The Long Road to a Track Day

By Ves Sladin

I've been riding motorcycles for just over 20 years now. Over that time I've set foot on a race track only once; to watch a WERA race.  Although that was nearly 16 years ago, memories of that day are probably stronger in my mind than many.  Thoughts of going to a track to actually take part in the racing have been with me ever since. Well, some thoughts will not go away, so here I am, 16 years later, and I've just completed my first track day.  Was it worth the wait?  Well, I don't know if anything is worth waiting 16 years for, but lets just say I didn't walk away disappointed.

Over the years I've owned three motorcycles.  The first one was a '75 Yamaha SX650 twin, which I bought right after graduating high school (1980), for $700.  Fact is I didn't even ride that bike home (as in I didn't know how and/or was too afraid to); so a friend rode it home for me.  Then there was my brand spanking new ‘80 Suzuki GS750E.  I bought that in ‘82 and it set me back about $2500.  Of course, along with that came my first set of vehicle payments.  Finally there's my current motorcycle; a used '96 BMW R850R, which I bought in June of '99, with 3500 miles on it, for about $5500.  

At the time I bought the BMW I wasn't actively looking for a motorcycle.  I had sold the Suzuki a couple years back and I figured with family and responsibility my motorcycle riding days best remained a pleasant memory.  Obviously my plan didn't work out too well.  Driving down a suburban road one day I saw the BMW sitting in a yard with a for sale sign on it.  When it first caught my attention I didn't even know what it was.  I turned around, pulled into the driveway, looked again.  Hmmmmm.... a BMW?  I got out of the car...  It didn't look like any BMW I'd ever seen.  (Not that I really followed BMW's. But it doesn't say much for their advertising campaign either.) Yes, the cylinders stuck out the side, but it looked different.  Hmmm...  4 valve heads?  BMW's had four valves heads?... Looked some more... What's this? Some sort of brace protruding from the engine; attached at the top of the front wheel?  Ok, my curiosity was peaked.

I promptly drove home and hit the Internet to do some research.  To make a long story short, I eventually decided that I should buy this bike and reenter the world of riding.  And might I say I have never regretted that purchase.  And might I also say that sport touring motorcycle seems to do just fine on the track.

Like most motorcycle riders, I love the curves.  Unfortunately, living in the Mid-West most of my curve bashing has consisted of highway on-off ramps.  The few times that I've gotten to roads that are really curvy have been pure joy.  Yeah, sure it's nice just to sit back and take in some beautiful scenery, but there's nothing like having scenery AND curves.  All you people that live near the mountains, I envy you.

Here I was, five years after buying that bike and I read an article about the Keith Code traveling superbike school.  Hmmm... Keith Code.  Don't I have his "Twist of the Wrist" book somewhere?  Man, wouldn't that be great, taking the bike on a track and getting taught how to do it right?

I read Keith's book back when it first came out, which was in the 80's.  But at that time, if you wanted to take a racing class you'd have to travel out to California to do it.  With me living in the Mid-West, that really wasn't an option.  Not a realistic one anyway, at least not on my budget.  But now, Keith is traveling, right to my back door.  HOW could I pass this up?  I couldn't.  

The first question was, which option?  You can plunk down just over $700 dollars and they supply the leathers and a specially prepared Kawasaki's, or you can bring your own bike and leathers and get away with $400.  I thought about it for a while and decided to bring my own bike and use the leftover money to buy some leathers.  That way, no matter how the track day went I'd have something to show for it.  Besides, everyone needs to have a full set of leathers... Right?  Right.

The biggest question was weather the BMW was up to it.  Those big cylinders sticking out the sides can't be too good for ground clearance, and if I bash one of them into the asphalt it was going to hurt, in more ways than one.  Also, the suspension was unique, and seemed to work well, but what about at racing speeds?  After considering some facts, two weighed heavily, and made me decide that the BMW was up to it.

First, any sport bike, or even sport touring bike, like the BMW, of late 90's technology is probably a better performer than the hottest sport bikes of the mid 80's.  And if Eddie Lawson could get a KZ1000 to zip around the track at record speeds, odds are that the BMW would do just fine at something way below records speeds.

Second.  Yes the BMW has huge jugs hanging off the sides, but BMW's do get raced.  There's the whole Boxer Cup racing series.  So, the cylinders couldn't be that much of a nuisance.  Sure, the race bikes have different suspensions, but would I be achieving anywhere near the speeds and lean angles the racers do?  Not likely.  

The decision was made.  I was taking my 43 year old self, and my eight year old, stock, R850R, to the race track. Was I crazy or what?

I signed up for a June class at Blackhawk Farms Raceway.  It was only about a 110 mile from my house.  But, it was not to be.  Some time after registering I got a notice that the bring-your-own-bike spaces were filled and should they put me on a waiting list?  Major Disappointment...  No I didn't want to be on a waiting list.  I've been waiting 16 years.  I wanted to be there yesterday.  So, I checked their schedule again and the next closest class was at Mid-Ohio at the end of July. Mid-Ohio was 300 miles away, but it's still a lot closer than California.  I signed up, got confirmed, and the clock was set in motion.

Now the first question that came to mind was how do I learn the track?  Sure, we'll be going around slow at first (I assumed), and after a while I'll get familiar with it, but was there a way to do it before I got there?  What I needed was a simulator.  Well, seek and ye shall find.  I little more hunting around the Internet and I came up with Sports Car GT.  Some of you may know the game?  It's a driving game available for your favorite gaming platform.  Well, apparently there's a bunch of people out there who spend their spare time making tracks that can be used with Sports Car GT.  Anyone see the connection here (racing for dummies tip: crashing in a simulator hurts a lot less than crashing in the real world.  Trust me.  I've done both.  I know.)?  Mid-Ohio, Laguna Seca, Watkins Glen, many of the tracks around the country and even outside of the country are available for plugging into the game.  And they can be very realistic, down to the landmarks and markings on the track.  Anyway, before I knew it, there I was, going around the Mid Ohio track in a variety of sports cars; running off the track, hit a few guard rails, crashing into competitors... but who cares?  Just hit the reset button.  You have to love it.  That's what I call putting technology to good use.

There I am, with my game, picking options, and I see that there's a wet track option.  Hmmm... Wet track? Cool.  Wait a minute, not cool!  What does the Superbike School do if it rains?  Seeing as I'm plunking down $400+ I'd like to think they refund or reschedule or credit or something.  I send of a quick email and a day later... Disappointment number two.  The email says they run rain or shine...  Sigh.... A show of hands please, who thinks it's a good idea to ride on a wet track your first time out?  Not me.

I can definitely see the school’s perspective on it.  They've spent the time and money to come there, the track time is scheduled, and there's no backing out. But from my perspective, how close is wet weather riding to dry track riding? Maybe the Kawasaki's the school supplies run with rain tires (which I hear have a lot of grip) but what are the odds my tires will have enough grip to make the experience worth while?  Maybe the classroom instruction alone is worth the money? To some it might be, but I wanted to be on a dry track and the question was, would I be willing to gamble $400 plus the travel expense plus food and housing on the weather?  

Once again I hit the Internet (you have to love the Internet).  The first time I was up on the Blackhawk Farms web site I noticed that several of the weekends were rented out to Motorcycle clubs, so I went back there to see if I could learn more about them.  One that stood out in particular was NESBA (Northeast Sportbike Association).  Not only did they have a rain warranty (credit toward any other date if it rains), but they also had riders broken down into Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced.  Plus they had control riders out on the track that would observe and give feedback to anyone that wanted it.  They will even let you come out and do some track time at no cost.  Well, it wasn't the California Superbike School, but at an average cost of about $150 per day, it was a heck of a lot cheaper, and it would be a great way to get my feet wet... Or should I say, NOT wet. I promptly sent an email to the California Superbike School, asked them to give me a refund, which they did, no questions asked, and instead I signed up for a couple sessions with NESBA.  The first day was Sunday June 13th at Putnam Park Indiana and I couldn't wait.  

I scheduled my track day in April, but a funny thing happened on the way to June 13th.  Late May my sister starts talking about having a College graduation party for her son, on the weekend of ...  Yes.  June 13th.  What's an uncle to do?  You can't miss your nephew’s graduation party.  And of course this was the only convenient weekend for them.  At this point I'm starting to wonder if this day is ever going to happen.

Not to be deterred it was back to the Internet.   Looking over the NESBA schedule showed they would be at Blackhawk Farms the weekend of the 27th.  Works for me, and the fact that it was 200 miles closer didn't hurt. Did I mention that NESBA also had a policy that allowed you to cancel dates and apply the cash toward another date?  I was really stating to like this organization.

The question was what to do until the day came.  Duh.  Get a Blackhawk Farms track for Sports Car GT!  Yes, even though it's a relatively little known track in the Mid-West, some nice programmer took it upon himself to create the track.  Bless his heart.  And may I say that he did a great job, right down to the trees, the guard rails, the corner stations, grain silo (well yes, it use to be a farm) and all the details you could ask for.

As long as I'm talking about the game again, allow me to make some suggestions.  There are other driving simulator games out there, but I haven't done any kind of thorough investigation and so I have no idea what the track availability is for them. You'll have to do your own research on that.  Regardless, to get the most out of your simulated track time, when you choose your car, you need something with a power to weight ratio which approximates the bike you're on and you need to gear it so that it reflects your bikes gearing; the top speed in each gear should be approximately what you would get from your bike.  That way you'll hopefully get some idea of what gear each corner can be taken in.  Also, you have to have a good steering wheel and pedal setup.  Trying to drive a track with one of those hand held controllers, or worse yet, a keyboard, is an exercise in frustration.  And don't think that just because it's a game it's going to be easy.  The action of the cars is very realistic.  Finally, set it up to use the in-car rather than the watch-my-self-from-behind point of view.

Some of you may be wondering why use a car simulator? Aren't there any motorcycle driving simulators?  Well, apparently there are, and I even tried a demo of one, but I didn't like it.  You just can't simulate leaning over, counter steering, and the action of going to the outside of the track and looking at the apex. Plus it's not worth anything if you can't get tracks for the game. But enough about simulators.

June 26th; the day before track day.  Prepping the bike consisted of taking off the turn signals, headlight, and center stand, taping off the remaining reflectors and tail light, putting my numbers on it, and making sure it was gassed up.  The two things that I had done earlier in the year were new tires (Metzler Z4's) and a new set of handlebars.

I have to dwell on the handlebar thing for a while because they made such a difference in the way the bike felt.  Actually I didn't buy the bars; I bought a tubular conversion kit.  The stock bars on the BMW were these cast aluminum riser types.  I always felt like the bars were too close to me (I'm 6'3") and I would occasionally get back aches while I was on the bike because I was sitting too upright.  The conversion brackets bolted into the same holes on the top triple clamp but allowed me to use any standard 7/8" bars.  Well, not exactly.  BMW has 22 mm bars, which is just a bit smaller than 7/8" which means that the standard controls wouldn't fit on the 7/8".  My solution was to buy some 7/8" 6061-T aluminum tube, cut it to length, and sand the control area until I got them down to 22 mm.  Yes I am crazy, but 100 feet of emery cloth, a lot of sweat and a good half day later, and I had some custom 7/8"/ 22 mm dragbars.  After some rerouting of the cables and wires the fit was perfect.  Now when I'm on the bike I'm slightly leaned forward which balances perfectly against a 60 mph wind and back aches are a thing of the past.  But I also got two things I didn't expect.  The first was that the bike feels more aggressive because there's more weight shifted forward.  Also, the bike runs smoother.  Well, I know it's not smoother, but it definitely feels smoother.  It seems that those tall stock bars were amplifying a buzz which happens at a certain rev band, which jut happens to be about 55 mph in fifth gear. The buzz is now much diminished and the bike feels like it revs easier; all that for the price of some aluminum and brackets.  

Well, the day finally came. June 27th.  I had managed to talk the oldest step-son into coming along with me.  Course it wasn't too hard.  He's 16 and a dirt bike rider.  Lately he had become quite the wheelie expert.  He can keep it going down the whole block while shifting through the gears.  Let's just say he was interested in coming along.  

We had gotten the bikes, mine and one of his dirt bikes, up on the trailer and strapped in, the day before.  The plan was to get up at 4:45 a.m., zip out the door, eat breakfast in the car on the way there, and arrive by 7:00 a.m.. Between 7:00 and 8:30 I had to register, go through tech inspection, attend the general rider meeting, and the beginner rider meeting.

I actually woke up at 3:38 a.m. and couldn't fall back asleep, but I lay in bed trying anyway.  Imagine that, night before my first track day and I couldn't sleep.  I wonder why?  All sort of things were going through my head, not the least of which was all the things I had read in Keith Codes books.  I finally gave up trying at 4:40 and got about the business of packing a cooler with our food.  The night before I had also made a list of all the things I didn't want to forget, like my tools, helmet, suite, boots, gloves, ID, release form, event confirmation, directions to the track, etc..  I made sure everything was in the truck, woke up the son, and we were on our way.

The first leg of the trip didn't last long.  I'd say about half a mile!  One of the straps on the dirt bike came loose when we went over a bump in the road so we had to stop to tighten it up. It's amazing how a small bump can practically launch that trailer.   After that was done we hopped on the West 294 toll way, to West 290, to West 90, which would take us into Rockton and the track.  

The Illinois toll way folks spend a lot of time and money working on the toll ways.  In fact many sections of 294 had been repaved in concrete a couple years ago, so you'd think it would have been smooth sailing.  Every time I drove that road in my car I thought it was in good shape.  But man, you get a trailer, with no suspension, hooked up to a Jeep with a slightly loose suspension, and road irregularities you didn't even know were there are causing serious rattling and bouncing around.  We were constantly looking in our mirrors to make sure something else didn't come loose.  (bike transportation for dummies tip: when you strap it down make sure you compress your bike suspension as much as possible, and if you can, get one of those steel chocks that holds the front wheel of your bike)  We finally hit some good old smooth asphalt and come 7:15 we were pulling into the track facilities.  Pretty good timing.

First surprise, was we were able to get a chunk of grass right near the track staging area, by the front straight.  How convenient.  We promptly unloaded the bikes, set up the lawn chairs, and the turtle, and I started looking for registration.

Yeah, the turtle.  One of the things I brought was a folding 8 ft umbrella.  It was going to be a beautiful sunny say in the high seventies low eighties, so a little shade would be good.  The turtle was this umbrella stand I had.  It was a concrete turtle, with a little baby turtle on the side its shell (I can hear all of you saying, "Isn't that cute".), with a post sticking out of it that the umbrella fit into.  Problem was that the turtle wasn't heavy enough and it tipped over any time a breeze came along.  So I had taken a sheet of 2x2 plywood, drilled some holes in it, and using some big zip ties, I strapped the turtle to the plywood across all four feet.  But that still wasn't enough, so I took four small paving bricks and laid them on the corners of the plywood.  That held it.  Yeah, I'm sure everyone got a good snicker out of it at tha saw it at the track.

So, I'm looking around trying to find out where registration is.  I ask the guys next to me and they say registration isn't open yet.  I find another official looking guy and he tells me it will be in the main track tower/building.  I figured they'd announce it, but 7:40 rolls around and no announcement.  But I do see some riders pushing their bikes and lining up for tech inspection.  Cool.  I ride my bike over and sit in line for a few minutes until my turn comes up.  Guy asks me where my wristband is.  Wristband?  Are you registered?  No I didn't know registration was open.  Apparently it was.  He points me to the building and I ride over.  A few people standing in line but it goes fast.  I get my wrist band and some sort of sticker with a "B" on it (for Beginner). I put the wristband on, the sticker in my pocket and I line back up for inspection.  The guy gets to me again.  Where's your sticker?  Sticker? I'm sure the guy is thinking, what kind of idiot is this.   Oh Yeah, I pull the sticker out of my pocket and give it to the guy. He sticks it on the duct tape that use to be my headlight.  Oh, so that's where it goes.  He looks over the bike, checks my tires, compresses my front suspension, makes sure my pegs are solid, peels another sticker off his sheet, sticks it next to the first one, and I'm done.

The next thing I'm waiting for is the general meeting.  As I stand there looking around, one thing is obvious.  I'm severely outclassed.  Just about everyone there has got a GSXR, RR, YZ, Ducati, MV, etc..  If it's a brand of sport bike it was there.  I though I was the only BMW there but I found out later that there was another one; an R1100S in the Intermediate class.   I did see one guy on a Honda 400 four and some other really old looking two stroke.  Well, I guess I wasn't going to be the slowest guy on the track.  Pretty close though.

The general rider meeting gets called and I walked over to the briefing spot.  The mood is kind of light and talkative.  A couple of guys are joking with the announcer.  I look over the crowd and it seems that a fairly wide age bracket is represented.  Also good to see that both sexes are represented; there are a few women in the crowd.  The announcer goes over the general rules, hand signals the control riders use, what the flags mean, and introduces a few of the commercial groups.  First there was  They take pictures of all the riders throughout the day, so if you're at the track they will have shots of you that you can buy in various sizes.  There was also  They could set up a camera on your bike so you can tape your laps and review it later.  Then there was the attending do it all mechanic, if you needed anything from tire mounting to frame straightening to dino tuning they could do it.

With the general meeting over, all the beginners were grouped together and we took a tour of the track staging area.  We were instructed on how to line up, the procedures for getting on and off the track (as in stay to the right and don't get in the way of people coming down the straight), how and when to signal if you plan on coming off, the procedure for how the control riders are blended into the rest of the group and then we went to the classroom.  There the control rider captain explained the passing rules (for beginners it was only on the straights) and no passing at all during the first 20 minute session.  Advanced, Intermediate, and Beginner groups each get 20 minutes on the track each hour.  He also emphasized that the name of the game is to find your line and be smooth.  Also, if you think you're getting into a turn too hot just push through it.  Just about every time you'll make it through. The point being that it's a lot easier to scrub of 20 mph turning then it is to scrub off 70 mph before you leave the track.  He even mentioned my BMW.  The point there being that even though most people would consider it a touring bike, the technology was significantly above anything racers had 10 to 15 years ago and if it needed to be pushed it could be.  Even it's performance limits were beyond most peoples riding abilities.  Finally he touched on the issue of hanging off and basically said do it if you want but he knew people who were really fast and basically never hung off.

During the talk the Advance riders had already finished their first session and the Intermediates were half way done.  The building in which we had the training class is right along the front straight.  If you've never experienced it, It's difficult to describe the feeling you get, as you see and hear the bikes blast down the the straight not 15 feet away.  It's a nervous/fear/excitement thing all roled into one. It sure made it hard to concentrate. 

It was time to put on the leathers and wait for the five minute warning...  

I got myself dressed, the five minute warning came, and I joined the two lines in the staging area.  As I rode up I realized something, I forgot which side I was suppose to line up on.  We were told that those who wanted to go faster should line up on one side and those who wanted to be further back should be on the other side.  Oh well, he also said that the first session would be kind of slow so everyone can get familiar with the track, so how wrong could I be?

A control rider came up between the two lines and lead us from the staging are, which was behind the pit wall, to do a 180 out onto pit row; which blended into the straightaway.  When everything was clear the crew started the line on the left out onto the track and every 10 rider or so a control rider would blend in.  You guessed it, I was in the left lane;  with the fast guys. Ooooops!  (Racing for dummies tip: when you get told which line is the faster and which is the slower, remember that! And line up accordingly.)  

Well, soon as I got around the first corner I was reminded just how outclassed I was.  The BMW makes about 70 hp on a good day.  Mostly everyone else in front and behind me was making at least 100.  And of course they were probably the guys who had already done at least one track day.  Thinking about it later, there must have been a couple dozen really irritated riders just over my shoulder.  But at the time it was the furthest thing from my mind.  Turn two is a very gradual right hander that you can accelerate through and get into fourth. That leads into turn three (a right hander). Turn three is a third gear sweeper


with a kink at the end so you have to stand up pretty quickly to do the slight left, which leads to a very short straight and then into a very tight right hander which is taken at the low end of second gear, then again a short straight, into a left hander,

Leaning In

another short straight and another left hander.  Those two left handers and straight are really taken as a single sweeper where you go out wide in the short straight between them.  That's all third gear and as you gain speed around the second left hander and you can shift up into fourth;  Assuming you don’t mind shifting while you're leaned over. Then comes a slightly longer straight where you can shift into the low end of fifth or just stay in fourth (hitting about 80 mph; yeah, I’m sure my BMW’s gearing is a bit different than the average sport bike which hits 100 in first gear) and then a pretty sharp, slightly uphill, right, that's taken in third or second.  The uphill makes it look like the curve is banked.  Immediately after that is a short straight into a slight right hander, so between those two curves you can up shift and stand up slightly.  Then you're on the second longest straight on the track where you can get through fourth gear and just into fifth before a very slight right kink and a short straight leading into the final turn before the straight.  The final turn is a high third or low fourth gear and as you accelerate out of it and straighten out you shift up and you're zooming down the straight.  

On the first lap, soon as I came around the final turn onto the straightaway, a bunch of people passed me up and that pretty much kept happening on each lap until the fast riders got past me.  So much for the no passing rule, but I totally understood.  So while they were pushing 150+ down the straight I was pushing around 100+.  Turn one came up fast and I was trying to decide what gear to take it in.  Honestly I can't even tell you.  I'm pretty sure it was third.  

 I can't tell you how fast I got around the track, how many times we went around or any of the details.  All I remember is break, turn, lean, gas, shift up, break, shift down, turn sweep, kink, shift up, break, shift down... You get the idea.  You know that rush you get when you're out on the street and you just hammer it through the gears.  Well, this is that sort of rush but for 20 minutes at a time, and 3/4 of the time you're really busy on the controls.

In the midst of all this there were various realizations that passed through my mind.  

The first thing I realized was that I needed to hang off to go faster around the corners.  But I had to make the decision when to do it.  I settled on doing it right after my breaking and downshifting and right before I had to make the turn. That helped me a lot.  I felt more stable around the corners and my turn-ins seemed quicker.  A couple times I shifted my weight kind of quick as I was turning and the bike bobbed once.  But that was it.    Yes, smooth is important.

At one point when I was going around one of the sweepers, all hung off, I realized that my footpeg outer edge was in the center of the sole of my boot.  Sort of a quick "hey you're balanced on a point, don't slip" kind of thought.  I had the majority of my weight on the peg, not the seat.  Probably good from the standpoint of transferring more weigh lower on the chassis, but a difficult position to hold.

Twice I remember the outside edged of my boot just touching the track.  Once I thought I felt my knee just touch the track.  I was definitely leaning further than ever before.

The first time I got off the track and looked at my tires I was surprised by what I saw.  The majority of the rubber on the tires, except for 3/8" along the edge was rough and tacky.  Rubber was getting scrubbed off and as it scrubbed off the tire got really tacky.  I later found out that the Metzler M4 were actually very good all around tires; they heated up quick, had good durability, were stable, and developed good grip. Based on what I experienced I can't disagree with any of that.   There were a couple times when going into the tight corners I downshifted one gear too many.  In one case the revs shot up but the tire didn't even break loose.  The second time there was a slight chirp and the tail end slid out just a bit but straighten it's self out and that was the end of the drama.  

By the time I came of the track the third time there was no longer any 3/8" unused edged on the rear tire.  I had gotten to the edge.  I was getting through the turns pretty good.  Of course everyone was still passing me on the straights (they probably could have passed me on the turns too).

At one point while going around the right sweeper I noticed that my left arm was doing a lot of work.  It was pushing on the left handlebar through the whole turn.  I realized it was because I wasn't accelerating through the turn enough, so effectively I was loosing speed and to keep from falling into the turn more I was counter steering to keep the bike on it's line.

The biggest surprise to me was how wide the track seemed.  I say seemed because It definitely doesn't seem that wide when you're just standing looking at it. I guess that's a good thing, because if the turns seem wide than you have more options on how to get around them.  On the other hand the straights seemed really short, which makes sense, because you're moving so fast.

Thinking back on where my attention was focused as I was going around, there were times when I should have been looking further ahead.  Coming into a turn I would look at the spot where I should turn, then the apex, but sometimes my attention stuck on the apex rather than moving ahead of me.  I think this happened more on the slower, sharper, corners.  

Aside from apexes I remember being conscious of my position on the track.  I think only twice I felt like I was going too wide and about to run off the track, but I remember telling myself to stay with it.  I'm not sure I handled these situations the best way I could have but I got through them.  I basically tried to stay steady on the gas and let some of the speed scrub off.  What I should have done was to lean it over just a bit more and give it more gas.  

Well, the day wasn't without incident.  There were a few red flags (they put out a red flag any time there is a  crash), so at least a few people left in worse shape then when they came.  One Kawasaki in particular looked bad.  I believe it was during an Intermediate run.  My Son got a picture of it and it looked ugly.  The instrument cluster and upper fairing were gone, the tank was dented, and the seat was gone.  There were a couple crashes and red flags while I was on the track also.  I guess one of them was a guy I was following for a couple laps,


but he was going even too slow for me.  So, I passed him on the straight and never saw him again.  Apparently he crashed sometime later in the day.  But, that is the reality.  I’ve heard it said if you’re not crashing then you’re not learning.  I'd rather learn without crashing.  Call me silly.

It was during the red flags that I came to the realization that when you reduced your speed even a bit the feeling is completely different.  You get off that focused edge.  Keith Code talks about attention being like a ten dollar bill.  The more you use up in one area the less you have for another; most of the time I was definitely using up my ten dollar bill. I would think that the guys who go really fast must have been spending about five bucks on the riding part.  They obviously felt a lot more comfortable than I did because I saw them looking back at speeds where I wouldn't even have though of doing that.  Heck, I've never turned that far around even on the street.  

It was getting late in the day, nearing four o'clock, the sky was getting cloudy, some people were already leaving, and I figured it was time to go.  I had made some mistakes, but I had learned a lot, and I figured there was no point in pushing it any further.  The BMW had served me well.

In terms of feedback I got.  A couple times on the track a control rider passed me and gave me a thumbs up.  Another time one passed me just coming out onto the straightaway and pointed up, which means to speed up.  Well, that's great if you've got a 100+ horsepower, but my throttle was already wide open.  He had probably been following me and meant to speed up in general... Well, thanks for the suggestion, but I don't think I had enough left of my ten dollars worth of attention to do it.  For my first time out I gas going about as fast as I could handle.

After the fact, on the club discussion board I posted a general thanks to the control riders and asked for any feedback if they had it.  One guy said that he had followed me for a few laps in the afternoon, I looked like I was getting more comfortable as the day went on, which I was, and had my lines down pretty well.  The one thing he warned me about was my lean angle.  He said a couple times I came to within an inch or two of dragging hard parts; my cylinder heads.  That was probably the couple times that my boot touched down.  He said I'll need to lean off more to compensate and work on my speed and getting on the throttle sooner.  Right... Next time.

So, it's been a long time coming.  What are my plans?...  Maybe I could get a longer shock for the bike to raise the rear end a bit; give me some more ground clearance and speed up the steering geometry.  Of course I could trade up to an R1100S or Racer Cup Replica.  There aren't too many BMW's on the track (there was only one other guy there), maybe I could get some sponsorship from BMW?  What about Metzler?  I like their tires, but I don't hear them mentioned in the discussion boards.  Maybe Metzler would be willing to supply me with tires if I pushed their product.  Maybe I could sell my car, and the bike, and buy a GSXR or RR, or RC...  I could drive my wife's old car, buy her a new one, and we're both happy.  Maybe I’ll sign up for the Superbike School again.  Of course I'm going to need my own trailer and hitch so that I don't have to worry about borrowing them, especially if I'm going to do this more often.

Hmmm... I wonder if this is addictive.