Tag Archives: car culture

2023 Radwood SoCal

The Raddening Strikes Back: Everyone needs to see Radwood SoCal and its celebration of retro car culture

The automotive phenomenon known as Radwood SoCal returns for another meetup celebrating retro cars and culture from the 1980s and ‘90s. Many of the enthusiasts passionate about all things beige and boxy, turbo’d and neon, might have loved the long-overlooked misfits that find a home at Radwood. But since the first iteration way back in 2017, the collectible car market’s upward swing in values attracted enough attention that Hagerty, the insurance company turned lifestyle brand, decided to spend big money and bring Radwood under its overarching umbrella.

Somehow, the timing never worked out for me to actually visit a Rad gathering previously, so I drove down to the Port of Los Angeles that played host to this year’s event, very curious to see how the enthusiast community might embrace a by-now established event under relatively recent corporate governance. But I also looked forward to partaking in the so-called “Rad Rally” afterward led by former Porsche driver Patrick Long, since the joys of park-and-show meets tend to fade in comparison to actually driving—and watching others drive—what I’ve always called some of the coolest cars on the road.

2023 Radwood SoCal
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Wake up for load-in

My Radwood started early, with a cruise down to Long Beach in my Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution, as the sun just started brightening. There was only a short wait to show credentials, mostly for a couple of toy haulers loaded to the brim with immaculate Benzes by CMS Motorsports and Restoration, and I pointed the PajEvo into a nice spot at the back of the “Royalty” section. Through roll-up doors, I heard the port canals splashing occasionally on pillars holding up the docks—at least when the burbling exhaust echoing throughout the building began to tone down.

The large parking lots surrounding the Royalty warehouse opened up for standard-ticket show cars half an hour later. Bright contrasting light glinted off the angular forms of Toyota Tacomas, crested the rolled fenders of a handful of BMW 3-Series, and glared off the stainless body panels of a cozy-looking DeLorean. All the while, drivers got out to fist-bump friends decked out in the brightest outfits anyone could get their hands on.

The homologation specials

I parked the Evo at the very far end of the show, where organizers waving flags assured me it would best attract spectators through to the rear of the massive building. A friend in his Escort Cosworth parked nose-to-nose, just below hilariously accurate tagging that read “You’re on thin ice” in a messy scrawled font. Two homologation specials to round out the Radtasticness, without a doubt, the two best cars in attendance (in my entirely unbiased opinion).

Figuring I might find a few other homologation specials to test my ‘80s and ‘90s nerdiness, I started wandering—the true art form of any automotive journalist. The first car that popped out from the crowd ended up being a 1981 Toyota Starlet, obviously refinished in bright blue, a BEAMS 3S-GE motor bedecked with independent throttle bodies nestled into the engine bay and fun custom mirrors matching a shift knob, all built by Mr Grip. The little hatch puts down 200 horsepower to the rear wheels and weighs only 1,800 pounds, making the nickname Starlet Johansson about as apropos as possible. Even if not a true homologation special, the Starlet stood out for me after I saw a stripped and caged example racing in the Olympus Rally early this year.

2023 Radwood SoCal
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

By the time I meandered outside, where the harsh sun had created dark shadows that made my holographic eyeball sunglasses almost blindfolds, the lines for food trucks had already looked far too long. I figured I might swing by for coffee and maybe a donut after the rush died down. 

Guess again! I chatted with a few friends, checked in with Hagerty reps, and kept strolling. But when the general public gates opened at 10:15 am, the prospect of brunch started to fade. Good thing I always bring snacks.

Rounding a corner built out of shipping containers—again, about as apropos as possible for the scene—I stumbled onto a row of motorcycles. Having recently gotten my M1 endorsement, I stopped to take a closer look at these primitive pieces of rolling stock while remembering advice from many riding friends to always buy old cars and new bikes. Point taken, as proven by ratty exposed hosing, nearly hidden carburetors, kick-starts, and minimalist gauges galore. Sign me up for fuel injection and electronic starter motors, I thought. Then again… How about a 1976 Honda CB750K cafe racer? Not quite officially Rad, but I guess rules are meant to be broken.

Back inside the warehouse to shoot the growing crowds from elevation, I bumped into a “Baja Monkey” motorcycle build looking absolutely sick, brah, with a titanium exhaust and full suspension bolted onto the tiny frame. Right next to a scooter finished in art deco graphics over two-tone white. Totally on board, without a doubt.

2023 Radwood SoCal
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Another Pajero Evo joined the throng by now, in matching silver but with yellow mudflaps held up by straps to prevent problems in the sand, also known as quintessential Dakar style. And a Galant VR-4 with an absolutely awful white respray and hilarious roof rack also caught my eye. Okay, fine, I’ll stop talking about Mitsubishis. I also saw a sweet, bright red Dodge Conquest… Wait, nevermind.

Staying on target

Even if snapping pics made up most of my official “job” at Radwood, I also got an offer from Hagerty to take a Maserati Shamal out for a spin. Yes sir, where do I sign? Sure enough, right at the entrance awaited a slightly darker-black Shamal than I imagined, with tinted windows and what looked like OEM five-spoke three-piece wheels. I feared the prospect of no air conditioning in the increasingly hot sunlight, so I figured I’d better get the hard work out of the way early. Either that or I just wanted to drive an absolute 1990s-style icon.

Inside, the Shamal sports plush leather seats closer to a lazy boy than most sports car seats, with an upwardly canted steering wheel that I couldn’t figure out how to move for the life of me. Eh, all good. Since the A/C worked, my feet reached the clutch pedal just fine. My head never got close to the ceiling. Less educated spectators probably thought they passed a Biturbo, but guess again suckers! The Shamal rocked a twin-turbo V8 all the way back in 1990! Throw in a Gandini exterior clearly reminiscent of Countaches, Panteras, and maybe a few Alfas. Now add a real roll bar integrated into the roof, a gated shifter for the six-speed shared with BMW’s 850CSi, and adaptive suspension from Koni. 

2023 Radwood SoCal
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Let me tell you, the little thing rips. I wanted to let the engine get warm before throwing in too much boost, but the turbos started spooling up around 2,500 RPM, and by 3,000, I heard all kinds of good noises, rollicking forward on a surprisingly tight chassis as the shove began pushing me back into those soft seats. With a punch of the pleasingly firm clutch pedal, slap the shifter over through another gate and give the throttle more goose. 

On a couple of tighter turns, I even felt (or imagined I felt) the suspension working to keep this moderately light grand tourer, with a lower-than-expected curb weight of just 3,184 pounds, planted and confident. Maybe the heavy steering contributed to the sensation, but then I unwound and creeped up higher toward redline with the engine temps rising. Such a good thing, this Shamal. And apparently, despite a production total of only 369, it’s somewhat affordable, according to my Hagerty guy. Or at least affordable for millionaires. Not so much compared to most of the other good stuff at Radwood.

2023 Radwood SoCal
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Back to the Radwood show at hand

All good things must pass, including the 1990s turning into a horrid new millennium and my brief time with the Maserati Shamal. But I needed to get back to Radwood ASAP and find some snacks before I got hangry. By now, the sun just baked the parking lot, and almost everybody had made the wise choice to huddle inside the Royalty warehouse. On the second pass, I spotted some fun Porsches, a perfectly specced E34 BMW M5, and the undeniable king of the show that I had somehow missed the first time around.

Yes, you guessed it. An Isuzu Impulse RS. You know the one with Handling by Lotus? That turbo-four, manual trans, and all-wheel drive pocket rocket with cloth seats, hilarious gauges, and space shuttle-era switchgear? I’ll admit that maybe only seven people I spoke with shared my excitement about the little Impulse, but I knew all about this car because I follow the owner, Paul Kramer of AutoKennel, religiously on Instagram. Talk about serious royalty.

Then I dipped back outside to brave the scorching heat once more to check on the food truck lines, but another lap seemed important. Beetlejuice chilled next to his matching Autozam AZ-1, the Toyota tax on display with some built four-wheelers and BMWs from proud piles to concours perfection in the same line. Nothing’s more 1980s or 90s than a sunburn and Pit Vipers, I figured, but the setting began to make even more sense to me all of a sudden. After all, most of the imports here probably passed through the Port of LA on their journey to the United States from Japan, Europe, or beyond.

Accessorize, accesorize, accesorize!

One of the fun sides of car collecting that Radwood emphasizes, if most concours d’elegances scorn, is the glories of accessorizing with pure ‘80s and ‘90s trash. Car phones here, cassette tapes there, and a period-perfect Air Jordan jacket. One guy even towed in a boat complete with ancient water skis, a BMX bike, the de rigeuer boombox, and beach chairs. So lit, so fun! But awards from other car shows also dotted the crowd, along with original window stickers, explanations of rarity (read: documented Radness), and even a lei or two. 

Despite my clear inclinations to award the PajEvo (mine or my friend’s, honestly) as Raddest in Show, or at least the Impulse RS, the official panel of judges semi-officiously handed out a series of trophies at the end of the day that entirely overlooked my personal preferences and predilections. Heresy! The top award was a one-of-12 Rinspeed Porsche “969” finished in crispy white metallic. At the very least, a Renault 5 Turbo 1 that I spent some serious time lusting over took Raddest Import. And luckily for me, the Renault ended up on the Rad Rally as well.

The Rad Rally itself

By 3:30 pm, I felt baked, parched, hungry, and ornery. My PajEvo needed gas before any real rally might begin, so I tried to beg off early, but alas, to no avail. What else to do but chat up Patrick Long, former Porsche factory racer, current brand ambassador, real-life Hot Wheels car builder, and one of the brains behind the air-cooled Porsche gathering, Luftgekühlt? I figured Long might look forward to doing some actual driving just as much as I, a matching duo of jaded (read: spoiled) automotive aficionados such as ourselves. His own impressions sounded slightly cheerier—maybe he’d had lunch.

“I love the part of load-out because everybody’s had a great day, they’re stoked, they’ve made new connections,” Long told me, “You get to hear the cars, you get to smell the cars. That is fun.”

And what might the heretofore mysterious Rad Rally have in store for us, Mister Long?

“I don’t know what tonight’s gonna hold,” he admitted mysteriously. “It’ll be fun when we get on the 110 and head north. Maybe we’ll go over Palos Verdes.”

In a baffling turn of events, the eventual route ended up starting in Santa Monica, akin to the Lamborghini Bull Run Rally I had just attended. So first, every Rad Rally participant needed to battle 45 minutes of holiday traffic to meet at a coffee shop where, more bafflingly, we were not given time to grab coffee. On a tight schedule to catch some sunset shots in Malibu, we regrouped and jumped on the 10 West, then hit gobs of PCH traffic that split the group almost immediately. By the time we turned up Las Flores Canyon, I waited about seven minutes for everyone else to catch up (home-field advantage matters, it turns out) and then followed three Porsches and the Cossie in my body-on-frame homologation race car, er, truck. 

Sound like a showdown is coming? Not so much, since a minivan with photographers harnessed into the trunk led the pack. We wound our way up Las Flores and up past the summit onto Piuma, where the last rays of sunlight provided a picturesque backdrop for oodles more, you guessed it, photo ops. Once the stars began to poke through that violet sky, we turned on our headlights before ripping back down to the PCH in just about the seven minutes of real driving I experienced that day. Long had warned me:

2023 Radwood SoCal
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

“I never push that hard in the canyons. Rule number one is to stay within your lane and not cross a yellow. So I’ll push as hard as it lets me to that point, keeping an eye on gauges and rattlesnakes crossing the road.”

But he snuck out of the overlook well ahead of me, so I enjoyed a chance to chase the pro down. Of course, in his “Dirtmeister” 944 on Pirelli Scorpion knobbies, he stood no chance against the sheer might of the winningest Dakar race vehicle of all time, itself on oversized Yokohama knobbies and with an absolute amateur behind the wheel. Suffice it to say, the Cossie and Renault simply couldn’t keep up, which I once again attribute to homefield advantage.

2023 Radwood SoCal
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

The sun sets over Radwood SoCal

Back in stop-and-go traffic on the PCH, I let the Renault slip in front of me to appreciate those squared-off haunches and the growling exhaust note, but the wait also gave me a chance to reminisce on my first Radwood experience. Call it my first Raddening. It’s hard to go wrong visiting with friends and checking out my favorite era of cars—guess that makes me a millennial with disposable income (guess again, to all my aspiring journalists out there). The setting and scene came out perfectly, with the cars and culture of the era on full display. 

2023 Radwood SoCal
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Radwood undoubtedly takes the dubious fun of average Cars and Coffees, Concours judgings, and any other park-and-show meets to the next level. I definitely enjoyed the day, and with just a bit more planning for foodstuff and more avoidance of traffic on the rally, all would truly be Rad in the world once more.

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Lamborghini Movember Bull Run

I drove a Huracan Tecnica at the record-setting Lamborghini Movember Bull Run Rally

Anyone stuck in beach traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway this past weekend found themselves in for a treat. Or really just about anyone on the beach or the boardwalk, too, as a fleet of over 200 Lamborghinis makes for quite a rumbling traffic jam that roars hundreds of yards in every direction. 

Welcome to the third annual Bull Run, a series of global rallies that Lamborghini and the charity Movember put on to raise awareness for men’s issues during the month, also known as “No Shave November.” This year, a Bull Run started in a large parking lot below the Santa Monica Pier, then rallied up the coast through the hills of Topanga and Malibu. 

Just in case I wouldn’t hear the echoes from my nearby apartment, Lamborghini kindly offered me a Huracán Tecnica to join the morning’s revelries, so I arrived curious to see what kind of crowd the Bull Run draws—and, of course, how everyone piloting hardcore supercars in a group rally on public roads actually drives.

Lamborghini Movember Bull Run
Image credit: Extension PR, Jordan Russell

Welcome to the Bull Run

I arrived about 15 minutes late, figuring the event might run on Italian time. And sure enough, a group of about 30 Lambos already occupied a few spots just off the boardwalk—nowhere near the expected total. I parked the Tecnica and hopped out, noticing the number of mustaches already in attendance, a figure that rose steadily, if not quite as quickly as the number of actual Lamborghinis rolling up in bunches.

Movember’s efforts as an organization center around raising awareness for men’s health issues, with a focus on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health. The charity has invested over $350 million in biomedical research projects, supports interventions, provides guidance for cancer treatments, and reframed discussions of mental health and gender norms. Previous iterations of the Lambo Bull Run have drawn 92 dealers in 22 states, with over 1,500 cars worldwide joining the cause. But as the largest single market for Lamborghinis worldwide, LA’s potential turnout this year attracted enough attention to even entice CEO Stephan Winkelmann out for a weekend on the West Coast.

Lamborghini Movember Bull Run
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Setting records with Movember

I almost didn’t recognize Winkelmann in his Saturday casual attire as opposed to his unvarying array of absolutely immaculate suits. He also arrived sporting a beard for the first time since his Bugatti days. Why the beard, I asked him, rather than the Movember mustache gracing so many Lambos around us? He laughed and pointed at my own beard.

“I look older with a mustache, so I said if I were going to do it, then I’d do a beard,” Winkelmann joked before turning serious. “We are doing a thing for a good cause, and to have this as also the biggest gathering in the history of Lamborghini in connection with a movement like Movember is a good thing.”

Lamborghini Movember Bull Run
Image credit: Extension PR, Jordan Russell

Winkelmann arrived in the United States fresh off Lamborghini, reporting official sales figures for the first three quarters of 2023. As usual, the US market dominated world deliveries, with 2,342 cars sold. For context, Germany notched second place with 709 units sold. So, as we stood there surrounded by classic and modern Lamborghinis alike, I asked Winkelmann what he thought made customers in America so attracted to the Italian supercars coming out of Sant’Agata Bolognese in recent years.

“People love ‘Made in Italy,’ they love super sports cars,” he replied. “They look at us, and they see that we are consistent with the brand, with the products, with technology, design, and performance. And therefore, it’s a growing curve in terms of awareness, in terms of image, and also in terms of popularity.” 

We watched more cars pulling into the lot, and then perhaps the highlight of the day rumbled past: the so-called “Rambo Lambo” LM002 SUV. Crowds swarmed, pulling out smartphones to record this most beastly of raging bulls in motion. Then the owner hopped out and popped the hood. I stuck with Winkelmann and brought up my surprise at how many brand-new examples of the Sterrato showed up, the Huracán’s off-roading variant that best delivers the modern style of that LM002. In fact, the Sterrato might just be my favorite car of the year. Completely absurd in every way but done right from conception through R&D to production. Winkelmann agreed.

Lamborghini Movember Bull Run
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

“Lambos are created to be dream cars,” he posited, “To be objects you might dream of since your childhood. And this is something we have to keep alive, and we always have to surprise people. The LM002 back in time was a big surprise for the customers. So is also the Sterrato. This is a car, which is part of our thinking out of the box now; it’s a car, which is very special, and the reception has been incredible. And it’s even more fun on the racetrack than off-road because you can just slide it.”

I declined to share my own tale of sliding a Sterrato enough to wind up fully sideways on a rally course at the official press debut earlier this year but nodded with appreciation for the incredible job that Lambo’s CTO Rouven Mohr manages to do with traction control and ESC programming. This guy drives a Lancer Evo, drifts a Nissan 350Z, and came up with the idea for a Sterrato in the first place. Then he decided that media should off-road the Urus Performante, set up a stage rally day at Chuckwalla for the Sterrato launch, and programmed the 1,000-horsepower Revuelto hybrid’s all-wheel-drive system well enough that I even drifted one at Vallelunga. Not bad, to say the least.

Lamborghini Movember Bull Run
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

A sense of surprise

And my Tecnica loaner wasn’t bad, either. Compared to other Huracan variants, including the Sterrato but also the aggressively aerodynamicized STO, the Tecnica nails a certain level of stylistic restraint. Call it more in line with Winkelmann’s more typical visage than on a Movember rally, where the Sterrato is the bearded CEO in cargo pants at the beach on a Saturday morning. And this particular Sterrato looks extra svelte in a matte grey, officially called Grigio Acheso, with carbon fiber interior door cards and even racing-inspired pull straps instead of handles. 

Don’t forget the 5.2-liter V10 that revs to 8,500 RPM and puts 640 horsepower through a lightspeed seven-speed DCT to the rear wheels only. Perfect for a road rally, a racetrack, or tooling around town—whether anyone shelling out $300,000 for their daily driver might want to keep the Movember mustache decals on after the rally remained another question entirely.

Lamborghini Movember Bull Run
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Huracans made up most of the crowd by the time SM Pier’s lot began to fill up, heartily outnumbering even the Urus, Lambo’s best-selling model that contributed mightily to steadily growing sales stats since debuting for model year 2018. And yet, the Lamborghini crowd that gathers at a rally clearly prefers the company’s supercar persona rather than the do-anything SUV. Not too surprising, I suppose, given how many commuters I regularly see in Uruses (Urii) here in Los Angeles. Maybe the Lanzador could change that in the near future.

Sprinkled between the modern Lambos, a few Diablos, Murcielagos, and Aventadors also arrived to great fanfare. Even a lone Lamborghini Jalpa caught my eye, with an absurd yellow interior unveiled on full display. And it’s not often that anyone on hand can see the details that made these cars so super, from the Rambo Lambo’s wider-than-wide dash and peculiar Pirelli tires to the Jalpa’s gated shifter and three-spoke steering wheel or even the Diablo’s massive rear air intakes. Then, comparing older cars to newer ones, the evolution of aero and design, not to mention materials and craftsmanship under Volkswagen ownership—the whole history of Sant’Agata Bolognese played out in the pier parking lot.

Then came the time to drive after a few words of warning to prevent any shenanigans. Luckily—or not—beach traffic piled up on the PCH immediately, so as I slunk forward at a few miles an hour with the Tecnica set to softest Strada mode and AC blasting, a bunch of Aventadors lurched around at low speeds, automated manuals slapping audibly and 6.5-liter V12 engines revving to prevent stalls. We passed Jerry Seinfeld in a bright orange IROC Porsche, thinking it’s not often that Jerry gets upstaged in the car biz, but it’s pretty hard to beat a line of 200 Lamborghinis in public.

Once past a blinking red traffic light that caused the holdup, speeds increased but never to the point of irresponsibility. Even up Las Flores Canyon, then down Stunt and across Mulholland, the line of Lambos barely cracked the speed limit. And it’s a good thing, too, because the sheriff’s department definitely got the memo, as proven by about 15 cop cars passing in under an hour on mountain roads.

On Las Flores, a bit of water spray contrasted the Tecnica’s matte finish. On the rough road surfaces that took a beating this past winter, I again found myself entirely happy to have drawn the “short” straw with the Tecnica rather than the more “desirable” STO. Sure, on a track, the STO’s stiffer suspension and aero package may allow for better lap times, but here on public roads, the Tecnica’s more approachable setup kept me swaddled in much more comfort. I can admit to wishing for a bit more time actually ripping around, throwing that low-slung weight into corners, and punching the brake pedal to chomp down on massive carbon-ceramic brake discs. Oh well, maybe next time. If I ever get a next time.

Welcome to Calamigos Ranch

The rally ended at Calamigos Ranch, right off Kanan Dume in the heart of Malibu. A popular wedding venue, Calamigos Ranch also rents out to automakers regularly for sneak previews, official launches, and lunches during test drives. In this case, Lambo parked a brand-new Revuelto at the entrance for guests to check out. The bright orange Arancio Apodis launch color certainly caught eyes, though, in my opinion, it only highlights certain unflattering comparisons to the C8 Corvette in photos. Those impressions come through less in person, but the angular body still looks best in dark and matte tones.

Then, another orange Lambo absolutely stole my gaze: a sparkling Miura that guarded the entrance to the main field where lunch trucks, picnic tables, cornhole, and a Ferris wheel all dotted the lawn packed with more Lamborghinis, of course. Here, I got to check out more Diablos and Murcielagos that I must have missed earlier in the rush to chat with Winkelmann and grab a cup of coffee before the rally started. The crowd grew steadily, some dealers wearing official garb, plenty of father-son duos out for a Saturday cruise, solo owners, and more Lambo executives. I grabbed a Mediterranean salad with shaved ribeye, chugged another coffee, then moseyed over to take a closer look at sweet rims, quilted leather, and even more sparkling paint jobs.

And to think, all this for a good cause in an era when Cars and Coffee meets often devolve into donuts and drifting, prompting police shutdowns and ticketing. By contrast, the Bull Run stayed surprisingly classy. We all know the stereotypes, but the Mustang and Hellcat hooligans stayed away on this day of fundraising. Each dealership involved contributes to Movember’s purse, the final tallies of which will be announced at the end of the full month’s efforts. 

Lamborghini Movember Bull Run
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

But in the meantime, I spent the rest of the afternoon ripping my Tecnica home through the tight curves of Latigo Canyon Road, simply one of the best 10 miles of asphalt the world over for driving one of the best supercars ever. Suffice it to say, it’s a great way to give my own mental health a boost with a healthy dose of automotive therapy.

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Lamborghini Sian x Ducati Diavel Feature Photo
FeaturesHot Takes

Car enthusiasts should be motorcycle fans too: a look at two clans who should be best friends 

Many octane-blooded enthusiasts I’ve met grew up one way or the other: they like cars, or they like motorcycles. Once in a blue moon, the two fandoms seem to cross over in their hearts and minds. When they do, there’s often a clear bias towards the one they originally began. But my old man raised me to be different. I was brought up to embrace both as one whole, tools used in the pursuit of freedom and thrills.

My dirt bike days as a tot have long passed. But now my old man has spurred me along into joining him in returning to two wheels, mentoring me in on-road riding and quietly awaiting my first street bike purchase to accompany my four-wheeled fixations. It’s the start of an exciting return to form for me, but one met with a lukewarm and even mildly negative reception from a few close car enthusiast friends and family members.

“Aren’t we all on the same side damn side,” I’d often think. Their reservations are valid for a few reasons, but it’s criminal to act so dismissively and pretend the lines between the two worlds aren’t heavily blurred.

Car people should be bike people too! We shouldn’t bar ourselves from such experiences out of fear or a mere unwillingness to learn something new. Variety is the spice of life that makes it worth savoring, especially when the two hobbies in question are actually far closer to being in the same wheelhouse than you think.

Cars and motorcycles aren’t so different beneath the skin.

Superbikes and supercars, V-twins and V8s, ricers and squids. They represent two sides of the same coin. And don’t you dare say otherwise! The Lamborghini-Ducati and Honda-Also-Honda tag-team duos will beg to differ. So why the divide between the fandoms? Sure, safety and practicality are the obvious answers, but is that all there is to argue about?

Motocompacto and Honda City Turbo II
Image credit: Bring-a-Trailer

The rival kingdoms have their stark contrasts, but they’re more alike than the average cynic gives them credit for. And I mean shockingly similar, culturally and technologically. Both share deep-rooted passions for motorsports, often using competition to develop their most coveted halo models and to improve their more athletic variants. Both have their fair share of heroic superstar drivers and riders while suffering from reputation-tarnishing delinquents. And both tell vivid tales of their development over histories that culminate in the most innovative technological advancements, even if one of the factions is a bit of a late bloomer.

Guess which one.

Motorcycles and cars are technologically aligned. 

Like cars, many modern bikes have multi-way adjustable traction and stability controls, anti-lock brakes, electronic dampening, and all sorts of goodies that have been pouring into cars since the 1970s. Expectedly, these ensure maximum performance benefits for motorcycles while enhancing safety and rider comfort. In a way, the push to make bikes faster, more comfortable, and more capable has ironically made them easier and safer to ride (in the hands of the well-versed, of course).

Ducati Streetfighter V4 and Lamborghini Huracan STO
Image credit: Ducati

Okay, let it be written here and now that I am not responsible for any ego-related oopsie-daisies after reading this. Please forward all motorcycle accident-related complaints to Acceleramota’s supreme emperor chancellor, Gabe Carey. 

Phew, dodged a bullet there.

While water cooling has become commonplace for performance and commuters alike, air-cooled motorcycles are still prominent in some cruisers and modern-retro bikes for cost-effectiveness and that obvious dose of nostalgia like a Volkswagen Beetle or air-cooled 911. Handlebar steering dampers, similar to vibration dampeners in steering columns, iron out harsh road impacts in a bike’s steering, further improving safety and comfort. You can even waltz into a Harley dealer and throw a leg over a fleet of baggers with enough cargo capacity to shame small hatchbacks and built-in stereos worthy of blasting “Act a Fool” as you chug down Seven Mile Bridge.

Bosch IMU
Image credit: Bosch

One trick bit of tech found in sports and superbikes is an inertial measurement unit or IMU. This part-mechanical, part-electronic system acts as another brain within a motorcycle, taking in telemetry from various gyroscopes and accelerometers within its casing and using the information to adjust parameters in the bike. After calculating for variables such as pitch, squat, acceleration, and lean angles, the IMU can tweak the responsiveness and behavior of traction and stability control, wheelie control, ABS, and adjustable suspension. In cars, IMUs have been used in autonomous cars to help adapt to their environments, as well as in adaptive suspension systems and data loggers.

Perhaps current BMW motorcycles are the best examples of tech sharing, as their latest models now utilize a carry-over iDrive unit from their cars as the infotainment and digital gauge display. Get that. Now we have bikes sharing head units with cars. Heck, we have bikes with head units! It’s a part-bin move in the best way possible.

Motorcycles are often technologically late to the party. 

Before we get lost in the sauce, it’s worth noting that technology seems to move at a glacial pace with motorcycles compared to cars. We’ll touch on some possible reasons why later. Bikes may pride themselves on IMUs or wheelie control, but that’s all they have to brag about now.

Proof? The first car with modern ABS was the 1978 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, versus the BMW K100, the first bike to flaunt ABS in 1988. First to fuel injection was the two-stroke Goliath GP700 Sport in 1952, while the first for four-stroke cars was the Mercedes 300SL, both beating the 1980 Kawasaki KZ1000H by longer than I’ve been breathing. As for stability control, the first cars to field this ass-saver are caught in a rough tie between the 1995 Mercedes S600 and the Toyota Crown Majesta, although the Merc technically beat the Crown Majesta to sales by a few months. However, what was the first bike to reach that finish line? The 2014 KTM 1190 Adventure. Motorcycles ventured into a new realm of safety tech roughly around the same time Top Gear went to Patagonia. Wowza. 

Mercedes Benz 300SL Fuel Injection Meme
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Here’s a biggie for you. Take variable valve timing, a staple of modern engines for its economical and performance benefits. Ubiquitous in cars, it arrived in Japanese motorcycles with Honda’s rudimentary REV system of the 1980s before evolving into the CB400’s HYPER VTEC in 1999 – “VTEC just kicked in, yo,” yes, that VTEC. As revered as its automotive counterpart, this style of valvetrain has slowly trickled into the mainstream. And like forming stalagmites, it still keeps trickling. And trickling. And trickling some more.

Today, it remains an uncommon novelty in the most advanced motorcycles. In 2017, Motorcyclist christened it “the next frontier in motorcycle engine technology,” while a Visordown feature from 2018 claimed it was “the new must-have tech.”

YouTube MOTOBOB Screenshot
Image credit: MOTOBOB, YouTube

How cars and motorcycles forge their best metal through racing

Regardless of the rate of development, car and bike folks agree the grand crucible of motorsports always improves the breed. Or so the brochures and press reveals say. And like the tale of the second car rolling off the assembly line, racing will forever be inevitable as long as there’s a second bike. And race, they shall.

Numerous leagues have spawned over the decades to satiate hungry crowds and itching riders. From on-road or off, from the treacherous rallies to iconic road courses, the same hunt for glory, innovation, and adrenaline that spurred automakers over the years fan the flames of competition among motorcyclists, too.

Carrera MotoGP 2010
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

MotoGP is just diet Formula 1. Four-wheel evangelists have IMSA and World Endurance Championship, while their two-wheel counterparts proudly endorse AMA Superbikes and the Superbike World Championship. Both cults share routes that snake up Pikes Peak and over the sands of Dakar and the Baja 1000. Race-ready Husqvarna Enduro 701 or Aprilia Tuareg 660, anyone?

Homologation specials exist in this realm as they do for rally fans, for motorcyclists who insist they need 230-horsepower, 400-pound rocket sleds for their errand runs. Did anyone see the recently unveiled Ducati Panigale V4R? It’s on this planet Earth for the same reason as the Toyota GR Yaris, Lancia Delta Integrale, or the BMW E30 M3. And that hypercar slayer is hardly a scratch on the surface of race-bred road bikes.

Honda stirred equal parts controversy and astonishment over its tear-jerkingly expensive RCV213-S. It was an ultra-light and razor-sharp superbike, born to be a roadgoing sibling to Marc Marquez’s championship-winning MotoGP bike. And, although not homologation specials, the BMW S 1000 RR and even rowdier M 1000 RR continue to draw inspiration from the circuit, with new front winglets and further refinement to their already impressive suite of adjustable and adaptive electronics. Bet you’ve never seen wings on a bike before, let alone motorcycles with drift modes, yet here we are. Supermotos and some naked bikes can pull the same trick, essentially disabling rear ABS to allow riders to skid the back tire and help rotate around tight bends like rally cars would.

And I don’t care who your favorite F1 driver is. You have to admit that some of this motorcycle racing stuff is badass beyond comprehension, amplified by the fact the only thing between the riders and potential disaster, afforded in spades by the Bugatti-rivaling power-to-weight ratios between their legs, is their Power Ranger cosplay. For this reason, one can argue motorcycle racing takes far more nerve than any automotive equivalent.

Bracing for an uncertain future on four wheels and two

Unfortunately, time cares not for your silly little racing pedigree or silly little brand cache. One way or another, our oversized toys must adapt to an ever-changing world. Purists can view change as heresy. Or, if you’re the sensible type, you can view it as an opportunity to see how the two factions grow together in ways that put Malaise-era engineers to shame.

First and foremost, they already face increasingly stringent emissions regulations, in case anyone somehow forgot those were a thing. Cars have always faced this challenge in the aftermath of the Clean Air Act, leading to the birth of catalytic converters in the early-to-mid 1970s. Since then, cars have been more constricted than ever before, but thankfully, the ingenuity of auto engineers outpaced this bondage, leading to today’s cars being the cleanest yet highest performing they’ve ever been.

Particulate filters be damned. The driver’s cars of today can haul! Time travel back in any recent Ford Fiesta ST and blow the doors right off bitter Old Man Enzo Ferrari’s face.

Ducati Diavel and Lamborghini Sian
Image credit: Ducati

Motorcycles share in this struggle. The now-two-year-old Euro 5 emissions forced manufacturers to create greener powerplants with more catalytic converters, despite motorcycles making up a single-digit percent of registered vehicles globally. Some bikes had to undergo re-tuning to play nice with their new implants, often gaining little to no power, with the European market even dropping a few models until subsequent variants could be brought into compliance.

Ponder that. Reworking your vehicle’s powertrain outside mid-cycle refreshes or new model releases just to reel it into compliance. The only recent case I can think of on four wheels is the S550-generation Ford Mustang, which saw re-tuning for 2022 that cost its Coyote V8 ten measly ponies. Not that anyone would feel that loss in a 460-horsepower car, but the fact it happened pissed off many keyboard drag racers. 

A decades-old mission, emission strangulations have always been just another obstacle for engineers to tackle. It’s not as perplexing as the current crop of electrified motorcycles, which has taken many interesting turns in the pursuit of modernizing an entire industry of niche transportation. 

Motorcycles follow suit in electrifying their evolution.

Yes, electric bikes exist, and they take many forms, from cutesy scooters to off-road adventurers and sports bikes. If you really want to get technical, those fun and terrifyingly quick e-bikes from motorcycle and auto manufacturers are taking the market by storm with a level of everyday practicality that threatens the domain of scooters. Even Rivian is hopping aboard. Because of course they are.

Cough, I’ll take two.

Image credit: BMW Motorrad

The two-wheels-plus-battery combo is steadily gaining traction as the call for combustion-free metropolises grows louder, and although bikes aren’t currently affected, who’s to say they soon won’t be? A simple, eco-conscious, and practicality-minded audience encourages their development. It’s not too dissimilar from how the same demands from consumers and legislative bodies have thrust EVs and plug-in hybrids of all shapes into the spotlights of auto shows.

As of writing, the most recent entry into the fray is BMW’s fascinatingly quirky “urban mobility” bike, the CE 02. This dorky yet radical halfway house between a scooter and motorcycle harnesses the power of an 11-kW, air-cooled motor to jolt out 40.5 pound-feet of twist over 56 miles. BMW Motorrad even bullshitted its own dorky-yet-radical classification: an eParkourer. Er, on second thought, that’s just dorky. But tell me this little bean isn’t perfect for a rip beneath the city lights of Night City or through Watch Dogs: Legion-era London.

BMW CE 02 pair
Image credit: BMW Motorrad

Conversely, if the CE 02 doesn’t butter your biscuits, consider the Zero SR/S, an all-electric sports bike from what is essentially two-wheeled Tesla minus the painfully overinflated brand ego. I bet a 187-mile city range and a 17.3 kWh battery feeding a 110-horsepower, 140-pound-foot motor sounds more like your speed. Literally. The SR/S is an exciting addition to Zero’s line of electric motorcycles, aimed at combining efficient urban mobility with the fun, sporting nature of the ICE bikes it both honors and contends with.

Urbanites and green freaks may find a lot to love about this wave of electrified motorcycles but know they lag far behind the EV development in cars, much like the rest of motorcycle technology. Relative to cars, electric motorcycles are a rarity, and even more so with the pretty much unheard-of hybrid bikes. Where Lucids and Rivians steal headlines from one another, electric bikes are often lost in the sea of fire-breathing superbikes and ultra-stylish modern retros whose waves crash strong at the behest of eclectic audiences who primarily view motorcycles as fashion items or toys, not commuters.

This disparity between the two industries’ progress on EVs is evident in the sluggish charge rates of such diminutive battery packs, which can take one to two hours to charge at 2.3 kW to 12 kW. Compare that to Porche Taycans and the Tesla Model S, which can fast charge their far larger battery packs to 80% or more in 30 minutes or less.

Zero Motorcycles SRS
Image credit: Zero Motorcycles

Bikes comprise a smaller industry for a smaller pool of hobbyists.

From slow charging to lagging decades behind to introduce basic safety concessions such as ABS and stability control. Why such a slow poke? It’s as if the whole industry is limping around on horse tranquilizers and Everclear.

Well. There are plenty of valid reasons.

One culprit could be the smaller profit margins of this niche segment, with roughly $75.6 billion in worldwide 2022 revenue versus the global auto industry’s $2.9 trillion that same year, possibly hampering the ability to advance their technology at the same pace. Bikes aren’t as expensive to produce, but when catering to a comparatively minuscule customer base, at least in the West, every fraction of a cent counts.

Additionally, safety legislation lags as much as the tech itself, meaning manufacturers are not always legally obliged to include such systems, even if they can afford to. For instance, you can still buy bottom-rung models without ABS or traction control, items modern cars wouldn’t be caught dead without. And ongoing efforts to mandate such basic kit on all bikes, regardless of the bike’s intended purpose or classification, have been met with resistance from the purist types.

Another reason could be, and apologies for getting anecdotal here, an apparent lack of interest and even backlash from a culture that mostly sees motorcycles as instruments of enjoyment first, semi-practical transportation second. Once again, I state that this is a niche customer base that primarily views bikes as trinkets and accessories.

It’s funny, though. As car enthusiasts, we’ve been similarly resistant to such things as electric power steering and automatic transmissions over the years, with varying degrees of validity to our annoyance, depending on how well a manufacturer executed a controversial move. All the more proof that we’re all the same breed of adrenaline-hunting, adventure-seeking, financially irresponsible, stubborn, and overgrown children called hobbyists. 

The Two Machines: a cultural peek at bikes and cars.

Once upon a time, in an elementary school far, far away, I was told a short story about two adventurous frogs who felt trapped in their home cities in Japan. They left their hometowns of Osaka and Kyoto, embarking towards each other’s city to pursue exciting and radically alien experiences. In a swift dose of revelation and character development, they were disappointed yet enlightened to see how the two concrete jungles mirrored one another, learning a lesson about how people from all over can be spitting images of each other beneath the skin.

As the technology in cars and motorcycles reflects one another, so does the culture. I can spin this section off into its own story of how the passionate participants of each group mold their experiences into something unique yet clearly connected, not only in technology or sport but in spirit. We love the same things, hate the same things, and partake in the same high-octane shenanigans with folks we wouldn’t have otherwise met if it weren’t for our shared passions.

Triumph Bobber and modern classic lineup
Image credit: Triumph Motorcycles

Brutish muscle cars complement Harleys and Indians. Your typical Ferrari guy in full Prancing Horse attire at Cars N’ Coffee is no different from the knight in leather armor parking their Ducati or MV Agusta at the same Cars N’ Coffee to preach how awesome their brand is and how their new model is the fastest damn thing on Earth. Or, on second thought, maybe those folks are more like Corvette people. And the nostalgic types, in their quest for driving purity at the helm of Lotuses or Miatas, will lose their ever-living shit when they see what Triumph and Royal Enfield have been up to. 

I’ve met motorcyclists who’ve only ever cared about spec sheet drag racing and going balls to the wall everywhere they go, akin to boastful street racers I’ve encountered. There are the casual Sunday cruisers and those who simply enjoy their machines for the sensation of driving. And there are the show-offy speed freaks who think it’s their God-given right to redline everywhere they go. And don’t you raise an eyebrow at me. You know exactly what kinds of people these are, cars and bikes alike. No matter the faction, there are always those who enjoy the tranquility to be had and those who revel in chaos.

Ken Bock, Colin Mcrae, and Travis Pastrana
Image credit: Carolyn Williams, Flickr

As motorsports unite the two hobbies on the twisties of Pikes Peak, Laguna Seca, and beyond, so does an all-star roster of heroes behind both machines. Car enthusiasts idolize celebrities such as Michael Schumacher, Ken Block, and Travis Pastrana, just as motorcyclists adore Valentino Rossi, Ricky Carmichael, and… oh hey, Travis Pastrana! Look at that.

If you look at the two groups long enough, you start to see their reflections of each other, no matter what they ride or drive.

Even my old boss at The Drive is entranced by all things two-wheeled, bringing motorcycle reviews to the site and using adventure bikes and dual sports to scratch his itch for touring nature’s most secluded routes. No trucks or rally cars necessary, although I’m sure he’d greatly welcome them, just as I’d invite any gearhead to cross that blurry line toward motorcycling.

Harley Road Glides Meme
Image credit: Harley Davidson

How a car enthusiast can integrate motorcycles into their life

There’s not much to say here without considering how subjective this can be. Everyone’s tastes are different. Everyone’s lives are different. If you’re a gearhead looking to add two more wheels to the stable, buy the bike that best suits your needs and skill level, and be honest with yourself. None of that bullshit pretending you’ll grow into that liter-class superbike the YouTube hypebeasts insisted you buy.

If you love highway expeditions to faraway lands with the sky as your headliner and the wind in your visor, hop on a bagger or sports tourer and aim for the horizon. Perhaps you’re an adrenaline junkie. Sports bike. Bam, easy. Or maybe you’re a budding junkie with much to learn. 400 cc sports bike. Bam, even easier. If you want a more concrete and well-rounded answer, allow me to suggest middle-weight naked bikes. Often a Goldilocks choice, they can fulfill a wide spectrum of needs, from touring to sporty riding and even some mild track work, without being woefully overpowered, overweight, or uncomfortably hunched over in their riding position. 

Just as there’s a car for everyone, there’s a bike for everyone as long as you’re real with yourself and what you want or need. Who knows? That next bike may even come included with your new Bring-a-Trailer buy.

Motorists and motorcyclists: one and the same, now and always.

Yes. Motorcycles are safer and more sophisticated than ever. Some unique entrants are brilliant solutions to an urban commuter’s dilemma, while others were bred to do battle on the race track, all within a more-than-attainable price range. But I also get it. Motorcycles are still relatively impractical for many Westerners outside crowded metropolises, and their tech moves at a snail’s pace, taking decades to catch up to that of cars. Not to mention the constant threat of danger motorcyclists face every time they embark on public roads. I understand why some car enthusiasts may continue to keep their distance, whether out of worry or disdain.

Triumph Bobber
Image credit: Triumph Motorcycles

At the same time, why bother missing the chance to have this new experience under your belt, especially since it’s so close to our realm of understanding? That’s all motorcycling was. It always has been. It always will be. Whatever tickles your funny bone in the automotive world, I promise there’s an equivalent on two wheels. To anyone with a keen interest in bikes but who has been on the fence, I hope I’ve pushed you to the other side. And to those who’ve never liked motorcycling, at least give it a shred of respect for all it stands for and all it accomplished.

I know some friends and family who still have their reservations about motorcycling. They often ask why I’m so enamored with it or why I wish to throw a leg over a bike of my own someday. To which I question why I haven’t done it sooner.

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