The Law of (Responsible) Hooliganism

Motorcyclists have a bad reputation. You can argue this point until redline, but it always comes down to the same sentiment: The general non-riding public pretty much despises sharing the road with motorcycles. We are all hooligans to them, wether we are rolling a chromed out Harley, clad in black leather, showing off ink and cultivating the badass look or we prefer to showcase the half-naked girlfriend’s asscrack hugging a crotch rocket and looking all Little G. Stereotypes? Of course. Extreme examples? Definitely. But this doesn’t really change the fact that the worst of us pretty much leave the imprint on the minds of many who then judge the rest of us by that first impression. Even the ultra-responsible hard-pannier toting BMW adventure rider isn’t safe from being judged harshly by the unwitting individual. It really doesn’t matter what we ride or how we ride it, when sharing the road with other motorists we eventually run into a taste of said general opinion in one form or another.

We even bicker amongst ourselves. The Harley-riding Badass dislikes the  Wheelie-ing Hooligan on the latest sport bike and would rather run him off the road then yield to a high-speed pass. Adventure Riders laugh at the Rocketeers and everyone is annoyed by the Metric Cruisers, because they represent the worst of both worlds: they are slow and un-American. But that is an entirely different matter altogether and beyond the scope of what I want to get off my chest today. However, let me first state this about the bigger picture: Most of us do get along no matter what we ride and most of us enjoy responsibly and appropriately.

I’m not one of those people who believe that everything should be legislated or regulated or otherwise “dealt with” just because I happen to find it to be completely idiotic or otherwise disagreeable with my own opinionated stance. I don’t believe that we should save others from themselves. We have the rules and laws in place to do that already. We don’t need more rules and we definitely don’t need to add to the contention. However, I do believe in personal accountability and responsibility and with that I am a staunch supporter of education. Inform the people of the consequences and let them do what they will with this information by employing concepts such as personal responsibility and accountability.

You won’t find me judging the rider who makes free use of the lack of mandatory helmet laws in their state. I choose to wear my lid, they choose not to. It’s their noggin, who am I to tell them they have to wear it? Same with protective gear. I myself am a firm believer of wearing my gear, but I am not going to judge the person who decides they don’t need it. I will, however, make every attempt to educate them on the importance of being dressed “for the crash”. I place enough value on my own life to do everything in my power to increase the odds of my continued survival. But this doesn’t give me the authority (or the moral obligation) to regulate the behavior of those who disagree and by the same token, I detest being judged by the idiocy of others. I am a thinking person. I make my own decisions. I don’t need to have someone tell me what is good for me and what isn’t. I know right from wrong and I know how to behave within the social contract. I don’t need a bunch of jackasses force-feeding me. Educate, don’t regulate. You can’t legislate morality (or stupidity) anyway. But I am off on a tangent and am getting way too political for a person with a non-interference clause in her contract and a very dense dislike of politics. I hate politics, I love leadership. But that’s not for this blog or any other piece I’ll ever write.

Every time I get on my bike, I break the law. Every single time. Mostly it’s speeding, but I could have been cited for a host of other offenses had they been witnessed by the proper authority: Illegal drag racing, failure to negotiate a turn, passing in a no-passing zone, reckless driving, failure to maintain lane, excessive display of horsepower, road rage, racing, evasion, lane splitting. Those are only the ones that come readily to mind. And I’m a goody-two-shoes. May those of you without sin, cast the first stone! I’m ok with that, because there won’t be a single rock lobbed in my direction. I guarantee it.

Does this make me an unsafe rider? Does this make me a squid? I don’t believe so. I am human, I make mistakes. I have had my share of bad judgment calls. I have messed up in traffic and put myself or others in danger. It happens. I ride well within my limits, I make a concentrated effort to be safe and come home without a scratch on my bike or myself. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m 100% compliant with traffic laws. Nobody is. Safe riding does not equate to legal riding and legal riding does not equate to safe riding. Sometimes you have to make the crapchute decision between breaking the law and saving your ass. And as far as I’m concerned, I’d rather be judged by twelve than carried by six. That’s how I roll and it works for me. I have my machine under full control and I know its limits and my own. I am a safe and conscientious rider. My riding style may look aggressive to some, but I have long given up on keeping up appearances. My first priority is staying alive. But this isn’t the ultimate topic of this article. I’m just setting the stage for touching on something that everybody who has ever ridden a motorcycle on the street for any length of time eventually experiences to one degree or another.

As far as our bad reputation goes? We have ourselves to blame, or those of us who can’t keep things in the proper perspective, at the proper level and in the proper place. When you act the jackass in front of a bunch of motorists who don’t ride, you are calling negative attention to yourself and I guarantee you that within minutes of your offense the phone at the police station’s front desk is ringing off the hook with calls placed by aggravated individuals trying to save you from yourself and ruin it for every other motorcyclist in that area for the next few hours. Don’t believe me? Go ahead and pull a “race start” off a stop line after the traffic light turns green and then find yourself wondering why not five minutes later you see several squad cars policing the area. That shit is called in by the annoyed cager who is already yapping on his cellphone. You don’t even have to speed, but only appear to be speeding.

I was pulled over once by a motorcycle cop on a Harley. This was one of my more embarrassing moments on two wheels. Yours truly sitting sedately on her white Hayabusa wearing a cat-ear adorned helmet with a motor officer in tow. Sitting in four lanes of traffic at the longest red light in the history of carriageway-paving mankind getting the stink eye from several seemingly offended people in their cars and being told by the copper who pulls up next to me on his Hog to please pull over as soon as safely possible. What the hell did I do now? I didn’t get a ticket. He was a sportbike rider himself, was pretty disappointed that he had to ride a Hog at work, and was more annoyed by the situation than anything else. He said he wouldn’t have even bothered to pull me over, but he had to make it look appropriate, since a lot of the cagers where pointing at me, shaking their fists and signaling for the cop to let me have it, to remove the menace that I am from their motoring society. After running my license and plate, making sure I (and my bike) came back clean, he went off-duty and we talked shop for over half an hour. He said that people called me in for leaving a red light too fast when it turned green. And there were also complaints of speeding. He clocked me doing 70 coming out of a curve, but since I had been going more or less the speed limit before and had slowed back down to the flow of traffic after and didn’t endanger anybody else, he didn’t even worry about it. As for executing the alleged drag race start? I didn’t. I left from that stop line like I always do. I asked him if this was a regular occurrence for people to call in motorcycles. He said, and I quote: “All the damn time! And we have to go chase it down and investigate. You guys don’t even have to be doing something wrong and we still get calls about it.” Proof positive that, at least where I live, there is a direct correlation of some douche pulling some asshat stunt out of his bag of tricks and an increased presence of law enforcement in the area. I’ve always suspected as much, but never had any reason to believe it to be much more than mere coincidence until that conversation with the motorcycle cop. I came to naming the phenomenon “calling in a sighting”.

BCSO Squad Car

We all want to have fun when we’re out on a ride, so please do yourself and everyone else a favor and keep it in check and enjoy responsibly. I know I am going to catch a lot of flak for this, but let’s face it: At one time or another we all like to let it hang out a little and enjoy high performance outside of the parameters set forth by traffic laws and safe driving regulations. So, here they are, my ten rules every smart Hooligan on two wheels should know:

The 10 Commandments for Smart Motorcycle Hooligans

  1. Behave yourself in traffic! For crying out loud, what exactly does it prove when you’re doing a sustained 150 mph on the Interstate, passing everybody like they’re sitting still? Or pulling wheelies in traffic or otherwise annoy cagers with excessive display of your elevated risk acceptance. It only proves one thing: You’re an assclown who is going to have a really short riding career and you risk involving others in your shit-for-brains antics by putting them into possible harm’s way. And they might get to run you over, killing you because you fucked up. Now they have to live with THAT for the rest of their lives. No seriously. That’s just stupid. You want to speed and stunt? Find a deserted backroad with little traffic and no intersecting roads and have all the Hooligan fun you want. The less witnesses the better, and please don’t use the same spot all the time.
  2. Don’t involve others in your shenanigans. (See #1 above)
  3. Don’t pass like a jackass! Don’t tailgate! Don’t make other motorists feel pressured to speed up or get out of your way. Make sure it’s safe and give them some space. No buzzing the mirrors or cutting them off by coming back into your lane too soon. Respect their space and make a clean pass. You want to enjoy your ride, let them enjoy theirs.
  4. Be courteous. When someone does pull over to let you pass (this is a frequent occurrence on mountain roads) know that this is a courtesy extended to you. Give them a nod or a friendly wave. Let them know you appreciate their gesture of good will. Again, chances are if you ride their ass they won’t do jack for you. Respect others and they may just respect you.
  5. Speed safely. Yes. There is such a thing. Don’t hold higher speeds at sustained levels. Slow down for oncoming traffic and for areas that pose severe risk at higher speeds, such as intersecting roads, overlooks, pull-offs, parking lots, driveways, and areas with limited sight distance. You should be able to come to a complete stop within your line of sight, no matter what speed you’re going.
  6. Don’t speed stupid! No speeding (or other high-performance tricks, for that matter) in school zones, residential areas, parking lots, construction zones and other populated high-risk zones. The hefty price of a ticket written in any of those places should be your guide, if safety isn’t a main concern for you.
  7. Adhere to your riding group’s rules or don’t ride with them. Period.
  8. Respect the ride of others. We all have differing riding philosophies and have to ride within our chosen machine’s limitations. Make your passes clean, don’t harass other bikers even if you do not agree with their style, and keep the safety of other riders in mind before you act out.
  9. Don’t be a freaking asshole when you get pulled over. Own your shit!!! The cop is just doing his job and more often than not (within reason), if you were not being a jackass or riding like one, you might just get away with a warning. Don’t play the victim. Don’t whine. Don’t give the officer a hard time. You knew what you were doing could have dire consequences if you happen to get caught. We all know the risks involved when we decide to partake in a little throttle therapy that goes above and beyond.
  10. Don’t be a habitual offender. Ride hard, but ride smart. Don’t ride beyond your skill or machine limit. Engage in your criminal pastime in small doses; and, please, wear all your freaking gear, especially when you’re planning on getting “sporty”. No excuses! Dress for the slide, not the ride! Full race gear is wholeheartedly recommended.

You may now cast the first stone…


A Tale of the Dragon

“How do you do that?”

“Do what?”

“Get through the curves so fast? You make it look so easy. I’m scared half to death most of the time.”

“Me, too.”

“What? No way. But you ride with such confidence…”

Conversations such as the one above happen to me quite often now. The interchanges differ slightly, some are broad and generic, some more specific and focused, and yet others are just to say hello and to tell me that the way I ride is inspiring. I’m not really sure why. I am mostly just flabbergasted, because I don’t consider myself fast, or inspiring, am nowhere as smooth and proficient as I want to be, and I’m definitely a little scared a lot more than I’d like to admit. Heck, I’m still a newbie myself. I’m in my fourth year of riding, with roughly 44,500 miles logged, and have yet a long way to go before I could even consider myself an experienced rider. So why have I become the go-to girl?

Maybe I am asking the wrong question. Maybe it’s not what I do or to what level of proficiency I do it. After all, the degree of a skill is relative to the comparisons made. Maybe it is how I do it.

So how do I do it?

Upon reflection, I find that the answer is of quite a simple nature:

  • I refuse to accept “good enough” as a standard and continue to learn and practice those lessons whenever and wherever I can
  • I keep reaching outside of my comfort zone little by little, gently pushing my skill envelope and working through my fear(s)

And no matter where I am in my skill progression, or how advanced of a rider I may become, these two concepts hold true. Mastery does not equate perfection. There is always room for improvement and always an opportunity, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, to learn more. “The day I quit learning is the day that I die.” I don’t know who said it, or where I picked up these words of wisdom, but I wholeheartedly embrace the sentiment. Words to live by, indeed.

It does make a girl feel good (and a little bit proud), even if she feels a tad awkward and shy, when others show their appreciation for the way she rides. Especially when the kudos come from riders whom she considers to be so far above and beyond her own skills, that she is amazed they even gave her the time of day. It keeps her going, it makes her work even harder and cements the refusal to give up and not let temporary setbacks beat her into the trap that is “oh well, good enough.” It really isn’t good enough. “Good enough” is dangerous as it leads to routine and routine eventually results in rashed paint, dinged frames and broken off bits. Or worse.

Well…?

I’m in the mood for a little story telling rather than my usual not-quite-scientific analytical nerdiness. I’ll be as long-winded as the Dragon is curvy. That’s my specialty, and if you are one of my a regular readers, you’re used to this already. I am an editor’s worst nightmare. Well, I would be, if I had one. I’m gonna be, one day.

Here you go. Sit down, put your feet on the pegs, and hold on tight:

A Tale of the Dragon

A week ago, my husband and I returned from a five-day motorcycle vacation. Two of those days were spent at Deal’s Gap, riding a stretch of US-129 between North Carolina and Tennessee that is known to motorcyclists all over the country as the “Tail of the Dragon”. The road is notorious for its advertised “318 curves in 11 miles” and it is quite the gem from both a biker’s point of view and that of an engineer’s. It has a curve for every taste. Banked or off-camber, blind or the kind you can see all the way around, constant and decreasing radii, compound and multi-apex curves, fast sweepers, esses, elevation changes, dips, cracks, rough and smooth asphalt… you name it, you can find it, in various more or less gratifying combinations. Want to see if your street game is up to snuff, this road is a good place to evaluate. The Dragon comes complete with photographers ready to snap your picture as you negotiate a few choice corners (please smile, wave, and get your lean on to get that knee or floorboard down) and the obligatory contingent of county and state officials with clipboards at the ready and fat ticket pads to grade your excellence in high performance. It even has a Tree of Shame to hang your various broken bike parts on, should you flunk the skills test. Just don’t go there in the middle of the day on the weekends, or you’ll just get stuck in a traffic jam in the middle of seemingly nowhere, and then you will be lucky if you even get to average the speed limit, which is a posted 30 miles per hour.

The sky looked ominous. It desperately wanted to rain, but the weather had held so far and I was determined to get a few good runs in before it let loose, if it was even going to in the first place. If it did rain, so what? In my husband’s words:

“I’m going to do the Dragon. I don’t care if it rains. I don’t care if I’m the only man to ever do it wearing a trash bag, that Dragon is going down!”

Mr. Slow is a self-admitted fair-weather biker, so this was important enough for him to risk getting caught in a rainstorm. It was important enough for me, too; albeit for a completely different set of reasons. His reasons included shutter speed, mine corner speed. I really didn’t see my husband a whole lot after I followed him on his virgin run with the video camera attached to my bike. We never broke the (averaged) speed limit and I was one-handing it most of the trip, waving fanatically at the photographers hoping to get my silly self into hubby’s frame to ruin the shot. Didn’t quite work out as planned. I risked his life for nothing. Bummer.

20120516-142103.jpg

I almost didn’t go, because the sort of shenanigans that I had in mind were for dry roads and warm tires, but I made myself gear up anyway. I quietly admonished myself that I was supposed to keep it at 60% and keep the racer mentality off the public roads. So far I had done pretty well in that regard. Yes, things got a little spirited on occasion, but I would like to think that I never exceeded 75% of my skill at any given time. Did I not just spend a weekend riding with a friend resetting my brain to “street mode” and adjusting my “Speed Racer” mentality in an effort to ditch the frustration with the limitations of street riding that has plagued me for the better part of the past two years? To recapture the enjoyment of the ride at slower, more sane speeds without letting too much hang out on that slippery slope that is risk acceptance. “No speeding in the straights!” is the toughest rule to adhere to, especially if the road isn’t entirely straight, but sweeps invitingly from side to side.

As it turns out, the road is cold and wet in places, and it seems to be getting worse. I realize that it is starting to rain and that we are catching up with the worst of it. As we continue northward the road gets wetter and there are leaves in a lot of the corners. I slow my already temperate speed even more. I have only one word to describe my feelings about wet leaves in wet corners: treacherous. My tires are sticking and my lines are true. However, this situation makes me feel timid and uncertain. To the close observer, this anxiety makes itself evident in my body position. As the battle between fear and intellect rages in my mind, my sternum becomes rigidly glued to the tank. I have to make a conscious effort to correct this tendency, hang off properly by dropping the upper body into alignment and in doing so also right the bike from its excessive lean. When your chest is stuck to the gas cap, your ass might as well be sitting in the seat, with your knee gripping the tank. You can’t just hang your cheeks out and expect to conserve lean angle by lowering your combined center of gravity. It doesn’t work that way. Either hang off or don’t… that half-assed crap isn’t really doing anything but make you look like an assclown. I’m getting a little flustered with myself, not that I would have to hang off at all. But hanging off is one of those things I still need to practice and perfect for myself, so I always at least go through the motions, even at speeds where it is not needed. At minimum I like to “pop” the inside hip into place and weigh the outside peg. Besides, sitting sedately center, hauling through a curve is much scarier than doing the same while getting low and to the inside of the bike, for the centrifugal forces involved are less apparent. It just feels slower and more manageable. This is also the secret to getting your kicks without having to push the speeds too far into “jail-able offense” territory. And if you also take the “car line” through to avoid flattening out the curve you can get even more thrills for your speeding ticket buck. But that’s an entirely different story altogether.

I’m not liking this kind of riding. This is more like commuting or roadtripping than joy riding. But as the ride continues, my fear is gradually replaced by annoyance. I want to be irresponsible (in a responsible kind of way), but am somewhat inhibited by the probable presence of more cops (one had parked himself in the first longish straight to set the mood) and the less-than-fun traction conditions. But it is good practice. Since I’ve lost my job, I haven’t had much occasion to use my crap weather skills, so this is really a blessing in disguise. With the newfound attitude I begin to settle into a rhythm and am starting to enjoy myself again, even if such joy is served with a dash of apprehension.

We turn around at Tabcat Bridge, at the northern end of the Tail, and make our way the eleven miles back south. It isn’t too long before the skies open up and let us have it in full force. Visibility becomes more and more limited as the rainshower cranks its intensity up to torrential downpour. My visor keeps fogging up and my gloves are getting soaked. Our average speed doesn’t drop all that much and we are still dancing smoothly and effortlessly through the curves. Now this is something I can cope with. The leaves have washed off the road and the asphalt is finally clean. This is the kind of riding I refer to when I say: “Rain is nature’s way of giving us clean roads and 80% traction.” I don’t like “sort of wet”, but “really, really, really wet” I can definitely deal with. The hanging off bit stops as soon as I realize — to my chagrin — that my crotch is absolutely soaked and my feet are sopping wet. I make myself as small as possible, trying to keep the water out. To no avail. I can feel a cool trickle making its way down my spine between my back protector and the moisture-wicking compression shirt. Oh, goodie! We all know where that’s going next: Asscrack Falls. And then I’ll be sitting in it until I stand up. I smirk at the thought. I’m not entirely sure why this is even funny, but I’m getting a kick out of it. Hell, yeah! I made that damn Dragon cry. I suffer another mental burst of girly giggles.

David and I are the fastest crew to come down the mountain that morning. The Pirelli Angel ST tires are again proving their crap weather worthiness. I don’t trust them quite yet on their sides, because they have massive grooves for water evacuation running almost all the way to their outer edges. That’s just too much air and not enough rubber in the chicken strip regions for my comfort level. When it was dry I wished I had a stickier, softer tire; but now I am definitely glad I’m rolling these sport-touring hoops. My confidence in the tires is evident in our pace. I have no problem keeping up with David who is leading the return trip.

We’re safely passing several vehicles and catch up with some sportbike riders who do not seem to appreciate getting caught in this shit storm at all. One is making a concentrated effort not to lean around a corner; and another is hugging the center lines, crossing over repeatedly, almost as if he was using them as a visual guide to help him stay on the road. We pass him in a hurry, before he could make it to the next curve. It appears that David and I had the same idea, neither one of us wanting to see “what happens next”. [Both of these guys made it back down the mountain alright.]

Several riders gave up and parked it at a pull-off. The Harley boys just kept on cruising, a little slower than usual, but those dudes don’t wimp out for some rain. Especially if there isn’t an overpass to park under for miles and they’re already wet. The cigarette smoking while riding, however, has ceased, for obvious reasons.

We finally make it to the chain-link fence that marks the southern side “Beginner’s End” at the North-Carolina/Tennessee state line. Almost there. Almost. As we round the right-hander a flash of hi-viz yellow catches my attention. I smile as I realize it’s Mr. Slow creeping down the mountain on his Samsonite Missile. He also has no real pressing urge to lean. That’s my man! I smile again, since I’m happy to have caught up with him; because I assure you, I would have freaked out approximately 22 minutes after not seeing his Connie parked in front of our room.

This is a good time to have lunch at the Dragon’s Den Grill and the place is packed as people settle in to wait out the storm. The satellite TV has quit, we have no cell reception, and it’s anybody’s guess as to how long this’ll go on. A typical spring afternoon shower? Couldn’t be more than an hour or two.

As soon as the rain subsides, I’m geared back up and on my way to my bike to head out. Everybody else also wants to go, but they want to wait about 20 minutes for the road (and their gear) to start drying out. With my renewed confidence I’m not even interested in wet roads or wet gear. I sit down on the bench in front of our room and impatiently wait on time to tick off the minutes as I watch the steam as it rises from the pavement; the road slowly begins to dry.

My overly inflated ego is promptly corrected not too far into the next run. Let some of that air out, hot stuff, shall we? Traction feels iffy and after sliding around in two consecutive turns, I am absolutely crestfallen. WTF?!? My riding again becomes timid as my anxiety level rises. I hate sliding the rear wheel. I dislike it on the track, but I’ve learned to cope with it there; however, I still don’t like it when it happens and I find myself avoiding to ride that close to the edge of my traction limit. When it happens on the street my anxiety is multiplied. I already hate the outside edge of the pavement and sliding around like I am isn’t helping that situation any. This is the reason I have a tendency to take the “race line” through a corner, hugging the center-line at the apex with my body hanging all over into the oncoming lane. Never mind that my tires are still in the correct lane space. On the track this tendency is displayed in a distinct cutting of corners to the apex. It’s almost a little like dog-legging it, rather than a more gradual approach. It’s point-and-shoot from entry to apex, but on exit it is a gradual drifting out to the outside edge, as it should be when accelerating out of a turn. This is also why I prefer right-hand turns on the street, even though it would make sense to be more fearful in a right-hander. After all, if the rear breaks loose, I would be sliding into oncoming traffic rather than off the road. All these worries and various discomforts come flooding into my conscious thoughts. Slap! Take you down a notch, missy. A pass and review of your more annoying (and tenacious) riding flaws. Arrrrrrgh!

On the return trip I can barely keep up with the guys, my group or otherwise. Correction: I can’t keep up with the guys. They only reason I keep catching them is that they get held up by other motorists. I feel tired and unfocused. I’ve let myself down. I am really disappointed. I know I can do better, so what is this? It’s almost schizophrenic. I feel slightly nauseated as I fight my way through every curve.

By the time I’m back down at the Gap, I’ve worked myself up into a real pisser of a self-deprecating attitude. I park the bike, and start stripping off my gear. I’m not going back up! This shit sucks, I’m really not in the mood anymore. Apparently, you can’t teach some old dogs anything… I notice none of my friends’ bikes are there. Not even Mr. Slow’s is anywhere to be found. Oh, hell with this! I’m going back up and I am showing this damned Dragon who’s wearing the bitchin’ pants in this freaking crowd. The guys pull in as I am adjusting my tire pressures. Great, those jokers stopped off somewhere and here I was trying to catch up. But the decision has been made. I’m getting back on this damned motorcycle and I am going to own what should have already been mine. I’m letting two more pounds of air out of both tires. I will find me some traction (or loss thereof) and collect my confidence while I’m at it. I am a girl on a mission. A girl who is intent on making the DTC work it for her. The guys also decide they didn’t have enough yet, swap bikes between themselves, and we head back out. This time I end up in the middle.

I spend the next 11 miles trying to push the front, slide the rear, or make either the RaceABS or DTC intervene; whichever one of those three comes first. I don’t care. I find I’m a little angry. I work my way into racing up to a corner, slamming on the brakes, throwing the bike in, and grabbing a judicious twist of throttle on the way out. Rinse, repeat. Nothing. The tires hold solid. The subtle pulsing of the ABS system or the faint “clicking” of the traction control both remain elusive. Maybe the shit doesn’t work anymore, after all? Well, I do know the RaceABS is in working order. I have finally mustered up the courage to put that one to the test by a few hamfisted, idiotic grabs of the front brake. There was never any doubt that the rear brake was working, that thing goes live when I’m just thinking about maybe using it. A little excessive for my taste, but whatever.

I wave the thought of maybe not having a functional traction control system to save my bacon aside and am wondering if Rick, who is behind me on David’s Ducati, is bothered by me riding like a jackass. He seems to cope fine with my change of riding strategy, but I make a mental note to ask him, and apologize if necessary, at the turn-around spot. I am not worried about hurting David’s feelings, who is undoubtedly playing around with the ZX10R’s ABS/DTC systems as well. He’s a racer and we’ve been doing “skill runs” pretty much all weekend. I’m sure he doesn’t mind my nose up his tail and in his business every corner we come to.

We actually looked quite well together, the three of us. Later inspection of over 200 uploaded low-res digital proofs by the various Dragon photographers confirms my suspicion. Mr. Slow also hands in photographic evidence. 🙂 I hope I meet these guys again. It was a blast riding with them. And next time Rick better bring his wife, who didn’t want to go until he had “checked it out”. I told him to tell her I am mad at her for not showing up.

Miss Busa in the Middle

As I was gradually working my way up to braking later and harder, and accelerating sooner and more aggressively, I felt something I haven’t experienced in a long time. A glimmer of my former bravado and aggressiveness. That something in my personality that I thought had finally been tamed. The little streak of crazy is alive and well and its clawing its way back to the surface. I do believe that to be a good thing. And I have the Dragon to thank for it. Why? Because it rained a little bit.

I had lost a lot of my spunk after crashing last year by tucking the front end into Turn One at Barber Motorsports Park at 120+ mph. A crash that prematurely ended the 2011 racing season for me, because I got to spend my money on fixing my bike rather than actually racing it. A crash that also trashed my confidence without me even realizing the significance of its impact until months later, when I finally got to do another track day and realized I was slower, less confident and more nervous. It took me another few months to pinpoint all the kinks that had developed in my riding as a result. And it was extremely hard to admit that to myself. I blamed it on not getting enough seat time. Yeah, that’s part of it, but that hadn’t slowed me down significantly before I had lost my balls in the kitty litter.

And that is how I do it. This is how I roll.

Check out some of the photos Mr. Slow took. He’s stashed them at FramedByJoe.com (link opens in new window).

I submit to you our first round of Monday morning dragon slaying. There wasn’t much slaying going on quite yet, since the Dragon himself was still pre-coffee and in no mood. 😉

Sunday Pics by Killboy & Co.

Monday Pics by Killboy & Co.


…On A Steel Horse I Ride

I’m wanted
Dead or alive

I needed to go for a ride. Not that I was being racked by withdrawal symptoms of PMS (Parked Motorcycle Syndrome) by any stretch of the imagination. I have to shamefully admit, it took ten days to get off my ass and make the Beemer fit for street duty again. It’s about time, really, since I owe Matt of The Dandooligan a little product comparo.

And then I wonder why my mileage has suffered. I have doubled the number of bikes owned, but cut my mileage by half. And I look at wrenching as the culprit. I haven’t touched a torque wrench or a screwdriver in five days. I rebutted my own statement right there!

It’s more a result of the subconscious mind, rather than a definite decision made by cognitive higher-function processes. In other words, I don’t mope around, irritated by the idea that I cannot, for whatever reason, ride my motorcycle; neither do I proclaim loudly, that I will not ride my bike today. I used to suffer from the former, and the latter is really too much like quitting smoking.

It’s something else. An internal shift in focus, perhaps. When I think of motorcycling in terms of skill, my brain immediately goes to fetch some experience from the racetrack. I don’t even think in terms of roadways, surface conditions, traffic density,traffic rules and regulations, hazard recognition, and risk management anymore. Well, at least not consciously.

My brain still seems to deal with all of these factors just the same, but it doesn’t distract me anymore. Or should I say, my brain now has time to wander off and “do other things” (allowing me to be distracted) besides piloting the motorcycle and negotiating traffic.

And as I have evolved my skill set, honed my roadcraft, my attitude towards street riding has changed; and probably not for the better. How much fun could possibly be had on the public roadways anymore? It’s slow. It’s boring. It’s mundane. Routinely blah. Ugh.

You would think that slapping me on the back of the head, making me put on my gear to follow you north into the twisties, would assuage my boredom. Ha! You would think… I can’t even enjoy the “good” roads anymore, not like I used to. My motorcycle eyes have changed their focus: where once I’d seen opportunity, I now see claustrophobic ways of killing myself by sudden deceleration, if something should go wrong. If I can’t see around a corner, I can’t fully commit to it. My risk awareness is in the red, and the fear factor goes up. I am acutely aware of how vulnerable I am to ‘what ifs’ when I’m riding my bike on the street.

Long gone are the days of the Mountain Squid. The days of almost dragging tailpipe on off-camber, uphill curves in an effort to finally get that knee down. Long gone are the days of blindly diving into corners, taking the “race line” through and hanging the upper body over the double-yellow line. But a distant memory are the days of street riding having that therapeutic effect. It used to blank my brain and reset the senses. Now, I have way too much time left to think and my stressors ride pillion.

But today something was different. Today was a throwback to the “good old days.” Today, I had one of the most fun rides in a long time, on the same old boring roads. Imagine that! Could it possibly be that my brain was too preoccupied with collecting data on the various products and apps I was testing? Too preoccupied to be bothered with signaling impending narcolepsy by coma-inducing speed limits? Too preoccupied with pesky fun-killers such as deer, surface contamination, and radar guns pointed casually out of Sheriff’s cars?

No, officer. I wasn't speeding. I was qualifying.

The meaning of life? 42. Perhaps. 45? No, fookin' way!

Today PoHo data acquisition tells me one thing for certain: I had a freakin’ blast on two wheels. Sixty-four miles of unadulterated, jailhouse-worthy fun. It was balm for the soul and elixir for the senses. I feel alive. I feel giddy. I feel reset. Today, I renewed my attitude. With the correct outlook, this girl doesn’t need to be at the track to have some serious throttle therapy. Maybe it just takes a little shift of focus, seven degrees off of where it used to be.

Chased by encroaching darkness I hurried home, wishing I could play outside for just a little while longer.

~~~

It’s all the same, only the names will change
Everyday, it seems, we’re wastin’ away
Another place where the faces are so cold
I drive all night just to get back home

~ "Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi