Track Day Three (First time on
5/15/2005. Just over a month since I wrote about the first 90
miles on the CBR1K. By now it had somewhere close to 300 miles on
it, and here I was at Blackhawk Farms Raceway for my third track
day ever, first one of the year, first one on the new CBR, first time
using my assemble-it-your-self trailer, and hauling it with my Jetta,
now equipped with a Draw-Tite hitch.
Through the week, as the event drew nearer, I was checking the weather
report on a regular
basis. It was looking pretty dismal; mostly cloudy, possibility
of rain, and temps in the mid 40's... Yup, I said 40's! A
high in the mid fifties! Have you ever tried finding long johns
in the middle of May. Let me tell you, it's not easy, cause
the stores are already carrying bathing suits. But that was
definitely first on my list of things to get... Anyone know what
the wind chill is when it's 45 degrees F and you're doing 125
mph? That would be 28 degrees F. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.....
Saturday rolled around and I did the usual prep on the bike, take off
the mirrors, turn signals, and rear fender, taped off all the lights,
put on the competition number, checked the tire pressure, and the
chain. The easiest part of all this was probably removing the
rear fender. Four screws, four wire connectors and the whole
thing comes off in one piece; turn signals included. Not
bad. Of course you have to take the seat and the rear seat
cowling off before you can do that. But, I'm starting to be an
expert in that. One neat trick is that the bike has these two red
reflectors on either side below the rear seat area. They're
mounted on small brackets. I made some sheet aluminum plates,
drilled holes in them, mounted them using the existing bracket and
screw, and wuala, number plates. I had some big vinyl numbers on
the front of the bike too, but I figured out that if you didn't have
numbers somewhere then Joe Photographer wouldn't take your picture from
that angle, cause he sorts pictures by number.
Taking off the mirrors gave me fits because the screws holding them had
Locktite or something on them, and they were in there for good.
And of course the front turn signals were some work because you have to
take off the left and right fairing middle sections.
Once the bike was all prepped it was just a matter of getting it up on
the trailer. I had practiced this a few times as I was developing
my trailer ramp, so that went pretty smooth too. I used a Canyon
Dancer and a couple of heavy duty straps to hold the front end down and
a couple regular straps to hold the back end. I left all this
pretty loose until morning.
My plan was to get to bed early, which turned out being 9:30. Of
course it took me a while to get to sleep cause of all the stuff going
through my head, and the fact that everyone else in the house didn't
care I needed to get up at 4:30. After finally falling asleep I
ended waking up at 3:00 am and spent the next hour and a half trying to
get back to sleep, which I never did. 4:30 rolled around and I
got myself moving, packed the food in the cooler, got my breakfast food
together so I could eat it in the car on the way there, got all the
rest of the stuff in the car, tightened the bike
down, and I was off at 4:45.
Did I mention I hated driving on the toll way cause it was rough.
Yeah, I have, and my opinion hasn't changed. But the trailer and
hitch held together and the straps didn't come loose. So, I was
way ahead of last year. Except for all the bouncing around on the
toll way I didn't even know the trailer was there. None the less, I was
glad to get some
smooth asphalt under me on 290 and 90 going Northwest. One thing
that was better this year about the toll way was the I-Pass. With
a trailer attached I still had to go by the manual booths. I
guess in addition to registering the toll for a car, the guys in the
booth tacks on the trailer toll. But it was nice, no digging for
change, just drive up, say hi, and you're on your way.
Well, I finally got off the toll way into Beloit. Rockton road had a
small detour that took you through down town Beloit. Don't
blink. It's one of those typical small town strips. Small
shops, restaurants, bars, with car parking on the diagonal. The
thought that runs through my mind is what do people do for a living in
a small town like this? The detour took me along a river and then
back out onto Rockton road. Only a few miles away at that point.
I pulled up to the track gates right about 6:45. Perfect, because
tech inspection and registration started at 7:00. I drove around
to about the center of the track, back by turns 4 and 5 close to the
same spot I parked the last couple of times. It was still pretty
quiet, no bikes running yet. Just folks bustling around.
The whole way up it was mostly sunny; the occasional cloud came along
and blocked the sun for a little while, but I was encouraged. At
the track it wasn't much different. But it was definitely
cold. One of the first things I did was to put on my leather
pants to try and keep myself warmer. Then I put on my winter
jacket. Even with the long underwear on, you could still feel the
Bike unloading was fairly painless. The trailer tilting
mechanism, the home made ramp, all worked like a charm. Not a
bad job if I do say so myself. I need to get my hands on a
digital camera, and do a detailed page on what I did. The basic
problem is that the tilting trailer has no control over how far it
tilts or when it tilts back and when it tilts forward. Plus, when
it tilts all the way back, it's way too steep, so there's no way you
could get a bike off and on without the modifications I made.
Once the bike was unloaded I got myself registered, suited up, and went
over to tech inspection. Inspection tool all of about half a
minute, I got my stickers, and I was ready for the track.
I took a walk around to take a look at the other bikes, and say hey to
a few people. There was definitely no shortage of nice looking
machinery. Everything from pretty much stock machines like mine
to people with serious setups.
Before long they announced the obligatory rider meeting where they go
over the rules and flags. There was a decent amount of focus on
the fact that the track was cold, and yesterdays event had it's share
of red-flags (stoppages due to downed riders), so let's keep it safe
out there. And of course
there was the drilling in regarding staying to the right of the blend
line when entering the track. After that came the beginner rider
meeting where they covered the usual stuff, but in addition they
discussed the new, controversial, passing rules, which included the
fact that it was OK to pass on the outside of a corner... at your own
risk. It's seen as risky for the person doing the passing because
the one on the inside has every right to swing out as they come through
the curve, possibly pushing the passer off the track.
While we're sitting in the discussion, the bikes are zooming down the
straight. It's still amazing to see how fast they're going.
No, you don't want to be on the wrong side of the blend line.
Discussion over, and we're on the track in 15 minutes.
This time I figured I might as well line up with the fast guys in the
left staging line. As we got out on the track, even in the first
few corners, the huge difference between my BMW and the CBR was
apparent. The BMW you have to leverage into the corners, with the
CBR it just did what I thought. Also, that seat that I hated on
the street, cause I kept sliding forward in it, worked great on the
track. It kept me against the tank so that I could grab it with my
thighs when braking, and it was very easy to slide around on for
shifting my weight. Turn 3D is a sharp right hander and very
shortly after that, not shown on the track map there's a quick left, so
you're going from handing off one side to hanging off the other side in
a very short time frame. It was very easy to just shift the bike
under me because the seat offered no resistance to movement.
I could pretty much go around the whole track in third gear. I
could shift down to second on the slower corner, and maybe up to fourth
on the main straight, but it was optional. Top end in third gear is
around 125 mph or so but the bike also has good torque coming off
corners. Yeah, I'd come out of the corners a little faster if I
went to second, but as it was I was catching up to people on a regular
basis so what would be the point. Needless to say that only
having to shift occasionally sure made it less hectic and allowed me to
concentrate on my lines and form.
So, yes, I was catching up to others on the track and passing them when
the opportunity came. The main places to pass were coming out of
turn 7 onto the main straight, turn six onto the back straight, turn 5
and the short straight between 5 and 6. There were other places
where I was carrying enough speed to pass, but I found that the lines
people were taking through corners weren't as predictable and so made
it more risky.
At one point I caught up to one of the control riders. Since
you're not suppose to pass them, I just hung behind him and waited for
him to either wave me by, or show me around the track. He saw me
there, and we went around about half a lap with him looking back
occasionally. He then tapped the tail of his bike, letting me
know to follow his line, and we were off. So, for the remainder
of that session we exchanged positions; me following him, then he
following me to see what I was doing. It was great to have that
kind of personal attention. At the end of the session we talked
and he said I looked pretty good. One place he though I could
improve was my line through turn five. The line I was using on
the outside when passing people is the line I should be using all the
time. To prove his point he passed me a couple times exactly
through that section. Next session I caught up to him again and
we did the same thing; swapping positions so he could watch my
lines. And again, for good measure, he passed me on the outside
I have to mention one of the people that impressed me as I was going
around was a girl on a Suzuki SV650. Clearly it was here first
time on the track, cause she was going really slow, and there was a
control rider leading her around pretty much the whole time. But
she held her lines, didn't get in anyone's way, and I'm sure she had a
blast. That's what the organization is all about, letting people
have a good time no matter what their lever of expertise.
I managed to christen my left knee slider, which never saw pavement
last year, and do a few more touch downs with the right. I for
the most part I did that while feeling pretty good. The one time
I can remember thinking... "Wooooooohhhh there!", was while
passing on the outside of turn 5 and I got pretty close to the edge of
the track, but I put a little more pressure on the inside bar, held my
line and got the pass done.
Another thing that the control rider made me focus on was my
relaxation. At one point he's right in front of me and he's got
his left hand off the bar, and he's resting his forearm on his left
thigh, glancing back at me, while leaned over. Clearly he was
relaxed. From that point I consciously kept track of how relaxed
I was. And being more relaxed allowed me to ride with less
effort. As I kept hearing... get the bike turned and pointed in
the right direction, then relax. Yup, it works.
I Honda also made another technique easy to execute; locking the
outside knee into the tank to get a good solid plant of the foot on the
outside peg. It was a good stable position, and I'll have to work
with that more in the future. I tried it because there was a big
discussion about it on the NESBA bulletin board, and it's something
that Keith Code recommends for better turning.
The last session of the day was great. I was in the group of top
riders being led around by a control rider. We were moving well,
it must have been a site to see, all of us in and out of the corners,
one after the other. Ballet on wheels.
Obviously the bike performed great. However, I still found myself
hunched over too far, with my lower back not staying in it's natural
curvature. So, a set of taller bars are in the near future.
Helibars here I come...