Track Day Experience 2.0 or I wish Wes, Jeb and Leon were here

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By Ian From June, 2004

2 days ago I went back to NHIS in Loudon, NH, to the scene of the crime, to avenge the savage beating that was administered to me 8 months prior by a smug little racetrack. My honor was at stake. MIK had been taking potshots and jabs at me for countless weeks.

He even went so far as to say that NY riders have no skills.

I must stand up for my bike-riding brethren who inhale the same polluted air that I breathe every day, who have not the desire to prove how right MIK is. I must stand up, and throw my talentless body at the track, to prove that I have what it takes to make someone say "He's not that great, but I've seen worse."

So, with my standards properly set, the Hawk in fine working order, and a tank full of 87 octane, I set out to survive the first open session.

That's when I made my first mistake.

I went out with the advanced group, for some reason or another. After the first complete lap, the track was red-flagged. Someone lowsided on turn 1a (yeah, right off the bat) and there was a bit of liquid that needed to be cleaned up.

But, IT WASN'T ME THIS TIME!!!

I was stoked. I figured that the crash gods were properly satiated and went out a second time with the advanced group. Managed 4 laps before the session was red-flagged again. Wasn't me again. Still happy. Never figured out who crashed that time, though.

Went out a third and final time with the fast group, and, finally, got some serious time in. A full 20 minutes of it. All of it spent telling myself that I am so sloppy, that it's just not working right. The rear tire wasn't hooking up coming out of any even remotely sharp curve under power. I was still stabbing at the rear brake, but eventually convinced myself to stop using it. I didn't need its help, and it was just making my already horrible lines worse.

I knew that there must have been people behind me waiting for a chance to pass, but every time when I pulled up onto the main straight and gave tons of room for people to pass me, no one would. In fact, the only people who were willing to pass me were on 125cc GP bikes, and just happened to be track instructors. Luckily, I learned my lesson last time about trying to keep up with the instructors.

Eventually, I got tired of cruising around the track, and, coming out of my Nemesis
(turn 9) I threw up my arm and pulled off the main line, only to be passed by 5 bikes. Instantly.

Nope, no more expert session rides for the guy going slow in the curves on the slowest bike on the track. Not until I get the bike to stay planted to the road, and get my mind off of turn 9 every time I enter it. That was seriously getting to me. Major mental block, right there.

So that's when the lunch break took place, and I sat back and chatted a bit with MIK, and a guy from the Hawk GT board by the name of Will Turano. I'd probably consider him a decent mix of Wes and Jeb, two good guys in their own right.

Lunch time was over. I had decided to add a couple pounds of air to both tires, and see how that helped things. I switched down to the other group, the beginners, and got the thought of my holding up everyone else out of my mind.

Best decision of the day, by far.

I got to concentrate on my technique, or lack thereof, as the case really was, and, as Jim Race would put it, got my damn ass off the seat when setting up for the corners.

HUGE difference after the first couple laps.

I got to remember what fun I was having before bad things happened last time. How the bike just seemed to say "Is that all you've got? Dial it up a notch! You're boring me, here". So I did. And the fun got better. Then I turned the dial up to the next setting, and my smile grew wider.

Soon, turn 9 was just another turn, and I wasn't thinking about it anymore. And that's when things REALLY became smooth, and the fun-o-meter was pegged at HOT DAMN!

The rest of the sessions involved me being hot, getting out onto the track, cooling off while setting a smoldering pace for myself, then pulling back into the pits the same lap that they were about to wave the checkered flag, and then being hot, while sucking down massive quantities of Gatorade, juice, and water.

Did I mention it was HOT?

So, there I am talking to MIK, and the two of us are talking about the track, and then about the next track day, and how neither of us can make it because SOMEONE is getting married the very next day, and we can't quite guarantee that we'll be able to make both events without being disgustingly late.

That's when we decided that Wes, Jeb, and Duke need to ride that track. I then added Leon to the mix, but MIK said that he probably wouldn't want to participate in that kind of setting, but I said, "Who cares? Its all about having fun with good people."

Then I followed that up with the following: "Imagine Leon on his Rally Bike setting up for turn 3." Now that was a pretty full mental image.

So MIK, Will, and I had a blast. I didn't crash, but I did lose a bar end on the very last session I participated in. Don't know what happened to it. It was on the bike when I left the pits, and wasn't there when I got back from talking to someone after the session was over.

I did watch some poor girl named Mary on a GS500 wipe out in front of my very eyes on turn 2 while she was following one of the race instructors on a 125cc GP bike (the same guy who kept passing me all day long, basically the only person who ever seemed to pass me with any consistency) so that she could see the proper lines to take while at speed.

She was really, really mad at herself when she got back to the pits, and started throwing stuff as she removed her gear. I was going to go up and find out how she was doing, but I backed off, and waited until later to talk to her. Nice girl. After she calmed down, she took her mishap basically the same way I took mine 8 months prior:

Lots of laughter, and wondering what really happened.

So here I am, feeling so damn good for having taught that arrogant track a thing or two about both NY riders and people with slower bikes. Well, maybe I didn't teach the track anything it didn't already know, but I taught myself something I'll never forget:

Track days are so much MORE fun when you don't crash on the 5th lap of the first open session.

Oh yeah, and Jim Race has been holding out on us about how TRULY enjoyable blasting around a track is. You bastard! Why didn't you tell me it was this fun sooner? I'll bet you're probably gonna tell me it will get even more enjoyable if I get the suspension and tires properly sorted out for my weight and riding style (or lack thereof, as the case may be) on the Hawk.

Oh yeah, and one more thing that I almost forgot to mention: during the lunch break, MIK weighed his Ninja 250 on the NASCAR scale and came up with a loaded weight of 347 lbs. A little later he and I weighed my Hawk and came up with a whopping 387 lbs. When I got back home and spun the 250 around the block, I thought to myself that it felt like a hell of a lot more than just 40 lbs difference at low speeds. Once it's at speed, both bikes are quite similar.

Alas, I had a great time. MIK had a great time. Will had a great time.

The guy who crashed on the first lap of the first open session on turn 1a repeated his performance on the second to last session of the day, at the same spot on turn 1a on the first lap of that session. I'm glad I wasn't him.

He was riding an SV650S.

And MIK finally admitted it: I'm not the worst rider he's ever seen! That completed my day. I achieved what I set out to.

I had FUN!