Crotch Rocketeers

It's zero to oblivion in a heartbeat for too many of the risk takers on the new supercharged bikes

Then he'd play a rev-rev game, pulling up, dropping back, just to aggravate the lead rider.

"And they'd be like, 'Who is this asshole?'" Dr. Bob laughs. "But they're assholes too -- we're all assholes. That's why we're out there. But my thing is showing them that they're nothing. Their lead guy couldn't outrun me, because I'm the better rider. I've been doing this since I was 10 years old."

His shop walls are covered with photos of him leaning into a curve, knees just millimeters above the pavement, on the way to winning another race. Trophies, plaques, and awards line one grease-stained shelf. His clients and friends know him as a barely reformed free radical, unleashing his demons on the track these days -- with cred earned on the street.

Colby Katz
Tony Borzumato, Richard Longmore, and another cyclist pimp their rides.
Tony Borzumato, Richard Longmore, and another cyclist pimp their rides.

After a lifetime of racing, running, and jumping every sort of two-wheeled vehicle known to man, Dr. Bob feels his experience holds sway. "You can't run down I-95 at 150 mph, passing cars doing 50, and think you're cool!" he shouts over the loud television set in his greasy work bay. "But that's what these guys do."

But Dr. Bob doesn't get his rocks off courting speeding tickets. "Running from the cops is not something that excites me. Beating the guy that runs from the cops is more fun to me."

Dr. Bob, whose Honda 919 tops out around 175, says skill is in short supply with the young crop of hotshots.

"There's no doubt that they are dangerous," he says, referring to both the bikes and their reckless riders. "They don't have to even do anything to these bikes. The new bikes now, you can take 'em right out of the box, take 'em down to the track, and win on 'em. The engines are too fast as it is."

Hearing Carpenter's tale, he offers another spin on the hidden or obscured plate. "I know a guy who has a button on the instrument panel. You push it and it turns the tag upside down. It says 'FUCK OFF' on the other side."

Despite past opportunities too good to pass up (like a Daytona-Fort Lauderdale journey in just under two hours or racing a Lamborghini down U.S. 1 on a Saturday afternoon at 130 mph), Dr. Bob stays clear of trouble. "My whole thing is, I don't want a ticket. I'm just thinking about the money and losing my license. And once I take off, I've really got to get away, because it's not just a ticket anymore. I'm not like, 'Ha ha, I'm getting away from the cops -- I'm so fast, you can't catch me.' It's just that I don't want to get in trouble, you know?"

Dr. Bob's strangely bent forearm and his pack of old x-rays showing tibias and fibias in various states of painful-looking disarray stand as testament to the other perils of riding fast. In 15 years, he can name a dozen customers who've become roadkill.

"There are only two types of riders," Schwalb contends: "One who has already gone down and one who will."

At the high speeds sports bikes can achieve so effortlessly, crashes are instantaneous arbiters of justice, ruthlessly applying Newtonian laws with vengeance.

Between January 2004 and June 2005, 345 people were killed in traffic accidents in Broward County, including 51 motorcyclists, according to the Medical Examiner's Office.

Lt. Pat Santangelo leads Troop K of the West Palm Beach division of the Florida Highway Patrol. While working an accident site several years ago near Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital, he came upon a gruesome discovery. "A motorcycle had failed to negotiate the curve at the southbound I-95 entrance to 836. We found the guy's head down on 14th Street, in a helmet. The rest of the body was later found against a guardrail."

It took a couple of days to find the bike. "It was hundreds of yards from the initial impact, down under a ramp two blocks away. Nobody thought it would be that far away. That's an example of what could happen," he says grimly. "There's no reset button."

Lt. Roger Reyes of Broward's FHP says his officers hate to risk their safety or the safety of the public to go after the high-speed cyclists. "The guardrails take care of them, sooner or later," he explains. "I've seen decapitations, severed body parts. The guardrail acts as a guillotine."

Older cyclists from the Harley-Davidson group can't extend much respect to the kids on the "rice cookers." As a self-described veteran rider, 65-year-old Diver has been around bikes since the 1940s. Part of the problem, he maintains, is maturity (or lack thereof) coupled with the weight and horsepower of the motorcycle. "It takes a step-by-step process to get to the point where you can control a machine at those speeds. They didn't start out with a 125cc bike, then go up to a 350 and 500. They're starting out with top-end racing bikes."

While stuck in traffic, Diver and his buddies have been set upon by groups of young troublemakers like crows besieged by pesky sparrows. "I know they do it on purpose, 'cause they're screaming as they go by so they can startle us. 'Let's scare this old guy on his hog. 'We're crawling along, and these kids are doing wheelies in between lanes of traffic! All that has to happen is someone sees 'em coming in their rearview mirror, says, 'Watch this,' and then open their door on 'em."

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