IceCapades, with Brad Baker and FTR1200

Even if you’re not interested in watching Brad Baker ride an FTR1200 Custom Indian sideways around a frozen lake, you’ll want to turn up the volume to hear how the thing sounds. They keep teasing us and we keep taking the bait.

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Higdon in South America: Part 10

February 27, 2018
Potosí, Bolivia

Every morning for almost 475 years now the men of this town have trooped up to Cerro Rico and started digging. The smart ones come back down at night, cough the dust of a dozen minerals out of their lungs, and open a book. Education, with luck, could be the only thing that will save them from an early grave. If an accident doesn’t kill the average miner between 30 and 40, lung disease surely will. Today in Potosí there are seven women for every man.

It wasn’t always this way. It used to be much worse. Following Francisco Pizarro’s conquest of the Incan empire in the early 1530s, Spain’s efforts to control the hemisphere from central Kansas to the Straits of Magellan shifted into high gear. Here was a cash cow the likes of which had never been seen in the history of human civilization. And the udder on this cow was Cerro Rico – Rich Hill – in Potosí. By 1545, it was the largest city on earth.

There were not enough survivors of Pizarro’s campaigns to swing the picks on Cerro Rico, so Spain played the cards that it knew best: first the sword, then the Bible. It swarmed through the jungles and rain forests to the east in what is now Brazil, enslaved and converted millions of indigenous people, and sent them off to Potosí. There, some 14,000 feet above where they were used to living, they  experienced summer nights where the temperature averages 41 degrees F. They died like flies, eight to ten million of them over the centuries, or maybe they died wishing that they could die like flies. It wasn’t even over even when independence movements swept the continent 250 years later. Cerro Rico merely shifted from a Spanish killing field to a Bolivian one.

We did a tour of the city’s main museum. It is dedicated to memorializing the mining, refining, and minting of silver, some 300,000 tons of the pure stuff during Spain’s remarkable run. Life-size manikins, from the ages of mule power through steam power, uncomplainingly operate machines designed to make other men rich. Nearly every one of the carefully restored grinding, pounding, or crushing machines brings forth the identical thought: How many minutes on average can this worker operate this device before it takes one of his fingers?

I do not recall seeing any female manikins operating machinery in the museum, but that is not to say that women had no role in the extraction process. Our guide took us to a section of the city lying directly below Cerro Rico. It was literally walled off from the rest of the town, a zone historically reserved for the indigenous population. As luck would have it, the location was convenient for everyone. Raw ore could be simply rolled down the sides of the hill and lagoons high on the hill could sluice water to follow along with the rocks. The women’s job was to scrub the ore before it could be passed along to the next phase of the refining process. Who knew – who even cared, really – that the rocks were suffused with mercury oxide, a biohazard of the first rank?

The hill is today a sinkhole, tunneled out to the point where you’d think nothing could possibly remain in its spectacular shell. But geologists say that while most of the silver is gone, 65% of the tin, zinc, lead, and other metals remains still. They’re trying to keep the entire mountain from collapsing under its own weight, but no one who has seen maps of the tunnels can believe in such Sunnybrook Farm hopes. And when it goes, it could take a fair share of the 15,000-20,000 men who enter the 500 access tunnels each day at dawn. Think of it as simply a variation on a theme, a dirge that has been playing for half a millennium.

We wound up in the town square at the end of the tour. In the distance the brown, denuded mass of Cerro Rico frowned down on us. Potosí’s fortunes have similarly declined over the years. No longer the center of the universe, today it is the fourth largest city in Bolivia. It can still reach out, however, and remind you who it once was.

I struggled in vain to find some shade from the midday sun. Two women in our group talked quietly near me. “Our guide’s a widow, you know? She has three small children. Her husband was killed up there. A miner. In Cerro Rico.”

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Trailblazers Hall of Fame 2018 Inductee: Debbie Evans-Leavitt

Well we missed the annual Trailblazers Banquet again, dammit, but that’s okay because they released a bunch of cool video short bios showcasing each of the six inductees for 2018. In no particular order but why not Ladies First, here’s Debbie Evans-Leavitt, “Queen of Trials” who began riding at six and has over 600 film credits on her very impressive resume. Take it away, Dave DeSpain…

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Cal Crutchlow Leads MotoGP Heading into Texas

Cal Crutchlow may or may not be your favorite MotoGP rider, Bruce Allen, but the outspoken 32-year old scrapper – following a highly professional win two weeks ago in Argentina – is the first Brit to lead the premier world championship since Barry Sheene 40 years ago. Next on the schedule is this weekend’s US MotoGP at Circuit of the Americas in Texas, a gruelling 20 laps around a bumpy 3.4-mile circuit loaded with long straights ending in heavy braking zones into slow, switchback corners. Fastest speed last year: Jorge Lorenzo’s Ducati, 214.7 mph.

Last year, Marc Marquez won on the factory Honda. This year, bottom rail on top, massah: Crutchlow and his LCR satellite Honda go to Texas with a 3-point lead over Andrea Dovisiozo’s factory Ducati, 10 ahead of Johann Zarco’s satellite Yamaha, and 18 points ahead of fifth-placed Marquez.

Can he keep it up and win the MotoGP championship?

“If I didn’t believe I could do it or the team could do it then there is no point in me turning up,” Cal told “It will be very, very difficult and honestly the likelihood is no. The factories have so many more resources compared to an Independent Team that it will take something very special to do it.”

Which makes it all the more fun to watch. Anyway, it’s a lot of physically and mentally demanding hard work to ride a modern MotoGP missile, never mind at the front of the pack. We stumbled across this really interesting Cal Crutchlow interview in The Telegraph that breaks down what it takes, just in time for CotA. Go Cal! On Zarco, on Vale, on Miller and Maverick!

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Honda CB1000R Spec Chart Speculation

One of the big stars of EICMA 2017 that we still haven’t quite managed to get our grubby little hands on is Honda’s Neo Sports Cafe E Pluribus CB1000R – which was ridden onto the stage in Milan by none other than Mick Doohan. Our friends at American Honda assure us that a US launch draws ever nearer, but the bike’s already out in Europe, so why not have a look at what details Honda’s UK website can share with us?

Somebody may need to slip it a slip-on.

Over there, Honda’s selling two CB variants: CB1000R and CBR1000+, the plus of which gets you: heated grips, aluminum front fender panels, aluminum rear hugger panels, flyscreen with aluminum inserts, single seat cowl with aluminum inserts, radiator grille with CB1000R logo, and a quickshifter.

Making horsepower claims is like discussing money at American Honda, it simply isn’t done. But in the UK, the claim is 107 kW horsepower at 10,500 rpm and 104 nm torque at 8250 rpm. In American, that’s about 145 crankshaft horsepower. Our rule of thumb is subtract 10% for that power to make it to the rear contact match where our Dynojet 250i measures it – and we should be looking at around 130 horses.

Torquewise, which is what really moves us, 104 nm equals about 77 pound-feet – which should be around 70 at the tire.

All those numbers seem to point to an engine closer in character to Suzuki GSX-S1000 than to the Kawasaki Z900RS we compared last week, so those worried that Honda might have “retuned” the CBR four-cylinder in the Neo need not worry.

The other crucial number is weight, which is a claimed 212 “kerb”, which generally means all gassed up with 16.2 liters of fuel – or 467 pounds and 4.3 gallons. Honda’s claimed weights tend to be very agreeable to what the MO official scales read, and that weight’s right there with the aforementioned Suzuki and Kawasaki. The nice Brits even give us a mileage figure, which works out to 40.5 mpg.

Suspension-wise, both CB variants would seem to have a leg up, with Showa SFF-BP forks (Separate Function – Big Piston), and BRFC shocks out back (Balance Free Rear Cushion). All the other stuff is pretty standard premium Japanese componentry, but all of it wrapped in a package that’s attracted a lot of attention over the last couple of years.

Deer in headlights

In fact, we’ve known all of this ever since EICMA (where we even made a video I advise against watching), but what we didn’t know was how much money Honda would want for one. Now we do.

Bottom Line 

Motorcycles cost more in other countries than they do in the USA, so we’ve got that going for us. Today one British pound is worth about $1.43, and a CB500F in England carries a list price of £5,449, a base Africa Twin goes for £11,575 and a CBR1000RR for £15,769.

All those prices in British £ are about 0.87 to 0.96 of what we pay in the US for the same model in US $$. In the UK, the CB1000R lists at £11,299 and the CB1000R+ is 12,299. In the US, then, they might be roughly 10% more – or very roughly $12,500 for the base bike and $13,500 for the +. All that’s of course based upon cordial trade relations continuing to be cordial.

Again, the new CB is right there competitive with the Z900RS, and reasonably affordable for those who can afford it. For those of us clinging to the coattails of the fourth estate who can’t afford it but feel entitled to a new CB anyway, what’s the holdup, Honda? (I’ll have the +, thanks.)



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