Neonatal Doc Saves the Day thanks to his BMW

Dr. Scott Witt needed to get to Santa Rosa Regional Hospital to evacuate his tiny patients in the neonatal intensive care unit during last week’s deadly northern California fires, but he wasn’t going to be able to get there in his pickup. His whole story is here in SFGate.

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Brakes. They Only Slow You Down.

Have you ever dreamt of riding 100mph on a 100-year-old motorcycle with no brakes, clutch, transmission or any suspension? Me neither, but it sure does sound like fun.

“You gotta hold on for dear life, you know? It’s so light and you don’t have any brakes. It steers so fast, so squirrelly. It’s kind of crazy… good crazy,” says world-renowned motorcycle builder, Billy Lane.

Inspired by early twentieth-century board-track racing of the 1910s and 1920s, Billy Lane created Sons of Speed, a race that features custom-built, stripped-down bikes with pre-1925 1000cc American V-Twin engines. These days, technology is advancing so rapidly that sometimes it’s refreshing to go back to the basics of a simpler time, to take something that was obsolete and bring it back. Sons of Speed does just that. The race will return for its third installment during the 25th anniversary of Biketoberfest tomorrow, October 21, in Daytona Beach at the New Smyrna Speedway. There will be 13 racers duking it out in this unique, wide-open, thrilling style of motorcycle racing.

I encourage you to spare eight minutes and check out this interesting mini-documentary put together by Jeff Maher that explains Sons of Speed and how it came to be.

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Sons of Speed from Jeff Maher on Vimeo.

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MO Tested: Black Brand Street Team Jacket

Black Brand Street Team Jacket

Editor Score: 74.5%

Aesthetics 7.5/10
Protection 8.0/10
Value 8.5/10
Comfort/Fit 7.0/10
Quality/Design 8.0/10
Weight 8.5/10
Options/Selection 5.0/10
Innovation 7.5/10
Weather Suitability 7.5/10
Desirable/Cool Factor 7.0/10
Overall Score 74.5/100

B-b-b-b-baaad, bad to the bone. George Thorogood & The Destroyers’ 1982 hit song is what I hear when Black Brand motorcycle clothing company comes to mind. They say they are “a group that is not for everyone,” and go on to elaborate, “You need to be the wolf, not the sheep to ride in Black Brand.” With its rebellious, nonconformist attitude, it’s without question that Black Brand’s bold tagline is directly aimed at the V-Twin/Cruiser market, where the brand believes there is a void in riding apparel options.

Most people who ride cruisers place a high value on comfort over performance. This is not only apparent in their selection of motorcycles, but in their choice of riding equipment as well. Very rarely (if ever), will you see a rider on a cruiser wearing bulky or expensive, ultra-protective gear. Rather, you’re more likely to see them wearing very little, if any. Black Brand’s objective is to fill this void by providing riding apparel choices that are not only functional when it comes to protection, but also affordable.

I recently got the opportunity to test out the reasonably priced Black Brand Street Team jacket. For $250, it certainly falls in the mid-level price range, because as we all know, riding jackets can get pricey, with many easily costing around $500 or more.

Black Brand Street Team jacket

You couldn’t tell at first glance that Black Brand’s Street Team jacket is indeed a motorcycle jacket. Available in gray or brown.

As someone who has too many black leather jackets in their closet, the Street Team appealed to me for its casual appearance that could be worn on and off the bike without letting everyone know you’re a biker. However, as casual as it may look, the Street Team does offer protection and functionality of a true motorcycle jacket.

It’s constructed from a polyester/nylon shell with treatments that help fight the elements, making it UV- and water-resistant, but not waterproof.  The jacket has four large outer pockets that make carrying all your things safe and convenient – two traditional zipper pockets on the sides and two snap pockets on either breast. There is one additional pocket on the jacket’s interior for extra-safe keeping. Just above the breast pockets are zipper-operated vents. Air passes through, underneath your armpits, and exits through zippered vents on the back. While its cooling effects worked well, I found the rear vents were difficult to reach while wearing the jacket and often needed a helping hand to open or close. Also in the interior is a removable wind-resistant liner with “37.5,” a moisture-wicking and odor-absorbing treatment, that easily folds up to carry in any one of the Street Team’s pockets.

Black Brand Street Team jacket

The orange D30 armor on the shoulders, elbows (not shown) and back is soft, flexible and unobtrusive. Upon impact, the material instantly hardens.

A quality motorcycle jacket wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t offer some sort of protective armor, right? What the Street Team jacket provides that most other jackets at this price point don’t is CE-certified armor that can be found on the shoulders, elbows and back. Black Brand uses D30 armor that carries an EN1621–1/2 certification, meaning that it has passed rigorous testing and has been shown to adequately absorb the force of impacts. While I did not get to test the effectiveness of the armor (fortunately), it’s reassuring to know it’s there in case of a mishap. It’s also worth pointing out that many sportbike jackets lack spinal protection, so kudos to Black Brand for making it standard on the Street Team. Another nice touch is the discrete reflective piping for added nighttime visibility, as well as a button-down collar. There’s nothing worse than your jacket collar slapping against your neck.

All these well thought out and appreciated features aside, no piece of protective motorcycle equipment is worth its price if it doesn’t fit properly. My biggest issue I encountered with the Street Team jacket was the sizing. I stand 6’1 and weigh 180-lbs. Looking over Black Brand’s sizing chart, the medium seemed like it would fit me best. This unfortunately wasn’t the case. While the medium-size jacket didn’t fit me terribly, the fit could have been much more snug, especially in the waist area where it seems designed to fit over beer bellies. However, medium is the smallest size Black Brand offers.

Black Brand Street Team jacket

The Street Team jacket provides nice adjustability at the rider’s wrists. I mostly used the second snap for a tighter fit.

On the bright side, the Street Team does provide some adjustability in the form of snap-straps on the wrists and waist. I chose the tighter option in both areas, but a considerable amount of wind still managed to make its way up my sleeves and around my waist. Furthermore, all the extra, loose fabric around my arms and sides would often catch the wind and flap at faster highway speeds. With all the potential dangers a rider constantly navigates while piloting a motorcycle, this is a distraction we could certainly do without.

Along the same lines, a potential concern for more slender riders is if the sleeves will keep the elbow armor in place in the event of a crash. The CE-certified D30 armor is great built-in protection, but what good is it if it’s not between you and the road? Everyone’s body type is different, though, so if you’re a thicker rider, then these concerns might not apply and the jacket might be a great option.

Black Brand Street Team jacket

The Street Team looks right at home on a cruiser, but as you might be able to tell, there’s a whirlwind of air inside the jacket.

All analysis aside, Black Brand accomplished exactly what it set out to do, and that’s provide a quality piece of riding gear that won’t break the bank. For some riders, style trumps ultimate function, but the Street Team jacket covers both bases well. If you’re a larger rider looking for a casual-looking yet protective jacket, this is one to consider. And to make things even better, Black Brand has partnered with Homes for Our Troops, an association that builds mortgage-free homes specially adapted for severely injured post-9/11 veterans. From each jacket, vest and chaps sold, an amount of the profits goes to the organization to help support our veterans.

For more jackets, other riding gear and sizing info, check out Black Brand’s website.

Black Brand Street Team jacket

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399cc 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400 Confirmed for US

The California Air Resources Board has issued an executive order certifying a 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400 with a 399cc engine. The certification confirms what we assumed earlier this year after a local television news program aired a story about Kawasaki filming a commercial in Milwaukee, revealing the Ninja 400 name.

Related: Oops! Milwaukee News Crew Outs 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400

Since that story broke, Kawasaki announced most of its returning 2018 U.S. models, which noticeably omitted the Ninja 300. We can now safely assume that the new Ninja 400 will be replacing the 300 in Kawasaki’s lineup as its entry-level sportbike.

The new Ninja 400 continues a trend of beginner bikes growing larger and larger in recent years. The 249cc Ninja 250 had been around for years, and you can still regularly find them on the used bike market long after it was replaced in 2013 by the Ninja 300. The impetus for that displacement increase was the introduction of a new rival in the Honda CBR250R. Since then, the Ninjette has seen more new rivals sporting even larger engines in the KTM RC390 and the Yamaha YZF-R3. Honda’s CBR250R was later replaced by the CBR300R (and hopefully soon, a larger version of the new CBR250RR currently offered in Asia). It’s also likely just a matter of time before BMW puts its G310 motor in a fairing. Apart from the late-to-the-party Suzuki GSX-250R and offerings from smaller manufacturers like Hyosung, the entry-level sportbike market has long outgrown the quarter-liter displacement that thousands of new riders started out on for years.

The CARB document certifies two model codes: EX400GJ and EX400HJ. All of Kawasaki’s previous small-displacement Ninjas used the EX designation, so this is clearly for the Ninja 400. The J at the end stands for the 2018 model year and the G and H letters likely signify color options, likely green (G) and white (H).

While the CARB certification confirms the engine displaces 399cc, the document does not tell us how it reaches that size. Kawasaki had previously produced a Ninja 400 in Asia (and briefly, Canada) that was essentially a smaller version of the Ninja 650’s powerplant but it’s more likely we’re looking at either a sized-up version of the Ninja 300’s engine, if not a new motor all-together.

To keep costs manageable for the beginner market, Kawasaki is likely keeping its littlest Ninja a Twin, so those hoping to see a small-displacement Inline-Four will have to keep dreaming. Increasing the 300 engine’s bore from 62.0 mm to 72.0 mm while keeping the stroke at 49.0 mm will produce a 399cc engine, but a more moderate increase in piston size combined with a longer stroke may be more likely.

With a 399cc displacement, the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400 qualifies for Japan’s sub-400cc license class, so it’s possible we’ll see it next week at the Tokyo Motor Show. It’s more likely, however, that Kawasaki will wait for EICMA next month. As always, will have the latest information as it becomes available.

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