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Everything You Need To Know About The New Caterham Motorcycles

Caterham, famous maker of that delightfully classic open-wheel road racer we all love, has announced intentions to have a go at motorcycles. Three prototypes were revealed days ago at the International Motorcycle Exhibition (EICMA) in Milan, and we’re all eager to see what becomes of them.

Caterham Bikes will offer two electric options (“Classic-E” and “Carbon-E”, you can guess which one is modern looking) and one 750CC dual sport called “Brutus.”

The Brutus is being billed as “the SUV of motorcycles” and will have an automatic transmission, plus the capability of being converted into a snowmobile through some sort of conversion kit that, Caterham promises, can be fitted in four hours.

…Consider me officially intrigued.

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“All Roads Lead To Craigslist”

…how my girlfriend described my relationship with the internet.

So simple, so undeniably fact.

Sometimes we get too caught up the rat race of chasing pageviews, impressions, and billing by the click.

Let’s not get too bogged down with the nonsense economics of the internet and get back to what it’s really for: browsing limitless, ever-repopulating, pages of cars for sale.


A Social Network For Motorcyclists

EatSleepRIDE Map

Commercial Disclosure: The makers of EatSleepRIDE let me download the app fo’ free if I promised to write it up. Otherwise it’s like, three bucks.

The battle wages on between experiential purists and optimization-crazed technophiles over what it means to ride a motorcycle.

Those in the latter camp want Bluetooth helmets and LEDs everywhere while the purists might claim even fuel injection defiles the sport of two-wheeled traveling. With so much culture wrapped into the world of motorcycling, I know this means a lot to some of you.

I tend to lean toward a Thoreaian approach- I like low tech bikes that run when they damn well please and mark their territory with oil stains. That said, twenty-year-old technology is all I can afford.

Regardless of my affinity for kickstarters and carbys, the folks at EatSleepRIDE seemed like RoadRoving and pitched me their new motorcycling iPhone app. I had already been using GoogleMaps to navigate and other apps to measure my speed, so this wasn’t really that much of a leap.

Besides, their timing was good- I had just dumped my Android HTC for an iPhone 5 (lamentably) and I was happy for a way to justify my purchase.

Get on with it, what is this EatSleepRIDE business?

EatSleepRIDE is an iOS app that I’ll describe as hybrid of route tracking and social networking.

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New England Café Racer Convergence

I have never been shy about meeting people from the internet.

I’ve had plenty of strangers in my house buying things I’ve posted on Craigslist, and made purchases the same way.  Even met with randos in parking lots to buy cars (though I always pack heat when I carry cash).

But the “2013 Convergence” held by the Café Racers of New England was the first large, informally-organized-via-the-internet, gathering of strangers I’d ever braved. Café of NE is a Facebook group, let’s call it a club, organized by a good guy Greg.

For real, he actually is a good guy and his name is Greg. His haircut even matches the meme! See?

Greg: Running Cafe Racers of New England

The club is all about celebrating motorcycles built in the “café racer” style. If you don’t know what that is, get the hell off my website.  Or Wikipedia dat if you must.

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Pants-Shitting Shakedown Ride Across Manhattan

Having finally had a chance to ride the Hipster Hot Rod, I dared a multi-mile death race across Manhattan and recounted the story on Jalopnik.

Catch the piece here.

Many of the commenters weren’t feeling the sarcasm of the project as much I had intended… which made for some hilarious/offensive annotations to my tale. Among the best:

theanswerisstillno: So many reasons, but that bike is garbage.

CafeCanuk: I would suggest that your homemade, hipster ride pushes you close to the designation of sui-cyclist

User1312: I’m assuming you realize that your bike is the equivalent of a 1988 Chrysler Omni with a missing window, stolen stereo, broken third gear, four drum brakes and two wheels falling off

WorldRallyBlog: Heavy frame, single speed, ridiculous tires and upsidedown handle bars? You really should try the actual bike next time, this thing will hurt you! 

Noise: They make girls with big glasses and lots of scarves throw themselves at you. but they are awful awful awful commuters.

HateBox: Buy a car, Jerk.

Enjoy the piece and see all my contributions to Jalopnik here!


Saga Of The Hipster Hot Rod: Assembly, Completion

After fifteenish labor hours (and days and days waiting for parts/doing other stuff) the 1976 Schwinn cruiser I picked up at a yard sale is finally “complete”.  Below I’ve broken down the construction process into bullet points, so I can get to the hilarious antics about how I’ve already almost died trying to ride it.

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Mercedes-Bus

This Spring something caught my eye at one of my favorite dealers; Copley Motorcars in Needham, MA.

By “favorite” I mean the proprietor lets me poke around every few weeks when he knows full well I have no intention to bid on his hardware; which has included a gullwing Mercedes, Ferrari F50, BMW Z8, and other rare delicacies.

But the machine in question this time shared nothing in common with the aforementioned vehicles, other than pedigree.

At The Helm of Mercedes Bus

It was a full-sized Mercedes-Benz Bus, vintage 19sixtysomething, converted for use as an RV.

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Vintage Hardware on the Trails in NoAZ

A few months back I got out to Arizona to catch the 2013 “Overland Expo”… more on that later.

While I was there, I caught up with a guy named Chris I had ski-bummed with in California.  Poor bastard  had his season cut short when his hand got caught in a ski-sharpening machine, no pun intended, but we’ve kept in touch since.

Chris is my friend because he’s a good dude.  And also because he has a near-original Suzuki Samurai.

Samurai in NoAZ

After showing me his place and his dog he obliged my desire to take his whip for a spin.  We headed out of Flagstaff and had our pick of trails in less than ten minutes… godbless the West.

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Attention Hipsters: Upstate New York, Not Yet “Cool”

Dateline – Beacon, NY: a dingy old brick town on the warpath to gentrification.  Leading the charge is their modern art museum called The Dia.

As in “¡Dias Mio!”, “Carpe Dia”, or neither of those made-up things.

Sounded great, so while dear old mum was visiting my Hudson Valley encampment last week I figured we could kill some time by having a look.

The scene upon arrival was promising; the parking lot is among the coolest I’ve ever seen!  Seriously.  The blacktop is perfect and those grass islands are classy as hell.

Aston Martin in Dia Parking Lot

I’d park my Aston Martin there too.

But once we got inside…

Not so much.

We walked through some impressive stone slab doors and found ourselves in one of the most vast and empty structures I’d seen.  Think airplane hanger done up in the style of a Bushwick loft apartment.

Sure, it sounds awesome.  And it would have been, had I been allowed to hoon through it in a Fiat 500 a la Charlie Sheen.

But I wasn’t.

I wasn’t even allowed to run around and make engine noises I can do what I want, mom! >:(

All I could do was stroll and look at stupid things stuck to the wall somebody had classified as “art”.

Dia Modern Art

Yup, that’s it.  Go ahead, make the comment.  Tell me “I don’t get it.”  You know what?  I don’t.  And I’m calling the dude or chick who made this out right here, right now; these solid-colored shape-chips are not worthy of the gravity this space lends to a piece.  I guess it’s not your fault, aspiring artist.  It’s whoever gave the nod to putting giant paint chips on the walls and charging people twelve dollars to see them.

Other arts that were featured: Fluorescent lights (not modified, just on a wall instead of a ceiling).  Monochromatic squares.  Chrome squares.  An auditory exhibit in the garden playing a recording of people making bird noises.

But the deepest of insults was what I called the “disgraced junkyard” exhibit.

Disgraced Car Parts At The Dia, Beacon

Some prick had collected perfectly cool car parts and humiliated them; twisting them into stupid sculptures that looked like shitpiles left by an AT-AT walker.

The only thing I liked inside the place was this massive garage door.  I’m still not sure if it was an exhibit or just part of the building, but I sure did want to open it and park one of those dump-trucks they use in Australian mines inside.  I managed to capture a hipster in the photo of the door so you’d have an idea of the scale.  Pretty impressive, right?

Giant Garage Door

Of course there’s always the chance that the hipsters in charge of the museum are so ironic they’ve filled their entire building with shitty art as a joke.  If that’s the case, well, that actually would be pretty funny.  But either way, save yourself the exorbitant entry fee and stay the hell away from this place.

The city of Beacon, however, I was kind of down with.

The main street is Burlington, VT-esque… old brown buildings refurb’ed to sell fancy shit.  Found a great taco place, and a coffee shop across the street that looked like it had a lot of potential.

Was hoping I’d be able to say it might be early enough to stake out cheap rent in an increasingly cool place- but no, the sweeter apartments are already cresting $1,000-a-bedroom.

Well, there’s still affordable land in the desert!  For now.


Pushing Tin

It had been over a year since I ‘d motorcycled more than a hundred miles in one day.

Granted, I’ve never even sat on a bike designed to ride distances like that, but my Australian adventures of 2011 gave me the “pleasure” of crossing a continent on what most riders probably wouldn’t leave their yard on (I’m looking at you, TTR250).

Last week I got to experience a whole new kind of endurance ride- sportbike touring.

The forums, my parents, and everything I knew about my oil-cooled Gixxer told me that kind of distance on this kind of  bike would be… miserable.

The seating posture is aggressive, fuel capacity is short, and the exhaust is loud.  The machine hasn’t even proven itself particularly reliable; with at least one catastrophic malfunction per season so far.  And yet…

1991 Suzuki GSXR750 on Highway

I couldn’t see myself living in New York while the bike was collecting dust in Boston.  So I cajoled the ever-supportive Sydney into piloting my sedan to run deer interference and transport cargo while I crossed central New England on a bike designed to cross finish lines.

She’s one of the only people I see regularly who can drive a three-pedaled car, and I had a feeling I’d need a massage after the journey… which I could start campaigning for at one of our rest stops.

It was two-hundred-forty-one miles of almost all highway riding between the garage my bike lived at and where I wanted it to be.  The trip took about four and a quarter hours by car; I figured it might take five with a few stops.  Not even close.

The first fifty miles were fine.  Familiar territory, first tank of fuel, I was feeling good.

Mile fifty-one we hit gridlock traffic and I had the first grumblings that I might have made a poor decision.  My right wrist had gotten a bit sore from throttle vibrations, which were substantial, and now my left got a turn to share the pain as I slipped the clutch for what felt like an hour.

When we landed at the next available rest area, I learned it had been about an hour.

I did a little Macarena dance to shake out the shivers and I guzzled two PowerAids before fueling up.

Tank full, traffic subsided, I let Sydney merge onto the highway ahead so I could explode past and serenade her with the song of my people.  Drafting my car down the long onramp I dropped a gear and strangled the throttle, a tortured scream belting from my rusty Yoshimura canister.  Kinda of a motorcyclists’ equivalent of farting through a vuvuzela; rude, gross, and immature to everybody in earshot.

I, of course, was having a riot.

After turning three dollars worth of petrol into noise I had to take it easy so I could make it to the next rest area.  I laid down on the fuel tank to try and find some comfort, and observed my car in action from different lanes.

Seeing it from the third person was cool- I rode behind Sydney for awhile and pretended as I was playing Need For Speed as my Acura.

GSXR in the BerkshiresThe scenery got prettier as got further west- that seems to be a commonly true statement when travelling in America.

Hours and miles rolled by, we popped into rest stops to refuel and had the same conversation;

“Should we get some food?”

“Is there anything besides McDonalds?”
“Slim Jims,”

“…”

“Ok, we’ll try the next one,”

Fatigue racked up.  It got dark.  Darker.

By the time we cut south on New York’s Taconic I was so beat I dropped to 5 MPH below the speed limit.  I had to seek refuge behind my car as I knew deer were lurking behind every tree, and the roadsurface was so bumpy I could barely read my license plate.

The Squadron At Rest

By the time we rolled into the driveway we were seeking, seven hours had passed since our initial departure.  My body and headlight had collected enough insects to stick pins in and start a museum, and I was still haunted by the drone of my exhaust in the silence of the Upstate New York woods.

But when I woke up the next morning, the sight of the Suzuki keys on my valet gave me a facewide grin.

New roads to crush, new diners to ride to, and a whole summer to do it.

Worth the effort, no question.


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