Tag Archives: Features

Kyle Petty | Ep. 56 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

Ep56 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast Kyle Petty

Our guest on Episode 56 of the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast is Kyle Petty, a NASCAR racing icon and founder of the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America. Petty is part of a multi-generational stockcar racing dynasty that included his grandfather Lee; his father, Richard; and his son Adam. Petty is known for four wheels, but he’s been riding motorcycles since he was a boy and loves putting on the miles. Since 1995 he has organized the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America, an annual motorcycle ride that raises money to support Victory Junction and other causes for children with chronic illnesses and conditions. The 27th Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America kicks off on April 29 in Salt Lake City, Utah, and runs through May 5. We encourage listeners to visit KylePettyCharityRide.com and make a donation. You can follow the ride on social media, and if you’re in the area, you can meet up with the group at one of their stops.

LINKS: KylePettyCharityRide.comFacebookInstagramTwitter

You can listen to Episode 55 on iTunesSpotify, and Podbean, or via the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast webpage. Please subscribe, leave us a 5-star rating, and tell your friends! Scroll down for a list of previous episodes.

Visit the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast webpage to check out previous episodes:

The post Kyle Petty | Ep. 56 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Street Survival at the BMW U.S. Rider Academy

BMW U.S. Rider Academy
Maneuvering the big R 1250 GS through an exercise. (Photos by Neale Bayly)

When I accepted the assistant editor position at Rider, I expected to ride motorcycles outside of what I was used to. That was one of the many exciting things about the job. This past January, I got what I was looking for – and then some. At the BMW U.S. Rider Academy two-day Street Survival On-Road course at the BMW Performance Center in Greer, South Carolina, I went from riding my usual Honda Rebel 250 the week before to a BMW R 1250 GS. I can handle some easy math, and that’s about five times the displacement of my personal bike. And at 5-foot-1 and 110 lb, I was feeling like I had bitten off a little more than I could chew. By the end of the weekend, however, I didn’t want to get off the big GS.

BMW U.S. Rider Academy
Just eight months after earning my MFA, I was back in school. This experience was a bit different than my writing classes though.

This was the first class I’d taken since the Harley-Davidson Riding Academy at my local dealership seven years ago. That course had been great fun, puttering around the parking lot on Harley Street 500s and taking each step nice and slow. While my riding has improved since then just by putting in the miles, I knew some real training with coaches would be beneficial. So off I went to the BMW Performance Center.

When the Student is Ready…

Upon arriving that first day, I chatted with some of the instructors while waiting for the class to start. When one of them asked me what bike I had reserved for the class, I told him I’d picked the G 310 R, thinking the smallest one would be the most comfortable for me. However, he said I should try the R 1250 GS instead.

BMW U.S. Rider Academy BMW R 1250 GS
The center of the track was our home base to park the bikes, have a seat, and chat.

I laughed, assuming he was joking. It wouldn’t be the last time I would be wrong over the course of the weekend.

“No, really,” he said. “A lot of people think that the smaller one will be easier, but the 1250 is so well balanced. Once you get used to the size, it’s the better bike for the exercises we’ll be doing.”

At that point, I shrugged my shoulders. I told him maybe I’d give the big bike a go later, with no real confidence that I’d feel up to it that weekend. Little did I know that I’d soon be riding side-saddle around the track on the R 1250 GS, asking myself what I had gotten myself into and thinking my momma’s going to kill me when she sees these photos.

BMW U.S. Rider Academy
I didn’t think I’d be on a motorcycle this big for a while, if at all, but it was a fun ride once I got going.

The morning began in the cafeteria drinking free coffee and chatting. At 8:30, we moved to the classroom, where we introduced ourselves and went through a slideshow about the types of exercises we’d be doing that day. There were five instructors and 10 students, so we’d get plenty of help and feedback. We spent less time in the classroom than I expected – only about 30 minutes – then we were off to meet our bikes and get started.

Related: 2018 BMW G 310 R | First Ride Review

That’s when I ended up on the 1250. When we walked out, I spotted the 310 right away and walked toward it. For the first exercise, the instructors told us we needed to use a bike with a centerstand, so I moved over to a 1250. I never did get it up on the stand by myself, but the instructors were happy to help me out by steadying the beast while I tried. I did manage to get it off the centerstand by myself once – my first victory of the day.

BMW U.S. Rider Academy
In one exercise, we rode in circles at three different speeds to practice cornering.

After getting to know the bikes, we were ready to ride down to the track, so I once again walked to the 310. This time, a different instructor asked me if I was sure I wouldn’t rather use the 1250 since, again, it would be the best option for the upcoming exercise. At that point, I figured the instructors knew what they were talking about, so I trusted the process. I was there to learn and break out of my comfort zone anyway, right? I slung a leg over the 1250, struggled to reach the kickstand for a solid minute before finally catching it with my boot, and fired it up. Then we were off.

Related: 2021 BMW R 1250 GS | Road Test Review

The first few laps went better than expected. We did some acrobatics that felt nuts to me at first but were actually easy and fun, like riding while standing on the pegs followed by a lap with our right knee on the seat. On the next lap, we put our right leg behind our left and sat side-saddle, and then we rode standing with the right foot on the left peg and the left foot dangling out to the side. Then we did the same thing with the other leg. During that exercise, I thought to myself, This isn’t so bad. I might not drop the bike after all. Wrong again.

BMW U.S. Rider Academy
The instructors watched us closely so they could provide helpful feedback and advice.

Then we got into the slow maneuvers, such as in-line weaving, riding tight circles in a box, and figure-eights. I dropped that big GS over and over and over. I must thank my instructors here for their resilient patience. They never complained or even looked slightly annoyed by having to continually pick my bike up for me. They offered words of encouragement and plenty of feedback and advice, so I always knew what to work on the next go-round. In fact, after every single attempt at an exercise, there was an instructor or two there to provide helpful feedback and cheer us on.

I looked forward to the breaks throughout the day, not only because sitting in a chair resulted in fewer bruises than dropping the motorcycle, but also because it gave us a chance to talk. We got to know each other and learned that, even if we came from different backgrounds – or different continents – we all had a lot more in common than we realized. 

BMW U.S. Rider Academy
Lining up for our next exercise.

The only other woman in the class was Christine, and she is as badass as they come. She’s done other classes and trackdays and has four motorcycles at home, the most recent addition being a Ducati Multistrada. I also met Dave, who lives up near the Blue Ridge Parkway and met our EIC Greg and his wife, Carrie, at an Edelweiss Greece tour last year. There was also John, Terry, Yasser, William, Fernando, George, and Sam, all of whom were lovely to talk to and had plenty of their own experiences to share. The instructors sat with us too, joking and telling stories. Even Neale, the fantastic photographer for this story, found some time between taking photos to sit and chat with us. It was truly wonderful to feel that connection and friendship with a group of people I’d never met before.

At the end of the first day, they brought out a fleet of models for us to ride around the track for what they called the “ultimate test ride.” We’d hop on one bike, ride a couple laps, park it, and switch to something else. I tried out an F 900 XR, a gigantic R 18 cruiser, and other bikes. It was a fun way to end the first day, and it allowed me to make some headway toward my goal of trying out different motorcycles. After that, we were all ready for a beer and some food.

BMW U.S. Rider Academy
Riding the big R 18 was another new experience for me.

Related: 2021 BMW R 18 Classic | Tour Test Review

…Makes You Stronger

Waking up the second day in the hotel room, I was so sore from being tense while I rode the day before and from dropping the bike that the last thing my body wanted to do was get out of bed. But I rolled out, geared up, and met Neale and Dave in the lobby for breakfast. I’m glad I made the effort and that I chose the two-day course instead of the one-day course because the second day was pure fun.

BMW U.S. Rider Academy
By the second day, I was feeling more confident and more able to focus on the exercises

Don’t get me wrong, there were still exercises that challenged me and taught me to ride in ways I hadn’t before, but the nerves had vanished. I was able to relax and have fun. The other students were no longer strangers but rather new friends, and I knew I could ride that monster of a motorcycle this time because, although it hadn’t been pretty, I’d ridden it before. On the second day, I only dropped it three times! Quite an improvement on the previous day.

The exercises we did on Sunday consisted of putting together the individual techniques we’d learned on Saturday. We worked on emergency stops, cornering, emergency stopping in a corner, and other valuable skills. Halfway through the second day, my bike started leaking fluid (no doubt from the countless times I’d dropped it the day before), so they brought me out a new one. Christine offered to swap with me for the 1250 GS with low suspension that she was riding, and that was much better. 

BMW U.S. Rider Academy
I only tried to pick the bike up once, and it gave me a new appreciation for the instructors who picked it up for me repeatedly.

We finished up in the classroom, and the instructors gave us some homework exercises, a goodie bag, and their cards. They encouraged us to reach out to them at any time with pictures of new motorcycles we get or whatever other moto-related activities we’re up to.

By the end of the weekend, I felt much more confident, although plenty sore, and was excited to practice what I’d learned and try out more new motorcycles. As I continue my own moto journey, I hope to see all my new friends from the BMW Street Survival class out on the roads, enjoying their new skills and the motorcycles that brought us all together.

BMW U.S. Rider Academy
It was a long weekend that challenged each one of us in different ways, but making it to the end was an accomplishment we were all able to enjoy.

SIDEBAR: BMW U.S. Rider Academy

The BMW Performance Center in Greer, South Carolina, offers several types of motorcycle courses. I took the two-day Street Survival On-Road course, but there’s also a one-day and three-day versions of the course, as well as a ladies-only version.

BMW U.S. Rider Academy
Sidebar photos by Killboy

Other training options include a two-day MSF Basic Rider course; a two-day USRA Authority School (for police-style training); one-day, two-day, and three-day versions of the Adventure Off-Road course; and a ladies-only Adventure Off-Road course. The instructors told us the off-road courses are the most popular (and most fun). They also said all BMW U.S. Rider Academy courses book up fast. The only reason I was able to find an open spot on short notice for the two-day Street Survival course is because someone else had canceled. Usually, they fill up several months in advance.

BMW U.S. Rider Academy
The track had a hill, curves, a straight stretch, and a nice rest area in the middle with chairs and snacks.

Pricing varies based on the length of the class. One-day classes are $900, two-day classes are $1,800, and three-day classes are $2,700. When I took the class, BMW offered the option of either using one of their motorcycles or bringing a personal motorcycle to use. I chose to rent, as most others in the class did, and I’m glad I did. Although I dropped my bike more than anyone else in the class, I was far from the only student to drop one. Now, BMW requires students to use one of BMW’s motorcycles, which removes any anxiety a student might have about damaging their personal ride. Each course comes with a chef-prepared lunch each day, which was delicious and included several dietary options. BMW also offers 20%-off coupons at rallies and events.

A full list of courses, prices, and availability can be found here.

The post Street Survival at the BMW U.S. Rider Academy first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Saving the Best for Last: A Ride to the Sturgis Rally – and Beyond

Chuck Frick Sturgis Rally Suzuki X6 Hustler
Chuck as a teenager in the ’70s, tinkering with his Suzuki X6 Hustler 2-stroke.

Retirement is underrated, which I discovered both too soon and too late. Fifteen years ago, my employer of 36 years eased me out their door. “If you can’t climb stairs,” they told me, “then you can’t work here.” I don’t like to use the word “handicapped,” but that’s what they called it. It’s actually muscular dystrophy, and I’ve lived with it since my 30s. After they let me go, I didn’t dwell on it, but what life held next was a mystery. I was looking for something to do when my buddy Scott suggested going to the Sturgis Rally. I thought, Why not? There would be 12 of us total, including a few wives and girlfriends riding pillion. They were all on Harleys; I was the only dissenter on my BMW R 1150 RT.

Chuck Frick Sturgis Rally BMW K 1200 LT Hannigan R 1150 RT
Chuck’s BMWs: an ’07 K 1200 LT Hannigan trike and ’04 R 1150 RT. Combined, he rode them for eight years and 193,000 miles.

From my place in Zanesville, Ohio, Sturgis is roughly 1,700 miles away, so I estimated the trip would take two days. We started on U.S. Route 40, a few miles from my home, and I knew after the first 5 miles it wasn’t going to be much fun. We were going 80 mph one minute, 60 the next, stopping every 75 miles to gas up, puff down two cigarettes, then talk for 20 minutes about the guy in the group who failed to use his turnsignal.

Related: Riding Ohio’s Triple Nickel (OH 555)

We rode for several hours this way. In Illinois, we ran into a light rain, with Scott and me bringing up the rear. I’ve ridden with friends forever, and we never rode side-by-side. Scott and I watched the bikes, riding tandem at 80 mph (then 60), waiting for a mistake that would surely bring the others down. 

We got to Iowa City midafternoon. I thought we were stopping for gas (again), but no, they were already looking for a motel! There were still at least five more good hours of daylight. I’d had enough. “Hey guys, I’ll see you there,” I said and left.

Chuck Frick Sturgis Rally
Chuck and his wife, Terry, holding Ginger during their more carefree years.

Several hours later, I found a mom-and-pop campground west of Des Moines. Even though the sign said “NO Vacancy,” I spotted a grassy area out back in a corner, nearly surrounded by corn, and the proprietors let me have it for half price. I went out for a ham-and-Swiss sub and a six-pack and rode back to my home for the night. I’d ridden 600 miles – not bad – and was ready for a beer.

There were land yachts all over and kids throwing a ball around. One of them saw me and walked over, followed by five or six others. “Hi, where ya from?” they asked. My bike was a kid magnet.

We chatted while I pitched my tent, hoping no one would be offended if I sipped a beer. When I mentioned that the site could use a picnic table, they scrambled off, and I saw them talking to a group of grownups. Four of the dads got together and grabbed an extra table, each holding a corner with one hand and a brew in the other. Suddenly I had my own personal dining table in front of my tent. I felt right at home. The day was ending a lot better than it had started. That’s life on the road on a good day, but aren’t they all good days?

Chuck Frick Sturgis Rally
On his way to Sturgis, Chuck spent his first night alone in an Iowa cornfield.

I called Scott that night. He told me he had wanted to join me, but he was riding his brother’s Harley, so his brother called the shots. He said there was only one room with a single bed available at their motel. Eleven people in one bedroom! I thanked my lucky stars. Staying in a room with only one toilet, packed so close you could smell each other’s feet, drinking in the lounge with rows of quarters already on the pool table, sliding a $5 bill across the bar for a beer and getting 50 cents back. Sorry, not for me.

Chuck Frick Sturgis Rally ’72 Honda 750
Chuck and his ’72 Honda 750, one of dozens of bikes he owned over the years.

After my new friends left, I sat at my picnic table until 1 a.m. I’d set up my tent facing the interstate and was mesmerized by traffic racing by, streaks of white light in one direction, red in the other, vehicles of all kinds. Sitting alone, soaking all this in, was like a lullaby. It was maybe the best night in a tent I’ve ever experienced. I slept like a baby.

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.

The next day, I raced west to Nebraska. I made a gas stop and decided to call my cousin Matt, who was driving to Sturgis, hauling his homemade camper/trailer complete with a kitchenette with water, a bed, and clamps on the floor to secure motorcycles. After some conversation about our respective locations, I realized I should have turned north at Des Moines and was on the wrong interstate. What to do? I don’t carry maps, so I kept riding west, figuring there would be a highway north somewhere.

Chuck Frick Sturgis Rally ’79 Honda Gold Wing
Decades ago, Chuck on his ’79 Honda Gold Wing with his mother, Florence, wishing him well. He rode that Wing for four years, reaching 93,000 miles.

I rode to North Platte, then went north on U.S. Route 83 until I saw a sign for Interstate 90. I could taste Sturgis, now only an hour away. I felt late for the party I’d been racing to get to.

When I hit Sturgis, I peeked at my odometer. I’d ridden 954 miles! I wanted to head out again to ride another 46 miles, but it wouldn’t have mattered to anyone but me, and I was parched. It was just Matt and me at the campsite. My friends, on bikes with gas tanks too small, didn’t arrive until the next day.

Chuck Frick Sturgis Rally
Brothers Chuck and Ken in the ’80s with new tires, a favorite Christmas gift.

Over the next two days, we rode all around the area, hitting the Badlands first. It was amazing, like another planet. Scott had never been out of Ohio before. His brother and Matt knew of a bar just beyond the Badlands. It turned out to be a dump of the first order with a dirt floor and no restroom; you just walked out back and let it flow – girls too. I definitely wasn’t in Ohio anymore. At least the beer was cold! 

The next day we rode to Spearfish for a burnout contest. Matt entered his Harley and put on a great show – so much smoke you could barely see him. Everyone thought he was the favorite, but the last entry was a topless lady. She won.

After Spearfish, we went to see Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, and finally to the Needles in Custer State Park. It was beautiful country, but I’d seen enough. This was a Harley universe, not mine. It was time for me to go. I asked Scott to come along with me, but he was leashed to his brother and declined again. That was okay. I was used to riding alone – nearly all my past riding friends had either died or moved to Florida.

See all of Rider‘s South Dakota touring stories here.

I was out the next day at first light, unaware that the best five days of my riding life were in front of me. I rode west to Devils Tower, then north. My ride was untarnished, racing along, a world away from Ohio. I ended the day in Custer, Montana, at a great mom-and-pop campground. I pitched my tent and eased into the evening with a chilled six-pack. Seeing the Milky Way brought me back to my childhood. Never having been to the area, everything felt both so real and so unreal. The air felt different, and the smells were spectacular.

Chuck Frick Sturgis Rally Can-Am Spyder
A few years back, riding his beloved Can-Am Spyder on backroads in eastern Ohio.

Related: 2023 Can-Am Spyder and Ryker Updates

The next day, I rode east on U.S. Route 2, to this day my favorite road, wide and straight, with fields of wild sunflowers. The 75-mph speed limit meant I could go as fast as I wanted.

Chuck Frick Sturgis Rally BMW R 1150 RT Devils Tower, Wyoming
Chuck’s BMW R 1150 RT at Devils Tower, Wyoming, after leaving Sturgis.

I made it to Ross, North Dakota, a small town with a train terminal and several sets of tracks. I found a campsite, pitched my tent, and went looking for beer and a sandwich. I’ve camped at some very nice places, but I’ll remember this one forever because of the trains. In Ohio, I had only seen trains that were a few cars hauling coal, but these trains, with four engines pulling 200 cars, seemed a mile long. The tracks were maybe 500 yards away, and one train would come right after another, each one making its own unique sound, some with squeaky wheels, others with wheels that pounded the track like they were square. I sat at the picnic table until midnight, and to this day, I can still hear the sounds of all those trains.

Chuck Frick Sturgis Rally
Chuck’s old license plates, covering several decades and hundreds of thousands of miles.

The next morning, I called Scott. He wasn’t with his Harley group. He had been complaining about noise coming from the rear wheel of the Harley he was riding, which turned out to be a bearing. It let loose, the wheel locking for just a second, with the tire terminally resting against the swingarm. The Harley bit the dust. He was alone, and no one came back looking for him. His brother and the group simply abandoned him. There was, however, a friendly fellow nearby, and Scott spent a few hours drinking free beer on his front porch. Luckily, he had Matt’s phone number. Matt came to the rescue and loaded the broken bike in his camper.

The next morning, I left at first light, still riding east on Route 2. I rode at my own pace. Not many people live that far north, probably because of the brutal winters. I passed through towns about every 20 miles – no stop lights, just reduced speed limits. The sideroad signs with white numbering meant gravel; those printed with blue meant the roads were paved. White ones were more common, seemingly 10 to 1. 

Chuck Frick Sturgis Rally
On his way home from Sturgis, Chuck made a brief detour over the border to visit Canada. Leaving the U.S. was easy, but getting back in was another matter.

Over the next two days, I passed through Minnesota, then Wisconsin. Lake Michigan is simply mesmerizing. Every few miles, I spotted a shanty and slowed to see what they were selling. One spot had fresh smoked fish. I never pass on seafood, so I bought two pounds of smoked trout and continued down Route 2 to a very nice campground. 

Related: Great Lakes Getaway: Touring Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan

The final day of my trip, I crossed the Mackinac Bridge connecting the Upper and Lower peninsulas of Michigan. I had been warned about the bridge, specifically the mesh steel surface which can lead to motorcycle tire wandering – more than a little unnerving. But one lane was paved.

Chuck Frick Sturgis Rally
By chance Chuck rode into view of brother Ken’s camera lens, just south of Wooster in north central Ohio. Chuck had been sent out to buy a quart of milk, ending up over a hundred miles from home.

When I hit Interstate 75, it started raining. But it was warm, so I didn’t bother to put on my rainsuit. I needed a shower anyway. When I hit Detroit, I was surprised by how clean and orderly the city appeared, contrary to the image I had of it being dirty and smoky. Also, there were never less than five lanes of roadway, so I cruised right through. Every big city should do it so well.

In Ohio, I got on U.S. Route 30, four lanes racing through miles of corn and soybeans, then I rode south on State Route 13 on my way home. 

Chuck Frick Sturgis Rally
Much of Chuck’s riding history can be found in his garage, including the U.S. Route 36 highway sign given to him by Ken and an Ohio license plate personalized with “The Lou,” his youngest daughter’s nickname.

I made it home just before dark, our three dogs yapping up a storm. I settled in as my wife made me dinner, and in the shower, the water that dripped off me was cloudy with dirt. I was done, home after nine days and 4,800 miles. That night in bed, I cried, thinking it was probably my last long motorcycle ride. And it was.

Because of the muscular dystrophy, I had been having difficulty with my legs during the trip and was happy that I didn’t drop my bike or fall down. My brother Bill lives a similar life – our mother did too when she was still with us. Back then, my MD was an inconvenience. Now it’s a nuisance, controlling every part of my day. 

But after Sturgis, I didn’t stop riding. I had two more motorcycles to wear out, saving the best for last. With my failing health, when I could no longer support myself on two wheels, I moved to three. My last bike was a Can-Am Spyder RT, which I dearly loved. In six years, I rode that bike 188,510 miles – until I couldn’t.

Chuck Frick Sturgis Rally
Chuck notched more than 100,000 miles on his 2014 Spyder in three years.

My mobility may have been stymied, but not my mind. I have more than enough memories to fill another lifetime. When I close my eyes, I can be anywhere, always picturing myself on one of my old bikes. When I slip out to my garage for a quick beer or two, I’m surrounded by reminders of my lifetime on two wheels, then three. On the wall are about 20 of my old license plates. Some aren’t especially notable, but there are a few that, if you ask me about them, I’ll talk to you for hours, many of my tales going back to the six or seven or eight special bikes I’ve owned. 

Chuck Frick Sturgis Rally Can-Am Spyder RT
Chuck at home in rural Muskingum County, Ohio, ready to head out on his Can-Am Spyder RT.

There are also two sets of pistons – one from a Gold Wing, the other from an ’83 Honda CB1100F – and posters of concerts I’ve ridden to. There’s a drum skin I caught at a Scorpions concert after drummer James Kottak signed it and threw it into the crowd. And my tools are spread out everywhere from the days when wrenching on my bikes was a favorite pastime. On one of the walls is a newspaper clipping of a story by my brother Ken when he was on assignment covering the Indy 500. One of his pictures shows me, shirtless, leaning back on my cycle, soaking up the sun. He didn’t even realize that I was in his shot until later.

Chuck Frick Sturgis Rally
Chuck uses wall calendars to record his daily mileage and conditions.

My first 12 years of retirement were nearly perfect; the last three, not so much. Still, I see my glass as being half full. My most recent set of wheels is a powered wheelchair, and I can still get around in my custom golf cart. I sold my Spyder to Ken. He still calls it “Chuck’s bike.” I see it often when he stops by, giving me my needed motorcycling fix. It still looks new. To me it always will.

After decades of riding almost nonstop, with well over a million miles on my motorcycles, the one thing I’ve learned is: Never take tomorrow for granted. Live for today. Always, ride on.

Chuck Frick Sturgis Rally
The Frick brothers (left to right): Ken, Chuck, and Bill.

The post Saving the Best for Last: A Ride to the Sturgis Rally – and Beyond first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

A Cruiser Guy Goes to Yamaha ChampSchool

The item at the top of associate editor Paul Dail’s resolutions list for 2023 was to get some track experience by attending the two-day ChampSchool offered by Yamaha Champions Riding School. Yamaha was kind enough to loan us an MT-09 SP, and YCRS Chief Instructor and CEO Nick Ienatsch was kind enough to extend Paul an invitation for the Jan. 27-28 ChampSchool at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which featured “Fast” Freddie Spencer as a guest instructor. –Ed. 

Yamaha Champions Riding School ChampSchool
ChampSchool Lead Instructor and President Chris Peris works with a student at the ChampSchool in Las Vegas.

Not much about me screams either “sportbike” or “trackday.” With a shaved head and beard nearly as long as my face is tall, to look at me, you’d probably guess I ride a Harley. And you wouldn’t be wrong. My main bike currently is a 2004 Heritage Softail Classic. I’m a cruiser guy. But the length of my beard might belie the length of time I’ve been riding – at least this most recent stint. According to a website I found with a glossary of both common and obscure motorcycling terms, I’m a “BAB,” or Born Again Biker, which is “someone who has recently returned to riding after a period of absence…and really ought to get some advanced training.” 

Yamaha Champions Riding School ChampSchool Yamaha MT-09 SP
Taking a breather between track sessions. Is it obvious that I’m not used to track leathers?

I’ve taken a couple MSF parking-lot classes that were informative, but when the opportunity arose to pick up a Yamaha MT-09 SP test bike in Southern California and take it to the Yamaha Champions Riding School’s two-day ChampSchool in Las Vegas, I jumped at it. I may be a cruiser guy about to turn 50, but I still have a pulse, and the idea of learning from some of the best racers in the country got that pulse, well, racing.

Related: Yamaha Announces 2023 Updated and Returning Models

Preparing to ‘Ride Like a Champion’ 

Prior to the school, I was sent the online Champ U “Champion’s Habits: Core Curriculum.” I talk more about this in the sidebar below, but in the immediate, it was very helpful to watch the courses before attending the class. Much of the information was repeated within the first couple hours at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but this method of instruction made perfect sense to me. It’s the same reason I usually have my 10-year-old son read through all the instructions before jumping into a project. That way, once you actually get down to business, you understand the big picture – where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. I was pleased that most things the instructors at ChampSchool said in those first hours were lessons I remembered from Champ U.    

Yamaha Champions Riding School ChampSchool
Nick Ienatsch demonstrates how lean angle affects the 100 points of grip concept, which is one of the ChampSchool Four Core Habits.

That’s not to say that I wasn’t still nervous. After all, even if you’ve read the instructions, sometimes you break the little pieces when you’re building a model. I wasn’t particularly interested in breaking the $12,000 motorcycle that didn’t belong to me…or the little pieces that make up my body.  

Related: 2023 Yamaha MT-10 SP | First Ride Review

But my mind was put to ease by one of the first things ChampSchool Chief Instructor and CEO Nick Ienatsch instructed us to do: Turn to the person standing next to us and say, “I don’t care what you think about my riding.” I’m guessing that even after that, most attendees at the class probably actually did care, myself included, but that was just me dealing with my own insecurities, and starting the two days with that directive was a good reminder. More importantly, even though I was one of the slower riders, I was never made to feel that way by the instructors. 

Yamaha Champions Riding School ChampSchool
Freddie Spencer (left) and Nick Ienatsch (right) instruct students between track sessions.

It also helped that the approximately 25 students were divided into two groups depending on track and general riding experience (and then further divided into an approximate 4:1 student-instructor ratio). The two groups would alternate sessions on the track and sessions in the classroom reviewing the time they had just spent on the track and reinforcing other concepts. The only time all of us were on the track together was toward the end of the second day – at which point it wasn’t so nerve wracking being passed by the more advanced students, and I was able to keep my focus on my riding.    

Strength Through Struggles 

In between each track session, students were asked to rank themselves from 1-10 on a scorecard of “CHAMPS” categories (Comfort/fun, Have brakes past tip-in/efficiency, Apexes/direction, My plan/eyes, Position/timing of body, Smooth initial/final 5%). My three lowest scores were consistently related to braking, scanning forward, and my body position.  

Yamaha Champions Riding School ChampSchool
ChampSchool instructor uses hand signals to guide a student behind him.

While “eyes” was obviously tied to “My plan” (scan ahead on the track and make a plan), the benefit of the CHAMPS scorecard during the classroom sessions was that it gave riders another kind of plan: the things they needed to work on when they went back on the track. 

Another great feature of the school is the filming and reviewing of student riding, which happened twice, once toward the end of the first day and then again before lunch on the second day, with the review of the footage happening at the meal after the filming. 

In order to move the process along, students were either taken out two at a time to watch their riding with an instructor on a laptop or their riding was reviewed on a larger projector screen with the whole group. For the review of my first ride, I was one of the smaller two-at-a-time groups. I’m not sure if this was by design, but I was glad I didn’t have to watch my puttering along in front of the whole group. And after getting almost a blow-by-blow analysis of the entire ride by my instructor, I was pleased to see improvement in the second-day video (thankfully, since this one was viewed in front of the main group). And like with the CHAMPS scorecard, watching the videos gave me a plan for when I returned to the track.       

Yamaha Champions Riding School ChampSchool
The classroom where student video sessions were reviewed.

ChampSchool ‘Roller Coaster Moments’ and Other Surprises 

The cost of attending the two-day school at the Las Vegas Speedway was $2,495 (prices vary depending on the track), not counting travel or rental costs for a bike if you don’t bring your own or the required “standard track gear” – in my case, track leathers and boots. This is a little higher than some fees I’ve seen, but considering the bona fides of the instructors, the quality of instruction, the amount of track time, and the online curriculum sent in advance of the class, I think it’s a solid value.  

However, there were a couple experiences where it felt like the organizers and instructors thought, Let’s give them an even bigger bang for their buck. I called these the “Roller Coaster Moments.” There were lessons to be gleaned from each one, but mostly I just walked away glad to be alive.  

Yamaha Champions Riding School ChampSchool
Clearly not a photo of me.

The first one was shown in the online curriculum…kind of. At several points in the videos, instructors hop in a minivan to illustrate how riding can be similar to driving. Makes sense. And so it also made sense when, after some introductory instruction at the speedway, they said, “Okay, let’s get in the minivans, and we’ll illustrate some of these things we’ve been talking about.” Sure, I thought. I remember seeing them doing this in the videos. 

What they didn’t show in the videos is the extreme version of illustrating the points. 

Did you know a minivan can take corners at 80-plus mph? I didn’t. Nor did I necessarily think it should. My instructor for the two days (and minivan driver that first day) was Cody Wyman. In addition to all of Cody’s racing accolades, he is also a professional driving instructor. Again, did you know a minivan can take corners at 80-plus mph? Apparently it can, although my death grip on the underside of my seat (you can probably still see my claw marks) was because I was convinced we were going to go ass-over-teakettle. 

Cody was sure to check in on all his passengers as we careened around the track, and I think I mumbled something like “I’m good,” and I think he said some other things we were supposed to be learning, but it wasn’t until they repeated the exercise the next day that I was able to breathe and pick up some of the finer nuances of braking and finding the straightest lines to the next apex.    

Yamaha Champions Riding School ChampSchool
Cody Wyman prepares a student for the braking drill.

The second “Roller Coaster Moment” was riding two-up with an instructor. I’m not sure what else to say besides it was like being on the back of a rocket. I don’t remember much beyond trying not to collapse Cody’s lungs or fracture his ribs with my arms as I clutched the grab bar that had been affixed to the Yamaha MT-10 tank in front of him while he took corners at speeds that I’m pretty sure were faster than the minivan. At least the van had seatbelts.      

While I joke about this being a “Roller Coaster Moment,” the lesson was indeed solid, and it segues into my biggest surprise – or perhaps realization – of exactly how amazing motorcycles are when it comes to moving through space and time, especially sportbikes – even with my 200-lb butt on the pillion.  

Several times over the course of the two days, we were told to trust the bike. We all hear about “lean angle” and “rider triangle” and “geometry,” but it was fascinating (and reassuring) to hear from professionals exactly how much these machines have been designed to take your physical inputs and convert them using math and science into results that allow the bike to cling to the earth in seeming defiance of natural laws. But I learned that they’re actually pushing those very laws. 

Yamaha Champions Riding School ChampSchool
ChampSchool instructor demonstrates the 100 points of grip.

Common ChampSchool expressions like “Load the tire before you work the tire” revolve around math and science. Adding 5% of brakes starts to compress the fork, which changes the geometry of the bike and widens the tire’s contact patch, and suddenly (well, similar to his dislike of words like “flick” or “grab,” Nick would probably scold me for such an “abrupt” word choice as “suddenly”) you can add more brakes or lean angle to make a tight corner. It’s more than “man and machine”; it’s an amazing symbiosis. We are riding the motorcycles, and they are listening to what our bodies are saying.  

It’s also worth noting I was a little surprised about the caliber of the instructors, not only in their accomplishments but also – and maybe more importantly – their behavior. Nick may have started the class by saying that they would be hard on us, but what I found from all the instructors was positive correction and consistent support and encouragement. And Cody was about the nicest guy you could imagine. Someone could say, “Well, sure, because you were paying them,” but a few weeks after ChampSchool at the AIMExpo show, with hundreds of attendees, I was wandering around trying to take it all in when I heard, “Hey Paul!” It was Cody. I hadn’t even noticed him, and he could’ve just let me pass, but instead he stopped me and took a minute to talk. He didn’t have to do that, but the fact that he did spoke volumes to me.

Related: 2023 AIMExpo Highlights

Yamaha Champions Riding School ChampSchool
Cody Wyman offered consistent support and encouragement, even to this old cruiser guy.

ChampSchool Final Takeaways 

I attended ChampSchool for two reasons: to become a better at my job with Rider, especially when I need to attend a bike launch at a track, and to become a better rider. I’m sure you want to feel like I’m a competent associate editor, but you’re probably reading this to know whether you will become a better rider if you attend ChampSchool. For me, it was mission(s) accomplished. 

Yamaha Champions Riding School ChampSchool
Students are instructed on an upcoming drill called “Pointy End of the Cone,” which helps riders learn how to deal with obstacles in corners. This was my favorite drill.

Between Las Vegas and my hometown in southern Utah, there’s a great 12-mile stretch of interstate (yes, interstate) through the Virgin River Gorge, with tall canyon walls and lots of curves. Riding home after ChampSchool, I trusted my bike and I trusted myself. I centered myself and repeated my mantra as I rode toward the slice in the mountains where the interstate cut into the towering walls, and I opened it up a little more through the gorge, as traffic was relatively thin that day.

Still cautious but more confident, I pushed myself. The catchphrases that were repeated in both the online curriculum and at the class echoed in my head – load the tire before you work the tire, brake until you’re happy with speed and direction, and a host of others – and a stretch of road that had been a little more intimidating than enjoyable just a few days earlier was now more fun and exciting. 

So thank you to Nick, Cody, and everyone else involved with ChampSchool for taking this cruiser guy and making me a better rider…and making the ride more enjoyable.  

Yamaha Champions Riding School ChampSchool
With the sun setting on day 2, ChampSchool Chief Instructor and CEO Nick Ienatsch was kind enough to stand for a picture.

For more information, including upcoming ChampSchool classes, as well as other course offerings, such as the one-day ChampStreet program, which is geared more toward street riding, visit the Yamaha Champions Riding School website


Yamaha Champions Riding School ChampSchool

While the Champ U online Core Curriculum is available for free as part of ChampSchool, for those who are unable to attend one of the ChampSchool events, purchasing the Core Curriculum independently is an excellent alternative, especially considering it’s on sale for only $49.95 as of publication.  

For that cost, you get 12 modules comprising a total of 43 video lessons (most ranging from 3-7 minutes long) and corresponding quizzes. The 12 subjects run the gamut – from front and rear braking, downshifting, and body position to mental approach, the 100 points of grip, and a concept they call “radius=mph” – and there are more than 30 drills to reinforce these lessons.  

Yamaha Champions Riding School ChampSchool

If it seems like there is some overlap, you’re right, and as a former teacher, I can tell you that learning comes from repetition, a tactic Champ U employs very effectively when topics intersect one another. In fact, a decent amount of the information was familiar to me already, but much like I still regularly ride the test course at my local DMV, I also think it’s valuable to hear the same information from a different perspective. And along those lines, the Champ U content creators know how to turn a phrase. Nearly two months after the class, many of the pithy catchphrases from the Core Curriculum still roll around my head as I roll around on my bike.  

They also effectively use humor, which keeps the content from feeling like you’re back to studying up for your motorcycle endorsement. Video production value is good, and most of the instructors look very comfortable on the other side of the camera.    

Yamaha Champions Riding School ChampSchool

The information is largely geared toward track riding and sport bikes, but they drew several parallels to street riding. Even where they didn’t, as primarily a street rider, I made several connections between the lessons and my own experiences. And once you buy it, it’s yours to revisit as often as you’d like. 

And if you know someone who is considering taking up riding or if you are new or recently returning to riding, Champ U is now offering a “New Rider” class with 35 lessons, 28 quizzes, and drills designed to prepare students for life as a motorcyclist at an introductory price of $19.95. 

More information at the Champions University Champ U courses webpage.

The post A Cruiser Guy Goes to Yamaha ChampSchool first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Guillermo Cornejo | Ep. 55 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

Ep55 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast Guillermo Cornejo Riders Share

Our guest on Episode 55 of the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast is Guillermo Cornejo, co-founder and CEO of Riders Share, a peer-to-peer motorcycle rental network. Riders Share was founded in 2018, and there are now more than 4,000 different motorcycles available to rent in the U.S. in every street-legal category. Riders Share has grown by more than 75% annually over the past two years and is ranked #1 on Google for “motorcycle rental” searches. We talk to Cornejo about how he started Riders Share, the most popular motorcycles to rent on the network, and the additional income motorcycle owners earn when they rent out their motorcycles – some have even started their own motorcycle rental businesses.

LINKS: Riders-Share.com

You can listen to Episode 55 on iTunesSpotify, and Podbean, or via the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast webpage. Please subscribe, leave us a 5-star rating, and tell your friends! Scroll down for a list of previous episodes.

Visit the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast webpage to check out previous episodes:

The post Guillermo Cornejo | Ep. 55 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Kevin Duke | Ep. 54 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

Ep 54 Rider Kevin Duke American Rider magazine

Our guest on Episode 54 of the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast is Kevin Duke, Editor-in-Chief at American Rider, a V-Twin magazine published by the same company that owns Rider magazine. Duke and host Greg Drevenstedt are longtime friends, and they’ve attended many motorcycle press launches and events together. They talk about their shared history – including bungee jumping off the 700-foot Bloukrans Bridge in South Africa – as well as the unique stories, features, and event coverage in American Rider. If you love American-made motorcycles and the community that surrounds them, then you should check it out at AmericanRider.com.

LINKS: AmericanRider.com

You can listen to Episode 54 on iTunesSpotify, and Podbean, or via the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast webpage. Please subscribe, leave us a 5-star rating, and tell your friends! Scroll down for a list of previous episodes.

Visit the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast webpage to check out previous episodes:

The post Kevin Duke | Ep. 54 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Babes in the Dirt at MotoVentures

Babes in the Dirt Motoventures
A dozen women who wanted to improve their off-road riding skills attended the Babes in the Dirt training camp at MotoVentures in Anza, California.

A dozen women from all over the U.S. geared up and threw a leg over their dirtbikes for the Babes in the Dirt weekend in Anza, California, last October. 

“Today, we’re at MotoVentures doing some hands-on training with some gals that want to become better motorcyclists,” said Ashmore Ellis, co-founder of Babes Ride Out and Babes in the Dirt. Ellis added that the goal is for riders to end each day feeling “really comfortable on the bike, knowing how it handles, and everything in between.” 

Related: Coverage of Babes Ride Out 7 in 2019

The first day began bright and early under a gray sky, and as women arrived or emerged from their campsites at the MotoVentures facility, there was a buzz of excitement, nerves, and camaraderie. Ladies from all walks of life introduced themselves and shared where they were from, including places like Temecula, California’s High Desert areas, Las Vegas, and Oregon. The group collectively gasped “Wow!” when one rider said she traveled from Alaska.

Babes in the Dirt Motoventures
Camaraderie was a big part of Babes in the Dirt. The diverse group of women had fun and supported each other while also learning new skills. Some participants brought their own motorcycle, while others rented Yamahas from MotoVentures.

Geared up and ready to go, Andre LaPlante, owner of MotoVentures and a USMCA-certified instructor, called everyone together for the riders meeting. LaPlante detailed the weekend’s activities, telling the group they’d become proficient in sit-down turns, braking exercises, and stand-up riding. Other exercises included hill riding and turning, slalom exercises, a beam ride (to represent a rut or single track), and finally, the dreaded sand wash. 

Related: Andre LaPlante | Ep. 42 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

Groans were heard in the group. One woman said, “I’m terrible in sand,” and many heads nodded in agreement. LaPlante smiled and confidently said, “You won’t be by the end of Sunday.”

Babes in the Dirt Motoventures Andre LaPlante
Andre LaPlante, seen in the gray shirt and orange gloves, owns MotoVentures. He and his instructors are certified by the U.S. Motorcycle Coaching Association, and they brought tireless energy and enthusiasm to Babes in the Dirt.

After an hour explaining what was to come, with some storytelling in between, there was a mix of hesitation and excitement on the faces of the riders. Recognizing this, Ellis stood up and asked the group, “Is anyone nervous?” A bunch of hands shot straight up. “You have nothing to worry about,” she said, “so everyone stand up!”

A natural leader with a joyous presence, Ellis had everyone shake out their arms and jump around, wiggling the jitters out. Feeling better and with the adrenaline urging them forward, the ladies mounted their bikes and roared away in a single file line for the first group ride.

After the ride, LaPlante collected the riders together, had them shut off their engines, and explained the first lesson of the day. He was supported by two of MotoVentures’ instructors, Matt Kelly and Kylee Nordby, who are also USMCA certified. Keeping a sharp eye on all the students, the three worked seamlessly together while encouraging proper techniques and cheering everyone on.

Babes in the Dirt Motoventures Andre LaPlante
MotoVentures instructors (from left) Matt Kelly, Kylee Nordby, and Andre LaPlante.

When body positioning needed to be corrected, LaPlante provided honest feedback and adjusted the riders so that they could try the exercise again in the correct position. Seemingly tireless, LaPlante clicked through the drills with the riders until he was satisfied that everyone had completed the task correctly. He explained that riders become better and more confident once they master a solid foundation of technical skills and fundamentals like stand-up riding, counterbalancing, braking, and hill-riding techniques – “the fun stuff,” he exclaimed with a big smile. 

Read all of Rider‘s Tips & Tricks articles here.

As the good times continued, it was easy to see why Babes in the Dirt and MotoVentures are a natural fit. These two organizations came together out of a shared need to get out of the house. As Ellis explained: “We canceled all our events for 2020 due to the pandemic but found that [MotoVentures] was a safe place where riders could come to receive training and social distance in those dark days.”

At the time, Ashmore reached out to lifelong rider and trials champion Gary LaPlante. A longtime veteran of the motorcycle industry, Gary founded MotoVentures more than 20 years ago with a “dirt first” philosophy. As summarized on the company’s website, “dirt bike riding is the best way to first learn how to ride a motorcycle, and it’s also great for improving the motorcycle riding skills of any rider.”

Sadly, Gary passed away last August after a long battle with brain cancer. His son, Andre, continues to run MotoVentures, which is based at a private 350-acre riding facility in Anza, a remote area of Southern California between Escondido and Palm Springs. There’s an expansive flat area for riders to feel comfortable and confident when practicing their exercises, as well as a variety of terrain to hone more advanced techniques.

Babes in the Dirt Motoventures Andre LaPlante
Andre LaPlante, seen in the gray shirt and orange gloves, owns MotoVentures. He and his instructors are certified by the U.S. Motorcycle Coaching Association, and they brought tireless energy and enthusiasm to Babes in the Dirt.

Ellis said Babes in the Dirt was created as an alternative to their larger Babes Ride Out events, providing a “more intimate setting where we can get to know some gals.”

“Even today with 12 riders, it offers real face-to-face time, getting to know them and their stories,” she said. “They want to become better, more confident, and more skilled so that they have more fun on the trails.” 

Babes in the Dirt Motoventures
Good times on one of the trail rides around MotoVentures’ 350-acre facility.

Krissy Fritz came to do exactly that, traveling nearly 4,000 miles from Girdwood, Alaska, to Anza so she could improve her overall riding.

“We don’t have any training schools for girls anywhere in Alaska,” said Fritz, who has a lofty goal. Next July, she and several friends and family members will participate in Romaniacs, the hard enduro event in Romania sponsored by Red Bull. She wanted more practice time riding terrain different than what she’s used to at home.

Babes in the Dirt Motoventures
Krissy Fritz traveled from Alaska to attend Babes in the Dirt, which helped her prepare for the Red Bull Romaniacs hard enduro this summer.

Personal goals can range from big dreams to small aspirations. Babes in the Dirt and MotoVentures help riders achieve those missions by cultivating an air of inclusion for everyone. As Ellis noted, “Out here this weekend, we have riders that range from anywhere in their 20s to 60 years old, which is like the range of all our events.”

The weekend began with some unknowns for the participants, but you could quickly see riders overcoming fear and growing in confidence and ability. Babes in the Dirt stays true to its mission of “enhancing each rider’s skill set while connecting other off-road enthusiasts who share the same passion.” Parallel to that, it’s clear that LaPlante takes a lot of pride in both his coaching and continuing his dad’s legacy. We think Gary would be proud.

For more information, visit Babes In The Dirt or MotoVentures.

Babes in the Dirt Motoventures

The post Babes in the Dirt at MotoVentures first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Americade Celebrates 40 Years

As they have done many times over the years, rallygoers and volunteers created an Americade “living logo” in a parking lot overlooking Million Dollar Beach in Lake George, New York. This one is from the 8th anniversary of Americade. (Photos courtesy Americade)

During the week of May 31-June 4, Americade will celebrate its 40th anniversary. What has long been the world’s largest touring rally started from humble beginnings when founder Bill Dutcher reached a crossroads in his life and asked, “What next?”

A lifelong motorcyclist who began roadracing in the mid-1960s, Bill is a man of irrepressible energy. I’ll never forget meeting him at my first Americade in 2012. I was the featured speaker on a Tuesday night, and the title of my talk was “Lessons Learned from Crashes, Countries, and Cover Stories.” Bill introduced me to the audience, but before I took the stage, he shared a story about the time he wore roadracing leathers under his gown during his Harvard University graduation ceremony. He was scheduled to compete in a race later that day, so after he and his fellow graduates tossed their caps in celebration, Bill sped off to the track. He then regaled the audience about arriving late to the starting grid, riding over his head to catch up, and ultimately crashing out of the race. He was a tough act to follow.

40 Years of Americade
Bill Dutcher at Americade ’87 with the winner of the “longest distance ridden to Americade” award – he rode from Vancouver Island, Canada, to Lake George, New York, to attend the rally.

Related: Americade 2021 Rally Report

Bill spent his career in the motorcycle industry, holding marketing positions at Bultaco and Can-Am before becoming the head of public relations at AMF/Harley-Davidson, a position he held until 1981. Ready for a change, Bill and his wife, Gini, decided to start a touring rally near their home in Lake George, New York. Understanding the importance of brand recognition, Bill reached out to Til Thompson, organizer of the Aspencade rally, which had been held since 1971 in Ruidoso, New Mexico, to license the name for an eastern event. That was the easy part.

40 Years of Americade
Americade has always been popular among Honda Gold Wing riders. Here a member of the Red Knights tows a firetruck trailer with working lights and a hose spraying water. The Red Knights have long been a part of Americade.

“In the fall of 1981, I approached Bob Blais, the mayor of Lake George Village,” Bill recalled. “When I pitched him my concept of an ‘Aspencade East,’ he took a deep breath when I said ‘motorcycle rally.’ About a decade earlier, when he was chief of police, he’d dealt with some bloodied bikers who had gotten too rowdy at one of the local bars.” Bill ultimately won the mayor over, and with his backing, the village board approved the proposal.

40 Years of Americade
A BMW picnic in the late 1980s atop Prospect Mountain, which overlooks Lake George. BMW introduced their industry-first motorcycle ABS at the event.

The first Aspencade East was held in 1983, and the Dutchers expected perhaps 1,000 people – about as many attendees as the rally in New Mexico. “When more than 2,000 people showed up, I was astounded,” Bill said. “We ran out of T-shirts, caps, and everything else.”

Gini added that when the first attendees arrived at the registration room to pick up their tickets, there was a “certain energy about the rally.”

40 Years of Americade
Bill and Gini Dutcher, the founders of Americade – 40 years old then, 80+ now, and still participating in Americade and still riding.

“People were excited by what was about to happen. We knew that they were just as excited about this new Aspencade East as we were.”

Attendance doubled in 1984, doubled again in 1985, and topped 10,000 in 1986. That same year, the Dutchers changed the event’s name to Americade. It had grown well beyond its association with the original Aspencade rally. And the Dutchers didn’t want their event to be too closely associated with one particular motorcycle brand or model since Honda had introduced a luxury-touring version of the Gold Wing called the Aspencade in 1982.

Parking motorcycles on Beach Road along the shore of Lake George has long been an Americade tradition.

Even though attendance at Americade has exceeded 50,000 many times over the years, it has always been a family affair. “Bill’s original vision of making a family-friendly motorcycling event still powers what we do,” said Christian Dutcher, Bill and Gini’s son, who took over management of Americade several years ago. “We have many riders who attend other rallies, and they tell me that they love Americade because it continues to be ‘sane.’

40 Years of Americade
The tall guy in the middle is Christian Dutcher, son of founders Bill and Gini, and now the owner/director of the rally.

“Despite having been part of Americade my entire life,” Christian continued, “I am still caught off-guard by the letters we receive. We get letters from people who want to get married here, who bring their children because they met their spouse here years earlier, and even some who spread the ashes of their lifelong riding partner at the rally. It’s very touching and reminds us that what Americade is to many people is larger than the sum of its parts.”

40 Years of Americade
Americade 1990. Rather than the rally’s normal “living logo,” a yellow ribbon was created to honor the U.S. and Canadian troops serving during Desert Storm.

Through his PR position at Harley-Davidson, Bill knew Rider’s founder, Denis Rouse, and many of the magazine’s staff editors and contributors. “Rider has been part of every Aspencade/Americade,” Bill recalled. “I can’t think of any other company who has attended every event except Rider.”

One of two wooden signs hand-carved many years ago by Rider’s former National Sales Director, Joe Salluzzo.

Over the years, Rider has sponsored Americade’s Opening Celebration, mini-tours, dinner cruises, and other activities. Our editors and contributors have given seminars and talks, led tours, and met thousands of readers and fellow riders. We’ve judged bike shows and photo contests, helped select the Americade Queen, and published dozens of rally reports in the magazine and on our website.

And we’ll be there again this May, joining the Dutchers, the rally’s many dedicated volunteers, and tens of thousands of attendees to celebrate Americade’s big 4-0. We’ll have more details about the festivities in the coming weeks. For registration and other info, visit the Americade website.

See you in Lake George!

This was the First Gear column written by Editor-in-Chief Greg Drevenstedt for the March 2023 issue of Rider.

The post Americade Celebrates 40 Years first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Killboy | Ep. 53 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

Ep53 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast Killboy

Our guest on Episode 53 of the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast is Darryl Cannon, a photographer better known as Killboy. If you’ve ridden the Tail of the Dragon in Tennessee, then you’ve seen Killboy banners along the road where he and his team of photographers capture motorcycles in action. Killboy went from being a factory worker who enjoyed riding his motorcycle on the weekends to teaching himself photography and building a thriving business. Our host, Rider’s Editor-in-Chief Greg Drevenstedt, tells the embarrassing story about his first encounter with Killboy during his first press launch back in 2008.

LINKS: Killboy.com

You can listen to Episode 53 on iTunesSpotify, and Podbean, or via the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast webpage. Please subscribe, leave us a 5-star rating, and tell your friends! Scroll down for a list of previous episodes.

Visit the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast webpage to check out previous episodes:

The post Killboy | Ep. 53 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Backcountry Discovery Routes: Two Buddies on Yamaha Ténéré 700s in Utah and Arizona

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Yamaha Ténéré 700 Colorado River
Taking a rehydration break along the Colorado River while our Yamaha Ténéré 700s waited patiently.

During the long, dark winter in Minnesota, when the ground is covered in snow and ice and our motorcycles are mothballed for months, dreaming about riding in a warm, dry place gives us hope. That’s when my friend Craig and I started planning an adventure ride out West. We sketched out a route that included a mix of backroads, parts of the Arizona and Utah Backcountry Discovery Routes, other off-road tracks, and interesting sights along the way.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

In May, we flew into Phoenix and headed to EagleRider in nearby Mesa, where we were greeted by a friendly guy named Bob. After a quick paperwork checkout procedure, we packed our gear on two rented Yamaha Ténéré 700s and headed north on Interstate 17.

With temperatures in the triple digits, the frigid days of winter seemed like a distant memory, so we busted north to gain some elevation.

Related: 2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 | Long-Term Ride Review

Even in full riding gear, we started to cool off as we rode farther north. Our bikes were unfamiliar to us, and they were stuffed to the gunwales with camping gear and other essentials. We soon grew accustomed to their added weight as we passed over the “Carefree Highway,” a 30-mile stretch of road made famous by Canadian singer Gordon Lightfoot that runs between I-17 and U.S. Route 60.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Yamaha Ténéré 700

I have a lot of street miles under my belt, but this was my first adventure bike trip, so I wasn’t entirely prepared for the primitive roads where the gravel feels like marbles under your wheels. However, it didn’t take long for the combination of my ancient dirtbike experience and a few unplanned rear-wheel kickouts to provide a quick education on keeping the Ténéré upright. Enthusiasm tempered with caution was the order of the day.

We took County Road 59/Bumble Bee Road off I-17 to check out the Cleator Bar and Yacht Club. The name of this welcoming 4×4 oasis run by Tina Barnhart is a bit tongue-in-cheek, as it is located hundreds of miles from open water. Barnhart is also in the vehicle delivery business to such faraway places as Africa and is active in the Global Rescue Project based in Scottsdale, Arizona, which works to end child slavery and reunite children with their families.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Cleator Bar and Yacht Club
Boats in the Yacht Club’s “marina.”

The Cleator Bar is a must-stop location, complete with boats in the “marina” out back and a stage for live music. Interestingly, the entire town of Cleator, comprising 40 acres, a bar, a general store, a few other structures, and mineral rights, was put on the market by descendants of James P. Cleator in 2020 for $1.25 million, and it was sold at the bargain price of $956,000.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Cleator Bar and Yacht Club
Hanging out with Tina Barnhart while we cooled off at the Cleator Bar and Yacht Club.

Related: Backcountry Discovery Routes: First BDR-X Route and YouTube BDR Film Library

Our next stop was Crown King, located another 13 miles along CR 59 at an elevation of 5,771 feet. A high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended on the deteriorated roads. The Ténérés managed well, and we soon found ourselves taking a load off in the Crown King Saloon & Eatery, one of the oldest continuously operated saloons in the state. We enjoyed a cold drink and a hearty lunch, and the $5 bottle of scotch we bought there (on sale courtesy of Mother’s Day) served us well during the rest of the trip.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Bradshaw Mountains
We were surprised to see so much green in the Bradshaw Mountains.

Like a lot of small towns in the Bradshaw Mountains of Arizona, Crown King used to be a thriving mining community. In 1904, a railroad was built to help mining operations, but due to a lack of water and high transportation costs to process the ore, it was abandoned in 1926. The old railroad bed is still used today as the main access road to Crown King. 

While there, we met Chuck Hall, who is a great ambassador for the area – and a talented guitar picker to boot. He told us he’d lived there for over 30 years and recommended we check out the Senator Highway, on which he’d lost many an exhaust pipe from his old Dodge Neon. A former stagecoach route, the rutted road snakes 37 miles from Crown King to Prescott with many blind switchbacks, eroded surfaces, several water crossings, and spectacular scenery.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Yamaha Ténéré 700
Craig takes a breather on part of the Utah Backcountry Discovery Route.

Hall recommended we visit Palace Station, a stage stop built in 1878 midway between Crown King and Prescott. Back in the day, the station had a bar and was a social meeting center for the miners who worked in the area.

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.

We targeted the town of Jerome for the night. This old copper mining town earned its nickname, “Wickedest Town in the West,” during its heyday in the early 20th century. After the mining bust, the town descended into desperation, greed, and crime. It was revived in the 1960s as a tourist destination, and many of its historic buildings are now filled with restaurants, shops, and hotels. Jerome is said to be a hotbed of paranormal activity, and we stayed at the Connor Hotel, which is reportedly haunted by the “Lady in Red.” We didn’t see any ghosts, so maybe she had the night off. 

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Yamaha Ténéré 700 Jerome Arizona
Downtown Jerome, the “Wickedest Town in the West.”

Related: Backcountry Discovery Routes: Ep. 33 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

With a long day of off-roading ahead, we left Jerome and headed north toward the Grand Canyon on a series of unpaved national forest roads. We wound our way around the contours of Woodchute Mountain, crossed the Verde River, and ascended to the Colorado Plateau at more than 6,000 feet. We could see the volcanic San Francisco Peaks rising above the plateau to the east.

We crossed Interstate 40 near Williams, and after a few miles on State Route 64, we turned onto a national forest road to take an unpaved “back door” route into Grand Canyon National Park. We hooked up with Route 64 again where it’s known as East Rim Drive and enjoyed scenic views from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona South Rim Grand Canyon
Craig (on left) and me at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon – a million miles away from our home in Minnesota.

After leaving the park, we connected with U.S. Route 89 and refueled at Cameron, where the highway crosses the Little Colorado River. At Bitter Springs, U.S. 89 splits to the east toward Page, but we continued north on U.S. Route 89A, crossing the Colorado River at Marble Canyon via the Navajo Bridge and following 89A west into an area known as the Arizona Strip. We rode with the majestic Vermilion Cliffs to our right, crossed House Rock Valley, and then climbed out of the desert and into the evergreens of the Kaibab Plateau.  

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Navajo Bridge
The Navajo Bridge crosses the Colorado River at Marble Canyon, and in the background is Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.

We stopped at Jacob Lake, a small crossroads that sits at 7,925 feet, and it was noticeably cooler at the higher elevation. Known as the gateway to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Jacob Lake has a gas station and a hotel with a restaurant and gift shop. The town was named after Jacob Hamblin, an early Mormon pioneer who was shown the location in the mid-1800s by the Kaibab band of Southern Paiutes. And according to the hotel staff, the lake is more of a pond.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Jacob Lake
Jacob Lake, Arizona, is near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

We continued west through Fredonia and crossed into Utah near Kanab, known locally as “Little Hollywood” because of its rich history in filmmaking – most notably Westerns, with more than 100 movies and television shows being filmed there.

Thus far we had stayed at motels, so we weren’t exactly roughing it. We decided we needed to get some use out of the camping gear we’d been lugging around. After riding through Zion National Park, where we were blown away by the majesty of the cliff faces and rock formations, we traversed the Dixie National Forest through Duck Creek Village to Hatch, where we found suitable dispersed camping.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Zion National Park
Utah State Route 9 winds through incomparable scenery in Zion National Park.

It had been about 20 years since my last camping experience. I narrowly avoided putting an eye out with the tent poles, and after the camp was set and the fire built, it felt good to relax with that $5 bottle of scotch. It was a clear night, and the 7,000-foot elevation yielded cool temperatures. With the fire all but gone, it was time to turn in for the night. I live in Minnesota and am no stranger to the cold, but I clocked 19 degrees overnight in that campsite and don’t think I have ever been so happy to see the sun start to rise. Note to self: Next time bring a sleeping bag rated below 30 degrees.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona
Around the campfire, we sampled the $5 bottle of scotch we bought at the Crown King Saloon. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the coldest night I ever spent camping was during May in Utah.

Once packed up, we put Hatch in the rear view and were soon heading east on Utah’s stunning State Route 12, known as one of the most scenic highways in the nation. We visited Bryce Canyon National Park and its many rock spires and hoodoos and rode through the vastness of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

At Boulder, we left the pavement and took the Burr Trail, a well-known backcountry route that passes through Capitol Reef National Park on its way to the Bullfrog Basin in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The trail was named for John Burr, a cattle rancher who developed the route to move his cattle between winter and summer ranges. The country was nearly impassable then and continues to be challenging to this day, with RVs and trailers “not recommended.” Southern Utah is one amazing vista after another, and this stretch featured outstanding scenery as well as many switchbacks on loose gravel that kept us on our toes.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Burr Trail
Switchbacks and elevation changes as far as the eye can see on the Burr Trail in Utah.

Throughout the trip, we’d been battered by winds that were contributing to fire restrictions in Arizona and Utah. At this point, the wind was howling, with 50-mph gusts giving us a good sand blasting. After a quick stop in Bullfrog, we headed north on State Route 276 and then south on State Route 95 to Hite Crossing over the Colorado River.

We had violated our “never pass gas” top-off policy in Bullfrog, expecting to find a place to refuel in Fry Canyon. Given the time of year and possibly other reasons unknown, the gas pumps were closed in Fry, so we pushed on through some gorgeous country that might’ve been easier to appreciate if we weren’t worried about our dwindling fuel.

At one point, we pulled over to assess the situation. Craig had been smart enough to fill his reserve bottle, which he poured into his tank. My bike was still showing a couple bars of fuel left. I tip my cap to the Yamaha Ténéré 700. Even though my fuel gauge was blinking “empty” and both of us were expecting the pullover of shame, we made it all the way to Blanding. The Arch Canyon Inn was a welcome stop, but being informed that it’s a dry town put the “bland” in Blanding.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Yamaha Ténéré 700
Travelers in a strange land. Parts of Utah felt like being on another planet.

Leaving Blanding and getting on the Utah BDR was like visiting another planet. The Butler and Comb washes, the Moki Dugway, and Valley of the Gods were some of our favorite parts of this trip. With all the distinct rock formations, it was a challenge to stay focused on the trail and not get distracted by the scenery. In most cases, one blown turn can mean disaster, but the rewards are more than worth the risks. Again, caution saved the day.

The southern terminus of the Utah BDR is in the town of Mexican Hat, which I assumed was named after a mountain resembling a sombrero. Turns out, it is a distinctive disc-shaped rock about 60 feet in diameter that’s perched atop a smaller base at the top of a mesa. I’ll always remember it as the site of my first involuntary dismount from the Yamaha during a charge up a softer-than-expected mound of sand.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Yamaha Ténéré 700 Mexican Hat
At the southern terminus of the Utah BDR in Mexican Hat. Behind me is the town’s namesake rock and below me is softer-than-expected sand.

Related: (Mis)Adventures on the Utah Backcountry Discovery Route (BDR)

The area around Mexican Hat borders the northern section of the Navajo Nation into Monument Valley. This area is considered the sacred heart of Navajo country, and you can’t help but marvel at how iconic the straight-line stretch of road is as it leads into the horizon, framed with towering sandstone rock formations. Hiking in the park is highly restricted, with only one path that can be hiked without a guide. Monument Valley Trail Park had been previously closed after a movie crew was caught filming without a permit. It is now reopened at a reduced occupancy limit, but no motorcycles are permitted on the 17-mile loop due to deep sand dunes in the area.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Yamaha Ténéré 700
Dispersed camping near Hatch, Utah.

Back in Arizona, we cruised paved highways to Flagstaff and then down into Sedona. Determined to camp at a lower (read: warmer) elevation, we found the Lo Lo Mai Springs Outdoor Resort. Lo lo mai is a Hopi Indian word that represents a greeting with many meanings, similar to the Hawaiian aloha. It also means “beautiful,” which the owners of Lo Lo Mai Springs say is where the resort’s name originated. The area borders spring-fed Oak Creek, which is a valuable and rare natural water source in this part of Arizona. The campground had some welcome amenities and was a lot warmer than the prior camping stop.

Backcountry Discovery Routes BDR Utah Arizona Yamaha Ténéré 700 Monument Valley
Monument Valley.

We spent our last day exploring some of the Arizona BDR tracks in the Coconino National Forest near Sedona and Flagstaff. With time running out, we finally hopped on State Route 87 and burned the final miles to Scottsdale, where the town was alive with nightlife.

Returning the bikes was bittersweet. Bob welcomed us back, relieved that the Ténérés had only a layer of dust and a bit less rubber on their tires after 1,591 on- and off-road miles. As we grabbed an Uber to the airport, I could not help but realize the vast additional riding world that adventure motorcycling opens up. Soon after getting home, I put one of my streetbikes up for sale, and an adventure bike could be in my future.

The post Backcountry Discovery Routes: Two Buddies on Yamaha Ténéré 700s in Utah and Arizona first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com