“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement and who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” - From a speech given by Theodore Roosevelt in Paris at the Sorbonne in 1910.
Everybody wants to be a winner.
Who wouldn’t want to reach the finish line first? But sometimes winning isn’t just about being the first to pass the checkers. For so many of us, winning is measured in improvement of our skills and reaching personal goals. This weekend marked a huge step forward in my racing progress, but also has me rethinking my plan and goals for the year.
We arrived at Infineon on Thursday evening to get our pit set up and get a good nights sleep for Friday practice. I decided after the frustration I suffered from Round 1 that Friday practice was necessary for me this round. We had tried to get a couple of track days in at Infineon prior to this weekend, but the weather refused to cooperate with us. But Friday, the rains gods finally lifted their spell on Infineon Raceway and the day was clear and warm, without even the typical morning fog of Sonoma Valley. Ken Hill was kind enough to let me jump in the back seat of his car for a morning track drive with his student (and my SV racing competition) Jason Baumbach, along with AMA Young Gun racer Elena Myers. This gave me a jump start to my day as we discussed track lines, reference points and braking zones. I would be ready when I headed out for my first practice of the day to hit the ground running, figuratively speaking of course. I had signed up for the A Group, but after arriving at the track and seeing the sign up for A Group included many top five AFM racers, along with several AMA racers testing for the upcoming round in May, including former MotoGP star John Hopkins, I decided to bump down to the B+ group. Unfortunately, the B+ group was pretty chaotic as it was filled with a variety of skill levels; mixing racers and street riders and maybe some people that weren’t quite ready for B+, especially on a race weekend. With that said, it was a useful day for practicing passes and trying new lines through traffic… I tried to abide by the 6 foot passing rule, but it was a little crowded, so sorry to anyone I buzzed a little too closely. (Hmm, can you call it buzzing when I am on a throaty SV650?) At the end of the day I was pleased with my sessions and worked on a few specific lines and corners.
Saturday, however, practice brought more frustration as I had the AFM transponder on my bike and I could not put my head in the sand and hide from the lap times posted on the window. I was going to have to acknowledge the fact that I was indeed slower at Infineon than I had been last year at this time… not by much, but still… just the same I felt stagnant. It was time for me to take another look at what I am doing and make a change, to turn this plateau into a launch pad for improvement. I headed out for the 2nd practice and paid close attention to where and how much I was using the brakes and the throttle. I studied the response of my bike to my inputs and changed things up, thinking of a particular quote I have referenced in the past, “If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten.” Spending some time focusing on my input and the bike reaction I noticed that I was really pushing hard to turn the bike in, specifically in the high speed corners like turn 3, the entrance to the Carousel, and the Esses. I came into the pits and discussed my issues with Shawn and Tom, who then spent some time explaining to me the basics of suspension and helped me make a couple of adjustments to my front rebound and compression to get the bike to turn in a little easier. It got better, but was still not great and I had maxed out my adjustment capability. Looks like this was as good as it would get, for now.
Formula AFemme was race 2 on Saturday afternoon. I made a goal to get a good launch, trying for the holeshot from the inside of the 2nd row. I got off the line great, went right up even with the front row, but was out horse-powered getting to Turn 1, yet I managed to hang on right behind Joy and Christie, then Shelina came in from the outside pinching me off to the wall and forcing me to roll off. My drive up the hill towards turn 2 suffered and I went back to 6th. As I came through turn 2 I noticed Deb Barton riding her bucking 125 through the dirt on the outside, I went by and focused on the race in front of me, but the girls out front; Christie, Joy, Zoe and Shelina pulled a gap on me thru turn 5, and by the time I came out of the Carousel onto the back straight they had already started to spread out and the front runners were making their way into turn 7. I held 5th until Deb came by me a few laps in, she had managed to keep her shiny, new bodywork off the ground and got back into the race ultimately making it back up to 3rd, great riding! Each lap I fell a little further back from the top 5, but held a healthy gap over the rest of the field. Shawn later joked that it was like I took a spork to a knife fight. Even on my best day, which this was not, I’m not quite talented enough to hang with the zippy 600’s out front with my SV650.
Having spent Saturday practice trying a couple twiddles on my suspension and noticing some improvement during the Afemme race, had left me wondering if there was more I could do. I asked Jason if he would spend a little time with me Saturday evening going through my suspension settings and helping me document how my bike is currently set-up, so I could look for more opportunities for improvement. He was happy to see me taking more of an interest in understanding my bike and was willing to skip competing for the slow race victory to work with me. Jason happened to have a suspension book handy in the trailer so we grabbed it, sat down and talked suspension. It was like sitting down with a magician and having him reveal the secrets and illusions used to make you believe he is actually sawing that lady in half. After about an hour and a half of my questions and Jason’s patient answers we headed out to the garage to see what I had learned and document the settings on my bike. Greg noticed us pushing my bike into the garage and came over to see what was up, perfect timing… “Greg, can you help us to measure the Sag on my bike?” As we are going through the process of lift the bike, take measurement, let bike rest on its’ own, take measurement, sit on bike, take measurement, Tom comes over to pitch in… He quizzes me, “Do you know what your Sag is supposed to be?” 25-35 I answer. He helps me remember which is which, front to back and we finish up the measurements. Turns out my sag on the rear was at 52mm, and it should have been 25. This was due to having the shock rebuilt (after it broke from my crash last year) and reinstalling, we thought it had been installed with the original settings, but now I have learned an important lesson, always verify. The Sag adjustment was a big change and should help the bike turn in quicker. We also made a rebound adjustment on the rear to slow it down to account for the Sag adjustment. The fact that this was all finally starting to make sense to me had me on cloud nine as we headed for bed. I couldn’t wait for the races on Sunday to try out my suspension adjustments.
Sunday morning I am up early to make sure I am ready for my morning practice session, eager to see how the bike responds. I have one practice session… then a lot of sitting around since my races were at the end of the day, Race 9 and Race 12. The suspension change was so noticeable that I managed to drop 3 seconds in morning practice. For me, this is a major personal accomplishment… I used to be far to timid in the morning worried that the track and bike would be too cold and I may lose traction and crash. Last year I set a goal of getting up to speed (within a few seconds of race pace) in first practice… so this marked an accomplishment of that goal as well as a feeling of success in having made a noticeable change to my bike and understanding why and how it reacted as it did. Feeling inflated with all my new suspension knowledge I was eager to try making a few more changes, but with lack of practice time I decided it was best to leave it alone and work with it on the next track day. I spent the majority of the day cheering for and supporting Jason and Greg with their morning races. Finally, Race 9 - 650 Twins was called and I headed out for my hot lap. I rolled up to my grid position on the 9th row and prepared for the race. My plan was simple, get a good start and ride with confidence and tenacity. I made a mistake on the start and ended up with a small Whhhheeelie off the line, this is not fast. But I rebounded and charged into turn one mid-pack. I rode a clean race, had a fun battle with Robin Geenen, dropped my lap times down into the 1:55’s (only 2 seconds off my personal best) and ultimately finished 26th of 40 starters.
Race 12 - Formula 4 came up pretty quickly. I managed a better start in this race, but got pushed back between turns 1 and 2 with some chaotic passing going on in front of me. I ended up finishing 28th of 34 and my times were a bit slower than they had been in 650T, but I finished up this race weekend feeling victorious. My personal win is measured in the knowledge and understanding of my bike that I gained this weekend and knowing that I will get back up to the pace I ran last year and I will continue to get faster. I am pulling back the curtains and revealing the truth behind the magic of speed.
Special thanks for this Round to Tom and Mikey and the rest of the Z2 team for making me feel like a rockstar this weekend. Mikey, thanks for breaking my pinch bolt and eliminating the potential for it to break at a less desirable time. HA-HA!
One of the three well-known California road racing clubs; AFM offers a place where you can participate in races, watch as a spectator, or even take part as a turn-worker on the course. There are competition classes for almost all motorcycles; you can race what you own, build a bike specifically for racing, or maybe even pick up a pre-set-up bike through member want ads. Competing in expert club racing can be used to qualify for a pro racing license. Explore the website for further information.
Women race with the men?
Yes, races are structured by bike size. Women race in the same classes as men that have the same sized bike. However, there is a growing interest among women in racing , so many racing clubs have added a women’s class to encourage the ladies to give it a try.
Formed in 2001, SMUSA is now the premier Pro/Am supermoto series in the country. Many of the well known American road racers such as Bobby Fong, Joey Pascarella, Cameron Beaubier, Elena Myers, Tyler O'Hara, Garrett Willis and others all competed in Supermoto USA's Nor Cal Championship where they developed their skills.
PC Dirt Track in Sacramento, Ca holds a series of the oldest and most traditional type of motorcycle racing, flat track - sometimes referred to as “dirt track” racing. A uniquely American type of motorcycle racing. Riders finesse their machines sideways through the turns, just inches apart from each other.
Since 1924, the AMA has protected the future of motorcycling and promoted the motorcycle lifestyle. AMA members come from all walks of life, and they navigate many different routes on their journey to the same destination: freedom on two wheels. The AMA sanctions more motorsports competition and motorcycle recreational events than any other organization in the world. No one who has ever seen an AMA Pro motorcycle race ever forgets it.