LETTER FROM ITALY
Right now I’m in Varese, Italy checking out the new SWM dual-sport bikes that will be coming to America soon. This is a interesting story that started when KTM purchased Husqvarna from BMW and moved the company out of Italy. That left a new factory and a lot of unhappy Italian workers behind. At the time, an Asian small motorcycle maker called Shinray was looking to acquire a European brand and revive the SWM name (which was a big deal in Italy in the ’80s and ’90s). They joined forces with a group of Italians , acquired the resources left behind by Husqvarna and started making motorcycles. The first products were almost identical to the Italian-made Husqvarna four-strokes that were developed in the pre-BMW years. There are other motorcycles in the works, including a brand-new 125 two-stroke and a 250 four-stroke motocross bike.
The first motorcycles imported to the U.S. will be a 300cc four-stroke dual-sport, a 500cc four-stroke dual-sport and a 650cc adventure bike. A few parts will be sourced from Asia, but the overwhelming majority will be European.
This photo was from last year, when we got a hold of a prototype SWM 500 Dual-Sport bike that was imported for EPA homologation. It was just like the old Husky 510, at least as we remembered it. For the last 12 months, the factory has been tweaking the bike and making it their own. The best part is that the projected selling price will be in the $7000 range. Check back next week when I will have a complete riding impression.
HANGTOWN IS HERE
This weekend is the beginning of outdoor season. I’ll be on a plane over the Atlantic when Hangtown kicks off, but it’s my favorite time of the racing year. I’ll see the highlight show next Thursday, at least. Here are the TV air times:
I have to give a heartfelt congratulations to Ryan Dungey, the KTM team and Roger DeCoster for their third Supercross title in a row. I’m not a very unbiased journalist when it comes to Roger; we worked together for years when he was on staff at Dirt Bike in the ’90s. He wasn’t just a name on the masthead, he was a full-time editor in charge of our testing and he took it just as seriously as he does everything else. I ran across this nice tribute to Roger by my old friend Mark Simpson on Facebook. I think he nailed it:
Heroes: ROGER DECOSTER
My earliest childhood memories are from the early ’60s. Back then we had black & white TV and only three stations. My exposure to sports at the time was very minimal. My heroes were men like Robert Vaughn, Chuck Connors, and Robert Conrad. But these were fictional heroes, as my hero worship didn’t really carry over into reality. It wasn’t until later that I had sport heroes like Rick Barry and Joe Montana. And then there were my motorsports heroes. Men like Al Unser and AJ Foyt. What did all these men have in common? Strong, tough, independent, smart. All the things I wanted to be. But much more than all that they were “cool.” I think that was the most important criteria for any hero. They had to be cool. Hell, Montana’s nickname was “Joe Cool”.
Motocross did not get started in America until the late ’60s, and didn’t become a real thing until the early ’70s. I had a lot of motocross heroes. But these heroes were different. I could watch them work. I could talk to them. I could take pictures of them. I knew that what they were doing was truly spectacular and fearsome.
And out of all my motocross heroes there was no one cooler than Roger DeCoster. Not even close. His nickname was “The Man.” If you knew MX, that’s all you had to say, and everyone knew who you were talking about. He is largely responsible for the popularity of motocross in America, and the world. He was fast, super smooth, always stylish, and a great ambassador. What I admired most about him was how much he hated losing. His quote “confidence is the key” always stuck with me my whole life. And I could see it in all he did.
I took these photos at Sears Point in 1977 …
We’ve been having a lot of fun testing the Honda CRF250L Rally. Not all of it has been on posted and approved trail. Unfortunately, for my one phone call from jail, I can’t call the office. No one there will acknowledge that I exist, let alone that I was performing a work-related task. The cool thing is that the Rally isn’t very intimidating to hikers. It’s slow and quiet. Of the people I’ve run across, most are current or former dirt bike riders, and the others are slightly amused that I would be riding something that looks like a Gold Wing to them.
The Rally isn’t capable of doing anything too extreme. It’s a budget dual-sport bike that has some extra weight, but everyone should know that going in. I rode with a couple of friends on 20-year-old Honda XR250Ls and we got to all the same destinations. I just had to do a little more lifting. They were sure jealous of the electric start.
4th ANNUAL CASELLI DAY
Doffo Winery will host the 4th Annual Kurt Caselli Foundation Benefit, presented by SCORE International on Saturday, June 17, 2017. Doffo Winery has joined forces with Wilson Cycle Sports KTM of Murrieta, FMF Racing, GoPro, Klim, Torco and District 37 to help raise money for The Kurt Caselli Foundation and their mission to improve the safety of off-road racers. Click on the flier for more info.
I’ve been enjoying riding with this group on my old Husky. So far, I have a poor finishing record–substantially below 50%. It’s not about the race (thank goodness), it’s more about the get-together.
WILD WEEKEND ALERT
The weekend of June 9th to 11th is going to be wild at Glen Helen, too. On the evening of the 9th, the Prairie Dogs MC will be holding a night race. That will be followed on Saturday the 10th by the Prairie Dog’s Last Dog Standing Extreme Enduro, Presented by EnduroCross. Then I get in on the act by helping organize the JBC 10 Hours of Glen Helen on Sunday. It will be a two-stage race, with a relatively easy GP course for the first five hours followed by a one-hour break. The second half will be more like a hare scambles, with more single track. Start times based on the first stage finish. For over 10 years, I’ve designed the courses for the 6, 10, 12 and 24 Hours of Glen Helen. Andrew Yarnell will be the official course marshal this time, and I’m hoping I can actually ride the event! We’ll see.
Hope to see you there