Racing Withdrawal: Surviving the Off-Season Obsession
Originally published 2008

Sheryl Mudson

For those of us addicted to motorcycles and roadracing, the off-season is a rough 4 months. Re-watching old races on Tivo or season review DVDs will get you thru a few weeks. But soon enough, you've locked yourself in a dark bedroom, with cold sweats and that baby crawling on the ceiling. Cold turkey withdrawal is no day at the seaside. It's wise to come down slowly.

There's all manner of motorcycle racing paraphernalia to keep the monkey at bay during those dark months of February and January. Hunt down those MotoGP racing games for XBox 360 and PS3, or coffee table marque books or event guides from years past. Occasional perusals online, typing in search terms like "Motocourse 1985" or "Bimota Giorgio Sarti" soon turn to obsession, like a late night drive in your nice car into a rough neighborhood for a bad reason. Your tolerance builds up. Hit that Buy-It Now button to grab an original OWO1 brochure ($80); in an hour, you'll be back on eBay for another click.

And then there are the guys who really need intervention: the die-cast collectors. They're got Minichamps in their veins, Protar's got them itching, Tamiya's got 'em scratching. They'd sell their own toes to finance a 1/12 scale Valentino Rossi "2004 Yamaha Pre-Season Test" model. I've been there, man. I was pretty heavily into Minichamps for a couple of years, every flat surface in my apartment crowded with MotoGP and WSBK models. Closets overflowing with empty boxes (because you cannot throw them away).

My loved ones tried to help. I wouldn't listen, vacantly croaking "But I NEED this MV was signed by Agostini AND Phil Read!" 

Sheryl Mudson

My favorite dealer was in the Ebisu district in Tokyo, a store called Mr. Craft. It was 5 floors of magazines, postcards, books, videos, and die-cast, pre-assembled and kit stuff that you could not get anywhere outside Japan. Most of it was car stuff, but there was a section that was exclusively bikes. 20 years of Suzuka 8 Hours DVD's, glossy catalogs of Ducati Supermoto parts, oval-pistoned resin Honda models, and other selections to satisfy the most discerning junkie. Mr. Craft had so much rare and intoxicating motorcycle racing ephemera that it was difficult to leave the place. More than once, traveling companions barged in and physically pulled me out. That place reduced me to nothing more than a British sailor in a Cantonese opium den.

Sadly, Mr. Craft went bankrupt this past December, and I wasn't able to make it over to Tokyo for whatever fire sale they may have had. Bummer. There are similar hobby stores in Japan, but simply none in the United States.

Or so I thought. Last week, I spent a brief day in San Francisco, and hit Japantown, the Japanese district in SF. Next to the Kabuki Hotel, there's a mall full of Japanese restaurants and merchants (officially called the Japan Center Kinokuniya Mall). If you're looking for Udon or good sushi, a stop in Japantown is a must. After a steaming bowl of wheat flour noodles in broth, I went to the lower level of the two story mall, and found Japantown Collectibles (415-563-2970). JTC a small store whose shelves are crammed with toys of all kinds, stuff you don't see outside Tokyo. It's as if they went to Ebisu, packed up an entire hobby shop, and crated it to San Francisco. In a dusty corner of the shop, something blood red caught my eye—Dear God, it was a Protar Cagiva 500cc MotoGP die cast model. The swingarm was covered with material that aped carbon fiber. I had no idea a Cagiva 500 GP model had ever been produced by anyone, and as I stared at it in glazed adoration, the shopkeeper said, "Discontinued. They didn't make too many of those. That's 90 bucks."

On a nearby shelf were 1980's era Honda Tamiya kits, and a pair of Rossi Laguna and Valencia liveried Yamaha GP bikes. Oh, and cool matching Nastro Azzurro transport truck and NSR500. My pupils dilated like glossy black billiard balls.

Sheryl Mudson

There was kitschy Japanese anime stuff too, including an unlikely model of a big-eyed Japanese girl named Mahoro-San. Dressed in a maid's outfit, she holds a Magnum and sits astride an MV Agusta F4 Serie Oro, perfect right down to the brownish gold single-sided swingarm and wheels. To someone wearing glasses with lenses much thicker than mine, this type of kit probably inspires visions of speed, adventure, and horizontal refreshment. But that's not my thing; I stick to the replica stuff. Or I used to, anyway. I sure hope March comes soon....gotta check that race calendar again.

Now, I didn't actually buy the Cagiva model—I'm clean, man. It's still there, in the back of Japantown Collectibles, waiting for someone else to score it. Tell them I sent you.

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