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Old 10-26-2013, 08:51 PM   #31
Masochistic Italophile
Joined: May 2009
Location: Montreal, Quebec
Oddometer: 36
Ahahaha no way, I remember following you... Because I broke down shortly after! More on that in an upcoming update...

I was actually a bit surprised by the lack of 916s. I was the only one. Considering the number of people there I expected to see at least one other than mine. There was a 996 and a 998, and the 996 had less total mileage than I did on this trip alone.

Originally Posted by DunlopC View Post
First off please allow me to apologize, I was in the white Sprinter van with Ducati stickers on the back window (and a big ugly Florida Gator head magnet) entering Barber Saturday morning when we saw you creep by us in the slow parking parade to the museum. I saw your Québec plate and told our van party that it had to be a trailer queen as their was no freaking way you rode from Canada!
I saw you had clear packing tape/vinyl or something on the tail so the luggage straps did not wear away the paint.

I would have gladly donated to your trip so long as you mumbled GO LEAFS GO! Please let me know if you will be in North East Florida and I will gladly host you JEC.
OddBike - Obsessing over weird motorcycles from around the world.
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Old 10-27-2013, 05:18 AM   #32
Studly Adventurer
Joined: Oct 2008
Location: asheville, nc
Oddometer: 913
great report. I spent 5 years in Nova Scotia as a kid, and now call Asheville home. Good to see you enjoyed your time at WTT. Its pretty cool!
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Old 10-29-2013, 05:36 PM   #33
Masochistic Italophile
Joined: May 2009
Location: Montreal, Quebec
Oddometer: 36
Part V:


Thursday morning is sunny and cool, but appreciably warmer than it had been in Virginia. We are finally making progress in terms of temperature, the one element I hoped to escape quickly once I had started riding south. I wake at sunrise and walk around the Wheels Through Time property, taking photos of the beautiful surroundings as the light of dawn creeps into the valley.

I pack up my tent and gear, but I'm in no hurry today. Up until this point I had been hitting the road just after sunrise and arriving at my destination in the early afternoon. Today I want to take my time. I wander around the museum again, taking in some more of the endless details that I had missed on my whirlwind approach the previous day. I meet Jack, one of the museum employees, when I'm raiding the coffee pot and planning a route to Birmingham. I had originally thought about going east through the Smoky Mountains, then south through Tennessee, but he suggests a quicker route through Georgia. Later on I would discover his advice was quite sound, given how technical my original route proved to be.

I quickly discover that Jack is as much a part of the museum collection as he is a caretaker of it. I don't mean that in a facetious way, so please don't misinterpret my description - I mean he is a piece of true American motorcycling history himself, a veteran rider who has seen it all, done it all, and been on both sides of the law. He started riding in the late 1940s, secretly racing borrowed bikes at the local fairgrounds. He shares stories that could be lifted straight out of a pulp novel, riding and fighting with regional outlaw gangs before leaving once the big boys from Oakland showed up to clean house and take over the territory. He is a fascinating man who has lived through the significant changes that have occurred in motorcycle culture over the decades. But he is more than a conduit of Americana - he is intelligent, wizened with experience, and has a friendly progressive attitude. I wish I had had more time to talk to him and listen to his stories.

So if you find yourself at the museum, take the time to chat with Jack for an unfiltered first-hand history lesson. And not just him, as every member of the staff - Dale, Matt, Trish, Cindy and anyone else I may have missed - is a genuine, stand up person. These are the people who are passionate about what they do and what they curate, and it shows.    

Around 10am I'm ready to go. Despite the initial anxieties I described in Part II, once I am in the midst of a journey I can't wait to hit the road again and see where it takes me next. This trip in particular brought forth my intense wanderlust as each day was more incredible than the last, each destination more interesting than the previous one. I was itching to fire up the bike and get going again to see what would happen next.

Of course I now had to deal with that damnable cold starting problem - but now with an audience. Wheels Through Time is a popular destination and people began streaming in as soon as the gates opened, so by mid-morning there was a sizeable crowd of riders gathered in the front yard. I dreaded this moment, knowing that I would be fulfilling the Italian motorcycle stereotype in spades by sitting here in front of a crowd of domestic and metric motorcycles, coaxing and fiddling with a recalcitrant Latin machine while quietly muttering pleading for it to Just. Please. Fucking. Start. Sure enough it behaves just like it had on the two previous mornings, but now I'm beginning to figure out a formula, in part due to Joe's notes on the hard starting of his 955 SPA. Ignition on, thumb the starter for a few seconds. Wait 30 seconds to a minute. Repeat. As soon as the engine starts to pop and catch, stop. Wait again. Repeat.

The engine is barely catching and promptly stalling after a few lumpy misfires and I'm getting frustrated. I can feel eyes on the back of my neck as my under-the-breath pleas grow more desperate. I pause and Matt comes over to say goodbye. I double check the route I planned with him and wish him well; I expect I'll encounter the guys again at Barber after the Century Race on Saturday. He heads back into the museum, I thumb the starter again, and the bike instantly thunders to life. I may have pumped my fist and shouted "YES" a little too loud. I'm not a superstitious man, but I briefly think about kidnapping Matt for use as a good luck charm.

I warm up the bike and finish putting on my gear. If ever there was a picture perfect example of 916 ownership, this was it. Hard starting, sputtering, owner begging it to behave as if it was a colicky child. Then a flourish of mechanical racket as the beast cooperates for one glorious moment. All I would need now to complete the scene would be for it to stall just as I pull out in front of the crowd... GOD DAMN IT. I restart and give it a little too much throttle cutting across the wet lawn, sliding the back wheel out a good 20 degrees. At least I left with a proper attitude, looking like a confident rider taming a barely contained brute as I thundered out onto the main road. At least that's what I'd like to think. More likely I looked like a squid with a barely-functional old Italian piece of shit who almost highsided on the front lawn in front of a group of Harley riders.

I head south along the secondary highway as per Jack's advice, on my way towards Atlanta before I cut west to Birmingham. I stop at a Wendy's for an early lunch. I watch Fox News as I sip my coffee, getting my fill of vitriolic right-wing bullshit for the day, including hyperbolic coverage of the infamous Range Rover incident in New York. I shift uncomfortably in my seat while images of Edwin Mieses Jr. being trampled by a 5000 pound British suburban tank are repeated several times on the flatscreen in the centre of the restaurant. I'm sitting here in full motorcyclist regalia, helmet on table, my bright red "crotch rocket" sitting in front of the building. I am the very thing the Fox anchors are viciously and ignorantly disparaging and I now feel a bit ill at ease. I'm intensely aware of how that single incident has inflamed old prejudices around the world and set back our public relations a good 30 years. Several times during the trip people would bring up the incident, seeking my opinion, but I would always politely dodge discussing the "issue". I will say my thoughts on the motorcycle "cult of persecution" in North America turned out to be, unfortunately, a bit too prescient.

I briefly wonder what Jack thinks of all this nonsense.

As I'm on my way out, the manager comes over to say hello and quizzes me a bit on my trip. He warns me to take care around the local drivers: this was the number one piece of advice I received along the way. Everybody seemed to be convinced their local drivers were the worst, but rest assured that dealing with Montreal traffic for a single ride is by far much worse than anything I encountered over my two weeks in the United States.

He wishes me well on my journey. I don't ask, but I know he is a fellow rider just by his graciousness and his genuine interest in my well being. I forget about the melodramatic Fox coverage and return to the road.

I ride south along a half dozen secondary highways into Georgia, passing through countless small rural communities. Despite being rural the density of the population along these routes is far more than you'd find on a similar area in Canada. It's a slow, relatively unexciting ride. As I approach Gainesville the roads straighten and the landscape begins to flatten out. No more mountain passes from here onward. I loop around Atlanta through moderate afternoon traffic and head straight for Birmingham to meet my host.

Winslow contacted me through OddBike shortly after I began the OddBike USA Tour Indiegogo campaign. He graciously offered me a place to stay in Birmingham, which was a great relief because my original plan had me camping at the Barber festival for three days. Not a bad thing and probably a good way to meet some people, but it's nice to have a shower now and then. While I was en-route I gave him a call to give him a head's up, and asked him if he knew anyone who might be able to help with my hunt for a coolant sensor. He obliged by making a post on a local rider's forum and got a few leads, meanwhile I called some Ducati contacts who were supposed to be at Barber for the weekend and started the ball rolling to locate that elusive little bastard that nobody seemed to stock.

I arrived in Birmingham around suppertime and promptly got lost in a rough looking neighbourhood off the Interstate. I tried to follow my Google map printout to Winslow's address but got thoroughly disoriented. Birmingham is one of those cities that is laid out in a way that is so rational that it is impossible to navigate. Streets are laid out in numerical order, but then you have the city divided into quadrants, so you end up with four different 52nd streets in totally different parts of town. Of course I had no clue where I was or how to get where I was going, so I swallowed my pride and called Winslow to get directions. Turns out he was only a few blocks away and once we joined up it was easy to locate his place... But I still would never have found my way on my own, and it turned out my map was actually wrong. I ended up being so totally screwed up by Birmingham's wonky city planning that I relied on Winslow to either drive me or directly lead me around town for the duration of my stay.

Turns out that Winslow works as a graphic designer for Mental Floss, which is an interesting trivia and general interest magazine. His home is littered with interesting objects, little items that visual designers often keep handy to offer examples and inspiration. He also does woodworking as a sideline when he isn't tinkering with his two-wheeled projects which comprised a Yamaha XS400 and XS500, and a Honda GL1000.

Once I had the chance to park the bike and take a shower I had one simple request for my host: take me to the best damn southern BBQ joint you know. Winslow obliged and drove us to Saw's Soul Kitchen, a magnificent smoke-filled hole-in-the-wall conveniently located next to a microbrewery that is lenient with people bringing their own food. We grabbed some of Saw's signature pork and grits with deep fried onions and arugula, a fantastic introduction to a southern tradition I had been desperately wanting to try after hearing so much about smoked-off-the-bone secret recipes from down south. While Canadians would like to think they have some pretty decent BBQ skills, and lots of Montreal hotspots would claim to have the best smoked meats at their disposal, nothing is comparable to the so-tender-it-defies-belief slab of pork I got unceremoniously presented in a styrofoam go-box. Mission accomplished.

We head next door to the brewery where I score a delicious stout to wash down my sticky mix of meat and grits. It became my mission to try a new local brew at every destination, another element of adventure to add to the many nuances of my journey. That and I hate hoppy pisswater beers - I like a serious, rich, flavour-addled brew that got scraped out of the bottom of whatever barrel had been sitting in the warehouse the longest.

We spent the evening talking bikes, as you might imagine. Winslow was a relatively new rider, having some limited experience in his youth but only really taking up the sport in the last few years. He dove in headfirst by taking on several project bikes and tearing them apart himself to learn things hands-on. Which is similar to how I got into wrenching bikes (being stupid enough to start messing with my own machines without much supervision) though I didn't have the benefit of several bikes at my disposal so that I would have good odds of at least one being rideable. He mentions that he is working on a friend's late-model Triumph Bonneville and having some trouble setting the carburettors. Being a former Triumph tech I offer to have a look at it to see if I can help sort it out. I figure it's the least I can do considering he is letting my stay in his home for the next three days.

We finish our beers and head back to the house. We dive into the Bonnie and I discover a relatively simple throttle cable issue that fixes a high idle problem, but the carbs remained properly buggered up and would require tearing apart for further cleaning. While we are in the garage I give the 916 a once-over to check for anything amiss. I make a note to pick up some JB Weld to patch the cracked coolant union back together. I adjust the chain and add a direct ground to the temperature sensor to fix the wonky temp gauge. While working on the bike in the driveway I discover that cockroaches in Alabama are goddamned huge. And quite resilient. I dreaded starting the bike in the morning and having a swarm of the fuckers come skittering out of every vent on the bike, a prophesy that thankfully didn't come to pass.

Aside from the coolant union there is nothing amiss after 1600 miles on the road, though I am still concerned about my rich-running issue. I send an email to Mike at Gotham Cycles in Florida to ask if he has a coolant sensor he could send express to my next stop in New Orleans. Mike has been a stand-up source of hard-to-find parts over the years, and is one of the best Ducati salvage operations out there. He has helped me out in of a few binds, and supplied me with some key parts that I've used to refurbish my 916 over the years. The only pain is that he only communicates via email so you always have to resort to emailing him a panicked message and praying he responds in a timely manner. In this case he does - and he has one on hand, so I arrange to have the part shipped to my next stop in New Orleans.

Side note: I can already imagine a few Ducati guys preparing to type a response saying "but you can buy that sensor at NAPA!". I know. The sensor that was on my bike was that NAPA replacement, changed last season as part of my troubleshooting of what turned out to be a faulty crank position sensor. It never ran quite right with the NAPA part - always too rich on WOT with occasional misfires in the midrange. I just wanted to start from zero and get the correct Ducati original part, because odds were the equivalent part was sending weird info to the ECU and throwing the fuel mixture way off.

The exhaustion of a day's riding sped along by a hearty meal of meat and beer catches up to me and I crash hard for the night, helped in no small part due to the first real bed I've seen since I left Pennsylvania. Tomorrow we head to the Barber Vintage Festival.

OddBike - Obsessing over weird motorcycles from around the world.
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Old 10-30-2013, 04:15 PM   #34
Masochistic Italophile
Joined: May 2009
Location: Montreal, Quebec
Oddometer: 36
Part VI

Barber Motorsports Park Leeds Alabama Race Track


I wake up early and Winslow and I head straight to the Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, a short drive outside of Birmingham. The facility is located in a secluded wooded area, surrounded by pleasant little twisty roads. If you are in the area and looking for some interesting riding roads, the routes around Barber would be a good place to start.

Ducati 916 and Yamaha XS400 motorcycles

We arrive early enough to beat the traffic and nab parking near the front gate, but despite our early arrival it is clear that this is going to be a huge event. Visitors are streaming in steadily, and venues are spread out over miles of property surrounding the track and museum. I head over to the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club stand located next to the entrance to locate David Morales, builder of the 50 Magnum I featured on Pipeburn. Sure enough Dave is there, with the Magnum on display alongside a very cool CT70 he had built previously. I introduce myself and meet his wife, Jennifer, before I wander off to take in the festivities.

David Morales' Honda 50 Magnum and CT70

I was keen to to check out the swap meet, which was supposedly one of the best in the country. I had printed a schedule that highlighted and prioritized the various events I wanted to see on each day. I arrive at the swap meet and promptly toss it out - I was in full-on kid-in-candy-store-on-sugar-high mode.

Barber Vintage Festival Swap Meet

The swap meet covers several acres and featured every conceivable component you can think of, plus a bunch you'd never guess would end up piled high in front of a camper. I wander the rows, looking over parts, project machines, accessories, clothes, books, anything and everything motorcycle related you could possibly imagine. Plenty of junk, but also a lot of good buys if you were prepared to hunt a bit. I kept my eyes peeled for a coolant union and a sensor, and came close when I discovered a guy parting out an ST2 - but unfortunately he didn't have any engine or cooling system components. So close.

BMW K1 Motorcycle Barber Swap Meet

The real shock is the endless supply of inexpensive bikes. I am in awe. Coming from Canada, where the ugliest, most common, chopped up, run into the ground, piece of crap UJM will fetch top dollar and no running bike will ever sell for anything less than four digits, the selection of cool cheap bikes before me is mind blowing. There is a running Moto Guzzi Centauro with some surface corrosion - asking 1800$. A really clean Kawasaki ZX750E Turbo - 3500$. An Aprilia Falco in good condition - 3750$. There are rare and unusual machines everywhere, and almost all up for grabs for totally fair asking prices barring a few nitwits who were asking silly money. Being a swap meet, haggling is expected - so imagine the bargains you could snag if the prices are fair to begin with. And where else are you going to see a nicely-preserved bacon-slicer Moto Guzzi single down the row from several Honda CX Turbos and a Yamaha GTS, while an old fellow puts up and down the aisles hawking a beautifully restored Indian Chief?  I vow that someday I will show up with at least 5000$ in cash and a trailer, and will leave with as many machines as I can drag home with me.

Yamaha GTS 1000 Motorcycle Barber Swap Meet

After an hour or so I am getting hungry and I locate a food truck serving breakfast near a nondescript building with a sign outside: "Auction". That sounds interesting. I wander in, and I am stunned by a fantastic cross section of rare and beautiful machines. The swap meet held the gems in the rough, the projects and daily drivers. The auction has the cream puffs, the trailer queens and the restored beauties. While the auction machines are appealing, they have a "do not touch" aura (and some actual signs to that effect) about them, too clean and too perfect to muck up by something so base as riding them. I don't like that - motorcycles, no matter how revered they might be, are made to be ridden. So says the man who thrashes a 916 as his daily driver and touring mount.

Motorcycle Auction Barber Vintage Festival

By this time the grounds are filling up with parked bikes stretching for miles at a time. Just wandering the parking areas will net you some fascinating discoveries. Never mind the festivities, the rides that the attendees show up on are interesting enough to spend a day mulling over.

I walk over to the Ace Corner, a pay-extra-to-get-in-because-fuck-you-that's-why section of the festival. I discover they are checking tickets at the entrance and I left mine in the luggage on my bike. So I backtrack a mile, retrieve the ticket, and trudge back. "This had better be damn worth it" I think to myself.

Custom Ducati Supersport

It isn't. For your extra 10$ a day you get to see a few custom chopper and café-racer style bikes - some good, some pretty mediocre. Odds are you'd find more interesting customs parked around the property. A few vendors are present hawking all your capital-R Rocker and café-racer hipster lifestyle needs, from faux vintage T-shirts, to made-in-China aftermarket parts, to branded mugs to sip your free trade soy lattes from. The so-called "Ace Café" at Barber is just another food tent, same as the ones scattered throughout the event, except here they are allowed to serve overpriced beer. Truth be told these guys look like a bunch of weenies compared to the grizzled old farts peddling barn-fresh junk down at the swap meet, and their wares aren't particularly interesting. That is the difference between authenticity and commercialization. The whole "scene" feels phony and contrived. The fact they have segregated themselves into a separate venue didn't endear me much - I felt cheated out of my tenner, and I bought the extra pass for all three goddamned days.

A colleague of mine, who isn't fond of this neo café-racer culture, had rhetorically asked me "In 20 years will we be dressing up like squids and riding around on chromed out Hayabusas and GSX-Rs?".

He has a point. A couple of decades ago these so-called "café" bikes were assembled by blue-collar miscreants who went around flaunting the law, riding like assholes, and being social misfits. Since then we've nostalg-ized Rocker culture to the point of absurdity. The same goes for the shed-built choppers that were once the mainstay of working class outlaws before they became a cash cow. While I love the aesthetics of these bikes and the idea of building your own machine, I can do without the preening and lifestyle bullshit. Maybe I'm just jealous of all their sweet beards and tats.

Brough Superior SS100 Motorcycle

There were two notable highlights at the Ace Corner, however. One was a nice selection of beautiful Brough Superiors, which looked decidedly out of place compared to what was otherwise a sea of custom Asian twins and fours ("Wow, another Honda CB with metalflake paint!"). The other was a pair of bikes presented by Analog Motorcycles, who earned my respect by showing up with two of the coolest customs in the show - one was once a Ducati Indiana, the other started as a Bimota DB3 Mantra. Both were far more attractive than you'd think those donor machines ever could be. Their unusual choice of project bikes gets my thumbs up - so does their friendly, genuine attitude.

Analog Motorcycles Bimota DB3 Mantra

Analog Motorcycles Ducati Indiana

I continue my wandering and head over to the Ducati area to say hello to the Duc guys. A modest tent is setup on a remote ridge with a row of Ducatis parked in front. I was expecting a row of new bikes, maybe a dealer display, some merchandise... Instead it is a simple venue with inflatable couches, a cooler full of water, and a decent view of the track. No pretenses, no salesmen. A quiet, shaded refuge - not that exciting but much appreciated after hours of wandering around in the Alabama sunshine.

Ducati owner's tent Barber Vintage Festival

I meet Vicki Smith, who is quite well known in the North American Ducati community and a founder of She welcomes me into the Ducati gathering and says "Oh, and Cook Neilsen is here. He's right behind you." I turn around and come face to face with a living legend. Generally I don't follow racing and I wouldn't be able to pick most famous riders out of a crowd but I am well aware of the who Cook is and the importance and his exploits aboard the California Hot Rod (aka Old Blue), as well as the work he did back in the glory days of Cycle magazine. I was a little star struck (and just plain caught off guard) and did my best to introduce myself without looking like a complete dork. I managed to give him one of my cards and told him about OddBike. Someone was needed to ferry some people around in the Official Ducati North America golf cart and Cook volunteered, disappearing as quickly as he had materialized. I sat down and met a few of the Ducati owners who were present, including a few of the guys I had spoken to earlier while hunting for that elusive coolant sensor. I also had the opportunity to meet Cook's wife Stepper. Nice folks all around, as is often the case with the true Ducati guys. It's only the young, poseur Ducati owners who are snobby assholes - the Ducati community is one of the friendliest, most supportive group of motorcyclists I've ever had the privilege to be a part of, which is probably part of the reason why I still ride one.

After a cooling-off period I head through the main vendor area to check out the commercial displays. This year's featured marque is BMW, and there is a dedicated BMW parking / show area, which is almost entirely devoid of anything noteworthy. I was quite disappointed; aside from the expected slew of 1960s-1980s airheads and a few K bikes and oilheads, there was nothing particularly interesting present. I came across a few early boxers and the odd single, but many were floating around the grounds or on display at other venues. There was an interesting antique and classic bike show-and-shine going on right next to the BMW section that featured some fascinating pieces, awkwardly juxtaposed with the vendor area filled with brand new machines and racks of accessories. Something a bit unusual about seeing a Ner-a-Car and a Brough Superior sidecar outfit within spitting distance of a rack of Triumph T-shirts. Not to mention the three dirtbikes screaming around inside a Ball of Death.

Motorcycle Ball of Death

A small Norton camp is notable for being the only group arrogant enough to have a roped-off "Private Party" event, right next door to this mind-blowing selection of vintage machines that were far more interesting than a bunch of run-of-the-mill Commandos. The scene did nothing to mitigate my irrational dislike of old British machines. Elitism would be ill advised in this environment, because aside from their little clique everything else was open to the riff raff - that included the "Vincent Hillbilly's" owner's club, who had a great selection of machines on hand, including a rare early Meteor single that stood out among the "ubiquitous" Shadows and Rapides.

Vincent Meteor Motorcycle

I stop by the Motus display and introduce myself to Brian Case and Lee Conn. It gave me an opportunity to finally see (and hear) the Motus MST in person. I was impressed with the fit and finish of the prototypes and came away satisfied that they would be a worthy subject of a future OddBike profile. But at this point my mind was wandering from the hot sun and overwhelming selection of machines I'd been perusing since about 8 am.

Motus MST R Motorcycle

Did I mention that there was racing on the track in the centre of the property this entire time? Because I didn't have a single moment to even take notice of the classic machines shrieking and thundering around the tarmac. Maybe tomorrow I'd have the chance to properly spectate. In the meantime there was so much happening around the track that I scarcely noticed what was occurring on it.

Racing motorcycles Barber Motorsports Park

Time for a break. Time to visit the museum.

The Barber Vintage Motorsport Museum is one of those pilgrimage destinations that every motorcyclist adds to his or her bucket list the moment they hear about it. The largest collection of motorcycles in the world? All maintained to the highest standards, in ready-to-run condition? Damn right I'd like to see what the fuss is about.

Barber Motorcycle Museum

I can assure you, nothing will prepare you for your first visit to the Barber museum. You will be totally overwhelmed. You will be unable to process the sheer number of obscenely rare and beautiful machines presented before you in a state of the art facility that would put many major art museums to shame. This is the motorcyclist's Louvre, and just like that palace, you cannot possibly take it all in over the course of a few hours. It's simply too much, and it is fantastic.

Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum

I could barely contain myself as I was cruising through the exhibits and taking as many photos as I could manage. I saw every machine I've ever desired, and quite a few that I've owned or ridden. I encountered many of the machines I've profiled here on OddBike. I photographed a dozen more that I had on my "to do" list. I stood in awe of machines with unequaled historical provenance, bikes straddled by the greatest riders of all time. Bikes from every period, from every continent, from the mundane to the exceptional - everything is accounted for. If Wheels Through Time was overwhelming due to its magnificent chaos, living history and provenance, the Barber museum is utterly awe-inspiring for its breadth, scope and perfection. They are perfect foils. Wheels Through Time has the market cornered for rare original survivors in a low-key environment, while Barber is the home of flawless restorations in a multi-million dollar facility.

Gary Egan's Ducati ST4 Motorcycle Barber Museum

I visit the state-of-the-art restoration department on the basement floor, an area that is normally off-limits to the public but is opened during the Vintage Festival. Little do I know I will become better acquainted with it before the week is out.

Cook Neilsen's Ducati Old Blue California Hot Rod

I wander the halls and take photos until my camera's battery dies, at which point I vow to return the next day to continue my visit. I intensely wish I could stay the entire week to study the machines on hand. I don't feel like I'm doing myself, or the museum, any justice by being present for a few measly hours. I was in the pantheon of motorcycling and my brain was melting.

Silk 700S Mark II Sabre Motorcycle Barber Museum

So much for relaxing. At this point I'm buzzing and can't focus. It's late afternoon and I decide to call it quits for the day. I head back to the VJMC area and hang out with David and Jennifer while I wait for Winslow to materialize and guide me back to his house. David was a generous contributor to the Tour's Indiegogo campaign and I promised I'd buy him a beer - but seeing how the only beer tent was on the other side of the Barber property in Ace Corner, I offered to take him and Jennifer out for dinner. We make plans to meet in Birmingham later in the evening.

Kawasaki Z1R TC Turbo Motorcycle Barber Museum

Winslow takes me through the backroads of Leeds, along a set of pleasant routes snaking through a forested area on the way to Birmingham. I get stuck behind a doddering driver in an Audi, which is a bit of blessing - I'm completely wiped out from the day's events and I'm content to just putter along slowly without testing my riding skills under exhaustion. I am familiar enough with my bike to know that it does not suffer half-assed riding or lazy inputs, and it will fight back if you aren't sharp. Whenever I start to get tired I know it's time to find a place to stop, pronto, because my riding is about to get real sloppy, real fast. You cannot ride a 916 on autopilot for long.

Gurney Alligator Motorcycle Barber Museum

Winslow and I head over to Carrigan's Public House to meet David, Jennifer, and Matt, one of the VJMC guys who also builds custom minibikes. Carrigan's is located in an industrial area of Birmingham, framed by old factories and rail yards. It is an eerie area filled with old brick warehouses and dimly lit streets, and interesting contrast to the vibrant activity at Carrigan's on a warm Friday night. The restaurant-slash-bar is located in a fully renovated historic building and shares space with those classic signs of urban gentrification: loft condos and open-concept office space. Judging by the crowd and our attempts to desperately nab a table like a gang of vultures circling a dying animal, I'd say it's a pretty popular spot. And, gimmicky or not, the beer-dispensing Land Rover Defender behind the bar is a nice touch. We enjoy a night of good beer, good food, and lots of shop talk.

Gilera CX125 Motorcycle Barber Museum

On the way home we pass the Sloss Furnaces, a decommissioned pig-iron blast furnace that is the only such industrial site to be preserved as a National Historic Landmark. Winslow shares a bit of the local lore, about how the Furnaces are supposedly haunted by the ghosts of workers who were mistreated by a sadistic foreman - or perhaps it is the foreman himself who continues to roam the facilities. Looking at the mass of blackened pipework framed by the glow of the Birmingham nightscape, it's hard not to picture the site as a hotbed of paranormal happenings. Lacking any nighttime lighting and in an already poorly lit industrial neighbourhood, the place looks fucking terrifying. It would be a great place to visit around Halloween, a point not lost on the locals who hold a series of horror-themed events at the Furnaces from September through to the November.

With ghost stories rattling around in my head and the nearby recycling yard clattering heaps of metal well into the wee hours, I settle in for a good night's rest. Tomorrow will prove to be the most intense day of the entire OddBike USA Tour.

Britten V1000 Motorcycle Barber Museum

OddBike - Obsessing over weird motorcycles from around the world.
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Old 11-01-2013, 07:24 PM   #35
Masochistic Italophile
Joined: May 2009
Location: Montreal, Quebec
Oddometer: 36
If you read only one update, make it this one. This was the most incredible day of the trip, maybe one of the best days of my life.

Part VII


"It's the NPR of motorcycle journalism." JT pats me on the shoulder. I think it's the first time I've seen him this evening without a beer in hand. He has just coined the new unofficial motto of OddBike. Alan glances at my card and flashes a polite smile. He promises to have a look at my site.

This is the close of one of the most intense and incredible days I've ever experienced, the absolute highlight of the OddBike USA Tour. I am exhausted and barely able to process what has happened to me today. This is the moment when I realise that embarking on this journey was one of the best decisions I've ever made, and today was the beginning of the turning point in OddBike's future I was hoping for.     


Exhausted from Friday's events I decided to leave for Barber a bit later on Saturday morning, "later" still being before 9am. I had asked Winslow the night before if he was keen to take the bikes, as I would have preferred to just hop in his car to get to the Festival. But he was set on riding the bike there, so I didn't argue. 

I gear up and face the gauntlet of starting my bike on a cool morning, and today it was being a particular bitch. It wasn't that hard to get running, but it keeps stalling, over and over again while I try to get it warmed up. I hate running it on the fast idle (particularly in a quiet neighbourhood on a weekend morning) but have to resort to holding it at over 2000 rpm just to keep it from stalling while I wait for Winslow to get his XS out of the garage. This didn't bode well. 

Traffic hadn't been as bad as we thought it would be on Friday, so I anticipate it would be easy to get in today, which was the whole reason I decided to sleep in an extra hour.

I am very wrong.

Traffic entering the Barber property is gridlocked right from the entrance, and moving at a glacial pace. There is a relatively short sweeping road that runs from the highway into the property, probably less than a mile long. Today it feels like it is 20 miles of parking lot. Cars, vans, groups of bikes, all are sitting idle in the steadily rising Alabama heat. Once my radiator fan clicks on I shut off the engine and try to walk the bike as much as possible, until the road starts climbing up a rise and I can't push it anymore. I keep cycling the engine, turning it on to inch forward, shutting it down and waiting. I am worried about my cracked coolant union, which still isn't patched and is only being held in place by a push-fit coolant junction into the side of the front cylinder. A single o-ring is all that separates my cooling system from the outside world. I am nervous.

We crawl along, occasionally getting passed by riders self-entitled enough to lanesplit while the rest of us sit and stew in our helmets. Lanesplitting is great if it is legal and you are using it as a way to filter through traffic. If it is illegal and you are using it as a way to cut ahead in line at an event - fuck you. I think a few of them might have gotten nabbed at the head of the line by the dozen or so State Troopers who were directing traffic. Or at least I sincerely hope they did.

We finally creep up to the entrance, where we see the bottleneck - all traffic is being directed through a single gate where volunteers are scanning tickets and handing out bracelets at a leisurely pace. I roll up to within 50 feet of the gate and the bike starts misfiring. Blub-blub-blub...blub...blub.....blub... stall. I restart, it does the same thing within a few seconds, then refuses to restart. She is done. Feels like a fuel starvation issue, but I can hear the fuel pump cycling. A State Trooper walks up behind me to direct traffic around me. Fuming mad and soaked with sweat, I jump off and push the bike through the gate and locate the nearest parking spot. I walk across the lane to the VJMC area and strip off my gear. I stood there for a few minutes in a daze, almost to the point of heat stroke, my head boiling with white hot rage over my predicament - my bike was now dead, 1600 miles from home, and if I don't get it running again I'm proper fucked. I can't afford to take it to a shop, my budget being stretched to the limit just to cover the basic expenses of this trip. This is going to have to be an on-the-spot job.

I take a moment to gather my thoughts and head for the nearest food truck to grab some Powerade and a coffee. I calm myself and decide to wait an hour for the bike to cool down before I attempt to restart it. Maybe it is just heat soaked and it will behave once it is no longer the temperature of liquid hot magma.

I return to the swap meet to see if there is anything new. Within a few minutes I spy a familiar shape sitting on a trailer between two lots. It can't be. Not here. I cut across between the campers and pick it up, scarcely believing what I just found - an original all-red 916 monoposto tail, complete with the seat. It's in excellent condition considering the age, barring a few minor paint chips and some cheesy looking metal grilles that were siliconed into the vents in place of the original mesh inserts. The seat is mint. All the federal and manufacturer's stickers are intact - 1996 916, US market machine. Finding one of these for sale in any condition is exceptional. There is a piece of tape on the seat - 150$. 

The seller comes over and explains that he had a 916, and he had this original tail and a few other trim pieces in his spares bin long after he sold the bike. I tell him that I am here on my 916, having driven it from Canada. I'm not sure if he believes me, I think he assumes I'm bullshitting to get a better price. I explain I am interested, but I would need to ship it back to Canada, which will cost me at least 100$... He thinks for a moment. "Best I can do on that piece is 130$." Ok, so maybe I did use the Canadian angle to haggle. Sold.

I was in a much better mood now. You really never know what you might find at a swap meet like this. I drop the tail off with David and Jennifer and continue wandering around a bit before I return to my bike to try and start it again. Despite a cool down period it still refuses to start - I'm really worried now. I pull out my tool kit and start my troubleshooting procedure, disconnecting and jumping each fuel injection sensor in turn to see if I can get it running, checking the voltage of the battery, the basic stuff. This isn't the first time I've had to fix it on the road, and I've never had to get a tow yet - I'll be damned if I get stuck here. But aside from a few lazy misfires I can't get it going. I can smell gas coming through the exhausts so fuel delivery seems to be fine. I suspect my coolant sensor may have finally buggered up in the extreme heat of traffic. It wouldn't be the first time. I used to commute in stop-and-go Montreal traffic, which caused all sorts of fun issues in a short span of time.

A couple of guys passing by on the road pause and compliment me on my beautiful machine. They may have said something about not seeing them very often - I wasn't really paying attention given present circumstances.  I thank them and mutter something about it being a real pain in the ass at the moment. "Beautiful," I think to myself "looks great broken down on the side of the road."               

Time to really get the ball rolling. I need to locate some spare parts to try and get this thing running again before the end of the day.

My first stop is the Ducati owner's tent. I explain my predicament to the folks present. The unanimous agreement is to locate Mark Hatten from Wounded Duc, who was racing this weekend and would be in the paddocks. He might have some spares, or ideas on how to proceed.

I head for the paddocks. After signing a waiver ("I accept that racing is dangerous and if I'm stupid enough to get myself run over by Jay Springsteen I deserve whatever fate has in store for me") I'm given free run of the multi-level paddock area. I hadn't even realized I was allowed in as part of my standard admission. In fact I had walked past the gate the previous day and some curmudgeon working security had called me over and told me to turn around and go back to the nearest tram stop, so I had assumed I was not welcome. Screw that guy.

I zero in on my goal - and try not to get too distracted by the oodles of cool racing machines around me. I find Mark's trailer, empty, his 888 sitting unattended. I ask his neighbours where he is. "He's at the pre-race rider's meeting, his class is coming up next." Oops, bad timing. I wander off to see if I might be able to located the guys from Wheels Through Time while I wait for Mark to return. The Century Race is today.

I spot Joe Gardella's Harley in one corner of the paddocks, but he is nowhere to be found. I continue on and run into the Velocity film crew. They inform me that I literally just missed the Century Race, and that Dale had won for a second year in a row on his 1912 Indian board tracker. Dale, Trish and Matt arrive. Dale is beaming and basking in the glory of his win against friend and arch-rival Joe for a second year in a row. Matt is fuming because he encountered the same fuel delivery problem he was struggling with back in Maggie Valley on Wednesday night, likely due to rust from the tank plugging the rudimentary petcock. This would be the second year Matt was sidelined, last year he had a hair-raising blowout pulling out of a corner onto the straightaway. He is clearly not happy. "Why didn't I put gas in both tanks" he curses under his breath.

I say hello to everybody and describe my situation. A stranger standing nearby pipes up and introduces himself as a Canadian. He point to his pickup truck parked behind me and offers me a lift as far as Ontario if need be. I give him my card and he promises to follow up with me the next day to see if I still needed help. I am relieved and grateful that I have the option, but I am determined to see this problem through and get the bike back on the road and back to Canada under its own power. To do anything else would be to return home in defeat, head hung in shame - as far as I was concerned if the 916 spent any time on pickup bed the OddBike USA Tour would be a failure.

The Next Gen Superbike race was starting, where Mark would be campaigning his 888. I climb up to the grandstands and watch the race from above the start-finish line. I watch a selection of disparate machines battle it out on the track, including one rider aboard some sort of Supermoto rig who is hanging on with the far quicker machines through the corners. Mark finishes second, which keeps him in the lead as National Champion in the class.

After the race I head back to Mark's trailer. He is busy scrubbing the grit off his slicks. I introduce myself and relate my problem, but unfortunately he doesn't have any spares on hand - once again, I hear it is one of those things that never breaks. He recommends I check with some of the other guys racing Ducatis in the paddocks, so I begin making the rounds and hassling everyone who happened to show up at Barber with a Duc. 

I speak to the guys at Boulder Motorsports and sit down with their mechanics, trying some armchair troubleshooting to figure out what might have happened. I walk the rows, making a bee line to every Ducati I spot. It's always the same story - no spares. Everyone is incredibly helpful and friendly. A few would have been willing to pull the sensor off their bike to help me out, but most had afternoon sessions on the track. And that was the problem - to yank the sensor requires draining the coolant, so it isn't a quick and easy thing to do. I just wanted to get my hands on a spare sensor to plug into the harness and try starting to see if it would work. I knew mine was wonky due to my cold starting problems, but I wasn't 100% sure it was the source of today's problem.

Eventually I meet a fellow who is acquainted with Ducati guru Bruce Meyers, one of the best Ducati technicians and tuners in the world. He sends him a message and Bruce calls me shortly after. We discuss the problem and any possible solutions. He thinks I am on the right track. He expresses some doubt about the no-start condition however, noting that even if the sensor is screwed up disconnecting it should introduce a failsafe fuel map that would allow the bike to run. He tells me to go to the Barber restoration department and find Chuck, who owns a 916 and might be able to help out with my troubleshooting.

Perfect timing. I'm sweating and sunburnt from running around the paddocks for over an hour and I could use another "break" in the air-conditioned museum.

Once again I'm in awe of the collection, and now that I'm looking at it again with fresh eyes I'm seeing things I had missed in my first whirlwind tour. I head to the fifth floor to check out the portion of the collection I had missed the previous day due to a private event. I photograph the machines I wasn't able to document due to my dead battery. Then I turn a corner and practically stumble into the only bike that truly makes me well up with emotion.

Sitting on its own is a 1976 König 500. This was the same type of machine that New Zealand rider Kim Newcombe had posthumously taken second place with in the 1973 500 GP, nearly beating the all-conquering MV Agusta team but only failing due to Newcombe's untimely death at a non-championship event at Silverstone before the end of the season. He finished ahead of Giacomo Agostini and just behind Phil Read. It is one of the greatest motorcycle stories that nobody has ever heard of, and when you learn of the details of Newcombe's career you can scarcely believe that it could have been forgotten. It's an incredible Cinderella story with a tragic finale, and it heralded the arrival of competitive two-strokes in the 500cc category. This is the only machine that brings tears to my eyes, and it's a story that I am very proud to have shared on OddBike. It's fitting that the König sits here on its own, noble, solitary, and largely ignored while a massive display of racing MVs dedicated to John Surtees hogs the limelight nearby.

A group of people are walking by and take a tiny bit of notice of the machine, commenting on the unusual engine layout. I stop them and begin telling them the story of the König, pointing out the modified outboard motor, telling them how Newcombe nearly won the championship despite his death. By the end of my impromptu historical monologue they are staring at me, then the bike, in disbelief. They are stunned to have never heard about this amazing story and vow to look it up. They are now intently examining the bike and snapping photos. 

I believe I stumbled onto OddBike's purpose at that moment - OddBike isn't just a collection of cool and unusual motorcycles, it is an archive of what might otherwise be lost and a testament to the people behind them. I can't claim to have come up with the "archive" idea myself but this was the moment when that concept was made real and the importance of what I was doing crystallized in my mind. I hadn't realized before that I might have that sort of impact. Now it was beginning to dawn on me that OddBike could have a purpose, other than just being a repository for my rambling prose.


I continue around the museum, asking any staff member I come across where I might find Chuck. I finally encounter a staff member, Denis McCarthy, who turns out to be one of the restoration team members who works alongside Chuck. I describe my problem and who referred me, and he kindly takes me down to the "Race Shop" in the basement and ushers me into the inner sanctum of the Barber Museum.

We enter a surgically-clean room with a couple of work benches and a wall loaded with sliding shelves of individually labelled bins. Everything is clean and well lit, no oil stains, no greasy fingerprints, no errant tools. It feels like a hospital room, and would look pass for one if not for a stripped frame and crankcases on one of the lifts - looks like a Yamaha TZ or something similar. A black Ducati ST2 with New Jersey plates is parked near the door. A Vyrus minimoto ("Built by the Vyrus guys when they were here." according to Denis) is hanging from the ceiling in front of the glass wall that looks out over a collection of bikes awaiting service. Chuck is sitting at a computer workstation, relaxing in this quiet refuge as the public buzzes around the rest of the restoration department. While most of the facilities are open to visitors for this weekend, this room remains off limits.

We chat about the issue I'm facing for a few minutes. Chuck and Denis suggest pulling the spark plugs and bringing them in for cleaning in case they might have gotten fouled. Denis lends me a ratchet from his personal toolbox and I head back out to the parking area to start pulling my bike apart.

Photo courtesy David Morales

I ask permission to roll my bike behind the VJMC venue where I can work without being disturbed. I then proceed to set up a perfect characterization of Italian bike ownership - a sea of Japanese bikes with a sole Ducati in their midst, half-disassembled and surrounded by tools. David photographs the scene for posterity.

Photo courtesy David Morales

It's clear from the plugs that I am indeed running rich, so at least that part of my diagnosis is correct. I bring them back to the shop and the guys agree they don't appear to be fouled. Chuck asks me what number the plugs are. He goes to the back wall and slides across one of the shelves to reveal an entire rack of NGK plugs. He pulls out a set and hands them to me - a gift from the Barber Museum to a motorcyclist in need.

Photo courtesy David Morales

The owner of the ST2 is in the shop, tending to his machine. If I recall correctly his name is Jeff. It turns out that he was in a similar situation. He had ridden his Duc from New Jersey and the bike died suddenly after he got caught in the morning's traffic, and now refused to even power on. Despite the fuses being intact and the battery on a trickle charger nothing was occurring when the ignition was switched, other than a loud electrical buzzing from somewhere deep in the front fairing. I suggest checking the relays, and that he should be able to locate generic automotive equivalents at any decent auto parts store. I help him poke around the bike for a few minutes trying to find obvious problems but nothing is jumping out.

A man walks across the shop and into the back room.

Jeff leans over and whispers "That's Alan Cathcart."

The number one motorcycle journalist in the world just walked into the room.

I politely introduce myself to Alan but reveal nothing about who I am or why I'm here. The last thing I want to do is corner one of the top guys in the motorcycle industry and spook him by going into rabid star-struck fan boy mode, shilling my little motorcycle blog. Besides, I'll bet he's been hounded for the entire time he has been at Barber and this was probably the only place he could go without being accosted.

I head back to my bike and install the new plugs. Flick on the ignition, thumb the starter... And the damned thing fires right up. After all the running around, all the horrifying specter of not completing my journey, all my hours of hounding of racers, technicians, and Barber staff members, it was the damned spark plugs all along.

Photo courtesy David Morales

Once again I trudge back to the museum. I return Denis' ratchet and thank him profusely for his help. Alan and his wife are nearby chatting with some of the staff.

Denis turns to group. "Alan, have you met Jason? Do you know what he did? He rode a 916 here from Canada."

Alan pauses and looks at me with an expression of bemusement on his face. He asks me about my wrists, how far I've ridden. He seems genuinely shocked that I endured a 916 over this distance. To be honest I can't recall exactly what I said after that. Maybe something about losing the circulation to my hands, my need to pick up a throttle rocker for the ride home. Maybe something about the trip not being done yet. I was so stunned at what had just happened, after a day of mad running around, that I was in a daze. In the mere hour or so I had been dealing with the guys at Barber, I had already earned a reputation, one that was enough to make Alan Cathcart take notice. I shook hands and gave a round of sincere thank-yous to everyone for getting me back on the road.

I rush back to the bike, as by now I am running behind schedule - I needed to get into Birmingham to visit the Motus factory and meet JT Nesbitt.

OddBike - Obsessing over weird motorcycles from around the world.
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Old 11-01-2013, 07:24 PM   #36
Masochistic Italophile
Joined: May 2009
Location: Montreal, Quebec
Oddometer: 36

Saturday Night

I meet up with Winslow and he guides me into the heart of Birmingham. The Motus factory is located here in an industrial area, apparently part of a block of Barber real estate in the city that was offered to them at a special "startup local motorcycle company" rate. 

When I was planning the OddBike USA Tour I had contacted Motus to arrange a meeting. Company president Lee Conn responded by inviting me to their annual City Bike Night, a little show and shine they held in the parking lot of their factory that would be starting in the evening after the Festival was wrapping up. Sounded like fun. I made a point to not wash the bike for the entire trip. I arrive at Bike Night with a Ducati 916 covered in seven states worth of bugs, road grime from 1600 miles of interstate, enough errant chain lube to grease a steam engine, and a set of awkwardly hung saddlebags still loaded with camping gear. 

The Motus factory is in a nondescript one-story building, just down the street from where Confederate is located. The modestly-sized parking lot in front of the building was already filling up with bikes and a few cars, and a stage was placed at the far end of the lot where grips were setting up speakers and band equipment. I parked the bike and didn't even have my helmet off before an older fellow came over and introduced himself. I meet George Martin, a veteran sport rider who is a member of the Speed Crazed Riders of the Ultimate Motorcycles (SCROTUMS), and who has done his own share of absurd cross-country treks by Italian sport bike. In George's case he had ridden to the (now defunct) Parry Sound Sportbike Rally in Northern Ontario on his Moto Guzzi Le Mans Mark IV. We chat for a few minutes when I spot a tall, slim man with a beer in hand walking over to us. I reach out my hand to finally meet JT Nesbitt. He waves away my hand and gives me a hug.

JT has been a supporter of OddBike for some time. He and I had been conversing via email and phone for a few months before the USA Tour got underway, and he always had high hopes for the site and where it might go in the future. JT was the one who suggested that OddBike could be an "archive", and of making my site a place for honest industry discussion free of bullshit, sponsors, or pretense. I think those ideals are a still a way off, but I truly appreciate that he thinks my site has that much promise and it gives me some frameworks for the future of OddBike. These are concepts I never foresaw or expected for my little project, so it will take me some time to wrap my head around them.

This was the first time we had met in person, and it turned out to be an excellent occasion to do so - JT was here at the Motus factory to unveil his latest design, the Bienville Legacy.

You might be familiar with JT's work with Confederate, where he got his first big break as a designer working on the G2 Hellcat before creating the game-changing Wraith. But to tie him solely to his work at Confederate is to sell him short. After all, it's been eight years since he left Confederate to work independently. And the Hellcat and Wraith aren't the only thing he has done. He has worked as a journalist. He has tended bar. He studied art history. He ran a motorcycle dealership. He can weld and work an English wheel. He sketches and paints. He rebuilt a Katrina-ravaged Lincoln and took it to the Bonneville Salt Flats, aiming to hit 200 mph.  He crafted a stunning one-off car powered by a Jaguar XK6 converted to run on natural gas. He can write some of the best, most visceral and divisive prose you've ever read since Hunter S. Thompson blew his brains out. He is intense, opinionated and frighteningly intelligent. He is a great man to have on your side, and a formidable enemy if he isn't. To suggest he is a "Renaissance man" is a cheap cliché, but I'm going to use it anyway.

The Legacy is parked in front of the factory. This is the first time anyone outside of JT's shop has seen the complete prototype - and it is astonishing.

JT is quick to ask me what I think. I haven't even had time to process what I'm seeing. It's tightly packaged and menacing. It looks like a bulldog with explosive potential - compact and muscular, not pretty in the traditional sense, but with a suggestion of speed and agility that defies that initial impression of visual weight. I think to myself "what the fuck does it matter what I think." JT has always been iconoclastic and to canvas for opinions seems like a moot exercise. A few months prior, upon seeing some of the preliminary mockups, I had made a comment comparing some of the forms to Art Deco streamliners. JT got rather incensed that I used a trite comparison to try and describe his work. Knowing what I know now, I realize his work defies categorization - and I mean that in the truest sense, not in the "weasel-saying-that-journalists-fall-back-on-when-they-are-unable-to-come-up-with-an-adequate-description" usage of the phrase. You literally cannot categorize or compare his designs, so don't try. His work respects the past, but he does not like it to be referenced to it with ham-fisted art history student clichés. Lesson learned.  

The Legacy is ridiculous in the best possible way. You must examine it in person to appreciate the work that has gone into it. Every single detail is unique to this machine and built to the highest standards. This is an early pre-production prototype with a set of empty crankcases, so a few details are missing and there are some minor finishing flaws here and there. But it is still magnificent. It is built around a Motus V-4, with forced induction via a chain-driven supercharger. The suspension is completely unique: four carbon-fibre blades (the front and rear are interchangeable) operate through rising-rate linkages and pullrods that use a composite leaf spring running down the spine of the bike (the red beam) for suspension, front and rear operating off the same spring. I don't want to reveal too much yet, because I will be writing a proper profile of the machine in a future OddBike feature. For now suffice to say it is amazing and it had the crowd at City Bike Night in awe.  

I mill around and socialize. This is a relaxed, fun event with no pretenses. The Motus works is open to the public, and it is surprisingly small - the assembly floor is a spartan, open garage with a couple of lifts and tool chests. Next to that a few offices, a waiting area, a design area, and a small meeting room. It's a bit of a shock to see how modest the operation is, considering how polished their prototypes appear. You need to keep in mind that the bulk of the manufacturing is outsourced to suppliers. This will be the head of operations and assembly. They intend to produce around 300 bikes per year, which is likely doable in this space if they don't move to a bigger facility by then.

Regardless of how small Motus appears to be, these are real, running bikes, being put through real world reliability testing - they aim to put 30 000 miles on each of the protos they have sitting in front of us before series production begins.

I notice JT talking to someone who looks familiar. Could it be? Yes, that's Pierre Terblanche, former Ducati designer who is now working for Confederate. They are discussing the Legacy, Pierre listening intently as JT walks him through the machine. Two of the best known motorcycle designers in the world are standing in the middle of an Alabama show and shine while the rest of us mill around, eating food truck tacos and pizzas and swilling complimentary beer. It is a surreal moment, and it won't be the last one of the night. A few people corner Pierre and try to pry some information about from him about his work with Confederate, but he remains coy and doesn't reveal anything more than the usual press-release stuff that everyone already knows. That in itself was rather unusual - Confederate is the fiercely independent brand of capital-R Rebellion and they have hired a mainstream designer who is now spouting off coached statements that wouldn't sound out of place at a Honda press conference. Much rumour and heresay was swirling around about what was and was not happening with the boys down the street.

I meet Michael Walshaw, who runs the US Kriega distributor. Michael had been tipped off about my trip by a mutual acquaintance, and he had offered to provide some gear for my journey. I had politely declined as I had already purchased my luggage at that point, but I wanted to make a point to thank him publicly. I'll admit that later on when I heard a few people praising Kriega gear I regretted not taking him up on the offer. Maybe next year.

Another familiar face materializes and begins chatting with JT. That would be Miguel Galuzzi, famed designer of the Ducati Monster and the Moto Guzzi V7. He takes a seat on the Legacy while JT describes the design. A crowd has gathered around the scene. Another surreal moment. I wonder if Chris Bangle or Ian Callum go mingling at blue-collar car shows, wearing jeans and untucked shirts, drinking beer with the locals.

Several times over the course of the evening people come up to me and introduce themselves and mention OddBike. I'm floored. I hadn't realized that I had a following, that people knew who I was. I absolutely did not expect to encounter fans of my work on this trip, and it blew me away. I had another moment of realization - I was still conceiving of OddBike as I had a year ago when I founded the site and began writing my first article, while sitting bored at work on a dreary November day. I never considered that I had fans, that people were genuinely interested in what I was doing and what I had to say. I always thought of the site as a goofy hobby, an outlet for my creativity and my personal ranting. It was on this day in Alabama that I realized OddBike was developing into something bigger.

The steady din of conversation is suddenly interrupted by the crack of an open-piped V4 starting inside the factory. Brian is at the lift, working the throttle on a white prototype that has its exhaust pipes removed - Lee had noted earlier "We do this because we are rednecks." Miguel is walking around the lift, listening to the American-made engine. It's a throaty, crackling roar that sounds exactly like a well-tuned, free-revving V8. Sound clips and YouTube videos don't do justice to how utterly vicious this thing sounds in person. The noise it makes is completely at odds with what a "sport tourer" should sound like, and I think that is fantastic.

I spot JT wheeling the Legacy into the factory. Everyone takes notice. Alan Cathcart is here and he is setting up an interview with JT about the project. This wasn't expected. JT had anticipated a quick series of questions, a handshake, a good luck wish. But when Alan arrived and laid eyes on the Legacy, he was completely blown away. He was agape with hand on head looking at the thing, and he immediately called his photographer and made arrangements to shoot it then and there at the Motus factory. So it was that we watched Alan interview JT for over an hour.

It's now getting late and I'm completely exhausted from the day's events. Before I go I need to speak to JT to make arrangements for tomorrow - I'm meeting him in New Orleans to hang out at his studio and interview him about the Legacy. He and Alan are wrapping up and Brian lets me onto the factory floor to say goodbye to JT. I stand off to the side for a minute as they finish up.

"Alan, have you met Jason Cormier?"

Alan recalls our encounter at Barber earlier. I tell Alan that the whole reason I'm here is because JT gave me the kick in the ass I needed to embark on this crazy journey.

"Jason runs a website called OddBike, have you heard of it?"

I'm trying very hard to remain calm at the realization of what is happening at this moment. I pull out one of my business cards and hand it to Alan.  

"It's the NPR of motorcycle journalism." JT pats me on the shoulder. Alan glances at my card and flashes a polite smile. He promises to have a look at my site. JT later tells me "when Alan says he will have a look at your site, he means it."

Time to head home and get a good night's rest. Tomorrow, I ride to New Orleans.

OddBike - Obsessing over weird motorcycles from around the world.
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Old 11-02-2013, 05:16 PM   #37
Gnarly Adventurer
Joined: Oct 2006
Oddometer: 322
Well more than impressive,Alan might have the best job in the world but I think you might have the second best.
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Old 11-02-2013, 05:24 PM   #38
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Joined: Sep 2009
Location: Wisconsin
Oddometer: 781
Great story, really enjoying this.
'12 F800GS
'00 Bandit 1200
'74 Honda CL360
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Old 11-03-2013, 04:13 AM   #39
Joined: Jun 2009
Location: Thornbury South Glos England
Oddometer: 74
Those "will she won't she" heart in the mouth start moments define the love hate relationship that is Ducati ownership. Looking forward to the rest of the ride report with anticipation.
Riding the Winds of Change
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Old 11-03-2013, 07:28 AM   #40
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Joined: Oct 2007
Location: Motorcycle Heaven
Oddometer: 32

Very interesting! Keep it coming.
Just Motorcyclin around!
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Old 11-03-2013, 07:44 AM   #41
Masochistic Italophile
Joined: May 2009
Location: Montreal, Quebec
Oddometer: 36
Originally Posted by Ross1969 View Post
Those "will she won't she" heart in the mouth start moments define the love hate relationship that is Ducati ownership. Looking forward to the rest of the ride report with anticipation.
It's not the first time, and it won't be the last. The worst I experienced on a previous trip was getting to Woodstock, NY with the engine cutting out violently. It was like hitting a rev limiter if you gave it any more than 5 degrees of throttle. I couldn't figure it out - so I rode it home to Montreal that way, unable to pass cars and accelerating at a glacial pace. 275 miles in literal limp-home mode.

That was the first time the coolant temp sensor gave out.

I've learned to not worry, which is the key to touring with a 916. I have a determination to see things through that negates the spectre of breaking down, and break down it will. Like I said in part I, I am not an apologist who pretends issues are nonexistent, because I'm not delusional and I've dealt with a shit ton of problems. But as long as the engine internals haven't made a break for daylight I can deal with it on the road.
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Old 11-03-2013, 11:45 AM   #42
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Maybe like the trip I am starting on Thursday,Laverda Club run though our Alpine area,8 going 4 being 30 year old Laverdas,on about 3000k of the best roads in OZ.Issues are part of the fun.
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Old 11-03-2013, 06:07 PM   #43
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I'm a North Carolinian, and I've been to the WTT museum at least 10 times since they opened in the summer of '05. I've seen magazine articles, internet stories, and tv shows about the place, but I've never seen photographs as detailed, or as 'interesting' as yours.

Care to talk about your camera?..

I also have an original poster of a 916 monoposto from the earliest days of the 916's existence hanging on the wall of my home office. To this day I still think it's one of the most beautiful pieces of two-wheeled machinery to come off of any manufacturer's assembly line.

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Old 11-03-2013, 06:37 PM   #44
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Originally Posted by NCGS View Post
Care to talk about your camera?..
Nothing special. Canon ELPH 330 I bought just before I left. Works pretty well for a point and shoot.

I don't have any posters.

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Old 11-03-2013, 06:38 PM   #45
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Did you shoot the videos also with the same camera?
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