Hi everyone, my name is Nick, and I’m from the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia.
While I’ve always been interested in anything with an engine and some wheels, particularly anything fast, my motorcycling life didn’t begin until I decided I would go and get my motorcycle license at age 21, back in 2007. I rode around on the Q-Ride instructors’ learner-bikes, unintimidating machines like the CB250, CB400 and GS500’s and had a great time. Eventually I was loaned a friends cbr250rr, which after those other learner bikes felt like the fastest machine in the world, sounding like it was revving to the moon while probably barely being faster than a taxi.
After many months of training and riding borrowed bikes, it was time to go out and get one of my own. After months of spec chart reading and video review watching, I was lucky enough to be able to afford a 2007 Yamaha R6. What a machine! A great deal of fun and faster than I knew what to do with, and also probably a bit extreme or track-focused for me at that stage in my riding, but great fun nonetheless. With that bike I covered 20,000kms+ (12400mi+) in around 18 months, mainly riding in the mountains with all the cool older guys with fast sportsbikes. Luckily for me I learned early to always ride at my own pace, but part of me wondered how I could ride as well as some of these super-fast older guys, the grizzled veterans of the twisties. I could barely keep them in sight for a few corners when following them. Was it that they had the best and newest bikes, with the most horsepower? Was it their trick suspension? Their expensive gear?
Since I’m the analytical type, I started looking for ways to fast-track my learning and get better, sooner. I started asking the guys for tips, but not really getting anything concrete in terms of answers or tips. I started reading magazines, but again the talk seems more geared towards the fast guys who know what they’re doing. I also started reading books and eventually stumbled upon ATOTW and ATOTWII. These books really were helpful because of how much depth they go into on the subjects like SRs, RPs, vision and throttle control. I really think the books helped me understand at a deeper level what skills I needed, and also how to avoid common mistakes. At the very least it showed me that riding is an incredibly complex and subtle art form, that cannot be explained in two paragraphs or drawn on a blackboard with squiggly lines. It takes time to perfect.
It was around this time I decided to start doing trackdays. I did one on the R6, and one on the 2007 Suzuki GSX-R1000 I upgraded to a short time afterwards. It was excellent experience for me I think, switching from the 600 class bike to the 1000 class. It helped me to see the differences not only in engine and the power/torque, but how the whole package behaves when being hustled around a track, the brakes, the suspension etc. And I had a great time too of course.
After owning the GSXR for around 12-18 months I decided to make a lifestyle “grown-up” decision (boo!) and get rid of the bike and the sports car I owned at the time to pay off loans. Even though this cost me a few years off two wheels, it means that now I am able to own my bike outright, which is a much better feeling.
So that few year hiatus from riding brought me around to the end of 2013. Somehow the riding bug had managed to survive dormant in me for years and had chosen the right time to bite again. Before I knew it I was watching GoPro videos of people enjoying bikes on YouTube, which wasn’t as much of a thing that was available when I stopped as it is today. Now you can really almost get the sensation of riding a bike from a helmet cam, which is cool. All of a sudden I found myself back reading my favourite moto magazines, watching MotoGP and WSBK again, and browsing the local classifieds for used bikes. Eventually it led to me buying myself an early Christmas present, about 3 days before Christmas actually. I went out and paid a guy for a 2007 (what is it with that year?!) Honda CBR600RR.
All of a sudden my passion for riding was back full force. I was back to relishing how fast 2 wheels feels again after a total reset, enjoying the feeling of control over such a light and nimble sports bike and enjoying the more streetable nature of the Honda vs my old R6. I covered another 8000kms in well under half a year on this machine before I was back looking to upgrade again for a 1000 (can’t help myself). In July this year, I well and truly spoiled myself with an upgrade to a 2012 Yamaha R1, but finally with money I had worked hard to earn, instead of the bank’s. I had it at a track day within 1 month of owning it (ha!). Since I’ve been “back”, I’ve really been focused on trying to improve my riding that much more.
To give you some idea of my skill level, the group progression at my local track days is Red>Green>Blue>Yellow. At this recent track day I would say I’m towards the front of the Green group. After looking at the professional photographers’ shots of me at this track day and being honest with myself, I could be doing a lot better. My goal now is to really make solid body position improvements, fix my “mental lean angle barrier” and stop SR’s from firing up mid corner. With the correct form from coaching I’m pretty sure I could make the jump to Blue group after a few more track days. I may even finally get my knee down, that hallowed old rite of passage for sportsbike riders. If nothing else, I’ll at least be just generally safer and more skilful on a bike, which is really the ultimate goal. I’d really like to be able to control a motorcycle as well as the guys in Yellow group. They look fearless watching from the pit wall, but I know that it’s because they are controlling the bike in the right way, probably through years of experience that they have the pace they do, as opposed to just pushing through and screaming inside their helmet from fear the whole way round.
So, when my wife asked me what I wanted for my birthday and father’s day this year, I decided that the best thing for me now is proper training. Within the next few months I hope to be taking part in Level 1 of California Superbike School. After reading the forums on here, I can see that this place seems to be filled with like-minded individuals who are keen to have discussions on the physics and the psychological aspects of riding, which it seems to me is what make honing these skills so difficult but so rewarding.