Super Duke, the Fallen Hero
AFM round-6, 2010

I never wrote about round 6. Couldn’t do it with Jamie Keating still writhing in pain from our horrid impact. I still have yet to meet Jamie while the two of us are lucid, but we spoke yesterday, he gave me the nod, so out it comes..

A lot has changed since our wreck. Life feels different. Finally I saw our Superduke again yesterday. I was actually sad, like I lost my dog. Our KTM was thrown spinning through the air, it was smashed to the ground repeatedly, it was torn in two. I am very sorry to tell you, our Superduke is dead.

I learned a lot from that bike, I learned a lot on that bike, I rode the best I ever have with that bike. Little bikes are like that. Underdogs offer you that. They can bring out the best there is inside of you. All you need is the courage to fail.

I pushed our bike past a very outspoken veteran racer once, in the beginning of our Superduke campaign over two years ago. He coughed out loud from a cloud of unshaven cigarette smoke, “Dude, WTF happen to you? A KTM? A Superduke? You must be despirate…” I just smiled and kept pushing

I don’t race for machines. I race for people. But in the end I have to admit, our Superduke got to me.

I watch Top Gear a lot. My favorite parts of the show are not the mechanical aspects of their subjects, or their displays of sideways smoking tyres. My favorite parts are the metaphors they use to describe what’s really just a car. Always they refer to these cars as something that you feel, or something that you fear. Always they touch on your emotion. And always it seems, they somehow breathe life into things not expecting it.

The affects of our wreck stayed with me for weeks, but you couldn’t tell from my outside. Pain silences me. At first I’d fall if I moved too quick, I couldn’t remember my cell number, my shoulder struggled at work, and I couldn’t stop myself from hitting on really big women – only. But I’ve been working hard, I am much better by now, I hit on all women again. It must have been the head injury that blew my judgment only two weeks in – somehow in a fit of weakness I divulged my singles screen name to our mechanics, Sonny and Jason. Next day my inbox was full of very friendly propositions. At first I was real happy. Then suddenly I felt real sick.

My friends are cruel

Sonny Piputana

We had a barbeque two weeks ago. This empty house was alive again with laughter. I remember thinking through the noise, “This is all about the Island of Misfit Toys. Without that Superduke, not one of these people would be here.” I asked Jason once how long he’s known Sonny, and how they met. He answered, “I always figured he was your friend..” Last year I walked into my favorite burger joint and headed straight for the table with helmets on it, “Which one of you two owns the Superduke outside?” Brian looked up at me like either I just ran his bike over, or I was about to kick his ass….

“Ahhh….. I do?” he answered.

“Well holy shit dude, I race one of those!”
Brian looked back at me like he’d seen a mirage. Today he looks back at me like he sees a friend.

No I am not blind. I can see this from other perspectives as well as from my own. And trust me, I can feel our disadvantages better than any one of our competitors. So maybe you’ll be shocked when I tell you as it turns out, this Superduke project with Tri Valley Moto represents the highlight of my racing career.

It takes great reaction to race successfully, but reaction is not what racing is supposed to be about – although often times, it is. Once you start the racing ball rolling, sometimes it’s all you can do to simply keep up with it. But that’s getting it all wrong. Racing should be more about creating chances than taking them. And for me, and for us, racing our Superduke the way we did created more chances for us – to fail miserably, or to succeed triumphantly, than any other motorcycle I have raced. Ever.

You run a Gixer, you pick up a phone and you know the hot setup. You want it lighter, write a check. More hp, buy the kit. Better forks, Ohlins makes three sets.. But a Superduke? We had no one to call. But instead of giving up on the challenge, or giving in to the competition, we created things that didn’t exist. This got us to meeting people we never would have met, to figuring things not ever considered, and to building things un-buyable. And you know what? It all worked… That bike just got faster and faster – yet never once did we ever make a mod to it’s motor. As strong as that motor is stock, is as strong as ours ever got. So what was it then? How were last year’s miserable failures turned to this year’s triumph?

Somehow, this year, life was breathed into things not expecting it – into parts, and into people. This is why I race.

Round 6 saw us line up for Open Twins – dethroned by a very deserving “Tiger Boy”. In round 5 he knocked us out of the top three in the points chase. Rounds 4 & 5 at Thunderhill were hard on us. Its’ such a horsepower track. I rode hard as I could, the guys worked hard as they could – we failed to stay ahead. So we all knew come hell or high water we had to run like the wind at the tighter, more technical Infineon Raceway. And mother, we did. Not only did we beat the Tiger on his hot-rodded 1198S, but king James (2nd in the points) and his RC8R didn’t make the grid (crashed and burned at T-Hill). We crossed the line in second place, first time this year. That finish catapulted our Superduke right back into the championship chase – moving straight past third and actually into second, ahead of a strong field of twin cylinder heavyweights. The mood in our pit after the race was epic. So much work, so many dreams, in that defining moment it all had finally came good.

I like Tiger Boy. He’s a humble giant. A few rounds ago he secretly planted a rubber tiger on our gas tank – just before he went out and destroyed us in the race. The next weekend it was kitty litter quietly leaned up against our ailing steed… Racing is like that, it’s unpredictable, it’s challenging, it’s even in-your-face rude. So after our triumphant second place, Alex and Sonny handed that tiger back to Mr. Metz, beheaded, glued to a platter.

Brian Johnson

Steve Metz

Tiger Boy took it like a man but I could tell his cage was rattled. He shook my hand but wouldn’t look me in the eyes. To me that means he’s giving this his best, and then some. He’s chasing that racing ball with all his might. And this is why I race.

Within two hours of that victory dance our Superduke was torn in two, laying face down in the dirt, dead. In a horrible turn of fortune, late in the Formula One race among a heated four rider battle for the podium, Jamie Keating fell two riders ahead of us exiting a very fast right hander which crests a hill. The rider ahead of me stood up unexpected, I dodged him to the outside, then there was Jamie sliding sideways right in front of me at 100mph plus. The details of this are disturbing to relive, but fortunately we were able to run him over without killing him. I knew to fixate my target on where I chose to hit him, not where I was afraid to (like his head, or neck, or abdomen). I knew to let off the front brake before impact, so the bike didn’t land on him and crush him. I knew to lift the front, and roll off the gas so our rear tyre didn’t chew him up. And finally I knew that my last goal was our own survival. Rolling out of the gas launched us into the air at a horrid speed, at the attitude of a sideways endo. I held on till our nose finally touched down and instantly folded beneath the bike. I was launched into the air, cartwheeling end over end like a rag-doll. Our Superduke got launched too, they tell me three consecutive times – spinning and flipping just feet from my side. Like I said, racing is unpredictable, it’s challenging, it’s even in-your-face rude. One minute you’re polishing your gas tank, the next minute you’re dragging it from the bed of a truck like it’s a wet towel.

Thanks to 4TheRiders.com for this glorious medley of images Eric Gulbransen

KTM SUperduke Crash

GoGo wreck

From the sound of it, I know… Our Superduke story just ended.
But remember, as much as we love them, we don’t race for bikes. We race for people.
And while our bike did not survive the wreck, our people did.

Jamie Keating, GoGo Gulbransen

After the helicopter ride out, the word from intensive care was scary at first, but by now it looks like Jamie will make a complete recovery. Doctors have analyzed the impacts, the angles, and the possibilities of further injury had I run him over just inches in either direction. I aimed for what I felt would be the strongest – his hip, and that’s exactly what I hit. Jamie will again be 100%, but it’s gonna take some times. His hip was broken in five places, his arm, two. We got banged up a bit, but walked away un-aided.

So where does this leave us now? To be honest, I am not sure. The idea behind our Superduke program was to create something great, for anyone who might be interested. One of the highlights of our efforts in the past two years has been achieving exactly that, through our Superduke stories on this website. So in the spirit of all this, I would actually like to keep racing Superdukes against any and all of the best of the rest. This is without a doubt, my favorite motorcycle. Perhaps next year we will run two bikes then – both KTM. But for now, we need to save this second place in the AFM Open Twins championship for our fallen hero – the KTM Superduke R “That could”. Since our last round, in two weeks time, is again at Thunderhill Raceway, we are calling on our Superduke’s big brother…

The KTM RC8R

Dannyboy Boyd, Boydbuilt

We will be back. We will be fast. We will be strong

This story is not ending, it is actually just beginning.

  1. Kendra Keating says:

    I came across this on the internet today and felt compelled to tell you that I am eternally grateful for your skill. I was there on that fateful day and saw how emotional you were after the crash, but did not know exactly what had happened and what a profound affect that you had on the outcome. If it had to happen, I am selfishly grateful that it was a very experienced person that would be a participant.

    Jamie is fine, good as ever, with a new and greater sense of life, as is the rest of his family.

    Much love to you, sorry to bring this up nearly a year after this post. It is still very emotional for me.

    Kendra (Jamie’s sister)

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