July 13th, 2006

racing, motorcycle

Go slow to go fast.

I spent the last three days up at Thunderhill, re-learning how to ride my SV650 street bike on the track. That was an experience.

Ya ride a bike nearly every day, ya think you know it? Well, not so much. Or rather, not for the track -- where a slow corner is a 60-mph corner.

The first day I spent just trying to adjust. I was doing 2:17s and 2:18s, but I was struggling to do them -- this is normally my take it easy pace. By the evening I had realized that it wasn't me -- the bike wasn't set up right. I spent Tuesday morning on and off the track testing out suspension adjustments. This really helped, and I was able to start focusing on extending my turn in markers in turns 1, 9 and 10.

By Tuesday afternoon I was doing 2:16s with ease. I think I should have been doing 2:14s easily and 2:12s when pushing, but there was a fairly serious headwind out of turn 9 and down the front straight that was slowing everyone down.

Wednesday morning I had Dave Moss lower the front even more, and then the bike really started to feel right. It was a lot easier to turn in, and I started being able to flick it around with ease. Chasing down some of the other A-group riders I even got the bike twisted up and turned sideways just like my EX500.

Unfortunately, I was so tired and sore on this third day that I was only able to put in 10-12 laps at the most before my legs started cramping up. And today, when the times really should have been dropping ... they weren't. So I've learned that I can put in a 2:16 when I'm boned tired and legs are cramping, but I haven't the vaguest clue if I can achieve the 2:10 lap time I was aiming for. Which leaves me vaguely unsatisfied, even though I did achieve every other goal I set for myself this weekend.
racing, motorcycle

I doubt I'll be racing AFM or anything else.

So in my 07-08 entry I had wondered how much this would change things. How much more I would enjoy it.

Enjoy riding a bike that just works? Yes Enjoy riding a bike with more modern suspension? Yes Enjoy riding a tire that fits the wheel - that can lean over all the way? Yes

But I think that I figured out the real thing on my drive home last night. Do I like racing? Yes, I love it Do I like being competitive? Yes. Do I know how not to be?

To put a fine point on it, I *LOVE* racing really hard, really tight. I love pushing a bike through a 60mph corner feeling the wheels start to lose grip ... and doing it repeatedly to find that limit because it just might be the thing which keeps me in front, or lets me pass. I love braking into a corner so hard the rear is in the air. I love tossing a bike into a corner fast and hard, braking at the limit and scaring the crap out of the person behind me... and then trying to do it just 1mph faster the next lap. And the next.

There is something about pushing oneself as far, and as hard, as one can just to find what we're really make of... that is satisfying in a way that I just can't describe.

Okay, so I'm an adrenaline junkie. Check. What's holding me up from getting a big modern bike and racing with the fast guys? Well, I think it's actually speed.

Let me clarify. I *LOVE* braking from 120mph down to 60mph for a tight turnaround. Turn 7 at Infineon and Turn 14 at Thunderhill are some of my favorite turns, and I'm pretty darn good in these.

I *LOVE* going 60mph around off-camber, technical turns. The carousel at Infineon, turn 15 at Barber, turn 3 at Thunderhill are some of my favorite turns. This week people were calling me a turn 3 specialist because of how often I was passing in, through and out of that corner.

I *LOVE* Infineon and Streets of Willow. Two of my favorite tracks. Why? I know it's because they are technical. Is it also because there are no really fast corners?

See that last statement? I think that this is a key to my struggle with lap times. I just don't really like turn 1 or 8 at Thunderhill, which are two of the fastest corners on any of the local tracks. Or even turn 1 at Infineon really, even though it's not much of a corner at all. So I tried analyzing how I felt about the corners. And the surprise was that I wasn't scared by them... I was bored. I was really and truly uninterested in trying to go 100+ mph through a corner.

Do I get scared? Yes. Exiting turn 2 at Thunderhill with as much speed and as much lean angle as I'm carrying now is scary. Ditto with turn 10 at Infineon, with the bonus addition of really, really close walls to slam into. These are scary.

Turn 1 and 8 don't really scare me. I mean, they scare me because I'm not a total idiot. Blowing those corners will really hurt. But they don't scare me because they're fast. They bore me. I roll off coming through turn 7 because I'm uninterested in going that fast through a corner. Of course, when I'm trying to catch someone I keep the throttle pinned and my lap times drop significantly.

Make the corner a little tighter with hard braking on the entry, and I'd be loving it. But right now it's just fast for the sake of being fast, and I'm just bored. If I don't have someone to chase, my hand just rolls off until I get near the corner -- where I pin it just before corner entry ... damn, I am one sick fool.
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