Puget Sound Safety Adventure Camp

Someone mentioned that I was on the Puget Sound Safety Adventure Camp webpage and sure enough I am. Makes me feel all mushy looking at the photos and seeing the guys I hung out with there. I’m still in touch with a couple of them. :)

Wish I had taken the class on the snowy day though. O.O That looks like quite something.

First 2Fast trackday…

A few words before Super Tired Schmi turns in. Today was one of those perfectly perfect days that I will remember for a long time. It was of course, the day I took off to go ride the SV at Pacific Raceways for a 2Fast Trackday. As far as turnout goes, it wasn’t quite the “unofficial MS trackday” we had hoped for because only four of the original people who had expressed interest actually signed up and showed up. The day itself was dull and rainy. But it was still fabulous in spite of everything.

There were sucky parts, like the obligatory waking up at 4:45AM, and riding to the track which is about 30 miles away (in the rain). Stopping on the way to get gas at the one gas station in Washington state that has trouble with filling motorcycle tanks did not help.

I managed to get to the track fairly early, before any of my co-workers showed up. I started pulling off the mirrors and prepping the bike when a hella cute guy came up to me and said that I could pit under his EZ-Up if I was there alone, since it was predicted to rain all day. I thanked him and said that I was waiting for my friends to show up and I was going to pit with them. A clear sign that Schmi’s brain was still asleep at that early hour. :P

When co-workers showed up, I chatted with them a bit (super nice guys!). Then finished prepping the bike – taping everything up, defusing the headlamp, taking off mirrors etc.; got through tech inspection and registration. There were about 28 riders in the Beginner group. I was number 47. We did a ridearound of the track in the 2Fast truck, which was VERY educational. Amazing how big and wide the track looks when you are going through it at 10mph. They gave us some info about what lines to take and where to be careful e.g. turn 7 is supposedly very dangerous in the wet (and boy was it wet out).

J. turned up around 9:00AM with EZ-up, chairs, water, cooler, tools etc. Bless him. :)

I find that I was quite enjoying riding the track now that I’ve gotten over my destructive attitude of cursing myself about everything I did wrong in every turn, rather than observing what I did wrong and improving it in the next lap, like Keith Code says to do (I owe a lot to that man).

Session 1 [9:45 AM]: Getting used to the track and warming up the tires. It seemed so rough, bumpy and shoddy compared to the gorgeous Willows Springs track I was on last month. I went pretty slow to get used to all the turns and familiarizing myself with everything. I was relaxed and loose and feeling good – in marked contrast to every trackday I have done until now.

I did brace myself a little going through Turn 9 for the first few laps though.

Lots of rain.

Session 2 [10:45 AM]: More of the same. Getting used to the track, and going cautiously into Turn 7 as instructed.

Lots of rain.

Session 3 [11:45 AM]: J. pointed out that I wasn’t getting the revs high enough and was in too tall a gear for all the turns he could see. I worked on this in this session and it was a bit distracting to look down at the tachometer so often. Kinda difficult to do that *and* figure out turnpoints at the same time. Got better though.

Misty rain.

*Lunch Break*

Session 4 [12:45 PM]: This was a bit of a sucky session. I was going okay until a control rider beckoned me to follow him. Is there a hand signal for “NO, I really don’t want to!!” No, I thought not. Anyway the next two laps I was stuck behind him showing me lines that I already kinda knew, except we did them super-slow at about 40mph. *rollsyes* I was a little bummed at the waste of time when I got back into the pits. Session right after lunch is never that good. I also felt a little bit ach-y.

Session 5 [1:45 PM]: This one was J.’s session (I owed it to him although I hated sitting out a session). He snuck out on the SV and put it through its paces. He was so stoked when he got back and was crowing about all the riders he passed and how crazy good the bike was (he used to roadrace a GS500 back in the day and apparently those didn’t handle quite as well as my bike does). He had even managed to scrape both footpegs really good. It was good to know that the SV could lean way over and ride like a dream if it had a competent rider on it. :P

Session 6 [2:45 PM]: One valuable tip J. gave me which really worked out well was to go into the busstop in 2nd and exit in 1st, and crank it up from there on. This worked really, really well, and I was redlining all the way through the straight (although the wind buffeted me quite a bit), went in through Turn 1 pretty good with no braking, brake d a bit for Turn 2 and shifted down, and rolled through it constantly, cranked it up to go up the hill and then down towards Turn 3, braked a little more and downshifted to go into Turns 3 and 4  (for once I didn’t blow them completely), revved all the way up the back straight, then straight line through Turns 5 and 6, a hard left at 7 and then uphill towards Turn 8 (this was the only part that wasn’t smooth as I felt like the bike “slowed down” going uphill), constant throttle roll through Turn 8, onto Turn 9 which I didn’t do   very well, eyes on the busstop, brake and shift down at busstop and back out onto the straight.

The next few laps were more of the same, and everything flowed together. J. timed me and said that I was consistently clocking in at 2:35. He said that I could be going a lot faster through both Turns 8 and 9 and the busstop and we strategized as to how.

Session 7 [3:45 PM]: This was the best one, of course. :) Everything just worked and my lap time improved to 2:24. No, it’s not as good as the lap record of 1:29, but not a bad beginning! :)

Session 8 [4:15 PM]: This one was a bonus 15 minutes for people who still wanted to go out. I jumped at the chance until I realized that it was a mixed session with Level 200. I was on such a good run that I really wanted to go out again at least for a couple of laps. People were passing me waaaay too close for comfort though, especially one marshal who zipped by with little over a foot between us, and another instructor who cut me off in the busstop (he later stopped by and apologized). Thankfully I recovered from that one although my right tire wobbled violently coming out of the turn (not sure why?). I also scared myself silly when I scraped the left footpeg in Turn 4 and felt the bike feel unstable. :P

I came in to the pits after those two laps. They weren’t stellar but then again I was sharing it with a bunch of maniacs and didn’t feel safe. :P

Overall it was a wonderful, satisfying day. No more demons. I didn’t break any lap records and didn’t hang off or drag a knee, but I was quite satisfied with how I did. I wish I had done more before lunchtime, and that things had come together sooner than they did, but there’s no point rushing these things. I didn’t use all the instruction from CSS School – I never quite memorized turn points, relying on the cones on the track instead, and I didn’t use reference points. Things I did use were wide view, body positioning, relaxing, and two step. My biggest breakthrough was learning to redline the bike and use it to its full potential, rather than being afraid of blowing the engine. I was also quite pleased that I was no longer afraid or nervous of the speed or of other riders on the track.

It’s crazy how very good, energetic and unstressed I felt. No soreness, no muscle ache, no mental fatigue, just a wicked grin thinking – “Hey, this is fun.” :)

Note: There were a few crashes during the day – most at Intermediate level, and one bad one in the Advanced one where they brought ambulances in to take the guy to the hospital. No crahes in my class though. Guess we n00bs were being way too cautious. :P

Onto some photos:

These are the ones of me on the track that J. managed to take while watching from the grandstand with my point and shoot. Brandon Bones’ pictures aren’t up yet on Studio 819, but he did take the majority of them early on in the day, so I don’t expect them to be that good in any case.

J.’s way of saying: “Relax, schmi!” :) The tape on the odometer was to mark off how high I needed to keep my revs.

Coming round Turn 9 to the bus stop. Yes, I could have been leaned over more.

Going through the new busstop.

Another one through the busstop. Whee, for once I’m happy about a blurry photo. :P

My gear is very bulky. :( Especially the jacket. I need to consider replacing it soon.

Aftermath of the school….

Rode the SV today for the first time since CSS school, and noticed a world of difference in my riding:

1. It seemed really small, low and light compared to the ZX-6Rs. Almost like how my Virago felt like a toy bike when I first started riding the SV. This was not good. I want a grown-up bike. :(

2. The brakes on the ZX-6R are light years ahead of the ones on the SV. :( I think I’m going to adjust the clutch and the front brake so that they are closer to my fingers.

3. It handled *incredibly* well now that I was seated further from the tank, completely relaxed, and holding the handlebars loosely. My lower back hurt a bit from this new positioning, but I know that I will get used to it pretty soon.

4. It felt like someone had smoothed the road out just for me. Only the road was the same, of course. I was just not receiving every single bump and vibration from the suspension from being stiff as a board on the bike. When the hell did I start riding that bad anyway?

5. I. Hate. The. Windshield. It’s me or it – one of us has to go. Tomorrow I’m going to start looking for a new flyscreen/fairing combination that might work on the bike.

6. The bike feels super low. I think I just might raise it all the way back up to see how it works. The only thing that makes me wary about doing this is handling the hills in Seattle.

7. This was the most comfortable commute I have done on the SV. I’m really looking forward to taking her out on a long distance ride next. I suspect the earliest this will happen is on Sunday when I ride down to PR to watch the WMRRA races. Perhaps I’ll do the Palouse trip one weekend in May, and then the 2Fast trackday on 5/14 which I registered for today.

California Superbike School

Here it is at last. My write up about Superbike School, long awaited by some of you (you know who you are). :P


Some of you might recall that I was signed up to do the two day camp of California Superbike School last June, but I did the idiot thing and signed up for a NESBA trackday weekend at Pacific Raceways in early June, just so that I would have a bit of track experience that year before I went out to learn from the pros. As it turns out, I crashed in the last five minutes of the first day partly because a control rider cut me off and mostly because I target fixated, did the squidly thing, panicked, gave in to my survival reaction, used up my $10 of survival time, whatever you want to call it. I went down with the bike on me, still holding on to the handlebars because I’d never learned how to crash, and ended up with a broken finger, two torn ligaments, a busted right knee and a badly bruised shin. Two surgeries fixed the finger and the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), staying off of the leg helped heal the lateral collateral ligament (LCL), months of physiotherapy helped heal some of the scars, but I still have the busted knee and what they say is permanent nerve damage to my shin. Needless to say, I couldn’t do the school last year and had to cancel my spot, because the surgeons looked at me like I was mad when I asked them what dates I could sign up for that year. “You’re going to get back on that death machine again?”

And as a corollary, a couple of months after my surgeries, while I still had splints on both hands, I crashed my car when I failed to yield at a green light and turned left in front of an oncoming car – that old classic that kills thousands of my kind every year, now I had upon my head.

Last year is long gone, it’ll be almost a year since the day I first crashed, but while time has cured some of the physical injuries, my mental trauma refused to go away no matter what I tried. I’ve never talked or written about it much, because bikers aren’t supposed to be afraid, or if they are, nobody talks about it. If you’re scared, just park the fucking bike and walk, right? And for a while there, I even wondered to myself… why not? Park it, and you’ll be free of it. Maybe then all the nightmare scenarios that go on in your head every time you ride will finally go away. There’s other things you could do to find meaning in your life, like collect newts or something. People do it all the time.

For most of this year, all the riding plans I’d made have been less than half-hearted. I made them because they were things I was meant to do last year, but never got to do. Everything that I planned was more because I wanted to make up for the year I had lost rather than it being driven by any real desire or motivation. Even Superbike School I signed up for partly because I was meant to do it last year.


Back from CSS School…

I got back from California around noon in time to start my workweek. :( Except I CANNOT WORK. I cannot stop thinking of Superbikes. I cannot stop thinking about flying through the laps at the Streets of Willows Springs at the end of Level II. I cannot ignore the two Twist of The Wrist books that are sitting next to me, the first of which I covered with notes and markup in the plane because it ALL MAKES SENSE NOW, crazy Scientology talk or not. I can’t bear to not look into my copy of The Milepost which arrived in the mail while I was gone.

I am also super tired from waking up at 4:30AM, driving 60 miles to the airport and flying for two hours to Seattle. And I have to head out pretty soon to go watch the AMA Supercross races at Qwest Field this evening.

I have faffed around with checking all work email and responding to some, but I haven’t done any real work yet.

What on EARTH possessed me to volunteer to work on the weekend? Oh right, so I didn’t have to report time off for being out during the week. *sigh*

Experienced Rider Course

My Experienced Rider Course is TOMORROW. TOMORROW!!! So not only was it sprung upon me out of the blue seeing as I’m scatterbrained as all heck these days, but it’s going to be typical Seattle weather with “cloudy skies with a few showers later in the day”. Seeing as Murphy’s law is dead on when it comes to me, guess when the choice few showers will choose to… uhh… shower?!

Now I need to spend the rest of the day mentally preparing for the class. Did I mention my U-turns were crap?

Panic now?


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