Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ice Racing Comes to Wenatchee

My wife and I went to the ice races last night. It was a pretty good show. The course is very small so they spend most of their time in the corners. Two racers ran straight into the wall early on and one guy was doubled over in pain for a long time but finally got up and walked off. The announcer had some bogus information and kept saying the bikes had 4-cylinder engines. Once he said they were "trials bikes with crotch rocket motors." They looked like typical speedway bikes to me with single-cylinder motors. Probably Westlakes or Jawas or whatever they use now. The quad races were fun too. My favorite were the 2 little kids ages 3 and 4 on tiny little quads! The new event center is pretty cool (literally - we should have taken warmer jackets). Almost any seat would give a decent view of the ice and the sound system is quite good so you can actually understand what the announcer is saying. An evening well spent.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

John Britten Documentary Video

I hold as my considered opinion that John Britten is as close as we have come to a Leonardo DaVinci in modern times. He could have gone down in history as an innovator in almost any field but fortunately for us he chose to build a motorcycle. John has become one of my lifetime heroes. He was an artist, a visionary, a mechanical genius, a god among backyard mechanics, and perhaps delightfully, just a bit of an insane lunatic.

When the Guggenheim Museum moved its Art of the Motorcycle Exhibit from New York to Las Vegas, I was able to attend and experience one of the truly great motorcycle collections ever assembled. For me, the highlight was to finally see a Britten motorcycle in the flesh. There has never been anything like it and possibly never will be. The cutting-edge technical innovations that permeate that bike from one end to the other would be impressive enough without the shoestring budget and isolation under which it was wrought. If that wasn't enough, the artistic genius in John gave us a truly stunning work of art. This is the spirit of Form Follows Function at its highest level. Not enough yet? The bike actually worked, and worked so well it beat the best on the racetrack.

I have a large framed print of the Britten hanging on the wall in my office. I have the memory of tracing its sensuous curves with my eyes in three dimensions. Sadly, that is all that is left of the enchanted Britten workshop. When I heard in 1995 that John was dead from cancer I went into a minor state of depression. He was born in 1950, same as me. My hero was gone, leaving us to wonder what he might have accomplished in time. I mourn his death to this day.

I have just found a documentary film that can be viewed on the Internet. It is given in five short segments that chronicle John's amazing life and motorcycling triumph. It only briefly touches on some of the ground-breaking techniques John used to solve his engineering problems. The deeper you delve into this fantastic machine the more impressive it becomes. Watch these videos and it may inspire you to learn more about John and his bike. Do some web searches or buy a book. He may become your hero too.

to link to the videos click here