Category Archives: News

Life is Funny. Sometimes it’s Not

This weekend, I decided to make a comeback to AFM and take pics. Something I hadn’t done in almost exactly a year. Mostly because I’ve been away at other events, but partly because I know AFM is in good hands with Max and Koi out there doing their thing. This weekend, I just happened to be free, it was along the way to my next event, and because, frankly, I could use a bit of extra cash.

I got to see a lot of faces I hadn’t seen in some time. It’s always great catching up. I also met many new faces…racers whom I’d never seen in events past…everyone’s numbers were different. Half the time, I didn’t recognize who was who out there…on one hand, it was good. I shot all my photos fresh and new, as if i didn’t really know anyone out there. There was no favoritism. I didn’t particularly lean heavily on anyone (except the few that preordered photos and I’d commited their race numbers to memory). I simply did what I know how to do best: made memories of everyone to have and share.

Bear with me, if you’d like; I have no particular path with this post, only a final destination. I’ve got many, many thoughts, and they’re in zero particular order.

I’ve been taking photos of motorcycles, riders, and racers for about a dozen years now. I’m not sure there’s anything left that I haven’t seen. Both good and bad.

On Saturday while on track, I was thinking back to one instance in particular some years ago where Michael Earnest had crashed in the opening laps of Formula Pacific while cresting t3a at Sonoma. I caught it all on camera. He’d hurt himself, but managed to get the bike up and going again and restarted the race. Honestly, I don’t even remember where he’d finished after the restart, but I do remember it like a hero-story. I chased Formula Pacific around the track that race as fast as I could, capturing this “saga” of Michael Earnest. I was at start/finish when the race ended. As Michael crossed the line, he pulled off to the tire wall on the left, put his head down, and whimpered, leaning on the tire wall, unable to dismount his bike, unable to even finish the cool down lap. He was in a lot of pain.

I captured all of this. It’s something I’ll never forget. I was proud of man-kind at that exact moment. I don’t fully even know how to describe it, honestly. Michael was able to do something that not a lot of people can. It may not have been smart, but the pure guts and determination of it all…it was memorable. It was honest. It was pure.

On the flip side, I’ve seen many riders crash to greater and lesser degrees. Not all of them get up. At least, not right away. One of the first things I do when someone crashes in front of me is take pause and listen. Why? Because the next sound they make tells me how hurt they really are. When I hear a string of curse words first thing, I know they’re good. When I hear the moan of pain, I know they’re hurt, but it’s likely not all that bad. When I hear the wet gurgles, then I know it’s not good at all. When I don’t hear anything…well, I just keep listening because eventually they’re gonna wake up and I’ll hear something.

Twice now while shooting photos, I’ve heard the nothing. I kept listening, but they never woke up.

Allen Rice was a track rider on a Triumph 675. He hit the wall at about 50 miles per hour. Right in front of me. I didn’t know Allen. I’d never met him in my life. I don’t ever recall seeing him at the track prior to that afternoon. But I remember his name. I remember the way his face looked as he lay there on the asphalt while medics did CPR. I remember the sound his body made as they did chest compressions. I took one last click with the camera and walked away dazed. I didn’t ride that day as I’d intended. I briefly wondered if I even wanted to ride motorcycles anymore. It was a haunting memory for a long time.

Joseph Pusateri was a racer on a Kawasaki 636. Another human I’d never met before. It was my first time shooting a WERA race. I clicked away at 6 frames per second as he lowsided, seemingly gently, in a pretty slow corner. I remember thinking to myself that that should be a guaranteed sale. Everyone loves to get their crashes on camera. Except…he didn’t get up either. Instead, he lay slumped in an awkward position next to his bike. The medics came. Then the coroner.

I can’t even remember anything else about that weekend. I don’t know if the races continued. I don’t know if they were cancelled. I don’t know if I even took more pictures after that. The only thing I can remember was thinking about Joe’s wife running out onto the track, fighting with the corner workers and medical personel trying to get to Joe. I cried then. I’m fighting back tear now.

Inherently, motorcycles are dangerous. I’ve joked about how dumb we are as motorcyclists in the past. Really, we are. We’re not smart beings. To take the risks we do, day in, day out. On the track at speeds “normal” people would consider ludacris. On the street dodging cars and thousands of other hazards every day. In the woods, avoiding cliffs and trees. On the motorcross track jumping 100 foot triples. It’s risky. And to put yourself at continual risk like that…it’s not smart.

But it’s what we do. It’s what we need to carry on. It’s in us like the blood that runs through our veins. Smart or not, it’s what we motorcyclists need. I can’t refute that. If i said I could quit riding, that would be a lie. I’d never be happy again not riding.

I’ve seen SO many people injured doing what we do. Bad. Life alteringly bad. Dave Stanton, Mario Bonfonte, Eric Arnold to name a few. Eric ended up taking his own life rather then carry on. I’ve wondered to myself many times how I could cope. IF I could cope. I really don’t know those answers. I only know the questions.

In all this, I’ve learned to hit the “off switch.” At least, I try. I guess it’s never truly off, but I’ve been able to close off most of the dam, so that it’s only a trickle that gets through anymore. I’ve even been accused in my personal life of being “robotic” at times. It’s true. I can be that way when faced with emotional things. I try and set aside emotion and instead rely on logic to get me through hardships.

Sunday was no different. Jason Blancas, racer #780 passed away at Thunderhill during a race. From what I’ve been told, he made contact with another rider in turn 8 and was highsided from his Yamaha R3.

I wasn’t in turn 8 when it happened. A few of my friends were. Glenn was there. As he told me about it, the lost look in his eyes was soul crushing. I didn’t say much. I only hugged him and fought back tears myself. Taylor came in to the building in tears. She was on com in t8, relaying information as best as she could, holding her composure like a true professional until it was time to come in. It was only her second time corner working at AFM. She just had her 18th birthday. Another corner worker came in, whom I don’t know her name. She was also sobbing.

I kept smashing the “off switch” over and over until until it finally stayed in the off position…and I went about my day, hoping no one would ask me about it.

So many lives change in literally a fraction of a second. Jason is gone. I didn’t know Jason, but many people did. I’m sorry for the loss you feel with his passing. I’m sorry for everyone who was there, trying to save him, if he could even be saved. I know that every single person at AFM feels it. I know the corner workers and the medical staff and race direction did the best they could in any role they could fill. I thank you guys and gals for everything you do. You are all amazing. Your efforts at keeping everyone as safe as possible in this crazy sport we choose to do will never go unnoticed or unappreciated. Thank you.

Rest in peace, #780.

jason blancas 780

GoPro Karma Drone Crash in Follow Me Mode

While flying my Karma today using follow me mode in mimic, my Karma had a mid air malfunction, causing it to crash. Nearly everything was destroyed. It had never been crashed prior and had been problem free.

I was riding my motorcycle at approximately 25-27 miles per hour with a passenger who was observing the video (making sure it wasn’t going to fly into the mountain, etc), holding the controller in her hand but not giving any input to the controller (unless necessary, however none were necessary as it had a clear flight path).

The Karma was oriented on my left, slightly ahead of me, as we went into a corner. As we passed underneath the Karma, it suddenly flipped itself upside down from roughly 60ft in height, completely unobstructed, and flew itself into the ground mostly upside down the entire time. I happened to be looking at the screen at the very moment it errored and saw “Camera Disconnected” suddenly flash across the screen while watching it’s last moments in the air before impact. After the crash, I stopped a few feet later and looked back at the screen. It was prompting me to locate the Karma now or later. I selected “now” and found it 64ft (according to the controller) to the right of the road (north), upside down. I took a picture of it in it’s resting place before I picked it up.

Photo link (with full EXIF data): https://photos.smugmug.com/Other/Blog-stuff/n-f3hQL/i-VR6fzv2/0/f2f26ae0/5K/i-VR6fzv2-5K.jpg

crashed gopro karma drone
Continue reading GoPro Karma Drone Crash in Follow Me Mode

This Week in RV Life (Jan)

This last week has been a weird one, but ultimately a pretty fun one. We’d been staying in the greater Phoenix area for the last 3 weeks as we had a YCRS school that we were working at on Jan 6th and 7th…rather than leave and spend a bunch of money on fuel, we opted to hang out locally.

I made my first big “boo boo” while emptying out our holding tanks…I wrote about it on Facebook:

Jan 4th, 11:22pm
I made such a rookie move tonight while dumping holding tanks in the RV…
I didn’t secure the poop-shoot-tube into the dookie-hole in the ground properly… I popped the valve and EXPLOSION! Hahaha!
I flew backwards like a bandit in a western after catching both barrels to the chest, then ninja-cartwheeled back towards the valve and snapped it shut with only about 3-4 gallons on the deck.
Somehow, some way, nothing splashed on me and I didn’t even step in it.
I cleaned it all up with a nearby hose, flushed my tanks, topped off my water, then slunk off, knowing 100% of that was captured on CCTV and I’m gonna get laughed at tomorrow. #lifeontheroad

There are zero pics or video for proof…except the video the RV place probably has since saved and posted to youtube by now. Haha!

So anyways, we’ve been “Wallydocking” about 50% of the time so far… It’s a term I’ve heard being used to describe staying overnight in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Haha! It seems as tho they have a mostly nationwide policy to allow RV’s to stay in their lots overnight. It’s actually pretty convenient!

While walking Bijou, the @TinyTinaTurnerDog the other night, I came across an entirely new sight that brings my faith in humanity to an all time high. ;)

catheter bag at walmart wal-mart wallydocking

I mean, why not, right? Bleh.

I ended up doing some more modifications inside the RV. I’d put in 1 watt LED wedge bulbs in the dining area and stuff..they were terrible. I had quite a few left over G4 LED bulbs, so I bought some G4 bases to swap out in the light fixtures…I spent about 30 mins wiring everything all up, and now I have perfect LED lighting inside the RV. Each bulb is only 2 watts…and BRIGHT. I’ve linked directly to the products I got above.

Here’s the video:

I also got this ammeter/voltage meter that I’m going to install today…in fact, right after I’m done writing this… :D

VANJING DC 0-120V 0-30A Color LCD Display

Back to YCRS; we had a great time! It’s only the second time I’ve been to Arizona Motorsports Park… I turned a bunch of laps on Saturday by myself and a bunch more on Sunday two-up with Brianna. It was her first time on that track. No pics of our riding this time, but I did get a fun slow-mo video of Kyle backing it in!

We left AMP on Sunday night and started heading north. We simply drove until we didn’t feel like driving anymore, hit a dirt road and….and… and…then it got super gnarly, the road was all overgrown, and there was no where good to stop…so I drove all the way back to the main highway and started heading north again. Ha! I drove for another 30 mins or so until I found another dirt road that looked inviting on the GPS…and BAM! Parked for the night, listened to the coyotes yipping for an hour or so in full force before falling asleep.

We woke up to this.

I’m loving this RV Life stuff. Freggin loving it.

We left again and drove up over by Hoover Dam before stopping for a little walk. Bijou gives zero fecks.

teacup poodle poop tinytinaturnerdog bijou

I’m currently writing this from Beatty, NV, where we’re at the Space Station RV Park. $25 for the night for full hookups, Wifi, Cable TV, power, etc. Oh, and no specific check out time. I love RV people so far. Everyone is so go-with-the-flow. I love it!

We’ll press on today with very little by the way of plans. Ultimately, Reno is the next official stop, followed by Vacaville. We’ll get there. When we get there. ;)

You’re Crazy for Putting a Shinko on your Bike

Shinko 009 Raven Radial Rear Motorcycle Tire 180/55-17 XF87-4047

EDIT TO ADD// I put 5231 miles on that Shinko tire before I mounted up another one. It’s THAT good. Now read on:

Ha! I bought this tire as an experiment…I’ve always ridden hypersport tires on the street and race tires on the track…and I’ve always steered WAAAY clear of Shinko… but I have an “old man bike” now (Yamaha FJ09/MT09/Tracer…whatever you call it in your country). The tire is good. In fact, it’s GREAT on my bike. I turn TC off every time I get on the bike (how the hell else am I supposed to do wheelies!?) and I run it in A mode (pure, un-ECU-flashed angry A-mode!).

I’m not slow. And this tire works.fj09 fj 09 mt09 tracer yamaha iowa hill road

Normally, I get around 1000 miles on a Pirelli Rosso 2 rear or about 1400 miles on a Dunlop Q3 rear… so far, I’ve put 600 twisty miles on this tire, and aside from striations and some minor tearing of the leading edge of the tread, it barely looks touched (the tearing is undoubtedly due to the stock shock being undersprung). I wanted to see if I could get a tire that would last me 3000 miles without being made of bowling ball material…this tire looks like it might be it!

I approached grip cautiously on this Shinko 009 Raven…I expected the worst. I imagined high-siding out of the local Starbucks parking lot the moment I turned the throttle even though my old man bike doesn’t really allow me to carry elbow dragging lean angles like I do on my spr0tbiles at the track…Alas no! Thus far, I’ve been pleased! I’ve even purposely spun it up just to see how it reacted and it’s smooth and predictable. It didn’t spin any sooner than a hypersport tire would.

Trust me, guys, I’m just as shocked to be writing this as you are to be reading it.

All that being said, I’ll be buying this rear tire for my FJ09 again (only $97 on Amazon) if it continues to perform as it has been. I will continue to run hypersport tires on the front of the FJ09, as fronts last me about 2500-3000 miles anyways and I won’t compromise front end grip, no matter the budget. I WILL NOT put these tires on my track bikes…and I’d be somewhat hesitant to put them on a street going hyperdupersupersport-leader-bike GSXR 600-750-1000 yut-ugh as well…mostly because of Shinko’s reputation, not because of real-world experience…

I’ll let you know if I end up upside down because of this tire later on. :D

Buy it here for cheap: Shinko 009 Raven Radial Rear Motorcycle Tire 180/55-17 XF87-4047

shinko 009 raven sport touring

Sportbikes are the Problem, Part 2

As I am sure you have read Joe’s letter to the world, “Sportbikes are the Problem”, I am your savior, I am here with the Solution.

Here is where Joe and I differ, he believes that the FJ-09 is an “Old Man Bike”. Listen here Billy, it’s motor is in a naked street bike with oversized dirt handlebars (comparable to hypermotard, speed triple, etc). No matter what hooptie frame you slap in that there engine block in, there is no way it can be a touring bike. That ain’t no old man bike! It doesn’t have massive side storage pockets!

Unlike Joe, I actually went full AARP and bought myself a proper old man bike, a Honda ST1300. It’s this elongated, elegantly bagged and refined piece of Japanese craftsmanship. Straight from the early 2000’s this bike set the standard for long distance, mile munching comfort. What’s the catch? This piglet weighs in at something like 730lbs, its manly aluminum monocast frame and related giblets aren’t light. It’s a good thing that it makes rocketship like power from it’s 1300cc restaurant freezer like engine. Cause she’s hefty.

st1300 wheelie aerostich od man bike
yeah….she hefty alright.
Continue reading Sportbikes are the Problem, Part 2

The life of the Rallement

I’ve had my beloved Honda Element (affectionately known as the Rallement) for 7 years now. I bought it used with 33K miles on the odometer. I now have 330,600 miles on it. It’s dying now. It needs a heart transplant. And I’m sad.

It’s funny how one can drive so many miles, yet never really leave too far from home. The Rallement has visited California, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Utah, and Arizona. It’s literally never been any further than those states. Even though I’ve driven enough miles that I could be nearly halfway home on my return trip from the moon. I could have driven the Rallement to New York City and back 57 times. I could have driven around Earth just over 13 times. There’s so many places I could have gone, things I could have seen. Cultures I could have immersed myself in. People I could have met. Friends, experiences, and memories I don’t have because instead of driving around the Earth 13 times, I simply drove back and forth through the 6 states I mentioned.

honda element rallement
Continue reading The life of the Rallement

First Ride on the Yamaha FZ10

EDIT//

Looks like I’m going to have to edit my article later as I just learned some SHOCKING news from Greg Sharp (thanks for pointing it out)… Yamaha has ditched their conventional A, STD, B mode with this bike and effectively reversed it. B mode no longer being the “rain” mode…It’s now what A mode used to be: full power. So I’ll have to ride it again today in B mode.

END EDIT//

So, I got a chance to play on the new Yamaha FZ10 today (MT10 for you Europhiles). It’s a bucket of fun.

And a quick disclaimer: I am not the person riding in these photos…I took these photos of the World Champ, Scott Russell today. :)

The bike looks like garbage. I’ll just lead in with that. I don’t know what the hell Yamaha was thinking when they designed it. That actually seems to be a bit of a trend lately with Yamaha and their new line up of bikes. Like the FJ09. It too looks like a recycled can. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love it! The FZ10, not at all to be confused with the FZ1, because that’s a COMPLETELY different mo-sheen, also appears to be made of post-consumer products.

The FZ10 is a completely new motorbike constructed of…well…recycled cans and Yamaha bits. It’s got the tail light from an FZ09, the controls of the Super Tenere, the motor from an R1, Johhny 5’s face, and who knows what else.

johhny 5 is alive
“NO DISASSEMBLE!”
Continue reading First Ride on the Yamaha FZ10

Sportbikes are the Problem

Okay, okay, okay! Before you get your panties all in a bunch, I’M not saying sportbikes are the problem…I’m just saying that sportbikes are the problem. Allow me to explain:

Over the last 15 or so years, I’ve owned a handful of bikes. All fully faired, “crotch rocket” style bikes as far as the uneducated masses are concerned. The kind of bike where you see assholes doing wheelies up and down the freeways like lunatics with no regards to anyone else, being menaces to society and probably dealing drugs to kids at the local middle school. You know, sportbikes.

Until last year. I bought what I’ve dubbed an “old man bike.” I got a Yamaha FJ09. It’s the first upright, “non-threatening” street-going motorcycle I’ve owned.

Over the last year and 12,000 miles I’ve put on the bike, my habits in the twisties around other cars haven’t really changed compared to how I was on spr0tbiles back in the day. I still roll up on cars and give them a bit of room. I wait em out for a few mins to see if they’re going to use the turn out like they’re supposed. I’ll gently pass them giving them the shakka when they do in a display of exuberance… or blow their doors off in a look-back wheelie-scowl as I pass them—DY be damned—if they don’t move.

grumpy cat wheelie
“I hate everything.”
Continue reading Sportbikes are the Problem

An Open Letter to Yamaha

I originally wrote this as an email to Yamaha. It was sent off to Yamaha over a week ago, and I haven’t heard a single peep in reply. So, on behalf of myself, and anyone else who’s experienced this issue with their FZ/MT/FJ09 motorcycle who also agrees with me…here’s an open letter to Yamaha:

———————————————————-

I’m pretty disappointed with Yamaha right now. This is only the second motorcycle I’ve EVER purchased brand new, the first was also a Yamaha.

Long story short, I was riding a fun little section of twisties with my girlfriend, Kinsy, on the back of my new FJ09. I was plodding along around 35-40mph as I crossed a small bridge over a creek. There was a build up of slurry/tar on the transition from road to bridge. Definitely a bump, but nothing so bad to cause for much concern. Until I hit it. And the bike completely bottomed out on the drain plug, shearing off the bottom of my oil pan spraying oil all over my rear tire, saddle bags, undertail, and even all over the backpack Kinsy was wearing.

I didn’t crash. I have lots of experience on two wheels, dirt, track, and street. It was certainly a 500ft death slide afterwards, but I managed to keep it upright in the end.

I’m disappointed because after this happened, I go to research a new oil pan for the bike, I see that I’m not the first person to have this experience. In fact, SO many people have had this happen to them (some in the most trivial of ways), that Yamaha has redesigned the pan and updated their part number to supersede the original design. The originally FLAWED design.

They say recalls are for safety reasons. Like the new 2015 R1, for example. The transmission locks up and causes the rider to crash, as has happened with one of my friends already. Or the o ring on the oil filter assembly does seat correctly, causing oil to spray from the engine, possibly causing someone to crash, as has also happened to another friend of mine.

Well, having the lowest point of contact be the drain plug on a motorcycle isn’t very safe. Decking it out on the ground at 40mph with your loved one on the back, instantly saturating your rear tire with synthetic oil, IS NOT SAFE.

I’m upset because Yamaha has acknowledged that there is an issue without even saying “there is an issue with our original design.” They simply redesigned it and quietly updated their part number to patch over an issue that many of us with the FZ/FJ/MT09 line of motorbikes is having. AND MAKING US PAY FOR IT.

The fortunate ones, such as myself, who don’t actually crash because talent, scenario, or pure dumb luck was on their side are simply left with a:

– $202 bill for an oil pan
– $18 for a new gasket
– shop labor of 2 hours @ $95 per hour
– roughly $400 for a new set of tires (oil was all over both of my tires)
– plus mount and balance fees of $80
– $35 for a new set of rear brake pads
– and 5 hours of their time cleaning up the mess out of the back of their truck they had to tow the bike home with as well as the bike itself.

And sadly, my newly updated how-it-should-have-been-in-the-first-place design of an oil pan DIDN’T EVEN COME WITH A NOTE SAYING “SORRY THAT HAPPENED. HERE’S YOUR FREE OIL PAN CAUSE WE GOT IT WRONG THE FIRST TIME”

I should have waited to buy the Africa Twin.

Sincerely,

Joe Salas
4theriders.com