Jason and I had the opportunity to talk with Ralph Rodriguez on 2-Wheel podcast.
We talked about racing, how we got into the sport and why we think the AFM is such a special club to race with.
Click here to listen in.
Is it the end or just the beginning?
Things change, they change constantly. You can plan, train, and work your ass off, but at any moment everything you know can change. People are always making plans, but life is busy making it's own. If you ask a rider what they are thinking about before a race, you will usually hear about them visualizing a holeshot or some other positive outcome. Well only one rider gets the holeshot, and if it isn’t you, then what? Any great racer will tell you, limiting the damage on your bad days is the key. If you want to limit the damage, spend some time making a plan for that first turn when you are not the ONE!
Jennie had a tough crash at Round 6 and in the days leading to this final round a decision needed to be made; we decided due to some lingering dizziness issues, that she would not race. Additionally, my plans also changed greatly after Round 6 due to a mechanical issue with my bike. I was already planning on a new bike for next season and this just accelerated it a bit. With some help from Roseville Yamaha Kawasaki, I became the proud owner of a new ZX10r. I made the decision to commit to riding the ZX10 at the final round and putting the Honda up for sale. The Honda is a bike that can win and the ZX10 is unproven, well that isn’t quite accurate; Jeremy Toye showed the entire paddock what the bike can do in competition and additionally, Ken Hill has given the green machine positive reviews in testing. With two great racers like that touting the bike, I was sure we would work well together.
The entire crew at Roseville Yamaha Kawasaki was excited to see me at the store buying a new Zed Ex 10. I wasn't feeling any pressure to perform well, haha, since the last road racer they supported was Cameron Beaubier. Now it was time to get her race ready; immediate calls went out to LeoVince for a new pipe, which looks awesome and my forks were shipped off to Barry at KFG Racing to install his GP Suspension. Lee’s Cycle shipped me up a link for my suspension, and provided me with some much needed set-up advice, lastly some off the shelf goodies from Roseville Yamaha Kawasaki provided me just about everything I needed. Of course with such a crunched timeline, parts were coming in until the last minute and I worked some late nights int he garage getting her ready. Thank you to everyone who helped out!
With just a few days to go, I was still missing a critical part, which was on backorder and I was running out of options. I made a call to Ken Hill, he has a ZX10 and I was hopeful he would loan me the ECU I needed, a reprogrammed unit that would work with my stock harness. Thankfully, he told me I could come by his house and borrow it. The ECU is not easy to get it out of the bike; pull the tail, seat, side panels, damper, gas tank, top of the air box and then disconnect the ECU. Thank you for not only taking the time to lend me the part, but spending a few minutes talking with me about riding techniques. This would come into play Sunday.
Friday morning we left for the track, Friday's track day would be my first test of the new machine. In the morning before heading out on track, Barry made some last minute changes to my new shock and Jenn helped get the stock tires off the bike and the wrapped my new rims in Pirelli tires. Not wanting to rush things, we spent the first two hours getting the bike ready to go at the pace that would test my suspension. My first session was almost too crazy... I was not sure of the new bike and the geometry did not feel like it was where I needed it. I had several tank slappers, making me nervous that I made a huge mistake in not bringing the CBR Superbike, but I could feel the potential of the ZX10. Knowing the bike has more to give is an oddly comforting feeling. The rest of the day Barry worked with me, small adjustments every session.
If you have never set up a brand new bike, imagine this. You get up in the morning, late, and realize you are about to be late for your yearly review. Without thinking twice you grab the keys to your car and run out to find your trusty steed has been replaced, your once easy to drive Ford F150 has been replaced with a European Lamborgini. Excitement runs through your veins, after you figure out how to open the space ship style doors you jump in the seat thinking this rocket ship will certainly get you to work on time. Then you realize that the wheel is on the other side, you drive an automatic and your clutch skills may be a bit rusty, add to that, the shifter is done with the left hand instead of the right. You are sitting on the wrong side of the car and you have minutes to become one with the car and get to work on time. Welcome to having a day and a half to set up a new 1000.
All that aside, and you wouldn't have known it from my stress level, but the day went pretty well. Ken Hill stopped by to swing a leg over the bike and let me know how far I made it with the set-up, he turned 2 laps, that’s what it takes Ken to tell you how good or bad the bike is. Much to my pleasure, he came in with some suggestions and some praise. Make no mistake, that praise goes to Barry at KFG, since I had done nothing to the clickers yet. I ended the day with a bit of relief knowing the bike was good. The issues from the day were mine, in my riding, and sleeping on that for the night was a bit tough.
Saturday brought more of the same as far as diagnostics went. We made some changes, but how much do you change when you are off the race pace? Unable to get the spring we wanted originally, Barry was able to find one for me on Saturday and that made the bike much better.
Saturday afternoon sessions were spent providing rider evaluations to get some New Racer School (NRS) students certified to race. Jenn had been spending all day working with NRS, she volunteered to help due to the large turn-out of new racer hopefuls. At one point she came by the pits, desperate, knowing how busy I was and asked for some help with testing racers. When I got to the meeting area, she was grabbing riders and pairing us up, big bikes testing the faster riders and small bikes working with the slower ones. She did an amazing job of herding a bunch of cats. Chance would have it that one of the racers I worked worked with was pitted feet from us. It was fun to watch his progress and his smile grow. He did a great job of making it through 2 starts in Clubman and turned some 2:05 lap times in the process. Congrats to all of the new racers, and we hope to see you next year.
Sunday was not nearly as busy for Jenn, but she had committed herself to hosting “A Day at the Races” in an effort to get some new people out to watch the races and introduce them to the AFM. She invited people to come find her, the day was spent walking the pits and giving non-racers an up close and behind the scenes look at racing. Add in some interviews and she had a full day.
In her wanderings through the pits, she happened to bring up her medical issues (vertigo) to William Brown, Joe Hittner and a few others. They had each experienced similar issues and told her about some vertigo exercises that had helped them, the Hallpike and Epley maneuvers. After the race weekend we were able to look them up on the web and perform them at home. Within a day of doing the exercises the vertigo was gone and she is now ready to race again... better late than never. 15 minutes with YouTube fixed what a team of doctors missed. Thanks to everyone who shared their experiences. Racers need to take the time to help each other, and also remember that admitting you have an issue is not a weakness.
For me, Sunday was a huge learning curve. Barry had advised me to get rid of the electronic damper, but I could not find a manual one to replace it with. At least until Jesus Sanjuro, a fellow AFM racer, showed up on his a street stock ZX10 and stopped by my pits. After learning of my damper woes, he offered the damper off his bike. That is what I love about the AFM, we are family. This completely changed my bike and how Sunday would go.
I decided not to race Open Prod, I had my hands full with the Kawasaki and I had already earned enough points to win the Open Production championship without racing. The Open SB race was first up for me and it went OK, not exceptional, but I was starting to get the feel of the bike. The Formula Pacific race came a little while after lunch and I really struggled with fatigue during the race. I had been drinking lots of water during the day, but started to feel super sick half way through the race. I was incredibly frustrated and just assumed it was the flu. I walked to Ricky Corey’s pits to congratulate him on earning the #1, in talking, one of his pit crew guys mentioned I may be dehydrated. I told them I drank plenty of water and Gatorade, but they insisted I try some Pedialite. This is not my favorite drink and I have tried to drink it during race weekends before, this time though, the entire quart went down easy and made me feel 100% better for the last race of the day. Thank you Ricky Corey Racing for helping me when I couldn’t help myself.
The last race, Open GP, started with Tim Scarrott ripping a huge holeshot! He left Martin and I fighting for scraps, we split Tim into T3 and Martin found the lead. My race was spent looking at every hole, every opportunity, to make a pass. A few near misses cost me more time and left me making up the gap again and again. Just when I thought the pass would be made, I missed a shift. Did I mention I had no quick shifter? You get used to that little item and it makes things "unique" when you don’t have it. We had a fun race, but Martin edged me out in the end and won the race and ultimately the Open GP championship.
I finished off the season with the win in the Open Production Championship, 2nd in Open GP, 3rd in Open Superbike and taking the #4 plate in Formula Pacific.
Next year is looking really good. I have a great bike with an amazing suspension under it. Soon the race harness will be installed and the quick-shifter will be working. For sure, this is only the beginning.
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.