Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Bell patents helmet with hole for man-bun

I suppose I should file this under, "Things we should'a seen coming" but a search of motorcycle-related patents recently uncovered this one, for a motorcycle crash helmet with a hole in the top, for the wearer's "man-bun" to protrude. Other illustrations suggest that Bell also plans to produce full-face and moto-x versions in the man-bun style.

Although I was somehow unable to print it off the USPTO site, I note that Harley-Davidson's apparel division has also filed a trademark for a so-called "Beard Rag" -- which looks like a do-rag for the rider's lower facial area. It's not obvious from their application if the Beard Rag differs in any way from a conventional bandanna.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

AMA: OK, you've made your point. Let Eslick ride.

I was just going to let this story lie, but this morning I got a phone call from a guy whose opinion I respect, in the moto-world. He agreed with me that Eslick—while he is guilty of stupidity—isn't any more guilty than countless other racers have been, in Bike Weeks past. To say nothing of the shenanigans we've seen over the years at Siebken's, on Road America weekends.

My friend pointed out that the woman Eslick was alleged to have pushed to the ground declined to press charges; if Danny hadn't run off, the whole thing would've ended with an apology to her and warning to him, right there on Main Street.

My friend wondered whether someone wanted Eslick suspended just to create some/any media interest in the race. "It's not as if he's Anthony Gobert," my friend said, "who was given chance after chance." That may have been a little conspiracy-theorist, but the AMA itself said that it was suspending Eslick because, "...there is zero tolerance for behavior that is detrimental to the promotion of motorcycling."

Here's a news flash, AMA: The 200's been held in a media vacuum for the last few years. The only reason anyone noticed Eslick's run in with the law was because you publicized it.
MotoAmerica fields are not so strong that the sport can afford to sideline Eslick. Nor is taking away his livelihood appropriate punishment for a misdemeanor. The AMA and MotoAmerica can impose their own probationary terms, and conduct their own drug and alcohol testing. They can even make Eslick pay for the lab work. There's no reason for the AMA to pretend that it has to wait for Florida's Circuit Court to figure out how they'll handle monitoring Eslick from afar.
Anyway, whatever happened between Eslick and that Daytona cop, it's been reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, and Eslick's free on probation.

That's what the AMA should do now, too. Put him on probation.

The terms of his probation include submitting to regular testing for drug and alcohol use. If he tests positive, he'll presumably be subject to re-arrest and imprisonment.

That seems reasonable enough, and will almost certainly do Danny some good. But there's a catch... According to Eslick's lawyer (as reported in the Daytona News-Journal here)...
The court was willing to accept the proposed plea resolution which is a misdemeanor charge but unfortunately the court cannot control the Department of Corrections with regard to their ability to accept it in a mail in or phone in basis. 
So for now, until prosecutors file misdemeanor charge papers and determine whether or not a probation service provider will accept a mail-in or phone-in appearance, Eslick, of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, remained suspended by the American Motorcycle Association and cannot compete in motorcycle events.
What that means is, Danny's in a sort of legal limbo. The jurisdiction in which he was charged isn't sure how to make him subject to the terms of his probation where he lives (much less, as he travels around the U.S. to race) and apparently that's why the AMA says he must remain suspended.

But this is another example of a motorcycle racing governing body cherry-picking when it will or won't abide by laws that may or may not actually govern that organization.

So here's my message to the AMA and MotoAmerica: you have your own options, when it comes to putting Danny on probation; there's no reason at all why you have to wait for Florida's Circuit Court to figure out how it will administer its probation.

Let Danny ride, starting now. Make regular drug and alcohol testing a condition of his return. Be firm, reasonable, and transparent. Don't take away his livelihood for a misdemeanor.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Podcast: Searching for Spadino

Even though Spadino's actions were described in the newspapers of the day, no one's talking about what he did any more, because the French and Italian governments (who jointly administer the tunnel) have decided keeping the investigation into the fire open, and the gag orders in place, is safer than placing blame anywhere.

A monument on the French side, listing victims of the fire.
Michele Troppiano was the tunnel's administrator at the time I researched this story.
Photos were forbidden, but I snapped this one anyway.
The Italian portal. 

Local cafe. Scooters outnumber motorcycles in Aosta, obviously.

Funeral. I think that's the Italian Prime Minister in the car. Not sure.
Sign pointing me to the high-mountain cemetery where Spadino is buried.
All Saint's Day, Aosta.
The plaque that Italian bikers placed at the Italian portal, the year after the fire.
From the newspaper. Eva kept it.
Her only snapshot of Spadino.
Following the flow of pedestrians and cyclists to the Aosta cemetery.
Spadino lived in this building for a while.
Perhaps the most-underrated motorcycle of the early 'Naughties. If you find a good one for sale used, please contact me. Seriously.
Spadino's friend Mauro has heard plenty, from co-workers who were in contact with Spadino for an hour after the fire broke out. But he'd be fired and face criminal charges if he told me what he knows.
No translation needed.
It was the ultimate bike for the job. And, as you can see, it didn't rain all the time.
Yes, there's a HOG chapter in Aosta. One of their members was a truck driver who died in the fire.
Writer's life.
You'd be surprised how well this works. Though I suppose now, I'd use a translation app.
She rented this garden plot to Spadino. He brought his friend Eva fresh vegetables. 
Ironically, the only photo they had for this purpose was his wedding photo. 
Losing hope.

By the time I was researching this story, the Tunnel had switched from BMW K75 motorcycles to these C1 scooters. They don't carry passengers, as configured. But Spadino would have found a way.
Cemetery in Aosta.
I noticed this tiny button on one of these guys (below). That was the lead that led to the whole story unfolding. Motorcycle -riding Carabinieri (state police) also bent the rules to leak the info I needed to find Spadino's sister.

"Be ready, for the hour of your death is unknown". Indeed.
If you're called upon in that hour, what kind of man will you be? 
Spadino's final resting place is only a few miles from the Tunnel.
Italy's highest honor for civilian bravery.
Writer's life.
Eva told me, he was "brave" — which really just means, "a great guy" in Italian. But it was a good choice of words.
Warm wet boots and gloves are better than cold wet boots and gloves.
Ridden hard and put away wet. I got the bike back to Bologna, and got on the train to Milan, just in time to get home (which, that year, was Paris.)
By the time I rode through the tunnel, to get to Chamonix and read the French newspaper accounts of the fire, I'd already alienated the Italian tunnel administrator. So, I didn't dare break the rules and stop in the tunnel for a photo. I took this by pulling my Nikon out of the tank bag one-handed, and snapping it en route. In the middle of the tunnel, surrounded by a mile of rock in all directions, it's always about 55 degrees Fahrenheit. That's why Spadino was able to patrol on his K75 all winter.
A version of Searching for Spadino was recently printed in Iron & Air, with terrific illustrations by Ryan Quickfall. 

Want to read dozens more stories like this? Buy a copy of On Motorcycles: The Best of Backmarker

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Eslick. Not so slick. But I still have questions...

The American Sportbike Racing Association event is a standalone premier American road race. While the 2016 Daytona 200 is not part of the AMA-sanctioned professional road racing series in which riders earn points toward an AMA National No. 1 plate, it remains an important part of America's motorcycle racing heritage. — AMA Press Release announcing an AMA sanction for the Daytona 200 

The American Motorcyclist Association and the American Sportbike Racing Association, in consultation with Daytona International Speedway, have suspended professional motorcycle racer Daniel C. Eslick of Broken Arrow, Okla., from the Daytona 200 for actions deemed to be detrimental to the sport..The AMA has extended Eslick's suspension to all AMA-sanctioned activity.— AMA Press Release announcing Danny Eslick's suspension prior to the Daytona 200

A note from the Dept. of Unanswered Questions...

A few weeks back, I got a Press Release from the AMA, touting the fact that the AMA would be sanctioning the Daytona 200.

You already know that for the last couple of years, the 200's been an ASRA event, because MotoAmerica dropped Daytona from the U.S.' premiere road racing series.

The first thing I thought, last month, upon reading the AMA's breathless release saying how great it was that they'd be sanctioning the 200 again was, Wait a minute... didn't the AMA always sanction ASRA events? To confirm that, I logged on to the Wayback Machine Internet Archive and found an ASRA home page from 2014. Sure enough, there was the AMA logo.

Remember that DMG, which took over AMA Pro Racing, is basically a subsidiary of the Speedway (or at least controlled by the Speedway's owners). Not that long ago, DMG was reviled by the stakeholders of the new (AMA-sanctioned) MotoAmerica series. I doubt that many MotoAmerica riders and teams miss the Speedway, so the AMA's love-struck description of the storied 200's history felt odd. But, I just filed it away under It Sure Didn't Take Long For The AMA And The Speedway To Kiss And Make Up.

I thought no more of that until Danny Eslick was arrested in Daytona, then was banned from competition. Actually, let me amend that... Something bugged me about Eslick's ban, but I couldn't put my finger on it until after the race.

It wasn't, plus-or-minus, the issue of whether Eslick should've been denied entry into the 200. I don't really have strong feelings either way. I've met him but don't know him. I do know enough about Bike Week in particular and cops in general to know that there's not necessarily a relationship between real events and charges laid. (Though in the limited defense of the Daytona PD, I imagine Eslick did something stupid enough to warrant a night in jail.) 

FWIW, Eslick looks much nicer than almost anyone else on the Daytona mug shots web site.
Whatever really happened, I doubt that Eslick's transgression was any stupider than countless other racers' shenanigans during Bike Weeks past. Let's face it: motorcycle racing is not exactly a selective filter for good judgement. Quite the opposite.

What bothered me about the sequence of press releases was...
  • Isn't the 200 an ASRA event? Why didn't ASRA issue Eslick's ban? There's not even a copy of the AMA's press release on the ASRA web site.
  • At this point, I wonder whether ASRA, the event organizer, even thought to ban Eslick. Or did that idea originate with the AMA, or the Speedway?
  • Why would his ban summarily extend to the MotoAmerica series, which has never had anything to do with the 200? Was that MotoAmerica's idea? Or the AMA's? And if it was the AMA's, will MotoAmerica henceforth be letting the AMA decide who rides and who doesn't?
  • What other motorcycle blog even uses words like 'henceforth'? Heretofore, I don't think I've seen that word come up.
To be clear: I don't have strong feelings on Eslick's suspension per se. If it'd been up to me I'd've let him ride provisionally, while withholding prize money until he faced the charges. I'd reserve the right to rescind points, subject to a full determination of the facts. 

Should he be on probation? Hell yes. Definitely. 
Is an outright ban reasonable? Maybe.

Is this another moment when the administration of American professional motorcycle racing desperately needs more transparency? Yes. Most of all, yes.

*Note to ASRA: If the Eslick sanction originated within your organization, feel free to contact me. I'll happily attach a statement to this post.