2006 I-Cycle Derby

01 January, 2006 Temperature: 30-some degrees F

As far back as I can remember, the first official AMA event of the season is always the I-Cycle Derby, and it is always held here in Minnesota by the Traveller’s Motorcycle Club on New Year’s Day.

I have competed in this event before on an NX-650 Honda dual-sport motorcycle. This year, however, I felt obligated to represent the scooter contingent on the Red Baron. There was one other scooter present, ridden by a lady whose name I did not get, but she finished the event as well.

This is no casual affair, mind you. Some of the best riders in the area attend this event, with serious intentions and equipment. There are no classes, so the Baron had to compete on equal terms with dual-sport motorcycles, and hardcore sidehack outfits manned by seasoned veteran Iron Butt riders and navigators. These folks take their rallys seriously! They use high-tech GPS gadgets and stopwatches to gauge their progress on route cards which are handed out at each checkpoint. They even have clipboards for the route cards!

Me? I taped my route cards over my tachometer, and away we went.

High Tech Navigation

The routes take in such unpredictable elements as auto traffic and stoplights, speed limits and police presence, even train crossings! Essentially, this is an official AMA motorsports event held amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday city traffic. Granted, it is New Years Day, so there aren’t as many people driving around as usual. But you still have a motoring public completely ignorant of the fact that a motorsports event is going on in their midst. They just wonder why there are so many motorbikes running about.

I had one near-altercation with a big, fat fellow who opened the passenger door on his Lincoln Navigator while I was creeping past along the curb on the right at a stoplight. I was directed to make a right hand turn by my route card, and it was perfectly legal, but I had to face down this hung-over neanderthal moron who was threatening to have his wife run me over… blah blah blah. With the clock ticking in my head, I backpedalled, bypassed them on the left, and then crossed over in front of them to make the turn. No time for their foolishness, I had a rally to run.

This year, the overall average speed called for on all the route cards was 30 mph. That helped to simplify things for folks who didn’t have the high-tech, satellite aids. Speed limits along the route ranged from 30 to 45 mph, so they were well within the Baron’s capabilities. Theoretically, all you would need was a stopwatch and a calculator in order to gauge your progress. I had neither, of course. Riding a motorscooter in the winter, I am only concerned with watching where I am going in relation to other traffic and the conditions on the road. So the Baron and I acquired lots of penalty points for arriving either late or early to the many checkpoints. Still, we stayed upright and finished the rally.

Others didn’t fare so well. On the first leg, I encountered a husband-and-wife team who had fallen in the middle of a packed snow, ‘frozen butter’ kind of side street. She was laying on her back, and he was picking up the pieces that had fallen off their Kawasaki KLR. She got up as I approached, and I stopped to make sure they were alright. He told me that yes, they were, and she didn’t seem to be injured, so I continued on. I saw them later in the day, during the second leg of the competition, and they were doing fine.

My friend Mark Foster fell down twice on his TransAlp Honda, on the same treacherous type of road. There is no telling how many other riders met the same misfortune. The Baron and I rode those sections with both my feet out in the same manner that we did the other morning on our way to work. This was just another daily ride for us.

The eventual winners of the event were Victor Wanchena, who is my former publisher and editor at Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly, and his sidecar passenger, Kevin Kocur. They were riding a Ural sidehack rig and had all the advantages I mentioned earlier. Second place was taken by my friends Shannon Lee Bruns and Sev Pearman, in a sidehack rig that I myself have driven called “Metallic Waste”. From what I saw, it appears that they have been successful in working out some of the development issues in that outfit since our last ride tog../../../ork.org/blog/2006/01/02/wp-content/images/ICycleDe../../../ork.org/blog/2006/01/02/wp-content/images/ICycleDerbyHacksT.jpg' class="alignleft" alt='What a motley crew'/>

So, a good time was had by all. The Baron once again proved his mettle, as we did a 20-mile, full-throttle run at 55+ mph down highways 13 and 77 to get to the rally. The same thing on the way back. That little GY6 motor really is a trooper. The thirty-some degree weather didn’t challenge anyone’s cold weather riding gear, and the sun came out at midday. The hotdogs were delicious, and most of all, I really enjoyed catching up with old friends. We should do this more often.

4 Responses to “2006 I-Cycle Derby”

  1. Steve Williams Says:


    Man it sounds like fun. And the Baron sounds as if it is an indestructible tank. I remember when I was trying to decide what kind of scooter to buy that there were a lot of nay sayers about scooters imported from Asia. Yours has probably seen more use than most will see in a lifetime by most riders.

    While you were out riding I was sitting in the house doing the “poor me” thing because it was raining and I didn’t want to ride the Vespa and being generally pissed that I have to go back to work again now that the holiday break is over…

    Keep riding! I live vicariously through your adventures, at least until dryer weather.


  2. mnscooter Says:

    I know what you’re going through, Steve.

    Yes, after the holidays, Existential Gravity comes on with a vengeance, doesn’t it? I noticed the same thing around my workplace yesterday.

    A very… creepy vibe, is the best way I could describe it.

    Our sunless, hazy, misty skies are not helping matters any. Minnesota in January can suck the joy out of anyone.

    As for the Baron being a “tank”, well, let’s not confuse matters here. A “Tank” is another brand of Chinese scooter. But yes, the Baron has proven quite robust and reliable so far. I have no experience of Vespas or any of the other “classic” brands, so I really have no basis for comparison. But I am very satisfied with the Baron’s performance thus far.

    Ride well,

  3. Buster Brown Says:

    If I had a decent Vespa, I damn sure wouldn’t ride it around on Minnesota’s salted roads. Too much painted steel. Back in the day when a guy could pick up a used 150 at a buck a cc, perhaps, but that day is long gone. Plastic bodywork has to be where it’s at, especially cheap Chinese plastic bodywork.

    While I’m thinking about it, I wonder how it would be to ride a Vespa on a slippery surface. I’m thinking about that twist-grip shifter on the left handlebar. A really ebullient speed shift always seemed to entail some unintended control inputs, of the type that wouldn’t play well at all on winter slime.

  4. mnscooter Says:

    Hey Buster, you are absolutely right. Twist-n-go is the way to go for winter riding. Not only do you not have to shift, but you get to use both your feet for outriggers any time you need to.

    I have not crashed this year except for the one time when I was so hypothermic that I didn’t think to put my feet down at a stop. I have been in many situations where I would have fallen if my feet weren’t planted and sliding along with the rest of the scooter. I am convinced that a plastic-bodied scooter is the way to go for a winter ride. All that remains is to perfect my corrosion prevention technique for future seasons.

    Thanks again for your support and guidance, Buster.

    Ride well,

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