Track Day 7:  Autobahn South 10/9/2005

I was out in the garage, working on the bike on Saturday the 8th, and I was pretty chilly.  I think the high was somewhere in the mid 50's and Sunday the morning temperature was suppose to be in the 40's.  Time to break out the long underware.  I guess it's only fitting that the season should end up the same way it started.

Before prepping the bike for the track I took it for a ride on my usual route through the forest preserves.  I didn't wear my Long Johns, but I did make a neck warmer out of an old knit hat (yeah, I just cut the top off to make it a sleeve, and slid it down to my neck).  Although the neck warmer helped keep my upper body toasty, after about 30 minutes I could definitely start feeling the chill in my knees and fingers.  None the less, it was a nice ride.  The leaves on the trees are just starting to change colors. 

One stretch of road along my ride route is a freshly paved (man, did it need it) two lane that runs along a lake.  The road has almost a complete tree canopy; the trees from both sides stretch up and over the road almost making a complete tunnel.  Occasionally the trees on the lake side break to give you a view of the water, which is really no more than 25 feet away at some points.  The combinations of light comging throught the trees, shadows on the road, and the sun sparkling off the lake make it a great stretch any time of day.  This particular Saturday there was hardly any traffic.  I check the road in front, checked my mirrors... no one in site.  I prceeded to countersteer the CBR and slolom through the broken centerline at the posted 50 mph. 

When I got home I made some hot soup for myself and the kids.  Definitely needed that... and would definitely need the underware come Sunday.

Well, I got the bike prepped.  One of the things I did, which I hadn't done beofore, was to check the rear wheel alignment.  Last track day I had to adjust my chain, and I adjusted it again since then, so I wanted to make sure that I wasn't cocking the wheel.  I remembered reding something on the NESBA bulletin board about how to do it and I'd also seen an article in one of my magazines, so I tried the NESBA board and found this link.  With some fishing line, a wodden dowl pin, a hack saw, and some duct tape, I was able to carry out the basic procedure and found the wheel to be aligned just fine.  Unfortunately there was an ugly event associated with this wheel alignment check.

I took off the middle and lower body work and jacked the bike up using my handy dandy motorcyle jack since the wheels had to be off the ground to do the alignment check.  The stand has four points where you can attach tie downs; just to make sure the bike doesn't fall off while it's jacked up.  Well, to make a long story short, I was done with the alignment and I started to slowly lower the bike to the ground.  I got almost completely down, took off the tie downs, and then went to finish the job. As I'm lowering it down down the last inch or so, with the tires already in contact with the ground, the bike starts leaning onto the side stand as it should, and then it just keeps going.  Yup, falls right over...  "Shit!" expresses it pretty well.  Pretty ironic that I'm out on a track throwing this thing around, running off the track, and manage to keep it up, but that's twice I drop it in my own garage.  Well, once again, the sliders did their job and prevented any major damage.  The widest part of the tail got the paint scractched off right at the point that touched the ground, but that was the worst of it.  Still not exactly sure what happened, but I think the sidestand just folded as the bike came down. 

Well, after that experience I'm thinking, maybe this is an Omen?  Maybe I should forget this track day?  Yeah, that thought didn't last too long.   After the drama was over I finished the prep, got the bike on the trailer, with the tiedowns mounted loosely, and I was ready.

Sunday morning was cold. Even with the long undeware on I could feel the chill.  Nice thing about going to Autobahn is that I can get up at my usual time, 5:20 am, and still make it to the track on time.  I tightened down the bike, loaded up the tools, cooler, riding gear, went over my cheklist, and I was off.  Left the house right about 6:00 am.  By the time I got down to I-80 it was starting to get light out, and as I was driving west I could see the sky was going to be clear.  Well, there are worst things than cool sunny days.

I got to the track a few minutes before 7:00.  There were four other track dayers there before me and all except for one guy were sitting in their cars... why stand out in the cold.  The fourth guy rode his bike there... a Honda ST1300, complete with saddle bags.  Obviously he was there for the free introductory sessions.  Why were we just waiting around?  Because the registration building was still dark; the NESBA boys were still sleeping.

Couple more people arrived and the registration building lit up, but I still didn't see anyone from NESBA.  More people started arriving and going into the registraiton building so I followed suit.  NESBA wasn't there to register us yet, but we signed our track disclaimer and were allowed to go through the gates.  Figured I'd get the bike unloaded and come back to register.

As I drove through the infield between the North and South track I could see that there were a couple of car trailers toward the North side, so cars were going to be running the North track.  I parked in the same grassy area where I parked the first time I was here; just off the asphalt which leads to the entry of the North track.  The grass was still wet from the morning dew and I slipped my jacket on to take the chill off.

I got the bike unloaded, parked it on the asphalt and set up my beach umbrella, though I wasn't really going to need it today.  Today the warm sun hitting me would be welcome.

I started the bike to let it warm up so I could ride it back to registration.  For a couple mintues I sat there on the trailer, watching the white exhaust vapors.  The sun was moving up in the sky in the horizon, and all was good in the world.

I zipped up my jacket and rode back to the entry gate.  It had to be less than a half mile, but that was one chilly ride, even at just 15 miles per hour.  I got myself regitered and took the chilly ride back to my spot.  I parked the bike and decide to take a walk around and see if I couldn't find tech inspection, and warm myself up a bit.  As I walked around I realized it really wasn't that crowded, so unless a lot more people came, looked like traffic on the track was going to be minimal.

I found tech inspection, and the line was starting to grow, so I walked myself back to my parking spot, and rode my bike over.  When I got there the guy in front of me was the one with the ST1300.  He was talking to the inspector, and getting a few tips about taking it easy out there with the street tires and the cold track.  Good advice.

When I was through tech I rode back and who did I see parked next to me.  The same guy that was there back in June for the South course; his first time out.  We exchanged greetings and I helped him and his friend pull the bike out of the back of the minivan.  He actually had to take the shield off to get it to fit.  Seems he decided he liked the track thing and this was his second day, but in the mean time he had gone out and bought himself a new, black, '05, Yamaha YZF-6.  It was a nice bike and the topic of converation as he put the shield back on.  

He also said that another friend of his was coming, and should have been there by now.  Couple times him and his girlfriend were on the phone giving the guy directions. About 15 minutes later the guy showed up with a pickup and a 636 Ninja in the back.  We helped him get it off the truck using an 8 foot 2"x12" as a ramp. He was there to take advantage of the free introductory sessions and see how he liked it.  Nedless to say he ended up liking it.

The rider meeting came up and it was the usual stuff, including the occasional joke like, "This is the black flag, the difference between it and the red flag is that it's black..."  laughs from the crowd followed.  They did mention that there were some sealer strips out on the track which were new and could be slick, and we should go easy on them.  The intro and beginners then went on to their meeting, and I didn't go with them.

Yup, my first full day as an Intermediate Class rider.  I went back to my car and got my leathers on cause I was up in 15 minutes.  I debated weather or not I was going to put on my self made neck warmer, but I figured I'd try it without, and see how it went.  But I did make sure my helmet vents were closed. 

One nice thing about the cool weather, sitting in the staging line was noooo problem.  And before you know it, we were off.  The pace was pretty quick right away, but not too quick.  First couple laps were standing yellow flag; no passing.  Good thing too, because I distinctly felt my rear tire slide a little bit in a couple spots.  And those sealing trips they were talking about in the rider meeting weren't strips, they were entire turns.  Turn 1 had selaer on it, and turns 10 and 11 (a hard right, and then wider left). 

Well, a couple laps later turn 11 got the better of me.  As I came through I felt my front and my rear each slide out a little bit.  That took me off line and I was off in the grass, doing my rendition of motocross.  I didn't really slow down much, and as I was moving next to the track a guy passed me.  I looked behind me and there was noone else coming, so I pulled back on and took off.  So much for the excitement.  The rest of the session went pretty good, I just made sure I took it easy on those turn.  I definitely had to take them slower than the last time at the track.  After the session, when I got back to my parking spot, the guy next to me was getting ready to go out and I told him to be careful out there cause it was cold and slick.

Riding Intermediate was definitely nicer than beginner.  Some people were a little slower, me being one of them, but for the most part everyone kept up a good pace.  I definitley liked it.

Between sessions I had started talking to a guy who was riding a Ducati 754 (745?).  At one point he couldn't get out of his suit and he came over asking for a hand.  No problem.  We were all glad to help each other.  That's one of the great things about being at the track, you knew if you needed help, people would do what ever they could.

The guy had an interesting story.  Apparently his brother had driven down from Madison WI starting at 3:00 am, but now he was too tired to ride and was sleeping in his car.  He did eventually get up about lunch, and I think he took a session after lunch, and that was it.  Talking to him later he said he just didn't feel right and didn't think it was a good idea for him to be out there.  It's alway good to know your limits, cause you can't be out there making mental mistakes.

Well, we're sitting over by his parking area
talking, and I was eating my lunch while the Beginners were out for their last session before the lunch break, and the action stopped, and the ambulance and safety crew truck went out.  Well, that wasn't good.  First red flag of the day.  We kep talking and we saw the ambulance come back pretty slow, so obviously noone was hurt.  Next thing I know, we look up and there's the guy with the YZF-R6 on the truck with his bike.  Bummer.  Second track day, on a new bike, and he wiped out.

I went over to see if he was alright and help them get the bike off the truck. He was fine, but apparently turn 11 got the better of him.  One of his tires slid out and he low sided.  His frame sliders definitely helped save his bike, cause the left side frame slider and swingarm spool were well worn down.  His case on the left side also got a good scraping, his rear seat pad was slightly pushed forward and full of dirt from the back, his upper fairing was cracked, both foot pegs were broken, exhaust can was well dented, and he had some minor cracking on other parts.  He may have low sided, but the bike must have taken a good tumbling to get it from all sides like that.  But, generally speaking, everything else seemed in good shape.

Couple minutes later a couple of the CR's come over and basically start raggin the guy out.  Their point was that he had left his bike in the impact zone (on a spot where someone else could easily run off the track and hit it) and that he should have moved it.  He was trying to explain but they weren't really listening to him.  He said that he went to pick it up, but the corner worker told him not to worry about it since there were only a few minutes left in the session.  Ah well, so they red flagged the session and people lost a few minutes of track time, big deal. Sure they had a point, but they should have gone and talked to the corner worker, cause he gave the guy some bad advice.  You're suppose to listen to the corner workers.

It didn't turn out that bad for him.  He was wearing rental leathers, and it was a you scratch them you buy them proposition, so he ended up with paying about $350 for the suit.  A nice one too.  Heck, the money he saved on the suit will pay for his bike repairs.  And of course he got half his entry fee credited since his day was done.  Well, you have to look at the bright side.

The rest of the day went pretty smoothly.  There was a few yellow flags cause people ran off the track in a few spots.  I don't know if they crashed or not, but they were all standing with their bikes, or still on them when I went by.

Through the day I passed a few people and a few passed me.  Well, a lot of people passed me in the fifth session.  Half way around on the first lap my low fuel light came on.  I considered pulling off to fill up, but instead I just notched it up a gear or two to keep the revs lower and hopefully conserve gas.  That of course killed my acceleration and drive out of the corners, but  I made it through the session.  I have to make it a point to tank up a couple times during the day.

There was no Sliderphoto and no Motovid out there, so no pictures to show for it.  Jack from Sliderphoto had to work the whole weekend, and Motovid was at some other track event. Bummer.  First full day as Intermediate and no photos.

Overall, aside from turns 10 and 11, where I made a conscious effort to go a little slower, I was pretty confortable out there.  I liked the "I" pace. 

For the most part I was working on two things, my body position, and my downshifting into corners.  I think I made good progress on both points.  Getting the downshifts right got me more drive out of the corners and my body position allowed me to get through the corners with less lean angle.

What Next?

Well, this being my last track-day of the year, I came out of it with mixed feelings.  It seems the season was just starting and now it's done.  It certainly has been interesting.  Getting used to the CBR, meeting new people, and getting bumped up to Intermediate class.  The main question running through my mind is, "What next?"  Where do I go with this hobby of mine?  I have a lot of ideas swimming around in my head; everything from what kind of modifications to make for next year, to selling it and buying a cheaper track bike (one I wouldn't feel so bad about cracking it up if I did... when I do), to getting out of bikes alltogether and doing something constructive with my time.

My wife says I think too much.