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Old March 19th, 2002, 07:16 AM   #1
Magic Mtn Dan
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"This is as good as it gets on two wheels" (OT)

Bike Week In Daytona

A mad ballet on two wheels.
by Jim McCraw

The 61st annual Daytona Bike Week celebrations and races are in the history books, and another 500,000 bikers have left another $400 million behind in Florida. They have ridden or flown home by now from what it the worldís largest celebration of motorcycling. After ten grueling days, itís over. But the photographs, the digital images and the videotapes will be shown over and over again, and the 2002 event will loom even larger at home than it was in Florida. For nine bikers, unfortunately, it was a one-way trip.

This is one of those something-for-everyone phantasmagorias that you have to do at least once, like going to the Indy 500 or the 24 Hours of Le Mans. And, like them, it is addictive. There are more motorcycles and bikers to look at here than anywhere else on earth, year after year, undaunted by terrorism or the economy or anything else. Itís about freedom and joy and creativity, pride in craftsmanship, and contains within it the most prestigious motorcycle race in the world, the Daytona 200. We saw speeds there this year in excess of 194 mph from the Superbikes.

Thatís what Daytona is about. Speed. And style. Leather and sweat. Malt in profusion. Thousands and thousands of knights of the road and their mounts, some in heraldic colors, most in black. Sticking a middle finger up to winter, riding on the beach, showing off in the sunshine. Riding on good roads overhung with trees dripping Spanish moss. Watching brave young men seek 200 mph in a race to fame and fortune. Watching the pure poetry of a string of racing motorcycles and their young riders snapping into and out of the corners, knees down and tires drifting.

If thatís not your cup of tea, thereís more. Lots more. How about bikini-clad young women wrestling in a large vat of cole slaw? Or the motocross race at the speedway on Saturday. Or the vintage motorcycle auction, the giant Harley compound on Beach Street, or the guy on foot leading the Clydesdale down Atlantic Avenue. Or the stately, quiet beauty of St. Augustine only fifty miles away, and the beach road that takes you there. Or the free custom, stock and restored motorcycle show on Main Street that goes on for eight blocks solid on both sides of the street for ten straight days. Itís all here, every March.

Skin, and lots of it, skin art, body piercing, mechanomania, world record beer consumption. Down home American party food everywhere. Ribs, turkey legs, barbecued pork, Italian sausage with peppers and onions, and several other of the basic food groups are every half-block downtown. T-shirts of every shape and kind. Nonhuman animals riding motorcycles with their owners. The Volusia County sheriffs, who take no guff from nobody at no time. If you care about motorcycles, you just gotta go to Daytona.

So we did, for the fourth time in the past ten years, and we found it as exhilarating, as refreshing, as heartening as any event we go to during the long automotive year. Motorcycles sold at an all-time record pace of more than 764,000 units last year. Harley-Davidson and Honda lead all the rest in volume, and Daytona is a Harley kind of town during Bike Week, despite the presence of thousands of Hondas and others at the speedway. As the men in the U.S. industry point out, nobody really needs a motorcycle in this country where cheap transportation is plentiful. These are expensive toys, selling at a record pace, terrorism and the economy notwithstanding.

More motorcycle companies and major custom bike and customizing houses are doing business in the U.S. than in many a long year, despite some recent bankruptcies. Indian is back after a long hiatus, new engine and all. The Italian companies are in the fight. These are the quickest and fastest vehicles you can buy, most of them for well under $13,000. A stock Suzuki GSXR1000 sportbike will do the quarter-mile in 9.9 seconds at over 142 mph and top 180 mph. Great bikes are in every segment of this huge market. And people are in Daytona enjoying them, polishing them, and riding them until all hours of the morning. This is Daytona, an American institution in its seventh decade.

They come here from Western Europe and South America, from England and Canada. To ride motorcycles and be seen riding them. To talk about motorcycling all day long for a week. To see what the motorcycling world is up to. To ride the newest and best bikes on the market, free of charge. To stand in line for an hour at a restaurant and never cover the same conversational ground twice: all motorcycles, all the time. To lie down on a warm, sandy beach after four months in the freezer.

Thereís a guy who comes every year with a motorcycle dressed up as a huge easy chair with its own reading lamp. There are guys who ride with parrots on their shoulders or dogs in their laps. There are paralyzed guys who ride in sidecars with their buddies. There are dozens of Chevrolet-powered Boss Hoss customs that sound like NASCAR cars. There are seriously tattooed ladies. Good-looking women are everywhere (Harley-Davidson reveals that fully nine percent of its buyers now are women). Older couples on enormous trikes come from six states away. TV star Catherine Bell of the popular JAG series announces she will be making a theatrical film about women in motorcycle racing when JAG goes on hiatus.

It is not all sweetness and light. Cops are everywhere in unmarked cars. They masquerade as bikers. People argue. People hit each other. People go to jail. People, unfortunately, die.

At the imposing Daytona 3.8-mile race track, hundreds of the best riders, tuners and mechanics work and slave and practice pit stops, trying to add that last ounce of performance with tires and shocks. To win this race is to go down in history. They race 250, 600, 750, and Superbike classes and thereís an amazing display of extreme riding at the Saturday motocross race. Riveting, non-stop action. Teenagers trying to find more speed on their superlight, superfast screamers. Luke Skywalker, the best fighter pilot in the fleet.

As it turns out, 20-year-old Nicky Hayden wins the 200-mile AMA Superbike finale on Sunday on what must surely be the scariest, most fun Honda in the world to ride. In this league, the crew can change two tires and add fuel in less than eight seconds flat.

After Sunday, the season is all downhill. The race and the rest of the Daytona craziness will be shown all during spring on cable and satellite systems around the world, because this is as good as it gets on two wheels.

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Old March 19th, 2002, 07:31 AM   #2
Magic Mtn Dan
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Speaking of bikes - here's what $15 & an afternoon in Vegas will get you...

The Art of the Motorcycle

High velocity in Vegas: The Art of the Motorcycle at the brand new Guggenheim Las Vegas proved once again the undeniable attraction of two-wheelers.
by Jim McCraw

Those of us who were there on June 25, 1998, when the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on Fifth Avenue opened its doors to 115 historic motorcycles will never forget it. After more than a hundred years, someone, somewhere had finally recognized motorcycles as art, as industrial design, and as an attractive museum exhibition.

The Art of the Motorcycle spent a year at the Frank Lloyd Wright designed museum, and became the most popular exhibition in the museumís history. A smaller version went to the Field Museum in Chicago and set more records.

A rare 1923 BMW motorcycle now on display at the Vegas Gug.

Then, the motorcycles were packed up and shipped to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, a building designed by the same man who designed the original exhibition in New York, Canadian architect Frank Gehry. Another successful run.

And now, that same man, Frank Gehry, has redesigned the exhibition to fit in a brand new building designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, a 67,000 square foot giant of a museum on two levels, The Big Box, adjacent to The Venetian Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Vegas appeal

Why Vegas? Because itís the only city in America west of New York that has a Harley-Davidson Cafť. Because you can fly there from anywhere. Because, in a normal year, Vegas hosts more than 42 million visitors from all over the world. They go to Vegas to lose their money and to be entertained, and among them there are hundreds of thousands of bikers and tech-heads who will come to see this amazing agglomeration of American and foreign iron.

Some things stayed the same, and some things are different. BMW is still the major sponsor, God bless Ďem, along with Delta Air Lines. Museum director Thomas Krens, an avid biker, is still in the middle of the thing. Ultan Guilfoyle, the Irish-American biker and director of film and television at the New York Guggenheim, is still the co-curator of the exhibition, as is Charles Falco, University of Arizona physics professor, owner of 40 motorcycles, and collector of more than 3000 motorcycle history books.

Another rare two-wheeler, a Micheaux Perraux.

Celebrities in attendance for the grand opening, all of whom rode to Las Vegas from Oxnard, Calif., on new BMWs, included Lyle Lovett, a veteran rider and BMW dealer in Houston, Dennis Hopper, Jeremy Irons and his biker babe wife, actress Sinead Cusack, and Lauren Hutton, still recovering from a spill last year on a ride outside Las Vegas.

Two-wheel divas

But the real stars are the motorcycles. Most but not all of the bikes from New York City, Chicago, and Bilbao are still in the exhibition, but Guilfoyle told us in an interview that, because the museum is in the heart of the American West, because itís Indianís 100th anniversary, and because Harley-Davidson will be 100 in two years, some of the European bikes were pulled in favor of more of these American brands.

Guilfoyle said that the original exhibition in New York had to be adapted to work in a decidedly quirky Frank Lloyd Wright space, reduced in size for the rectilinear space in Chicago to only about 75 of the original 113 bikes, and then came Bilbao. "In Bilbao, we had an industrial city and Frank Gehryís whimsical museum building to put the bikes into. In Las Vegas, a whimsical city, we have Rem Koolhaasís industrial space to put the bikes into."

In giving a personally guided tour of the entire exhibition to a very lucky few, Ultan Guilfoyle was charmingly spot-on, neither overselling nor underselling the importance or the technical contribution of each bike in the place, from the very first motorcycle to the newest.

Guilfoyle explained that in Europe, motorcycles have always been considered part of the mass transportation system, economical and space-efficient, ridden upright. Here in America, he said, motorcycles are more like accessories or toys, ridden for fun but ridden like horses were in the Old West, laid back, relaxed, with one hand ready to reach for the lasso or the six-gun. He cites the Indian Chief as "the ultimate American motorcycle icon."

Featured among the 130 machines are the 1868 steam-powered Michaux-Perreau, the first gasoline-powered motorcycle of Karl Benz in 1886, the first mass-produced motorcycle, the Werner, and latter-day icons such as the Indian Chief, the BMW boxer, the Triumph Bonneville, the Honda 750, the Kawasaki Ninja, Ducati 916, the Suzuki Hayabusa, and the latest bike in the show, Lyle Lovettís personal MV Agusta Mille.

The space in Las Vegas is much bigger, more wide-open than the New York Guggenheim, (highlighted by a bright green central staircase, enormous murals from motorcycle movie stills, sheets of polished stainless steel, and other visual treats, with much higher ceilings), the displays are more colorful, and the lighting is generally better. The information on each bike is printed right on each bikeís stand, horizontally, so a separate stand wonít get in the way, and every one of the bikes is held up vertical by a pair of cables so the sidestands or centerstands donít have to be used and donít get in the way of the aesthetics.

The motorcycles have been pulled from manufacturers, museums, and private collections all over the world (Otis Chandler, the retired publisher of the Los Angeles Times, is the largest single contributor, with 17 of his bikes on display, most built before 1920). All but a tiny few are perfectly and accurately restored to their original specifications, and they are simply beautiful to look at.

Thereís no better way to spend $15 and an afternoon in Las Vegas. The beautifully done $45 catalog that illustrates and explains the entire exhibition and each bike in it belongs in the library of any serious biker.

Here's a rare 1923 BMW motorcylce on display:

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Old March 19th, 2002, 10:40 AM   #3
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TBHL V - Cocktails and The Art of The Motorcycle!

Thats right, another reason to join your fellow Babblers at The Boxsters Have Landed, May 03-05 at the Monte Carlo Hotel in Las Vegas.

After check-in Friday afternoon we will amble over to The Venetian, for cocktails and then to visit The Guggenheim Las Vegas' Art of The Motorcycle exhibition

Having missed the original exhibition in New York, I was thrilled to be able to see it when in Las Vegas at a convention in November. If you enjoy or have enjoyed the passion of motorcycling, This is a Must See exhibition.

So why not join your fellow Babblers at TBHL V and have twice the fun!


The Boxsters Have Landed V
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Old March 19th, 2002, 11:52 AM   #4
Gary (Redwood Shores)
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Billster - check your email *NM*

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Old March 19th, 2002, 03:10 PM   #5
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Re: "This is as good as it gets on two wheels" (OT)

That looks like that thing "capt. Pike" rode around in for the first episode of the original Startrek.
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Old March 19th, 2002, 05:53 PM   #6
Jay in SF
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*blink* *beep*...."Yes..." *NM*

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