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Grounded Does Mid Ohio Raceway


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Reading this web site was the "final straw" that convinced me to attend the two day bike camp at Mid Ohio Raceway held last week. So it's payback time with some thoughts about my experiences that may be helpful to another potential Superbike rider in the making.

 

Quick background: sixty one years old, thirty nine years of street riding and currently riding a '78 BMW R100S (bought it new). Moved to Milwaukee six years ago and got bored with riding in the traffic. I was looking for something to rekindle the excitement of past Rocky Mountain riding (seven years) and LA canyon riding (twenty six years).

 

To say I found it is a huge understatement. The rush from what we did for two days has me actively shopping for a used Superbike (600), something I can thrash around on to build track experience before I attend levels III and IV. Look for me next year sometime, somewhere, CSS.

 

My goal for the class was confidence building, to develop new actions for better cornering with good default reactions for when inevitably the s**t hits the fan.

 

So with this in mind, the following three posts outline what turned out to be one of the more intense and challenging experiences in my life; this from a guy who has skied all over the world since I was four, dived with the whales in Tonga, etc. I'm hooked. I want more.

 

Post 2: The Learning Experience

Post 3: The Breakthrough

Post 4: The Ride Home

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Post 2: The Learning Experience

 

Stabilize the bike. Say it again, LOUDER this time. What's YOUR job? STABILIZE THE BIKE!

 

How? With all the bike controls I've twisted, pulled, cranked, squeezed and combinations thereof, it comes down to one, twist up the wrist.

 

Out onto the track for throttle control, very structured, fourth gear only - no brakes. The instructors are in there with us signaling follow me, see how I roll up-stick with me-roll up with me-get the feel-thumbs up! Twenty five minutes later, checkered flag and into the pits for the instructor debrief.

 

How do I describe the instructors? Besides being skilled riders they are skilled teachers, always critiquing with a positive viewpoint, full of specific pointers for you to use to improve. Keith Code, my hat's off to you. You have assembled a team that positively reinforces the class room information into growth outcomes on the track. We've all had bad coaches, they're everywhere. I can tell you that the bad ones are not working at CSS.

 

And that's how it went. Into the class room to add a new skill focus then out onto the track to practice it. All of this very well controlled. The pace was picking up. Soon we got two gears (if you wanted), light brakes were added, etc.

 

For me, I was having the time of my life on the awesome bikes, catching onto the skill focus of that particular series. Steve, my coach on the track, thanks for a great day and to you Keith for coaching me on the turn bike.

 

But, focused on the skill of the moment, the previous ones were "slipping". These slips were caught quickly by the track instructors and pointed out with hand signals and help with "follow me" and discussion later in the pits.

 

But, I couldn't get any flow. If I focused on something, sure, OK but something else slipped.

 

Then the breakthrough took place.

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Post three: The Breakthrough

 

I'll tell you; by the end of day one we had lots of track practice. Seven series of laps, twenty five minutes each but I still was mechanical, futzing with one thing while another suffered.

 

This made me a bit anxious that evening to say the least. I began doubting if I could put it together. I did have a great night sleep but coming out to the track the next morning my CNS had me buzzed like I'd had ten cups of coffee. How am I going to work through this?

 

We started gently again the focus of the whole day on vision. I was able to calm down. The way the first two track series were designed really helped me relax while working on a visual skill. I was trying to add some hang off to my riding. I had been on the lean bike first thing in the morning but couldn't get it coordinated with my other skills so I just abandoned trying, staying focused on the task at hand, trying to be aware of the other issues. Come on, just relax and let it flow.

 

Then we got to the fifth series, the lift the bike drill. If I was going to do this I would need to get my weight positioned for the corner, hang off a bit so I would have something to lift while shooting into a straight.

 

BINGO! Something snapped and it all fell together! I had a zone experience that series. I pushed my entry speeds. While hanging out, I twisted up my single arc turns and blasted out to the next turn. It felt so smooth and natural. There was so much more room to push up the intensity. And then it happened in the esses (turn seven) I dragged my left knee. Knee DOWN. My left knee is no longer a virgin. This was totally unexpected. Everything was so right and it just happened.

 

Confidence is now building. I can do this! I'm having a great time doing this!

 

More happens. I had observed throughout day one and early in day two that at the pace I was running I really wasn't screwing up the bike much when I went brain dead with a skill. The Kawasaki's seem to be very forgiving at least at the speeds and inputs I was giving. I never really got bent out of shape even though ... well you can imagine.

 

Working with Cobie, I focused on two turns to continue ramping up. All day I had nailed turn eight out of the esses. I was ramping this one up (along with six following the back straight).

 

Here comes the bad news. Next to the last lap of series six I froze while trying to flick into eight. It was like I pushed both grips, left winning slightly then hard right ten feet past my turning point. I must have also let off the throttle because the bike went into a wild weaving "you're going off the track" dance. Is this what a front tire slide feels like?

 

And now the good news ... STABILIZE THE BIKE! I was in perfect position on the bike. I was completely focused past my apex point to the vanishing point of turn nine and I never looked away. With no thought, just instant reaction I twisted the wrist. The bike instantly stabilized and shot to where I was looking. Confidence continues to build. I can do this! I recovered! I'm having a great time doing this!

 

I had thirty nine years of experience telling me I was going to eat grass. Not so. Now if this isn't a training success I don't know what you would call it. Thanks Cobie and Mike for all the coaching through the day. Excellent!

 

For what it's worth, we received our lap times at the end of each day. During session five my times dropped fifteen to twenty seconds by average over previous sessions. Session six was two laps short for using the video bike at the beginning but they were dropping even faster until my flick freeze. I cruised session seven ending the day truly emotionally drained. I felt good physically but my brain was toast.

 

I spent the night in town then left for Milwaukee the next morning on my BMW.

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Post four: The Ride Home

 

My route was down to Cincinnati, staying with friends that night then west through Indiana into central Illinois, spending the night then up to Wisconsin. I purposely hunted down every back road, non-interstate, hopefully no truck traffic, twisty road I could find. If it went in the generally correct direction go for it. State road, well OK. County road, even better.

 

What I learned is that my Beemer (it is a factory cafe racer from the 70s era) is ultra sensitive to my inputs at slower speeds. Through these years I have gripped this bike with an iron fist. You will not get away from me. I rule you! Well...

 

Touch you a little here. Oh, you like that. How about a little touch here... You kind of get a picture of where my head was at while riding home.

 

Steering effort seems to be about the same as the Kawi's at mid speeds forty to sixty mph. Going eighty, flicking effort is about the same as the Kawasaki at around 14,000 rpm/fourth gear on the back straight turning the dog leg.

 

I discoverd that my main steering habit was to lock my arms (bent) then twist my upper body to control the turn. (Kind of sounds like turn eight in series six on Thursday, huh?)

 

What a difference two days at CCS makes.

 

For the record I almost drove rather than ride the bike. With the break in the hot weather I decided to take the week and ride through five states. This was a great choice because I got a great before CSS/after CSS contrast. And three days of joyful skills practice on the way home really jelled new actions into place. Riding to work this morning continued the process.

 

So, street riders, from my experience I would recommend you take a couple of days riding immediately after your sessions. I think it will add more value to the track work.

 

Thanks again everyone for getting me off on such a good start.

 

Andy

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