track day

When I was 16 I told my dad that I  history class bored me. He told me that you can only be bored if you allow it. He taught me that day that in any given situation there is always something than can be learned. Even if it’s how your teacher picks his ear with his pencil.

With that in mind, what can I learn from today?

What happened today? I went to this lovely track for a day of riding my motorcycle without cops, cars or cross-traffic, otherwise known as a “track day.”

It started off gloriously. Or at least sleepily. Gates opened at 6am, so we rolled out of bed at the unreasonable hour of 5:00am. After a quick shower and getting ready, we gathered in the lobby at 5:30 and drove the truck and trailer full of bikes and gear and food to the track.

Riders meeting, a bit of socializing, getting gear on and first session and away we go!

The first session is about getting familiar with the track. This track has 21 turns, so it takes a while to get just familiar with it. It is a beautiful track, with elevation changes, lots of twisty turns, lovely desert scenery.

For the second session I turned my GoPro camera on. This will make for some amusing video footage later. It felt good. I was taking it slow, still getting familiar with the turns. As the laps went ’round, I got more confident with the track and my speed picked up.

Since I was riding with the novice group, I signed up to receive instruction. The third session I had an instructor who I followed around. He showed me good lines to take through the turns. We pulled into the pit mid-session for feedback and I was let loose to go through what I had learned on my own. My riding was smoother. It feels absolutely incredible when I take a corner or series of corners well. Fluid, easy and crystal clear. I leaned the bike over further than I had before and it felt great.

In the fourth session we concentrated on the first three corners. My instructor showed me good lines, marking points and other things to look for. I nailed them and it was fantastic…until I got distracted.

One of the things about riding is that you have to hone your skills of concentration. Like muscles, you have to build up stamina. If you aren’t practiced, it is easy to lose concentration. Little things can cause a loss of concentration, and once it’s gone can be difficult to get back. At least for me.

Somewhere mid-session four, I lost my concentration. I think I made the mistake of looking over my shoulder. I started to think. I blew a corner. I started having trouble seeing my lines and knew I needed to take a break. I pulled in and went back to camp.

Luckily, it was lunchtime and I caught a little nap. Only getting a few hours of sleep certainly didn’t help.

After lunch I went out for another session. I found that I was still having trouble keeping my lines and when I blew a couple of turns, I decided I was done for the day.

It’s frustrating sitting on the sidelines. I wanted to go back out, but I knew that I was fatigued. I was left with a feeling of disappointment. What had I learned? At the moment, I didn’t know.

I let my thoughts percolate through the afternoon. It wasn’t until the evening that I was able to see how good I’d done. I had accomplished a lot in my sessions on the track.

It is important to go back to the basics. There is always something to be learned. If you blow a corner, what happened? What did you do that would not be a good idea to do again? What went well and why? Simple questions, simple answers. And the most important question is: Did you have fun?

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