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THE SOUND & THE FURY! As seen on The Vintagent

Saturday, November 6, 2021

THE SOUND & THE FURY! As seen on The Vintagent

 He knew by her stripper hug that he was going to have fun tonight

Dinner and drinks, her for dessert.
She makes the good nights better.
All week he struggled to sneak out for a ride but work got the better of him.
His buzzing wristwatch signaled it was time.
He slipped out of her body hug,
Climbed into his riding gear.
Grabbed a quick double espresso on his way to the garage.
He toggled through his choices.
The sun crests the canyons as he wheels out his machine.
He coasted down the hill, away from the house before firing her up.
The sound of a three-cylinder MV barking to life.
The engine makes the music,
Turning from growl to wail as she revs.
It’s the soundtrack for this morning’s ride.


The stress of the week melts away as he picks up speed.
That job sucks all the joy out of him.
But between her and the bike,
he was glad to be alive again.
Howling down the straightaway,
he drifts over to the double yellow,
flicks hard right, arching from the double yellow to white and yellow again.
Tossing her left, he tags a knee then rockets up the hill through the trees on the narrow two-lane road.
Smiling in his helmet high on adrenaline.
He follows his asphalt path as it snakes through the forest.
The rider is all in,
with the Armco keeping him honest.
Turning right the road follows the coastline.
The smell of the ocean and eucalyptus trees fill his helmet.
All good things come to end.
He silently glides back into his garage.
Electric motorcycles make for happy neighbors.
The sounds of the MV are just computer-generated.
His onboard system reads his throttle input, pumping in the appropriate engine sound into his helmet speakers.
The advanced system even mocks the power delivery and corresponding engine vibrations.
His bike is so quiet that the dogs don’t even bark.
Heavy metal thunder is dead.
The future is silent.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

THE SPECTACLE OF SPEEDWAY (from The Vintagent)


What’s it like to ride a speedway bike?
I’m told they go faster when you shut the throttle.
That they do zero to sixty in three seconds
With no brakes or rear suspension.
The alcohol-burning 500 cc singles crank out 70ish horsepower.
Yet weigh in at 175 pounds.
They are explosive machines, vicious and unforgiving.
Their battle is a series of heats,
Just four intense laps of mano a mano racing.
Welcome to the world of Speedway.
Johnathan Oakden is an up-and-comer in the Speedway scene, and keeps his body in shape with MMA training. [Steve Koletar]
Who dares to race such machines?
The first speedway racer I met was 18-year-old Jonathan Oakden.
The likable young man’s life plan is a move to California.
There he will take his shot at becoming a professional speedway racer. 
If that doesn’t work out he is training to be an MMA fighter.
I felt like I was talking to Lloyd Dobler.
Johnny spoke of his love for combat sports.
How he grew up racing motocross, then made the switch to speedway.
Johnny studied martial arts and wrestling in school.
I applaud his decision to chase his dreams.
Plenty of time later to work in cubicles if they don’t pan out.
Jake Meyer looking more pro wrestler than motorcycle racer, but that’s Speedway… [Stever Koletar]
The second rider I spoke with was Jake Myer.
He looked more weightlifter than motorcycle racer.
He could easily bench press a speedway bike.
How did he get involved?
As a boy, his parents took him to the local speedway races,
and he was taken with the spectacle.
Jake hadn’t been to a race in years but spotted an ad for a local race.
He had such a good time he took his wife to a second event.
She asked – why don’t you race?
With her blessing, he started competing.
I’m not sure what her motives were.
Max Ruml is the master of the one-handed wheelie on his speedway bike. [Steve Koletar]
One racer stood out among this motley crew.
Max Ruml has an air of professionalism mixed with that west coast vibe.
This showman is ruthlessly fast while pulling off one-handed wheelies.
He recently clinched the 2021 AMA National Championship.
Max hopes to race in Europe next.
Gino Manzanez (another MMA fighter!) broadsliding at extreme angles, which is part of the Spectacle of Speedway. [Steve Koletar]
Our photographer Steve Koletar is a well-traveled race enthusiast.
He covers both automobile and motorcycle racing.
I asked Koletar what’s the best show in racing?
Steve said “Speedway is out of this world.
It’s a must-see spectacle.”
I confessed I’d never been.
He wouldn’t take no for an answer,
so we attend the next AMA National together.
The racing is intense.
You can see all the action on these small tracks.
I noted the enthusiastic crowd seemed very 420 friendly.
Speedway is a box that should be checked off by any true racing enthusiast.
Jason Bonsignore and Len McBride with the trophy Len created celebrating Jason’s 25 year ownership of Champion Speedway. [Steve Koletar]
Note:  We would like to thank Jason Bonsignore.
Jason manages both Champion and Action Park East in New York.
His love for speedway keeps the sport alive on the East Coast.
Speedway has a huge following in Europe but is mainly based in California here in the USA.
This was the first time the AMA Nationals were held outside of California.
Hopefully, it will be an annual part of the schedule.
The racing is very sideways in Speedway, as full broadsliding is the technique for racing.  And wheelies.  [Steve Koletar]
The broadsliding technique used in Speedway was invented in the 1920s, some say by American rider Sprouts Elder, who improved on the original ‘leg trailing’ technique, in which a rider dragged his foot behind the machine. The sport of Speedway was originally called Dirt Track, and was the most popular motorsport in the world – period- in the mid-1920s. Riders traveled the world on an international, professional circuit following the seasons: the USA, Britain, South America, and Australia.We have plenty of archival stories of Dirt Track racing in its original days: have a look at a few here:

 

 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

At The Vintagent : EZ Does It!

 

Doing it the hard way is painful:

Life over the limit beat me down,

I grew gun shy from injury.

Tired of explaining the damage from my latest get-off,

those hours of reflection in the ER.

Should I just write?

Writer and flat track racer Michael Lawless aboard one of his racers, from his story ‘Passing, Pain, and Purpose.’ [Michael Lawless]
Not racing is hard too.

Part of me dies at the track when I’m not suiting up,

and the dream floods back watching American Flat Track on TV.

The contradiction was killing me.

Lucky, I ran across Kenny Dahlin.

He runs a flat track racing school called ‘EZ Does It’,

named for his approach to racing.

We crossed paths on social media,

thumbs up & positive comments.

On the track Kenny looks effortless and in control.

Exactly what I wasn’t.

I knew I could learn a few things.

So, I decided to invest in my riding skills.

Kenny Dahlin keeping a close eye on a student. [Kris Keath]

Kenny teaches on the track.

He sent me out first, then joined me:

We rip off a bunch of laps elbow to elbow.

He dropped back to tail me, then cleared off to see what I’d do.

His feedback made me realize

a lifetime of sport riding had made me lazy.

On the road, to corner quicker I’d enter fast and lean harder.

This doesn’t work on the dirt.

Charging into a corner,

I’d lose front grip then pick her up to regain traction.

By then I’m running wide, struggling to change direction,

and grabbing throttle to make up for mistakes.

Out of shape and into the next corner too fast.

Over the limit is thrilling

but actually slow.

Just a hot mess on the edge of crashing.

Getting real feedback on riding or racing is invaluable, especially from a pro who knows. [Kris Keath]

Kenny helped me dial it in.

He said my leaning in is something bad waiting to happen,

and forcing it only compounds the mistakes.

He said use the front wheel to steer,

and roll the throttle earlier to make her turn.

Kenny likes to keep it simple.

Don’t overwhelm the student.

Focus on one or two things to make progress.

His approach paid off,

I was going quicker yet calmer.

Flat track can be brutal, so EZ Does It.

The average age of students in Kenny’s school was 50 for the first two years…something worth noting! [Kris Keath]

Kenny has coached over 100 students just this year.

For the first two years the average age of his students was 50.

Are you listening, motorcycle industry people?

Dahlin has spent a lifetime flat track racing.

As a kid, he rode to the races hanging on the back of his daddy’s Harley.

Kenny climbed thru the ranks to carry an AMA Pro number.

You benefit from his experience by taking his school.

I think you’ll agree it’s well worth it.

 

 


Sunday, August 29, 2021

BIO



I'm an analog guy in a digital world.

No cable TV or VCRs growing up. 

Just lucky to have a library across the street.

I read about racing and tales of aerial combat

These stories got me through life in the rows with the have nots.

College was out of range.

The reward of working was purchasing my first motorcycle at eighteen.

Mom was not amused-I moved out.

The women and booze came and went. Motorcycles were my constant.

My dislike of most of what was in the motorcycle media got me to take up writing. 

Trying to bring something fresh to a sportbike magazine led me to flat track.

I befriended racer Jake Shoemaker and got to see the circus from the inside out.

I hung out with the stars,  slept on hotel room floors, and drove all night to races.

I loved the over-the-limit riding and cowboy lifestyle. 

It got me racing again which led me here.

My blog Electric Horseman was started with words of 

inspiration from artist Atti Anonymous.

Riding and racing are always on my mind.

I checked out happy if my riding boots were on.

THE HIGHLINE/THE INSTAGRAM INTERVIEW (from THE VINTAGENT)

What does it take to be a motorcycle racer?
Some outside our circle might say ‘balls’.
But to a racer, risk is a calculated decision, not blind aggression.
Outsiders have no idea what self-control and self-discipline it demands,
from eating right to working out.
Time spent wrenching while others go drinking.
It takes more than dreams.
It takes hard work and plenty of it.
And for most, years of struggling.
And when you make the main event,
you’re way back on the third row.

How it feels: all bunched up in turn 1, looking for a magic line. [Steve Koletar]
I asked Morgen Mischler for his thoughts the morning after his big win in New York:

“Ever since I was a little kid, people would tell me I had balls of steel (lol). The first thing I’m thinking sitting on the third row is I’ve got 8 people ahead of me. I need to position myself on the line so I can get the traction I need to close that gap to the leaders. Starting is a big key in this sport, especially if the racing funnels down in the corner to a single file (which I loathe). The next thing is making sure the guys ahead of me are good starters and aren’t going to be roadblocks in the first corner, but also to hit a line I’ve found on the warm-up lap to give myself a chance to move forward.”

Tell me about passing – are you stalking them or killing everything in your path?

“Passing on the highline. For me, it’s threading a needle others don’t think about threading. Trusting my bike placement won’t be in the marbles and having enough mid-corner speed to make the pass and keep it under control without running my clutch lever into their exhaust or knee, risking going down. If I’m the only one on the high line, it’s more about how fast I can run that line and find what else may be faster. Up there it’s more about finding your marks and hitting them while trying to find spots to improve and not lose time in the process of experimenting with the line. If someone else is on the mainline like Volusia, then it’s more like stalking and trying to find where you can squeak by. It takes a lot more commitment to thread the needle and come down to the mainline ahead of whoever was ahead of you.”

At times out front means all alone, but not usually… [Steve Koletar]
What does it feel like to ride on the limit?

“My Lima video kinda shows my bike on the limit. It’s a badass, the bike becomes an effective extension of your body, so much of it is bike feel. When you have the gearing right it makes everything a lot easier because you fall into a rhythm. My bike is built very well by Vance and Hines. I can’t thank them enough for their support. I don’t like ripping my fast bike on the limiter unless it’s at a national, gotta take it easy on that thing cause these pockets are pretty shallow compared to some teams. Not a huge fan of rebuilding things, so I try not to beat up my equipment outside of nationals. Really fortunate Vance and Hines builds all my KTMs. My main bike is a stout. I’m working on getting a backup machine just as powerful too.”

What it’s like running high? (the high line AKA ‘high, wide & handsome’)

“The highline is the slower way around, but it carries your momentum instead of having to slow down as much for the corner. There are so many different approaches to riding the lines that form. Some tracks you can’t get off of the main groove where all the rubber forms or you’re going backward in a hurry. A lot of it is people ride defensive and guard the inside. Last year Indy mile and this year Volusia II for example you couldn’t get off the mainline, but people wanted to protect the bottom so they wouldn’t charge into the corner as fast. I had to leave it on longer and flirt with the top of the groove next to the marbles to get enough momentum to pass them and immediately close the door to get on the mainline to make the pass. It’s a tough needle to thread because just above where the rubber has formed on the track is marbles of dirt that will carry you up the track”

It feels good to win! Morgen Mischel enjoys the rush, and the adulation, after a win in NY. [Steve Koletar]
Tell me about the euphoric feeling of victory?

“It’s a large amount of being pleased with yourself and knowing you just whooped some ass. Along with the relief of getting first after the stress of it. But euphoric is an accurate description.”

Tell me about race day?

“An overview of the day was that we switched shocks to something I thought would work, chased the setup with it and qualified 20th. We switched back to the shock from the other day and made some adjustments before the semi to see if it would help. Mark and I had the provisional card ready just in case I didn’t get into the top 8 😂 but went from the 3rd row to 5th in the semi. Nailed a start and picked my way through on the first lap and put my head down. If you look at the gap, I picked up .1+ almost every lap. I didn’t check to see the gap until there were 2 laps to go and get a better view of it in the last corner on the last lap.”

Tell me about your plans for the future?

“I’m not totally sure what the future may hold for me. I’m so invested in my program, I’m just trying to piece the right support together to actually make my program remotely comparable to the factory teams. I’m sure if we’d compare budgets, it’d be laughable. I’d also want to take everyone that’s supported me this far along because they deserve it just as much as I do. I’m fortunate to have the support I do because I never thought I’d get this far. Also, I would like to give extra special thanks to Randy Triplet, Bill Mischler, and Mark Muth.”

A moment in the pits with our writer, Michael Lawless, and Mischler’s team. [Steve Koletar]
This was great fun putting this together.
Morgen gives a good glimpse of what’s in his head.
It all came together easily.
I was so stoked to be at the American Flat Track race in New York.
This was the first time back at the track with photographer/wingman Steve Koletar.
He’s the ‘Weegee’ of dirt track. Be it sprint cars or flat track bikes.
Steve has a gift of capturing those magic moments seen here in this article.
We palled around the pits talking to riders and tuners alike.
This was the first time I talked at length with Morgen Mischler.
I was impressed by how talkative he was for a flat tracker racer, articulate too.
Morgen mentioned he was game for The Vintagent.
I knew he was serious when I saw Mischler started to followed me on Instagram.
We wrote this together without even talking.
Just using Instagram.
We plan on keeping these lines of commutations open for future updates.

Up close and personal. [Steve Koletar]

Michael Lawless [@electric_horseman], our ‘Poet of Packed Earth’, is the Flat Track Editor for TheVintagent.com, and has his ow 

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Passing, Pain & Purpose (from The Vintagent)

 The moment after the best pass of my life

Indoor short track racing is motorcycle combat.
Greenlights on – you attack.
No quarters asked or given.
The competition crowds your personal space.
Passing is hard work,
you must be aggressive and totally committed.
The intensity makes it rewarding.
I look forward all year to indoor racing at Timonium.

The impossible was what I needed: a do-all motorcycle.
Big enough to race outdoor but small enough to race indoor.
And street legal so I could commute to work.
Searching the classifieds, a Buell Blast seemed to fit the bill.
Not that I knew of anyone who raced one.
It was just for fun – to make the show.
I had the tank and tail repainted.
She might not be fast, but she’d look good.
My competitors looked amused, strolling past.
The Buell was not a competitive ride:
too big and way too heavy.
The ice was broken when some kid admired the paint job,
gushing ‘it’s orange like the General Lee.’

Yep, it’s orange, but in an H-D kinda way, not a rebel flag kinda way. What was that kid thinking? Don’t answer that. [Michael Lawless]
On the Buell’s maiden heats,
the first few laps were get-to-know-you.
By the third session, I’m first in line in the cattle chute.
The safe bet is to start at the back:
you’re less likely to get run over.
If you’re first out, you gotta run
like you’re chased by wild dogs.
It was sketchy to start up front,
but how else do you learn?
You just gotta go for it.
The lights flashed green,
the back tire chirped as I dropped the clutch,
and the big single thundered down the straight,
the pack snapping at my wheel.

The brake squeals as she starts to slide sideways
into the first corner.
I spin up the rear tire coming onto the straight,
drifting to the outer wall.
Into the next corner,
a rider squeezes by on the inside.
Time slows down, he’s in front but drifting wide,
I squeeze the brake calmly,
swapping outside for in,
aiming the portly Buell beneath him.
Taking a squeaky line I re-pass him on the exit,
so close I can see WTF on his face.
My line had the drive out,
but his lighter/faster 450 motored past.

Not a lotta room here, it’s elbow to elbow on a short, slippery concrete track. Gladiatorial, like. [Michael Lawless]
He was taking the inside, so I gunned around him to brake later,
blocking him so I could lead on the main straight.
He popped up braking as I was hard on the throttle,
and we went bar to bar, BLAM! Contact.
My bars snapped to the right,
and I slammed onto the concrete,
as the other rider ricocheted off the outer wall.
I’m told the third-place rider ran over me.
I slid to a halt, flat on my back with the Buell over my left side,
The engine still running.
I reached shut to her off.
The marshals waved red flags yelling ‘Don’t move!’
I hit the kill switch and leaned back
as the ceiling lights blurred.

It’s a warm summer day.
I’m 8 years old and my mom is so young.
We’re doing yard work,
Laughing and having fun.

Someone is yelling my name.
My visor yanks up and my eyes open.
Wow – I was racing a motorcycle.
It a second to sort which was real.
Sadness sweeps over me.
I miss talking with my mom.

The marshal asked the normal questions to see how hard
I’d been rattled.
What’s your name, where are you?
I said I needed to get back up for practice.
As the marshal helped me up the lights go out again.
I go limp and crumple to the floor.

Not the best of days, but hey, a visit to Mom on the astral plane can’t be all bad? Michael talks to God all the time though. [Michael Lawless]
It’s dark, I’m cold, and I can’t see anything.
Is this judgment day?
God, we had this conversation before.
You remember?
A certain AMA pro and I discussed dying.
I wanted to check out with my riding boots on.
To leave this world like a man.
Not to wither away with colon cancer
or some other horrible illness.
Yes God, that’s right, the Pro
who unwillingly taught me to make that pass.
You know I was going for P1.
I could check out like a boss.
Prayer is talking and meditation is listening.
It got quiet.
Ok God – I know my is job is to take care of Olive.

My eyes open as the EMTs cut off my body armor.
A fellow racer lurked in the background.
The EMTs repeat questions.
I impatiently asked
“can I get back out for practice now?”
The racer turned around and yelled
“He’s OK!”
The EMTs laugh “No!”
The female EMT asked to cut off my shirt.
I said “I like it when you tear it off.”
The male EMT started laughing again.
As I was wearing my lucky t-shirt,
I asked if she would kindly help slide my right arm out.
She looked over my bruised torso and noted
the broken left collar bone.
“You’ve hit your head too and need a hospital.”
I agreed with her but pointed out
it would be better if I went to my local hospital.
After much discussion they relented.
But they insisted I leave the track on the stretcher.
I felt embarrassed.
The female EMT said,  “Don’t look sad –
smile and wave to the people in the stands.”
I did, and was surprised by the relieved
looks and the smiles I got back.
As I was carried off the track, an upset Olive waited.
I made a silly face, “I feel like Cleopatra up here!”
She laughed.

Olive, for whom Michael must live. Simple as that: our children come first. [Michael Lawless]
I told her my shoulder was hurt so our day was done.
Several racers checked on me and offered assistance.
They loaded up my stuff and tied a sling around my arm.
I was touched by the friendship and warmth.
Every time my body moved,
I felt broken glass in my shoulder.
The pain kept me focused, driving my manual-transmission truck two hours home.
Olive and I talked the entire way, never turned on the radio.
If anything it made us closer,
and a trip we will both remember.

Pulling into the driveway both the truck and I were about out of gas.
I leaned my head on the steering wheel as my door opened:
my girlfriend is there to take me to the hospital.
I’m fresh from the track.
Still in my sweaty racing gear with my left boot taped on, my arm in a sling.
She looks me up and down.
“You look so damaged.”
Off to the hospital, but the ER doc can’t set my collarbone,
and I waited to see an ortho the next week.
I texted my brother John,
who drove up the next morning, unloaded my truck,
and insisted I use his truck since it’s automatic.

Just to be clear, Mike isn’t the only Lawless with a motorcycle problem: big brother John has some sweet rides too, and indulges in vintage road racing. [John Lawless]
All seemed good, till the lecture.
“Michael it’s like you’re 50 years old
and have decided to take up bull riding.  What the f**k Michael?”
I hear where that’s coming from.
He cares about me.
I’m lucky to have a big brother like that.

Am I upset or disappointed with crashing?
Not in the least.
Those few brief laps were memorable.
I felt like Senna….a racer battling from position.
Not some voyeur sitting up in the stands or watching on TV.
It was real.

I came a long way from being a broken divorcee.
Racing gave my life purpose again.
It got me out of where I was.
It took hard work and dedication.
I train for racing. I push my limits.
But I found myself along the way.

Indoor short track is pure excitement to watch, and falls are not typically dangerous…unless a rider gets run over. [Michael Lawless]
Michael Lawless [@electric_horseman], our ‘Poet of Packed Earth’, is the Flat Track Editor for TheVintagent.com, and has his own blog: Electric Horseman
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