About 75 miles into what was supposed to be a 250-mile daylong romp through the mountains my play date with five other like minded individuals with a need for speed came to an unexpected end when I decided to ruin my day by tossing the S1000RR into the woods.
The pace was again relaxed and speeds were nowhere near what they were previously as there was a little traffic and we had just taken a twenty-minute pit stop a few miles back. I was the fourth bike in our group of six, approaching a mildly downhill left-hand turn with a slightly negative camber. I’ve ridden this road a handful of times before and enjoyed it. It’s a scenic little stretch of deliciously curvy asphalt winding its way through a dreamy forested area before opening up and climbing over a mountain range. Pure sport bike heaven.
It is hot, the midday sun is high in the sky and a gentle breeze ripples the luscious foliage of the forest as the sunlight filters through the trees and dapple the road ahead in a mesmerizing kaleidoscope pattern of shadows and light. It is a soul-touchingly tranquil sight to behold. Even though Mother Nature’s light-show makes it difficult to focus. The constant shift between shade and sunlight doesn’t help matters in depth perception either and the glorious end result: you can’t see shit, your eyes get tired from the strain, your brain hurts and you now know why cruisers like to cruise. They are bathing in the serene and basking in their machines’ overly restrictive limitations. But none of that speed demon hating serenity was even an issue. This particular scene is just vivid in my mind’s eye for some reason. How peaceful it was, how relaxed I felt. How I was in the moment, content and — dare I say, happy. Couldn’t have come into that corner all that hot, if I actually remember my surroundings. I never remember the scenery. Scenery? What scenery? We ain’t here because it’s pretty. We’re here with an entirely different agenda. I could tell you all you’ve ever wanted to know about surface conditions, curve geometry, and road hazards, though. But that waterfall back there? Didn’t see it. Don’t care. That’s probably also the reason why I hardly ever know where exactly I am, what road I’m on, or why I get lost a lot (don’t really listen to my GPS either). I also have a tendency to blow past my turn-offs, oblivious until it dawns on me (hopefully not too) many miles later that something is amiss. Where was I? Oh yes, I remember…
I am coming up on that fateful left-hander. I brake, tip the bike in and am giddy with the realization that I’m about to drag a knee through a left turn on a public highway. That never happens. Ever. I’m too short and my rearsets are too far up. Oh, and my lefts also suck. Twice my knee has kissed public-use pavement in a right turn. Twice. On the fabled “Tail of the Dragon”, in the same bumpy, gouged-by-hard-parts crap curve that I don’t even like all that much. The only thing that particular shit corner has going for it? It’s banked past the apex and exits into a fun uphill kink, if you’re going south that is; going north it is an animal of a different ilk.
My childlike excitement quickly gives way to perplexity when it occurs to me that the angle is all wrong. I can’t really pinpoint the cause for my concern, but something doesn’t quite “look right” or feel right, for that matter. As I am lost in wonderment, it suddenly dawns on me that I am not hanging off. I had no business getting excited over left-side knee dragging action in the first place. I was sitting sedately center, lazy as a lump on a log. What else didn’t I do? No customary downshift to keep the bike from gaining speed by use of engine compression; yes, I was lazy and made the conscious decision at the last second not to, after all we’re not pushing the pace here or anything. At this same instant my left knee touches down, followed in quick succession by various other body parts that aren’t supposed to (not on a good day anyway). Thigh, hip, elbow, upper arm. Complacency turns into an unstoppable slide into the wild. I am separated from my bike, slide off the edge of the road onto the narrow shoulder and then am unceremoniously flung into the great beyond after my Beemer. The only cognizant thought I manage is an acute awareness that this isn’t going to be any fun at all, accompanied by a lingering sense of obtuseness still presiding over the fuckery currently in progress. I may have yelled “oh shit!”, or maybe I just thought it as I flew over the side of the embankment and dropped from sight.
Things get a bit fuzzy here. I think I may have changed direction once or twice mid-hurl. It’s dark and I can’t see anything. I don’t feel anything either. When I come to my senses again, I am disoriented. It takes me a moment before I come to the conclusion that the world isn’t upside down, rather I am; standing on my head, buried in leaves and sticks by self-insertion and with boots sticking out of the underbrush. I have dirt in my mouth. I wonder what my predicament must look like from above. I have dusty grime in my nostrils and it tickles to breathe. My disjointed musings are interrupted by a screaming one-word thought that pierces my reverie and gets me moving in a hurry in an effort to right myself and extract various body parts from their entanglement: “SPIDERS!” I struggle to invert myself, whilst working to keep a lid on the rising panic in my chest. I finally manage to get on my feet and slowly turn around.
The S1000RR came to rest maybe ten feet from where I am now standing, emotionless and quite detached. The thought of spiders forgotten as quickly as it had come. The Pirate is taking a dirt nap on its left side, nose facing forward. I make my way there, stumbling and falling once, hit the kill switch and turn the ignition key to the “off” position. I notice I’ve landed in a scattered pile of old bike parts. Not the first one to play this game, am I? I see your Harley and raise you a BMW. Great. I make out what looks to be an old headlight cover and a broken off rusty floorboard, both of which the guys later haul out of this graveyard to tease me with. Yeah, I have wicked friends. Fucking sickos.
I turn away, there is nothing here I can do, and begin climbing the steep slope, pulling myself up by roots and tree branches. I keep sliding back down the hill, my boots unable to gain purchase in the loose dirt and thick covering of leaves. Someone’s arm appears over the edge above and I reach out to clasp the offered helping hand as I am clawing my way up the hill. As I reach the top, I see my Wing Woman, standing there next to one of my other buddies who had pulled me out of my predicament, lit cigarette in hand, which she shoves into my face, inserting it between my lips, stating confidently: “You’ll be needing that.” I had quit smoking a few weeks ago. Don’t mind if I do. Please and thank you.
After a while the dissociative state I’ve been enjoying thus far leaves me and I start freaking out, pacing, repeatedly exclaiming that I need to call Joe, my husband, but I’ve lost my phone. Frantically searching, but not really seeing. “I need my phone. I need my phone. Have to call Joe. My phone. I have to call Joe. I need my phone…” Two strangers had also stopped to see if they could help and they joined in the search for the phone, which was eventually found. I was told that I was in a state of shock. I kept reassuring everybody that I was OK. My phone was recovered by the stranger on the Gixxer and was elevated to Hero of the Moment status. Holding onto my phone, I quickly calmed down again, but I didn’t make the call. Not then.
While most of the guys were trying to figure out how to recover my bike, I surveyed the scene of this latest example of a “failure to complete the turn” in hopes of determining what exactly had happened. Knowing the cause of a crash is hugely important to me. It means the difference between learning from a mistake and being at the mercy of repeating it. One long skinny skid mark running parallel to an even skinnier white line are the only visible signs of my premature get-off. Well, the shoulder looked like a wild pig was hunting for truffles, but otherwise there was nothing really to see. A fresh scar six foot up a nearby tree and a broken off rotting corpse of another tree were also blamed on my recent display of motorcycling prowess. Someone said that the skid mark is from a locked up front wheel and the white line was caused by my left rearset, more than likely. The missing chunk of wood six foot up a tree gave cause to wild speculation of flying BMWs and how this feat could possibly be accomplished. No other clues on the pavement were in evidence as to the possible cause of the crash.
It took six hot and sweaty dudes pushing, pulling and dragging the Beemer quite some distance through the woods to reach a spot where the forest floor was closer to road level and the incline of the embankment was shallow enough to get the bike back up on the road. The Pirate was trashed. The nose was smashed, the fairings on one side were almost ripped off the bike and cracked and broken on the other. One mirror was missing (so were several other miscellaneous bits), the front brake reservoir was shattered, the radiator was hideously cracked, the front forks were tweaked, it was generously leaking fluid of every flavor. She was a damned mess. The sight of her was so pitiful I wanted to cry.
But enough of that, we needed to get the heck out of there, before the cops showed up and the real fun began. The kind of fun that involves getting a de facto speeding ticket and whatever other citations they like to retroactively hand out to bikers who wad up their wheels for whatever reason. What a load of crap! Anyway, after a little jiggling and yanking to get the bike into neutral from whatever gear she was in, she cranked right up. Yeah! That’s my baby. German engineering at its finest. Takes a licking and keeps on ticking and all that. When it came time for me to ride her to a safer location, I lost my composure yet again and proceeded to freak the fuck out. Nope. Can’t do it. Can’t ride her. I have no brakes, a broken shifter, mangled levers and I left my courage down below along with one mirror and the left-side fairing panel. One of the dudes rode it to an undisclosed location for me. I also refused to ride his bike to follow, mumbling something about not being emotionally ready to wreck another one in the same afternoon. He rode it for me and he had to ride bitch back with another guy in our group to get his own bike. Yeah. I’ll never live that one down and neither will he. Not with the crowd I hang out with. 🙂
And that is the story of how the Pirate Named Trouble was left for dead 300 miles from home and I walked away with a bunch of ugly bruises, a neck injury which is mostly healed, and a load of psychological problems for which I’m still undergoing self-directed treatment. 😉
Oh, and one last thing: Wear your fucking gear. ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time)! The one lesson you should take away from this: even if you’re not riding hard, or getting sporty, or pushing your limits, you can still go down at any time, when you least expect it. Had I’ve not worn my full race gear and a full-face helmet, I’d be either dead or a vegetable someone has to spoon feed and then later wipe my ass. Uncool.
Ed Bargy vs. Kevin Schwantz
As I walked into the classroom, Ed Bargy, after getting my name, greeted me with: “So, you are the Kevin Schwantz graduate. Forget everything he’s taught you. I will teach you some stuff you can actually use.”
Ba-dam-CHING! Sounds like I had paid two extra large to spend a weekend at the track and hang out with a World Champion. Well, crap!
Yup, he’s a racer. I like this man already. It is going to be a fun-filled day of information overload and scattered knee dragging. Ed Bargy set a fast pace, off and on the track. He had a lot of material to cover and between the classroom lectures and the six on-track sessions, I spent the entire day running like a madwoman whose ass was on fire between three locations: classroom, pit, track, pit, classroom,… in my race boots! Mr. Slow had set up our pit in the Back Forty. In the GRASS!!!
The previous night, we pulled in seven minutes before the gate closed, dead tired but kept awake by generous amounts of caffeine, paid our gate fee and started looking for a spot to make our home for the weekend. I pointed to an empty paddock pad, two over from the hot pit entrance and close to the registration building and classrooms. Right up front!!! He says: “We don’t have a trailer, I’m not going to back in there.” Arrrrrgh! I was exhausted after having stayed up all night and most of the day prepping my bike. I had never been here and was completely clueless. Hell, maybe this place was run like the military, you didn’t get a concrete slab unless you… well, earned it. I didn’t argue, we parked the truck, unloaded the bike and set up our pit, pitched the truck tent we had acquired for just this purpose, inflated the truck bed air mattress, tossed our sleeping bags inside and pretty much fell into a coma as soon as the cords got pulled on the mummy hoods.
This Is Your Wake-Up Call
The morning got off to a cold start, when we were awakened by people talking while unloading their bikes, setting up and getting ready for the day. I still had no clue when I was expected to show up and where, but luckily they announced everything over the PA system. Mr. Slow met me in the registration building with a steaming cup of joe. The man knows me. There is no approaching me pre-coffee. I was relatively calm, I felt refreshed and ready to take my riding to the next level. Of course, I didn’t need to be there until tomorrow to register for my track day. The lady told me just to go ahead and go to the classrooms, Ed was already there.
First Things First: The Track Walk
Class began with a track walk. Of course, “walking” was done under power in first gear. We stopped at key points at the track and Ed Bargy talked about its features and how to use them to our advantage. Got it! This is the first thing every serious racer or rider should do. Walk the track. There is stuff you’ll notice you won’t be able to see at speed. Subtle but important things that will help greatly in line selection. The best line around the track is the fastest line, and that is not necessarily the shortest. And in order to be fast, you have get to know the lay of the land. Literally. JenningsGP, which was designed by Ed himself and is a motorcycle-only racetrack, is relatively flat. No extreme features, no elevation changes to speak of, some turns are slightly cambered or banked, and the entire 2-mile track is mostly wide open. It is definitely divided into a fast section and a tight section. Turns 3-9 are pretty tightly grouped together, then the track opens up again entering into Turn 10 and you can pretty much stay on the gas all the way through Turn 14, onto the front straight, slow down briefly for Turn 1 and then onto the gas again until you get back around to Turn 3. Repeat.
The track has no rhythm to me. It seems too narrow and claustrophobic in its wide open sprawl. There are no blind corners or hills to obscure your visibility. I don’t like this. For some reason it messes with my focus. I see too much too soon. I knew from studying the track map that I may not end up liking the way this particular track is laid out, but it was perfect for what I came here to do: Quit entering turns like an old biddy in her Oldsmobile and get my corner entry sorted. If hauling it down from 150+ to throw it into T3 doesn’t do it then I don’t know what will.
This Girl Can’t Ride
My first few sessions were barely keeping up. I was literally riding by the seat of my pants, and they still got away from me. What in the hell? Screw it! I started doing my own thing, since I did not like the way I was riding. Unorganized, frenzied, rushed, without method. I slowed a little and started turning laps without touching my brakes. This track indeed does not sing to me, like Barber did. I can’t find its rhythm, so I can’t dance. I’m picking my lines, experimenting with various options, but I like none of it. I feel out of my element. Like a wall flower at a beauty pageant. I’m getting a little despondent, but I try to concentrate on the material covered and execute. My focus is not there. Every once in a while a control rider passes me and taps the tail section of his bike with his left hand. “Follow me!” I did and found that I was doing better copying someone else’s rhythm. But again, eventually they left me and I was on my own yet again. I was torn between heeding the call of my competitive nature and keeping up with the boys and tearing it up and doing the smart, responsible thing and moderating my speed back to about 80% of my skill envelope so I could focus on technique. Crap! I’m not liking this at all! Disconnect. Major disconnect.
Say What?!? A Racer You Are Not!
What in the world have I done now? You can’t even keep up with the second slowest group of students and you want to do what exactly?!? Go racing? They’ll pull you off the field for being a safety hazard you’re so damned slow! Good gawd, woman! After three sessions, which progressively improved, it finally dawned on me. As we were heading out to the track I asked Mr. Bargy: “So the slowest of the four groups is to the right, the fastest on the outside?” He confirmed my suspicions. The drawing on the dry erase board was flipped upside down. Doh! I remember Ed even mentioning that and I still got it reversed in my head. This explains a few things! Definitely! No wonder I was feeling off. Instead of staging with the second slowest group, I got in line running in the second fastest. Ed just laughed when I smacked my forehead and said with a giggle: “Well, that would explain why I couldn’t keep up to save my life.” This would also explain why I had to ride by the seat of my pants. I had not the time to collect proper reference points for myself. Fortunately, I have always made it a point to teach myself “Riding by Reading” rather than “Riding by Repetition”. If you don’t know what this means, don’t worry, it is a subject worthy of another blog post. But in essence, if you know how to “read” the road or track while you ride, you’ll be fast no matter where you go. If you are a “repetition rider” you’ll smoke your buddies on your home turf, but go elsewhere and you are as lost as a kitten in a litter of hungry puppies.
With renewed confidence and motivation I went outside, suited up, took possession of the Pirate at the corner of the registration building where Mr. Slow waited for me. I think he started feeling a twinge of guilt about pitting his Baby in the grass in the waaaay back! Yeah, buddy! Walk a mile in my race boots…
More My Speed…
I got in line with the peeps who would be more my speed and was ready to get down to business. I had some catching up to do in skill development and corner entries to work on at a speed more conducive to improving my game. Baby steps, yes ma’am! I was rudely interrupted in my reverie when one of the control riders pointed at me, at himself, and then behind him. I followed the arc of his left hand and saw that he had Margie Lee on her silver Ducati in tow. It was obvious he wanted me to come with him. What the hell? I didn’t like this at all. You, my man, are disrupting my plans. Apparently Mr. Control Rider is a lady’s man. His lonesome studly self gathering about him all the women in the group?!? Can you be anymore blatantly obvious? He was on his way of making me dislike him. He had already pissed me off once, and this must be due punishment for not hanging on his every word and doing as I was told, “Yessir, may I have another!” I might be shy, but I can be very verbose when it comes to calling bullshit where I see it. Go ahead and try me, I have no tolerance for it. And if you do, you’ll be the one having to pop a Xanax in the after-action review. But this one’s also for another time and another story. And I will share! Fret not.
You! Come With Me!
I had to wait until my group was starting to pull out before I could get out of line, we were pretty much bunched up tire to tire. I cranked my upper body around to make sure that the rider behind me was aware of what I was doing and then slipped out of line and waited for Mr. Lady’s Man and Margie Lee to pull out and fell in behind them. Yawn! He was going so slow, I was wondering if I should drag rear brake to give the engine something to pull against. I dismissed my misgivings and took the opportunity to collect much needed reference points and reconsider line selection. Besides, my tires were still cold, so it’s all good. After another lap of this, I had enough. I eventually passed Margie Lee and at some point I must have passed him or he had just left us at one… I can’t recall, but “frankly mah dear, I don’t give a damn” where he was. I was doing my thing, finding my groove, at my own pace designed to maximize my learning process. Previously I was getting rather disgusted with myself and wondering if I would ever manage to carry enough speed into these turns to get my knee down; but it wasn’t before too long I was dragging some serious knee and passing people by taking it up their inside; or using the Pirate’s awesome power to my advantage by letting myself drift wide and then passing them on the outside. Plenty of times where someone showed me a wheel and I showed my pretty front end to someone else. I was passing. I was getting passed. It was glorious. I started feeling my competitive edge creeping back in and I got swept up in the moment. I was starting to really enjoy myself and I felt like I finally was learning something.
Starting Procedure Practice
At the end of the school we had a mock race, but Ed preferred to call it “Starting Procedure Practice”. Mr. Lady’s Man had told us that we will be gridded by our observed skill levels. Ed told us not to worry about grid position. The field will sort itself out, no matter what position you start in. The fast riders will be in front, the slower riders end up in the back and the intermediate group will duke it out in between. I bet some imaginary money on what position Mr. Lady’s Man assigned to me on the grid, but I lost the bet. I wasn’t dead last after all. There was one dude who was worse off than me. At least I had the inside line in the last row. I told him that we’re just going to have to roll this up from the rear. He laughed and agreed.
I made it a point to be there right after first call. I sat on the entrance to pit road and waited. Dan, who is Race Control, held his right hand up, all five fingers splayed out and yelled at us over idling engines: “See this? That is your FIVE BOARD. Go!” He stepped off to the side and let us enter pit road to take our warmup lap and assume our assigned grid positions. We were using the standard WERA staggered grid pattern of 3-2-3. From my position in the sixth row with only one rider behind me, I could see the entire field. I wasn’t nervous at all, which was strange. I happened to look at the Starter when the 3-Minute Board came up. Time to pay attention now. I lowered my face shield and put my bike in gear. I was ready. The 2-Minute Board was displayed fairly quickly thereafter. I exhaled when the Starter displayed the 1-Minute Board. Apparently I had forgotten to breathe. Sideways. I rev up the S1000RR to 9,000 RPM. My shiftlight illuminates at about the same time the green flag comes out and I smoothly ease the lever out in one quick, controlled movement. The Pirate responds and I find myself passing people on the grid. This is a far cry from the starts I laid down at the drag strip. It is the same thing, pretty much. I don’t know why I can’t be smooth at the strip. Never mind that now, Turn 1 is coming up. I have a clear shot on the inside, but decide to stay in the middle. for a better drive into Turn 2. I am not aware of the other riders. No, I am aware of them, but I don’t know who they are or where they came from on the grid. I know I now have people behind me, since I passed a few on the grid. But never mind this. My tires are still not up to temperature and I decide to concentrate on what I’m doing, not what everybody else is up to. All I know is that I’m always in second place. The guy in front of me? He needs passing. That’s all I worry about. I’m having a hoot. I am in my element. I thrive on this.
I have reached a new level in my braking technique. Trial by fire. I notice that a lot of these people like to park in the corners. When you have no brake lights to give you a clue, you have to be extremely aware of your immediate surroundings. If their nose is dipping it’s a telltale sign they are on the skids hard. And when your front end is almost stuffed up their tail pipe it’s high time to take some countermeasures to avoid collecting. I notice a front wheel in my peripheral vision and have to dismiss the awful thought that my continued success of keeping both my contact patches engaged is entirely at the mercy of the unknown variable behind me.
This is the exact reason why I don’t ride in groups on the street and when I do I hang in the back, because I trust in my own capabilities over those of others and rather keep the trouble up front where I can see it. Yet, here I am putting myself at the mercy of others at grossly higher speeds. Strange how I abhor something on the street and thrive on it on the track. There is a reason why they make us take our mirrors off; and it has nothing to do with safety or drag coefficient. I’m sure we’d have to change our diapers several times per race if we could see what exactly goes on directly behind us. Best not to think about it at all.
The Color Of Adrenaline
I have not a clue how I finished in the mock race. All I know is that I got passed and passed others… I do know that I rode harder than I ever had in my entire life. I started sliding the rear I accelerated so hard out of turns. I almost tucked the front on several occasions because I had to brake so hard while leaned over to avoid running up on someone in mid-corner. Ed Bargy wanted us to feel for these limitations of available traction. That is how you know how much you have left. We need to be able to control these without having to wipe our butts later or freaking the hell out and wadding it. The more I do it, the less anxious I am about front end tuck or rear end slides. I’m learning. Slowly. But baby steps is what it takes to improve without wrecking your shit. I’m ok with that. I have a few payments left on my BMW.
Don’t race what you can’t afford to wreck. That’s what they say. When have I ever let stuff like that stop me? Let me think… hmmm… nope, can’t come up with anything at the moment. I race what I have, run what I brung. But I race it sensibly. I aborted passes, didn’t take opportunities to pass, or let someone pass because the risk to do otherwise was too great. There was no money at the finish line. There were no points waiting for me at the checkered flag. There were no sponsorships at stake. My ego only drives my machine so far. This girl knows when to hold ’em and she definitely knows when to fold ’em. I race my own race. I have no testosterone-driven need to be a track day heroine. I have nothing to prove to anybody but to myself, and most of what I prove to myself has nothing at all to do with raw speed or position.
Check The Appropriate Box
After our mock race we pitted our bikes and went back to the classroom to take our written examination. The questions were multiple guess and all related to racing procedures. Ed said that this test was “closed book, but open can.” Those of us who were inclined to do so were invited to help themselves to an ice-cold can of brew with Ed while we were taking our test. I made a huge exception to my standing rule of zero-tolerance for alcohol and caffeine while participating in a race or track weekend. But I could not pass up an opportunity to have a beer with Mr. Bargy. Shortly after grading our tests we received our Provisional Novice shirts and Certificates of Completion. We also got to keep Ed Bargy’s book “Introduction To Motorcycle Roadracing”, a $50 tire discount coupon which I ended up using the following day; a coupon for a discounted track day which I couldn’t use because I had already registered and paid for Sunday; and a 10% off coupon for the chassis alignment and setup services of G.M.D. Computrack Atlanta.
This Was Fun! Can I Do It Again?
Overall I had a great time. I learned a ton, improved my lap times by 17 seconds over the span of six track sessions, gained a great deal of consistency in my riding and learned to trust my machine. I never had the S1000RR on a track. I trusted her on the street, but had no clue how I would get along with her on the track. I never ran Dunlop Sportmax Q2 tires on the track either. I still love these tires and will continue to run them, since they are priced moderately and perform their duties very well, street or track, wet or dry. Once I started trusting my tires and my bike at higher speeds and steeper lean angles, things started happening for me in a good way. I am happy with my progress, but still have lots to work on. Oh, before I forget: I did shorten my corner entry by a significant amount. When I first started, I initiated slowing down and then braking at the first brake marker. I carried an average of 60 mph into Turn 3, which was the turn I consciously measured my overall progress on, but it wasn’t the turn I did best in, as I would have expected. Turn 1 was the turn I did my best in as far as corner entry goes. By the end of the day I started braking halfway between brake marker 2 and 1, without rolling off the throttle prematurely and “sunday driving” it to my braking marker, and carried speeds of about 90 mph into the turn and had to actually downshift before stuffing the Pirate in and putting my knee on the ground.
Fun With Still Caps
I still could get more aggressive on my exits and get on the gas just a little harder. I have always had a tendency to get on the throttle as soon as I got to the apex of the turn, but I always finessed it rather than giving it a good, aggressive drive out. I’m nowhere near my traction limit at the apex, which is probably a good thing, considering that I constantly seem to find myself dealing with some slowasses backing up traffic mid-corner, which leaves me room for braking and “changing lanes”. At JenningsGP I shouldn’t have this problem. I can see them way ahead of time, but I end up putting my nose down for them anyway. I just can’t help myself. I should moderate my speed and anticipate the bunching-up effect, but I never do. I always think that I won’t be catching up with them, since they are the ones that got away from me in the straights.
Here’s a little educational something where Miss Busa demonstrates how NOT to do it. Enjoy! 🙂
*The thing got mangled during encoding by YouTube for some reason. It plays fine locally on Mr. Slow’s Mac, so I am not fixing it. The important stuff is there. I apologize.*
My birthday, as you might know, was three days ago. Papa wired 200 € to celebrate the occasion. Cool. What to spend it on? What to spend it on? The money arrived on the 5th and I’ve spent over a week trying to decide where to unload it. So many toys, so little cashola! Bellypan for the the Priate? Color-matched OEM seat cowl to get rid of that superfluous seat cushion that mars the beauty of my S1000RR’s awesomely fast looking tail? Carbon fiber case guards? Or some shark fins? Maybe I could buy that canopy in red and black I need for the track? Ahhhh… so many things… but what I really want, but necessarily don’t need, is a waterproof Dainese textile jacket for cold weather riding. I want something I can zip to my Dainese Hooper pants I scored for $100 less than MSRP but a few weeks ago. I’m such a Dainese gear whore. I ME. Yeah. I’ve wrestled with options and then finally settled on the Xantum Lady D-Dry in Nero/Rosso to match my bike’s colors, the truck’s colors, the team’s colors. Painfully obvious that this broad color-coordinates. Now if someone could tell me where to get a (cheap) roll of 4-inch wide, no-residue removable, medium tack, 10mil vinyl tape in red or black, I’d be a happy girl.
Of course, I can’t find the blasted jacket anywhere. Dainese.com wants $40 for S&H and I’m not down with that. So off to Kneedraggers.com to special order it, which ends up in an email telling me that this specific item is backordered indefinitely and Dainese in Italy is currently only manufacturing the jacket in either blue or black. Yeah. No thanks. I have the order cancelled.
This money is positively burning a hole in my pocket!!! And rightfully so, because if I hang onto it too long it ends up getting wasted on more responsible things like bills. No! Birthday money can’t be wasted like that, it’s just not proper.
I end up aimlessly clicking around the Interwebs and just so happen to come across the JenningsGP track schedule and amuse myself with finding a date that coincides with one of my Saturdays off; Mondays are cheap, but then Mr. Slow can’t come with me, and I don’t want to go by myself, not to a new track. While checking dates I remember that I had previously thought about taking the Ed Bargy Racing School there, because it would count as one of the two required race weekends to rid my Novice Racing License of that annoying PROVISIONAL tag. Construction Worker Orange is so going to clash with my leathers AND my bike. That’s just hideous! I can’t ride if I don’t feel coordinated. ;P As a matter of fact, I was planning on going to the Ed Bargy school in October of 2009, when it was still at Road Atlanta (I think it was Road Atlanta anyway), but they ended up canceling it, moved it to some track in Tennessee (if I remember correctly) and the rescheduled dates were all on days I had to work. Every single one of them! That’s how I lucked into getting to go to the Kevin Schwantz School the following June; hubby must have felt a twinge of compassion for my sorry ass and bought me a slot for my birthday last year.
Eureka! I now know what great cause my birthday cash was supposed to support all along. Hmmm… I could do a three-day track special for $50 less. I dismiss the thought. What I need right now is three days of unsupervised track time to grind in some more bad habits, like I did on the Hayabusa when I was left to my own devices and a stack of motorcycle riding skill books. It took Kevin Schwantz and his team of instructors to help me unlearn all those bad “Hayabusa Habits”. I have a proper supersport now, I might as well ride like I have one and look like I kind of know what I’m doing. Ed Bargy it is. Click. Click. Click. Ca-ching!
The next day I had to call the school and ask if I could get a $100 refund. I found out not five minutes after registering that I am eligible for the upgrade price since I graduated from the Schwantz School. I actually talked to the man himself. He sounded nice and made me feel at ease, he was very friendly and eager to help; he even answered a question I had about the WERA licensing rules, then issued my refund and told me to just bring in my certificate when I come in. Cool. It is confirmed! Wooohoooo! I jumped up and launched into a how-low-can-you-go, hip gyrating, arms waving little solo dance number to celebrate the occasion and got promptly caught by some dude looking through my window. I straightened myself, brushed my tousled hair out of my face, smiled and asked if I could be of assistance.
Now I better hit the gym, race prep the bike, finish my suspension tweaks, take it to get the 12K service performed which is hideously overdue, finish the safety wiring to bring it all up to WERA’s liking, study the track map, watch some sighting lap videos for both directions, since I don’t know whether they are going to run clockwise or counterclockwise that day, and re-read A Twist Of The Wrist. Hopefully I can break through this plateau I have hit in my skill development, gain some more confidence by having my riding evaluated (and maybe even validated), maybe even shave a few seconds off my game. Definitely need to do that. I know where most of them are hiding, too. I ride like granny drives her Oldsmobile. Do we really have to come to a complete stop before turn-in just so I can stomp on the gas again? I really don’t know why and what, but I can’t bring myself to go in deep, slam on the brakes, pound it down a gear or two and crank that puppy over. Shit, I’m already finished braking and completed downshifting before I even hit the “3” of the brake markers, then I realize I’m just tooling along (la-dee-da) and I have to get on the hammer again, just to make it worth my while to actually push on the bars. *shakes head* No wonder my knee sliders skim over the pavement only barely coaxing a kiss out of the asphalt. Of course, that in turn leads to exit speeds that are probably not quite optimal and way too early, since the bike sill has way too much lean angle. Not that it matters much at my average speeds… I only slide it a little… more or less, sometimes, here and there. I have to admit, though, that is quite the guilty pleasure when it happens. Gawd, I can be such a damn squid!!! It’s a kink and I need to correct it before it starts to matter because I’m starting to ask too much of my tires.
I have a little over a month to grow a set. Better get to work on my mental game to pull out the stoppers and reduce the length and improve the timing of my approach. If I can’t set my entry speed quicker and later, I might as well quit ripping on that dude in my KSS class. I got stuck behind him on several occasions and it was frustrating because I had to either brake really hard while mid-corner or go wide to offset myself so I wouldn’t stick my nose up his tailpipe. Sometimes I had to do both. I just about fell out laughing when he let loose with the following little gem during the after-session review, and I quote:
“I don’t like to haul ass in the straights. I don’t see the point. You just have to slow down again when you get to the end of it. As a matter of fact I don’t really like to go fast in the corners either…”
I just couldn’t help myself and piped up from where I was standing towards the back by an industrial strength fan that was almost as tall as me, cooling my sweaty ass (and arm pits) sipping on a bottle of water: “I noticed! I was right behind you! And I’m a Hayabusa girl, I happen to like speed.”
I want to get to the lower 1:30s, but I’m not going to make that a goal. I know myself, I’m going to fret over crap I need not worry about. Speed comes naturally with increased skill and improved application. Worry about being good, not being fast. Yeah. Mwah. I’ll try.
I can’t wait! I hope Mr. Slow gets his vacation day because I want him to be there with me and this time he better actually watch me ride my scrawny bum around the track. Not like he did at Barber, where he elected to be a no-show because it was “so unbearably hot”, but in reality it wasn’t the heat that got to him. He finally admitted after I graduated that he was too scared and he didn’t want to watch me wreck. Well… Thanks for the vote of confidence, buddy!
Saturday, February 19th, 2011 is the date. Jennings, Florida is the place. Just a little over a month… finally something to look forward to in this drab winter existence.
OMG! I’m so excited it took me almost four hours to write this thing… I can’t keep focused. I keep getting sidetracked, I keep thinking about what I need to do to the bike… holy crapola! Woooohoooo! I’m…. damn! Finally…. yeeeeeeeaaaaaahhhh! Somebody got a Valium?
I finally made it happen. And it wasn’t as glorious or dramatic as I expected it to be. As a matter of fact, the whole affair left me feeling a little miffed. Left with the thought: “I so could have handled that myself!” I was on my way home from work, the roads were wet, but clean, since it had rained pretty much all day. It was still a little drizzly, but it ain’t nothing but a thing anymore. The light is green and I take the left onto the onramp that leads uphill to dump us working stiffs onto I-520W to make our merry way home at an average rate of about 70 in a 55. The S1000RR’s stock tires, which are Metzeler Racetec K3 Interact (K3 are medium-hard) are confidence inspiring in the rain. I have developed trust in their crap weather performance rather quickly. Not even the Dunlop Sportmax Q2 rear that I rolled on the Hayabusa earned my trust this easily, and I loved them puppies so much, I still have two full sets stacked in my hallway closet. (Anybody want to buy some rubber?) Anyhoo, I was making the left turn a little faster than I normally would in this kind of weather, and decided to throw an upshift in the mix, while still coming out of the lean and accelerating briskly up the ramp. Of course, I miss the shift. Doh! Blip. Click. Rip. Clunk. The rear hops and steps out and the DTC light flashes on, and the hopping and sliding stops immediately and the bike is back online and continues its accelerated journey up the ramp. This happened in a split second. As soon as I realized what was going on it was over. My muscles didn’t even have time to take their accustomed corrective action that would have been necessary on The Fat Lady. Wow. How unceremonious that whole ordeal was. And here I was kind of scared of it and dreading the moment it would come on. Yeah, I screwed up and “Arr! Arr! Matey.” said The Pirate and put things right. I was in ‘Rain’ mode. I think I’m done with ‘Rain’ mode in wet weather. I think I’m going to leave it in ‘Race’ mode from now on. I like it the best of all the modes that don’t require the coded plug, besides, the Hayabusa never saw anything but ‘A’ mode after the break-in. Given, the ‘Busa’s modes only flattened the power curve; the S1000RR’s modes change DTC and RaceABS behavior and only restrict power delivery in ‘Rain’ mode. But for some reason I find it easier to finesse the throttle in ‘Race’ mode, even though the manual says it’s more aggressive (I think they used the word “direct”) than ‘Sport’ in throttle response. *shrugs*
I really can’t help myself. It’s on a need to know basis, and I just needed to know! I had to do another Hayabusa vs. Pirate comparison. How else is a chica to appreciate the new toy and learn its personality? I was on the dam road again, and once I’ve passed Pollard’s Corner and disappeared over the crest of a left-hand sweeping turn, with no witnesses on my tail and seeing that I had the entire road to my lonesome self, the right wrist experienced a moment of squidly possession and gripped it and ripped it. Still, the DTC remained quiet and left me to my own devices as it has since I got the bike. Maybe I’m too much for a Hayabusa, but this bike is probably snickering behind my back: “That’s all you got, girly?”
I jam through the gears, but then decide to try the higher RPM range and bang down two to end up in fourth. I’m tucking in, just as the bike wants me to and go with it. Stable. Precise. Awesome. I feel like the female version of Speed Racer on a mission. I come through a few turns and a quick glance at the digital readout tells me I’m doing triplets. Good gawd! Really?!? Not only is this thing quick as hell, it’s also deceptively fast. My rational brain, which is trying to hang on to sanity and the last shred of maturity, tries to interject a message of reason into my wicked consciousness: high velocity equals jail time; but the thought is drowned out by the ferocious growl of the S1000RR’s inline-four fire-breathing heart. Fuck it! When the shift light comes on, I comply with another snick. 130s… carving through these sweepers like they’re nothing. As stable as the Hayabusa but I’m not feeling like I’m having to work to keep things under control. This is way too easy. Deceptively so. There is that word again! This bike could spell out more legal trouble for me than the ‘Busa ever did. It’s way too much fun. Hell, it almost rides itself. Or is this just my skewed perception of things, since my progression in motorcycles is somewhat backwards from the norm. Harley Sportster 1200 Low > Suzuki Hayabusa > BMW S1000RR. I’m definitely appreciating what the Pirate Bike can do and how it handles its business. It has also made me a better rider in some ways… dare I say it, but my crap weather riding is way better than it was… so are my braking skills… both of which I probably should attribute to more confidence in a skill I already possessed, but was mainly too afraid to use to its fullest; not to mention that the brakes on the Hayabusa really were shit. I can stop this puppy in roughly a third of the distance; without RaceABS intervention. What can I say? The tech is giving me a reason to let go of some of my self-doubts and execute what I’ve been practicing all along with more precision and authority. I still have no clue if the junk really works… for all I know they fleeced me for $1480 to make the pretty lights come on during startup self-diagnositics. 😉
As I round the next turn at hugely illegal speeds, I grab a handful of front brake and haul myself back down in a hurry (damn, I really do love these brakes… did I mention the thing comes with braided steel lines standard?) since I’m coming up on a hill which reduces my sight distance drastically. I’m going 50 in a 45 as I crest the hill and to my astonishment find myself staring down the business end of a radar gun stuck out of a Sheriff’s patrol car, parked in a church parking lot to my right. I smile (not that he can see it), and give him a cheery little nod, still tucked in nice and tidy from hauling Mach 3 pirate booty on a public road, as I vanish around the next curve. Holy shite! I’m glad that worked out, since I’m all out of K-Y and I fired my last traffic court attorney for scheduling issues.
I wasn’t planning on riding today, but around about 3:00pm I couldn’t stand it anymore and told myself that productivity is overrated anyway, might as well do something fun. And the funnest thing for me? Putting miles on a motorcycle odometer. Besides, I really felt like going out for chicken strips. The Pirate’s strips are mighty fatty, still. I need to give the Arr Arr her much needed workout after being tortured for 600 break-in miles. Damn, the girl is fast. No, not fast. Quick. Freaking quicker than greased lightning sliding down a grounded…. ah, never mind, I’m getting way too uh… redneck here. She’s quick. Where the Hayabusa had arm-stretching acceleration, this puppy will launch you into space. Case in point: I was rollin’ down the Interstate, sitting bolt upright, one hand on the throttle… the other (including broken pinky) resting sedately on my upper left thigh… You know, the standard sportbike poser riding position. Yeah… I do it, too. *shameful nod* What can I say? It’s comfy. I like to add a little twist and ride side saddle, as is proper for a southern lady. 😀 Anyhoo, so I’m rollin’ down the big road, and some dude in a cage paces me for a little too long in the left lane, so I give it a little of the ol’ twisty of the right wrist as I am accustomed, and I almost fall off the back. Holy shit! That’s what I mean. She’s quick. And that was in ‘Sport’ mode. Another example: I’m coming down an onramp, by the time I’m at the bottom and have a glance at my speedo, I’m up to 112 mph. Holy shit! That took way less effort than I remember. Snick. Snick. Blinker. Snick. WTF?!? I’m still in break-in, didn’t even get close to 9K RPM. Better slow my silly self back down. Gotta watch this beast. Deceptive. I thought I wasn’t going all THAT fast.
So, I’m doing my usual loop. I have to reference this; like a ‘Before’ and ‘After’ comparison… Hayabusa vs. S1000RR. The Fat Lady vs. The Thin Mint (that’s what I would have called it, had I gotten it in Acid Green). That 90-degree right-hander? 10 mph faster than the ‘Busa. Didn’t even feel the need to hang off. Just went around that thing like I was in a sweeper curve, well not quite, but damn if I felt like I was pulling G’s like I was on the ‘Busa. Nada. As a matter of fact, I kept my reference points all the same… all my ‘Busa lines through familiar territory… they were all too tight. In the 90-degree right-hander I had my tires sticking to the very inside of the white line. I thought to myself that this isn’t going to work or I’ll risk banging my head on the guard rail. Intellectually I knew this would happen, but emotionally I was not really prepared for how this made me feel. Yes, every one told me the ‘Busa was a bus. What did they know? I became a master of wrestling my sexy Fatty through the curves, which ultimately led to her demise. The one time I could have put that knee down, I didn’t bring my pucks and dragged pipe. Go figure… all my favorite curves, they ain’t shit. So I went from loving to hang off to ‘what’s the point here?’. Now, it is blatantly obvious that I cannot ride this machine even close to the point of having to hang off (not around here anyway) without doubling or even tripling the speed limit. Not gonna happen. The days of Redneck Racing practice are over. *sigh*
The brakes are freakin’ phenomenal. No wonder I could never get comfortable with braking late, banging it down a gear or two, then throwing it in. I can do it now. Not really all that smooth about it, since I gave up trying a while ago… around the same time I sleazeballed the third corner up on US17 or was it GA348? I learned that I (and The Fat Lady) felt most comfortable having the entry speed right waaaay early. Then I still went wide, but it didn’t feel as such. Mike asked me once (during our suspension setup pow-wows) if the bike felt like it was going wide. I answered that question with a convinced ‘no’. I really thought that’s how I picked my lines. Does my little adage make sense now? “When dancing with a Fat Lady you’ll go in early and you’ll come out late.” That’s where that came from. I was comfortable with that though. I adapted to the bike without even realizing it. But what do I know? Or what did I know then? Nada. When going through the same Hayabusa lines with the S1000RR all of a sudden I find myself stuck to the white line (in the rights) and the yellow (in the lefts). Hmmmm…. so now I’m doing mid-corner corrections to reduce lean angle. ROFL What the hell! So, it follows that girly’s going to do another go-around, this time, picking NEW lines. And what do we find out? That which we intellectually already knew: The pirate knows her way around a corner. No more mid-corner corrections, no more hanging off, smooth as hell, braking later, harder, banging down gears… it’s all kind of easy now… at least in what passes for curves around these parts.
What about straight line stability? The thing positively defies the laws of physics. With those rake and trail numbers you would think the Pirate be a little unsure of herself laying some drag down the boulevard. Wrong again. I don’t know how they pulled this off, but this thing feels as stable as The Fat Lady did (tested up to 131 mph; digital readouts are awesome, no more tick mark guessing required) and gets there in a hurry! Good gawd! Did I mention she’s quick?
I think I died and went to heaven. How can Busa Girl have her cake and eat it, too? This is quite impossible. Leave it to the Germans though to pull it off.
…but I still miss my Hayabusa. I wish I could have her back. I really miss the ole girl with her sexy Pearl Splash white skirts, her deceptively sedate kitten purr and her bodacious curves. There’s nothing sexy about the S1000RR, this is the bike that speaks to my geek. I love it. I love the lines. I love its mean streak. Its purpose-built design. The tech. How well-thought out it seems to be. It even looks like it means nothing but business. Take no prisoners. All or nothing. The only proper color for the thing is Thunder Gray Metallic (aka black). It’s one awesome piece of technology. It and me are well suited for each other. So why do I still pine for my busted ‘Busa (as Stan put it in his country song)? I’m a ‘Busa girl at heart. Always will be. But I have to come to terms that my love affair with that bike is (for the time being) over. What I want and what I need are two different machines. I want my ‘Busa back. I need the S1000RR. I wish I could have both.