I nearly crashed at my last track day. I was leaned hard in a turn, slid the bike, scraped a foot peg, sh** my pants and wondered how I didn’t go down. After a few more laps I brought myself in and realized I didn’t need to try so hard – it’s just a track day. Continue reading The Joy of Just Riding a Motorcycle
Oh man, track days are so awesome. Sportbikes are made for the track, so there’s no better place to experience one than in its native environment. There’s also an incredible side benefit to improving your skills; professional photographers are present at most track days. Looking at photos of yourself in action is an underrated tool for improvement. I’ve poured over countless photos of myself at various track days through the years, comparing my body positioning to those of professional racers and highly skilled riders to see what I could do better. I’m still trying to get things right, but having photos of myself at the track went a long way in improving my skills.
If you’re a newer rider looking to get into track days, you can check out the Track Day Starter Guide to see what it’s all about. (Hint: It’s not that hard to get started.)
That said, I am not a fan of street photographers that hang out at busy mountain roads to take photos of motorcycle riders or people in their cars. I respect their entrepreneurial effort, but have seen so many people crash trying to show off for the cameras or make u-turns in ill-advised locations to get themselves onto camera repeated times. It’s my opinion that a photographer’s presence can make an already dangerous road even worse. If you want to see what I’m talking about, just search for “mulholland motorcycle crash” on youtube and grab a drink… it’s gonna take a while to get through them all.
For beginner motorcycle riders, suspension isn’t usually given too much thought. Considering how much it affects a motorcycle’s performance and riding characteristics though, it should be given a lot of thought. The bikes on my recommended beginner’s list typically have low-tech suspensions with only one adjustable feature, but even understanding just how that one feature affects your riding will make a noticeable difference in how the bike feels. When you’re ready to move onto a true sportbike, their suspension components become more complicated, more expensive and more important to set up correctly.
I’m a huge proponent of track days. There’s no better way to safely learn what your sportbike was built to do while having a blast. Of course nothing’s ever foolproof when it comes to motorcycles; things happen even when you’ve taken all the precautions. But if you’re a beginner or aspiring sportbike rider, don’t let that scare you.
Every motorcycle racer or sport rider who does track days wants to go faster. Enter Keith Code and his California Superbike School, one of the best ways to learn the skills required for that extra speed we all want. I returned to Superbike School for level 2 last weekend to build on what I learned in level 1 back in late 2008. It was also a great opportunity to finally ride the BMW S1000RR, the incredible new sportbike that’s now the standard issue student ride at California Superbike School.
For those of you thinking you’ll eventually try a track day, a set of leathers is required and is nice to have for canyon rides anyway. It was time for me to find a new set after 4 1/2 years of beating up my old Alpinestars GPU 2 piece suit. It had been through 3 minor offs and performed admirably, but I wasn’t sure the right knee area could take another spill without tearing apart. The only thing I didn’t like about it was the fit – Alpinestars doesn’t seem to be built for relatively skinny guys like me. The jacket fit well enough but Beyonce couldn’t fill the butt on those pants. I swear it looked like I was carrying around a sack of potatoes back there. Enter Dainese.
One of the best things you can do with your sportbike (or near-sportbike) is take it to the local racetrack for a track day and open that sucker up. Once you’re out there flying down the straights and carving corners without cops, cliffs or SUVs to worry about, you’ll be hooked.
It sounds like a hassle to actually make it out to the track; I certainly thought so even by the time I bought my second bike. The good news is that It’s really not that difficult. It certainly takes some effort, but I had so much fun my first time out that the effort hasn’t mattered that much. Let’s take a look at what it takes.
I went to The Streets of Willow Springs for a track day yesterday, a twisty 1.8 mile road course at the Willow Springs Raceway complex. For those of you new to the concept, a track day is chance to spend a day at the race track with your motorcycle. It’s not a race though, just open track time so you can test your skills and do some speeding without getting a ticket or having to worry about SUVs crossing over into your lane.
I’m going to post a track day starter guide later for those of you thinking about testing your road racing skills; in the meantime here are some pictures from yesterday. The first one is me; the rest are pictures I took of some of the “A group” (fast) riders. Note how some of them position their upper bodies differently; I’ll make a note on that in my track day starter guide.