When your knee is on the ground … you don’t have far to fall!
It’s solid thinking when you think about being on a motorcycle. You don’t even have to be going that fast to get a knee down. In the world of track riding / racing, it’s what every aspiring motorcyclist aims for. It’s a rite of passage, getting that knee down. I had that passage last year for the first time at Road America on my 2nd trackday. Turn 14, I’ll never forget it.
So bring in a new year! The motorcycling season has started! I’m rocking a new trackbike this year as well, and I’m completely stoked about it. ’03 SV650s, with some fun modifications to the suspension and engine. She’s fast, she handles well and I’m going to really work hard this year to improve my skills. My dad and I are doing the track schedule this year again together, which to be wholly honest – is beyond fun. How many other guys can say they go trackriding with their dad?
It was an absolutely gorgeous day, cool with lots of sunshine and not a single cloud in the sky. It was to be my first actual motorcycle ride since the end of the season last year. What a way to break into things, eh? The way these are setup is with different classes. I upgraded to the intermediate class last year, but opted to drop back into Novice for 2 reasons:
1) New bike, new handling, new things to learn.
2) There were half as many people registered so that meant a lot of open track to not have to worry about passing people and where I could just focus on myself and the bike.
With an SV I’m limited to a top speed of near the upper 120s on a really long straight, on this track the most I’ll hit is right around 110 on the main straight. The 600s and other inline-four bikes just fly by me as if I’m standing still, but that’s not a problem, I always get them in the corners. Still, with less people in the novice group that would be fewer people to worry about in the corners after they come flying by me on the straight. I’ll spare the suspense – the plan worked perfectly.
The day went well. I was settling into my own pace, and by starting near the front of the group for each session (or … THE front rider in each session as it turned out) I actually never had a single problem anywhere with passing lapped riders, or going through traffic. The one issue with the novice group at this track, though, is passing is only allowed on 2 places – the straight parts of the track. I spent a bit of time setting faster bikes up for the corners, getting a great drive out (v-twin torque power!!!) and actually passing them on the exits of corners. This worked great actually – I only had one issue on one session with a bigger bike continually passing me on the main straight only to park it in the corners. It was a blast to figure out how to get around him safely. I finally set him up for the final corner and got a great drive out. We were neck and neck as he shifted his 600 to the higher revs. He pulled ahead of me and and we both hit the start/finish line bridge before corner 1. He braked, I didn’t. I flew by him like he was standing still, got REALLY hard on the front brakes and felt the rear of the bike chatter a little. Moved over to the proper line, hit the turn 1 apex and just flew from there. Other rider? No longer an issue for the rest of the session.
It was one of those moves that sorta just set me up for the rest of the day.
The rest of the day was just lap after lap of grin-inspiring riding. I was hitting every corner perfectly, lap after lap. Every movement I made was with a purpose, a control rider (on-course teacher, basically) described my riding as if I had a checklist and was just going down it for every lap. It felt great … my laptimes came down, I went faster and faster, smoother and smoother, I’ve never felt that great on a motorcycle in my life. I talked with one of the control riders who was following me for most of one of the sessions, and he payed me some of the best compliments that I’ve ever got on my riding. He knew I was having a blast out there, and just with how my riding was going could see that I “got it.” I “understood” what this was all about and exuded this energy that just pumped him up so much that he didn’t want to pass me. He said he came within inches of me on corners to follow me, and knew that I wasn’t going to make a mistake – he was comfortable riding that close. The guy was just like a little kid when I was talking to him, his energy pumped me up and it was just a blast.
Turns out he’s an author, and after the day was finished we chatted for a while. He told me that I actually “made his day” with my riding. It was quite the compliment, and it still is sort of hard to wrap my head around those words to a point. All I can do a smile about it. I have a copy of his book, Highside! now and he signed the inside cover for me with a message, something that he doesn’t normally do like this. He wrote,
Jon, I really enjoyed riding with you today. Why? because you have passion. – K3 Chris Onwiler
He said I’ll understand it fully when I read the book, which I’m starting this weekend. I was taken aback that he was able to see that just from how I was riding, as all of you know … I tend to be a little passionate about everything I do. I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes at this. 😉
It meant a lot though.
So where to from now? Well I’m posting a few days after the trackday as you can tell. I really overused my leg muscles and wasn’t able to participate in the first WEMS race of the year because of it. Finally felt good today and was able to get out and ride at Blue Mounds with Gehling and Claire. MTB training is going to have to come fast and hard if I am to repeat the success at Wausau this weekend.
MTB racing, track riding … life on two wheels is good.