the day. I found myself riding for most of the day with my thermal liner and waterproof membrane out of the jacket and pant, only to put them back in after the sun went down.


The front pockets got their fair amount of use holding camera batteries, a GoPro, and of course fruit snacks and trail mix for when I felt a bit peckish.


The placement of the front chest zip vents and arm zip vent were easy to access and made ventilation in warmer climates perfect for regulating core body temperature.  



In terms of taking a beating, the Rev'it Sand 2 held up pretty well over the course of 4 days and 1, 2, 3....20 so odd falls on gravel, sand, hard packed dirt and even ice.  


Some of those "unscheduled dismounts" were pretty epic and others were minor slide outs.  The hardest hits came during practice during the first 2 days.  In attempting to maneuver through a sand pit I lost complete control and was throw to the ground but not before smashing my hip into the handle bars. It hurt but the Sand 2 hip pads did what they were designed to do.


The second most impressive hit occurred on the final day back to base camp when navigating a sheet of ice in the Sequoia National Forest. It is common practice to walk a bike across a sheet of ice when the tires are not outfitted with riding spikes.  I did not know this as a total newbie and proceeded across around 20mph.  I went down hard.  The brunt of the impact was absorbed by my right side.  I fell on my hip quickly followed by my right elbow and knee coming into contact with the hardened ground. My bike nearly slid off a cliff in the process. Happily I was able to hop up unscathed.  The Sand 2 took the punishment sans being a little wet from the slide.

photo 3Surviving the Ice

And For My Next Trick...If you want to know if your product is durable, give it to me. I am the proverbial bull in a china shop...that also happens to be on a motorcycle. - Photo by Alfonse Palaima


RelaxFeeling comfortable is a suit is paramount because we all want to enjoy the ride and especially the view when it presents itself. If You Fall Down...Take a moment and think about what you just did wrong.


Due to the unnatural abuse I dolled out upon this outfit, I am surprised it fared as well as it did. I was sure I would have ripped something or busted a critical seem somewhere but that was not the case. None of the textile panels that make up the jacket or pant tore or ripped. The only damage incurred was to the left side waist strips that give the jacket a more secure fitment to the body. I busted one of the seams in one of my many spills and toward the end of my journey, I managed to break the teeth on the main front zipper. I have no idea how that happened but I think it was because I yanked my zipper down to hard after it got stuck on something.  


In all, it cost me $30 to reattach the side straps and replace the heavy duty YKK zipper. Not bad for beating the living snot out of the suit.



If you are looking for a fully functional, stylish and comfortable adventure suit for warm and cool climates at a price point that will not destroy your wallet, then the Revit Sand 2 is a great investment. Spend the extra cash and get the upgraded back protector too because one can never be too safe. While I don't wear the pants too often because much of my riding is in an urban environment, I do wear the jacket nearly every day as my main commuting jacket. Though it saw ALOT of dirt and muck, the white textile fabric maintains it's brightness and allows me to stay visible in heavy Los Angeles traffic, a must for any rider.  


Bottom line: I love this Jacket and I highly recommend it due to its versatility, style and function in cool and hot climates. The pants, equally comfortable and fantastic when paired with the jacket. I only wish the built in thermal liner offered a bit more insulation for when the temps drop below the 30's.   



Since my adventure training at RawHyde, I took it up a notch and participated in AltRider’s Taste of Dakar in the Nevada/California desert at the end of February. I enjoyed a detailed one day training course with legendary Dakar podium finisher Jimmy Lewis, followed by a one day 180 mile loop with varying terrain. 


From a functionality standpoint, the Sand 2 performed admirably in the warm weather during the Dakar run. During training, I was able to test out how the Sand 2 suit functioned in wet conditions and since half of training was done in the middle of a wild rain storm, I got to see how it felt to ride in a wet suit all day long.  Though it was cold, the thermal liner and membrane liner kept most of the water from getting to my skin.  At the end of the day I had to find a dryer and get my gear sorted out but in all it performed well.  If I were to expect to ride in a downpour on a long journey, I would bump up my purchase to the Rev’it Poseidon GTX.


To read about my experience at the Taste of Dakar, click here. 


So Wet in NevadaPhoto by Alfonse Palaima Orange HandsLee Parks Gloves are some of the best but not really suited for wet conditions. Photo by Alfonse Palaima Slow Speed Maneuvers Photo by Alfonse Palaima Why Not Get A Little More WetIf you are already soaked... Photo by Alfonse Palaima Awaiting My Fellow RidersHeaded out to the lake bed to grab some shots of my fellow riders retuning from the second leg of the trip. - Photo by Alfonse Palaima
My Apparel and Protection for the Taste of Dakar and RawHyde Adventure
by clicking the links and purchasing the gear below you are helping to support my site and reviews. 

Revit Sand 2 Adventure Jacket 

Revit Seesoft CE Level 2 Back Protector 

Revit Sand 2 Adventure Pant

Schuberth C3 Helmet 

Icebreaker Relay Long Sleeve Half Zip

Icebreaker Tech Top Long Sleeve Crew

Icebreaker Apex Leggings with Fly 

Wigwam Merino Hiking Socks

Forma Adventure Boot

Lee Parks Design Deerskin Gloves



]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) ADV ADV motorcycling Adventure Adventure motorcycling Fuji Gear Review GoPro Iphone Mojave Desert Motojournalism Motojournalist RawHyde RawHyde Adventures Revit Sam Bendall Sand 2 X100 XPro1 documentary photography how to ride a motorcycle motorcycle photography samuel Bendall Photography travel Thu, 01 May 2014 00:25:26 GMT
RawHyde Adventures - The Journey Back to the Ranch (Part 3) Instagram

I awoke from my slumber fearing that my body would be unbearably sore. The previous day was physically grueling yet mentally stimulating. Laying flat on my back, I could hear my comrades moving around outside, conversing and laughing. I figured I would have to get up some time or another so why not now? I tightened my core and rose to a sitting position like Dracula in the old black and white classics, I reached forward and grabbed my toes. To my surprise I was not THAT sore and got in a little stretch. After stretching out the stiffness, I found my body to be in pretty good shape. Still a tad little groggy, as I typically am in the morning, I tossed on my boots and made a straight line for some coffee.  


Row of Bikes Morning Prep


I must have tripped a sensor that warned of my approach because as soon as I arrived at the kitchen container, Julia walked right over to me and said, “Here you go sweetie.” She handed me a hot cup of coffee with a touch of milk and sweetener already in the cup, just how I like it, “Breakfast burritos are right over there.” I smiled and grabbed a burrito.


Morning Burritos!

I ran into Scott and Shawn in my stupor and I cannot recall if it was before or after my coffee, or exactly what was said but I'm sure it revolved around me looking like hell and asking me if I was ok? I do recall Shawn wear a stupid, stupid hat. I told them I would get back to them in 15 minutes. I never did.

Shawn and his Stupid Hat

Bruce and Scott Owen and His Awesome Sailor Hat Monring CoffeeNothing quite like conversing with friends in the morning over coffee. Puppy Dog!


Fully awake, I had very little time to get all my personal effects in order for the ride back to the ranch.  Unlike every other day on this trip, today, I had slept in a bit longer than usual. Packing everything up became a bit of a mad dash. Halfway through the process, I opened up the main compartment of my day pack and my heart sank.  I was looking at the front lens element of an L series lenses attached to my Canon 5D mk2.  It looked as if had been pierced by a small caliber round. There was a hole in the glass and fracture lines emanating from the point of entry. I gently took my camera in my hands as though it was an injured kitten and to my surprise and luck, the only damage was to my UV filter. My lens had survived unscathed and I breathed a sigh of relief and thought to myself, “hey $70 lost is better than $800 lost.” Evan walked up behind me and saw my camera, “Awe man, dude! What happened? That sucks man, are you ok?” I appreciated the concern for my gear but I turned to him and said it could have been worse and that I didn’t feel bad about it.  


In all honesty, I was surprised I made it this far throughout the weekend without breaking something. I had been riding pretty aggressively all weekend. I surmised that a tiedown in my bag banged into the lens just enough to shatter the filter.  I managed to get the filter off and clean the front lens element. I then made sure my camera was stored safely in my bag for the ride home.


Shattered UV FilerAt least the lens was ok.

Dodged a Bullet


While I was scrambling to get ready there was a brief pow wow and itinerary overview for the 5 or 6 riders heading back to the ranch.  Everyone else was enjoying a day off around the camp before pressing on for another 3 days into Expedition CV, a more advanced adventure ride for seasoned and skilled riders.


By time I got my gear squared away, everyone in my group was on their bikes at the edge of the highway.  I quickly and intensely ran around the camp with the intent of saying  goodbye to all my new friends but there came a point when I realized I could only say goodbye to those I within view. I spotted Jim Hyde, thanked him for everything and gave him a big hug, I found Fonzie, slapped him a high five, gave him a hug and told him he was awesome, lastly I ran up to Shawn, gave him a big hug and thanked him for being such a great coach and such a damn fine person. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my shattered lens filter, “my friend, it's a bit cheesy but consider this a gift and  symbol of my badassness, I will be back. You are awesome...Rock on!!!”


In the distance I could hear a HONK HONK HONK….”C’mon, Sam!” Jason Houle, one of the RawHyde coaches shouted from the highway, “We’re leaving, lets go!” I was standing at my bike somewhat in a panic because I knew I was holding up the group, something I hate to do no matter the situation. I did one last safety check around my bike to make sure made everything was tied down and just before hitting the ignition switch it hit me,  I forgot to say goodbye to Evan!   I scanned around the camp and I did not see him any where, in a last ditch attempt I yelled out as loud as possible, “Evan!!!”  The sound reverberated throughout the hills and everyone paused to look over at me as if I had been totally mad.. About 200 feet ahead of me Evan popped up above the sea of motorcycles and people and hollered back, “Sammy!!!!”


In the process of putting on my gloves and shouted back, “Dude, Im leaving! See you later man!” Evan did not miss a beat, by the time I finished my sentence he was 20 feet from me. I walked around my bike, gave him a big hug, told him he was the "most awesome" of all the people I met this weekend and vowed that I would see him again soon. Evan appropriately responded with, “You’re damn right mother fucker. You have a great ride back man, we all wish you were coming out on CV with us. You let me know when you pull the trigger to do CV and I’ll ride down here and do it again with you.”


I really did not want to leave. I wanted to stay with my new found friends but such a plan was not in the cards.  I jumped on my bike, hit the ignition and kicked up the side stand.  I took a second to look around only to notice there was no clear path to the highway, I was blocked in. So, like any good adventure rider, I carved my own path through the bush and made it over to the highway. As soon as I put a foot down on the tarmac, my foot went right back up onto the peg.  We were off, the journey back to the ranch was underway.


            Leaving Base Camp Alpha


On the open road heading into the low desert, the view was beautiful. Before me lay a ribbon of groomed asphalt surrounded by a tapestry of maroon hills and mountains on the horizon. The sky even seemed more vibrant and blue. Like the jolt of a powerful earthquake, a profound wave of emotion enveloped me. I did not want the experience I enjoyed all weekend to end. I was sad because I was driving away from this amazing group of people I had come know intimately over the past few days and who welcomed me as their own regardless of my riding ability. I was sad but at the same time I was blissfully happy. I had the great fortune to meet and befriend amazing people. The only real parallel I can align with how I felt would be the feeling of being a child and leaving summer camp after having the best summer ever. For me, the past three days were that powerful and memorable.


To fight off the intense feelings swirling around in my head, I recalled a quote by Dr. Seuss, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." To distract myself entirely, I reached for my camera, took a few photos and centered my focus on the road in front me. Today was going to be a great final day.


Quintessential Motorcycle Selfie


After a quick bit on the highway we arrived in Trona, a desolate and isolated town on the western edge of the Searles Lake dry lake bed. We jumped off the highway onto a road that would take us toward the Trona Pinnacles. The path was relatively easy going, wide enough for two cars to race side by side with gradual inclines here and there. For the most part, it was like tearing ass through the desert like a scene from Mad Max.


The Trona Pinnacles are these interesting rock formations that speckle the landscape in this remote sections of the lake bed. Almost concrete like in texture, the rocks are very rough and jagged and make a sound similar to glass bottles when clanked together.  I climbed up the slope of one of the pinnacles and lost my footing and fell to my knees.  If it was not for my knee protectors in my adventure suit it would have hurt pretty bad.  Around the pinnacles there is a well groomed dirt track that was a hoot to race around.  For about 20 minutes it was our own personal off-road race track in the desert.


This is What Happiness Looks Like Rocks at TronaHard, sharp, pokey....these rocks are not friendly. Trona Pinnacles Near the Searles Dry Lake Bed Riding around the Trona Pinnacles You're the man Mike. Photo by Mike K. I Was Here - Trona Pinnacles The Coolest Track EverSeriously, its like a personal race track out in the desert with cool landmarks plotting the way. The Bend Up Ahead is Where I Will Make My Pass Taking a BreakSometimes you need to lay down your bike and enjoy the view.


Leaving the Pinnacles meant a relatively straight shot out the desert and back into the highway.  That straight shot consisted of about 30 miles of hard packed dirt and a number of mild whoops's that I tackled at around 60mph.  It was a total thrill and even with the stock suspension on the R1200, the bike managed to absorb the beating I was giving it. There were a few times I bottomed out the bike but I later found out that due to my riding technique, I was attacking the whoops improperly.


Jason Taking the Lead    Heading To Lunch Thumbs Up! Lunch Stop! The Guys Eating and Chatting


We stopped for lunch at Jawbone Canyon diner, fueled up our bodies and headed up the hill, through the valley, and into the Sequoia National Forest. The view leading out of the desert and into the lowlands was remarkable. The roads were well groomed and took on the calming color of khaki under the sun . Cruising along at a brisk 50mph, there was still room for the occasional long gaze and admiration of the scenery. A part of me wanted to stop, turn off my bike and listen to the winds sweeping through the valley but we were behind schedule and needed to make up for lost time. As we began our ascent away from the desert floor, the dry, warm climate gave way to the cool, crisp air of the Sequoia's.


The change in climate could be felt with every switch back heading up the mountain. The grasslands of the prairie gave forth to bushes and shrubs which in turn evolved into small trees and eventually beautiful grand pines. As the temperature began to drop ever so slightly, I found myself zipping up the vents in my jacket to keep warm and slowing down to take in more of the view. From the highlands of the forest, I looked down upon the sweeping vista to behold an environmental gradient washed in color. I could see the desert, the valley and the woods in the frame of my vision, it was nothing short of spectacular.


Through the Hills Toward the Sequoias. The High Sierra'sJust a lovely day for a ride. Photo by Mike K. The Sequoia National ForestThis was my favorite part of the day. I love forest's.


Progressing up the mountain, the trail became increasingly windy with numerous switchbacks to attack. These hairpin turns, along with increased elevation and low speed became a true test of my ability to control this big BMW.  The GS commands a light and smooth touch on all the controls as well as total focus on body position while providing counter weight to the outside peg. In this serene landscape my riding ability was tested once again. I would say I passed with a solid B-.  It surely did not help my cause when I began practicing and experimenting with counter-steering and back wheel drifting. Within a 5 minute span I found myself low-siding the bike more than a handful of times. Owen rode up behind me a told me to take a break and grab some water.  “If you lift that bike one more time you’ll be absolutely exhausted and useless for the rest of this ride.” He was right. After laying down the 600lb Beemer and lifting it up 3 times in those 5 minutes, I was beginning to feel the effects.  After a quick break and a protein bar, we caught up the rest of the group.


We continued on and when I thought the landscape could not get any more majestic we came upon a ranch nestled in the middle of the mountains. A wooden fence cut from cedar and pine and interlaced like lincoln logs surrounded the property. A man rode up to the fence on a small dirt bike flanked by two huskies to say hello.  We exchanged cordial greetings and eventually pressed on.


A Ranch in the Middle of the Forest


We kept climbing in elevation and at one point the air drastically changed, it was cooler than before and kept dropping in degree. Suddenly there was a new element to behold, an element alien to a Southern Californian motorcyclist...Snow and ice!


As I neared a bend in the trail, the side of the mountain was completely covered in snow and the path before me was a pure white. At this point it would have been prudent to stop and let me tell you, that is the first rule in adventure riding when you encounter ice.  If you cannot determine your line of travel or have an inkling of doubt regarding the terrain in front of you, STOP.  Assess the situation and ask yourself if it is safe to proceed. There are no bonus point for attempting to be a badass and then failing miserably. 


With that said, I did the exact opposite because I saw my fellow riders stopped ahead at the next bend. I figured they rolled across the snow-laden path and were waiting for the group on the other side. This determination was made in a fraction of a second so I proceeded through the snow which was not snow at all, it was ice.  A massive ice sheet about 100 yards in length. About 10 feet into the patch I knew something was very wrong. The back end of the bike became very loose, I shifted my weight back and let off the throttle to get some traction. It was working but the second I got back on the throttle, as lightly as I did, it all went to shit.  There was very little to do when the back wheel came roaring out to my right side.  Time to become one with the ice I thought.  BAM! I hit the ice and began to slide, as did my bike. Typically a crash involves an impact and an abrupt stop but not on ice.  My momentum carried me on nature’s cold, wet slide left toward a dirt embankment which thankfully kept me and my bike from going over a nice steep cliff. This all occurred over the course of 3 or 4 seconds, I found my left foot pinned between the handlebars and the ground with my bike completely turned upside down. I managed to reach over and kill the engine and wiggle my way out from under the bike.  My adventure boots saved my ankle and my adventure suit protected me from the harsh impact.  I walked off the fall, did a quick physical check and looked back to my bike.  The only thing I could do was laugh, I had no idea how I was going to get this thing back on the road.


Oops. photo 5So Yeah....Photo by Mike K. The Guys Admiring My Crash SkillsGood team effort here while I filmed a re-cap video of what happened. Owen and My Bike


The remainder of the off-road section was tame and beautiful, much like the entire day. We came across a tree that had completely blocked the road but we were on GS’s, no stupid fallen tree would stand in our way so we forged our own path and eventually made it back to the highway.


Jason and Owen Adjusting My Handlebars Good To GoOwen and Jason adjusted my handlebars to give me a bit more rise due to my abnormal height. Come to think about it, this should have been done on the first day. Photo by Mike K. photo 5Drive on Dirt, not IcePhoto by Mike K. Checking out the Fallen TreePhoto by Mike K.   Forge Your Own PathWhen a tree falls in the forest and blocks your path, create a new path.                Truck Follows BikesThis guy was just as gung-ho as we were but the difference was, we were much more graceful in our off-roading.      From Dirt to Pavement Lost for a ReasonDone with the Dirt for the Day. It was an amazing ride.


Back on the road, we proceeded through a fun canyon section with a generous handful of twisties.  As an urban rider who loves to lean off his bike, I felt at home. I was finally able to test out the maneuverability and agility of the BMW R1200 GS and let me tell you, it’s no sports bike but it sure possesses the ability to behave like one. I came close to dropping a knee a few times but the placement of the boxer engine made me weary.  There were a few turns where my lean angle was a bit heavy and was not sure how close I was coming to scraping the engine guards.  I already put this bike through enough off-road, I did not think scuffing it up on the pavement would earn me any favors.


Stopped at the Railroad Tracks           There is No Going Around a Train

Riding through Caliente Canyon


We made our way along the Purple Heart Trail and back to Interstate 5. The Ranch was only an hour ride away and the ride was gentle and serene. Upon arrival, I drove into the paddock and did some slow speed maneuvers as the final amounts of sunlight faded away.  Eventually I stopped and parked the bike but I could not bring myself to get off. The second I did, I knew that this magical weekend would finally be over. I sat in a calm, meditative state thinking about the profound impact the past 4 days had upon me. I had been introduced to new world of motorcycling which I believe everyone should experience, especially if you are a new rider just learning how to ride.


I said it once and I will say it again to anyone and everyone, this experience was entirely life-altering in the best way possible not just because of the skills I learned or the bike that I learned on, but because of the people, the community, and camaraderie I shared with my fellow riders and coaches. I cannot look at a dirt road or hiking path any more without thinking about how I would traverse it on bike like the GS.  



I dismounted and took a moment to look at the bike that was mine for an intense four days and said goodbye. I walked away with a smile on my face and my gear in hand and made my way into the bar to grab a beer.  The ranch was silent with very few people around.  It was a peaceful and solemn. As I looked out over the driveway, I made a mental note and added something new to my bucket list: Buy an adventure motorcycle and use it to see the world.  





Many thanks to Jim and Stephanie Hyde for their hospitality and for operating a world-class institution for motorcyclists looking to get dirty.  If you are interested in a proper vacation filled with adventure, amazing food and people, visit: RawHyde Adventures


My Apparel and Protection on this 4 Day Trip: 

Revit Sand 2 Adventure Jacket 

Revit Seesoft CE Level 2 Back Protector 

Revit Sand 2 Adventure Pant

Revit Lombard Jeans with KNOX Knee Protectors

Schuberth C3 Helmet 

Icebreaker Relay Long Sleeve Half Zip

Icebreaker Tech Top Long Sleeve Crew

Icebreaker Apex Leggings with Fly 

Wigwam Merino Hiking Socks

Forma Adventure Boot

Lee Parks Design Deerskin Gloves


]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) ADV ADV motorcycling Adventure Adventure motorcycling Fuji GoPro Iphone Mojave Desert Motojournalism Motojournalist RawHyde RawHyde Adventures Sam Bendall X100 XPro1 documentary photography how to ride a motorcycle motorcycle photography samuel Bendall Photography travel Thu, 20 Mar 2014 17:19:47 GMT
RawHyde Adventures - The Journey To Base Camp Alpha (Part 2)  

With Introduction to Adventure complete and day three about to begin, I woke up to the delightful sensation off my body being more sore than it was after day one of training. I attributed the pain to my epic spill in The Sand Pit. To add insult on top of injury, I was nursing a slight hangover because I could not get enough of a delicious 2006 Cab and sublime 2006 Zinfandel brought to the ranch by Mike Kumelis Jr. of Mantra Winery. Mike didn't just bring bottles of wine with him to RawHyde, he brought two oak barrels full of vino. 


I remember hearing a bit of commotion outside the barracks, so I threw on my clothes and gracefully staggered out into the daylight. Jesus, the sun was up and damn it was bright. At this point, everyone was up and about. There was nothing graceful in my walk to the coffee bar. It was just above a "walk of shame", I accepted that, especially when I caught my reflection in the side mirror of what I think was a Triumph Tiger. I chuckled. 


A solid cup of coffee brought me back to reality like that scene in Pulp Fiction when John Travolta hits Uma Thurman with the adrenaline shot. As I ate handfuls of food---no plate---just food in my hands, I looked out over the porch to see something I had not seen all weekend, Jim Hyde preparing his bike and gear for our journey out to Base Camp Alpha. Jim had been playing host and managing the logistics of the ranch all weekend so I was happy to see him packing up for the ride.  With a smile and a sip from my mug, that positive feeling I had all weekend came right back. I walked past Jim on the way back to the barracks and said affectionately, “Hey Papa Hyde, you ready to ride.” He smiled back and said, “Absolutely, if I can remember where I put everything, especially my keys.” I chuckled and walked away thinking, "well that's one thing he and my dad totally have in common."  

Jim Hyde Prepping His Bike


After dropping off my duffel at the support truck, I headed over to my trusty steed to strap down my day bag which consisted mostly of my photo gear and my adventure suit thermal linings. My x100 would stay on my person as I was hoping to to grab some shots on the road. Jim and the coaches called a brief pow wow with all riders to go over the first leg of the Journey to Base Camp Alpha and basic rules for riding in a large group.


Moring on the Ranch Owen B. Mike Kumelis Prepping for the Ride Saying GoodbyeI sat with Ken and Suzanna just before heading out for Base Camp Alpha. They were two of my favorite classmates. Frame that Photo Fonzie!Photo by Alfonse Palaima ForeplayPhoto by Alfonse Palaima Shawn Thomas Drops His BikeThe shot I was seeking to capture all weekend. This photograph is the Holy Grail of my four days at RawHyde. It is akin to being the photographer that captured the snow leopard killing its prey in the Himalayas.


It was great to be out on the open road with my friends. A few nameless riders popped a couple wheelies, others cruised gracefully, then there was me, zig zagging and slaloming the broken lines in the highway. Even on knobby tires, the GS was a nimble beast.


Flying north on the 5 gave me the opportunity and the space to get some ride shots of my friends in motion. When we stopped for our first break a few people told me I was a mad man for shooting and riding.  When I mentioned just knowing how to set my hyperfocal distance and having my exposure dialed in, I received some amazingly dumbfounded stares. Many think to shoot and ride is not the safest thing to do but I can assure those that are concerned for my own safety and those around me, these shots are often planned and I know what I am doing.  I have some real checks and balances in place when I do this kind of photography to ensure it is performed safely.


My Man Evan! Rock on! Shawn ThomasKeep Calm Shawn and Rock On!!! Bruce! Bruce SteeverLooking svelte in the Rev'it Poseidon GTX Adventure Suit aboard the Triumph Tiger.


Our first stop was at the California aqueduct system, we hopped off, had another pow wow, and ventured off toward the first bit of dirt of the day. Dirt that would lead us to the infamous Sand Wash.  Oh yay, sand.  I think I expressed my fondness for sand in the first part of this article.  


Relief in the Desert Jim Hyde and Zack Courts

Fish Eye FunPhoto by Drew F. BMW GS R1200 and Wind TurbinesI have driven through the California desert on so many occasions but for the first time ever, I was close enough to see the wind turbines up close. Perspective can change everything and it was awesome.

Highway CrossingThe fact that people shoot at this sign is slightly disturbing because it is directly parallel to a highway. Just saying.


After riding some pretty well groomed dirt roads along the aqueduct I found there were portions of this leg where I was getting the GS up to highway speeds. It was thrilling. My favorite moment came just before we reached The Sand Wash, the group had stopped at a highway crossing and who did I see at the back of the pack? Shawn Thomas.  What did I do, well...I kept my speed constant.  Traveling at about 65 mph the dots ahead of me grew bigger and bigger. I did some quick math in my head and at around 400 feet, I applied a generous amount of back brake. Oh yeah baby, long controlled skid. I was 10 years old again on my BMX bike except this time it was the adult version and I was in so much more control.  Shawn looked back as I gracefully slid up beside him. "Wooo hoooo....oh yeah baby," I exclaimed as I came to a stop and looked back at my skid trail. "How long does that look to you? Couple hundo feet?" Shawn looked back and looked at me, "Naw man, easily 300 feet. Damn, awesome."   


After crossing the highway and proceeding a bit further along, we arrived at the Sand Wash.  At first glance, the sand did not look too intimidating. Only 300 feet in length, the first bit dropped down a hill and proceeded right up to the highway which contrasted beautifully against the light tones of the desert. All riders were told there was a “safe path” around the wash if you were not feeling up to proceeding through.  I remember someone asking me if I was going to take the safe path.  I won’t lie, for a second I thought, “I hate sand, I’ll do anything to avoid it,” but I also thought, “I don’t avoid challenges, I tackle them head on.” What do you think I ended up deciding?


Video of the Sand Wash


I still have some practicing to do in the sand.  It is by far and away, the strangest terrain to pilot a motorcycle through. Part of me thinks that I am psyching myself out more than anything else.  When I first went through the sand pit during training, I made it through flawlessly.  Every time after that was a dismal failure. I didn’t let my failure keep me down because guys who had been riding for years were dumping their bikes all throughout this small stretch of terrain. What I did take away from the experience was where I went wrong when making my run. I tried to turn the bike to avoid a shrub when I should have just drove through it. 


After getting through the sand wash and watching my fellow riders and coaches eat it just as bad as I did, we ventured on and ended up at Red Rock Canyon for lunch. So far the ride out to Base Camp Alpha had been pretty tame. That would all change after lunch.  


A bag of chips, a soda, some water, and a delicious chicken wrap courtesy of my two favorite chefs, I pulled up next to my buds, Shawn, Evan, Fonzie and Bruce in the shade of the support vehicle for a nice mid day break, mild horseplay and jovial hazing. 


Approaching Red Rock Red Rock The mandatory "look where I am because my bike is there" photo.

Drifting to CrashingI was tearing around the lot sliding my back tire this way and that to get a feeling for it. At one point it got away from me. - Photo by Alfonse Palaima Jim and the DroneHe really likes his drone, I would too if I had one.

Photo of me Taking a PhotoPhoto by Alfonse Palaima Food!!!!Yum, chicken wraps, chips and soda. Woot woot.

Guess Who Needs to be the Center of Attention? Photo by Alfonse Palaima Gang UpShawn and Evan start making a Sam sandwich. Photo by Alfonse Palaima Waytt Earp!!!Opposing titty twisters to fend off the hooligans. - Photo by Alfonse Palaima Counter Attack!Photo by Alfonse Palaima CheckmateShawn takes his trophy. A finger full of chest hair. Bastard. - Photo by Alfonse Palaima


Back on the highway for a short jaunt, we turned onto and pulled over to a gravel road that would lead us into the mountains.  The real off-roading was just ahead.  As we headed off it was important to keep a comfortable distance between riders as the terrain became more varied.  Since it was dry and there had been very little rain, there was a considerable amount of dust being kicked up by whoever was in the lead. Here, I got my first taste of navigating an unknown road filled with rocks, sand, gravel, dirt…everything I came across in training packed into a single road.  I found myself attaining the same level of focus I experienced on the Trees Course back at the ranch.  All until Jeremy Lebreton from AtlRider came barreling up next to me on a pannier laden KTM 1190 Adventure. For a moment, our motorcycles were locked side by side as we trolled through the dirt.  Now Jeremy is maniac but that mania comes with a professional level of skill.  I am fairly certain he heard me yelling profanities as our bikes were locked up to each other and just before he sped away.  When we came to a stop, I was vying to find him and punch him in the helmet thinking he was some new and reckless rider. My irritation subsided and I would find out later it was him. Knowing it was him and not a newbie made me feel a bit better because I am certain he did exactly what was necessary in that moment to keep us both from ending up face down in the dirt.


Another Flat TireA couple bikes expereienced flat tires on our way out to BCA. If you are going to adventure ride, be sure to carry a plug kit. It is not a matter of "if," but "when." Touch Up Maintenance Waiting

We continued on higher into the hills along a dusty double track toward Burro Schmidt’s tunnel. I would have loved to hop off and get some shots of my fellow riders and the small abandoned buildings leading up to the tunnel but there was little room to safely stop and I was having too much fun tearing through the hills. We would eventually arrive at a scenic point near the summit overlooking the salt flats. Windy and breathtaking, it was the perfect break after riding up and along the ridgeline.         


The View from the RidgelineBelow is Saltdale


I decided to forgo the historic sightseeing portion of Burro Schmidt’s tunnel to join the group of journalists looking to get ahead of the pack and set up for some trail shots at the Journey to Base Camp Alpha Hill Climb.


In total, there were about 6 or 7 other journalists and industry professionals in the pack, guys like Zack Courts, Alfonse Palamia, Bruce Steever, Jeremy Lebreton, and my coach, Shawn Thomas. All of them were seasoned, confident and skilled riders. Riding motorcycles, analyzing performance ability, writing about them for their prospective publications so consumers could make informed decisions about the newest and best bikes on the market, this was their office on a day-to-day basis. I was instantly in a whole other league and for the first time in this entire trip, I felt genuine fear because my competitive nature pushed me to keep pace with these guys. A dangerous and foolhardy decision on the part of any novice rider. I will also stress to new riders, no matter where you ride or what you ride, it is important that you ride within your skill set. Do not let others coax you into riding beyond your means (which no one in my group did. This is something I want to make very clear). Over confidence can get you seriously injured or killed on a motorcycle and that's no fun for anyone.   


For the majority of the ride I kept pace and held my own. The group was riding tighter than previous pack and as a result I was insanely focused, super loose, and following a good line until I hit a series of whoops covered in gravel and stones at a good quip.  I was probably moving at 35+ mph when all this occurred.  Bruce was only feet in front of me and Alfonse was pulling up on my rear within equal proximity. The bike bounced heavily, veered to the left and began moving toward the dirt berm. I stayed loose and calm even though I was losing control of the bike. The voice in my head progressively got louder and louder, repeating “oh no, oh no, oh no.”.  Something in me reacted and I managed to regain control.  In the fraction of a second, I believe I applied pressure on my right foot peg, let off the throttle and put pressure on the right handlebar to counter the veer left.  I was back in control but I was now halfway up the dirt berm like I was snowboarding up a halfpipe. Instinctually, I got back down and onto the trail and kept moving as though nothing happened but Alfonse was sure to mention to me later in the night that I looked very close to completely loosing it. He was happy I kept it together and remained calm.


Mid Day Video Recap


The Hill Climb didn’t look too difficult but upon observation it was  more of a technical climb due to the various rutts in the path. I stayed back toward the end of the line so I could observe which route was the best to take.  All of my journalist friends made it up with no issue whatsoever, then it was my turn. Everything started out very well. I could hear Shawn praising my form as I passed him and I found a good line to follow but then somewhere three quarters up the hill I hit something, applied too much throttle, spun out the back wheel and down I went.  I was so angry.  Im certain it was the fate of the Gods knocking me down a peg for pushing my limits in the section before. I wanted so badly to go back down and try again however, with the light fading and the larger group approaching, I was unable to get a shot at a second attempt.  


Just Checking my Front FenderPhoto by Alfonse Palaima

Just Another Day at the OfficeJeremy Lebreton mashing up the hill on the 2014 BMW R1200 GS. Hill WheelieJason Houle not only climbs hills but he does it on one wheel. Badass. Take TwoJeremy Lebreton makes another run up the hill for the media photographers on the 2014 Yamaha Super Tenere.


With the entire group at the top of the Hill Climb and with the sunlight fading, we all embarked upon the final section of dirt for the day.  I met up with my friend Evan and was eager to get going.  He sat calmly on his bike and told me to wait.


“Let everyone go ahead, the next section is fun. Let’s give everyone a head start so we can take it at our pace. Plus we’ll get some ride time in together and we can go fucking crazy if we feel like it.”           


Taking in the ViewJust before the final section of dirt, I take in the view and let my fellow riders distance themselves from me.

All Alone Evan and CompanyWaiting.....waiting.


I headed the advice of my wiser, slightly crazier, new friend and we took a moment as the pack of riders peeled away. I figured a good time to embark was when the landscape was void of roaring engines and popping exhaust. While we were waiting, Jason went off to explore another trail and returned. He told Evan to join him and it was at this moment I took off along the main path only to reconvene with the two of them a mile down the road.


This next section was crazy fun and just crazy in general.  With no one in front of me to follow, I was choosing my own path and forging along at my own pace. My mind and body went into overdrive to navigate the rocky, sandy terrain. It was awesome.  That “performance focus” kicked in yet again. It was just as amazing this time as it was the first time on The Trees Course. Laughing in my helmet, I became comfortable playing with the back end of my bike in this section, I began to drift the bike into and through turns, hopping on the throttle and powering out upon exit. It was an amazing feeling to be in command of a bike of this size and power. I was beginning to approach that point of over confidence so I began to dial it back. Lucky for me it was the correct decision because the next section of the trail would test me in every way possible.


I entered a section of the trail that consisted of a crazy chicane created by two house sized boulders. Not only was this twisty bit of trail topped with gravel and stones the size of tennis balls, it also dropped down 10 feet over a 30 foot distance. I entered the chicane around 35mph and quickly found myself on the back brake drifting hard into the first left turn down the steep grade. I got off the brake, righted the bike and got back on the brake to induce another rear wheel skid, this time to the right. Directly after exiting the final turn I was greeted by three or four whoops of questionable size and texture.  I knew I was going too fast and I was venturing wide coming out of the chicane. I let off the back brake and managed to bring the bike back to upright  but I was entering the whoops really far to left and at an undesirable angle.  I hit the first whoops fast...way too fast. I found myself airborne for a split second surrounded by silence, the scary kind of silence that is only accompanied by the growl of an engine in the middle of its rev range. All of a sudden, Bang! A violent rattle as I came back down to Earth onto rough terrain. I was off the trail but still in control.  That fear Shawn spoke about during training came creeping up in my psyche but I could hear Coach Bill in my ear saying, “Be Smooth, Sam. Be smooth.” That was quickly followed by Coach Shawn yelling, “Rock On!”  


“Rock on,” is exactly what I did but getting back on the trail meant going through part of a tree! There was no room to come to a stop so I accepted my fate. I mashed my helmet forward---a straight up sailor kiss motion---and broke the tree branch in front of me and made it back onto the trail. It was either let the branch take me out or I was going to go through it. I emerged victorious.  Around the next bend I came to a stop and got off my bike. I could could feel and hear my heart beating throughout my entire body.  My senses were completely overloaded.  All I could do was exhale and exist in that moment. Beyond having some impeccable luck, my actions were a testament to the training I had received over the weekend. 


Owen pulled up a second or minute later, there was no real way to tell, I was in my own world, probably in partial shock due to all the adrenaline coursing through my system.  “You looked like you jumped over the edge or saw a ghost? Take a minute and grab a drink.” Sage advice that was well received. A couple miles later we reconvened with the big group by the highway. An epic of day of riding in the dirt was over.  


End of Dirt Riding for the Day - Recap


After riding on dirt for the better half of the day, it was a treat to drive on the open highway and reflect on what I just personally accomplished. I didn’t think it could get any better but just then, I found out my 2014 BMW R1200 GS had cruise control.  Just like my car, cruise control is activated by sliding a switch, tapping the SET button and the bike keeps its speed. Press the button up or down, the bike accelerates or decelerates.  Tap either brake and cruise control is rescinded. I know cruise control on bikes existed and the technology was not super new but it was new to me and I proceeded to have tons of fun.  I put my arms out in front of me like I was Superman, I laid back and put my feet up on the crash bars and reclined, I even made flapping motions like a bird and used the drag from my angled palms to steer the bike left and right.  Again, I found myself laughing hysterically in my helmet, I was the time of my life.


Final Fill Up in TronaMy man Tibero was so gracious to fill up my tank because I had left my wallet in another bag. Such behavior is indicative of motorcyclists, at least this group and many others I have come to meet. It is one such reason I love the motorcyclist community. It's about looking out for your fellow rider and paying the favor forward. One reason of many why I think everyone should ride a bike. It makes you a better person. Scott!


After fueling up in Trona, it was a 15 minute ride to Base Camp Alpha. Located just off the highway, lays a plot of land with a shipping container, an abandoned truck and a fire pit. This was home for the night. I rode in last with Evan and upon receiving more sage advice from my elder, we set up camp away from everyone else on a little spit of land. 


Home for the Evening

Songs Around the CampfireEvan on his axe laying down some smooth and humorous tunes for everyone's enjoyment.


It was pitch black, so without a flashlight or the fire going, you could not see your hand in front of your face.  After grabbing my tent and setting up camp, I grabbed a beer and posted up next to the kitchen with my girls, Ana and Julia.  Food was coming and I wanted to be first in line. My appetite was voracious and in need of taming. On the menu, good old chili and cornbread. I could not be any happier.  Every time I thought that, something made happier. It was fantastic. 


Sipping on a brew and eating my meal, I heard the sound of a guitar being strummed followed by what sounded like a strange string instrument. It turned out to be Owen tuning an electric violin. Evan and Owen sat next to one another with the majority of riders huddled around the fire. With food and beverage in hand and  lit only by the firelight, they began to vibrate the air and sing aloud. The jam session included covers from Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, and countless other bands I cannot even recall.  After Owen dropped out from playing, Evan in his typical fashion, played for hours. He would recite full covers, take requests, and even ad lib tunes straight off the cuff.  My favorite was "Beer Run" and a little diddy he made up on the fly about meeting me and my time at RawHyde. 


Last WatchThe final group of guys enjoying the fire before heading to bed.


After everyone shuffled off to bed, Evan and I stayed awake for a little bit and waxed philosophically about the finer things in life. During our conversation, I was hit with inspiration to create a new piece of artwork for my Illuminated Abandonment series. Like a good friend, Evan was supportive and assisted me in setting up the shot. Like an even better friend, he brought along some good whiskey and cigarettes.  

Base Camp AlphaA long exposure, light painting photograph of Base Camp Alpha done entirely in camera and lit by hand over the course of 5 minutes.

End of Part Two

Journey Back to RawHyde Adventures (Part 3) 


]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) ADV ADV motorcycling Adventure Adventure motorcycling Fuji GoPro Iphone Mojave Desert Motojournalism Motojournalist RawHyde RawHyde Adventures Sam Bendall X100 XPro1 documentary photography motorcycle photography samuel Bendall Photography travel Wed, 26 Feb 2014 18:03:26 GMT
Street Photography Test with the XPro1 / 18mm f2 R This past Presidents Day weekend we took a lovely trip up to Ventura and parts of Santa Barbara for the day and I thought, what a perfect time to test out my new 18mm f2 R on my Fuji XPro1.  I have read numerous reviews regarding this leans and thought why not pick it up.  I have been looking to expand my Fuji kit for sometime, so that I could rely on it for more and more professional assignments.  Most, if not all the images below were taken straight out of camera and shot as jpegs in the standard color setting. Some images received a few color and curve tweaks and conversion into B+W, but overall nothing monumental. I wanted to see what this lens could produce straight out.

I have to say that I was very impressed with this lens. Most of the time in Santa Barbara I was shooting closed down (somewhere between f8 and f16) and relying on a predetermined hyperfocal window to grab shots. As with most of my street photography, I shoot from the hip and compose my shots based on hope and intuition. However, I am also certain my stealth was severely minimized by having a cat on my shoulder but I like to think it served as a good distraction from wielding a camera.  

At the higher apertures, the XF18mm handled flare very well and had just a little chromatic aberration when shooting into direct sunlight. Nothing that could not be processed away in post. Images got a tad soft in the corners when shooting wide open but for what this lens is its not a deal breaker. I found the center detail quite sharp and beautiful.  This lens tends to shine in sharpness at around 5.6 and 8 edge-to-edge. Auto-focus is quick enough for most situations but struggles a bit when capturing fast motion.  Again, this  is not a deal breaker for me but then again, this lens costs a third of my high end Canon L series lenses.

What most impresses me most about the Fujinon lenses is their ability to minimize or dispel distortion at the wider focal lengths. This lens in particular is oh so delicious when roaming the street or capturing architectural shots.

All in all I am happy with the Fujinon XF18mm f2 R. I look forward to putting it through a professional assignment later this week.


To help support my site, please purchase the lens from this link


    The San Buenaventura MissionBrought up the shadow detail just a bit and added a touch of saturation to the image. The Courtyard of the San Buenaventura MissionLight dodging to the shadowed areas. Alter of the Virgin MaryNo editing. Straight out of camera The Courtyard of The San Buenaventura MissionLight dodging to the shadowed areas. Macro Test - Yellow FlowerThe 18mm f2 performs well as a macro lens. It focuses super close. This was taken about 1.5 feet from the subject, no cropping or editing. Old Man at the Santa Barbara MissionLook at how little this lens distorts the image toward the edges. Simply phenomenal. Zombie FriarGreat texture and color reproduction with the 18mm f2 R. Again a good example of how this lens handles distortion. Plants and WindowThe light here was nice. I could have framed it a bit better but this is straight out of camera.

This Lens is Selfie CapableThe XF18mm produces fantastic skin tones straight out of camera. No editing at all done here. We're looking cute. Internment Distortion is a little more noticeable here but still well handled and color reproduction is very accurate. Pulled straight out of camera with no editing and shot from the hip. Mission Side Entrance Again, handles perspective distortion well and notice how the lens is controlling the lens flare from the right side. Colors are slightly saturated in post along with a little bump in texture definition. Tombstone -1/3 ev and metered for the tombstone. Great color reproduction and detail. No editing. Jesus on the CrossLight color correction. Cross in CourtyardSlight distortion toward the edges and taken straight out of camera. Pelican in FlightThis image was super cropped in (notice the speck of sensor dust toward the center of the frame). Even cropped, the 18mm f2 R exhibits some nice sharpness and retains some detail. It's no wildlife photographers lens but for web images like these it did a nice job.   Low Light TestShot handheld at 1/60 @f2 ISO3200. This lens performs admirably. The Perfect Way to End the DayHandheld shot at 1/60 @ f2 ISO 3200

]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) 18mm 18mm f2 R Fuji lens review XF 18mm f2 R Xpro1 fuji lens samples photography samuel Bendall Photography street photography Thu, 20 Feb 2014 20:13:36 GMT
RawHyde Adventures: Introduction to Adventure (Part 1) It was 4:45pm on a Friday and I had just wrapped up some important client work for the public relations and marketing agency I worked for in Century City. I swapped my suit and tie for a brand new Revit Sand 2 suit and a pair of Forma Adventure boots before heading down to the garage to load up my bike. I had no idea what the next four days would bring but I knew one thing, I looked like a a bad genre mashup riding north on a cruiser dressed in full adventure garb.


I exited Interstate 5 at Templin Highway just north of the Santa Clarita valley and made my way toward the entrance of RawHyde Off-Road Adventures. Located near a small turnoff  past an isolated fire station in the middle of nowhere, there wound a broken pavement and dirt road throughout the hill side.  About 2-3 miles in length under the dim glow of dusk, I experienced my first taste of piloting a motorcycle in the dirt. I took it very slow and was a bit terrified. I past a field with chalk lines and cones followed by an abandoned oil tank the size of a house. I was even greeted by a beautiful brown horse roaming freely on the road. I inched by as not to spook the creature, the last thing I wanted was to be kicked off my bike by a horse.  The road gave way around a bend and I began to see signs of life.  A truck here, a motorcycle there and so on. In the immediate distance I could see the glow of a fire pit and sounds of conversation and laughter.  The pavement gave way to gravel and my stomach dropped.  I was operating my bike on completely alien terrain so proceeded steadily with my legs outstretched. I parked my bike under a tree and dismounted. I was immediately approached and greeted by Stephanie Hyde, Jim Hyde's wife. A petite woman with beautiful blue eyes and a lovely smile. 


Stephanie escorted me  over to a check in desk located in one of the trailers. It was here I was introduced to Coach Shawn Thomas. Shawn was a man of similar stature as myself and I thought, "Ah, another regular sized person." Shawn too had nice blue eyes, a gleeful smile, and a mischievous, animated personality like my own. Just after introducing himself and welcoming me to RawHyde, he offered to take me around the ranch for a brief tour.  I liked his energy right off the bat.


We walked over to my bike to grab my gear and then we dropped by the sleeping quarters to unload. Shawn showed me the outdoor shower area with scenic overlook, then over to the mess hall / dining area and kitchen where he introduced me to the chefs and asked if I had any food restrictions, which I did not, and lastly the bar. I went back over to my bunk to change out of my adventure gear and into something a little more comfortable.


The Ranch Upon ArrivalTake your pick. Seriously, like a kid in a candy store. Bikes and BuildingBMW's lined the outer deck of the main house. Best porch decorations ever. Introduced to my bunk, I instantly made myself at home.


Everyone was on their second or third beverage, the festivities were in full swing with guys and girls hooping and hollering. Eventually Jim Hyde took to the floor to welcome everyone to RawHyde and provided us all brief history how RawHyde came to be and then opened the floor up to all guests so we could introduce ourselves. The mingling continued thereafter.


Open BarWalking into the bar this was the crowd that welcomed me. Men and women from different walks of life here to ride, dine, laugh and seek adventure together. RawHyde and Mantra WinesBoth RawHyde and Mantra teamed up to bottle a produce an amazing set of wines with BMW GS themes. I sampled each one and they are damn fine wines. Everyone applauds Anna and Julia, the rockstar chefs of RawHyde Adventures

Jim Hyde and his Daughter Jamie-Lee


The first night was purely dedicated to orientation and between the delicious food and genuine conversations, I felt as though this place attracted a very special group of people. As the night continued on, the crowd thinned and people made their way to bed.  I stayed up and waxed philosophically about fine art, travel, music and life with a guy named Evan, a true character and frequent visitor at RawHyde.


I was the last person awake and in the silence of the hills, everything felt in balanced and finely tuned. It reminded me of an old text I came across regarding Earth Chakras and how there are 152 specific points on the planet that are capable of providing power and energy to the physical self. In that moment, I believed this place could be the 153rd point unrealized by the yogis.  


Evan Firstman and his BikeDone while slightly inebriated I set up my tripod and lit this scene with a handheld flashlight. No post processing.


Introduction to Adventure Riding - Day One


Though I was the last to go to sleep, I was the first to rise.  The barracks were a bit chilly but I maintained a comfortable slumber in my sleeping bag and bed with built in heating pad. I won't lie, I woke up early due to sheer excitement, I was eager to find my bike and get riding.  


I walked out of the barracks barefoot and took a moment to stretch and breathe in the clean crisp morning air. I proceeded like a mildly coordinated zombie toward the kitchen.  I needed coffee to bring me out of my morning haze. As I stepped into the kitchen I was greeted by Julia and Anna, our lovely chefs, Anna took one look at me and said with a smile, “Coffee is right over there and the cups are in the heated black box right next to it”. Heated bin with hot coffee mugs….Genius.


My Triumph Speedmaster at the Break of DawnI thought to myself, It's going to be weird getting on the bike after riding the GS for 4 days.

Heated Coffee Mugs!Jim you are a genius.

Barefoot in the AMI like to feel the earth on my feet in the morning. Julia and Anna prepping BreakfastNo one works harder than these two women.

Alberto + Coffee = HappyUnos hermanos por los Tres Banditos.


A full cup, a spot of sugar, a touch of cream and a sip was all it took to zap my eyes fully open.  Damn it felt good and damn the coffee was good. I ventured into the mess hall and sat down to further enjoy my brew.  A few people began to trickle in. Some general formalities were exchanged and some light chatter began. Over the next hour, the kitchen and mess would become filled with my fellow riders and coaches, especially when breakfast was served at 7:30am. 


Jim and Fellow Riders

My Cup but Not my GS The guys enjoying morning coffee Day Food AKA...Pocket Snacks.   2014-01-25 -07-20-14 - RawHyde Adventures Training and BCA 1445Good Food and Good PeopleWhat more can you ask for at 7am?


With breakfast winding down and coffee mugs nearing empty, everyone (including myself) got geared up to ride. I grabbed Jim and asked him where would I find the bike I would be using this weekend? He pointed over to the stables and said, "it has your name on it, literally." I ventured over and my eye caught a stunning alpine white GS with grey trim. I had a feeling it was mine...and it was.  My first physical encounter with the BMW R1200 GS was only for a couple hours in a parking lot during the Aether / RawHyde Urban Assault Ride a couple months earlier. This bike would be mine for the next four days, I was happier than a kid on Christmas morning. 


My Bike! Jim was not kidding, it had my name on it. She Looks So Svelte So Pretty

Im Not Kidding, I Love this Machine

Jim HydeThe Man DelI've heard stories that this man is a legend. He will bust your ass in Next Step. EvanMy brotha! TiberoGreat guy. He was in the Next Step while his wife was in my group learning the ropes. FranciscoOne of the "Tres Banditos" and all around great guy. KenMy man from the bu. Ken, like myself rolled up to RawHyde on a cruiser. While I ride a Triumph, he was rocking a Harley. AlbertoIm telling you man...Fuji is the way to go. JonathanToo much to say but Jonathan is a great guy and one cool cat. FonzieThis guy....jeez.

Training began at 9am on the dot with with Jim Hyde introducing our coaches followed by an orientation for those in the “Intro to Adventure” group. He went over a handful of useful information regarding the bikes and touched on the physics of how adventure bikes behave differently in the dirt, than on pavement.  This was a good thing to review because 80% of our group had never really operated a motorcycle off-road. I was a bit frightened and excited at the same time.


The men responsible for molding our group into badass adventure riders were Shawn, Bill and Cary.  Between the three of them, we were looking at well over 30 years of on and off-road motorcycling experience and with just Shawn alone, perhaps a centuries worth of confidence and comedic brou-ha-ha.


Morning BriefingJim and Shawn perform a cursory overview of rider position, braking, and physics of riding off-road. 2014-01-25 -09-16-43 - RawHyde Adventures Training and BCA 1179


Training began with some light stretching and instruction on how to properly pick up a fallen motorcycle. Truly invaluable information that we would all rely upon throughout our training.  Shawn began by teaching us all the two most common ways to pick up a fallen bike. The first was a solo technique and the second was with the assistance from a fellow rider. After being shown how to do each, we each took turns at picking up the downed beast. After getting that small workout out of the way, Shawn and Bill demonstrated pinching particular points of contact and circumnavigating around the motorcycle while it remained balanced on two wheels. This exercise was to demonstrate just how well balanced these massive motorcycles can be when standing upright.   


There are no words... Stretching Out

Paid to PartyHe seriously gets paid to sit around on motorcycles. So You Dropped Your Bike? Shawn demoing one of three ways to pick up a fallen bike. Two Man Bike Pick UpLift with your legs, not with your back. The BMW 1200 GS weighs 600 lbs without cargo. So remember, take your time and be sure to focus on proper body position. When possible, get help from a fellow rider. Balancing the BikeShawn demonstrates how stable and balanced the BMW 1200 GS is when standing on two wheels.


After grabbing some water and suiting up, it was time to ride. The first exercise was to ride out to the highway and back while swinging a leg over the bike when in motion. This was to further emphasize the stability of the bike at speed and to allow us all to get comfortable with the controls. I have to say for such a big and powerful motorcycle, the BMW R1200 GS is amazingly nimble and I felt right at home in the saddle.  I ended up giggling in my helmet because I was so happy to be back on this bike.


Once we got to the highway we circled around and headed back. We began our first set of drill upon arriving back at the paddock. Our first exercise was learning  how to operate the bike at low speeds. We proceeded one by one in a straight line before circling back and doing it again and again and again.


The objective: become comfortable with the bike’s clutch, throttle and friction zone while standing and moving forward as slowly as possible.


To up the ante on each pass, our coaches would toss in distractions aimed to throw us off guard. Anything ranging from splashing us with water, yelling, grabbing the motorcycle, and tossing a cone under the front wheel. My favorite distraction was Bill repeatedly hitting my bike with a cone while yelling at me. He would say, “get off my road, this is my road, what are you doing on my road, you don't have a right to be on my road." I fervently drove through him.


Coach Cary Demoing Trail Stops

Waiting My Turn

Distractions Level 3Suzanne approaches ready to run through Bill and his arsenal of cones. Personal note: Suzanne was awesome, her progression and fearlessness to conquer every facet of training was inspirational and a delight. We need more women like her in all of motorcycling.


After slow speed drills, we moved on to learn various methods of braking, including: front brake trail stops, rear brake trail stops and panic braking.  My favorite in this drill was jamming on the rear brake to induce a skid.  It totally took me back to when I was a kid on my BMX bike, mashing down Hollywood Blvd just before arriving at an intersection and whipping out the back tire out after hitting the back brake.  I felt like such a badass. So far, everyone dropped their bike a few times and I had dropped mine only once because I was too heavy on the front brake.  There was a lot of humor, horn honking and learning accomplished during the morning's exercise. I felt fairly confident at first and relished the fact that I was riding such a big bike off-road. My confidence was high after the morning session but the afternoon session would bring about a nice reality check and teach me one of the most valuable lessons of all when it comes to off-road adventure riding: you are never as good as you think you are. There is always something new to learn. 


Trail StopsBruce performing a trail stop in our first round of drills.


For someone that has never ridden in the dirt yet alone, ventured into the world of adventure riding, I wanted to chronicle my experience by giving raw, uncut updates from a beginners point of view as to what it was like to evolve and learn the essential skills taught by my coaches at RawHyde. To make the videos more dynamic, I had my observations of progress countered by the view of my main coach, Shawn Thomas. Throughout the 4 days, I documented the morning and afternoon segments of training as well as the Journey to Base Camp Alpha.


Day One - Morning Review - Personal Review - Sam



Day One - Morning Review - Coaches Review - Shawn Thomas




OK...lunch. All the meals served at RawHyde are insanely delicious.  Everything from the appetizers through dessert. The two Master Chefs, Anna and Julia, make everything from scratch and with the highest attention to detail.  Below is just a few of the snacks and meals we enjoyed throughout the weekend. Keep in mind, I am not a food photographer. I just really like eating food thought it very important to share the fare.   


FoodForgive me if this is wrong but roasted tomatoes, seasoned potatoes with an aioli. Simply divine. DinnerSalmon on a bed of lentils and peas. This was one of the best pieces of Salmon I have ever eaten. I nearly lost my mind. I had two helpings. damn tacos I had in a long while with an aioli chipotle sauce and habanero salsa. Heaven in my mouth.    Food DinnerPork tenderloin on a bed of mashed potatoes. Heaven.



The second half of the day began with a quick refresher on braking followed by a ride up the mountain to our next training course. Here is where I received my first and second dose of real world off-roading reality in the form of: me on my back and my bike on it’s side.  I think it's important to note that I don’t do anything half-way. When I wreck or lay my bike down it is sometimes a bit of a spectacle typically followed with a woohoo or a hearty laugh. I am of the mindset that one must find the positives in this life and learning from the negatives. After failing a few times on the way up, I managed to find my way up the mountain.  Up here we practiced how to maneuver our big bikes through a set of cones using small adjustments of distributed weight on the footpegs and handlebars.  I was able to do this exercise with no problems and upon completion, the group headed back down to the paddock area for our last drill of the day: 180 degree turns with subtle elevation changes. I excelled at this drill because I had been practicing tight U-turns on my cruiser at home after the Urban Assault course in December. Compared to my bike, performing tight turns on the BMW GS was much easier.  


The culmination of the day was the dreaded Ribbons Course. It was here we were forced to apply the days techniques into a single track course.


The objective: make it through the whole course without putting a foot down and touching the ribbons along the narrow course. I am disappointed to say that none of us made it through but we all had a ton of fun rooting one another on in hopes that someone would succeed.


Shawn, Bill and Cary Setting Up The Ribbons Course


The Ribbons Course 



The real highlight of the day was watching Shawn, Bill, and Cary go through the Ribbons Course, 3-up.  That’s right, three dudes on one bike.   


Three Dudes, One Bike



Our day concluded with a quick ride out to the highway to get accustomed to shifting gears while standing on the foot pegs. This was the easiest feat of the day and I had to really hold back from popping a wheelie on this bike because it begs to come up if you want it to come up. Im fairly certain it happened one or three times. No one tell Jim and Jim, forget that you read this.    


Day One -  End of Day - Personal Recap - Sam



Day One - End of Day - Coaches Evaluation - Shawn



As day one of training came to a close, it was time to hit the showers and unwind. I anticipated a week of "roughing it" so the idea of a shower did not quite cross my mind but upon being introduced to the outdoor shower with a beautiful view of the mountains, I would be remiss to not to partake. It was truly a unique and gratifying experience after a full day of instruction. For those wondering if there is a private, more modern run-of-the-mill alternative, RawHyde provides guests with an indoor shower.


Dinner was served around the time I had finished with my shower and just when I thought the food could not get any better, it did.  Each meal was better than the last and I am pretty sure Anna and Julia plan it that way.  Like the young glutton I am, I had my fill...twice. 


Just after dinner Jim Hyde led a discussion called “highs and lows”. The purpose of this discussion is relatively self-explanatory where we discussed the high points and low points of our training experience. Everyone had a ton of "highs" and very little "lows" to mention. Anything that could be construed as a “low” was seen as a “high” because every facet of the day was a positive learning experience. When it came time for me to speak, I had no idea what I was going to say because the whole first day was unbelievable.  I cannot entirely recall what I said but I think I touched on everything I could, from my own experience, to my numerous crashes, to my fellow riders, my coaches and the food. I even mentioned my glorious shower experience too.


The remainder of the night was spent with these amazing people. Topics of discussion ranged from the day's experience to facets of each persons' personal life. My favorite cohort in conversation was Evan Firstman. Similar in height and build as myself, Evan could easily be described as opinionated, outspoken and crass. When I first came across Evan the night before, I thought, “jeez, this guy is wild and a bit out of his mind. I need to get to know him a bit more." As the weekend progressed, Evan and I became very good friends, kindred spirits so to say. Not only was Evan a skilled motorcyclist and a hoot to talk to, he could pull from memory any number of songs and play them on his guitar while singing original lyrics or ad libbing them around the campfire. His repertoire is truly astounding.


After a few beers and a few glasses of whisky to subdue the onset of some soreness, I lounged by the by the campfire for a little while before turning in.   


Evan and I having a cig out by his trailer.


Introduction to Adventure Riding - Day Two


I woke up a little later this morning and boy was I sore. The whisky helped me ignore to onset the evening before but this morning was akin to the days when I first learned to surf. I felt soreness in muscles I never knew existed and it was a bit of a rude awakening both literally and figuratively. I am certain some of the pain I was experiencing was a combination of laying my bike down and picking it back up numerous times, to the constant physicality off-road riding requires. Grumbling, I dragged myself out of bed and made my way to the mess hall for some breakfast, I fueled my soul with coffee, biscuits and gravy and told myself that it would all fade away once I stretched out and got back in the saddle. Thankfully I was correct.


Morning Video



The morning training session for day two began with a quick ride out to the highway and back just to get warmed up. We hit the paddock for a quick refresher on braking and turning and then proceeded up the hill for

the first drill of the morning: The Whoops Run. I am happy to say I made it up the hill without crashing so that was a plus. Once at the "Whoops", Shawn and Bill broke down the exercise for all of us. 


I can only guess as why dirt bikers call these little mounds/bumps “whoops”?  I'm sure it has something to do with the final thought that goes through one’s mind before hitting them and knowing a wreck might be soon to follow.  Proceeding over “Whoops” serves to educate riders in how to conquer extreme attitude changes while practicing speed control and braking. Everyone did a good job of navigating the whoops and only a few managed to dump their bikes during this exercise. 

Orientation to the Whoops Course 2014-01-26 -10-27-20 - RawHyde Adventures Training and BCA 1277 Coach Bill showing us how its done, Shawn making sounds with his mouth


Following the Whoops Run was the Trees Course. This was my favorite drill of the day because much of what we had learned came together in practical application. The Trees Course is a single track course next to the paddock lined with you guessed it...trees. Consisting of hairpin cambered and off-cambered turns of various degrees, elevation changes, dirt, gravel, and a touch of sand, most of the riders in my group proceeded through this course at a comfortable pace.  



My experience at The Trees Course was enlightening. I am not sure if it was “The Best of Van Halen” playing in my helmet, everything finally coming together or all of the above, but I attained a level of focus and “oneness” with my bike I had not experienced up until then. For the first time, I felt as comfortable riding this big bike on the dirt as I had riding a bike on the street. I was jamming through the course, passing fellow riders, taking corners and turns aggressively fast, and then taking them incredibly slow just to be sure I was in control. I remember getting off my bike at the top of the course after running the circuit 10 or more times feeling accomplished and transcendent. It was unbelievable.  


Exercise: Drift the back tire.



Day 2 Morning Review - Personal Review - Sam 



Day 2 Morning Review - Coaches Review -  Shawn



After lunch we entered our final phase of training, we hopped on our bikes and proceeded to the training course I passed by when I first arrived.  Instead of stopping and telling us what the next exercise would be, Shawn led us all up a steep hill and back down an even steeper hill. We ran through it twice before regrouping at the top to discuss technical skills. So impressed with our progress over the past day and a half, Shawn figured going up and down these grades was something we could handle if we didn’t stop to think about it. He was right and for the next hour, we tackled how to approach and climb a steep hill in first and second gear, how to stop at the top, how to navigate down while implementing various braking techniques and lastly how to do a hill start. Per usual, I was gung-ho to do well, the only task I got a little caught up on was the hill start.


Descent TrainingWe all crushed it and enjoyed every second Intro to Adventure GroupWe all took a minute before performing hill starts. My Man Bruce!!!Bruce performs a hill start and finally grabs some traction.

Trail Stop on a DescentMe looking like a Badass and trail stopping this big bike on a pretty steep grade. - Photo by Shawn Thomas


Challenge Accepted! Last one up the hill wins. Shawn vs Sam.



We proceeded onward through a fun single track, back to the main road and then up a gravel road to a playground in the sky. Im not kidding, after climbing a very frisky gravel road and hooking a right at the top, we were enticed by the site of a magnificent vista. What appears as table top on the mountain is an off-road paradise with tons of single track training routes, an obstacle paddock, a variety of hills for ascent and descent training and of course the Sand Pit. I turned to Shawn and chastised him for holding out on us, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME? YOU"VE BEEN HOLDING OUT ON US!"


A Fun Single Track Up and back to the road it took us on our way to the Sand Pit.

My Man Andy!Eat that Sand Up!!!


We were here for one final lesson. Navigate through the Sand Pit. As Shawn would describe it, "The Sand Pit is about 100 feet in length consists of very fine and 'fluffy' sand." Bill chimed in and gave us direction on how to make it across the pit by combining steering pressure on the footpegs, keeping our weight toward the back of the bike while applying consistent throttle. He also mentioned the need to “stay loose” and wiggle one’s butt to compensate for instability.  He referred to this techniques as the “sand dance,”  I made it through on my first run but after that, the proverbial wheels came off each time I tried to cross the pit. Shawn and Cary remarked that my first “unscheduled dismount” was one of the most epic and hilarious they had ever seen. Lucky for all of us, Shawn got video of it which can be viewed below. To further my crash aptitude, Shawn went around at dinner telling everyone “you have to see this video of Sam." I am happy everyone was having a laugh at my misfortune but damn, that tumble hurt. If it were not for my gear, I would have been in much worse shape.  


For my epic dismount, forward to 1:09 in the video below:



If there is one thing I can say with absolute certainty about off-road riding, it’s that I hate sand. 


With the Sand Pit trials complete, Shawn, Cary and Bill congratulated all of us on completing “Introduction to Adventure” and to celebrate, we traversed some trails around the ranch just before our real final challenge; A beautiful and steep, 400 foot single track hill climb with ruts and a necessary trail stop at the summit. Failure to stop and make an immediate right turn would result in barreling off a cliff. It was super fun and no one in my group met Death or his bastard cousin, Grave Injury.  We all emerged victorious.  


The Single Track Hill ClimbShawn made this hill climb out to be more dangerous than it was. We all tackled it with ease.


End of Training Video Diary - Sam



End of Training - Coaches Review - Shawn



End of Training


With training over and a feeling of accomplishment in the air, we all took to the bar to celebrate just before being awarded our graduation certificates. A bit hokey but I will say this, I looked at this certificate of completion longer than I looked at my college degree and for a moment it meant a whole lot more.  I am immensely proud that put myself though and I graduated college, majored in two fields that I am still passionate about to this day though I cannot say I am happy with the amount of debt I accrued, but I digress.  This certificate embodied a physical representation of my new found love for adventure motorcycling and what it represents. People say they are on "cloud 9", I was easily on "cloud 10."


Mantra & RawHydeMike Kuimelis, vinter and owner of Mantra wines, gives intent listeners (most definitely me) a background on his vineyard and how his love for motorcycling and winemaking led to a partnership with Jim in branding a RawHyde / Mantra line of wines. Seriously, wine and adventure riding, where is the downside? Tap the Barrel The finer things come in a barrel.

GraduationPhoto by Alfonse Palaima Rounds for Everyone!I am certain i was the happiest person in the bar. Photo by Alfonse Palaima A Bear Hug to Finalize GraduationShawn put the cherry on top by bear hugging his biggest graduate - Photo by Alfonse Palaima Returning the FavorPhoto by Alfonse Palaima Ching Ching My FriendSharing a brew with my friend and coach, Shawn Thomas. Rock on brotha, Rock On! - Photo by Alfonse Palaima

Things are Getting Wierd Cary and Scott Photobombs!!!Fonzie, Christi, Francisco, Alberto and myself. We are all happy as can be.


As the night went on jokes were told, photos were taken and more conversations were had on a variety of topics. A couple of those hours were spent trying to convince the “Tres Banditos” to skip a couple days of work and come with us all to Base Camp Alpha.  Unfortunately, my friends Alberto, Francisco, and Tomas were unable to change their plans. The night continued and one by one friends and colleagues would disappear to their bunks.


As the midnight hour approached, I remember sitting out by the campfire and looking around. Evan was jamming on his guitar, a few of my fellow riders were laughing and drinking, and in a moment of silence I found myself in deep thought regarding the bevy of positive emotions washing over me. I stared into the fire and thought, "This place has changing me, it has changed everything about motorcycling for me." I could not get over it or put aside the overwhelming joy and accomplishment I felt from learning how to ride a motorcycle off-road or the connections I had begun to make those present. I especially need to point out my coaches, who deserve my deepest and sincerest gratitude. 


RawHyde is a truly special place and I implore current motorcyclists and those just getting into the motorcycle community to seek out RawHyde and academy's like them (though I think RawHyde is wholly unique). As a motorcyclist, you owe it to yourself to get out there and learn how to ride in the dirt, it will make you a better street rider, it will open your mind and put you in touch with yourself and your motorcycle in a way you never thought possible. 90% of the world roads are unpaved and the real journey begins when the pavement ends. I have never heard a more true statement or had so much fun in my life.      


It was only the end of day two and this feeling of elation had been flowing through me for 48+ hours. Who needs drugs when you can have a real life adventure? The best part of all of this was that it was not over. I had another two days to go. The real adventure, the one I was trained to embark upon, would involve a 430 mile round trip excursion out into the Mojave Desert where my friends and I would tackle various terrain and traverse every climate in the region. We headed to Base Camp Alpha in the morning but before that, I needed to calm my spirit and meditate deeply on everything flowing around inside me to could ensure a restful night's sleep. The next two days were going to be amazing, I could feel it in the depths of my soul. 


End of Part One.  


Click Here to Continue on to Part Two: Journey to Base Camp Alpha 





]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) ADV ADV motorcycling Adventure Adventure motorcycling Fuji GoPro Iphone Mojave Desert Motojournalism Motojournalist RawHyde RawHyde Adventures Sam Bendall X100 XPro1 documentary photography motorcycle photography samuel Bendall Photography travel Tue, 11 Feb 2014 17:09:08 GMT
Motorcycling and Fitness: Preparing for Adventure Riding: An Interview with Jamie Robinson Motorcycling and fitness? Those two go together? Oh yeah, you know the saying “its not just the machine, it’s how you ride it”?  Well this thought holds true in motorcycling.  In fact, many of you that drive cars probably don’t know that throwing a sport bike around a track or running trails on a dirt bike is one of the most physically demanding pursuits one can engage in.  


I’ll be the first to admit that I have very little off-road riding experience so it was of much excitement to be invited to learn from some of the best. At the end of January, I will embark on an intense 2 day off-road / on-road motorcycling training course followed by a 2 day, 390 mile off-road expedition with RawHyde Off-Road Adventures. After performing a little research about what I was going to be put through, I discovered I might be in a bit of trouble...physically.


I am in good shape as it goes for a 20-something year old but I quickly recalled an experience earlier this year at the American International Motorcycle Expo, when I spent 20 minutes tearing around the outdoor dirt track on an ATV traversing gravel spans, tabletops, moguls, raised curves, uneven muddy terrain, logs...really anything you could expect from a roving the forests to running a track.  I had a blast but the next morning i was noticeably sore because I was using a whole different set of muscle groups to compensate for the mass of the ATV. Unlike a motorcycle, lateral gravitational forces are far more prevalent due to a lack of being able to lean the machine into a turn. I found myself utilizing my legs, core and arms to absorb impacts from every obstacle that came my way.  


Now 20 minutes is far from 4 days of intense training and an ATV is different than a motorcycle but I figured I may as well preemptively strike and get my body and mind ready. To do this I sought out someone I genuinely admire who knows a great deal about street and adventure riding, Jamie Robinson.  For those outside of motorcycling, Jamie Robinson enjoyed an eventful and challenging career in the world of motorcycle racing in British and World circuits, afterward he went on to compete in the Isle of Man TT before hanging up his leathers and heading out to explore the world as an adventure rider. He currently lives in Los Angeles and is the founder of MotoGeo, one of the best motorcycle channels on the internet devoted to the passion and love of motorcycling.


I spoke with Jamie just after he returned from his Colombia trip and here is an amended transcript of our conversation.


LiveMotoFoto: Hey Jamie, thanks for taking some time to talk with me, your Colombia trip looked epic as many gleaned from the MotoGeo instagram feed. I cannot wait to see some of the footage. Beyond that, venturing into my world as someone eager to absorb anything and everything about becoming a better motorcyclist, what should I expect as I make the transition from everyday commuting and canyon carving to adventure riding?  What would you say are some key tips I should endeavor to embrace right away?


Jamie Robinson: Colombia was epic and we will have some video to show our fans soon.  Regarding your adventure, riding off-road is a lot more work, that’s for sure. You can make it as hard as you want but certainly when you going off road, the best thing to do is stand up. The reason you want to do this is because as the road gets rough, your legs and body can become an extension of the suspension, as a result you will find yourself having more control of the bike in the event the bike begins to slip, skid, hit a big hole and move around, which it will. No doubt about it you can expect to use your whole body to navigate the terrain when riding off-road and plus if give you better visibility because you are higher up than when you are sitting down. If you get tired then you can sit down but you’ll feel the bumps in a totally different way, it’s best to juggle both methods of riding.

Staying relaxed and as loose as possible is also well advised. Because you will be riding in a foreign environment you might have the urge to tense up and you’ll be like a deer in the headlights, this won’t help you at all mate.  Try and stay loose, let the bike move around a little bit and keep your head up.  Look as far ahead as you can and don’t get stuck looking over the front wheel. These tips will  take a bit of time to get used to but once you develop them they become second nature and everything will fall into place.


LiveMotoFoto: It sounds like off-road riding is an entirely different beast than riding on a smooth bit of highway. It is far more physical but what about the mental nature of riding off road? What something that really throws people off?


Jamie Robinson: You know, a big thing to remember is that, unlike tarmac, the road beneath you is always moving beneath your tires, there is this feeling like the bike is always skidding or is unstable, you cannot do the same things on dirt as you can do on tarmac like lean the bike over as sharply when going into a turn and you cannot brake as hard. Its important to be gentle in your actions. Also, there is a huge difference when it comes to speed when riding in the dirt. You travel slower off-road but strangely that slower speed can feel quite fast.


LiveMotoFoto: With off-road riding being so physically and mentally demanding, I have to ask, How do you feel after a long adventure ride like your recent skip through Colombia?     


Jamie Robinson: I have been riding motorbikes for all my life and when I come back from an adventure, I am still surprised at how fatigued I can be.  Its a real workout. In fact, even though I am fatigued when I get home I feel like im in better shape because I have been riding for days. Overall, riding a bike off-road is more physically demanding than riding on the street and that is something you will realize immediately but you’ll come to love it, it's such an amazing feeling.    


LiveMotoFoto: So the big question is what can I do to best prepare my body for adventure riding? What exercises would recommend to give me the best advantage?


Jamie Robinson: Well honestly, if you look at any off-road racer or the riders competing in MotoGP you will notice that most of them are pretty slender and lean guys. What sets them apart is that they have excellent stamina, a strong core section and are flexible. My recommendation would be to condition your stamina above all else, followed by a lot of stretching and core exercises. I used to do heavy training and built up some muscle when I raced and I found out that all muscle mass i gained made me tighten up when on the bike. It just made it more difficult to ride the bike properly.  This is why i think it is so important instead to stretch thoroughly and build your stamina. Building muscle might make you look and feel good but it doesn't have a place when being amazing on a motorcycle.   


LiveMotoFoto: All of this is monumentally helpful, thanks Jamie for taking a moment to chat. I look forward to rapping with you a bit more after my own adventure and ride on man.


Jamie Robinson: Right on.  You’ll have a great time and thanks for reaching out.  It was a pleasure talking with you, man.


The Men of LiveMotoFoto and MotoGeoOur excitement for motorcycling, if quantified and made into food, could end world hunger.

The Training Begins:

This interview was done just after January 1st and in that time I have already begun hitting the gym. My training cycle consists of 4 days on 2 days off.

Everywork out begins with 30 minutes of stretching, 45 minutes of intense cardio (treadmill, Zumba class, BodyCombat class, or swimming), followed by another 20 minutes of stretching.  

Most importantly I have begun altering eating habits.  My diet consists of grains, yogurt and coffee in the morning, a burrito or rice bowl for lunch and a strict veggies and protein dinner.

Follow my Instagram feed for photo and workout updates in prep for my adventure:


]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) Adventure Motorcycling Adventure riding Jamie Robinson get in shape motorcycle motorcycle Fitness off-road riding ride a bike street photography travel Wed, 08 Jan 2014 17:29:17 GMT
A New Rider in Our Midst Instagram

It's been a bit over a year since I traded in my car for a motorcycle and in that time someone else very close to me that has begun to take an interest in the two wheeled awesomeness that is motorcycling. My lady. She has ridden on the back more times than I can count and I had a silent bet with myself that in time she would either be complacent in being a passenger or want to get on her own beast and learn to ride.  I put my money on the latter and I am damn happy to say I won.  Sometime around November of 2012 she expressed and interest in learning to ride and rightfully so, I was completely chuffed to bits. What man wouldn't be?


This Christmas I did what any good man would do, I bought her a pass to participate in the BRC (Basic Riders Course) through Westside Motorcycle Academy here in LA. This course is perfect for anyone looking to get into motorcycling, especially if you don't have a bike, they provide one for you and teach you all the good things you need to know.


This past weekend my lady took the two day riding course and passed, she obtained her M1 and has become as addicted to riding I have become...well maybe not as addicted as I, I've totally gone off the deep end. I am delighted to say I am very proud of her and her gung-ho attitude and now the world of motorcycling has another rider in their midst.  Better yet they have a woman that is awesome in more ways than one.


Meeting Before Practice My Lady Going Through an Exercise Exercise Wrap Up



My lady's previous helmet was as piece of crap so I made sure she had one that would protect her melon.  Many thanks to Jess at Yellow Devil Gear Exchange for helping with finding one that fit her. She is going to get some serious use out of this thing. 


New Digs


Our next objective is to get her her own bike and the right one too, and I think we found it. A super awesome Honda CL360 that a good friend will be restoring and bringing up to spec. It's gonna look totally retro sick. Look for another post detailing the transformation of this little but amazing starter bike for my lady.


This CL360 will be re-born

]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) BRC Basic Riders Course Sam Bendall livemotofoto motorcycle motorcycling samuel Bendall Photography travel Wed, 08 Jan 2014 16:59:42 GMT
Aether Urban Adventure Ride and Urban Assualt Course with RawHyde Off-Road Adventures Instagram

I'll be the first one to admit that in over one year's time, I have become completely addicted to motorcycles, the culture and the lifestyle. I rode as a kid and a teenager but not like now. I relish every opportunity I have to get out and ride my bike and lucky for me, riding is everyday thing. This weekend was a bit of an adventure as I participated in the Aether Urban Adventure Ride and boy howdy was it a hoot. I spent the day on amazing roads, enjoying beautiful scenery and perfect weather, reveling in a new experience and meeting genuinely good people. I could not think of a better way to spend a Sunday in LA.

The Aether Airstream Perhaps one of the nicest mobile shops I have ever stepped into. Props to you guys on the design and functionality of this trailer.


The day began bright and early at Aether’s HQ on Melrose Ave. If you are not sure what Aether is, check them out here.  They make some of the nicest clothes I've seen in a long while. Truly magnificent. Besides that, I left my house around 8am to fill my tank and make my way into Hollywood. Upon arrival, I was greeted to the sight of close to 50+ BMW R1200GS's lined up outside the entrance to the Aether shop. The crowd was a bunch of middle age guys in touring gear with a few girls peppered in here and there. Everyone looked ready to participate in an episode of Long Way Round yet I’m the guy that pulled up on a cruiser with a bag bungeed to my sissy bar.  I was a bit out of sorts but regardless, I was in good company.  I hopped off my bike and went inside where I recognized a few familiar faces and grabbed a much needed coffee and bagel. After check in, receiving a brief rundown on the route, and obtaining my turn-by-turn directions to a number of “must see sights in LA” and the location of a secret warehouse in Downtown Los Angeles, we were all ready to go. While everyone mounted their steeds and got ready to hit the road, I laid back and took some photos per usual. I would eventually make my way out to the route. 


BMW's Lined Up In A Row at the Aether HQ The route and agenda for the day Morning briefing by Jim of RawHyde Adventures



After getting my stuff together, mounting some GoPros and dialing in my zone focusing and exposure settings on my Fuji's, I pulled up to the line, signed a disclaimer or liability form or whatever and headed off. I found myself in a sea of BMW riders, one rider pulled up next to me to let me know I had a one gallon Arrrowhead bottle hanging off my right tail light, I assured him it was ok and that it was my "gas can". We both shared a laugh and proceeded up and over to Sunset Blvd to Benedict Canyon and then Mulholland Drive.  


He's Got that Happy Feeling She's got that happy feeling More Happiness. Before you ride you suit up. Safety is always paramount on a motorcycle. Im a bit jealous of these guys and thier bikes. When I am 40 or 50 I'll have one too.


Around Doheny and Sunset Blvd, I lost the group. I made the choice to go full throttle and do a little drag race in that straight away heading into Beverly Hills.  I turned onto Benedict Canyon and pulled off to the side of the road to wait for the group.  They never showed up. I did hear the sound of a British bike approaching and low and behold one guy on a sweet 2001 Triumph Bonneville rode up and asked if I was ok and I gave him a thumbs up and he continued on. I thought, "Triumphs ride together," so i followed up with the bonnie and progressed up the canyon. It turns out he was on the Urban Adventure Ride as well and got away from his group too. 


I would later find out the "sea if BMW's" I was riding with managed to get themselves lost in the quarter-mile I put between them and I.  Funny how  6 guys with GPS units and $20,000 motorcycles managed to get lost in such a short distance on such a basic road. Irony would strike me later but for the better.  





The ride up Benedict Canyon and Mulholland was nothing short of awesome. Great turns, great views, and perfect weather.  There was not a thing to complain about, except for the stupid automobile driver that nearly hit me as he made a left turn. Screw that guy. Note to everyone if you drive a car, put your phone down people and watch the road. IT CAN WAIT!


Back to the twisties, what a great ride and one that never gets old or dull. There are some spots on Mulholland where dirt, sand and rough pavement can cause some trepidation but in all, Mulholland is a mecca for riding for a reason. I think its only second to Angeles Crest Hwy. For me, my biggest problem when riding the canyons on my Triumph Speedmaster is dragging my pegs. My Belle can dip and lean with the best and for a cruiser she is surprisingly agile but when i get carried away, sparks fly. There were a couple times on this ride where this happened so I quickly learned to adapt by angling the heel of my boot a bit lower to serve as a softer feeler than my peg.  Something about grinding my foot peg scares the crap out of me.  I have this irrational fear that my peg will catch something on the ground, I will be catapulted into the sky and my bike will just burst into flames or something irrationally stupid.  


Anyway...the ride was fantastic and we came to meet up with a bunch of riders at the Hollywood Bowl Overlook.  It was a beautiful view and I spoke with the guy I was trailing the entire time on the Bonnie. His name was Aakash and we ended up driving much of the route together.  


Aakash on his 2001 Triumph Bonneville as we head to our second stop. Aakash at the Hollywood Bowl overlook just off Mulholland Drive. My Belle looking all svelte and sexy at the Hollywood Bowl overlook off Mulholland Drive



Aakash and I headed off to our next stop, a gathering spot under the Hollywood Sign.  I grew up in Hollywood so the Hollywood Sign interests me about as much as a wolverine trapped in my pants but I rode on and enjoyed the day. Did I mention anything about the twisties...there were so many twisites.  Twisties = Fun.  Its an undeniable fact of life.


We pulled up the the gathering spot where I recognized a few more familiar faces. I took a moment to speak with my friend Sarah with Schuberth Helmets and a number of other people on the ride. In traditional photographer fashion, I began taking portraits of everyone.  


Sarah!!! Barry Josh


Just after arriving, Aakash fretted that someone stole his hydrapack but I remember him taking it off at the previous stop and suggested he may have left it there, he would jet off to see if it was still retrievable. In traditional Top Gear fashion, I pressed on and headed to the next location. The Griffith Observatory.   


Just as we were leaving I have to mention my two favorite guys here, Josh and Barry. Both were totally cool cats and they were the only guys that participated in the ride on a couple of custom cafe bikes, neither of which were comfortable for someone my height but regardless, both bikes looked super sweet.  Josh even managed to take his beast down a small off-road line as we left the Hollywood Sign.  Props brotha, props. If I did this on my bike I would have totally eaten shit.


Josh taking his Honda CB650 Off-Road.

Road BoundAkash and I met up with these two guys on some honda cafe bikes and toe ass up the mountain to the Hollywood sign



I’ve been to the Griffith Observatory at least a hundred times in my life yet each time is no less awesome. It offers, hands down, the best view of Los Angeles that is accessible to the public.  Rolling up the hill to the observatory on a beautiful day is perfect because as you enter the parking lot you are greeted to with the sight  of the Observatory surrounded by beautiful blue skies.  Today it was made even prettier with 100 or so motorcycles in the foreground.


Observatory Bound Almost to the top


We all parked our bikes as close to the Observatory as the the parking lot allowed and enjoyed the attention from passers by as if we were rock stars arriving at our venue.  I left my bike and walked toward the Observatory to take a few photos and in the process ran into Tim Collins and a pretty amazing dog. Unlike the dog, Tim, a Los Angeles native, had never, never in his life, been to the Griffith Observatory.  I was shocked but told him today was the perfect day to take it in.


Since the sun was at its highest it mostly made for shitty photos so I don’t have much of the Observatory. I turned to walk back to my bike and ran into Aakash, low and behold he was wearing his backpack, it looks like he found it and no one stole it. As Aakash and I approached our bikes, I found my bike being swarmed and swooned over by a group of tourists. They began taking pictures of me, me and my bike, them on my bike and everything else in between. I felt a bit like a celebrity but at the same time was laid back enough to just go with it.  These people were on vacation and I thought it best to show some hospitality. For the most part it was a strange feeling but at the same time it reinforced my desire for riches...not fame.


For a moment I was a rock star...ha! Photo Credit: Aakash Desai



Moseying on, our next stop was the steepest streets in Los Angeles, Fargo Street and Baxter Street.  Here Aakash and I marveled at the grade before us.  It looked and felt like rollercoaster. Barrelling up and down both these was a tad scary. Well...going up was awesome, going down was scary. Unlike all the BMW riders, our bikes did not have ABS so it was necessary to have a gentle touch.  


Looking over the precipice on Baxter Street Ready to go down? Yeah...that was fun.Aakash looking back at Fargo street.



So...side route to the super steep roads complete, Aakash led the way to our next and final stop, the secret warehouse! Somehow or another we took the wrong road and ended up at the top of Dodger Stadium. Here’s that moment of irony I mentioned earlier.  Needing to get back on track and not wanting to go backwards, I chose to take us through a closed road that passed by the Los Angeles Police Academy.  What we came across next was some kind of charity run that was centered around Movember.  As we drove through, there were a ton of hipsters, a band rocking out on a full stage and a beer garden...yes a beer garden. Aakash and I made the uniform decision to stop and have a brew.  It was a good decision.


Stopped for a BeerWhy not? It was part of the adventure. Drunk Rock and Rolling HipstersAt least it was for a good cause. Aakash changing and preppingAs it gets warmer you have to change it up.



Running a bit behind we hauled ass into downtown to find the secret warehouse. We rolled in on everyone enjoying lunch.  Besides having a hankering for some grub, I had something more important on my mind, I was bent on finding whoever was in charge of relinquishing to me, the keys of a brand new 2014 BMW R1200 GS Water-Boxer demo bike. I love riding all kinds of motorcycles, and this is one I have been eager to ride for a while. I also figured that since everyone here had a BMW, I would be lucky to get a bike to myself for a bit. "A bit" turned into the rest of the day and for the rest of the day, I was in heaven.


Bikes in a RowEvidently its normal to just lay your Beemer on it's side. That was good to know.

Hello my pretty demo bikes. I'll take the red one!



For the non-motorcycle people reading this, the BMW R1200 GS is a bad mutha fu**a.  This bike was built to traverse the world. It has proven itself in some of the harshest climates and is one of a select class of bike geared toward almost every kind of riding. Where you are a daily commuter, an avid off-road rider, someone looking for a long haul touring machines, or just want to have fun running the canyons on the weekend, the BMW R1200 GS will more than feed your appetite. This bike was used by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman on "Long Way Down" and "Long Way Round" (it's on Netflix, check it out), and It has won tons of awards. It is everything you would expect in performance and quality from BMW and is considered the standard bearer in the adventure touring class. You can read a great review of this bike by Zack Courts of Motorcyclist Magazine, he has an excellent professional review of the bike here.


Being handed the keys to any performance machine is always a great feeling, I don’t care what anyone says. If you don't feel like a 5 year old let off the chain into a Toy's R Us to buy whatever you want, then make an appointment with your doctor because there is something wrong with you. I approached this beautiful steed and hopped on. My first impression was how comfortable the bike was. It fit me. I mention “fit” right off the bat regarding any bike i get on because I am a tall guy (6 foot 5 inches of awesome) and as such, it's something that can make or break a bike for me. It makes me a bit sad because there are so many great bike out there that I will never truly appreciate because of my height. It's a bit of a curse for something I love so much but the Beemer fit like a glove. I was instantly at home on this motorcycle. Beyond being a good looking bike and having a comfortable seating position, everything else felt right. I enjoyed the wide handlebars as they instilled a great amount of confidence in control, the clutch was easy to pull in and let out while allowing for a nice feel for the friction zone, the suspension was a particular treat, super soft but when the brakes are applied they stiffen up and shift the weight to different parts of the bike. It’s quite advanced. Lastly, the amazingly smooth throttle, what can I say other than...POWER!!!! It’s so nice to know you have so much power at your fingertips but at the same time have the ability to dial in only what you need when you need it. I was about to find this all out first hand.


I was beyond ready to go. Ignition on, helmet on, shift to first gear and go! Right off the bat this bike was fantastic, it felt big but didn't feel big, it felt manageable. I chalked it up to being on a new bike and for the moment it was just different. I headed into the cone slalom. I sucked balls.  I hit about4 of the 8 cones. I tried turning the bike hard, remembering all of my basic and intermediate training from riders courses, nothing was working. I ended up turning super wide and almost bailed but retained some control over the bike. I lined up at the beginning of the slalom again, again, and again. I was not going to stop until I mastered this course, this is just my personality type, I'll keep trying until I get it, I'll push myself until I cannot push any more and then I'll push some more.  I finally figured out the slalom but managed to clip one cone on my 5th or 6th time through but after that I was perfect.  I moved onto the “90 degree turn”, got through that easily, and moved on to the  "Lolipop", or what I liked to call the "bane of my fucking existence" second only to the "Serpent" section.  Take the DMV motorcycle test and make the circle a quarter the size and you have the "Lolipop".  Here I dropped the bike once, twice, thrice....a number of times, ok.  Thankfully the BMW I was riding had the Sam-Proof engine crash bars attached to...well...protect the engine, duh. While slightly embarrassing, being able to lay this bike down enabled me to learn faster and employ new riding techniques without fear.

A crude drawing of the training courseThere were other cones set up I just chose not to include them. These were the ones that I chose to conquer over all the others.


I didn't mess around with the various drive modes, nor take the ABS or traction control off. I wanted to get a feel for the bike and not pull third gear wheelies (even though I really wanted to). If I did I would have been kicked out the event. This day was not about wheelies, it was about precision control and slow speed maneuverability, and since everyone present owned this bike and were damn good riders, I had a lot to learn in a very short amount of time. There was one guy, Peter McMullan from Pasadena, who gave me some pointers on how to use the brake, clutch, and throttle in conjunction with one another.  A bit of an advanced technique I believe he called "dragging the brake" but I am unsure.  I can tell you that he handled his bike like a boss and even ran circles around me as you can see in the video below. 

 In about an hour of straight riding, repetition and voracious determination to make this bike an extension of my body, I felt confident on the BMW. I figured it was now or never to tackle the obstacle course. 



Peter McMullan on his R1200GSPeter is here showing me an advanced braking technique which when I tried to employ I kept stalling the bike, over and over again. I will practice this again when I get a day with this bike.


The SlalomI was killing it by the end of the day. Once I got my wits about me, throwing this massive bike becomes as easy as it looks.



The obstacle course was housed in the "secret warehouse" and consisted of a "drive over" wooden palate, a teeter totter and a grueling maze where riders were required to zig-zag through hazards needing to avoid barrels, boxes and other obstructions.  Riders were penalized for touching objects or putting down a foot. The course was graded out of 100 points and 1 point was deducted for each failure above. It was challenging and at the same time so fun!


The Amazing Two-Up Finalists The second course was a hard one.


I found out after my run, I scored a 98 out of 100 which put me in the top of the pack. There were still a handful of riders that did better than me, there were even two participants that achieved a perfect score. Bastards.


Here is the video of my run from the second tie-breaking course.  I asked to have a go at it and Jim obliged.


Regardless of where I placed on the list, I beat out a lot of people that ride this bike on a daily basis.  I was pleased with what I achieved.  I only wish it was enough to win that sweet ass Aether Canyon Motorcycle Jacket for the upcoming winter riding season. I'll tell you right now, if this competition happens again next year I am going to walk away with something on it.



As the sun began to set and the winners were announced and prizes were handed out, there was one guy tooling around the practice course long after the cones were removed on a BMW 1200 GS. He wore a huge smile on his face and though he won no prizes or medaled in the competition, he was having the time of his life and walked away a winner. 

All Day Baby...All Day!!!!When I was not outwardly wearing a shit eating grin on my face, I was trying to hold back having a shit eating grin on my face. That is what this bike does to you. It is just that perfect. Still going at the training courseBy the end of the day I had mastered the serpent section of the training course. Pinning the handlebars, utilizing counter weight techniques, and looking to where you want to be are critical to achieving these incredibly tight turns. One day I will hang a helmet on this bike as if it were my own, but for now I can only enjoy the day and save for tomorrow.


Many thanks to Aether Apparel, RawHyde Adventures and BMW Motorsports for organizing this event. Please do more of these in the future.


For more information on Aether Apparel visit their website. There you will find beautiful urban inspired clothing for men and women.  I am forever a fan.


For more information on RawHyde Adventures check out what they have to offer. If you have bone of adventure in your body or are looking to sharpen your skills on a bike, these guys are the guys to see.  Remarkably friendly, infinitely wise, and pleasure to be around.  If you don't have a good experience then it's you, not them.


To access the full gallery of photos contact me via email and I will set you up. I shot more than what is featured here and I have some fantastic B+W Photographs to share with all of you.


]]> (Sam Bendall Photography - LiveMotoFoto) Adventures" Aether Aether Apparel BMW R1200GS Los Angeles Events Off RawHyde RawHyde Adventures Rawhyde Road Sam Bendall Urban Adventure blog motorcycle street photography travel travel adventure Wed, 20 Nov 2013 03:17:19 GMT
The Bikes of Ace Cafe / Cafe Moto At the 2013 AIMExpo No new bike can compare to the soul and character of these older custom bikes. I had the pleasure of walking past these bikes on my way to the Bonnier media booth each day, and each day I saw them, I would imagine myself on a track navigating an "s" curve or just cruising down Pacific Coast Highway on my way to Neptune's Net.  

Learn more about Ace Cafe London at

Learn more about Cafe Moto at

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