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Published on December 30th, 2017 | by Boris

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MOTORCYCLING 2017 – MY YEAR IN REVIEW

Look what they’ve done to my song, Ma

Look what they’ve done to my song

Well it’s the only thing I could do half right

And it’s turning out all wrong, Ma

Look what they’ve done to my song

Melanie Safka

 

So I’m about done with 2017.

That being the case, it’s probably time to indulge in a little calendar-based retrospection, because once that clock ticks over on New Year’s Eve and I enter New Year’s Day 2018 like victorious Caesar entering Rome after subduing the Gauls, all of my shit will be different, huh?

Of course it will.

There’s just too many teeth.

ROAD RACING

Marquez is once again the World MotoGP champion. Andrea Dovzioso gave him a decent run for his money almost all the way to the line and provided spectators with yet another stellar year of top-notch motorcycle racing.

“If only I was playing with horseshoes, hand grenades and nuclear weapons…”

Certainly, if Marquez had not perfected the art of crashing a race bike without actually crashing a race bike, the mournful-eyed Italian would not have spent the week after the final race hiding in his motorhome while his Ducati team-mate hammered on its walls in fits of glorious Spanish pique and demanded to know what the real meaning of “Suggest Mapping Eight” was.

But Lorenzo did make progress on his new bike and bought a new cat, Vinales forgot how to ride during the summer break, Zarco perpetuated trans-national hatred of the French by being competitive from time to time, Pedrosa had his one good annual race, Miller had one of the most spectacular crashes anyone had ever seen and decided his immediate future will be at Ducati rather than Honda. Folger got some filthy disease, Tits Rabbit upped his Thorazine dosage, Crutchlow had the same season in 2017 he’d had in 2016 and 2015, Iannone and Suzuki didn’t like each other for most of the season, and the Asparagus brothers continued their respective journeys of motorcycle development for KTM and Aprilia.

Fuck my life.

And Sete Gibernau, who know looks like an ageing and constipated drag queen, was seen wandering about the pits trying to avoid Valentino Rossi, whose tenth title continues to elude him, much like Sete.

WSBK remained the only sport on the planet the smelly English and Kawasaki were competitive in. Rea dominated Sykes and Davies, and kept looking over their heads at the MotoGP grid after lapping faster than most of the MotoGP grid at Jerez – yeah, I noticed.

Locally, Suzuki’s impossibly good-natured and likeable Josh Waters took his Phil Tainton-prepared Suzuki to the top of the championship in a drama-filled ASBK season.

They came, they saw, they kicked arse.

Privateer Daniel Falzon, who now sees himself mounted on a factory Yamaha for 2018, sat atop the pile for the first half of the season, before a series of acrimonious and bizarre appeals and counter-appeals over a racing incident saw crucial points deducted from the young Adelaide gun, and prompted a heap of wailing on social media – none of which came from Daniel himself.

He does use both wheels most of the time. Picture by Phillip Veneris.

All of which was sensationally beaut because it revealed genuine tension and animosity on the ASBK grid, and that always translates to greater spectator interest and even more ruthlessly brilliant racing. We’re still a way to go before we have the incandescent Rossi-Biaggi rivalry that ended in flailing handbags, or the Rossi-Lorenzo wall-building exercise, but I live in hope.

And now the legendary and venerable Troy Bayliss has declared his intention to contest the 2018 season, ASBK will only get more interesting.

If only Mat Mladin would bestir himself…

I must also acknowledge Motorcycling Australia has done an excellent job in rehabilitating a sport once fractured by competing series, even if it remains unable to rehabilitate Barbagallo raceway.

MOTORCYCLES

As 2017 comes to a close, motorcycle sales, like much of the Australian motorcycle media, remain in the toilet. I’m not entirely convinced the two are not linked.

For me, the standout stuff of 2017 is pretty obvious.

Harley-Davidson has come out swinging hard and heavy with its MY18 line-up. It’s buried the FX range and the new model-line-up is all a variation on a hugely improved Softail platform.

Nick Edards at Half Light Photography always makes me look finer than a tropical sunset.

This caused two things to happen.

The first was loyal old-time Harley riders declared Harley is now dead to them for daring to kill off a model line.

The second is Harley, knowing full well loyal old-time Harley riders no longer matter all that much because they are too damn old to be buying any more bikes, has finally entered the 21st century with its engine, gearbox (positive and smooth) and suspension (OMFG, it actually works!) improvements.

And they are huge improvements.

The Milwaukee 8 engine now comes in two guises, a 107-cuber and a 114-cuber. The 107 is a little livelier around town because it makes its torque earlier, and the 114 shines a bit brighter out on the open road where you’ll find it’s powering the fastest and best-handling production Harley ever built. The brakes are still average and the tyres remain indifferent, though with a very aggressive-looking tread pattern for when it’s parked somewhere that sells coffee.

And then they all passed me.

BMW also wheeled out some very impressive weaponry this year. It introduced a killer LAMs bike in the guise of the G310R, built the world’s finest and fastest bagger (the K1600B), and also offered up the stupendous RallyeX – which was a timely and effective response to the opposing Austrian weapons-array in the still burgeoning Adventure bike segment. The RallyeX is not a better bike then the KTM Super Adventure. But neither is the KTM a better bike than the BMW. What they both are is brilliant, capable and at the very top of the adventure mountain. And how good it is to have a choice on that rarefied summit.

The grass is soft enough to crash on.

Lost…so lost…

I also very much enjoyed my time on Triumph’s Bobber – a platform it has split into two sub-models for 2018 – one with a pillion seat and one that’s been chucked into a vat of black paint.

It was also quite revealing and hugely enjoyable to get my mate Sean Rainford from the Black Uhlans MC to ride it and review it – certainly the first time I think a one percenter has tested a new production bike.

Dear HWP, this is me, not Sean, OK?

This is Sean obeying every law.

Triumph’s other major offering this year was its delightful and numerically re-arranged Street Triple 765 range.

I’d lost my mind a little over the Thruxton R in 2017 – and it is still the pre-eminent goody in Triumph’s range, but the 765S and R were at the very pointy end of the mid-sized naked class. Girls will love them.

I never liked them until I rode the new 765. Beaut bike.

But this one was a work of art.

I was also afforded two very special opportunities this year which had been denied to my peers.  I haven’t yet written about these opportunities at length because some unfortunate personal stuff has interposed itself between my brain and my keyboard, but I would like you to know I got to ride Daniel Falzon’s then competition-leading ASBK-spec Yamaha R1M at Sydney Motorsport Park. It was an act of both great generosity and subtle wickedness by JD Racing, and not one I shall forget any time soon.

Our riding styles are almost identical.

That’s now two ASBK bikes I have ridden. The first was Glenn Scott’s Honda a few years back and now Daniel’s Yammy. A race contract has still not appeared on a desk in front of me, but both Glenn and Daniel have gone on to greater things after laughing their heads off at me. So there’s that.

Thanks to the kindness of David Wooju Sung, I also got to ride an MV Agusta F3 Reparto Corse and a fully loaded F4 Reparto Corse. And as a loudly proselytising fan of the most beautiful bikes ever made, throwing me into a barn filled with coked-up Victoria’s Secret models would have come a distant second by comparison to riding these two amazing MVs – especially at my age.

Just like a Victoria’s Secret runway.

I will write about both of these experiences at length very soon. I promise.

So what else did I enjoy this year? Certainly the new iteration of Suzuki’s legendary VStrom was lots of fun, and its brilliant all-new GSX-R terrified and overwhelmed me at Phillip Island. But I really, really, really got off on the 2017 Hayabusa. I had forgotten what a stonking motorcycle it was. I loved remembering to and from Thredbo and Tumbarumba.

“I’ll just let the cops catch up…”

But my favourite bike this year was without any doubt or hesitation, KTM’s staggeringly brilliant 1290 Super Duke R. It has replaced the Aprilia Tuono RR in my wettest dreams. That may change when I ride the new Tuono, but at the moment, I’m more orange than an Irish Protestant. The Super Duke R is, right now, the best bike on the planet. From its wicked alien hate-face to the tip of its runway-sexy bum, this Austrian beast-devil scratches me in those secret and forbidden places that never stop itching. KTM makes lots of good bikes. It also makes some great ones. The Super Duke R is the greatest of them all.

This is the one…

I love it.

MOTORCYCLE GEAR

Held gear has remained my firm favourite in terms of gloves. Its remarkable Air n Dry units are still things of wonder to me. Two gloves in one glove. Comfort, practicality, top-notch protection and good looks. Everything I want in my old age on a personal level, but can only get in a pair of gloves.

Wisely, the Germans have extended this concept to some of the jackets Held makes, and added extra sorcery by creating a reflective jacket (Held Imola Flash) that only reflects when hit by headlights. The rest of the time the jacket remains a cool and aloof dark grey colour.

Flash as. The Held Imola jacket, not me.

Schuberth helmets also entered my life. Once again, I worship at the altar of German technology. When you put one on your head, you’ll understand.

Best open-face I have ever worn.

But I danced with Airoh as well. And in terms of dirt-helmets, I have never worn a better one. I can only speculate how good Airoh’s road stuff is.

Airoh – there’s nothing else like it.

Still, my favourite helmet this year was the Nolan X-Lite 802RR. Light, comfy and sexy as an Ibiza nightclub, it cemented my belief that most of the helmets we are forced to wear are just too damn heavy, and the sooner we all switch to sub-1300gm lids, the happier we shall all be.

My current favourite.

I also discovered the joy of Falco’s new Mixto 2 Adventure boots, which became the only brown things in my whole wardrobe. I did a little bit of dirt stuff this year, and even though I ended arse-up and legs akimbo in a swampy puddle under a KTM Super Adventure, I broke nothing. And I regret nothing. My thanks to Stuart Woodbury for helping me out.

The boots are brown.

MOTORCYCLE MEDIA

Things have really not improved all that much here, have they?

This year saw the closure of the print editions of Two Wheels, Rapid, Café Racer and Cycle Torque. And since none of them have a digital platform, or a digital platform worth reading, their epitaphs came down to a few vapid lines on social media. It’s like they never existed.

The others are still lurching along like extras in the Walking Dead, but with ever-diminishing sales and advertising revenue, the ice-pick that shuts their brains off cannot be far away. Road Rider was scaled back to six issues a year, and while the bell is tolling there, its sound can be heard by all the other hard-breathing publishers.

And once and for all, I do not pray for the demise of print media. Just like I did not celebrate the advent of Donald Trump. Just because I called both things does not mean I celebrate them.

Likewise, I do not hate print media. I made my bones in print, and print still pays some of my bills. The more mags that close, the fewer venues I have for selling my words – though to be fair, there are some titles I will never sell my stuff to, and I will dance with atavistic glee on the graves of the editors and publishers who killed them. They deserve everything they get for destroying the mastheads they were given.

The digital realm continues to offer up a range of unreadable dross and delightful genius – not in equal measure, of course – and this year, one platform managed to sell even more of itself off to advertisers in one of the most cynical plays I have ever seen.

Bike of the Year stuff has always been a worthless giz-advertising wank-fest. But when you need to create inane categories to suit an advertiser’s motorcycle in order to secure advertising…well, there’s no jumping back over that shark.

I maintain, and I will continue to maintain, that good content is king. Good content is always read and shared and sometimes even paid for.

Blatant advertorials which are far more advert than editorial?

Copied and pasted press releases?

Advertiser blurb pretending to be news?

Bike tests that read like they were written by a congenital idiot?

Let’s see how that all works out in the medium to long-term, shall we? Readers are not stupid. Stop treating them like they are.

To expect good content in the digital world from muppets who were unable to write or create good content when they were cobbling together magazines, is ridiculous.

Meanwhile, according to the Facebook stats and Google Analytics, Dear George reached more than 5,000,000 people all over the world, and in one MotoGP season found more than 20,000 followers. No wonder we changed servers four times.

“Have I won all the races yet, Gigi?”

GENERAL STUFF

I hugely enjoyed watching the World Congress Of Jolly Pederasts and Prayer-Mumbling Kid-Rapers (aka the Catholic Church) being hauled before a Royal Commission. I really did. Julia Gillard, if you did nothing else in your time as PM, you did this one great thing.

I’m sure you’ll be far more interested in hot jail sex.

I have also enjoyed Donald Trump’s continued presidency and the discomfiture it brings to so many people. But he’s still POTUS, huh? Much like the predictions of Clinton’s landslide win, the predictions of Trump’s imminent impeachment and/or assassination have all come to naught. Four more years is all that’s coming out of this particular presidency.

Onwards, Great Orange Shitbat!

Back home, I was delighted to discover we were being ruled by foreign nationals. This fully explains why the quality of this rule has been less than stellar. These foreigners hate us and want to sell us to other foreigners who also hate us. But since the fate of slaves is to be sold to other masters until we die, please do not act surprised.

I’m sure this is exactly what it looks like.

And do not be surprised if the threat of terrorism grows ever larger, while our erstwhile police forces become ever more like the Schutzstaffel of 1938.

I’m not entirely convinced arming them with machine guns is helpful. They hadn’t exactly covered themselves in glory after machine-gunning two citizens and a mad bastard in the Lindt café debacle, had they? And shooting that poor bloke who was getting a fancy-dress gobbie from his missus in a Melbourne nightclub did little to reassure Victorians their SS have that whole rampaging African gang thing covered. Still, perhaps more concrete bollards and machine guns will assist in protecting Australians from people who want to drive over them in cars. After all, the security cameras installed everywhere have certainly done their bit to prevent stuff like this, huh?

“Is the safety on? I’d better pull the trigger and find out…”

Still, those pesky boats have certainly been stopped and the tropical cannibals we off-loaded those potential terrorists on, have only eaten what? Five or six of them? Good result and a safer Australia for everyone.

IN CONCLUSION

Thanks to you all for your continued interest in and support of my work.

It has not been easy adopting a new totally freelance gig, but I did make some inroads into rebuilding a six-figure income – which is the only thing I truly miss from my old job.

My work now appears in several new (to me) publications and on-line platforms, and I am reaching a much bigger international audience, which is very fulfilling – because what’s the point of dancing if no-one’s watching?

If no-one’s reading, there’s no point in writing.

For the most part, I can now write what I please – even though I do tend to tone things down or target a specific audience if an editor or publisher asks for that to happen. I am, at the end of the day, a professional writer, and the man who pays me the gold makes the rules.

I remain a gun for hire. I will metaphorically kill your metaphorical enemies, and you will pay my entirely non-metaphorical invoices.

Yes, let’s play some more music, bitches.

It’s all rather simple. If you have stuff that needs to be written, edited, created, or videoed, get in touch. I’m easy to find.

Happily, I have survived another year and my nearest and dearest are still with me, both my friends and my family. This is a big thing when you’re my age. You tend to go to more funerals than you do parties.

I acquired a literary agent and she has two manuscripts before her, and will shortly be looking at a third.

Book writing takes as long as it takes. Please be patient – hell, it’s not like I don’t want you to read my stuff.

So next year I plan to write more, ride more, lift more, and laugh more.

And the Road Gods do so love it when I make a plan.

I wish all of you putas a happy and prosperous 2018, and I am grateful I was a small part of your 2017.

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About the Author

is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously.
He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He’s pretty keen on that, too.



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