You have asked and I shall answer, to the best of my ability.
This one goes out to all the men out there who are lucky enough to have a lady in their lives who is either riding her own motorcycle, is learning to ride her own, or is thinking about learning to ride. Maybe she’s your wife, your girlfriend, a family member, or just a woman who is in your social circle and for some reason or another has “adopted” you to be her mentor for her two-wheeled adventures.
These are the “rules of engagement” as I have come to understand them in my journey as a biker chick to become the best skilled rider I can possibly be. Look at these “rules” as a general guideline, as an inside peek at how us girls roll.
- More likely, a woman will ask for advice when she wants it and ask it of whom she trusts. Do not offer uninvited advice, unless you see her doing something repeatedly that could endanger her and others. In this case, be tactful, respectful and don’t get personal. And please don’t dress her down in front of the entire crowd. Think of how you would want this to be handled. This is not the time to trash talk, poke fun or be condescending. The message will only be heard if it is delivered appropriately. Any other time, keep it to yourself. Men are protectors, they want to fix things that they deem to be broken in some form or another. You’re wired that way, but please rise above your biology and resist the urge to “fix it” or “save her from herself”. Uninvited critique on technique or style will come across as patronizing, sexist, sometimes belittling, and even disrespectful. Again, a girl will ask if she wants to know.
- When you overhear a woman, usually in quite an animated fashion, critiquing her own screw-ups, please don’t take this to be an open invitation for a riding lesson. We’re not exasperated or unsure of ourselves. It isn’t a sign of being helpless. When a girl goes on about how she totally blew a corner, or how she was a complete idiot for doing this, or not doing something else, she is processing. She knew she’s messed up; and that should be the key to understanding that she isn’t asking for help or trying to elicit your advice on the sly, but rather is engaging in an “after-action review”, to relive an event so she can do better next time. She is aware of her boundaries and where her skill development needs further attention. She’s got it under control and is handling her affairs.
Biker Babes in Training
If the woman is a beginning rider or is thinking about learning to ride a motorcycle, here is a list of things to keep in mind to understand how our learning experiences differ from that of the men, and how best to deal with gender-specific issues that may not even cross your mind as it is a non-issue for most guys.
- If she has asked you to teach her how to ride and you have agreed, you should sit down first and talk about the expectations you have of each other. Make your own ground rules to ensure a pleasant and fun experience, for both student and teacher.
- Implore her to take a basic riding course either before or after you begin teaching her. I cannot overemphasize the importance of formal practical training. She can learn the fundamentals of motorcycle operation in a safe and controlled environment with a relaxed and non-threatening atmosphere. A foundation which I personally found to be of huge benefit to my further education and skill training. Two of the most common courses are the Basic RiderCourse offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, and the Rider’s Edge Course offered by a lot of Harley Davidson dealers. Taking a riding course will also help those women who are unsure, to figure out if riding a motorcycle is something they would enjoy, before they take the plunge and buy a motorcycle, which is a sort-of big deal for a lot of us financially.
- If at all possible, hook her up with an experienced female rider who rides the same type of motorcycle that she does. Women riders understand the obstacles a girl faces when first starting out and are for the most part very supportive of each other and a lot of women will feel more comfortable asking certain questions of another female rider.
- Be patient and let her take each lesson at her own pace. A woman’s learning curve differs from that of a man’s. Generally speaking, a woman will learn at a slower pace, but will peak their skill set above that of the average man. I’m not saying this to be sexist, it has to do with how most of us girls approach new experiences and how we work through problems and our anxieties. We place more emphasis on education and prevention to keep us out of potential trouble. Men are more apt to wing it and learn as they go. “One down, five up? Ok, see ya.” That’s how my husband learned to ride; that was the question-statement he posed to the dude he bought his first bike from, gave him the cash and rode off into the sunset.
- Do not pressure her about her speed. If you constantly nag her about “being slow” you may inadvertently destroy the confidence she is building in herself and her bike’s capabilities and turn it into frustration. In other words, don’t push her too far too fast. Girls don’t have the need to keep up with their buddies for worry of embarrassing themselves or being called slow; for the most part. Her speed will pick up on its own as her skills mature and her confidence increases.
- Don’t try and talk her into something or out of something. Ride your own ride, let her do the same.
- Let her buy her own ride. Period. She is the one who has to ride it, not you. Give her pointers, if she asks for your opinion, but give them objectively and without putting a spin on things. Also implore her to do her own research. The more she knows about motorcycle basics, the better the position she’ll be in to make an informed decision.
- Don’t let her wimp out. This is a toughie, though. When we have a bad experience and we aren’t reliant on our motorcycle for daily transportation, we have the option to take the Chicken Exit rather than working through it and conquering our fear. This can manifest itself in several ways, and not necessarily where you would think. That is what makes this one so difficult to pinpoint, even to ourselves. Be supportive, listen, and gently encourage her to keep on trying. How do you do this? That is something I cannot answer. It’s probably easier for another female rider to accomplish, because girls are more apt to say “if she can do it, so can I” when she can’t find the motivation on her own. Left to her own devices, a woman usually will either work through her discomfort and keep pushing herself in an effort to overcome the obstacle in her path or she will eventually quit. It all depends on how much importance she places on conquering the perceived setback. Not all women will become avid motorcyclists, some will find that it’s not for them after all and some will turn it into a lifestyle and sell their cars. Some will be content with riding pillion and others won’t stop until they have their racing license and have proven to themselves that they can do it. Again, whatever she decides, it is not a failure on her part or yours as her mentor.
- Realize that women riders face a slightly different set of difficulties when learning to ride a motorcycle. Things most men find a non-issue and have never really given it much thought. Things such as: seat height, rider position, weight of the motorcycle, upper body strength, physical endurance, inseam, body shape, etc. These all have an impact to one degree or another of how we approach riding and the kind of bikes we find “agreeable” to us when we first start out. Even finding properly fitting motorcycle gear can be a real chore for girls.
- And last, but not least, don’t ever append “…for a girl” at the end of a statement; unless you want to carry your balls home in a jar.
…we’re not going to have a good time.
I don’t know what it is about safety wiring, but the task seems overwhelming and insurmountable and a big pain in the backside when you think about it; not to mention it is confusing when you first are faced with a list of stuff to secure properly to pass Tech at a track. I’ve been procrastinating this safety wiring project for the better of six months and I finally decided to tackle the subject in small increments.
Let’s start off with the important stuff:
The Tools of the Trade
- Safety wire pliers: This is a specialty tool that is technically not necessary, since you could clip the wire to size with wire cutters and twist the stuff with a pair of needle nose pliers. Technically. Do yourself a favor and buy one of these puppies! You’ll thank me later. No, seriously! Miss Busa is making these mandatory!
- Safety wire: The thickest wire I am using is 0.041″ T-304 stainless steel marine-grade lock wire, which is a perfect match for those 1/16″ drill bits. However, I use various thicknesses for different applications. I also use 0.032″-diameter and 0.02″-diameter wire. The skinnier the wire, the easier it is to work with, but due to its lesser tensile strength, it’s more likely to break. I like to use the thick stuff for places that have to be wired and are very unlikely to have to be undone. A medium-thickness wire is a pretty good all-around choice and I use it for most of everything that needs to be wired up. The skinny wire is great for wiring up such things as grips and rearset components.
- Racing safety pins: Completely optional, but they make life at the track so much easier. I like to use these in places where the wiring has to be undone and redone quite often, such as the oil fill cap, the radiator cap, the oil filter, the rear axle nut. Pay attention to the rulebook though, you may not be able to use these in certain places; the oil drain plug would be a common exception to their allowed use.
- Tab washers aka safety wire washers: Also completely optional, but these make things much more enjoyable. Also keep some of these in your tool box, you’ll never know when some extra-anal white-gloved tech inspector wants you to secure this or that and now you’re hard pressed to fix the problem since your drill is at home, no anchor point is within reach and your day could have just went down the tubes if it weren’t for these little lifesavers. 🙂 I like to use them where points of attachments are difficult or too distant to be feasible. You use them like a washer, torque the fastener down onto them, then use pliers to bend the tabs up around the bolt’s head. You can then secure your safety wire to the tab that has the hole in it. Obviously, you cannot use them as anchor points for safety wiring the exact same bolt you are attaching them to. That would be silly.
- Safety wire drilling jig: This is another specialty tool and a must-have item if you do not have a drill press and have to manually drill the holes into the bolt heads. Miss Busa is making this a mandatory purchase as well! No whining. Just order the jig set when you order the pliers and the safety wire.
- QUALITY 1/16″ drill bits. I mean it. Buy junk and they’ll break or won’t get you all the way through to the other side before they turn dull and useless! I’ve bought some DeWalt 1/16″ Split Point Cobalt drill bits which are claimed to have “maximum life in metal” and are rumored to “start on contact”. I can attest to both of these statements being fairly accurate so far.
- Automatic (spring-loaded) punch: Mine was broken, so I had to make do without; which isn’t a big deal IF you bought the aforementioned QUALITY drill bits. Tell me you didn’t buy junk! This is an optional item, unless you didn’t listen and bought a ten-pack of “titanium nitrate” bits for $1.98, then it becomes mandatory. This tool is used to make a little indentation for your drill bit to sit in to get you started and to help prevent the bit walking all over the place while you attempt to do so.
- Drill: I have some housewife-grade cheapie by Black & Decker. Variable speed, quick-release chuck, reversible. It does me just fine with those DeWalt drill bits.
- Vise: You either have to have one of these or try and talk your buddy into holding the piece for you while you come at them with the drill. 😉 I use a little suction cup mounted articulated hobby vise I got at Harbor Freight. I have no garage or workshop, so this little guy is prefect for the occasional Tool Time session.
- If you’ve got the cash to burn and the workshop to go with it, you might want to forgo the whole vise-and-drill thing and go out and get yourself a decent drill press. Way more accurate and way quicker, but overkill if all you’ll be needing it for is drilling a few holes into bolt heads to stick some wire through. Have a friend who has one? Pack your crap, hop on your bike and go see him. Don’t forget the pizza and the beer.
- Cutting oil: If you’re trying to find “cutting oil” you’ll run yourself nutters. Some people use WD-40 to cool down their bits, others use machine oil, or multi-purpose 3-in-1 oil. You get the picture. You’ll need something to keep the drill bit from overheating and to ease its passage through some of the tougher stuff you’ll ever find yourself drilling holes through. If the bit gets too hot, it’ll break.
- Safety glasses: This goes without saying. A scratched eyeball hurts like hell and you can’t ride motorcycles when you’re half-blind. Put ’em on!
Let the Fun Commence
Today, I’m doing caps and calipers. Since I have a short attention span and find learning how to safety wire almost as coma-inducing as teaching myself suspension tuning, I can only handle this mess in short spurts. I already have my axles, oil filter, and oil drain plug done. I will have to write them up later. Fear not, as this comes together I will re-organize these posts and work them into a proper how-to. This is really just something to get you started, to give you time to gather up all the tools you’ll need and give you a general idea of what is coming. I will take the mystery out of this subject yet. Because this is one of these things: You’re totally lost when you see the list of junk in the rulebook you have to properly secure, some of it makes sense. Some of it is vaguely familiar and some of it has you drooling form the corner of the mouth, mumbling incoherently. “Oil gallery plugs” anybody? As luck would have it, those beyotches may be secured with RTV silicone; a girl can do that laying on her back in two minutes flat. 😉
- Always take the parts you need to drill off the bike. Before taking them off, a lot of people like to mark their fasteners when they are properly torqued, so they know where to drill the holes for the wire. Plan how you are going to wire up the fasteners that you are taking off. Remember that safety wiring has to tighten one bolt as another tries to come loose, so the tension should always be to the right of each fastener, which will route the twisted safety wire in an s-shape between them once two bolts are wired together. Plan on drilling your holes accordingly. Some people drill more than one set of holes for just that reason, but I bet those are the same peeps who also own one of those snazzy drill presses. (I will post pictures of every secured bolt on my bike when I’m done. A pic is worth a million words and a hundred google searches!)
- Secure the part in your vise. Make sure you don’t bend or break anything. Always wrap your part up in a shop towel or use soft vise pads to avoid damaging anything. That’s one reason I decided to thread the bolt into the drill jig, even though my vise has soft rubber-capped jaws. That’s not exactly how you’re supposed to use the thing, or is it?!?
- Mark your fastener with your automatic punch, if you have one.
- Put a drop of oil on the drill bit and on the bolt.
- Carefully start drilling, making sure that your drill bit stays put and doesn’t wander around. With the DeWalt bits I mentioned earlier this is not a problem, they stay put, even without a punch to mark the spot. Once you have the hole started, speed up the drill and add a little bit of pressure, not too much, though, if you bend the bit you’ll break it. Let the bit do the work for you. Be patient. You’ll see metal shavings piling up, I prefer to clean those out with cotton swabs, wipe the drill bit off and add some more oil, then I resume drilling. Each bolt took me about 5-6 minutes to drill. I didn’t break a single bit either. 🙂 Remember those “titanium” cheapies? Yeah, I tried those first. After 10 minutes of nothing much happening, I finally admitted defeat and changed to the DeWalt’s. A world of difference! The no-name bits are going to have to be re-dedicated to drilling holes into wood or styrofoam… they suck!
- I decided to drill straight through the bolt heads, using the first hole as a guide to start the second hole. I thought that this may be a mistake and would make me break a bit, but it worked like a dream. The holes are nice and clean and perfectly aligned, which will make wiring these up a cinch, no matter where they end up in relation to each other. And I did a way better job than the ex-BMW dealer did on my axle nut, if I dare say so myself.
- The caps were easy. I decided to drill the radiator cap from the back side, so in case the bit slipped I wouldn’t scratch up the “pretty side”. That was probably a mistake, since I had to use my Dremel to deburr the side the drill exited, which is probably going to cause it to rust. We shall see. If I had to do it over, I’d drill the holes front to back. I drilled both sides of the cap because I couldn’t remember which was the one I had decided to drill. Should have marked it, but thought I wouldn’t forget. I put the racing safety pin on the side that I’m betting on. We shall see if I didn’t drill that extra hole for nothing.
- The oil fill cap is plastic and was done in a few seconds. It took me longer to put the part in the vise. I decided to drill both sides, because the cap could end up at a number of different angles in relationship to the safety wire’s anchor point.
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.*
I am getting the butterflies again. The more I think about the upcoming weekend, the more I feel like I am not ready. The more flaws I find in my technique, the more doubt creeps up in my head. I have exactly nine days to sort myself and get ready for JenningsGP and I feel slightly overwhelmed. This feeling is nothing new, and intellectually I know it’s all my nerves; emotionally it’s quite a different story. I have a tendency to hype myself up and freak myself out internally, where I’ll be a quivering blob by the time I need to perform, have to fight the urge to vomit, and try desperately hard not to act visibly like the proverbial deer caught in the proverbial headlights and play it all cool, calm, and collected. That’s right, because to Miss Busa this ain’t nothing but a thang! Keep on thinking that…
Mr. Slow has told me over and over again that people cannot tell that I’m a nervous wreck and that I’ll do just fine and I end up having a blast. He’s right on both counts. I have a long track record that proves him to be right; however, that does not change the fact that I have to go through this nerve-wracking process every time. Performance anxiety goes away moments before the green light comes on, so to speak. Anxiety, self-doubt, the nausea and the OMG-I’m-Gonna-Die obligatory internal cry for help are replaced by focused concentration. I am calm. I am entering “the zone”. I am but alone in my task. Everything and everyone around me is forgotten. Just the girl and her goal. And I can do exceptionally well under pressure if I don’t over-think it.
I am now in pre-mission over-thinking mode. I want to go over everything yet again. Or I just don’t. One way stresses me out for two weeks, the other only stresses me out on the last day. I do either, sometimes both.
I woke with a start last night, muscles tensing, synapses misfiring and the last thought on my brain while regaining wakeful cognition was “Oh shit!” I even woke hubby. He asked me what was wrong. I mumbled something along the lines of: “Nothing, just a bad dream.” I remembered what woke me, but didn’t want to voice it. Because saying something out loud gives it power.
I have never dreamed about motorcycling. The only times there were ever motorcycles in my dreams, they were parked somewhere in the background and none of them were mine. Which is curious in itself, since I am known to process in my dreams. Heck, I used to dream solutions to scripting problems in a language based on C++. I don’t code in C++, never have. The solution to the problem was also new to me. I tried it out as soon as I woke up and it worked, just like my dream predicted it would. A problem that had been bugging me for several days was solved in a strange three-second dream. Go figure. I have dreamed in HTML before. Don’t ask me to explain that one. A friend of mine and I talked about this, she’s done it, too. And here I thought I was the Lone Rangerette in Weird World. 🙂
The first time I dream about riding, it’s not a solution or a Eureka! moment to deepen my understanding, it’s a damn crash; a low-side in some turn on some racetrack somewhere I have never been. Maybe it was JenningsGP, I have stared at that track map long enough…
I’m so not ready.
But I’m going anyway.
Why? Because I can and I must.
I have been working my tail off being a Domestic Goddess. Cleaning the spaces in between and repairing stuff that had been items on my longish To-Do List for eternity, or at least as long as I’ve owned an iPad. The house hasn’t looked this nice in forever. As a matter of fact, you haven’t been able to eat off of my floors since roughly the end of September 2008, when I first started learning to ride motorcycles. You can now, if you’d want to. The cats won’t mind as long as you stay out of the catnip and leave their dish alone. 😉
I should feel a sense of accomplishment, but the lingering thought of not doing enough keeps nipping at my happiness. What the hell? The Slow One keeps telling me that I’m too hard on myself (he has a small point there), but I think the feeling stems more from my To Do List (Race Flavored) getting longer and longer and I keep researching, learning, and it seems at times I’m making little to no progress. It’s downright depressing. The business (read: financial) end of things is overwhelming to me. Just looking at the numbers is cause for distraction.
Case in point: The bellypan.
WERA requires a bellypan that is capable of holding five quarts of liquid. The S1000RR’s lowers are a joke, albeit a good looking one. There’s more air than plastic under there. I’ve thought about fabricating something myself to plug up all those holes and use the existing bodywork as a cradle for my fluid-retaining creation, but I’m not sure that would pass Tech, but it might still bear looking into a little further, if I can find the proper materials to make it work.
The only bellypan that also works with the stock exhaust and stock uppers (that I can find) is made by Ilmberger Carbonparts in Germany and it costs around $530. I could get it a little cheaper if I dealt with Ilmberger directly, who — by the way are awesomely helpful and friendly folks; but making Papa ship that stuff to me is a little rude, since S&H would be free by the way of sponsorship by the First Bank of Dad. Then there is risking getting customs to take a closer look, which in all my years only happened once, but still… Easier, not to mention faster, just to pony up the dough and get it from their distributor here in the States, which will set me back $690.
A full set of race fairings costs $5 more, if I get them from Hotbodies Racing, and those people must have forgotten to update their website since they still have their Black Friday Sale active. Buy one set of race fairings get one set free. WTF?!? No way, right? It still works, I tried it in their cart, made it all the way to the payment method page. This would be a killer deal. I would have a spare set for when I wreck myself (yeah, it’s when not if, I’m a realist… I just hope it doesn’t happen too soon). Then I’d just rattle can spray paint those puppies, slap my homemade vinyl decals on (more on that later), apply my sponsor stickers and I’m off to the races. Literally.
Where to get that kind of money before they find their mistake and correct it?!? What did I say about luck? Yeah, if I had normal luck, I’d have enough cash to click that order button in a hurry; but I don’t. I have probably about $700 worth of Hayabusa parts (Gilles Tooling rearsets in black anyone?) and miscellaneous other junk laying around that I could unload on eBay or Craigslist. But that takes time. I should have done that a long time ago, but I’ve been too lazy. I just hate dealing with listing stuff on eBay. I guess I’m too perfectionistic in my listings and it takes me forever just to get one item up, but so far I’ve never had a problem out of any douches saying they didn’t get exactly what they ordered, so I’m not changing the behavior.
And these are the trials and tribulations of a wannabe novice female knee dragger with sponsors who are equally broke and just trade off advertising between each other. Yeah, that’s racing (on a “What color is money again?” budget).
And this brings me back to the feeling of being overwhelmed with all this stuff. I think it’s mostly emotional in nature with a side of impatience thrown in. But the more I do my research and learn what I must, the more apprehensive I become. The more I feel I’m totally off my rocker and grossly irresponsible with my personal finances for even entertaining the notion of such an outlandish, no-monetary-gains undertaking. But it’ll be so much fun!!! And what is money anyway? Fun Tickets.
As far as that is concerned, this has got to be the worst business plan ever. Any VCs (venture capitalists) out there wanna unload some dough to ease the tax burden for next year? I’m spunky, look good in tight leather and have a cute ass of just the right proportions. My number is (706) 9…
Maybe I should look into incorporating Team PLD Racing, so Mr. Slow can use it as a total loss write-off next year when tax season is upon us like the Sweats on a church rat. The camera body (Canon 1D Mark II, is it?) that he’s been lusting after with drooling desire would end up a tax deduction on the accountant’s ledger. *cracks up laughing*
Well, hell… I might be onto something here… I need to make a phone call.
Bored at work (and feeling guilty about not using my time more wisely), I click my way through my usual haunts on the Internet. You know, the daily menu: Twitter, motorcycle forums, motorcycle sites, looking at engineering porn and so forth. I am supposed to be researching gearing changes for my inaugural LSR race at the Laurinburg-Maxton airfield better known as the Maxton Mile. I’m not in a “theoretical top speed attainable by a known mass within a certain distance figuring varying friction and drag coefficients” kind of mood. I also need to write today’s blog entry, I’m not in a writing kind of mood either.
Then something happens via link shared with me by my girl Marianne (@MsXXFastRR). I watch the awesome drifting video she wanted me to watch and after it is over I click through the “related videos” chain and happen upon a video of a WERA C Superstock Novice race at Barber Motorsports Park, which I would consider my home track! Yeah, yeah, yeah… Road Atlanta should be… who cares! I’ll move to Alabama if that’s what it takes to make it official. Seriously, though: Barber, although technically challenging with all its elevation changes and off-camber goodness and downhill decreasing radius fun and straights so short it doesn’t really pay to upshift or move back center on the bike, if you’re a lazy bum like me out on a Sunday ride, has got to be the most beautiful creation ever to come along in the way of mankind’s effort to pave the planet. And the thing has a rhythm that just speaks to me. Riding Barber’s 2.38-mile track is like moving your body to the music of a sensual Latin ballroom dance number, the Samba perhaps. You know your program, but you get to interpret it as the music moves you. Unless, you’re competition dancing… Yes, I used to dabble in the dance sport in my teenage years, that is why I am so flabbergasted that I can’t get my hips positioned right to stick my knee out farther. It’s a personal insult. Now, where was I?
At any rate, I watched this video and timed their lap and I couldn’t believe it. I watched it a few more times, checked my math, checked the class, then jumped out of my office chair, heart racing and hands sweaty. No freaking way! My nerves went into maximum overdrive, my electrical circuits overloading and my fingertips starting to tingle. I snatched my iPad off my desk, and jumped down the stairs in two hops, busted through the magnetically sealed door, while slapping the green release button mounted on the wall to my right. Leaped across the outbound lane, through the gate in the chain link fence, sprinted across yet another access road, took another set of stairs in two bounds and fell into the security trailer’s door with my knock. My partner was on the phone and I practically yelled at him: “T, put the damn phone down and look at this!” and I started to explain in the gasping staccato of disbelief. I don’t even want to know what I will do if I ever found out I had won the lottery. My heart would probably explode and I’d drop dead right there on the spot. Have fun spending my hard-won cash… Anyway, he listens and tries to follow, I barely notice in my excitement that he tells the person on the other end of his phone conversation that he’s gonna have to call right back. After he confirms that I am not completely off my rocker I simply tell him in an overly excited voice: “Dude, Imma gonna go racin’!!!” and with that I disappear back through his door. I try to call Mr. Slow. No answer! Shit! That’s right. He’s sleeping… damn! All excited, with the pressure built up and no place to vent. Crap! For the rest of the evening I can’t concentrate, I can’t focus, and I’m good for nothing but to try and seek distraction.
T comes over later and tells me (yet again) that he doesn’t want me to race. That he’s “gonna have to buy me a car to stop all that nonsense”. He’s such a sweety. What is he thinking? Buy me a car? I’d race that mofo, too. Once you get a taste of speed, bogging it down in the granny lane just isn’t an option anymore. I’m a junkie and I’m all for stepping up my tolerance to my chosen drug of choice. =D
I check the WERA schedule, although I had promised myself I wouldn’t look at it until after my LSR meet, so I wouldn’t bum myself out. I am able to run in five of the 13 races scheduled without having to take vacation. I can’t afford to take vacation to entertain my silly notions, since there is time to be spent on being with family. That is more important, since I don’t have a whole lot of family left that I actually care a great deal about and those few people are very dear to my heart and will always take precedence in my life.
What exactly did I find out? I’m not one to kiss and tell…
Just kidding. I can’t keep my cakehole shut to save my ass on re-cross, I would be a criminal defense attorney’s nightmare. I did it. I’m proud of it, too. Was an excellent execution of the almost perfect crime! Yeah. Suffice it to say: I have a decent enough chance to not come in DFL (you figure it out ;)), there is but a trace of a chance to be lapped (which would just make me so embarrassed that I would consider cutting across the grass and taking the back gate out rather than using pit road like a normal person), and I might just have a shot of hanging and scoring myself some double-digit brownie points. 🙂 However, the chance of a DNS (Did Not Start) are still astronomical, because of life and (bad) luck and (annoying) bills.
I must forget that I found out about this. It doesn’t do my nerves any good. I don’t follow racing (watching sports is boring), I don’t try and look into too much detail, because I have to combat my tendency to become scared and tuck tail and run because I always am my worst critic, judge myself way too harshly, am never good enough, can barely ever reach my own set of standards and am deathly afraid of looking like an ass in public. It also doesn’t do my ego any good, I’m way too competitive. I have to concentrate on what I am doing, not what others are doing or are capable of. That is why keeping myself oblivious is part of my strategy. And I haven’t learned the lesson yet. Every time I try something new I freak myself out with details of minor importance and concentrate on my silly overblown fears and I stress myself out, just to find out (after the fact) that it wasn’t but a thing and I did quite better than I had expected. Yet, here I am.
I am going to race this season. Even if it is just that one race weekend to get rid of my provisional status. My WERA membership application is filled out, the paperwork is done. All I need to do is pay my $110 and get my competition number for the Pirate. But since the racing license is only good for one year, this has to wait until I have a definite date figured out for my first official race. I would love for it to be at Barber, but that would mean waiting until September. We shall see.
2011 WERA Southeast Region Schedule
- 2/5-6 Talladega Gran Prix Raceway, Talladega, AL (run counter-clockwise, WERA Riders School available)
- 3/18-20 Roebling Road Raceway, Faulkville, GA (combined with National)
- 4/16-17 Nashville Superspeedway, Nashville, TN (WERA Riders School available)
- 5/7-8 Barber Motorsports Park, Leeds, AL (WERA Riders School available)
- 5/21-22 Jennings GP, Jennings, FL (WERA Riders School available)
- 6/4-5 Roebling Road Raceway, Faulkville, GA (WERA Riders School available)
- 6/11-12 Talladega Gran Prix Raceway, Talladega, AL (run counter-clockwise, WERA Riders School available)
- 6/24-26 Road Atlanta, Braselton, GA (WERA Riders School available)
- 7/23-24 Roebling Road Raceway, Faulkville, GA (WERA Riders School available)
- 8/4-7 WERA Cycle Jam at VIR, Alton, VA
- 8/20-21 Talladega Gran Prix Raceway, Talladega, AL (run counter-clockwise, WERA Riders School available)
- 9/9-11 Barber Motorsports Park, Leeds, AL (combined with National)
- 9/24-25 Nashville Superspeedway, Nashville, TN (WERA Riders School available)
- I’m Done With ‘NO!’ (missbusa.wordpress.com)
- Best Accomplishment in 2010 (missbusa.wordpress.com)
- I Am So Backordered! (missbusa.wordpress.com)