It’s 2:30 in the afternoon Saturday, April 25th 2009, my right knee lightly scrapes for a moment over the blue and yellow curbing at the exit of turn 7. I am extremely pleased because the ride height adjustment Phil Douglas of Aftershocks made before this final practice session of the day seems to have worked. Nikka (my bike) is no longer pushing us off line as I roll on the throttle to the stops. My line through the turn 8 esses has been consistent and clean since I spent the better part of Friday working on it. Each transition of my body from left to right is smooth, my feet properly positioned and weighted on the pegs…. but this time through something is not right. Nikka is low on power, she is not pulling even though the throttle is pinned and a quick glance at my RPM gauge tells me I am in the power band. I decide to try my normal up-shift over wheelie hill before dropping down to turn 9 and hear a load clunk, 2 down-shifts under braking and more clunking from Nikka’s belly. This sounds similar to the noise she made when I blew the transmission last month. I coast through turn 9 and 9a with my hand in the air to warn anyone approaching from behind that I am having difficulties, “Please don’t hit me.”
As I roll on the throttle exiting 9 she still doesn’t want to pull, we limped off the track at the exit lane, and she stalled. I dismounted and pushed Nikka back to my pit, heartbroken with the thought that I won’t be able to grid up for Formula AFemme which races in about an hour.
Jason and Greg are in Greg’s toy hauler writing notes of what they have learned today when I rudely interrupt them requesting assistance with my bike. This is not the first time and it certainly won’t be the last, sorry guys. They both raced raced SV’s our first two years in the AFM, but they made the move to the mighty R6’s this year, maybe secretly hoping to get away from the little problems that SV’s often present. The SV’s are fun to race, plus they are lower budget race bikes than most of the others in the paddock. I prefer the Generation 1 SV650, which means my bike is old, a 1999, and when you race a bike that old you are bound to have problems from time to time. So I recruit their help to diagnose my problem. Jason tries to manually push through the gears and can’t get rotation, but a few moments later Zoran (the SV God, owner of Twin Works Factory and engine builder for a large percentage of the SV grid) gives it another try. I tell Zoran that my bike is set-up GP shift (up is down, down is up) and he has no problem getting her through all the gears and back again. So it looks like my problem is maybe not the transmission… but at this point she is not going to run right and I am going to have to miss the 1st AFemme round.
As I turn away from my bike, Ricky Ford is rolling into our garage from his last practice session of the day, on one of the two bikes he brought this weekend. *light bulb* As soon as he has removed his helmet, I am in his face asking if he will please, please let me race one of his bikes in AFemme. Yes! Really! My emotions are like a roller coaster, I just want to race with the girls!
Ricky’s bike that I borrow is a Gen 2 and there are several differences; tire brand and size, the bike shape and seating position, regular shift not GP, and a quick shifter which I have never used before. This should be interesting with no practice sessions left… I decide to go out for the hot lap for race one and make sure I am comfortable, my hot lap went ok and I remembered the correct shifting pattern. :) I decide I am not going to stress about race finish position or lap times, I am going to go out to race with the girls and just have fun. I realize that with no practice on this bike there is a very low probability that I will run my normal pace.
Just before the race, Berto Wooldridge comes over and gives me a pep talk. I tell him about how I am not on my own bike and he says, “Well now that you have your excuse all ready, go out and kick some ass!” Thanks for that Berto!
We take the hot lap for our race and I am still comfortable as we grid up. I am on the 2nd row, I haven’t been this close to the front since racing clubman two years ago, what a great view into turn 1. My visor is down, the bike is revved, I am watching the 1 board go sideways and waiting for the flag to drop. In that instant, something that Ken Hill had told me during my coaching session flashed through my mind… I can’t tell you what it was, if you want to know get your own session with Ken (ha ha) but I was determined.
I got a good start and I rode a pretty good race, my lap times were within my normal range although I had been hoping for better. In Valentino accent “I make-a good rhythm, I try to puussh, but I just not have it today.” I wish I could tell you that I didn’t miss a shift, but I missed quite a few. Many-a-time when I wanted to make a down-shift I would make an up-shift, and baaahhhhggg…no power. And I really should have asked more questions about how a quick shifter works, because apparently when you roll off the throttle a bit with a quick shifter it really doesn’t work at all; each time I came down the front straight everyone in the grandstands got to watch me try to figure this out. But I kept going, I gave it 110% effort (that’s for you Jason,) I didn’t give up just because I missed a shift or lost a little time. I wanted to do my best to show appreciation for all the people back in my pit that helped me that day and many times before. I just laughed and laughed in my helmet each lap as I crested wheelie hill and the little 113 bikes' head shook for an instant as it got light from the acceleration, you just wait… soon I’m going to be doing a full wheelie over that crest.
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.