Riding at the Track

Last year was the first time I had ever taken my motorcycle to the track. Everything about the whole trip was non-stop fun!  I’ve gotten to a point where I’m highly considering wanting to join the AMA and start racing.

Laguna Seca Yamaha Appreciation Day

It was a random  idle weekday when I received a text from my friend Robert who informed me of a heavily discounted track day put on by Zoom Zoom Track Days called Yamaha Appreciation Day. I quickly rushed to a computer and signed up right away so I would not miss out on this opportunity. A previous year I was invited but was not able to get out of work (you’d thinking working at a motorcycle shop they would have leniency for taking a day off for this, right?) I didn’t want to go entirely anyways, because I wanted to get a newer motorcycle before going to the track. I didn’t want to crash the motorcycle I currently had (2002 Yamaha R6). So now I was all out of excuses and ready to commit to the track after years of friends and other fellow riders encouraging me to take the step.

It was the day before the weekend trip to Laguna Seca and time to make the final preparations for the trip. I shouldn’t have waited till the day before, bad idea. I needed to do an oil change, change my tires, get a hold of tire warmers, motorcycle stands, a suit, boots, and figure out how I was going to get my motorcycle from Fresno, CA to Monterey, CA. I ran around town calling friends to see who had things I could borrow and visited Wilson’s Motorcycles to pick up oil and motorcycle grips. I was able to negotiate a deal with a friend to get some Pilot Power One racing slicks that had about 2 track days left on them and he also had a suit I could borrow.

I made it back to my house with the collection of items I needed. I quickly put my bike on stands, took off the wheels, and headed back to have the racing slicks mounted on the tires. Now I rushed back to my place to start the oil change and any final preps. So after that was all done I started up the bike for a  quick test ride. That’s when I noticed my brakes weren’t working well at all. Kind of an important element of riding a motorcycle at the track. $#%&! My fork seals are leaking with brake fluid dripping down onto the brake pads. The motorcycle shop is now closed and I’ve got to think real quick if I want to still go to the track.

What would the pros do? Just simply ride their backup bike or mount up some new forks. Well I didn’t have that luxury, but I did have a friend with an 06 R6 as well 🙂 So I made the call to see if I could borrow his motorcycle for the weekend. I got his bike to my house and was contemplating what to do. Do I just ride his bike? No, it’s not insured and he owe’s way too much on it for me to want to be responsible. So I decided on a fork swap.

I have both bikes up on stands in the garage and start taking off the forks from mine to put on to his and vise versa. 45 min later I was good to go. I cleaned the brake pads and calipers and now for another test ride. Everything is great so far… but brakes are still not at 100%. The brake fluid must have compromised the integrity of the brake pads. I simply took the brake pads off of the spare bike and put them onto mine and now I’m finally good to go.

4:00am comes way too soon! I was so excited that I was restless and not able to get much sleep. I quickly awoke from my slumber, since I really never fell asleep for more than an hour at a time. I did load up everything in the truck the night before and just had to wait for my friend to come over and help me put the bike on my hitch trailer. The chaos from the past 12 hours had settled and it was an easy drive to the track.

For those of you who have been to the track, even as a spectator, you know how exciting it is to crest over the peak of the road that leads to the entrance of the track. From this point you can nearly see the entire track spanned out across in the valley.  Since we were a little late getting to the track we quickly unpacked and unloaded the bikes, quickly went through inspection and got out on the track. It had rained the night so the track was wet. This was an advantage to me since there was a pace bike that was taking us around the track slowly because of the wet conditions.

The day continued and the track dried off and with each session I’m starting to get a feel for what riding a sport bike is really like.  I never thought I was fast on the street even though at times I rode faster than the average rider. This was a whole new level of riding. No worries about breaking the laws, getting hit by oncoming traffic, or the many other variables of riding on the street. Which each session of riding I became more comfortable with the track. I was learning the lines and remembering braking points.

Everything about this day was exciting, except the expense aspect that sat in the back of my mind. One of the best parts of the day was knowing that I get to wake up and do it all over again.

The next day wasn’t as chaotic of a rush to get on the track. The bike still needed to go through inspection, but since we had a garage everything was sitting ready to go. Yesterday’s goal was to make it to the next day. Today there was no goal except just to have fun and be safe. I was moved up to the A group and really started having some fun pushing my limits.  I was amazed how fast some of these riders were, or how fast and young they were. I found it amusing to be lapped by a 14 year old Redbull Rookie Cup rider that was on a Yamaha R1. It surely made me wish I had gotten an earlier start in motorcycle racing.


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