Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Honda Hawk NT650 Rides Again

After a year of being out of commission, 3 mechanics and 1.5 paychecks later... my beloved motorcycle is back on the road. The carbs took so much time to clean, I might have been better off trying to find a used set somewhere. Now they tell me. It was in dire need of some TLC after just riding it for 10 years.

Many guys have adolescent dreams involving exotic machines. For some boys, their fantasies included an outrageous Lamborghini Countach, or a historic P-51 Mustang fighter or a chromed out muscle car. While I certainly dig all those things, I knew I would never own one. Instead I chose two wheels.

Blacked out rat bikes circa early 1990s
For me, it was the 1988 Honda Hawk (RC31) motorcycle that caught my eye and imagination. The lines on this bike make it a modern classic. In my mind, it would also become a time capsule of my art school days when I would blast around Richmond, Virginia with hooligans on kickstart Kawasakis and Suzukis in leather jackets and combat boots. Visualize vintage Mad Max style motorcycles like the ones to the left and you start to get the picture. The blacker and junkier, the better.... hence the nickname "rat bikes".

The Hawk is no rat bike though. It's too nice for that, but the hooligan spirit is there. It is considered a "naked bike" before the industry came up with such a name. They echo back to the 1960s cafe racer bikes of Norton and Triumph with long tanks, single seats and low bars. They only go about 120 mph, but they are sublime in the curves and able to keep up with much more powerful and modern motorcycles.

There are no secrets hidden here. One can see welds, bolts, bluing on the exhaust pipe and several shades and textures of silver metal. It is an honest machine of deceptively simple design... 2 wheels, 4 spark plugs, 2 cylinders, 1 exhaust pipe and 1 swing arm.... yes, just 1.

This rear wheel appears to float when viewed from one side because Honda chose to use a single-sided "Pro Arm" suspension derived from exotic Grand Prix technology. Most motorcycles have 2 swingarms that sandwich a wheel so this is pretty unique. Unlike modern motorcycles, this one has a sensibly sized rear wheel... not a oversized fatty tire like those silly TV choppers.

OEM NT650 exhaust Pipe

For some reason, Honda originally chose to cover the "floating wheel" with a very ugly exhaust pipe that looked like a coffee thermos as seen in the inset. My exhaust was rerouted to the left which gives the illusion of a detached wheel. Below you can see the rerouted exhaust, the custom seat, custom foot pegs and the lower clip-on handlebars that give it the cafe racer look. 

This engine is a 650cc V-twin and it has a great throaty rumble. It could really wake the neighbors if I were to open the throttle too much. The carbon fiber canister really barks nicely. The exposed frame is a mixture of extruded and sand cast aluminum parts. The design still holds up today and I was surprised  at a local bike gathering when a small crowd gathered around it. They knew that they were looking at something special. They only made them for 3 years and many were converted to track bikes to be abused and wrecked. I wonder how many still exist today?

This is my view from the cockpit. Simple controls and analog dials... just like they should be. The keychain has a tiny pink pig because this is my version of a "hog". Less than 13K on the odometer.

Many years ago when a friend worked on the bike, we discovered white rice in the air box. This is a mysterious thing to find in a motorcycle and my imagination went wild. Assuming that was the original air filter, I theorized that the Honda assembly technician  dropped some of his lunch. Or maybe it was used in a hooligan wedding? What if a Shinto priest placed sacred rice into it to give it special powers? What ever the reason was, I now know why I secretly Asian food whenever I ride it.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

NASCAR Race with the Boy Scouts

Recently, a longtime friend and client invited me to a Nascar night race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The races are done in highly modified trucks which speed by at 185 miles per hour. Dan's company, BugBand, supports a young racer named Max Gresham who drives the #8 truck.

The truck is painted in the BugBand company colors. It is easy to spot when you are trying to locate it on the other side of the massive track. It takes nerves of steel to push the trucks to those speeds on a notoriously slick track at night while in a pack of other trucks fighting for position. I have a great respect for those guys.

Along with supporting the racing, Dan also brought a troop of young Boy Scouts with him. They were good lads who seemed to enjoy the experience. Below, a stranger came up and praised them. He said that he used to get picked on for wearing his uniform. It happened to me too, so I know what he was talking about.

Below is my favorite shot of the event. To me is seems like a different era... maybe the early sixties.

Dan arranged a very special treat for the Boy Scouts. They were allowed to go down on the track and meet each racer in person. How cool is that? Here they are in front of the presentation stage. Very soon the same asphalt they are standing on would be a race lane.

Many of the racers were very gracious to the Scouts. Here Max is handing out sticker to the guys.

On top of all that, Dan did not even tell anyone that it was his birthday, though someone figured it out an surprised him with a huge cookie cake with his company logo on it. Good try Dan. You cannot skip your own birthday just because you are taking care of everyone else.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Model Photos with Anna-Marie

Last weekend, a long time friend asked me to shoot test photos of her daughter for inclusion on a model resume card. Anna-Marie is almost seventeen, and has been modeling for a few years in catalogs. To help her expand her options into lifestyle modeling, we shot a few different looks in a park setting with mostly natural light and a reflector disk.

I first met her when she was born. Yes, time flies and babies grow up to be young adults. For me, it is like someone spun the clock too fast because it seems like just yesterday when she was so tiny.

Anna-Marie is the daughter of a blonde German woman and an African American man, and I believe this gives her a fantastic presence on camera.

One fellow, who was enamored with her, flirted with her during the photoshoot to ask "How do I get my picture taken with this this beautiful young woman?" When I pointed to the blonde German and said to ask her mom, he scowled and did not believe me. This, of course, made us all laugh. Anna-Marie is fluent in German which surprises people too. 

They brought a few different outfits to try, and the look ranged from casual teen to young woman. We shot in a small area in Piedmont Park and we did not have to walk very far to find different backgrounds, hard sunlight, dappled shadows and full shade.

I have retouched a lot of model photos and I can say for a fact, that Anna-Marie's skin is virtually flawless, which is incredibly rare. She does not even wear makeup. She just does not need it.

I wish her luck in the future and look forward to seeing her in magazines.