A Long Day

I must admit that upon reading the current September issue of Cycle World, a magazine I spent a long portion of my career at, I was surprised to see – in a very wide-grin type of way – that when I turned the page there was that photo, along with an update of that story.

CW is celebrating its 50th anniversary of publishing in 2012, with updated looks at notable stories from the first half century. In 1962, Joe Parkhurst – an enthusiast with a vision – launched an alternative publication because the status quo at the time was failing to deliver a credible product to the reader marketplace. I was privileged to know Joe for many years, and was fortunate to hear firsthand the challenges he faced in launching Cycle World. I smile today at those stories as we launch the AIMExpo, and remember Joe’s insistence that he fervently believed that what he was doing was what motorcyclists were looking for. His belief was born out when CW became the largest selling motorcycle publication within two years. I’m sure if Parky were around today, he’d be on the AIMExpo staff in some capacity!

Remembering the 24-Hour World Record brought out that big ear-to-ear smile because it was one of those great moments. Paul Dean had been on the world-record-setting KZ650 Kawasaki in 1977, as part of a public relations effort to launch the KZ 650 streetbike that was promoted as ‘faster than a 750’. As editor of CW in 1985, he saw the upcoming release of the all new Suzuki GSX-R750 as the same type of category-busting bike, with performance equivalent to then-current 1000cc machines. As a totally independent endeavor – not a corporate PR effort – it seemed like the perfect recipe to engage readers, and to set a world record.

Look at that handsome fellow. (And yes I rocked a mustache!)

As the magazine’s ad director back in 1985, my role was to drive the ad sales effort, not really to ride bikes in magazine stories. And, I generally didn’t. Except…a 24-hour speed record attempt required bodies… that could ride. When asked to be a part of the record-setting team, there were a couple of rather important considerations I had to deal with. First, my wife Stephanie was about eight months pregnant with our son Shaun, and second, we had a 20 month old daughter in Ashley. And as recounted in the story, it was early September in south Texas, which meant one thing – hot. In the end, all the stars aligned! I must say that it was only possible with the support of Stephanie who encouraged me to be a part of the team.

There are many distinct memories that flooded back when I was reading the story in CW. First, the tire chunking at the start was more than a little disconcerting. While the team was trying to figure out the cause, to keep the record attempt alive, I was orbiting at over 100 mph with half-dollar sized chunks missing from the center of the tire. Paul didn’t mention the helmet lift, but boy do I remember it. The aerodynamic lift created by the shape of the top of the helmet was dramatic due to the force the chin strap created on your neck as the helmet tried to lift off your head. Someone later told me that we should have riveted windshield wiper blades to the top of our helmets to break the lift. The normal stint was about 40 minutes for each rider on one tank of gas, which was about the limit of one’s neck.

When darkness fell, that’s when it got a little scary.  At 145+ mph, we were overdriving the headlights by a considerable amount. The couple of times I saw a javelina pig on the inside apron of the track, at that speed, you were past them before you could react. It wasn’t mentioned in the story, but one of our crew refused to ride at night because it was a bit daunting. Forty minutes at night was a lot longer than in daytime.

This made it official!

And then who could forget Jim Hansen’s frequent trips to the local fast food joints – they were the stories of legend. ‘I need 30 Egg McMuffins, 50 coffees, and 50 orange juices,’ etc… were met with some silent moments at the drive-thru speaker.

There were a lot of great moments that came out of working on that project. And as I look back on the effort, I realized that there’s a lot of similarities with what we’re doing today, launching the AIMExpo.

-The 24 hour speed record was long standing, and it took a new motorcycle (the GSX-R) to break it.
-The AIMExpo is a new idea that will break longstanding expectations of the industry in regards to trade and consumer shows.

-The CW speed record was a team of enthusiasts, including one (Paul Dean) that had participated in the previous record-setting event.
-The AIMExpo team is a group of enthusiasts, including many who have great experience in the show business (and one who participated in the CW record – me!)

-The logistics faced by CW to mount a world record attempt took a team of varied talents.
-The logistics faced by the AIMExpo to launch the premier trade/consumer show in North America will be met by a talented/experienced team.

At the end of a very long 24-hour day, we had achieved our goal of setting a new world record, by more than a 10% margin over the previous record. We celebrated the record, but in reality, we were celebrating the GSX-R redefining the sportbike class, and the ushering in of the modern era of ‘street-legal racers’.  I invite you to join us in Orlando in October of 2013 as we redefine the expectations of the marketplace in how we communicate the business of motorcycling to the trade, press, and consumer constituents in North America.

Check out the full article and additional photos from the September issue of Cycle World here


Posted on August 29, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. GREAT STUFF Larry ….. Richard & Kathy from RKA …. Blast from the past also 😉

  2. Nice remembrance LL!

  3. Enjoyed the story and a nice piece of history. I never thought pigs could be scary, but I just found out that in this case, a pig could have been not just scary, but fatal. Nice job.
    I’m happy no rider introduced the bike to the pig.
    Cute mustache. Don’t do it again.

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