Former AMA National #58 Jody Nicholas | Technically Speaking | Emeritus

By Jody Nicholas, Photography by Motorcyclist Archives

Motorcycle riding has been one of my greatest pleasures for more than 50 years. Even more than a pleasure; motorcycling has been an all-consuming part of my life, despite the objections of my parents. They were both music teachers and wanted me to spend my time perfecting the violin. I was perhaps as good a player as many of my contemporaries, but I had other interests: riding and racing motorcycles. My parents reluctantly agreed to my riding (competing in scrambles and the seldom-held field meet) if I would practice violin a certain number of hours each week.

By 1975 I had earned a college degree and spent four years as a pilot in the U.S. Navy, which ended shortly after a 1969 tour of duty on the USS Hornet off the coast of Vietnam. Needless to say, my racing had been put on the back burner. I wanted to get back to it, and also longed to get back to work in a real job as a civilian. After four years as an editor for Cycle World, I arrived at Motorcyclist as Technical Editor. Needless to say, I was as happy as a clam!

Tour tests were a favorite duty of mine. One memorable outing in ’77 involved riding four 750cc streetbikes up Highway 1 from our offices in Los Angeles. The idea was to then ride them on the track at Sears Point (now Infineon Raceway) to evaluate their handling. But testing their performance was only part of the charm. Fellow editors Rich Cox, Brad Zimmerman and I decided it would be fun to ride three of the machines back to San Francisco from our motel north of the city in Yountville and take a tour of Alcatraz Prison. The testing took all day, however, and by the time we were ready to depart, our enthusiasm had faded somewhat. The thought of riding in the dreaded cold of the dark night was daunting, but we soldiered on to Alcatraz.

It was nearly dark when we got off the ferry following the prison tour. We departed the dock and trudged back to the lower level of the parking garage where we had parked the three bikes. We had thought nothing of leaving them unattended, and while the bikes were unharmed, our helmets and gloves had disappeared. Only the D-rings were left in their place—the helmet straps had been cut! The already cold evening was uncomfortable, and became truly frigid during the ride back without a helmet (there was no helmet law then). I spent the long, chilly ride envisioning finding the perpetrators and throttling them with my cold, bare hands. I don’t remember what the others did to find helmets for the ride back to Los Angeles, but I had my racing helmet stowed in the chase truck and it served me well.

The trip turned out to be an editorial success, though. We were able to showcase the four testbikes as well as provide me with the first roadracing exercise I’d had in some time. While there, I got to test a little Honda MT125R production roadracer. I actually won the 125cc GP/250cc Production race, which led me to borrow the little machine for the rest of the season. Those 11 races produced nine wins, one second place and one DNF, but that’s another story.

My stay at Motorcyclist ended a really fun period in my life as a moto-journalist. Working with Editor Dave Ekins, Publisher Bryon Farnsworth and Art Director Jervis Hill was great fun. Senior Editor Bob Greene was perhaps the most experienced motorcycle rider/evaluator I had ever met. He was really upbeat and rarely had an unkind word to say about any motorcycle. My respect for him is still great, as it is for the entire staff at Motorcyclist.

This was a truly outstanding period in my life, one I will never tire of talking—and boasting!—about.

By Jody Nicholas
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