Motorcycling17 Mar 2008 11:13 pm

(Archived – original posting 11/27/06)

“Rain rain, go away, come again on a Zoom Zoom day

Rain was a concern this past Monday as Francisco, James (Andy) and I hoped for one last track day in ’06. And we got it……rain, not track time

You may also deduce (correctly) that I’m not the biggest Zoom Zoom fan, after butting heads with a couple of employee/donkeys there 2-3 years back. But at least I’ve relaxed my personal “I’ll never solicit them again” stance, in the interests of being the mature party (more truthfully, in the interests of more track time…if other friends are going too).

Francisco has his own truck now and that was good because Andy was putting in a rare track appearance (thanks to yours truly, paying back a big favor from months past) and needed to get his bikes to Sears Point. Yep, bikeS. We loaded his ZX7 in the trailer with the 675 and he rode his (wife’s) new Hyosung 250 to the track. Francisco trucked his recently-repaired, Sharkskin-shod beauty of an R6 in his T100.

Frankly I was hoping for Noah’s flood-level rain within an hour of being at the track but it was not to be, hence I was not to ride. Some of you know that I augured my cbr900 into the Sears Point T7/8/9 muddy hillside some years ago (probably due to overconfidence and a degree of “lemme put a lil gap on Dean”) thanks to rain. And more recently I threw my beloved RC51 down in T4 the millisecond a rain front assaulted the track. Well today I felt like there were 3 strikes available and I had all 3 against me – wet track, very cold, and brand new Pirellis. I figured I wouldn’t make it even to pit lane, let alone break the tires in and stay upright.

In the a.m. the sprinkles came and went, incl a massive sideways-sheeting downpour that lasted 5 min but thoroughly soaked everything. Francisco, James and I huddled inside the trailer while James spooks us with mention of lightning (nope, just the flimsy trailer roof rumbling under the power of the wind) while a large flat metal roof hovers 6” above our heads. <:-0 But the rain was not frequent or bad enough for Sears to have mercy and close up shop and offer a 50%, 25%, 10% or even 1% credit. And so bikes took their chances.

So I hear, from James’ eye-witness experience, the LEADER of a sighting lap went down on the 1st lap. No more than a couple hours later I saw someone else sitting in their pits digging mud out of every crevice on the right side of their bike with a screwdriver. And more. I don’t –think- the meat wagon ever had to roll though. As the day droned on, more dry than wet happened and more bikes took their chances. For a few moments I even considered going out if someone could confirm a dry line was there. Bottom line – nope. I’m not into omens and such but when your bike starts with no problem……and then suddenly won’t, you start to kinda look skyward. The 675 started at home…..and in the trailer (don’t remember why I fired it briefly in there) but when I got it outside and wanted to tech it wouldn’t do more than turn over 4 rotations and stop. Hmmm, some goofy British fuel pump that makes the whole bike act strange when low on fuel? Add fuel… it won’t turn over once. All fuses check good, no other obvious mechanical or physical problems. Oh boy, is this the dreaded Triumph reliability demon rearing it’s head? No dummy, it’s a dying battery from lack of (riding) use. Lance loaned us a portable jumper and she fired up immediately. But that event plus the 3 strikes meant I was gunshy now, and did no more than roll down to pit lane and tech the bike and ignore Cra1g

James did a few laps on his Hyosung and declared the track scary, Francisco and I spent the day wavering between “ride” and “don’t ride”, with the latter taking hold. It was fun to sit right at the wall on the front straight and watch the bold adventurers come off T11 and zoom by, wave and thumbs-up at James as he went by, etc. For a period of notably-wet-surface time, there were 4 bikes only on the track. Two were slow (incl the leader that had fallen earlier, kudos to you for getting right back on the horse) and two were stomach-churning fast on an amateur level. Literally, I got queasy every time particularly one of them came off T11, blasted by and went into wet T1 WAYYYYYY too fast; the other rider too though not quite as fast. By the end of that session I’d decided I had to go see up close who these two were. Both had #s on their Hondas and both also had……….rain tires. Ah ha!!!! We talked to one of the riders and he and the Dunlop guy (who’d also come over to check on him) emphasized how truly amazing rain tires are. He even let us feel on his……tires (so nasty-sounding). The tread was sticky like touching a surface that had syrup residue or something equally sticky on it; it was weird. And softttttttttt. Hmmm, rain tires….maybe sometime in the future we’ll (notice how I throw y’all in there with me) have to try them.

Eventually we packed the bikes back up around 1:30-ish. Francisco went home, James and I went to Denny’s, then had the trailer latches replaced (from the theft event) and then home.

About Cra1g; dude, I’M SOOOOO SORRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I would never knowingly brush you off. Lance announced you among others as present in the meeting, but I didn’t see you in his crew. It wasn’t until much later that I made my way down to pit lane for a tech. If that’s when you called out to me, I kid you not that I heard nothing. I was distracted, hoping the battery had enough juice to start the bike so I didn’t have to push it back. Later when Francisco and I came down to watch the front straight, he said you were down at the finish line area. Again I got distracted by the two rain tire riders and ran off to go pay homage to their skills. So sorry my friend, just some old age and dense brain matter here.

About the 675, yes a graphite one. Bought used from a guy in Martinez who put a little over a thousand miles on and decided he wanted a speed triple instead to go with his Mille and FZ1. I sold the ZX10R and this replaced it. It’s an interesting bike. I didn’t think anything could get more narrow than a Duc superbike, this one did. Also at certain rpm the 3-cylinder configuration takes on interesting engine notes. Not bad, just…….different. Overall it’s a very easy-to-ride bike, more low torque than an inline-4 600, but still willing to spool way up high like an inline 4 vs. pooting out at high rpm. Bottom line – I like it!! But most of you know how I am with bikes. You’d swear I thought they were underwear. As a matter of fact, whats on the chopping block now?  J

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.

Motorcycling16 Mar 2008 10:08 pm

(Archived – original posting 4/21/06)

All’s good.  Let’s get that clear right up front, all’s good.  No crashing.  Whew.  I was starting to think the monkey was crazy-glued to my back.

A week and a day after our ZoomZoom trackday at Sears, here we are back at Sears again but with Keigwins At The Track. Francisco and I got to the track shortly before the rider’s meeting began and since the bikes were already mostly prepped, there wasn’t a whole lot to do after the meeting. I don’t know if it was due to the suspected afternoon showers or what but for the first time I can remember, Lance omitted the morning track initiation laps.  Even the 1st-timers to Sears had to settle for tackling down an instructor and asking them for some lead-around laps.  Looks like there were no issues with that though.  Oh, also Lance had said in the interest of maximizing track time, any incidents that left bikes stranded (be it a crash or running out of gas) meant your bike stayed out there till either lunch or end of day, no closing track down for the crash truck to roll.  That’s incentive not to crash or run out of gas; half your riding day could go up in smoke.

Between the ZZ day and this KOTT day, Francisco got some nice sticky Michelins installed (well I did the install, at 6-freakin-a.m. Thursday) but since they were new he was real tentative.  I was really hesitant to mention to him that last week I had brand new Bridgestones on the FZR and was hustling by lap 4; I didn’t want him to end up on his ear and then be looking at me cross-eyed.

I spent the vast majority of the day following Francisco.  I frankly was a little tentative from the previous week and having self-doubts.  Also I had Metzeler MEZ1 tires (not the stickiest) on the Duc and didn’t know a tire pressure to work with.  Plus dumping the FZR was one thing, dumping the 996 was a nightmare of a thought.  So I 1) called Metzeler and left tech support a voicemail (they never called back), 2) used the 10% pressure increase rule for the rest of the day.  All things considered, the tires performed admirably at our pace.  Only once, getting into 3a a little hotter than expected and loading the front end did the front give the slightest vague feeling of a little drift, no other issues.

Gotta say at this point that the new R6 hustles once spooled up.  Francisco matched me a few times out of the carousel up toward T7 and ticked off some GSXR rider a couple times; the guy was held up by Francisco in the turns but Francisco had the ponies to keep him behind on the straights.  Eventually the guy got around via a turn and moved off.  It was kinda funny for me to watch.  But yeah that bike is fast.  I am really starting to like the Raven color R6.

We made friendly with the guys pitted next to us, two Philipino guys (one Aprilia Mille and one GSXR1000 with Ben Spies replica bodywork and tire warmers and …) and a black guy (yellow 748 with Infostrada replica bodywork).  They turned out to be really cool and we took some pictures together and chatted a lot.  The guy with the GSXR brought his wife and two young daughters, it was cool to see them hanging with him and his buddies, and walking around and ……  Francisco and I wanted to ride with them but they were in B2 and we were B1 (there was an A group and two B groups that day, no C group.  K@TT was at max capacity)

Mid morning I broke out the lap timer and it was a comedy of errors trying to get it to work.  First attempted use – eye was aimed too high and not seeing the beacon.  Second attempted use – still no readout because the battery was dead the whole time (DUH).  Finally after that, it works, 2nd to last session of the day for me.  I followed Francisco again and had a good time.  Last session (I didn’t know it would be the last session at the time) was fun and interesting.  Prior to that session I’d gone to Lance just to say hi and shoot the breeze.

Somehow the subject of his intermediate 2-day school in August came up.  He really sold me on it and if my kids were a little older or I had reliable inlaws (or my family for that matter) to help Irene, I’d be there.  But at this point I think I’ll save my overnight brownie points for MotoGP and maybe CES.  But I sure want to go.  I told Lance I’d reached the limit of what I can do alone but want to move up to the next level and needed help.  Yeah, that’s how the school subject came up.  Really cool – he said at the end of day 2 there is a series of practice race-starts and then a real, legit 3-lap race.  Most importantly is 45 minute track sessions with 1-on-1 time with instructors helping you with exactly what you want help with, and the obligatory classroom time too.   Somehow I’ve got to go!

In the midst of this conversation, Lance said another option is to hire an instructor for the day or hire Doug Chandler (both of which cost as much or likely more than his 2-day school), and then he pointed over to a large pit area – Doug Chandler was there!!!!!  Then it all clicked and made sense – earlier in the day someone had passed us in some old Cagiva leathers that said Chandler on the back, guess that was one of his students or assistants or….

Well other people wanted to talk with Lance so I left just in time for 1st call for our session.  Francisco and I suited up and went to hot pit.  Green flag and out we go.  In short time a guy on an ’06 ZX10R comes by, green leathers too, “Chandler” on the back.  I was like <:-0    Right behind him was the person in the old Cagiva leathers and a third rider right on their tale.  Umm sorry Francisco, gotta go.  I latched onto the train and all was cool at first.  But quickly I realized that something was changing.  Doug kept looking back, kept looking back, kept ……  I realized later he was checking to make sure his tails were keeping up.  It was so weird to experience first hand that he was very gradually winding up the pace.  I stayed with them for about a lap, next lap it was difficult, 3rd lap they were drifting away by a few feet per corner and I could not close it for nothing.  By lap four they were at least 1 if not 2 turns out of sight so I found myself completely alone.  But they’d gotten me kinda hyped so I kept pushing for what I could another 2 laps.  Then I came in because I realized I was really tired and well aware of what comes next – stupid mistakes and crashes.

Francisco showed up later and after we hung out a bit with the guys next door I packed up the bikes (Francisco had wandered off to who knows where) and most gear and we bailed out.  Ride home was uneventful and everything was quite good.  The weather was fantastic, not a drop of rain.  We got to eat with Craig Smith and one of his instructor buddies and I enjoyed that cause Craig is cool and I don’t get to see him much anymore.  There were a couple crashes and an ambulance roll for what turned out to be a better-safe-than-sorry situation.  Francisco’s R6 and Michelins and my 996 and Metzelers performed flawlessly.  What else can you ask for (except lower lap times or umbrella girls)?

Motorcycling16 Mar 2008 10:04 pm

(Archived - original post date 4/13/06)

This is a summary of Francisco and my trackday at Infineon Thursday.

As you should know by now, Thursday was very good weather for any kind of outdoor activity; in the case of Sonoma, from 845a on throughout the rest of the day.

Last year a friend named Todd asked if we wanted to do a trackday with Zoom Zoom (henceforth referred to as ZZ).  Frankly I was hesitant because I’ve been on my ear more than once due to early year trackdays getting hit with rain.  However Aldo and Francisco were interested and so I decided to try too.  Well as of a week before the event I was trying to bail out.  The rain has been here for 4-5 years straight (or so it seems) and didn’t look like it was going away before 2017.

I went to Zoom Zoom’s website and it showed 29 people on the Intermediate group waiting list.  I hoped someone would bite as I offered my spot to be taken, no one did.  Strange thing I don’t understand – how can the list grow from 29 to 31 (as noted 2 days later) and yet no one got my spot?  Oh well, water under the bridge now.  So as Thursday approached, Francisco waffled back and forth every 5 minutes on whether to go or not.  I cant count how many times I told him “yes I AM going, I have no choice”, but he continued to call and ask.  He waffled right up to calling Wednesday night to say he wouldn’t be going, and then change his mind Thursday early morning to “yes”  (yes, I have to have some excuse for why we were late).

I managed to get a key made for the FZR400 since I’d lost the one it came with during the home remodel.  I decided to take that bike and so loaded everything up in the trailer, some the night before and some that morning (hastily after receiving that phone call).  Picked up Francisco and rolled out to Infineon.  We got there 15 min before the rider’s meeting and so all was well.  Being an ex-race bike, I had minimal prep (tech found a loose left rearset that I had to snug down).  SO I decided to have the Michelin man install my new Bridgestones.  That was kinda funny.  But I didn’t feel bad as I’d called him 2 days before to buy Michelins and he didn’t have my size.

I missed the first and second intermediate sessions but I didn’t care because I was on brand new tires, it had sprinkled during the rider’s meeting, Sears (I’m tired of typing Infineon and it is still Sears to me anyway) is notorious for seepage problems and there were reports of some damp spots and such anyway so I wanted someone (everyone actually) to go dry the track first.

When I finally did go out, the downside was that now the sun had been out for some time, weather was almost-warm, and everyone was basically up to speed.  I managed to take the first lap slow enough despite everyone else to wear the snot off the tires.  2nd lap I picked it up a hair and the tires gave me a little feedback that they weren’t quite there yet.  3rd lap and I started to move.  The tires worked fine from then on.  There were a couple very small drifts from the rear later in the day when pushing a little, and one small slide for a moment from the front when I got into 4 once a little hotter than I’d been trying previous laps.  Otherwise, no problems.  I knew and appreciated this would happen because these Bridgestones are the same ones I did trackday, school, and 2 races at blazing hot Willow Springs in ’04 with -no- problems.  Same for my friend Dean who’s used these tires many times an podium’d with them.  But the Michelin man made a point of politely telling me twice these were street tires and not meant for the track.  I just smiled at him, thinking “not my fault you don’t support Production-class FZR400s.

As the day wore on lots of people crashed, from the morning forward.  Even an instructor went down.  But the sun came out and it actually got hot enough to seek shade.  It was a beautiful day out there and I was happy that my spot didn’t get taken.  I was UNHAPPY though that Todd had gotten sick and didn’t come, and Aldo was in the midst of jobs changes and such plus no time to prep his bike so he didn’t come either.

Chuck Sorenson attended the day and made himself available for training as well as lunch time fast laps 2-up.  I wanted to do the lunch time ride but didn’t follow thru, choosing to nap in the shade instead.  I hadn’t ridden in a long time and to go from nothing to kneepucks was physically trying.

My first time out I felt like such a loser.  I couldn’t remember turn-in points or anything, I always had the gearing wrong, I was rustier than rusty.  Making me more frustrated (if that term could be applied) was that my jetting was off so there was no low end whatsoever, gearing errors were absolute torture and I was making lots of gearing errors.

But things got a lot better as the day went on.  I came up with some new (for me) approaches into T2 after watching the CRAZY fast A group lines from the left end of the front straight bleachers and also their lean angle in T11.

Francisco and I both noted some unsafe riding in the Intermediate session.  I don’t know how the A or C groups were going but B was “not very good”.  Inside and outside passing ZZ allows but it’s supposed to be with a 6’ spacing, many people seemed to be ignoring that completely.  I personally witnessed someone almost get run/spooked right off the track in T4 as two faster guys passed the slower rider wayyyyyy too late into his turn-in for them to be passing, especially with the first passer going up the inside.  I passed him exiting T4 and shrugged my shoulders and pointed toward them in disgust.  I saw other similar things and Francisco reported people passing him too closely as well as seeing it happen to others. My impression of the B group at least is that it isn’t as safe as the Keigwin days.  And frankly I don’t see a reason for this, there is no sanctioned race or trophy.  My other observation is the speeds in this ZZ B group were higher than I’m used to.  I got passed more than I expected.  Some can be attributed to the bike (e.g. a lot less engine) as there were quite a few guys that couldn’t pull away from me in the corners or corner entry (I could actually close them a hair or at least maintain) but once the turn was done, hp was applied and …..

Anyhow being that I had a meeting to that night as well as a speaking part too, I’d told Francisco I’d be skipping the final session so as to get on the road toward home at a decent time.  So the 2nd to last session comes up.  I go out intending to follow Francisco around for the session but he peels off to the side, looking for Chuck to do a ride-n-follow I think.  So I went out for two laps and then came into the hot pit to wait for Francisco to go by.  As I see him coming into T11 I head back out, or so I thought.  The turn worker dude made me wait till traffic passed before I could go out (prob due to the AMA T1 configuration we were using, e.g. no cones, balls to the wall if ya got’em) and Francisco was long past.  When I did get released I lit out after him.  I passed a couple people here and there, a couple passed me.  I figure there is time to catch up.  But who would have factored in a dirt sampling?

SOB unsafe ZZ riders!!!!

I’m coming into T1, at speed, line is set and no deviations are being made, no adjustments, no changes.  For those of you that have seen the AMA T1, it is FAST and NOT the place for passing. If I may be so bold and bodacious, I’m told by my peers and past instructors (when I’ve done schools) that I am a smooth rider.  I think of it like Doug Chandler – very smooth and steady (just 25 times slower), not Troy Bayliss – bike all over the place and looking like borderline out of control (think Colin vs Troy WSB battles).  So I don’t -believe- I was giving out miscues.  Anyhow I’m set in the turn and up comes some idiot inside me.  Let me repeat, T1 is the wrong place to be passing.  Not to mention the (half-hearted if I may label it such, can you tell I’m not much of a ZZ fan?) warning in the morning meeting that it’s better to wait till a straight to make a pass as this isn’t a race.

Well just as I’m having that thought of this idiot passing in the wrong turn and too close, here comes his buddy.  Umm except Mr. A$$ runs into me.

Picture our lines like | \          I am the line slanted to the left and he’s the line going straight.  He stands me up and I’m bee-lined for the runoff area.  I’m all over the brakes to bleed off as much speed as possible.  My error – I didn’t play MotoGP and immediately slam the bike onto it’s left side to TRY and salvage the turn.  I felt confident I could ride it out (THANKS Sears for all the improvements you’ve made to the track).  But when I got out into the grass, it was mud.  OK, light on the bars, DON’T brake, hmm lets feather a little throttle to not load the front end, ummmm slowing slowing…..nope not staying upright!  SPLAT, bike is sliding, I’m down and tumbling, then I’m up and fussing.

Messy but thank goodness for mud, makes things a lot softer.  The FZR cranks but won’t restart plus it is loaded with dirt/mud/grass.  Session is stopped so I can cross the track and roll back down past the stares of the waiting C group.  The fact that they were in the hot pit waiting means our session was a hair from over anyway.

Back in the pits I share a few non-Christian choice words with the next guy over, who came to see if I was alright.  Then some older man shows up asking if I was the one he bumped shoulders with.  I was fuming and angry as can be but I couldn’t yell or curse directly at him.  I did berate him a little, mildly.  He apologized a few times but what bothered me more was he everrrrr so slightly tried to insinuate that mayyyyybe I had turned in on him.  OK, lets say that is the case.  Hey dummy, I was following my line and I was set in it, not adjusting or tightening or…..  So you should NOT HAVE TRIED A PASS!!!  I told him this and he immediately backed off (in my presence at least).  He looked over the bike and apologized quietly some more, appearing more to be trying to assure himself it was only dirt/mud, and then wandered away.

Francisco arrived and then started laughing, more in disbelief and shock that once again I’m the statue and not the pidgeon.  I picked a few chunks of this and that off the bike and in truth it appears that there is no significant damage.  I still need to really clean up and inspect.  But thanks mud and thanks Sears.

As for ZZ, I’m personally done with them.

Call me a Keigwin brown-noser if you will but in ALL the track days I’ve done there I haven’t see the level of unsafe riding and idiocy I saw Thursday.  It’s as if no one heeded the morning meeting at all.  The guy in the next pit over said that though faster, the A group is safer in his opinion because it is mostly 1) racers who know how to pass, 2) racers who know how to get passed.  I might note at this point that the first dummy who passed me didn’t spook me into a mistake, only angered me at his choice.  It was the actual, substantially physical contact with dummy #2 that led to a problem.  I’ve ridden A group before and I think it is a valid argument, faster but more stable.  C group is slow enough that you kinda have to screw yourself.   Between the idiots there and my last experience with ZZ, which was the organizers acting like idiots themselves, I’m done.  Good luck ZZ!!

Oh well, in all I’d say it was a fantastic day.  Crash? Kinda but not bad (two days later and the ONLY soreness is just my muscles from cornering/braking forces as I’m rusty and out of shape.  No pain from the fall).  Bike wasn’t jetted right and that doesn’t make a small engine situation any better.  But the upside is the beautiful weather, riding a beautiful and challenging course.  And those two positives FAR FAR FAR outweigh any “negative”.

Last note – I’m -still- exhausted.  Next event – 4/21 at Sears again.  Keigwin this time.  B group again.

Motorcycling14 Mar 2008 08:52 pm

Welcome to Tales from the track!  I look forward to what the future holds.  Hopefully you’ll continue to follow along with me and enjoy the ride. 

 Mostly what will be found here is my motorcycle escapades at the best roadracing courses the West coast has to offer.  But there’ll also be other things that motivate me to share.  I have a very active if somewhat strange and sarcastic sense of humor, sometimes an interesting view on life and sometimes not.  Regardless, I hope this adventure will be fun.  But it’ll never be fun if it doesn’t get started.  So with that said….

Motorcycles are a powerful thing.  They can make you feel free and forget all your problems (at least until your butt starts to ache), they can generate endless smiles.  They catalyze people into a “pro” or “con” stance, many parents falling into the latter catagory as mine did initially.

 I got into motorcycles because they looked cool and seemed to be a natural progression from the BMX bikes I’d ridden my entire childhood.  My first exposure was with a friend’s Yamaha YSR50 and a near-miss with the front bumper of a Toyota Corolla.  From that moment, I knew I’d have my own bike.  A couple years later I financed a brand new ’91 Suzuki Katana 600. 2 hours later I had a crashed Katana 600.  6 months later I had a stolen Katana 600 and a $1600 balance to pay.  I became sour on motorcycles until ’94 when I got a used Yamaha FZR600.  A friend I call K.O. took me on his GPz900 to buy it and ride home, I was thrilled.  A few months later a brisk backroads ride with an acquaintance named Bob Gardiner and some others resulted in me getting sucked into some corners wayyy too fast and scaring my skivvies into a different color and consistency.  I then realized I had no clue what I was doing on a motorcycle.

I took a Keith Code course at Laguna Seca and then started doing Doc Wong’s Sunday rides.  By now I’d moved on to a ’92 Honda CBR600 F2 that I’d reverted from race bike to street bike.  I started to learn to work on my own bikes too, as well as develop other motorcycling friendships.  At one Doc Wong ride, there was a guest speaker named Chuck Sorenson.  He’s an accomplished 250cc 2-stroke racer.  He told the story to us of how he no longer was confortable riding the street.  Too many unknowns and dangers.  WHAT?!?!?  How could he justify going as fast as he did on a track and say such things about the street?  Whiner!!  Little did I know……

Eventually life, budget, time, responsibilities, children, etc. meant no more Sundays with Doc Wong’s group.  But I continued to ride for fun as well as commute.  One day a couple of years later (on BARF I believe) I run across news that a local motorcyclist named Declan Lynch was killed and a commemorative trackday was being organized in memory of him.  There’d be tshirts, a group picture on the track that would be sent to his parents back home, and so on.  This seems like a great way to honor a fallen comrade and enjoy some racetrack time at the same time.  This was the beginning of understanding Chuck Sorenson’s attitude.  It was also the beginning of a beautiful symbiotic relationship between myself and K@TT (Keigwins At The Track, the trackday organizer that grew from Lance Keigwin’s efforts to organize a memorial for Declan).   Over time I’ve also enjoyed tracktime with PTT (Pacific Track Time) and Zoom Zoom (except my first-ever experience with their staff SUCKED for my friend and I) From that day forward, I spent more and more time dedicating my riding activities to the track environment and less and less time on the street, excluding commuting.  It was progressively clearer that the track environment was much safer than the street.  Not to say that problems can’t happen there too, they do.  But in this environment you are surrounded with like-minded people and a comraderie that’s hard to explain; in a clean, purpose-specific environment; with qualified assistence (e.g. ambulance and paramedics) no more than 2 minutes away at any point.  Compare that to the street – idiots paying more attention to their cellular conversation then the privilege of driving; roads contaminated with slippery substances or obstacles; stray children/animals; police; stopsigns and lights; haters that only live to interfere with your adventure, and so on.

I have now become a full-on track snob.  I’ve even dabbled in amateur racing, a very small dabble in 2004 with WSMC at Willow Springs Raceway in SoCal.  The first dabble resulted in narrowly missing out on 3rd place thanks to a fast 250cc 2-stroke beating me to the line.   The second and thusfar last dabble ended in crashing out of 2nd place on the last half of the last lap, with a mile lead on 3rd place, because I was trying to catch 1st place.  Oh, I’ll still go on a street ride if a group wants to go.  But in those instances, I’m no more than a back-of-the-pack tag-along, probably enjoying most the viewpoint of the other rider’s rear tires and chains circling round and round.  For you see, other than one person who is related to me, I can’t pay any of my riding cohorts to even try an entry level trackday.  Don’t want to take the time off.  Don’t want to invest in the needed gear (umm, I’ve got spares).  Don’t want to spend the money (99.9% chance it gets blown on something else regardless).  So now I feel just like Chuck Sorenson, I just don’t have his talent!!  Screw the street.  Bring on closed circuit organized riding.  And that is mostly what this blog will be about.  The adventures of …….. whatever is to come; primarily related to motorcycle riding, but probably some other stuff too.

To start with, some archived trackday postings……..just as soon as I can find where I stored them.

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