Showoffs Rev Their Engines

By V. Dion Haynes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 14, 2007

Lance Stephenson cheered when two riders from the BOSS Freestyle Stunt Team popped wheelies yesterday at the Washington Convention Center, not only off the back tires of their Honda CRF 150 motorcycles, but off the front ones, too.

The 12-year-old, though, was equally impressed by the team's next stunts: Team members rode their motorcycles 35 miles per hour up, down and around the inside of a ball of steel strips measuring 14 feet in diameter, a blur of gray and black streaks. Then they did all kinds of tricks -- back flips, letting go of the handlebars and riding with their legs floating behind them like Superman flying -- while airborne in the middle of a 20-foot jump.

"Awesome," the boy pronounced.

Lance's father, Cole Stephenson, had an inkling of what was rattling around in his son's head, and he said he didn't like it: "The last trick he did [on a Harley-Davidson], he cut his hand open when he ran into a fence," said Stephenson, 44, of Sterling.

The Stephensons were among several thousand bike enthusiasts at the 26th annual Cycle World International Motorcycle Show, which continues today. Like its four-wheel counterpart, the Auto Show, yesterday's event featured glossy, gleaming displays of the latest offerings from all the major manufacturers -- Yamaha, BMW, Kawasaki, Honda and, of course, Harley-Davidson.

There were hulking, high-off-the-ground motorcycles. There were bikes with side cars; three-wheeled scooter bikes; bikes for tots. And there were customized bikes, including a gold-plated one valued at $250,000.

But one main attraction was a red, 24-foot-long machine that looked like a cross between an upside down canoe and a spacecraft and was billed as the world's fastest motorcycle. Built by Denis Manning, who first held the land-speed record in 1970 with a Harley-Davidson he designed, the "7" has been clocked at 350 mph.

Jennifer Sozio, 47, who works in the Fairfax County school system, was snapping photos to show students. "I would find it very exciting to ride in that," said Sozio, who has two Harleys. "It would be an awesome ego trip -- going fast," she added. "But I try to express to the kids that, even though riding motorcycles is cool, it requires responsibility."

Many others were circling the 7, ogling and pointing. Manning reveled in the attention.

"A kid can look at me and say, 'If this ugly son-of-a-gun can do this, then I can do this, too,' " said Manning, 60. "I'm a high-speed Don Quixote."

Across the floor were other bikes -- bright yellow -- that you shouldn't expect to see pulling up next to you at a stoplight. One, called the Bigtoe, was 7 1/2 feet high and weighed 3,600 pounds. The other was tiny enough to fit in your hand, yet -- as documented by a photo next to it -- rideable with the use of shoes that snap into it and worn by a nimble rider doubled over to hold onto the wee handlebars.

The showy bikes are not manufactured for the general market but are used merely to promote a product called CTEK, a battery charger, said Borge Maleus, president of the Swedish company.

"If you come to America, it's not enough to have the best product. You have to make people aware of it," Maleus said. "The attention we get from this is unbelievable."

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