Join us as we chat with Danny Valdez, part time crew member and former sales pro who, despite his reduced presence in the store, remains a key part of the Motoworks Chicago crew.
Nathaniel: State your name for the record.
Danny: Daniel Valdez.
Excellent. What do you do here at Motoworks?
I am now a greeter. I used to be a salesman.
You’ve been demoted?
Yes, I’ve been demoted. A little less pressure on me, for sure.
You’re here from time to time, as needed?
As needed, as often as I can come in. I have a strong loyalty to the shop. I do have a full-time job that limits my participation, but I come in here as often as I can.
Great. I met you when I was actually still just a customer here.
Yes. I believe I sold you a bike.
You sold me a lovely white Triumph Bonneville.
Yes, that you built up into this beautiful magnificent unicorn that it is now.
Thank you, sir.
That was a fun build. You spent a lot of time in sales, and now you’re helping out in a more general fashion. How long have you been working with Motoworks?
It will be two years, on and off. One solid year, and it was a few months of haphazard Saturday greetings.
A little this and that?
Yeah, a little this and that.
Cool. What got you into bikes?
Steve McQueen actually. If I can recount my earliest memory of wanting a motorcycle was watching The Great Escape. I just thought he was the coolest. I was 17 at the time. My mom wouldn’t let me have a motorcycle. I remember my mom saying that I couldn’t have a motorcycle until I moved out. As soon as I turned 18, I moved out for the sole purpose of being able to become a motorcycle rider.
I lived in a very small apartment, but I had a wonderful CB750 Supersport, a 1976. I don’t know, the freedom, the visceral experience you get from riding, the general danger associated with it.
Sure. A little danger never hurt anybody.
It’s all very romantic, you know?
Absolutely. I take it you probably don’t still have the CB750?
No. I desperately wanted to keep that motorcycle in my life, but I just didn’t have the space for it. So I sold it to my brother-in-law. He let it sit, and just decay in a garage. It’s one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made, selling it to him. So no, I do not have it. I do not own it, but it is still in the family.
That could be resurrected. That’s not the end of the line for that.
It’s not. I would just have to buy it back from him, which, right now, I’ve got two other bikes that are calling my attention.
What are those two bikes you’ve got now?
I’ve got a Triumph Speed Triple that has been converted into my track bike, and then I’ve got a Triumph Scrambler for city that’s just my daily rider. That one’s actually the most fun.
You’ve done some travel on that bike too, right?
I have. I’ve done travel on both of them, but the Speed Triple’s not necessarily the most road trip-worthy bike. The Scrambler, on the other hand, I’ve taken to North Carolina a couple of times, actually, and ridden around down there.
Fun. What’s in North Carolina?
Asheville, and friends, and friends that I now consider family, and the Dragon, of course. You can’t ignore the Dragon.
How is the Dragon — the Tail of the Dragon, for the lay folk — how is that on the Scrambler?
You know what? The Scrambler is a jack of all trades. It doesn’t do anything spectacularly, but, considering that I had the bike loaded up with basically my entire dwelling and food, it handled it all right.
It’s actually a lot of fun. Even the stock tires were all right.
That’s fun. You have the same Arrow performance exhaust on your Scrambler that I have on my Bonneville.
Yeah. It was a much easier transition for me, though. I know you had to do some custom fab work to get yours fitted, but yes.
I had to swap out for a lot of Scrambler parts. I had to mix and match a bunch of stuff, to make everything fit.
It’s a beautiful Frankenstein, that’s for sure.
Yes, thank you. Your exhaust on your bike is actually what pushed me in that direction.
It makes such a wonderful noise.
It’s one of the most magnificent sounds I think you have in motorcycles today, next to some of the Ducatis. I love it. It sounds like an old muscle car.
Yeah. It’s like old muscle car mixed with old dirt bike.
Yeah! It’s pretty gnarly. I love it. Loud pipes save lives.
Something like that.
It’s good down on Wacker.
I was in a taxi the other day, and saw you blow by me on your Scrambler on Lower Wacker. I saw the net over the tank. I heard the air exhaust, and went, “There goes Danny.”
I’m starting to figure out that net is a trademark of mine. I didn’t realize. It’s not mine, but people start to recognize my filthy bikes by the filthy nets that I have on the tanks.
[For those who haven’t seen it, Danny keeps a cargo net stretched over the gas tanks.]
It’s such a great idea. You can stuff things under there for safe keeping and off you go.
I keep my emergency blanket tucked into there. I keep my motorcycle cover on there sometimes, a bunch of random stuff. It works. I utilize it all the time.
Perfect. What do you do away from Motoworks?
I work at the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago. That is my money-maker, for sure, but I need some kind of escape. That’s why I come back to the shop as often as I can. It’s a double life I’m living, that’s for sure.
You’ve done a certain amount of travel already, on bikes. Do you have anywhere else that you want to go that you haven’t gone yet? What’s the future look like?
I really want to plan a trip this summer to go to Pike’s Peak and do that whole thing.
Go up there for the race weekend, you mean?
No, actually, I would like to keep it a little more mellow and go up there when it’s dead. I’m not really that big into the crowds. It would be nice to just do a little bit of camping and meditation, and get away from it all.
Would you use the Scrambler for that?
For sure. I would definitely ride the Scrambler. I’m sure there’s a lot of fire roads and off-roading to be done, and the Speed Triple is just not set up for that.
It seems like if you’re going to Colorado, the Scrambler is just correct. It’s the only way to go.
Exactly. It’s themed perfectly for something like Colorado and the open road, and the possible rocky back roads. I think the Scrambler would be very congruent with that landscape.
At this point, you’ve got the Scrambler. You’ve got the Speed Triple. Have you got your eye on anything else? If you had the room, what would you go after, from a bike standpoint?
It’s going way left field, but it would be a [Ducati] Multistrada.
Yeah. I love the Multistrada. I know I’m really short for the Multistrada, but that thing is just impressive across the board. It’s a sport bike. It’s a sport touring bike. It’s a bike that you can take off-road. It’s incredibly fast, for what it is. It sounds sexy. It’s not too bad-looking.
The new 2015 is quite a bit better-looking than the previous generation. Supposedly, according to Grant and Craig (who rode it a few weeks ago in Spain) it has gotten better. It was already one of the best bikes you could buy, especially if you wanted a do-everything machine. Now, supposedly, it’s even better.
That’s what they said. I haven’t gotten a chance to ride the new 2015, but if it’s any improvement on on the 2014, I know it’s going to be great. It was already an amazing platform. It’s just going to keep getting better.
I feel the same way. It’s in that upper echelon of bikes, with the R1200GS BMWs and even the RT is a great example of that kind of machine. Also the Triumph Tigers — super versatile, really easy to do a lot of things with that kind of bike.
Just way faster.
Would you trade your Scrambler in for a Multi?
Would I trade it in? No. I just think the riding that I do on a day-to-day basis, that bike [the Ducati] is just overkill. The Multi’s a big overkill really, where the Scrambler is happy wherever. It’s just happy to be there.
You said you converted your Speed Triple over to a track bike. Tell us more about your track experience, what you’re doing there, and what you want to do with that going forward.
My track experience began with Motoworks the year that I started here. So, two years ago. I realized that the track is where I wanted to be more than any other place. It really, I think, made me a better rider on a day-to-day basis, just because I don’t need to go fast on the streets anymore. I can go fast on the track. The Speed Triple, since I already had the bike, seemed like the economical candidate — like the best candidate. I changed the handlebars out. Now I’ve got clip-ons on there. I got rear sets. I’m in the process of adjusting the suspension for it. I even sold my car so that I could buy a van to put the Speed Triple into.
Wow. That’s commitment.
A little bit of commitment, yeah. I’m really excited for the track season. I already signed up for this year’s Motoworks Track Day. I’ve got a track day on the 9th and the 10th in Grattan, Michigan, so I’m super excited for that.
Cool. Aside from the opportunity to go fast legally, what do you feel like translates most to the street, in terms of the stuff that you learn on these track runs? They don’t just turn you loose on the track. There’s instruction, and there’s classroom time.
For sure. It’s much more intimate. You just become a lot more intimate with your motorcycle and with body position and what to look for, and throttle control. It really, if anything, just slows everything down once you’re off the track. Everything’s much more anticipatory. You’re going 100 miles an hour on a track, taking a turn, a 90-degree turn, at 60 miles an hour. When you come out here and ride on the streets, it’s just a cakewalk. I think it just toned me down a lot more on the streets, that’s for sure. Like I said, I don’t necessarily need to go fast or prove anything to anybody out here. I’ll do it on the track. Beyond that, there’s things like body position. I mean, the mechanics of riding, too. I was riding all wrong before I went on the track.
My body position was very, just off. You don’t realize how much fun your motorcycle is until you actually push it like that. I know you went on the track, too, with your Tiger. I’m sure you’ve never ridden your bike like that before the track.
No, not quite. Not that aggressively. I went into that event really hoping to gain a lot more corner confidence, and I did. I still am not as comfortable on the bike, on any bike as I feel like I want to be, so I know I’ve still got a long way to go. I’ve got a lot to learn. I’ll do the Motoworks Track Day again this year, and I’m sure that will help with it again. It’s one of those things where it does give you that familiarity. I do love where now, if I need to take a turn a little bit more aggressively, I hang one half of my butt off to the side, looking where I want to go.
Daniel: One cheek?
Exactly. It [track riding] definitely translates back to the street. You were at the same Track Day I was last year, but you were in the intermediate group. I was just still in the beginner group. You were riding a lot faster and a lot harder than I was.
My bike’s a little more set up for it. I want to give you credit for riding it on the bike that you did. That bike, while it is a capable bike, it’s a touring bike and not so much a sport bike.
But still, if you go back to the track day again, you’ll be dragging a knee this year.
I hope so. That would be fun. I did one lap of the track at Barber on a Speed Triple last year. The elevation changes, and how tight the turns are and what not on that track, I actually pulled back into the pits after that first lap.
I was like, “Nope. I am not ready for this. I am not ready for this track.” It was on a bike I didn’t know very well, with a bike that was super capable, super powerful, obviously. I was starting to break in turns. I was making all sorts of bad decisions, because I was a little overwhelmed by that track. I was like, “No. I want to live. I want to try this again some other time.”
Yeah, but did you like the Speed Triple out there on the track?
Oh, yeah. Of course. That’s a great bike. It was not the bike’s fault. It was absolutely my fault. That’s a great machine. My wife and I, we owned a Street Triple R for a while. I loved that thing. It’s magnificent, but it’s a little too small for me ergonomically. The Speed Triple, I fit on. I can ride that much more comfortably. If I was looking for a hooligan bike or a track bike or something like that, that’d be where I’d start for me personally. It’s a great machine.
You already have a good understanding of any track day, and that’s knowing your limitations. I think a lot of us ignore those feelings. Then, you go off the track. Next thing you know, it’s a bad day. A good day can turn into a bad day real quick.
Thankfully, at the track, you’ll hopefully just go sliding through the grass or something. Although it’s definitely better to keep it rubber-side down, and keep it on the concrete. Knowing your limits is a great way to do that. I’m looking forward to the [Motoworks] Track Day again this year. I’m not sure what I’m going to ride though, because I’m probably going to sell the Tiger.
You’re going to sell the Tiger?
I don’t need a touring bike. I don’t do that much touring. I can borrow a bike, or I can even just rent something. If I’m just going to go on a trip for a few days, it’s cheaper for me to rent a BMW R1200RT or a “bagger” Harley. That’d be a good opportunity to ride something weird. Then, I don’t need to care for it and feed it the rest of the year.
Ha! No. No. No. I wouldn’t ride a Can-Am unless I couldn’t walk.
You’ll have more shop space.
Yeah, more shop space is good.
You’ve already got 17 bikes.
Yeah. I’ve got a few in there. I need to finish and sell the BMW R100 I’m working on. I’ll sell that and the Goldwing project when it’s finished.
Cool, man. That was fun.
Yeah, this was a great talk, thanks.