(Note: Click on the pictures to see the captions!)

My name is Michael Lindsay, and I’m the Content Manager here at Vital MX. What’s a Content Manager? I’m still figuring that out, actually! To put it simply, I get to dabble in a bit of everything. That ranges from day-to-day and weekly features you see on the homepage, shooting the occasional event, and some video and interview work. But my main task is product and bike testing. This alone keeps me fairly busy, as there’s always something new to try. Summer however, is a whole different level of busy, with all the bike and new product intros. As you can guess, bike intros are the most exciting. Who wouldn’t want to travel the country, or sometimes the world, to try out new motorcycles? Well, here is a little timeline of my latest jaunt around the world and back as a test rider.

One of my many rides that go me from point A, to B, to C, to D, to... I lost count.

It’s always exciting to check my inbox to find an invite to the next intro, but sometimes they can stack up a bit. Well that was my most recent case, as a couple of dates were slammed on my calendar side-by-side. Between June 28th - July 2nd I’d be traveling to Sweden to test out Husqvarna’s 2015 model range, then back to the US to test the 2015 Kawasaki KX250F and KX450F. Then this would be followed up by my final day, which would be spent with KTM testing their 350 SX-F and 450 SX-F. The best part, the days we would be riding were June 30th through July 2nd. Three days of back-to-back riding on two different continents! What could go wrong? It couldn’t be that hard right?

I wish I had a suitcase large enough to stash Todd Water's Factory 450 in.

First up was the Husqvarna intro in Lulea, Sweden. Since only a few U.S. media members would be going, I was pretty excited for the opportunity. Then a bit of a bombshell hit my inbox, as Kawasaki’s intro was on my scheduled return day from Sweden. So after a bit of scrambling, I found a series of flights that would have me back into LAX the morning of the intro, so I could drive straight from the airport to the track. A few days later I was going over availability to test the 2015 KTMs as well. Thanks to some odd timing, my only available day I could pull this off would be the day after the Kawi intro! So the third part of my marathon had been added. My next two weeks was busy with passport paperwork, ordering gear and graphics, trying to get ahead on website work (that never works out as well as I hope), etc.

This laptop definitely tested my patience. There were so many great times I could have tested how far it could fly.

On June 28th, the marathon began! I flew out of LAX at around 3:00 p.m. on a 10-hour flight to Frankfurt, Germany. This flight was mostly filled with many failed attempts at sleep (thanks to a throat infection), some work on the laptop, and a bit of Mad Skills 2 to keep me entertained. Thanks to the radical time change, it was mid-Sunday morning when I arrived in Germany. After a mad dash across the airport, I was on my next flight to Stockholm, Sweden. This flight was a bit more rewarding as I actually managed to snag an hour or so of sleep. Then from Stockholm, I grabbed my last flight to the North of Sweden. By the time I reached the hotel in Lulea, it was around 6:00 pm. This gave me enough time to unpack a few things, clean up, and head to dinner with our hosts from Husqvarna. Now part of my goal of this trip was to keep up on all my regular website work. Well, that plan then went out the window. After dinner, my wonderful work laptop’s hard drive decided to fry. I almost want to see how well it would fly from the eighth-floor balcony. But instead, I decided to take a walk around town, take some pictures, and calm down a bit. How’s that possible at almost 11 p.m.? Well, in the North of Sweden during the summer, it’s daylight around 22-23 hours per day! That made it seem like mid-afternoon while I wandered the town. After a good hour, I went back to the hotel and crashed.

This was about as close as it got to being dark in Lulea. This was taken at around midnight!

Once again, sleep had somewhat escaped me. After a solid four-and-a-half hours of sleep (the record of this trip by far), I was up and trying to solve my laptop problems, which was extremely unsuccessful. Next up was breakfast and our morning technical presentation from the development staff at Husqvarna. This was followed up by a bus ride out to the track to find the 2015 Husqvarnas that awaited our arrival. Jumping off the bus, I was greeted by a sand track, and a lineup of rumbling four-strokes and ringing two-strokes warming up for our day of destruction. At this point my grumbling and drowsiness had been replaced with child-like excitement! There were a total of 12 models to test in a matter of six-and-a-half hours. Since we’re moto-focused, the goal was to hit all the MX bikes and then attempt as many off-road models as possible. With around 45 minutes to ride each bike, there wasn’t much time for a break as it was a mad dash from bike to bike.

I put each model to the test on the motocross track and on the enduro special test. The motocross track a bit different for me, as sand tracks are fairly non-existent in Southern California. It was pretty exciting to see how all the different motor sizes and types handled the sand differently. Although burying a 450 into every sand berm was exciting, it’s not that fast and fairly tiring. The enduro course was fairly tight, rocky, and full of roots in the first half. The second part of the course was a bit faster, with sand rollers flowing in and out of the trees. I learned an important lesson at this point, trees in Sweden are very solid! I bet you can guess how I found that one out.

Take a guess as to which tree I hit...

I did manage to ride 10 out of the 12 bikes. I missed out on two off-road models, but I just flat ran out of time. Around 5:30 pm, I packed my bags, jumped in a taxi, and went straight from the track to the airport. I landed in Stockholm around 9:00 p.m. This would be my home for the next few hours until my flight in the early morning back to Germany, and then on to the U.S. I found myself a nice comfy bench and snagged two hours of sleep (if you’ve been keeping track of my total sleeping hours, it’s not that high). I then woke up and went straight back to work on my experience in Sweden with Husqvarna (which you can check out here). Because my laptop had fried, I was writing this on my phone. By the way, working off of your phone isn’t fun! But I managed to write a bit… then accidentally deleted it when auto-save failed me. After some frantic typing, I rewrote it and finished it up. Then the hunt for Wi-Fi began! Thankfully I found a McDonald’s with a free connection, so I sent it off to GuyB to get it on the site. Teamwork at its best!

My home/office for the night in Stockholm. See how it's still light out? Yup, it's 1 a.m.

Now it’s around 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. and I’m checking work emails. Thanks to a slight mix up, I was hunting for graphics for the Kawasaki intro that I was on my way to. After a few emails, I had a solution in the wee hours of day back home (putting out fires half-way around the world, huge thanks to Anthony from Split Designs for helping me out!). Once that was solved, I hunted down some breakfast, found my way to the next terminal, and jumped on my flight to Germany. I landed there around 9:00 a.m., which is now on July 1st. My overlay in Germany was just long enough to sprint from one side of the airport to the other while stopping to look at a few cars along the way. The Germans definitely love their cars. In the Frankfurt airport I spotted a BMW M4 and i8, a McLaren 650S, Mercedes SLS, and a Nissan GTR Nismo on display. After I finished drooling a bit, I jumped onto my last 10-hour flight back to the U.S. Thankfully, I was gaining time as I flew back and would land in the mid-morning. This flight was probably the worst, I spent most of my time making sure my breakfast stayed where it belonged. At this point I was a bit run down and the sickness I had before I left was catching back up to me. The highlight was another hour-and-a-half nap I was able to snag on this flight. Woot woot!

Once the flight landed, I made my sprint through baggage claim and Customs. Around 11:00 a.m., I was on my way to Milestone MX in Riverside, CA. Once I arrived, I jumped out of the car already in another set of gear and ready to ride. Going from a 50 degree high to over 100 degrees was a bit of a shock to the system. Sadly, I was a bit like a fish out of water as I regained my senses and footing on and off the bike. I made a mistake entering a rut and almost washed out, but a well-timed foot dab saved myself. This resulted in terrible cramp that ran from my knee, up my leg, and into my back! I literally had to pull off and wait for it to stop. At this point, I decided that I might have been a tad bit dehydrated. Whoops! But after a few hours of filming and testing, the day was a success. Hugely in part to help from my other test rider for the day, Robby Bell, and video guy Joe Carlino. (You can check out the Kawi impressions here: 250 & 450)

I've never felt so mentally run down while riding ever. That includes a 12 hour endurance race I've done before, this was harder! Credit: Andre Barbosa

Luckily, I would get to spend the final night of my trip at home. After spending a few hours catching up on website work, I got my first real nights sleep in a while (other then I was now programmed to wake up every hour). I will never complain about my own bed again, though. I was literally in love with it. Now the morning of July 2nd marked the final day of my marathon. A day of testing out at Cahuilla Creek MX with KTM, which is around an hour from my house. At 9:00 a.m., I met Andre Barbosa, Joe Carlino, and the crew from KTM to get started on what was by far the most laid-back day of the adventure. This felt more like a normal bike test from my experience. We talked over the changes on the bikes with the KTM guy, shot our still pictures and video panning shots of the bikes, and then got geared up for one last day of testing. As everyone knows, the KTM and Husqvarnas are quite similar. So there was almost a bit of deja vu as I rolled out on the Husq… I mean KTM 350!

This day was a bit more uneventful, more like a typical day of testing. This involved us trying different suspension settings, getting some riding footage, blowing up berms, and recording our thoughts for the camera. Finally around 4:00 p.m., the marathon was over! We wrapped up, packed up, and then went home! Well, after a small pit stop at In-N-Out, which was almost like a requirement. (Check out the KTM First Impressions: 350 & 450)

One of the last shots taken of my marathon trip. I felt so relieved as things were winding down. Credit: Joe Carlino

I’ve honestly never felt so physically run down in my life, of course being sick beforehand didn’t help out. But it’s by far one of the best experiences of my life. Just the fact that we pulled it off and made it happen. Well, and the fact that I didn’t find the inside of a Swedish hospital was a major plus. If anything like this ever came up again, I’d gladly raise my hand to do it all over. Bike intros really are the joy of being a test rider. New bikes, new gear, cool places, and great people to work with. Including the other members of the media we compete with. Although, most of them probably think I talk too much… because I do. Being a test rider really is a blast though, possibly the closest thing to being a factory rider. Showing up at a track with just a gearbag, knowing you have a fully prepped bike and private track, will make you feel like you’re on top of the world. But in this case, reality hits, back to work!

The small harbor in Lulea is just what I needed to calm myself down. Although I did consider seeing if the laptop could float..

Overall, this trip wouldn’t have been successful without the help of quite a few people. I’d really like to thank Steve Lawler and Eva Priewasser from Husqvarna, Greg Lasiewski from Kawasaki, and Tom Moen from KTM for putting up with me and this insane schedule. Robby Bell, Andre Barbosa, and Joe Carlino for helping us make the US intros a success. Finally, my cohort in crime GuyB.

Notes:

  • McDonalds and Starbucks are my best friends when it comes to finding a Wi-Fi source.
  • Most cars in the North of Sweden have huge rally headlights, so they can see far enough ahead to dodge moose. (In the winter it’s dark 20+ hours of the day)
  • You’re officially a gear head when you’re half-way around the world, and you take more pictures of motorcycles than the country you’re in.
  • Sweden must love Star Trek, every other commercial I saw on TV was for which times to watch it.
  • The trees in Sweden are just as solid as the ones in the US.
  • McDonald’s in Germany is not as good as in the US, but still an improvement over airline food!
  • Walking around an airplane, while stretching, might be frowned upon when the seat belt fasten sign is on.
  • I finished writing this while glancing at an episode of Top Gear that featured Ken Block and Ricky Carmichael playing around at an airstrip in the Mojave Desert. Great episode, check it out!
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