This is not fun anymore. In retrospect this hasn’t been fun in quite a while.
I want to ride these things as fast as I dare, not try and put them together and figure out what the previous owner(s) had done (or fucked up) so I can get an engineering degree online and learn to fix it. In the process I found out the following: I can teach myself mechanics if I can start from a baseline. I put a crashed S1000RR back together without this much fuss. Given, it took me 13 weeks and approximately $1300 in parts and tools, but it was a journey that was much more gratifying and taught me a lot about how motorcycles actually work. A road well traveled and worth it.
However, wrenching on the R1 feels like putting together a puzzle. I hate puzzles! You would have to put me on some serious medication for me to enjoy putting together some crappy picture printed on cardboard pieces.
Who in the world could enjoy sitting down to a 5000-piece puzzle and put it together when you a.) don’t have the box anymore with the picture on it, but you vaguely remember what it looked like; and b.) there are some puzzle pieces, from another 5000-piece puzzle, that don’t belong, but got mixed into the pile, but you don’t know that (yet).
I’m selling the R1.
I HAVE HAD IT!
That is all.
I have reached the point where the benefit does not outweigh the work put in and the frustrations encountered along the way.
I admit defeat. Shamefully, I throw in the towel, pack it up, and go home. I want to go back to paying somebody to do this shit for me, and I can only do that by returning to my roots: being a high-mileage street rider and combat commuter, who (maybe) goes to the occasional track day to keep most of the shenanigans off the street in an attempt to avoid going to jail for free body-cavity searches and crappy food.
This is the first time I have ever let an inanimate object (or a massive collection of them) beat me. My IQ will recover… eventually. Time heals most wounds. In the meantime I just allow myself to feel stupid as hell.
I apologize to Mr. Slow who has leaped tall buildings in a single bound to make it possible for me to own a dedicated race bike and has been nothing but supportive along the way. He has given up so much to enable me to chase some arbitrary dream I started having for reasons I still don’t quite comprehend.
It’s time for me to wake up and rejoin reality. I really should steal his license plate, move the electrical tape dot over one character and slap it on my bike. Although, my man would look pretty silly cruising down the road with “Rocket Girl” hanging off his tail.
Today, I am the MRS.LOW to his MR.SLOW because I feel painfully ungrateful by giving up.
Mr. Slow is actually faster than me, or could be, if he ever decided to trade his hard bags for knee pucks. But he is Mr. Slow because that’s his riding philosophy rather than a reflection upon his skill set. And that is my confession.
There is freedom within, there is freedom without
Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
There’s a battle ahead, many battles are lost
But you’ll never see the end of the road
While you’re traveling with me
Don’t Dream It’s Over by Crowded House
I’m patiently waiting on the Man in Brown to show up on my doorstep to drop off a load of (highly specialized) tools, so I can get this front suspension pain in my arse taken care of once and for all.
What did I actually put on the track at Road A? Let’s just say that I was way too trusting of a bike that my hubby had acquired for me from a dude who is a mechanic by trade and the bike in question had also been set up and raced by a local racing team.
I’m not complaining, mind you. As far as I am concerned hubby got a great deal on the R1. The added up cost of the performance upgrades alone would have set us back as much as we paid for the bike itself. I’m speaking retail cost here. When you’re sponsored you could find yourself getting these things for free. I’m sure both parties came out of this deal smiling. I know I did, and Skinny Dude with Similar Spring Rate even cut me a break and knocked another five bills off of it. But it goes to show that even though I had checked the bike over to the best of my ability, with the mechanical knowledge that I had gained thus far, some things do not become obvious until you put the beast on the track and give it as much hell as you dare. I did. At the last race of the season. Yes, the finals. I went testing at the Grand Nationals and then still entered the actual race (there are some freakishly fast dudes in A Superstock); knowing it was a really bad idea, but when did that sort of thing ever stop me? But that is a different story for a different time. Maybe I’m going to tell it someday… when I’m completely over the public humiliation I received that weekend, and deservedly so.
But I digress.
Finding a rolled up piece of shop towel shoved in between the outer dust seal, the inner oil seal and the ring clip that holds the seal assembly in place was the last straw. (Somebody sneaking some leaky fork seals through Tech?) The last straw in a long line of other straws that made me say WTF!?! out loud. Every one of these straws presented me with the awesome opportunity to research and add yet another tiny increase to my MotoMech Skill. I need to develop an eye for these things, I’m starting to, but I’ve got a long way to go. Vic Fasola took one quick glance at my bike and muttered something along the lines of my suspension setup being totally fooked and my grips being a few degrees off from each other! Holy hell, I measured those clip-ons as best I could with my digital calipers, which isn’t the right tool for that job anyway. They looked even to me, hell they felt even when I was riding the bike.
Later disassembly of the front forks revealed that the preload between the two legs was differing by several millimeters between right and left, the compression damping differed by 25 clicks. Absolutely nothing was right about the front suspension setup. Not geometry, damping, preload, relative positioning, or fastening torques. Nothing. Those tubes were slid so far up the triple tree that they were in danger of giving you a nose bleed when in the race tuck. A twitchy proposition to say the least. And to facilitate this extreme lack of straight line stability it was necessary to have the upper triple tree clamp half on the skinny part and half on the fat part of the fork tube. I snapped off both pinch bolts on the right side in an attempt to loosen them. I wonder how close they were to snapping when the bike was on the race track? I don’t even want to think about that. I managed to release the left-side bolts without a snap, by backing them out alternatively a few turns at a time. The bolts showed signs of fatigue. They were bent and the threads were unevenly stretched.
No wonder the bike felt weird in the front and kind of strange in the back. No wonder I was as slow as a blob of molasses hanging out in a fridge. The bike was talking to me. I didn’t understand all this feedback I was getting through the chassis. I am slowly learning, but my lackadaisical attitude, a conditioned response to balance perfectionistic tendencies with and adventuresome spontaneity into a more sensible approach, sometimes gets in the way and slow natural progression.
I get in my own way. There. I’ve said it. I’m a brainiac klutz. Leave me to my own devices with too much time to think and too much room for self-doubt, and I’ll stumble over my own two feet and land on the mental equivalent of my JLo ass. But I own my solutions and failures. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have to own something to trust in it. I have to test a theory and be able to reproduce the promised results on my own to fully believe it. I don’t follow blindly, unless the source has repeatedly proven itself, and even then I can’t help but feel the gnaw of insecurity. I like my variables to be assigned beforehand. I like the equation’s result to be known. But this is the real world… and constants aren’t much fun anyway.
In the end I have nobody to blame but myself; which is the preferable scenario to me. When the blame falls squarely on my shoulders I can spare myself the annoyance of being upset with someone else.
I should have done the research beforehand, educated myself on the things I was unclear on or was ignorant of and check all fasteners. Set the suspension up for myself instead of trusting “it must be right, because the guy is my height and approximately my weight and he raced it.”
However, too much theoretical knowledge without any real world experience makes my head hurt, it gets me frustrated by information overload and I end up winging it half of the time for lack of patience, time constraints, not having the proper tools, or simply by saying: “Ah, screw this, it’ll be alright.” After all, I don’t want to wrench. I want to ride!
I own it or am owned by it.
Sometimes I do find myself getting a little jealous of some of my friends who can call upon the experience of trusted others to help them along their way. I do most everything myself, and I fall down a lot. Occasionally, this gets a little old and I feel like quitting. Fortunately, I have Mr. Slow to kick me square in the leather pants when I start uttering such nonsense as wanting to quit racing because it’s such a pain in the ass in between. Hubby is EXTREMELY supportive of my racing endeavors. He is my rock. His is the hand that reaches out to help me up. He is the one who puts up with all my girly insecurities and the shit I dish out when I’m stressing, smiles and says: “I don’t care how slow you think you are, baby. I still am damned proud of you for getting out there. You are doing it. You just need to do it more. That’s all.”
He’s right. I know that on an intellectual level. Sometimes it is just hard to hold on to that emotionally when you’re down, but not out. I wish he could also be a master mechanic and a pro racer instead of just playing the role of my psychologist. 😉
My stuff is here, I’ve got to go!
17 days until race day.