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Ray Grass: Michael Jordan is now riding superbikes

Published: Thursday, June 22 2006 11:52 a.m. MDT

It's funny who you meet or, in this case, wish you'd met, at the motorcycle races.

It should have been obvious. The name on the side of the two large semitrailer trucks parked on the front row was Jordan Suzuki. And there, on the truck and the white and black leather suits of three of the top pro racers was the familiar Y-shaped logo of a basketball player flying in for an airborne slam dunk.

The Internet site is www.jumpman23.com.

The leading sponsor of the team is Brand Jordan and, I was later told, Nike, along with such powerhouses as Gatorade, Hanes and Upper Deck.

But what, do tell, would Michael Jordan be doing getting involved in superbike racing?

Story is, Jordan, the basketball great, was a closet motorcycle nut during his NBA years. His contract said "nothing dangerous," and riding a motorcycle is not without some threat of danger, so he parked his bike.

He rode a motorcycle in his younger years, I was told, and picked it back up when he stopped signing contracts.

His media manager, Kenneth Abbott, said that Jordan, while out riding one afternoon on his cycle, chanced to meet another rider who talked to him about superbike racing.

And thus was born Michael Jordan Motorsports.

Part of the agreement was the rider, who also runs a motorcycle school, teach Jordan to ride at high speeds.

And now?

"He's good, very good," said Abbott. "When he first started he would brake in the turns and slow down. You could pass him pretty easily. He picked it up fairly quickly, though. Now, you'd have a hard time keeping up with him.

"I would say you could put Michael out on the track with this field and he likely wouldn't win, but he'd beat some of the privateers. He's that good."

Which means he may not top out at 180 or 190 miles per hour on the long straight, but he'd certainly hit speeds of, oh, around 160 or 170 — easily.

Abbott said when Jordan started out on a superbike he had some difficulty adapting his 6-foot-6 frame on a superbike intended for much shorter riders. So the bike was modified. Pegs were moved around and even the seat was adjusted. Now his racing bike fits like a glove.

He has, since he's gotten the racing bug, said Abbott, cut down on his street riding, although he does take out the bike on occasion.

Apparently, he goes to most races. His hope is that his presence will bring attention to a sport trying hard to get front-page coverage. He would have been sitting in one of the suits at the Miller Motorsports Park race last weekend except his sons were involved in, of all things, a basketball tournament.

The big question I wanted to ask, and did, was does Jordan wear a helmet?

Answer: A resounding yes.

"Along with all of the other safety attire, like gloves and leathers and boots. He actually wears the helmet for two reasons. Mainly for safety, but it also helps to hide his identity. It's hard to tell who's behind one of those full-face helmets. I know helmet manufactures would love to get Michael wearing one of their helmets. Right now he's got several. It's always a difficult choice of which one to wear."

I doubt it would be hard to tell, helmet or not, the big, tall rider in the fancy helmet riding as comfortably as if he were floating on air, however.


E-mail: grass@desnews.com

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