Track Day Three (First time on the CBR)

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 chill. 

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 of 5.

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 five riders being led around by a control rider.  We were moving well, and 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...