Article By: Tyler Porter
Photos By: Savannah Rose
Originally Published In The June/July 2020 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
When I last left off on this column I was completely in awe of what was about to happen with the 2020 AFT season. Daytona hadn’t taken place yet, we had the new “Super Twins” class kicking off, Henry Wiles was moving back down to the singles class, it was simply fan-boy mayhem for me. I have been critical of the major changes that AFT is making, but at the same time, I am mature enough to let things play out and see where they may land. Fast forward a month, and man, has the world changed! By the time you read this, we’ll be very close to ACTUALLY kicking off the 2020 AFT season. Because of the extreme circumstances in our country AFT has moved round one to the Red Mile in Lexington Kentucky on May 30th. For decades the season has NEVER started on a mile race track. Due to the rule changes I mentioned last month this is going to be really cool to see, especially when you consider the rules allowance for the w Harley Davidson XG750R platform to make it more competitive against the class dominating Indian FTR750.
Since our series regulars have been on an unexpected break, I thought it would be fun to check in with a few riders to see what they’ve been doing in their down time. If you follow any of them on social media, maybe you’ve seen some of their posts and videos, their product endorsements and so on, but what do these guys say to a writer who has not only raced alongside them a few times, but has also been covering the sport in the trenches for 12 years? This month, I’ll show all of you readers that these racers, underneath their world class talent, are still just normal people.
The first rider I checked in with was Factory Harley Davidson’s Jarod Vanderkooi. Jarod, who hails from Ohio, told me that he was able to go back home and be with his family, which was nice, albeit rare, at this time of year, for racers. Jarod had been feverishly training with the Harley Davidson team to get their bike dialed in for Daytona and with that race cancelled, or perhaps just postponed, what’s a racer to do? Jarod has been taking the lumber jack route, cutting down some trees on his property. Not only that, but he’s following along with something you guys are all accustomed to, cleaning out the garage. Concerning the season kick off, Jarod told me that he’s just ready to get started, no matter what type of track the series starts on. He also let on that the changes to the XG750R have improved the bike and he’s ready to see what kind of challenge he can throw at the Indian Motorcycle Juggernaut.
Flipping to the other side of the coin, I was able to check in with Indian Motorcycle Factory Racing’s Bronson Bauman. Bronson is one of the most approachable and fun loving racers in the pits. So, what has he been up to? Bronson has been taking the industrial approach, which I know most of you can appreciate. In his down time he acquired a small lathe and has been practicing making various parts for his bikes. Bronson said he has still been doing a little riding. He has been able to get his Indian FTR750 practice bike out on a private practice track to spin some laps. In the photo below, you can see his “framer” singles machine, one he has been resurrecting during his down time so that he can enjoy it very soon. How about that? Just like most of us, Bronson is working in his shop to finish a bike to enjoy later. Pretty relatable isn’t it? Though being on rival teams, Bronson echoed the same sentiment as Jarod; he doesn’t care where the series starts, he’s just ready for a start.
Once I started hearing from all the racers, I saw a common theme. None of them really care about kicking off the series on a mile track, they just want to race. This was the same statement made by two time AFT champion Jake Johnson. Jake has a machinist background, so I wasn’t surprised when he said he has been making things for his bike. However, the product he made surprised me, a simple wash cover for the airbox of his Indian FTR750. Jake has been quite the “dad” around the house. Seriously I’m sure he has been checking off that “honey do” list from his wife Jodi. He’s been repairing some plumbing, an HVAC system, and I’m sure doing some mowing. As Jake always tells me, “The grass waits for no one”. I wonder how clean he keeps his New Balance tennis shoes? Keeping with the dad theme but with a totally different twist, I made contact with Henry Wiles. Now, if you go back in the archives, you can find an InSLIDE Line live broadcast from Sturgis with Henry as the guest. It’s been regarded in the racing world as the best interview with Henry of all time.
Get on Cycle Source’s Facebook page and find it; it’s a riot. Henry is never one to pull a punch in an interview, and the longer we talked on this subject, the better it got. I think perhaps the best “dad quote” of the year can now be credited to Henry; it goes, “One of the best things about being a parent is that you don’t have to explain yourself for being a kid. I’m a pretty badass kid by now.” I think that is something all parents should try to live by. Henry didn’t give me any insight into what he expects from the 2020 season, and that’s ok. Talking about his boy losing his first tooth, showing me jumps he built for his kid to jump his bicycle on, or even telling me that he and his wife have another child on the way, that’s cooler news than any prediction about racing. I hope in a world where racing has been postponed or cancelled, you enjoyed the column this month and found some common ground with some of the racers that you admire on the track. Deep down inside, we’re all just motorcycle enthusiasts who don’t know when to step away from the life of two wheels. Now as I sign off this month, let me quote my fellow Kentuckian Darrell Waltrip, “Boogity Boogity Boogity, LET’S GO RACING BOYS (and girls)!!!