Ryan Dungey gunning for 2012 MX Championship repeat

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Photo credit: Chip Kalback

Ryan Dungey is sheer class. Every sport witnesses a wide range of talents that pour their lives into the fragile hope of one day reaching the top, yet rarely do young phenoms storm the scene and rack up the kind of success that Dungey has already seen.

After a string of noteworthy performances in the amateur ranks, including a victory in Loretta Lynn’s Amateur Championships, a promising young Dungey was pleasantly surprised by an offer from Team Suzuki to join their factory team, and in 2006, made his professional debut at just 16.

Feeding off the tutelage from motocross elite Ricky Carmichael and Roger DeCoster, accolades continued to roll in, including 2007 AMA Rookie of the Year. Despite these successes, it wasn’t until 2009 that Ryan really layed down the hurt on his competition, sweeping the 250 Motocross and Supercross Lites championships and gaining a victorious momentum that steamrolled into 2010, where he accomplished what only one other rider has: win the 450 Supercross and Motocross championships in a rookie season.

2011 saw Dungey’s talent continue to thrive, and despite landing on the podium countless times and bringing home the win for team USA in the Motocross of Nations, he fell just short of overall victory in both the Supercross and outdoor seasons.

A new team and machine were no doubt risky moves for Dungey coming into 2012, yet it didn’t take long for him to put the hammer down and bring Red Bull KTM its first ever Supercross victory. A broken collarbone sidelined the champion for a large chunk of the remaining Supercross races, yet he still managed to win the final two events. During the outdoor season, Dungey rode away from his competitors and into the books as being the first rider to win a 450 Motocross Championship for KTM.

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Scootering Around Roma: The best way to see the Eternal City is on two wheels

Last month, my wife and I went on a mini European tour for our honeymoon that comprised of stopovers in London, Paris and Rome. But this story starts a little earlier than that, roughly two weeks before we were scheduled to leave, when I suddenly got the itch to research Vespa tours in Italy. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, but for some reason, failed to include in our original plans. Thankfully, after trading a few emails with the wonderful couple that runs Scooteroma Tours, they graciously agreed to take us around Rome to experience what makes seeing the Eternal City from a motorino (that’s “scooter,” in Italian) so extraordinary.

Annie, the self-titled Scooter Maven, was unfortunately unable to join us on the tour due to a bad case of bronchitis (though she stopped by the meeting point to introduce herself anyway), but her husband and business partner Giovanni arrived with one of their many other English-speaking tour guides, all of whom have years of professional experience in the tourism and hospitality industries. As a couple of Yanks with only a phrase book-sized knowledge of Italian, I can’t begin to explain how much of a relief it was to have tour guides who not only spoke English, but spoke it fluently. (Annie herself is American-born, but you can read all about how she came to live in Rome here.)

With the pleasantries and introductions out of the way, it was time to hop on the back of a Vespa and get to scootering. While Giovanni drove a newer Vespa model (red and shiny, and clearly the pride and joy of the Scooteroma family), his cohort Stefano arrived on a gorgeous vintage Vespa in order to give us a taste of what it would be like riding on both. That’s because Scooteroma offers a variety of different tours, as well as different ways to experience them. In addition to their half- and full-day tours, the company also does vintage Vespa and foodie tours, as well as a few other non-scooter variations. You can also either rent a scooter (up to two people per bike) or chose to ride on the back along with a guide, and although driving might sound like a lot of fun, it was actually much more enjoyable just to sit back and soak up the sights as Giovanni and Stefano zipped around the busy streets of Rome.

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Harley-Davidson starts the celebration for its 110th anniversary

The countdown clock had begun at the command of Willie G. Davidson, the grandson of the founders of Harley-Davidson. The year-long party to celebrate the 110th anniversary was officially underway in typical Harley-Davidson style with an appropriate blowout in the heart of Milwaukee and Bullz-Eye was invited to attend. This included the launching of the festivities and a review of the 110th anniversary Harley models and the evolution of this true American icon.

We arrived at the Iron Horse boutique hotel, which offers dream accommodations for bikers. This 5 star hotel resides in a converted 100-year old warehouse and was designed to cater to motorcycle enthusiasts by offering top-notch business services with never-before-seen rider amenities. Loaded with memorabilia and located across the river from the new Harley-Davidson Museum, it served as the perfect home base for enjoying the planned festivities.

At the unveiling of the new anniversary models we saw the new and very eye catching Hard Candy custom paint scenes that we recently saw in the new Seventy-Two Sportster model now available as an expanded option in the Dyna and Softail family of bikes as well. The Street Bob now as been restyled, with awesome factory options, and Harley’s own in-house custom division, CVO, launches a new and very radical Breakout model. The Softail, Dyna and Sportster family of bikes will see the exclusive 110th anniversary editions, with cool, rustic badging included. In the CVO family, models with the 110th package include the Road King, Road Glide and the super top of the line Ultra Classic Electra Glide.


Harley-Davidson CVO Breakout

The next day we were treated to a remarkable factory power-train tour where all the engines are made for every Harley sold world-wide. It’s hard to describe the massive size of this amazing factory, with 750,000 sq feet, equal to 17 football fields, under one roof. Clean, automated and fascinating, the tour is a must-see while in Milwaukee, and the basic tour is free, so you can’t beat that!

Returning downtown we arrived at the remarkable Harley-Davidson Museum, the largest museum in the world devoted to motorcycles. This is the Mecca for any HD enthusiast, from the first HD bike made in a shed to fascinating 3D interactive areas and rider emersion activities. A half day can be spent here easily; it’s that big. You can see a photo of the East Rider Harley in the slideshow above. The museum also featured the “Worn to be Wild” leather jacket exhibit that celebrates the iconic black leather jacket. They had over 50 jackets on display, ranging from rare historical examples pulled from both the HD archives and private collections to those worn by celebrities.

We were able to interview Harley design directors who commented that “freedom, independence and an attitude about life is pretty universal” and that “we want to put a big underline under that with everything we do” throughout the company. “The idea of Harley is universal – it’s not just an American idea.” And they want to bring the experience to everyone. This is also being showcased by Harley on several global “Epic Rides” including ride events to Tibet and through Europe for the next 12 months. They commented “it’s about the individual . . . to live freedom and spread the idea globally . . . each ride of course has its own party!”

We also had the honor of meet with Willie G. Davidson and he commented that “we know how to party with our customers . . . it has a lot to do with loyalty.” He continued, “We work continually on these (parties), this one we started (planning) five years ago . . . we are more internationally focused on our markets and our parties.”

He was quickly ushered away by security to the 10,000 gathered outside. As the huge crowd cheered Willie on with the start of the countdown clock the Harley stunt riders burned 110th in to the museum sidewalk with a massive cloud of smoke. Willie definitely knows how to party, and you can join in or just follow the fun over the next year. Just check the Harley-Davidson website for the Rumble Heard “Round the World.

  

Sturgis: A low down, dirty good time

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All photos by Josh Kurpius

It was 10 a.m. and already too hot. Dust and the sound of uncorked V-Twins filled the air, and every decibel of spent combustion beat inside my head like a John Bonham drum solo. Surrounded by Harley-Davidsons covered from the grime of 1500 miles, trailers, and the empty Jack Daniels bottles of last night’s shenanigans, it finally hit me: this is what Sturgis is all about. Sturgis is a knock-down, drag out, low-down, and dirty good time. It’s as trashy, rock-and-roll, and loud as all the stereotypes suggest, but stereotypes don't matter when you’re having one helluva good time, and the experience is only heightened when you road trip out here. 4 days, 1500 miles, megatons of gasoline, and GoPro cameras recording every second; this is how you road trip on Harley-Davidsons.

Day One: Seattle as a Starting Block

Touching down in Seattle was the official start of the trip to Sturgis. Our trip began in earnest early the next morning. The fleet of new Harley-Davidsons sat in the morning fog waiting to fire up and wake up every single person that was still sleeping. Every bike was represented, from Sportsters and Softails and everything in between. I chose the Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight for the first day of riding – a 1200cc Sportster slathered in yellow and black like a pissed-off wasp. Clad with chunky tires and a bobbed rear fender, it sat like a bulldog in the early morning sunlight. The goal for the day: cover 815 miles and arrive in Lewiston, ID. All that stood between us was miles of twisting highway and Mt. Rainer National Park.

Quickly, I learned that this was going to be no doddering ride. Riding with some of the best extreme athletes in the world – people who see broken bones as a minor inconvenience – the pace would be swift regardless of the road ahead. And what lay ahead? Only miles of forest, mountain vistas, drop-offs that were comically high, and gravel in construction zones located right near those drop-offs. Every corner was a new, breathtaking view. After awhile, the sensory overload causes you to not be impressed. Oh, another mountain seemingly punching the clouds. Oh, how nice, another raging river crossing through picturesque forest landscape. And as gorgeous as it was, Mt. Rainer Park was soon behind us, the Forty-Eight taking every corner much better than I thought it could, and happily thumping along hundreds of miles.

The first day would end as we crossed into Lewiston, ID. The road in was also picturesque and gorgeous. Slowly rolling hills, the sun setting on our backs, and throttling the Harley’s through, it was a day of excellent riding. Not perfect, though, as a glaring flaw of the Forty-eight would shine through: suspension travel. On the rear, you pay for that low and lean look by sacrificing damping and travel in the suspension, and your back takes the lumps for it. It wasn’t nearly enough to dampen the spirits of the day though.

Day Two: On to Montana

Another day, another early morning rise, and miles of asphalt ahead of us. This time, though, I chose the Harley-Davidson Night Rod as my ride for the day. You may remember the Night Rod from our previous story when Bullz-Eye rode it at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and its sibling the V-Rod Muscle on a trip in Miami. For those who don’t, the Night Rod is Harley-Davidson’s cruise missile. It’s the most powerful Harley-Davidson available, and our example was, as you can probably guess from the name, black as night. Smooth and powerful, it eats highway and miles effortlessly without any fuss. Another national park, more highway miles, and more of the absolutely most healthy road food in the world, and the day flew right by. 800 miles in, our trip to Sturgis was at the halfway point.

Day Three: Elk, Bears and Tourists

Day Three for me and the motley band of athletes would cover the least amount of miles, but lead us through Yellowstone to do it. The good was the fact that Yellowstone National Park is a mile of untamed wilderness, geysers,and bears. Mostly bears. Miles and miles of bears. It is also full of tourists, so the group’s hope to cruise right through was quickly dashed when we were stuck behind lines of tourists looking at “wilderness.” Yes, you should stop and smell the roses and take pictures of elk for your Facebook feed, but not every time.

Then, bison decided they didn’t want us to pass either. Bison, if you are not aware, do not give two shits about anything. Ambivalent to passing cars, RV’s and motorcycles. They will squat anywhere, at anytime, and sit there. At one point, the bison decided that the front of our group was a great place to take a break. Bison are also huge, and aggressive if you pass them, so with this in mind, we waited until they decided to move. Noticing that we were heating up as the bikes idled beneath our legs, the bison moved only slightly to let us pass. How polite of them.

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Thunderstruck: Bullz-Eye tests the Triumph Thunderbird

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The image is timeless, and nearly cliché at this point, but personifies cool. Marlon Brando is looking off into the distance, clad in a classic biker jacket and astride a motorcycle in the movie “The Wild One.” The bike makes the image; large and foreboding, it’s the bike of rebellion and teen spirit. That bike was a Triumph Thunderbird.

We took the latest version out for a test to see what about this bike made Brando so cool. You may think you only have one or two options for a cruiser with attitude, but overlooking a Thunderbird would be a big mistake.

Just like in that iconic image, the Thunderbird slinks in the background. Also black, the bike we tested always intrigued people for what it wasn’t. It fires on all the classic cruiser cues, chrome, loud, big, etc., but doesn’t have a V-twin, and emits a rumble that is different.

It’s this mystery that draws people in, and is the best part of the bike. Some parts of the bike look derivative, but the details set the bike apart on its own accord instead of a copy of something else.

The Thunderbird is motivated by a liquid-cooled 1597cc parallel twin motor. The motor puts out 87hp and 108 lb feet of torque, and every pony is felt even though this is a heavy bike at 746 lb, but a cruiser isn’t about numbers, it’s about the experience.

Usually, when you liquid cool a motor, character is lost -- that communication through vibration and clatter goes away to the whir of cooling fans. The Thunderbird, though, retains old school charm with new school technology. The motor barks and spits upon throttling off, and pierces the air with a low frequency rumble upon acceleration, but doesn’t burn your legs with the heat of a thousand suns. The motor quantifies the perfect balance between the demands of today with the attitude of yesterday.

Additionally, the bike comes with adjustable rear suspension, and disk brakes all around, but this bike was made for long, empty highway patches, not carving the corners. Plus, the brakes are exceptionally strong, although I would’ve liked for more feedback from the handle.

The Thunderbird also comes equipped with a digital readout of fuel, a tachometer, and a digital display of other parameters on the bike all in a single cluster. ABS is also standard, and Triumph has a bevy of options available to build the bike to your tastes. With all this in mind, the Thunderbird is a good value compared to other cruisers at $13,499.

Where other bikes are fine with a “me too” approach to cruisers, Triumph brings a unique offering with its own history. It’s the original Wild One, and to overlook Triumph’s mid-tier cruiser offering would be a mistake.

Photos: Armando Lorenzana

Bike provided by: Motoworks Chicago

  

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