With my first track session under my leather belt, it was time to get back in the classroom. I pealed my torso out of my racing leathers and walked like a drunk gunslinger back into the classroom to join my fellow novice riders for more instruction.
Each classroom session built upon the previous one, and each new riding drill was an extension of what we’d already experienced on the track. With the racing line an basics of body position covered, it was time focus more on bike control. Our instructors focused our attention toward smoothly regulating our speed. Our second session on the track would be a one-gear session. That is, we’d ride the entire session in 2nd or 3rd gear, depending on our bike, and make our way around the track at speed without using our brakes. Obviously we’d use them to avoid a collision, but the idea of the one-gear drill is to learn just how much control you have over the bike’s speed with engine braking. When you’re well up in the engine’s power band, it’s amazing just how much slow down you get when you roll off the throttl. The drill is also meant to remove two of the three main inputs (throttle,
brakes, shifting) so that we could focus that much more on body position and riding by feel.
Even though the classroom sessions felt like they went by really quickly, it was a scramble to get back on our bikes and lined up for the green flag. Once again, I had to recruit the nearest Motoworks crew member to help stuff me back inside my racing leathers. I downed a quick Vitamin Water from the coolers and hopped back on my Tiger 1050. What’d started as a wet morning was turning into a warm summer day.
Our group lined up for our one-gear session. With that much less to focus on, I concentrated on smoothness, body position and trying my best not to “apex early” in my racing line. For this first-timer, that was plenty. My british three-cylinder spooled up and off we went. Like the previous session, we played follow-the-leader around the track, our instructor in the lead. With our brakes off the proverbial table, each lap was a fascinating exercise in speed control. The bike in front of me would pull away, and I’d screw on a little more throttle. Then as the next corner got closer, I’d roll off as smoothly as I could and as late as possible, shift my butt off to the side of the bike and pull through the turn. Once through the apex, I’d start adding throttle again. Unfortunately, this was as much for me to catch up as for proper riding technique. My corner pace was a little slower than the rest of the pack. That corner confidence I was on the track to build was still eluding me a bit, but with each lap, things felt a little better connected. For all my occasionally lagging corner pace, I was starting to get the hang of things.
Classroom session three introduced more advanced techniques, several of which I didn’t have a chance to really put into practice. Things like up-shifting without the clutch and trail braking made a lot of sense, but I was more focused on the basics. In fact, I wanted to stay focused on the basics, so I actually requested to be moved to a slower group. This was perhaps the coolest thing about how Sport Bike Track Time organized the event. Each rider was able to not simply place his or herself in a given Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced class grouping, but we were able to move between groups within our classes. By this third classroom session, some of us were moving down in speed, while most of us moved into faster groups or even more advanced classes. I joined up with fellow Motoworks riders Betty and Kelly one speed group down from where I had been. I wanted to focus entirely on technique without the distraction of speed.
With Kelly on her Harley and Betty on a Vespa GTS300, this group demonstrated the other great aspect to how the Motoworks Track Day was organized. It didn’t matter what you were there riding. This wasn’t a sport bike event. This was a rider event, and the point wasn’t to go fast. It was to have fun and learn more about ourselves and how we can ride better. As our pre-lunch session wrapped up, I finally started to really find a rhythm. The slower pacing helped me dial in my technique and start keeping better pace.
Lunch was served in the Autobahn members facility. We’d all been working hard out on the track, and with the temperatures rising to actual summer numbers, we all needed to fuel up our bodies and get some fluids in. The meal reminded me of camping. Food is always better around the campfire. Well turns out that when you’re sweat-soaked and running on large doses of adrenaline, lunch is amazing.
Looking around the paddock, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the sheer variety of bikes. Everything from BMW K1600 GLS touring bikes, to GSX-Rs to Vespas did time out on the track. There was even a BMW HP2, which I’ve never even seen one of those in the wild before. Johnny brought a pair of Ducatis for proper track evaluation. The Hypermotard and Monster 1200 each got their turns on the track, and as expected, the power and handling were amazing. Yet Johnny came back raving about how advanced the Ducati ABS brake systems really are. No matter what people were riding, they were getting the most out of it.
As each session came and went, I couldn’t help but notice just how much fun everybody was having. We were all equal parts exhausted and excited with each cycle. For those of us losing our track virginity, it’d been an intense but rewarding experience. We’d come through as more experienced riders and gained friends along the way.
As camp Motoworks started coming down in the paddock, riders started heading home. The day was done and it was definitely mission accomplished as far as we were concerned. We’d hosted the event yet another year, but at the same time it was new for so many of us, crew and customers alike. What I came away with was not simply a new appreciation for what my motorcycle could do, but better confidence in what I could do with it. Beyond that, I “got it” now. I understand why so many of our participants showed up with what were obviously dedicated track bikes. I started doing that math in my head. Although before a track bike, maybe I should focus on a set of leathers of my own that actually fit. Man, that suit was as uncomfortable as it was ridiculous looking on me. I’d better get on that, as we’re going to have two track days next year.. Stay tuned for the details. Will we see you there next year?
Track Day Gallery
Additional photo credits for this post go to Leslie Benedict of Sideline Sports Photography