Riding Man by Mark Gardiner
The Isle of Man TT is perhaps the most dangerous roadrace event in the world. Held on the island's 37-mile public road course, the circuit is lined with buildings, fences and other dangers. Weather conditions are often bleak, and speeds are high-a new lap record was set at this year's centennial event with an average speed of more than 130 mph.
Although the TT lost its world championship status years ago, many racers consider it to be roadracing's premier event and make huge sacrifices to race the Isle of Man. Riding Man is Mark Gardiner's account of the 2002 TT, in which he raced the Junior and Production 600 classes. But Gardiner's journey to the race began six months earlier, when he sold all his possessions and used his life's savings to move to the island and learn the course by bicycling around it almost every day.
The story begins with Gardiner attending the TT as a spectator and his decision to quit his advertising job and focus on returning to race the following year. The first few chapters are somewhat fragmented but provide the background necessary to illustrate how driven he was to race the TT. The middle of the book goes into some interesting detail about the history of the island and the races, and when the narrative goes into a more chronological order leading up to the races themselves, you have a clear idea of the effort required to learn the course and the obstacles Gardiner faced just to qualify.
The prose is quite colorful and descriptive-almost excessively so in some spots-and by the time the actual races occur in the final chapters, you can easily relate to Gardiner's thoughts and share in both his satisfaction of finishing and his frustration at not carding a 100-mph-plus lap. Overall it's a compelling story and a great read, even if you're not a fan of the TT.
Pit Bull Jack Stands
Things were so much easier when sportbikes had centerstands. For example, when you had to change a shock (or shocks, as was usually the case), it was a simple matter to support the bike on its centerstand and get to work. Without the two-pronged wonder, however, swapping shocks or disassembling a suspension linkage is suddenly a frustrating task. We've jammed scissor jacks in between the rear tire and fender to hold a bike up, used a rod through the swingarm pivot with a rear stand and even strung bikes from the water main in the shop (security personnel didn't approve).
With Pit Bull's Jack Stands, Big Jobssuddenly got a lot simpler and quicker. Made from high-grade steel that is tig- welded and zinc-plated, the stands are typical of the sturdy, well-finished products we've come to expect from the company. With wide bases and solid mounts for footpegs or frame sliders, a set of the jack stands will easily support the front of a bike for steering- head maintenance or the rear for shock and swingarm work. The $149.95 stands work best with solid footpegs, as the mounts are not quite long enough to reach the pivot block of stock folding pegs; in most cases, we simply zip-tied the pegs in the up position and set the bike on the solid portion. There's enough material to hold the bike sturdily, and with plenty of height adjustment to accommodate low footpegs or high frame sliders, we haven't found a bike the stands won't work on yet.
Pit Bull Products
Puma Desmo Boots
Finding riding gear that strikes a good balance between comfort and protection is always a challenge, and boots are no exception. Full-on roadrace boots are often too uncomfortable to wear for an extended ride, and boots that coddle your feet generally lack protective features. Puma's new Desmo boots offer a nice compromise, with numerous safety and comfort features combined in a stylish package.
The boot's upper is made from an abrasion-resistant microfiber that the company says was specially developed for the Desmo. Thermoplastic polyurethane plates provide additional protection for the shin, heel and calf areas, and internal hard plastic nylon discs cover the ankle-bone area on both sides. The removable toe slider has a zinc insert, as does the heel guard. A molded rubber shifter pad covers the top of the toe, and a large ridged insert on the inner calf area provides sticky contact to bike parts. Comfort features include a water-resistant zipper (a Gore-Tex version of the Desmo is also available), breathable fabric lining and flexible inserts at the heel and forefoot.
Without the additional articulated plastic support of the company's 1000 race boot, the Desmo relies on its inherent stiffness to protect the ankle from torsional or lateral bending. Accordion areas in the front and back allow movement in that direction, but the boot is decidedly on the stiff side; additionally, the fit in the toe area is wide and low compared with many boots', and break-in required more than a few hours of use. Once broken in, however, the boots are quite comfortable. The short zipper and large Velcro patch on the calf allow the boots to be worn over leathers or under jeans, with adjustment for a snug fit in either case. The inside and outside of the sole are noticeably thicker and cushier than the 1000, and the Desmos can be worn comfortably all day.
The boot's stiffness, combined with the thick sole, does sacrifice control feel somewhat, but that aspect improves every time we wear the Desmos and they break in some more. The construction appears quite sturdy and should hold up well in an encounter with the ground; considering that level of protection, Puma has done an outstanding job of making the boots as comfortable as they are.
The Desmo is available in black/dark shadow and white/high-risk red, with an MSRP of $249. The Gore-Tex version retails for $299.
Snug Harbor Motorsports