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Adrenaline Freaks 9/8/2006 trackday update

Finally time to write a post about my trackday on Friday in words, rather than just pictures. So this was my second track day, in a manner of speaking. I did ride at Pacific Raceways on July 27th as part of Mike Sullivan’s Women-Only Day, but that was more of a performance school+trackday, with a lot more coaching and one on one attention than I got this Friday.

It was organized by Adrenaline Freaks, and I only really booked it because my friend Liz had won a free trackday and picked that date. Until that moment, booking a day was something I continually postponed as it meant taking time off, and actually dealing with transporting my bike to the track on my own. As usual, fear of the unknown equated to constant procrastination. It’s a good thing I finally did decide on a day, because there is only one more day on the calendar (Oct 6th) before the Pacific Northwest rains and doom and gloom descend onto this lovely city.

Liz was going to ride her bike over to my place on Thursday evening and then stay the night after we had prepped our bikes. I booked a U-Haul for the actual transporting, as neither of us owns a truck or a trailer. Unfortunately we couldn’t work on our bikes until almost 8PM after which it got dark, and we were forced to work in the light of a tiny little lamp near the front door. We taped our lights, and mirrors and removed the fuses to disconnect the lights and proceeded to load the bikes onto the truck via the built-in ramp, which was a little intimidating to both of us as we’d never done it before. She got hers up pretty quick, while my sorry attempt at doing the same resulted in my first crash since starting to ride a year ago. I’m not entirely sure what happened, but according to her I rode it up okay but when I got to the top, I put my feet down and revved it too much, leading to the bike toppling over on its side, and me flying off and landing on my unhelmeted head on the concrete driveway. In hindsight I should have taken a picture of the ridiculous way my bike had landed – on it’s side on the ramp with the front wheel hanging off of the inside of the truck. I just thank my stars that the bike didn’t land on top of me and pin me under.

We had to get help from two of my neighbors to straighten up the bike and take it off the ramp, where we inspected it for damage and check that it was still rideable. The passenger grab rail had been smashed and warped so that the rear end looked unbalanced. The right mirror had clean broken off and the headlamp had cracked. When we pushed it back and forth, we could hear a scraping sound from the front rotor. It started up and idled okay though. The damage looked like it was mostly cosmetic, and I could have confirmed that by riding it around the block, but I was loathe to untape everything, put the fuses back on etc., which had just taken close to a half hour. We were both really tired, hungry and sleepy, so we just had the neighbor load the bike onto the truck (by pushing it on). Lizzy called a friend of hers to help us secure the bikes down with tie-downs. This took practically another hour, if I remember right. We finally went to bed at around 11:30 PM, and actually fell asleep much, much later. Not good when you consider that we had to be up by 5:00AM the next morning. I was completely spooked what with the blow to the head, a throbbing headache coming on, the damage to the bike, not knowing if it would pass tech inspection the next day, and overall just having something go that horrible wrong. It didn’t help that my neighbor while helping move the bike, commented – “You’re gonna have to give up that motorcycle someday!” Huh… whatever, old man!

I don’t think either of us slept well inspite of being so tired. Even so, I still cannot believe that we got out of bed at 4:45AM the next morning. Ugh…

Lizzy drove the U-Haul to the track – about a 45 minute drive. We stopped on the way for ice for the cooler, and some extra gas cans. When we got there, we were the earliest people on the track. I saw some familiar people, including Wendy Leber (my hero, who is currently 9th in the WMRRA races), Dave – the guy who had been my instructor a month ago, and his wife Renee, who owned part of Adrenaline Freaks, and wasn’t on her Ducati. Turns out she had crashed in the last trackday and was only just recovering from the crash. I was sorry to hear that. I had hung out with her a little last month and she seemed like a cool person. She is even shorter than I am and still rode what looked like a giant motorcycle with no seat, and rode it well!

We registered and I asked Wendy to do the tech inspection. I told her what had happened, and she looked it over and said it looked fine, and if I found any problems during the first couple of laps, I could come off. I was *relieved*.

Next came the Riders’ Meeting. It was full of what I suppose is the usual stuff, about everyone riding their own ride, and not racing, how we were beiing split up into three groups, needing to have a wrist band and showing it before entering the track etc. We were both in the novice group, and we were assured that the instructors would make sure that we’d be safe. They told us to just take it easy and learn the track and get comfortable on it, and not worry about speed at this point.

I have to confess that my nerves were completely shot after the previous night’s incident. Throughout the first two laps I rode really bad, and wondered what the heck I was doing there, and wished I could just go home. Yeah, really that bad! This from the person who has put 6000+ miles on her bike and ridden in every kind of weather and over most of the state. One little incident, and suddenly I understood all those riders who had a close shave, and just quit riding. :|

Luckily my friend J. (who used to be my mechanic until he quit and moved to another dealership) was at the track that day, riding monkey on his friend’s sidecar. His friend’s wife was riding with him until noon, after which he was going to take over, so he could spend some time hanging out with us. We lowered my tire pressure to 30 each to increase the contact patch and make them hotter. This helped a little bit and I did better on my next few laps, although I still could not get myself to go faster.

And then finally, we made the one adjustment that changed the rest of my day – we removed the damn Givi windshield, after I complained that it was hard for me to lay on the tank and crouch aggressively, because I didn’t like looking through the tinted windshield. The SV looked weird after we took it off, as I’ve always had it on there. This time round when I went out, I could just go. The difference was unbelievable. While previously I was riding in a more upright, standard position, this time round I was crouching way down with my chin touching the tank, arms lower than my wrists and sticking out, the balls of my feet on the pegs, and twisting the throttle for all it was worth. My performance had improved by almost 70% with that one minor change. After this, I was a happy trooper for the rest of the day. :)

Next, I followed Wendy around the track to re-learn the lines (I’d forgotten them all over the last month). This helped a great deal, as I realized how much track I was wasting, and how I needed to ride in straight lines between some of the curves, rather than following the curves. I also stuck my knee out. :) Although I still haven’t shifted my weight off.

I knew that I was still slow and could go faster. The next change I made was to stop keeping track of which gear I was in, and how much to shift up/down etc. As long as I was in 6th on the straight, I should just deal with whatever gear on the rest of the track, just braking at the right spots and shifting down to the best of my judgement in some of the turns. Again, this helped and I was going much faster now that my mind wasn’t working and thinking about stuff. Turn 2 – the downhill corkscrew – was still kicking my ass though. That is one of my major pains right now, and I really need to learn to go faster there.

My other problem was that without the windshield and no flyscreen, whenever I tried to go faster, I felt like the wind would blow me off of the bike and that was unnerving. My bike was quite capable of going much, much faster, but I wasn’t sure if I could hang on. I couldn’t really figure a way out of this. Most sportsbikes have fairings that deflect the wind away from your body, but a naked bike does not protect you in a similar manner. I’m not sure if this version of the SV even has fairings that I could tack on in the future.

By this time it was almost 3:30PM. We had grabbed a quick lunch in between waiting for our turns and we were staying hydrated, but I think both of us were getting tired by then. I was quite satisfied with my performance now. I hadnt mastered the track and performed superlatively, but my confidence was back, I had indentified the places I needed to improve, my tires were well and truly scrubbed in, and I was just generally looking forward to next season, where I’d be living out at Pacific Raceways. :) I did a couple more laps before I called it a day. I’d rather call it quits when I know I’m tired and would make stupid mistakes, rather than just go out there and make the most of my track time. Hopefully next year, I’ll be in much better shape thanks to my working out every week now, and I’d last longer.

We packed up, J. helped us load the bikes on, and we left to go home. The ride home was uneventful. When we got back to my place, we unloaded all our stuff, and got a friend’s help to unload the bikes. Lizzy was going to ride back home, but luckily her friend offered to give her a ride to Seattle. I was glad for her, because by this time my tiredness had caught up with me, and I was practically braindead. I have no idea how I managed to make it to the UHaul place to return the truck, and then get back home. I tried to stay up and watch a movie, but I fell asleep halfway through.

All in all, it was a fabulous trackday. It was perfect weather too – bright and sunny and gorgeous, but not so hot that you’d swelter in your leathers. I so love being out on the track and just going. I wish I had one every week! (With someone else taking care of the details like transporting the bike back and forth). :P

My only regret of the day was that I missed out on the opportunity to go around the track in the sidecar. J. tried to convince me many times to go on, but I was a little antsy about it when I realized that it wasn’t the kind of sidecar where you sit back and relax and take in the sights, rather you kneel down on your knees and hang on for dear life. I wasn’t quite prepared to go 140mph in that position. When I had finally mustered up the courage though, his friend had decided to call it a day and go home. Bummer!

The next morning I woke up with a severely aching neck, from fighting the wind on the straights. I had a bump on my head from falling two nights ago too. I think I was pretty much wasted the rest of the day. I went to work in the afternoon and worked a half day since I had taken the previous day off. It was good to catch up, but I felt really low for most of the day. I don’t know if it was because it was a cold, windy, fall-is-just-around-the-corner day, or whether everything seemed to be moving much too slowly. I felt a little bit hungover even though I hadn’t had any drinks the previous nights. As I mentioned to Lizzy later, perhaps I had been drunk on the speed. :)

That’s the story of one of the highlights of my year so far anyway. I can’t wait for to post the pictures, so I can finally buy a disc and get some printed out.

As far as the bike goes, things that I need to replace on it to account for the damage from the other evening, and general stuff that I need to do:
– Right mirror (Suzuki OEM mirrors are $37 each!!!)
– Headlamp bulb – the high beam doesn’t work any more – about $8
– Passenger grab rail – $150!!!!!!!!! (Time to call a junk yard)
– Rear rotor – this was from a few months ago when I wore my brake pads down to the metal – $150 (Junk yard once again)
– Gear shifter – the workaround from the trip works okay, but I suppose I should fix it one of these days
– Heated grips – Come fall, I’m going to need these. My friend recommended I get the grips for the V-Strom – I need to look those up, but I’m sure they will be spendy

Some pictures that Lizzy took and I stole:

The straightaway…

Sweet effing machines!