49s – The Naked Journey

Posted: 31st May 2013 by GoGo in RACE STORIES - 2013


Recently I’ve looked back, a lot.  I’ve asked myself what do I have, what do I want, what do I need.  These are the average person’s big three.  But racers aren’t average people.  We are more and we are less, in many different ways.  Some of us for a short time only, others for as long as we possibly can.  I am in the latter group.  Never enough, always more drive, more will, more need.  This creates a false feeling that I am more than average because I have, I do, and I excel at an impressive number of different things.  But in reality I am less because I have yet to really capitalize on any of them.  Maybe my varied passions, drives and gifts, are also my curses.  I don’t know yet – who can know what the future still might bring..


I am a good road racer.  Not the fastest, not the smartest, not the best.  But I am good.  More than that, I am good – still.  I’ve raced every season now for a grand total of 27 years.  And I can still ride hard.  That says some notable things about me, most important of which is my ability to evolve over time.  Many things have changed since my first race.  Bikes have changed, tires have changed, safety has changed, even people have changed.  All these changes are fascinating about motorcycles, but the changes on my mind most are the changes in how to ride them.  I am a race fan through and through.  I look forward to MotoGP weekends more even than our own race weekends.  I guess the pressure is why – our race weekends freak me out.  Always have.  Watching racing comes much easier to me.  I have noticed while watching racing for a few years now – the evolution of style.  Not style in the flare sense, style in the technique sense.  I’ve been tutored by some great road racers.  Legends even.  But none of them ever taught me what I see going on out there today.   …and so I’ve wondered, why not?

Jimmy wasn’t very technical. His advice went like this, “Get off that Jap-crap and buy a Ducati.” “Canada has the best strip clubs.” …and, “Don’t ride like a girl.”

Dale Quarterley was VERY technical. His advice was storied. He’d start with “If you see your buddy’s trailer up ahead on the road to Daytona, sneak up behind and push him for a few miles, it’ll freak him out.” He also always said to “Ride proud.” Dale and Pedrosa are from different planets.


Bikes are different now – they are much lighter, they are much faster.  For sure this changes things.  Tires are different now too – they have different compounds in different areas.  In the past only special tires came like this.  Daytona comes to mind – first these special tires were just super hard so they didn’t explode on the high banks at speed.  I hated them, they had no traction.  Then in time they evolved, they came hard on the left, soft on the right.  I could never adapt.  I am dyslexic, I confuse things like this – I crashed my brains out.  Today though, Michelin slicks come hard in the middle, soft on both sides.  This is pretty cool actually.  Forever there’s been an advantage in turning on one part of a tire and driving on another.  Nothing new here – wear is why, heat is why.  But now this technique seems more extreme.  Takes even more focus.  We looked at how I’ve been wearing our Michelins last round at Sears.  It was weird actually.  They showed good wear on the outer edge, deeper wear farther up into the round part of the tire, but then the deepest wear just before the edge of where the soft rubber ends and the harder rubber begins.  This suggests I’ve been driving too hard while still leaned over, on the turning part of the tire.  I’ve been doing two things simultaneously – turning and driving – kind of like I do with the rest of my life, never really capitalizing on any one thing at any one time.  Once up top in the middle of the tire, on the harder rubber (the drive rubber) I had worn them barely at all.  To me this is a bad sign.  It means my riding stopped evolving somewhere along the line.  I’ve gone stale like an old quart of milk in the back of the refrigerator.  But also to me this is a good sign.  Even a very good sign.  It means that after all this time I can still improve my riding.  I can still be faster.  …I think

Today starts day-one of my naked journey to changing my riding style.  To creating a difference out there.  To thinking my way around the track rather than taking fast laps on like a bull in a china shop might.  Ultimately this is my naked journey to faster lap times.  To the 49s specifically, at Thunderhill.

Speed comes two ways I believe, with balls or with brains.  I believe balls only get you so far.  So going into this next round I’ve got a few things bearing down on my brain:

I’ve never met Danny, but unknowingly he’s taught me quite a lot. Watch him snap a bike upright and drive out of turns, it’s impressive but more than that it’s fast. It’s time I think to join the new era of riding style.

1 – Body position.  For years now I’ve had great lines out there.  Very specific, purposeful – turn-in places, slow places, drive places.  This has been good, but I’m realizing now it’s only half the job.  I want to work on body position changes to go along with line changes.  I want to use a tip Alex gave me last round – drop the inside elbow on drives.  I started doing this at Sears, it helped me lift the bike upright and get the bike on the drive area of the tire.  The bike responded well to this, it drove out hard and fast.  It didn’t come natural yet, I have to work on consistency.  I can tell though, it works.


2 – Tire wear.  Changing my position on the bike, altering how I drive out of turns, does affect our tire wear.  Last weekend we ran all Sunday on the same rear tire.  Never before could we do this.  Two races and our rear tire went off.   Now in three races our times only varied .3.  That’s great, shows huge potential.

3 – Entry speeds.  I’m tempted to push for new speed by moving brake markers forward sometimes – closer to the apex.  That leaves less time to slow the bike down, which raises my panic level.  This shifts my focus so aggressively to braking that sometimes I end up slowing down MORE instead of less.  My way around this will be letting go of the brakes sooner, rather than getting into them later.  Maybe this will re-set my limiting mental picture of how fast we can roll around the place.  Then once I’ve got that new picture set in my brain, I can progressively move my brake marker closer again.

4 – Easing up.  I still play ball and I can hit the shit out of the ball – in practice.  But in games recently I am blowing it.  Nerves are why.  Always in games I am emotionally tweaked.  It screws my judgement all to hell.  I swing at bad pitches, my form goes to shit, I barely get the ball past the infield, too often.  I can feel the same thing happens in racing with me.  It’s very emotional for me out there, even in practice, on Saturdays when I have no races at all.  I am a wreck.  So I am thinking, ever since last round’s one lap penalty which destroyed us for championship points standings in Open Twins – screw points all together.  I mean what the hell, how many championships have I won by now?  I could count, but I don’t care to.  Whatever, I think this penalty could be the greatest thing to happen in years.  I’m shifting my focus from “we have to win” to simply “let’s go faster than hell”.   We’ll see where that gets us this weekend.  Could be great, could blow up in our faces.   …time will tell.




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