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Finally, there’s a bike journo vlog actually worth watching

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The motorcycle world is finally starting to behave like it’s past 2004.

Sean MacDonald first came across our radars back in late 2014. Back then he was responsible for much of the Lanesplitter sub-blog on American auto website Jalopnik, but once that tenure passed, he was soon picked up by US magazine Cycleworld. Since then he has become a regular favourite of many online, motorcycle aficionados.

Now it would appear, he’s managed to persuade the good people over at Cycleworld that what they really need is a tighter focus on the ‘more raw’ end of video-based content and so he’s started a weekly video blog.

Announced over on his Kinja page under the title ‘I’m Trying Something New…You Guys Ready To Watch Some Dumb Motorcycle Videos On The Internet??‘, Sean explains that, “Bonnier (Cycle World’s parent company) realizes that we need someone to bring the fun and enthusiasm back into motorcycles. Even more, I was able to convince them that due to a changing media landscape, that the best way to do that is through a Vlog series.

So I’m a vlogger now—except I have Cycle World behind me to help grant me the access, opportunities, and knowledge to try and do it in a way worth actually watching. The goal is one video a week, with basically free rein to go make the most fun and compelling content I can.”

His first video is from a Michelin tyre test in Qatar, and when we contacted him about it, he told us to not tell anyone over at Motofire until he became ‘less crap’. Now, having seen his last two videos – a Christmas off-road family adventure and he and his friend Justin’s first public trackday – we reckon now is that time.

We’re sure his video editing skills will get better and the focus of his videos will get sharper, but we’re also sure that his ability to actually enthuse and make motorcycles seem like a past-time that is actually – you know – fun will continue along at much the same pace!

Whilst the idea of a vlog might not seem like anything new for most of us who live on the Internet, the fact that this kind of content is not only coming from a recognised journalist with actual access to quality machines and locations, but also from a worldwide publisher of renown is heartening. There are too few people and companies that think like this these days.

We’ve spent years watching the same people, do the same things, on the same bikes, over and over on the regular channels. So we welcome anything from anyone who’s willing to challenge the status quo and to do something a little bit different.

Keep on keepin’ on…

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Custom of the Week: Harley-Davidson ‘XG750R’ Street Rod Flat Tracker by Noise Cycles

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IF YOU LIKE WEAVING through city traffic during the week, and then blasting through the twisties on your days off, the Street Rod is probably the best Harley for you.

We found it to be surprisingly sharp and agile, with a warmed-up version of the regular Street engine delivering 69 frisky horses.

Scott Jones of Noise Cycles likes the Street Rod. And his new ‘XG750R’ tracker version has got us wondering what a factory Harley tracker would look like—if Milwaukee decided to counter the threat posed by Indian’s FTR1200.

Scott is one of the top bike builders in the USA, and despite coming from the chopper side of the tracks, he’s been bitten by the dirt bug. Last year he built himself a racebike based on the regular Street 750: “It started out as just the basic XG,” says Scott. “So this year, I built one using the Street Rod—which has a 27 degree neck instead of 31 degrees.”

That simple change alone made a huge difference. “This one feels so much better and easier to ride. Still 500 pounds, but more nimble.”

Those of you who were riding in the early 80s may feel a slight sense of déjà vu with this bike, and you’d be right. The left-side exhaust mimics the placement of the Harley-Davidson XR1000 pipes, and the paint by Matt Ross (with pin striping by Jen Hallett Art) is a nod to the slate grey used on many XR1000s too.

Scott’s not going to be dicing for the lead with pros like Jared Mees or Brad Baker in the American Flat Track Twins series. He’s in it just for the hell of it, and enjoying every moment.

But he’s also inadvertently given us a pointer on what a Harley Street Tracker might look like. And it wouldn’t be a difficult bike for the factory to replicate, Red Bull catch can aside. Any takers?

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Custom of the Week: KTM ‘950SMR’ by Max Hazan

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THERE’S A DEFINITE STYLE to a Hazan Motorworks bike: a hint of steampunk, lots of beautifully twisted and burnished metal, and impossibly elegant proportions.

It’s an expensive endeavor, and Max operates in the same rarified atmosphere as Ian Barry of Falcon and the Japanese moto-artist Chicara Nagata.

Luckily, there are collectors and museums that have the funds to commission bikes like this, so the rest of us can enjoy them vicariously. But what happens when Max builds a bike for himself, with his own money?

This KTM is the answer. It’s a far cry from his previous KTM build, the supercharged 520 that now resides in the Haas Motorcycle Gallery in Dallas. But it’s a killer track machine, and just the thing Max needs when he wants to blow off steam.

Surprisingly, ‘950SMR’ is the first bike that Max has built for himself. So it was done in the down time between the projects that pay his bills. (“I completely lost track of how much time went into it.”)

The base is a 2005-spec 950 SM. It’s a tall bike—which suits Max’s lofty physique—with around 98 horsepower in stock trim, 17-inch wheels, and a dry weight of just 191 kilos (421 pounds). Contemporary road testers raved about the performance and fun factor.

“It’s possibly the ugliest bike KTM made with that motor,” Max admits. “But the bones were there. The KTM was carbureted from the factory, which let me simplify the design by avoiding EFI parts.”

Stylistically, it’s no flight of fancy: just a well-sorted bike with terrifically simple bodywork and a sophisticated warm grey and white paint scheme. “I wanted the bike to look ‘factory’,” says Max.

“I wanted it to have fenders and bodywork, and not look like a KTM that was chopped. With almost everything being rearranged, it was a lot more work than it looks like. But I guess that was the idea.”

It might be hard to believe, but Max has pulled around 100 pounds—45 kilos—off the 950 SM. (“It was built like a tank.”)

So what’s it like to ride? “It has a huge amount of engine braking,” he says. “It’s geared for about 120mph in sixth, and was in need of a slipper clutch to smooth out downshifts in the lower gears. But I just found myself ‘backing it in’ wherever I was going, as soon as I installed it.”

Everything about this KTM screams ‘track machine,’ but it’s actually 100% street legal. “It’s wired for lights and turn signals, and has a full setup that can be taken on or off in a few minutes,” says Max. “But I just prefer looking at it like this.”

It’s certainly a looker. But unlike many customs from premier league builders, Max’s KTM offers visceral as well as visual pleasures. We can’t imagine Max releasing a kit version of these mods, but if you have one of KTM’s big supermotos in your garage, there’s a ton of inspiration to be gained right here.


This article was first published on Bike Exif; For more details, photos and generally more awesome everything, visit Bike Exif.

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