We do break the speed limit on street. We see a 50mph corner and know we can get through it with one arm on the bars at 60-65mph. We all like to ride faster and that in turn elevates risk. No matter who you are, how many years you've been riding and how much education and training you have, the road presents random hazards that we simply cannot anticipate that cause us an immediate loss of traction. Here are some of the unusual examples that I've come across:-
- pieces of toast
- rolls of plastic wrap
- post card
- animal poop
- spread of grass cuttings
When you see that your normal reaction is to freeze and then you go down. That's where riding a dirt bike comes in as a skill set. The bike slides, you laugh, the bike regains traction and you continue on your ride. That's trained behavior as response and unless you give yourself the opportunity to understand and trust that the bike will 9 times out of 10 regain traction, you will go down.
The randomness of the street is vexing. You may be very diligent, responsible, law abiding and very courteous, then boom, down you go based on another's carelessness or downright arrogance/stupidity. Don't get me wrong, I rid ewith my girlfriend as much as possible ont he 1250 Bandit, and I use it to commute around the San Francisco Bay area (a car is just a very bad idea in that part of the world) BUT I know that I am subject to really random things happening and accept that risk. If I do go on a street ride, I am the last guy, the sweeper and that annoys a lot of people. "You race and win, you should be setting the pace!" I lost over half my friends to motorcycle crashes by the time I was 23. No, I don't need to set the pace and if I do and you feel that is the way it has to be, get behind me. Those reading will at this point be laughing or confused.
Under no circumstances is the street a place to ride fast. If you kill yourself, your family suffers not you. If you kill others via your bike hitting them or the car they are in, multiple families suffer, not you. We read about this almost daily. In one week while I was teaching in New Zealand, 3 riders died in 3 days by going too fast. Closer to home, look how Dane Westby died on the street close to his home. An entire national community grieved his loss.
Going to the track should not be daunting. It is a closed private road that simply loops back on itself. It is full of riders going the same direction. Those riders generally really care about you as you are sharing the track with them. They are in groups with a similar pace. As always with our community, we share our passion via instructors, more experienced riders sharing knowledge, others helping you navigate a new track day company, experience. The community is always welcoming because they recognize that you have chosen to bring your thirst for speed to the track and take it off the street.
My first track day was at Portland International Speedway in Oregon. Great weather, freshly built and prepared bike, and a track with only 9 turns. I didn't seek help as I had been riding for over 2 decades all over the world. The straight is a mile long so guess how many times I got out of the throttle prior to turn one which is 3rd gear at close to 100mph?
Come on - how many times ??????
The honest answer was three. As riders flew by me with a speed differential of 50mph plus (I was on a 400) I simply rode the rest of the lap, went over to my truck and started loading up. My arrogance almost cost me my life and potentially the lives of others as I had no skills at the track. One rider stopped, talked to me and made me empty the truck. If it wasn't for that moment in time I wouldn't be where and who I am now.
Every single person reading this can relate to this story via their own experience, and almost all of those stories are on the street.
The track has medical staff on site, instructors that really care, staff that want you to bring your speed to the safety of the track and fellow riders that want you to take the risk out of your life.
In 15 years of track riding I know of only 1 person that did not convert to the track. They walked away because they were humbled by skilled riders and because they were no longer the top dog (on their local roads). I don't even know if they are still alive.
If you have the chance to go to a local track day, ride out there for 2-4 hours. Watch, listen, ask questions. Find out about the track community, different providers, different track close to you. If there is a local school offered by providers, see who offers what and seek opinions. Talk to riders who have similar bikes to you - you'll be amazed at the variety of bikes at a track day! Don't add it to a bucket list - make it a goal for next year.
The bottom line is track riding will make you a MUCH better rider, your eyes will be looking far ahead, you will be very comfortable in time and space and you will be extremely relaxed at legal speeds. Moreover, the track will let you do what we all want to do with our bikes - let them breathe!
Guest Written by Dave Moss from www.feelthetrack.com, for over a decade Dave has been coaching riders of all levels at track days, schools and race events on the track and in the classroom. His experience is diverse, his knowledge extraordinary and his communication skills unique and unrivaled. His teaching takes him all over the globe with a world wide fan base.