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It's A Father Son Question


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This past season was my first experience on a race track and I'm hooked! Completed levels 1 & 2 at VIR then two track days at NCCar. Having a ball and planning levels 3 & 4 next May. I just had a special treat at NCCar when my just shy of 15 year old son came with me. We brought my 230ttr as a paddock bike and one of the instructors led Ty around four laps during lunch. He's never had a chance to ride on road before so speeds were kept down to around 35 mph on those nobby tires. While he's never been excited about riding on the super technical single track trails available to us in central VA, he was absolutely beaming after exiting the track! I've never seen him as stoked about anything before which makes this dad's heart warm. The Team Promotion folks are encouraging me to get a Ninja 250 and bring him back for these lunchtime rides and eventually take their ART-basic course--they love training the kids! I love the idea of getting Ty used to operating a moving vehicle and making decisions in a high speed environment long before driving. Even more, I want to develop a mutual passion and enjoy some good father-son experiences before leaving home in a couple years.

 

My question is for instructors and parents who can relate to my recent experience. I'd appreciate any input concerning encouraging Ty. I want to do things right and safely. When and how can I use CSS? Any equipment advice? Can you suggest any creative ways to legally utilize a small sportbike besides the obvious riding around a parking lot?

 

Thanks for sharing your experience, Brian

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Sounds like a terrific experience, and and excellent opportunity for you both to spend some time having fun together! I love what you said about sharing some experiences while you have such a good chance to do so.

 

To attend CSS, your son would need to be comfortable operating the motorcycle - being able to ride and shift gears and generally control the bike without that, in itself, being a big distraction or occupying all of his attention. Actual street riding experience is not a requirement; dirt bike riding can be good preparation, as well as the track experiences you mention above. As far as an age requirement, that will depend on the particular track, they have varying age requirements (I think Streets of Willow is 14 years, for example), so you should call the office and talk to them about what tracks would be options for him - (800) 530-3350.

 

A Ninja 250 is a good option, a versatile bike that is relatively easy to ride and inexpensive to operate and can also be a street bike if desired, and there are race classes available for them, too. It is acceptable as a student bike at CSS. The older (Gen 1) Ninja 250s have a lower seat height and can be bought quite inexpensively, but the Gen 2 bikes have better handling and brakes. If you check some racing forums (the WERA forum, for example) you can often find Ninja 250s already set up as full track/race bikes, and a WEALTH of info about them.

 

Another option would be to look for "minimoto" or youth roadracing clubs near you. These are generally aimed at younger kids but they operate at go-kart tracks on smaller bikes and can be a great way to get started on smaller, closer tracks in a very friendly environment, and sometimes you can find open track days on go-kart tracks that will allow bikes like NSR50, RS125 and sometimes even up to 450cc supermoto bikes.

 

There are a variety of small roadrace bikes available, plus a lot of supermoto options, that might be worth considering - especially if future racing is an ambition - but IMHO it's hard to beat the Ninja 250 for cost, availability, reliability, ease of ownership, easy resale, and generally usability. However, a supermoto bike might give you the option of riding local go-kart tracks and/or making it convertible for use on dirt, street or track.

 

As far as gear goes, if he's gonna be on a racetrack, get him in leathers - safety is important! If he's not big enough to wear adult leathers, check youth roadracing organizations like USGPRU for used youth leathers, or try two-piece zip together jacket/pants, sometimes it's easier to get a fit with those. There are a surprising number of shops that will make custom leathers to fit based on measurements and the cost is really not much higher than off the shelf leathers. (Another possiblity, if he doesn't wear adult men's sizes, is to look at womens' gear - it is available in much smaller sizes, and I can tell you from experience it is often cut exactly the same as men's gear <frown>, can be found in straight black, and also sometimes costs significantly less or is being dumped on clearance sales.)

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Thank you so much for taking the time to share some advice. You definitely get the fact that I have an opportunity for quality time with Ty but certainly want to do it right--not only to be safe but not get caught up in my enthusiasm and "overshoot." I think I'll probably go the Ninjette route and get him on the track up to highway speeds ASAP with the TPM folks on the track trials they do at lunch. I will coach him in the church parking lot on some clutch/brake drills in the meantime. Fortunately, he hasn't yet passed me in size so he can probably wear my two piece leathers which gives me an excuse to upgrade to a one piece track suit : )

 

Who knows? Maybe by August, if VIR allows 15 year olds, we'll do CSS together!

 

Thanks again, Brian

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Hi Brian,

 

I hate that I missed the fun at NCCAR over the holiday weekend (I understand the weather held out nicely for you). I would have liked to have seen Ty get some laps on the track! I'm sure we will hit that circuit again next year. I'm interested to see if they have any firm plans to start work on the new circuits.

 

As far as advice goes, I think Hotfoot really covered it well. A Ninja 250 would be a fantastic starter bike (and Hotfoot can also tell you there is something very satisfying about passing a literbike in the corners on a smaller machine). I'll bet the WERA and NESBA forums would also be a great place to look for smaller size gear for him. Mortorcycle Leather Exchange might also be worth a look.

 

BTW...I saw that James has signed up for Levels 1 & 2 at VIR in May, it looks like we are going to have quite the crew there! It should be a fun couple of days.

 

Best,

Carey

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