Road Racing Series - Part 1
Introduction: Leaving the lawn chair
Winter's here. By now most Motorcycle.com readers will have tucked their bikes into the corner of the garage with STA-BIL in gas tanks and trickle chargers keeping batteries alive until spring temperatures and clear roads bring another riding season. Winter for road racing fans means surfing the Speed Channel for re-runs or searching through TiVo files of the recently ended season to get them through cold nights, snowy commutes and NFL weekends until the first race bikes will rev their engines next spring at Daytona.
But for those race fans who have always aspired to do more than just watch, why not make this winter the one in which you move from spectator to participant, using the down time to prepare instead of daydream. Come spring, you could find yourself on the other side of the chain-links with your hands wrapped around the grips instead of clutching a program and a beer.
This past spring, covering AMA racing at Daytona for Motorcycle.com, I found myself intoxicated by the combination of race gas fumes and the shock wave that you feel in your chest when you're passed yards away by a motorcycle going 180 miles-per-hour. It was then that the question entered my mind, what does it take to make the leap from bench racer to track competitor? So I passed the idea by MO editor-in-chief Kevin Duke. Why not write a series taking readers step-by-step through the process of becoming an amateur road racer? Duke got upper management to agree and is the person to thank (or blame) for what follows.
My first racing seat was a white plastic lawn chair set up in the corner of the showroom of the Honda dealership where my Dad worked. On Friday nights the shop was open late and sometimes Dad would come home to eat supper and take me back with him. The television I shared the corner with played a constant loop of motorcycle racing where I witnessed the epic motorcycle battles of the '80s. To pass the time I'd pick a number and pretend that racer was me, imitating their body English in my chair and riding their race in my head. I was Freddie Spencer tucked in on the straights of the great European GP circuits, Jeff Ward catching air over a double and Bubba Shobert flat tracking my left foot through the corners.
At home an empty hay field was my race track and I made hot laps on my Daytona Orange Honda MR-50, dreaming of the day when the checkered flag I was taking would be real. But Dad's career moved on, my childhood motorcycles never grew beyond 50cc and my racing dreams vanished like a TV image when the plug is pulled.
My delusions of road racing glory died with the passing years. I took on the road racing project with the jaded objectivity of a journalist rather than the optimism of a child. By my age, most road racers have a decade of experience on the track, the greats a half-a-dozen championships under their belts. My experience on the street has proved my riding ability to be nothing more than average, a pianist who has mastered "Chopsticks" after years of practice rather than a virtuoso who plays Rachmaninoff at age four, and my racing skills were sure to match.
What follows is my attempt to enter the world of motorcycle road racing with MO readers riding pillion. Seasoned racers will probably laugh at the lap times, shake their heads at the rookie mistakes and find much of my advice based on vicarious, rather than personal, experience. But this series of articles isn't for them.
Great racers are born and seemingly nothing can contain a natural talent that makes picking the fastest line through the corners come as natural to them as brushing your teeth does to you or me. But good or slightly above average racers are made, with a combination of luck, the right connections and determination. To those out there who aspire to be good racers, or even just fulfill a life-long dream of riding your bike on a track, these articles are for you.
This is an introduction to a series of articles, which will address how to get a race license, build a Supersport race bike and ride in your first race. Stay tuned to Motorcycle.com in the upcoming weeks for more.
Road Racing Series - Part 2
Road Racing Series - Part 3
Road Racing Series - Part 4
Road Racing Series - Part 5
Road Racing Series - Part 6
Road Racing Series - Part 7
Road Racing Series - Part 8
Road Racing Series - Part 9
Road Racing Series - Part 10
Road Racing Series - Part 11