You could argue that Ken Block is the most popular car driver in the world and no one would look at you funny. Block, a winner of five X Games Rally Car medals, co-founder of DC Shoes, and all around bad-ass, isn’t the prototypical driver that rose to fame through years in NASCAR, IndyCar or Formula One—although he’s had plenty of success in rally racing. Unlike the Gordons, the Andrettis, the Hamiltons, or the Earnhardts of the world, a lot of Block’s popularity is through a series of videos called Gymkhana. They are incredibly popular—292,279,679 views on YouTube—and have earned Block a legion of fans. Block is also a massive motocross and supercross guy, which is why DC shoes has always backed some many riders. In fact, he got his start as a rally car driver because his buddy Travis Pastrana was trying it. Autoweek recently chose Block for its inaugural Car Culture Award and ran a cool profile on him.
His marketing experience proved valuable, too, in making the transition from being a sponsor to seeking them. “It’s not like a skateboard, where it costs a hundred bucks and you can go skate all over the place,” Block points out. Competing now meant the considerable expense of moving a car and support crew around the globe. “Racing in smaller series that didn’t have great TV exposure, it was a rougher time getting sponsorship. So we had to create our own exposure. Social media really gave us a way to do that, from YouTube to Instagram.” Those Gymkhana videos aren’t just a vehicle for Internet celebrity; in a very real way, by attracting sponsors and providing them with quantifiable data about just how many eyeballs their neon logos are searing, they’re helping underwrite Block’s racing activities.
Of his initial ambitions, Block says, “I really had no expectations. Starting later in life, I just thought, ‘Hey, I’ve got a really cool opportunity, I’m just gonna go and be the best I can possibly be and wherever I end up, awesome.’” A decade on, where he’s ended up is the post of “Head Hoonigan in Charge” at Hoonigan, his current apparel venture, and its in-house competition arm, the Hoonigan Racing Division—an outfit bearing a suspicious resemblance to a skate team retooled for race duty. He might not be threatening his hero Colin McRae’s career podium total, but he’s still out there, competing with the air of a guy who’s getting away with something and enjoying every minute of it. And much of Block’s appeal hinges on that mixture of talent, showmanship and humility. It doesn’t feel right to call him an everyman—nobody who is capable of doing what he does behind the wheel of an automobile is an everyman. What he is, though, is the coolest kid in your neighborhood: the best skater, the total badass who’ll still take the time to help you work on your pressure flips.
Read the full profile on Block.
Oh, in case you forgot, Block has twice graced the cover of Racer X Illustrated with Pastrana.
Lorenzo’s Changing Helmets
Defending MotoGP Champion Jorge Lorenzo is leaving the Korean helmet manufacturer HJC for the French helmet maker Shark, reports Asphaltandrubber.com. Lorenzo had been with HJC for the past three years, but experienced a number of issues with his helmet this year, which caused him to change, per the report.
Lorenzo had the chance to extend his contract with HJC, the Korean helmet manufacturer he had been with for the past three years. But Lorenzo suffered a number of issues with his HJC during the 2015 season which caused him to reconsider.
At Qatar, he dropped from the leading group after a helmet liner came loose and obscured his vision. At Silverstone, he failed to fit the breath deflector, and suffered severe fogging during a very wet race.
This was not the first time he had suffered fogging in the wet, though the issue was made much worse through his own decision not to use the breath deflector.
Burton Founder’s Recovery
Last year, Jake Burton Carpenter, founder of Burton Snowboards, was paralyzed for several weeks with a rare disorder called Miller Fisher syndrome, a type of Guillain-Barré syndrome which attacks the nerves and can lead to paralysis for weeks or months. The New York Times ran a feature on Carpenter’s initial diagnosis, his recovery, and the notes he wrote during his ordeal. It’s worth your time.
Guillain-Barré usually begins with the feet. The Miller Fisher strain begins in the eyes.
“The neurologist said, ‘If this is what we think it is, tomorrow you won’t be able to open your eyes, the next day you won’t be able to swallow and the day after that you won’t be able to breathe,’ ” Donna Carpenter said
That is what happened. Jake Carpenter walked into the hospital at Dartmouth and felt his body slowly lock into nearly complete paralysis. Within days, he could hear and think but could not open his eyes. He heard doctors say that he would recover, but he felt only decline. He thought of a friend who succumbed to A.L.S.
Check out the full feature.
Maddo a favorite?
I mean, why not?
Barn Find For the Ages
A recent find of eight motorcycles from Brough Superior, some of the highest-performing bikes before World War II, in a barn in the UK will now go to the auction block on April 24. While the bikes are in rough shape, the motorcycles, which have been collected by the likes of Jay Leno, are still expected to bring home big money. From Autoblog.com:
A member of the Brough Superior Club collected most of these motorcycles in the early 1960s, but eventually he stored them away in barns in the Cornish village of Bodmin Moor. Only a few people even knew these bikes still existed. "This is the last known collection of unrestored Brough Superiors; there will not be another opportunity like this," said Ben Walker, International Director for Bonhams Collectors' Motorcycle Department, in the auction announcement.
Junk covered these cycles for about 50 years, and their condition varies from mostly complete – but rough – to just a pile of parts. Bonhams thinks all of the bikes are restorable, but the new owner likely needs some deep pockets to make that a reality. A 1938 750cc BS4 has the highest sale estimate of the group at between $118,400 and $177,600. Meanwhile, two SS80 cycles in pieces each carry estimates between $8,900 and $11,800. Check out the gallery for a closer look at these rare barn finds.
Check out more photos at Autoblog.com.
Car Slides Off A Mountain
“One year ago, today, I almost died,” the video description begins. “Here is the video of the incident.”
We've all driven on some mountain roads and wondered what would happen if the car went over the edge. Well, now you can see exactly how it would go.
That guy is one lucky SOB.
Riders React to an Earthquake
A magnitude-4.5 earthquake rattled Southern California on Wednesday morning. Although there were no initial reports of major damage, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a big quake. 90 percent of the motocross industry resides in SoCal—here are some reactions from yesterday.
Earthquakeeeeee— Jimmy Decotis (@JimmyDecotis) January 6, 2016
Don't like earthquake's at all. I wanna go home— Jimmy Decotis (@JimmyDecotis) January 6, 2016
Holy earthquake.— Tommy Hahn (@Thahn32) January 6, 2016
earthquake this morning here in Southern California! #shakenbake— Kyle Regal (@kyleREGAL) January 6, 2016
EARTHQUAKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!— Malcolm Stewart (@Predator_34) January 6, 2016
I've always wanted to tweet an earthquake but never felt it.. but now I finally can! 4.8 4 miles from my house— Zach Bell (@zachbell100) January 6, 2016
FELT THAT https://t.co/vNiCrl7yp0— Wil Hahn (@WilHahn_) January 6, 2016
Megan's first earthquake— VERSACE SAVATGY (@joeysavatgy176) January 6, 2016
Bar to Bar
There is nothing better than opening weekend of supercross. Everyone is a title contender, riders debut new bikes, new gear, new girlfriends, and the like. Everything is fresh and fun and everyone can’t wait to get a new year under way. While that euphoria typically subsides by Round 6 or 7, let’s enjoy A1 for what it is. Before the big race on Saturday, spend the day binge watching some of the recent Bar to Bar seasons, which Feld has posted on their YouTube page. (Also included are highlights from A1 last year.)
Bar to Bar 2014
Bar to Bar 2013
Bar to Bar 2012
Bar to Bar 2011
Bar to Bar 2010
Lyft, the number two ride-hailing cab company behind Uber, and General Motors announced a $500 million deal investment this week, is part of a $1 billion Lyft fundraising effort, according to Bloomberg Business. GM is hailing the deal as “a long-term strategic alliance” to create “an integrated network of on-demand autonomous vehicles in the U.S.”—essentially, driverless taxis, says Slate. Are they already too far behind their rivals? From Slate:
Those are certainly the right noises for a Detroit automaker and the No. 2 ride-hailing company to make on the eve of the Consumer Electronics Show, where it’s rumored that Google and Ford may make a big announcement of their own. And I suppose it is conceivable that GM and Lyft really believe they’ll be working side-by-side for years to come to “shape the future of mobility,” as GM’s press release proclaims. But this feels more like a hasty marriage of convenience than a corporate match that will stand the test of years. While the likes of Uber, Tesla, and Ford lead the parade, GM and Lyft are chasing the driverless-car bandwagon from behind. (So is Apple, although being the world’s most valuable company could come in handy in closing that gap.)
General Motors’ first step toward autonomous vehicles will come next year when it releases “Super Cruise,” a feature of the Cadillac CT6 that will allow the car to pilot itself on the highway. Tesla, you might have heard, already has that. Uber poached a crack team of robotic-car experts from Carnegie Mellon last June. Google, the company that kickstarted the whole craze, has been putting actual self-driving cars on actual roads for years. Even Mercedes-Benz had a self-driving car at CES last year. At this point, neither GM nor Lyft appears to have a concrete plan to catch up, let alone surpass their rivals.
You can read the entire piece on Slate.com.
A company called Acton, which introduced the world to RocketSkates, is now releasing an electric skateboard called Blink-Board, per The Verge. The difference between this board and other electric skateboards on the market is the Blink-Board is between the size of a normal skateboard and a penny board. From The Verge.com.
The big advantage of the Blink-Board's size is that it keeps the weight down: the board weighs just 10 pounds. Basically every company making an electric rideable right now is dealing with this problem, especially because the batteries that are capable of providing decent range and speed are unavoidably big and heavy. Ditching the longboard style for something much smaller makes the Blink-Board much more manageable than the 16-pound ZBoard 2 or even the 13.5- to 15-pound weight of the Boosted Boards. But even with the smaller size, the board's battery still only manages a short range of about six miles.
Like most other electric skateboards on the market, the Blink-Board's acceleration and braking is controlled with a Bluetooth remote. You can also apparently use an iPhone app to control it as well, a functionality that some companies (like Yuneec) started building into their electric skateboards as far back as 2014. (Considering the inseparable relationship between skateboarding and wipeouts, maybe using your phone to control one is less of a feature and more of a last resort.)
You must check out the folks at The Verge trying to use RocketSkates.
Isle of Man
By now you have to know that the Isle of Man TT is a race unlike any other. But, seeing it from a riders point of view opens up an entire new world. Check out John McGuinness ripping around the island.
Gear Company is making space suits
Dainese, the motorcycle gear company, has teamed up with NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) to design two new suits to help keep astronauts safe in space, reports Lane Splitter. From the report.
NASA tapped Dainese and, using the company’s input and data and through collaboration with MIT, worked on what would become the Biosuit you see pictured above.
The Biosuit, which was funded by the NASA Institute for Advanced Concpets, is basically the world’s fanciest compression suit, and it all those little lines on it are actually filaments that “represent the lines of so-called non-extension.” Those are the lines of the body that neither stretch nor contract during the body’s movements. The lines on the suit can be mechanically pressurized to compress against the body, but do so without restricting mobility.
Check out the entire piece here.
Hey, Chad Reed Has a New Ride Let's Look at a Cool Gallery
Team Intro Videos
Red Bull KTM
Monster Energy/360fly/Chaparral/Yamaha Factory Racing
Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing
Fox and Monster energy/pro circuit kawasaki
Barn Pros/Home Depot Yamaha