Below you will find a collection of our top stories of 2022. These are the articles that have been read, shared, liked, and tweeted the most, combined with some that flew under the radar that you don't want to miss. From opinion to fact, the following posts will entertain and enlighten you.
-Florian Neuhauser, Editor-in-Chief
Speed the Wheel: Insects and Taxes
Benjamin Franklin is often credited as saying: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” For a motorcyclist there is an additional certainty. Whenever you take the time to thoroughly clean your face shield, a big old bug is going to splatter itself across your pristine plastic within minutes of being underway.
This usually happens just as you and your friends have entered a choice section of canyon and snapped the throttle open to welcome the twisting turns. If you stop to clean your shield, you’ll lose touch with your riding buddies and miss out on the shared riding experience. The face shield splat also tends to happen right after you’ve refueled and rehydrated. You don’t want to stop again so soon and try to tolerate the splatter, peering around the mess. Good luck.
Automatic Motorcycle Transmissions
Although some view the notion of an automatic transmission on a motorcycle as an outright sin, the reality is the growth of electric motorcycles and scooters has significantly altered perceptions of an automatic motorcycle. With the number of scooters in service globally, it’s fair to assume that a good portion of riders may well desire an upgrade to the longer range and heavier carrying capacity that a full-sized motorcycle offers—sans the issue of learning to operate a clutch and manual transmission. Also, with electric motorcycles coming ever more in vogue, an automatic transmission provides an easier transitional base for those wanting to explore a more traditional or larger displacement motorcycle.
Tarform Motorcycles: Back to the Future
Walk into Tarform Motorcycles in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the vibe is that of a custom bike shop. Employees are getting stuff done at their stations, parts wait patiently on metal shelves, and music bounces off the industrially-high ceiling and hard concrete floor. Founder Taras Kravtchouk fires up the espresso machine and we chat.
Kravtchouk fits his role, with his story encompassing a passion for motorcycles, the gap in the marketplace he couldn’t ignore, the tilting at windmills of starting a motorcycle company, and the long nights problem-solving and building prototypes. He has a clear vision for what a motorcycle in this day and age should be, which he articulates not only in words but with the bikes in front of me. The Tarfom is built up from shapes and forms cognizant of the past but not tied to it. The materials and design decisions create a unique, visceral experience. And the technology is pure Tron. It’s like steampunk but cooler. Batterypunk?
Arai Replica Helmets: The Colors of Racing Legends
Arai Helmet is a three-generation family-owned Japanese company that specializes in manufacturing high-quality motorcycle helmets. Its mission is simple and has remained unchanged since it was founded by Mr. Hirotake Arai in the 1950s—protection without compromise.
Hirotake, an avid motorcyclist, was well aware of the potential dangers of his chosen hobby. He wanted a helmet to protect himself while riding. However, Japan was a closed market at the time and importing a proper motorcycle helmet was not possible. Hirotake, a hatmaker by trade, resorted to wearing one of his company’s construction helmets, which eventually led to his designing a motorcycle-specific helmet. Initially undertaken just to produce a limited run of units for himself and his motorcyclist friends, the one-off concept blossomed into an entirely new direction for the company.
The American Motorcycle Jacket
One reason there wasn’t an “official” American motorcycle jacket before WWII was that in 1923, the price of the Ford Model T dropped through the floorboard. The price crash made cars more affordable, which ran most of America’s motorcycle companies pretty much right off the road. After that, if Ford didn’t siphon off all their gas, the Great Depression drained the last drop from just about everybody except Indian and Harley-Davidson. Fewer companies making fewer motorcycles meant fewer motorcyclists in jackets. The WWI-era knee-length fighter pilot’s leather coat and the thick wool racing jersey seen on the board tracks both soon went the way of the steam engine. During the ‘20s and ‘30s, there were some riders in leather, but motorcyclists on American roads after 1933 tended to be very wealthy and they often liked showing off their tailor-made suits.
Time of the Motordromes: When America Fell in Love with Speed
Motordrome. The name conjures visions of a futuristic arena for motorized death games in a Road Warrior sequel. In fact, it’s a relic from a bygone era. Motordromes sprang up across America at the dawn of the 20th century to accommodate the public’s insatiable fascination with a byproduct of the piston-driven revolution—speed. Within the imposing walls of the motordromes were oval tracks where motorcycles raced in close proximity, held up on the steeply banked corners by centrifugal force. This dynamic racing spectacle took its name from the narrow wooden planks that made up the racing surface—Boardtrack.
T.E. Lawrence: A Love Affair with Speed
There is one author who consistently tapped into a kind of spiritual ether whenever he deigned to write about motorcycles. That is none other than T.E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia). Lawrence was beyond passionate about motorcycles. Over the years following his famous North African campaign in World War I, Lawrence owned seven Brough Superiors (an eighth was being built when he passed away).
Rain on an Old Tin Roof
Three hundred miles into the day’s journey, my 4 a.m. departure was taking its toll. It was my longest day yet on a motorcycle. I was tired, feared getting wet, and the sun was low, somewhere among the western clouds. I laid my new 1972 Honda Motorsport on its side in the pasture and dragged it in behind me. The roof hung low, its walls succumbing to gravity. A stack of hay bales was all that held it off the ground. The shelter was enough. The unmistakable smell of new rain hit my nostrils first. Then began the noisy dance on the tin as I lay back on the loose straw, drops and then streams of water making their way through tiny holes. I drifted off, thinking of the long ride back and of my girlfriend … I hoped she was waiting.
Is Hydrogen the Future?
Many companies are now focused on producing motorcycles powered by alternative energy sources, specifically battery electric vehicles (BEVs). Carbon emissions and pollution can’t be ignored any longer because global warming, erratic weather patterns, droughts, and rising sea levels are concrete issues affecting our health and quality of life. They pose a real risk to our survival as a species on planet Earth. To compound the environmental issues, the geopolitical turmoils surrounding oil prices and availability are also a concern.
All of these factors have been major drivers in moving to alternative energy sources. Automotive battery technology has made large leaps forward in recent years, from acid to lithium-ion, toward mass production and adoption at affordable prices. Tesla has pioneered electric cars, supported by a growing network of electric charging stations across the country. Other big car manufacturers have also started to shift to electric vehicles.
It might seem that BEVs are a solution to all carbon emission problems, but in reality there are a few hurdles. Batteries are built from heavy and expensive metals, such as lithium and cobalt. There won’t be enough of these resources to power all BEVs, especially as developing countries’ economies continue to grow and more of their citizens are able to acquire motorcycles and cars. Furthermore, batteries have a limited life span—most require a full replacement within 5-10 years. Recycling old batteries is also expensive and, if not done right, could lead to severe air, land, and water pollution.
Hydrogen-powered vehicles are one alternative. Hydrogen is plentiful and, like fossil fuels, refueling with it is fast. In contrast, BEVs are notorious for slow recharge times that can take hours. There are different types of hydrogen-based engines, but the shared basic operating principle is a chemical reaction with oxygen, which produces energy, heat, and water.
Many of us began our love affair with motorcycles by riding in the dirt. Little did I realize what life lessons could be found in that. In 1973, at the age of 15, I was riding a Honda Elsinore 250. It’s hard to believe, but back then, there were a number of riding venues in southern California. One of those was Muntz Cycle Park in the then undeveloped Simi Valley. Muntz had several motocross tracks, hill climbs, and trail riding galore.
One weekend, three of my friends and I crammed ourselves and our bikes into a Ford Econoline and headed to Muntz. After spending the day on the various tracks, we went trail riding. Naturally, due to the impetuousness of youth, we rode until the sun started to set. In the rapidly fading light, we decided to take a shortcut back to the van.