I was recently at the track more days of the week than not, not complaining at all, most people would kill to be in my position that is for sure. I’m fortunate to be in a position that allows me a bit more freedom to schedule myself out and unless there is a project that I absolutely must do, I can make myself available to be at the track to fulfill my passion…helping others learn to ride. I was recently at the Father’s Day track day with OPRT on Sunday and we had a full house, as usual, level 200 was full and people signed up for levels that were either above of below their skill set. As the day progressed and people were shifted to their appropriate levels, things started to mellow out and everyone got in a groove. I was teaching a student in level 200 and due to some technical difficulties I had to pull off, check my bike, then I jumped back on to find my student. I came across a rider that looked a bit confused about the lines so I tried to block his inside so as not to have him spooked by passing riders, he tended to swoop a bit so I figured if someone tried to pass they would notice that, back off a bit and then choose a safer place to pass. I must remind riders all the time, it is the passing riders responsibility to execute a safe pass, if you can not, just don’t do it. It leads to bad consequences…as we saw on this day. [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3T7XbD8u-Y[/youtube] As we both entered turn 10 the rider behind us decided he wanted to pass so dropped back a bit and went to the right in hopes of getting a straight shot into 11, however as I previously mentioned the rider I was protecting would swoop, which is exactly what he did causing the rider who wanted to pass to panic and brake so hard he did an endo. This led to a scattering of bikes and one rider behind to hit the rider that went down, all this was caught on a video that was posted on youtube and I later shared that on my timeline. Never overtake someone until you watch them through a few turns, just understanding what they feel comfortable doing helps you make a judgement call as to when it is safe to pass. All in all, the rider looked ok and he rode off the track 2up with a Marshal.
The next day was a track day for South Sound Honda and I rode around the first few sessions to get warmed up then noticed some gals that could use some help. I came across a gal named Julie and helped tow her around a bit to get her to follow my lines and she did awesome. Next session I found a young gal named Sienna, who was pitted with her father and boyfriend and asked if they wouldn’t mind if I took her around a bit? She was on a CBR250 and she was new to the race track, but had been on dirt tracks most of her life. We did a few sessions together getting her used to riding a race track and trying to teach her to the lines to help her acclimate getting her track legs. I then went back to Julie and we hopped on and we were planning on doing a few lead and follow laps, first I let her lead to see if she was paying attention, then I got in front and led. During this session I was hit as a rider tried to come on the inside of turn 12 and as I was leaning over felt my bike start to slide, then as I was accelerating out, I felt a big clunk. I was unaware I had been hit and the rider that hit me had high sided, until I heard the scraping of metal behind me, I shook my head and motioned back to Julie to follow me as we would go for another lap. When we came around we saw the rider was ok, but there was fluid on the track so they motioned us to one side and we got up a hand to exit the track. This was Julie’s first time on the track and she was stunned to have witnessed the crash, but saw that despite being hit you can still stay upright and continue on. A great lesson that could never have been described, but only witnessed. Upon entering my pit, I told my boyfriend, who is hard of hearing, I was hit. He said, “I know someone high sided and crashed.” At which time I repeated a little louder, “No, I was hit honey.” “Oh” was his reply as I got off the bike, “Are you OK?” Yup all good and then we looked at the bike where we saw that he had hit me, his bike flipped and his handlebar came down on my passenger cowl and took a chunk of paint and scraped the tail section as is came down. That explained that clunk I felt. The guy that crashed seemed fine and the only thing he was upset about was telling his wife.
Track days are fun, they are for learning and pushing your limits a bit to see what your bike can do. Bear in mind, you will never be able to outride your bike’s capabilities, so don’t try, everything in baby steps. The track is a safe controlled environment consisting of the same corners lap after lap for you to try to perfect your entry and exit speed, your lines, gear selection, braking, reference points, etc. If your goal is to drag a knee or get faster, you are that guy that will either end up crashing or causing a crash. Getting faster is about practice, not just practice, but repeated perfect practice. You are never going to be perfect, but you can get close once in a while and that is what will bring you back, that pursuit of perfection. Everything is a byproduct of the last, in getting more skilled, smoother, faster, you will naturally drag a knee or a knee and elbow, but that shouldn’t be your goal as it can lead to dire consequences. All the skills you acquire at the track directly translate to the street, but at a different speed and with far more obstacles to be worried about. Vision, which is learned at the track, helps a great deal with this as well as reference points, the speed you must acquire information is much faster at the track and once you’ve gotten acclimated it is amazing how slow things happen on the street. It gives you the ability to troubleshoot and create escape routes just in case. You will find that your mind works quicker and your ability to predict obstacles or accidents is heightened after you start making track days part of your life. Track days can be an incredible learning experience, a place to hone your skills, a place to release stress, ride at ridiculous speeds without getting a ticket, being part of a community and push your limits in a safe environment. While my last two track days saw some crazy things, the benefits far outweigh the risks. You will learn more that you’ve ever imagined and you’ll end the day hot, sweaty and feeling completely drained, but it will be with a gigantic smile on your face.