Mr. Slow Knows What This Girl Needs

Mr. Slow surprised me a few days ago with an announcement that just made my day. No, that is not entirely true. So far it has made my week. I have been floating around about an inch off the ground ever since. Happily elated and in a shamefully good mood.

I’m not a romantic person. I find romance awkward. It seems so staged. Performed. Fake. The initiation sequence of the scoring program. Just add alcohol. I find these moments of the heart in everyday life, no candlelight dinner and moonlit walk on the beach required. One such happenstance is when hubby snuggled up to me in the middle of the night and informed me, sandwiched in between two unrelated sentences of our late night half-whispered conversation, that he was going to watch his baby race.

“I have Friday off,” he pauses, then adds: “and Sunday,”

He then told me that I should do a track day on Sunday. After spending a few days tossing the idea around, I quieted the responsible adult voice in my head that insisted on not spending any more money, but rather start paying off a loan or two early; and with that I went online and reserved myself a slot in the intermediate group.

We are making a weekend of it. I asked Joe if he isn’t going to get bored hanging around a race track for two days. He simply replied: “I have my photography.”

I have been trying to get to a track for over four months now. I considered throwing myself off an overpass if I didn’t get any real throttle therapy pretty soon. Every time it looked as though I could make it, something happened that prevented me from going. I am finally getting close to getting my much needed fix to feed the addiction and cure the winter blues and ease the withdrawal symptoms.

I need to bring an extra set of tires. Definitely.

I have a surprise for him, too. But I won’t tell him until we’re at the gate paying our fee to get in. If I can manage and keep my excited little blabber mouth shut for another week.

Miss Busa Goes To The House Of Hook

I’ve been planning on going to the drag strip for quite some time now, ever since my earliest Hayabusa days, but never made it until now. This, in itself, is a shame. Mr. Slow makes fun of me: “What is wrong with you? You rode a drag bike like a flick bike and now you’re taking a flick bike to the drag strip! Seems backasswards to me.” What can I say? I run what I brung. Heh.

PLD Racing

Go fast. Ride Hard. Dream Big.

The day finally arrives and we decide to meet at my place of work, since it’s on the way to Jackson, SC, and would save us some time. I’m commuting to work in full race gear (how else am I going to get the junk there?) and my security officer, who meets me at the gate as I am badging in, takes a step back, sizes me up, then exclaims loudly: “Damn, baby! You are looking hawt this fine morning! How come I’ve never seen you wear that before?” He circles me halfway and checks out my backside, “Mmmmm… mmmmm… mmmmm!” He nods appreciatively and I give him a dismissive wave with my hand and let myself through the gate. T is harmless. He’s my partner. We got each other’s backside. Any other dude would have been dropkicked where he stood.

As the day progresses my nerves are starting to get to me. I think of all the people that are going to be watching me and I am really not so sure I want to go anymore. I finally call hubby, but hang up before he can answer. I am so tempted to call the whole thing off. In addition, my workday isn’t going all that smoothly either. I’m a little frustrated and still haven’t shaken my sleepiness from staying up way too late the night before. Mr. Slow knows me too well, he calls me around noon and pretty much tells me he’s not taking no for an answer, that he is going to take pictures and if I don’t want to race, that’s fine with him, but we are going. And that was that. Yes, he knows me. He knows that all he has to do is get me there. I’d be watching the bikes make a few passes and then I won’t be able to take it any longer and jump right in.

At the gate we pay our $15 per person to race and are assigned our numbers and are both slapped with wrist bracelets. After unloading our stuff and leaving it with Larry and his son Dean in the bleachers, we make our way to the staging lanes and get in line. We wait a little over forty minutes for our turn, since there is some sort of issue with the track and they are performing maintenance on it. This gives me plenty of time to get bored enough to quit being nervous. Our turn finally comes and one of the crew asks us if we want to run together, to which we both nod in unison and tell him that yes, we would. He then asks us if we want a “normal tree”. Normal tree? He starts explaining something to hubby, and I can’t understand a word he is saying over the running engines of our bikes and the background noise of burnouts and PA announcements. I’m getting anxious, I pipe up and tell him that I have not a clue what’s going on, that I can’t hear him over the noise and that it’s my very first time ever to a drag strip. Someone else steps up and takes me under his wing. I think his name is Roger. He asks us if it would be ok to do the first pass individually and tells me to follow him and he’ll walk me through it. I nod and follow him to a little water-filled depression in the concrete that runs the width of both lanes at the beginning of the track. He motions me to stop and goes on to explain that this is what they call “The Groove”, this is where you do your burnout. He asks me if I know how to do one. I tell him that I know how, but never actually done it. He asks if I want to try. I shake my head. He tells me that’s cool, don’t have to if I don’t want to. After the track clears, he motions me forward and points to a set of parallel white lines at the edge of the track. He explains how the sensors work and what the lights on the tree mean. After assuring himself that I am ready to try my very first pass, he closes my face shield, steps aside and I am thereby left to my own devices.

Pass 1:

Run 1 (Race Mode)

Time Slip: Run 1

My nerves return. I swallow hard as I ease the clutch out and let the bike roll forward, watching the lights on the tree up ahead to my left. I feel nauseated. The first bulb lights up. I ease forward some more, the second light comes on signaling that I am in position. Here we go. I feel my heart hammering the inside of my ribcage as I assume the top half of a race tuck. My breathing is shallow but controlled. As the first light comes on I realize I am still squeezing the front brake lever and remind myself to let go to save time during the launch. The second light comes on. I find myself doing a little tippy-toe dance, like a cat about to pounce. The anxiety dissipates and is replaced by focused concentration. I roll on the throttle to start bringing up the revs as the third light illuminates. I dare not avert my eyes from the tree. My attention is riveted, muscles tensed, waiting on the cue; focus narrowed and all else forgotten. I faintly hear the bike scream under me, feel its buzz in my hands. The green light flashes on and I spring into action. Or rather my muscles do, since all thought seemed to have vacated the premises for the moment. I don’t know how high in the RPM range I am when I release the clutch, my vision is focused forward, way down the track. I feel the back tire spinning slightly but it grabs almost immediately and the S1000RR flings itself forward. The front tire lifts off the track’s surface at about the same time as my shift light starts flashing insistently. 9,000 RPM, I muse. My wonderment is immediately followed by: Oh shit, I am still in Race Mode! I stick my toe under the shifter and snick it into second gear. I blip the throttle out of habit. The bike continues barreling down the track, gaining speed at a stupid-fast rate. I know I am too tight on the bars, since my throttle control is uncharacteristically jerky, as is evidenced by the bike’s front continually lifting off then setting back down. I just can’t seem to find the sweet spot between power wheelies and maximum forward velocity while keeping both contact patches engaged. I can’t see anything either. Not my gauges, not my surroundings. I have not a clue where I am on the track. I am lost. All I can make out is the orange glow of a street lamp in the distance. Everything else seems smudged into a grey oblivion. I am not scared. I am actually rather enjoying this all the while wondering why the heck I can’t see shit. I hit third gear around the time it occurs to me that I should be hauling it down, that I have reached the beginning of the run-off. I have reached the orange glow at the end of my tunnel. As I decelerate my vision opens back up and color drains back into the well-lit darkness. I can’t help but grin like an idiot inside my helmet. Well, there… that wasn’t too bad. As a matter of fact, this was fucking awesome! Woweeeee! I turn left (more like a u-turn really) into the return lane and end up next to a booth. There’s a dude standing there holding something out to me, so I stop. He hands me a piece of paper. Oh, yeah! Time slips! I forgot about those. After I get back to the staging lanes, I take a peek. I knew I didn’t bust my personal land speed record, which is currently at 151 mph, since I managed to glance down at my GPSr when I realized I had crossed the quarter-mile mark. And it barely read 130-something. Also, the number in the “Max Speed Attained” field still stands at 140. What a bummer! I either need more road or I need to get faster at accelerating out of the hole. More road is not an option, so I guess I’m going to have to work on those race starts and keeping the wheelies to a minimum. I look at my slip which has all these numbers listed and at first the whole mess doesn’t make sense. I finally locate the number I am looking for, my top speed: MPH … 133.80, above that, it states ¼ … 11.417. Mr. Slow on his Samsonite Missile obtained a whopping 73.85 mph and it took him 16.850 seconds to do it. I waste no time pointing out to him, that he does that on the Interstate and it doesn’t even rate a speeding ticket. He eagerly points out that I suck off the line. He has no evidence of that, since next to his R/T (reaction time) the mysterious code “LB3A” is printed, whereas my slip sports a nice and relaxed 0.953. Hmmm… did he red-light that mother or did he win some sort of prize? [A little googling, as I write this, shows that “LB3A” stands for “Left Before 3rd Amber”, meaning he left so early the computer didn’t even bother to treat him to a red light. Who sucks off the line now?]

Pass 2:

Run 2 (Sport Mode)

Time Slip: Run 2

Before we know it, it is our turn again. This time I actually have time to switch the GoPro Hero HD helmet cam on. We are staging together. There is another issue with my lane on the track, so our start is delayed. I have occasion to ask the track dude what all this stuff on the time slip means and how far off the suck-scale I am rating. He says I’m doing well for my first time. I don’t buy it. He’s just being nice, I’m sure of it. But what kind of silly question is this any way? I don’t even know why I’m asking it. Silly girl! It’s my nerves. I get blabby when I’m anxious. Stupid blabby, too. Didn’t I just read about an S1000RR doing a quarter mile in like 8.49 seconds at 153 mph? Given, it was stretched, had a full exhaust upgrade and a custom FI map, but damn! You would think I could do this in the 10s at least. And don’t ask me where I got that figure either. Mr. Slow yells at me from his side of the track: “What mode you’re in?” I yell back at him: “I put it in ‘Sport’.” I also reset my shift light to 13,000 RPM, my redline is at 14.5K. When we get the go ahead, we pull up to the line. I’m feeling slightly nauseous again. What the heck? I survived the first pass, what is it now? On the video I can hear myself say: “I’m so nervous I could just puke.” as I pull up from the center where I was parked during cleanup. My launch absolutely sucks. Whereas the first one was pretty decent, this one is choppy as hell. Like I’m afraid to let go of the clutch. Which makes it worse. The bike wants to go, but I’m riding the clutch, but not smoothly either. The end result is fairly evident in the video. It does make the skidding worse, too. Sport mode is not really preventing front wheel lift-off either, or is it? The bike rides like a jet ski skimming across shallow waves. I don’t remember the track being bumpy. Choppy throttle? Suspension setup? I sill can’t see shit either. Extreme tunnel vision, which is surprising since I have hauled speeds faster than this, but that was during daylight hours. I’ve never accelerated this aggressively either and I’m still not at full-throttle. Who knows? I would like to know if the DTC indicator is flashing. Before I know it it’s time to slow down again.

Pass 3:

Run 3 (Sport Mode)

Time Slip: Run 3

I pull up to the line, stage myself and then realize in the middle of the tree’s “countdown” that I left my shield open. I slap it down and have no time to settle back in before the light turns green, no time to think just go! This was my best run, my best launch with the smoothest throttle action so far. Even though I did forget to shift once and bounced it off the rev limiter. What I do not understand is how I can have the fastest quarter mile time with such a low top speed. Must be in the launch and the speed I wasted not upshifting when I should have. Dare I say it? I might just be getting the hang of this? If I quit over-thinking and instead just start doing.

Pass 4:

Run 4 with Larry (Race Mode)

Time Slip: Run 4

I put it back into ‘Race Mode’. I just wasn’t happy with the way ‘Sport Mode’ felt. Looking back on it, I wanted to see if I could keep the wheelies under control. Hell, I wanted to do some on purpose. This is, after all, the proper place. This felt like the best run so far, but it really wasn’t. I managed the fastest speed at the eighth-mile trap, but something must have happened after that. I remember the launch not being all that great. Larry actually had me off the line. I remember telling Mr. Slow that if the clutch lever “hadn’t stuck to my finger tips” this would have been one awesome pass. Everything else must have fallen into place because it felt like it should have been the best. I never did get around to doing wheelies on purpose, though. I’m too competitive and there was going to be a printout at the end and using the back wheel only slows you down and I was here to break a personal top speed record. Which intellectually I knew was impossible, at least at the quarter-mile trap. Even if I delayed deceleration it would have been problematic at best. There is no way I could reach 151+. Not with my Level 1 drag racing skills nor with the bike’s current setup, which isn’t going to change in the direction it would need to. I am a knee dragger not a drag racer. It would be way too much of a hassle to have two setups and switch between them depending on whether I’m going to the drag strip or the track. But emotionally, setting a new personal best is what drove me to try harder.

Pass 5:

Run 5 with Larry (Race Mode)

Time Slip: Run 5

Another crap start due to not letting go of the clutch properly. I actually lost traction this time and fishtailed it out of the hole. Arrrgh! This is starting to frustrate me on a serious level. Not to mention that it looks stupid and it makes my ass jiggle. Another worthy entry for the “Girls Can’t Ride Chronicles”. I am convinced that if I just stop thinking about it, I would have these launches nailed. Wouldn’t know it by watching me carry on, but I do have pretty decent throttle and clutch control. Damnit! This run was just Blah! all the way around. That is all.

Pass 6:

Run 6 with Larry (Race Mode)

Time Slip: Run 6

Same as the last pass, pretty much. I must be getting tired or something. I’m also getting slightly frustrated overall for the lack of continued progress. Even small improvements will do it. I need an ego boost. I really do. I barrel down the lane, and I can actually feel the weight transfer to the rear before the front gets light, but I do not react. Screw it. Of course, before I know it, I’m popping a power wheelie. Right in front of a little crowd that has made (what I’m guessing to be around the eighth-mile point) their home for the night. Cool. I tuck my foot under the shifter, since it’s about time for an upshift, as the shift light’s rapid flashing is urging me to do. For some reason I slam the front end down (I’m assuming jerky throttle action, since I am way too tight on the bars, have been all night) and consequently my foot gets dislodged from its position and it glances off the lever while in the process of shifting and I find freaking neutral. I recover and put it in second gear. I hope nobody saw that. They probably didn’t, but they damn sure heard it! The telltale high-pitched whine of a missed second gear upshift. How embarrassing is that?!? Mr. Slow tells me later that the perceived baby wheelie was quite the monster, since it garnered the attention of the tower. Dude commented on it over the PA system. Now I know THEY didn’t hear that missed shift. Hahaha…

Pass 7:

Run 7 with Larry (Race Mode)

Time Slip: Run 7

The last pass. It’s almost 11 o’clock and they’re about to close the staging lanes. We won’t be able to make it back for another one. I have to make this count. My launch was awesome. The best one yet. I am not counting the little hiccup I introduced because I was thinking I left too early so I momentarily squeezed the clutch back in, before I could make a conscious effort to arrest the movement. It was one of those subconscious reactions. Which in itself isn’t good. This almost falls into the realm of “survival reaction” and must be avoided at all cost. Recognized. Halted. Corrected. I have done this before though. When leaned over in a corner and I decided to shift into second gear as I was accelerating out, and missed it. I pulled the clutch in then, like an idiot because free-wheeling like that freaked me out. I chewed my own ass for that one. Needs work. And here I thought I had those pretty much under control, too. Given, I haven’t had occasion to practice in earnest. Should be on the menu for the next track day. Definitely.

Even though I wasn’t satisfied with my performance during my passes, I had a freakin’ blast. I kept telling myself that this is what it’s all about. I’ve been having some shit days at work, and a little irresponsible fun was quite what the doctor ordered. It rebooted my system, reset my attitude towards my job, and lifted my mood back into its normal range of “happy-go-lucky”. Two-wheeled therapy does it every time. Whether it be on the track dragging knee or making an ass out of oneself hauling an unmodified supersport down a drag strip. It’s all good. We shall have some more fun come next Saturday.

Lessons Learned:

  • The rev limiter is a really just a reminder to grab the next gear at one’s earliest convenience.
  • Knee pucks at the drag strip will come in handy when a fishtailing expedition goes way out of control and you find yourself stuck to the wall. Think of them as directional guides. ;P
  • Mr. Slow goes to the drag strip, pays $15 to do a little Interstate riding. That is the definition of (a really short) toll road… Just sayin’
  • I do suck off the line. (Psssssst! Don’t let hubby know…)
  • So does Larry. 😉
  • I am the only girl in Jackson who drags two wheels. There are four others, but they prefer cars. I need to do better to represent! LOL
  • Best $15 I’ve spent in a while.
  • Burnout? I don’t need no steenkin burnout! *rolls confidently through the water box*
  • This is harder than I thought it would be.
  • Drag racing is like standing in line at a theme park to get on the roller coaster. You wait and wait and wait, you finally get on and it’s over in a flash. Then you get back in line, just to do it again.
  • Drag racing, albeit fun, is not my thing. Land Speed Racing, on the other hand, would totally do it for me. I don’t really find my groove until I’m over halfway down the track. I want to go flat-out, at top speed, give it all she’s got and enjoy the rush. Next stop: The Maxton Mile (once I get this quarter-mile thing down).