Win it, or bin it.     ..…Or
AFM round 2, Buttonwillow Ca.

Even though we visited her constantly, my Nana died in a nursing home.  Homes like that can be rough on people but oddly, not so much for kids.  I didn’t seem affected by the smells, or feel so much the distant cries for mercy.  Instead I simply saw the people for who they were today, and who they were yesterday.  I never forgot one simple lesson a special old woman taught me from her bed, just days before she died.  In fact I bet I never will –  “Make the little decisions with your head, son.  Make the big ones with your heart.”

It’s funny, the lessons that stick.  They’re impossible to predict.  I remember fifteen years ago during an AMA National at Loudon, a man wearing a half-moon scar on his bald head told me while lying on his back, from under my bike, as he struggled to adjust an experimental Koni shock which I’d been asked to (unsuccessfully) develop – “GoGo?”  ….long pause….  “I’ve been around a while now.  Seen a lot of things, met a lot of good racers.”   ….another long pause….  “Some sponsorships can make careers.  Others can break them straight in half.”   With that he stood back up, brushed the dirt from his shoulder, and strangely walked away.  I remember thinking to myself, “Hey is this one of those moments?”

Jim Lindeman is a fascinating man.  He never tells you everything he’s thinking, with words.  But he always tells you everything he’s thinking.  At a decade and a half ago, and likely thousands of racers since, he only knows who I am today.  The me of yesterday apparently left little impression.  But I remember him, almost daily, and in the end he was right.  Some sponsorships have opened doors for me, while others have shut them straight in my face.  Few even threatened my life.

I posted a story here on Barf, back in 05, just after the AMA National.  A bent shift fork on a 999R had just put an early, and rather exciting end to our Superbike race.  It was a great story, full of heart.  The bike had been coming out of gear in the early laps, it even locked up and put us in the dirt once.  But I soldiered on like a (retard) champ, and ultimately put us straight into the wall outside of turn ten.  Most people responded with support, but one guy (I can’t remember who) pm’d me.  “GoGo, I’m just curious, cause I want to learn.  And I mean no disrespect, but…  Why didn’t you just give up?”

I remember coming up with all these noble reasons.  I had a big list of them and they all sounded great.  But I never wrote the guy back.  They were all bullshit.  Really, the more I have thought of that day since, the dumber I have felt about soldiering on.

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<p>For sure we have come a long way with our program since last year.   What a lot of work it’s been.  But like the lessons I have tried to  teach others – hard work doesn’t make a difference, smart work does.   These thoughts were the ones haunting me as I drove our program through  the Infineon gate Saturday.  After all, Infineon was our biggest  challenge last year.  Buttonwillow may be bumpy, but it’s got good  traction.  So does T-hill.  But we were all over the road last year at  Infineon.  So my unspoken goal this weekend was survival.  Just keep it  upright.  I don’t think I made one pass for position out there.   I saw  the openings, I felt the drive, but each time I opted out instead.  I’m  not sure how I feel about that.  Two fifths and a forth is not what I go  racing for.  Losing positions is not in my nature.  I’d rather chew on  sandpaper.  But in the end we broke the curse.  Even if it all goes to  shit tomorrow, we’ve already proved to ourselves we are better in 2010  than we were in 09.   That our theories are correct, our setup – not our  bike our tires or our abilities – was our problem.</p>
<p>So I can’t write about racing passion tonight.  And thanks  to Dannyboy’s great work as a race team manager, I can’t write about  drama.  Instead I’ll write about our learning.  After all there’s two  ways to learn from someone – watch them do it right, or watch them do it  wrong.</p>
<p>Our forks now move “more” freely, which is great.  Trust me  on this – pouring concrete in your forks (no matter the brand) is not  the hot setup.  After extensive testing in this department I can  confidently report; the less movement you have, the less feel you get.   The less feel you have, the less warning you get.  The less warning you  have, the more often you will hit the deck.   But that’s at the extreme  end of stiff, which we have finally found our way away from.  By the  second lap of Saturday’s practice I had rather happily learned our new  challenges were more appropriate to motorcycles, than heavy farm  equipment.  It used to be the only way I could compress our forks, to  change the attitude of our chassis, was with HEAVY braking.  Tough to do  that mid turn, or while trail braking.  Now, simply rolling out of the  throttle gets it done.  But movement is a fascinating thing – one should  be careful what they ask for.  By the end of practice #1 we simply had  too much movement – effectively arriving us at the other end of the farm  equipment spectrum.</p>
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I often wonder why top riders only report that they “made some changes”.  It seems impossibly rare that they ever divulge exactly what those changes were.  Colin Edwards comes the closest.  Maybe it’s competition that keeps them quiet.  I don’t know.  But I have no secrets.   I like to set a bike up to move under me.  I like a chassis attitude I can manipulate with body position, throttle input, and trail braking.  I think a lot of times people confuse the term “Trail braking” to simply mean gently dragging the front brake as you enter a turn.  That’s only half right – the dragging of the brakes.  The other half is what you are doing to your “Trail” by “Braking”.  Remember, steep rake (with trail like a tricycle) helps you turn.  A tall front end (“Raked” out, like a chopper) helps you go straight.  Our problems Saturday morning were related to exactly this.  I could set the front just right going in by trail braking, but as I eased up on the brake feeding in more lean angle – trying to maintain that steep rake and tight turning ability, our front end would jump right back up.  The turning forces (G-forces) themselves couldn’t hold the bike down, so we would go wide everywhere the instant I let go of the brake.

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