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Wicked Motorsports is located in Garden Grove in LA, in a small industrial area dominated by bodywork / paint shops, all set out in smaller style units. A real older area for working guys that includes a bar (across the road from Wicked) and also a good (in my visits) Mexican restaurant around the corner. After a quick look round I wondered why anyone would bother straying far from work if you had a business here, I know I wouldn't want to go home on time if I worked there!

The front of the building also houses Roger's small 'museum' to things 2Stroke. In this clean area, along with the 500, a customers Kawa triple and some other cool projects (including what looked like a vespa!) were Roger's RZ350s.

On arrival Roger showed me round his workplace and I have to say the photos we've seen on line didn't really do it justice, of course mine wont either of that i'm sure! Whilst the frontage is small, the place is much larger than I expected as the building goes back a fair way and inside there was a range of nice equipment (Tig, Dyno, lathes, mills etc etc), many many bikes and ATVs interspersed with all sorts of kinds of wheeled projects that were being worked on... Kind of like a larger version of the garage you always promised yourself.

Roger and I started in his store room looking at some of the parts he had sourced for me, and also some of my parts that he had been working on for me as well.

The beauty of being in the USA for a whole month was that I arranged a few things to come to Roger for work at the shop before I took them home. These included a couple of early '70s Honda CR250 cylinders that needed rebore work, what I didn't know was that they had obviously been ebayed directly from some guys barn when I located them as top end upgrades for my MT250 projects, oops, sorry for the extra work Roger!

We also looked over some of the differences between the aftermarket RZ cylinder upgrade kits, from Standard Athena right up to some of the huge units running on billet cases. Roger also showed me one of his SR71 setups he was doing for a customer with porting and case work. I know porting is hot (and often contentious) topic on the forums and Roger explained the theory behind what he had done and also testing he had done on the dyno, all fascinating stuff. We also checked out some different exhausts, played with an Athena engined banshee as well as looking over some other projects that I have promised to keep secret until they are unveiled, lets just say I was like a kid in a candy store and leave it at that.

After a bunch more chat, Roger asked if Id like to go for a bike ride to visit the other part of his business where the billet parts like his YPVS head are made along with a much smaller project that I had a hand in with another forumer. Naturally, I leapt at the chance. Not only cos it would be cool to see a CNC machine at work (Ive seen many of them run over the years but still think its better than most TV we get, in fact one day I will start 'CNC TV' as a channel!), but also as I knew that he had been working on his yellow 385cc bike all of the day before fixing an electrical issue as he wanted me to ride it. In fact Roger had a cunning plan that I would ride his 'mostly standard 350' out to the other location and then ride the 385 back so I could get the feel of the two bikes. This turned out to be a good call as it really highlighted the differences of the stroker motor against more the standard engine.

What I will say off the bat was that the more standard bike is what id call a 'minter'. It's had a few subtle engine mods like pipes but really reminded me just how nice these bike were back in the day. A nice original bike is still a good thing and this one had a set of Wicked pipes that gave it a nice note and a really nice shove as the powervalve opened, then allowed it to rev on the pipe as well. Within a few yards I was hooked and feeling like a teenager again... Im not really sure why revving a good 350 never gets old, and Im not sure I want to either!

It was all going so well.... The noise of an angry bee following me everywhere I went, a vast grin on my face that nothing could ruin... until that one little cough...

Deep down it was probably my fault, by the time I stopped thinking 'WTF?!' and thought 'Ahh... out of fuel?' and had fumbled for the fuel tap I wasn't going fast enough considering the other traffic around me, and so without engine power I had to negotiate 5 lanes of one of LA's wo(nder?)ful freeways from the fast lane to the shoulder... mixing it with the big rigs who couldn't understand why the noisy bike that flashed past them only seconds before was now doing its best to put itself under their wheels... Leaving me in the 'V' of an on ramp with cars flying past both sides of course!

After the 'rush' of having finally made it to the shoulder everything seemed suddenly quiet and reality hits home... I'm lost somewhere in LA, on a dead bike (so far the cause was unproven), riding on what for me is the wrong side of the road, my local riding partner hadnt seen me drop back, I had no phone with me, and no idea where I was... bizarrely a grin spread over my face, obviously I love a challenge!

The bike restarted with a few kicks and half an hour later I was back with the bike's owner, in between those events is a long story I wont bore you with but consisted of me asking a few non English speakers how to find a street name I could only partially remember, fearing for how long what I had in the tank would last whilst wondering what gas the bike took etc etc.... but that's not the subject of this post really, its just an amusing anecdote from a morning well spent with Roger @ Wicked Motorsports - for those who haven’t seen their website!

I had chatted to Roger about dropping in on him at the end of my vacation in the USA as we would have a car and he is based in the suburb next to Anaheim, so getting to his place would be easy, and in turn he promised me a Disney'esque thrill ride on his bikes if I could make it. I said 'Schweet!' and told my Mrs she was going to the Mall on her own in LA one of the days we were there. She didn't seem to mind, not always a good sign, but we were all set. Perfect!

After a quick drink we said our goodbyes and prepared to head off back to the Wicked Motorsports workshop, this time Roger handed me the keys to the 385. First off lets be frank, the 385 is a 'run hard and put away wet' bike. It is not a 'minter'. Roger had warned me that one of the fork legs needed a seal and that whilst its engine was great, the rest of the bike might let it down. Now I already knew that Roger loves this bike, and that he will never sell it as he tests a lot of parts on it, plus he uses it quite a bit round the city for transport. Having driven in LA, I think a bike might well be the way forward to be honest, but would I feel the same way about this well used yellow 385 that Roger did?

All too soon, it was time to head off and continue my vacation and as I write this sadly my USA trip is now over and I had a superb time, one of the highlights was the day spent with Roger, even running out of fuel was kinda fun! Im weird like that, but lets face it it's not often you get to fight a dead bike to the curb on an LA freeway, and who knows I might even have 'got noticed' and will get a part in a movie, perhaps listed on the credits as 'crazy biker 1' or something, you never know it might be my big break! Then again...

I followed Roger who was on the yellow 385 across a few of LA's finest freeways, and all too soon we pulled in at a large modern warehouse. On entry I was a bit blown away, this wasn't an engineering 'company', it was more of a 'facility'. Not just one but many CNC machines were whirring away making all sorts of parts, for all manner of projects. Roger sought out his business partner and I got the tour. We chatted about a few ideas and changes to the project I was involved in and then Roger and I watched some parts being milled from billet, chatted about some of the other work there and generally hung out talking about some future ideas and parts. At that point our tour guide (Of course he was so much more than that! haha!) came back and with a smile handed us an updated prototype with the changes we had discussed about the project part. That kind of turn around is just awesome, I just wish I lived closer!

First impression was that the chassis was not that bad actually, I have ridden a lot of bikes over the years and many have been much more tired that that one. The steering damper did a lot to help the leaky fork but there was still a wobble there at speed, but way less than riding a fast supermoto on the road... Oh you wanted to know what the engine went like? Sorry... Hahaha! Well, what can I say. If you needed proof that the stoker motor is the way to go then this back to back was the ride you needed. Im not sure what porting Roger finished with when he was done (and I have looked at his thread again after my discussion with him) but what I do know is this motor with the pipes and filter it has on it really works. My over riding impression was that the power was more linear than the original bike with much less of a stepped powerband as such. That's not to say the bike was gutless, not at all, what it means is that it made power low down too and then right up the range as well. I likened it to riding a big cc MX'er as it was less peaky and more rideable than a standard bike... All things that would make it a better 'round town' bike. Hence why Roger rides this bike all over the city and for rides out of course.

(For those who enjoyed this story, there is a little more to come when I build my RZ421 with the Athena kit as I will tell you more about what Roger does to the kit to make it easier for us guys to fit, what is probably the best $40 spent on that engine to be honest!)