Motorcycling16 Mar 2008 10:11 pm

(Archived – original posting 5/11/06)

It has been quite a treat to have so many trackdays in just a couple of months, and what better place than Sears Point.   This time we managed a total of 3 in our little group – Francisco, myself and Todd Bernsdorf.

I decided to try something different this time around and have everything prepped and packed no later than the day before…..but I was nerve-racked as a result.  I just knew someone would steal everything the night before.  So I put an Alpha Lock on one of the trailer wheels, a lock on the trailer ball section locking it to the truck, locking tow hitch pin, disc locks on both of the bike’s wheels, padlocks on all the doors, and the alarm on the truck.  Figured I’d make them work for it if they really wanted it.   But they didn’t (this time).

Packing ahead worked great.  I put some brand new Metzeler Racetec tires on, soft in the rear and super soft front.  Had everything loaded up so all I had to do Thursday morning was get dressed and walk out to the truck.  It was so nice cause we got there plenty early.  That’s a first for me.  We didn’t know what to do but stand around and watch people arrive.  About the time we were taking the bikes thru tech I ran into Craig.  He was highly instrumental in helping me get out of the B- group (only one available when I signed up) and into B+ (where Todd and Francisco were).  To this very moment I’m still very grateful, we all got to ride “together” as a result

First time out – I was very leery of the brand new tires and knew I had to break them in.  But this was ridiculous.  The Duc was wobbling and pogo’g everywhere, I knew it wasn’t just the tires.  So I came in the very first lap.  It wasn’t meant to be anyway – 1) I needed gas as the light was on but they’d already called our session ready, 2) I knew my tire pressure was too low, 3) something was wrong.  So I hit the Dunlop tent for some air (they were very polite to my Metzelers), hit the gas station, and then went to see Catalyst for some suspension help.  They made a lot of adjustment and noted that the front end was way off (no surprise, I’d never tried to make an adjustment since I got the bike).  By then the session was over and Todd and Francisco came back.  We set up our tents and got comfortable as the day was beee—uuuu—tiful but the heat was coming.  Oh, and the allergies were full blast.

Next session – WOW!!!  Brand new bike.  Metzeler tech support gave me target air pressures to shoot for, Catalyst’s adjustments made the bike incredible.  A couple of “new tires” laps and I couldn’t help but go for it.  We had a great session.  I just can’t comment how much better the 996 felt over the last trackday.  I don’t know if it was the race D.O.T. tires vs street tires, or Catalyst’s adjustments.   I think it is both

3rd session out and we had an “incident”.  I’m not very good at passing.  Part of it is fear from not knowing the person ahead of me (and so I tend to watch them for a few turns to see any erratic tendencies) and part is that I try to take Lance’s 6’ separation rule for passing very serious whereas others don’t seem to care.  Anyhow 3rd or 4th lap in, I was this time carving thru the group.  I came upon a group of three.  I passed one guy and figured “1 down, 2 to go.”  We were going into T3 and before I could get them, the 1st rider checked up for some reason.  Spooked himself, made a mistake, who knows but he slowed up a little quite suddenly.  Rider #2 had to stand it up as a result, and I had to do that too.  Well according to Todd, the guy I’d just passed apparently didn’t want to settle.  Maybe he was trying to re-pass or whatever, but he didn’t check himself as well as we in front of him did and BAM-mechanical sound-tire chirp… I feel a solid impact to my left rear side, knocked my foot off the peg.  My first thought was “no pain” and a tenth of a millisecond later “stay on the track, stay on the track”.  Being that I was trying to survive a complicated turn (3) I only managed a flash of a glance back……and saw a bike sliding along behind me.

I went to put my foot back on the peg and instead hit the ground.  “Where is my peg?”  Part of the fallen rider’s impact was his front tire on my footpeg and the rotation of the tire bent the footpeg straight down.  I threw my hand up and limped the rest of the way around and went back to the pits

In the pits I surveyed the damage – toasted footpeg, cracked rear fairing, very very tiny scratch on swingarm.  Funny thing is the bike felt sooooo good and the tires had been working sooooo well and I didn’t fall so I was actually happy.  I sat down and thought “I’m truly happy, even if I don’t ride the rest of the day”.  Francisco and Todd and I talked about it all after they got back in, Todd was the one who said he thought it looked like the guy I passed “wanted to play”.  Which is cool.  Unfortunately it was his turn to be the statue and not the pidgeon, and I felt bad for him.  I went to Lance later and told him that I’d been hit by another rider, it was a mistake but if the guy came to speak about it, I was the one he hit.  Lance was cool, as I expected.  Hey, it’s part of the game, gotta pay to play.  All things considered, track riding is still light-years ahead of riding on the street

I went down to the grandstands to just kinda hang out and watch the purrty bikes go zooommmmm, and ended up talking with Craig.  Told him what happened and he arranged for a PA announcement to be made about the part I needed.  No luck there but later in the day Craig introduced me to a student of his that also rides a Duc and this fine gentleman, Steve, pulled a footpeg and a whole left rearset out of thin air for me, no questions asked.  End result, I only missed 1.5 sessions total.  The rest of the day was fantastic.  Todd and I had a blast – me chasing him, him chasing me.  We managed to get down to a best time of 1:53.8x right at the end of my day.  I was ecstatic as last time out my best time was 2:00 or 2:01 (I forget).

What else made the day so great?  All the celebrity presence in the A group (getting practice in for AMA next weekend I presume, woohoo, can’t wait).  Not only Doug Chandler, but Larry Pegram on his Honda, Tony Miering on a (literally) screaming Suzuki, Andy Carman (very, very fast AFM’er) and more.  The A group was stupendous to watch.  And Doug was cream of the crop out there on his new ZX10R.  I don’t know if he was using a Muzzy engine or stock or 2 rabid hamsters or…. but he would move thru the group like a shark thru water.  But the remainder of the group (except for one guy who was just minding his own business and toodling along) was still stoooopid fast too

I skipped the last session as the one before I’d felt too many signs of fatigue and reminded myself “ignore these signs…and disaster will surely follow”.  Packed up most of the stuff, helped Todd get packed up and we left for home.  All in all it was a great day and I’m so ready for more.