Motorcycles, Travel & Adventure


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About Postcards from the Hedge

Always on the cutting edge of the motorcycle industry, Bill Heald’s Postcards from the Hedge provides readers with an exceptional look into all things motorcycle. From racing to design to day-to-day riding, Heald has a grasp on it all.

Name: Bill Heald

Current Rides: Honda VFR and V45 Magna, Kawasaki Ninja 500, Triumph Street Triple R

Favorite quote:

The Wand chooses the Wizard Mr. Potter. It is not always clear why.

- Mr. Ollivander in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Two-Wheeled, High-Speed Punditry

Oh, if only there was someplace I could go to get some opinions about stuff! We just don’t have enough people in journalism, social media, talk radio, podcasts, YouTube channels and WhatNot (I think Amazon owns that last one) telling the rest of humanity how to run their bidness. Of course, my sarcasm drips like 90-weight gear oil as I write this, for one of my pet peeves is the rampant proliferation of unqualified opinions. But as I am (to some degree) a realist, I know I really can’t do Jack about this situation, so I shall avoid cursing the darkness further and light a candle. Or, I can just sell-out and do some pontificating myownself, and tell the motorcycle industry how to dramatically increase their profile and sell tons more motorcycles. I can spew simplistic opinionage with the worst of them, and think it’s high time to do so.

So how do we get more people interested in motorcycling? One area that always seems to work with all manner of products is getting them in movies and television, and actually the OEMs (especially Ducati) have done this pretty well of late. But one area that has really been hurting in my view is racing. The AMA Superbike series used to be a world-class draw and pulled in a great deal of interest. But now, things are different. In fact, things are less than stellar. The reasons why are sad, annoying and leaves one shaking one’s head, then putting one one’s helmet, and then shaking one’s head again. But hey, I’m here with sage advice on how to fix it.

So here goes: Do you remember when the AMA Roadracing series introduced the Harley-Davidson Sportster racing series as a companion race program with the Superbike racing weekends? It was a long time ago, but the idea behind it was brilliant. During Bike Week at Daytona every year, a lot of the powers that be wondered how you could get all those Harley revelers to visit the track as part of the week’s celebrations. If you have a bunch of racers duking it out on Harley’s entry-level V-Twins, it might introduce a new ingredient into the stew and it turned out to be pretty successful. It also helped start the roadracing careers of some truly talented riders, thanks to the relatively low price of admission and the learning opportunity it presented. The bottom line here is it also helped sell Harleys, and in some cases was a gateway drug to get the odd Harley lover interested in more potent sporting machinery. Or so I believe. This is opionionland, and I can boldly state all kinds of wild conclusions.

Now, given the track record of this once successful venture, I propose we prime the pump once again. What if we take machines that are not exactly designed for the race track, and put some seriously talented riders on these mounts? If you recall, NASCAR became huge by starting with a simple concept: ordinary street cars, piloted by talented, hungry racers, unleashed on a racing surface to see what would ensue. What did ensue was some crazy-fun racing, and while the current iteration is but a corporately bastardized shadow of its former self, I think they were onto something. A stock vehicle taken to the limits is really entertaining, and it’s something the spectator can really relate to. “Race on Sunday, sell on Monday” was not a mere cliche´, it worked.

Motorcycle racing, as you know, is a bit different. A good sport bike can be raced in practically stock condition, as they are amazingly tight machines that are armed with components and engineering that is very close to full-on race bikes. But as I’m looking to expand the appeal of the non-sporting motorcycle through devious means, let’s grab the beast by the handlebars and let the games begin. I want a full dress touring class, ridden two up, to be a support class in the current racing series. I’ve mentioned this before but this time I think it has actual potential. Hey, these days you wake up and some new insanity has popped up, so why not? These big, steaming rigs can be tweaked in terms of suspension, tires, etc. but are to be left largely stock, and the 2-up requirement could be serious fun. Think of the strategy! Why, like with sidecar racing of old, the co-rider could to do some serious Cirque du Soleil-style moves on the pillion to help steer the might frigate through the chicanes. As with all racing, the rigors of the racing environment will expose weaknesses in the bikes, which will be good for R&D work on the breed and ultimately result in better tour bikes. If the class grows, the racing could be expanded and at certain venues (like Daytona) longer races with pit stops could be introduced, which means more strategy and race planning. Shoot, at pit stops the two competitors could even have a mandatory position change, so the passenger becomes the pilot and vice versa. It would be a true team effort, as it is in the real world with co-riders doing most of the thinking. Or, that’s the way it has been with me, anyway.

I believe this weird race series would get some initial attention, and then once the world sees how interesting this highly skilled competition is it might just generate some curiosity in the racing action as a whole (and ultimately in the motorcycles themselves flying around the track). That’s how you get people in the saddle; by just striking some interest in something different and intriguing and letting them explore what it’s all about. There, how’s that for pontificating?