Shower, throw on some skintight, moisture-wicking duds, and head out to unload our bikes in the rising heat. My buddy put a nice, folding trailer together for us that held up well on the way down to the track, and the bikes sit in the bright, slanted morning sunlight, strapped down tight to the plywood deck.
7:30am, and it’s already too hot.
Parked next to us is the source of the angry cat noises I heard earlier this morning: a Suzuki RG500 Gamma with a skinny little race slick on the back and checkered tape over the lights. The Gamma is a relic of the race-replica wars of the 80’s, where manufacturers were engaged in the familiar “MotoGP Bike with Lights” competition, releasing weird machines into their showrooms. It has a 500cc two-stroke square four with two crankshafts and it sounds like four chainsaws revving together, an angry, metallic yowl. It’s not exactly music, but the noise makes the hair on your neck stand up, and smoke drips from its four little pipes in a haze as it picks up from idle.
Next to the RG500 is what seems to be the veteran track-assassin’s tool of choice around here: a GSX-R1000. It’s a good thing the same guy brought both to ride, since he lowsides the Gamma during the day’s third session. He’s not exactly sure what happened, although he suspects the throttle stuck wide-open on him. Damage is “minimal”, which I’m glad to hear, since I’m a fan of any motorcycle that makes it sound like you’re being chased around the race track by a gang of chainsaw-wielding maniacs.
There’s a good mix of bikes at these things, but they tend towards Japanese literbikes of recent vintage, with some 750’s and 600’s sprinkled in, along with a few oddballs: SV650’s, RSV4’s, 848’s, etc.
Greg’s Yamaha R6 and my Triumph Daytona deliver their power differently, but they’re both down on punch compared to the bigger bikes. “Punch” of course, being relative: my speedo recorded a max of 136 down that main straight, which is still pretty fast when you’re new at this sort of thing.
Out on track, we spend a couple sessions getting up to speed. It’s been almost a year, and we need to feel things out again. He’s more aggressive getting around slower traffic and then I have to go chase him down and try to keep up. So I ride faster than I would if I were out in front, where I’d ride more conservatively, and not be pushing myself.
So it’s a good match, and while he’s more aggressive than I am, we’re doing this stuff in a relatively safe environment, and it’s his way of learning. Mine is to slowly work up confidence and speed following someone who challenges me: last year, he was MUCH faster than I was.
It makes for a good time.
It’s exhausting though: my forearms and calves were burning by the end of the day from hanging off that thing. Wish I had money: I’d be out there every other weekend.
The day goes well and we head home early, happy with our riding: we’ve only got a handful of track days under our belts, and are riding a couple of 600’s but don’t embarrass ourselves out there with more experienced riders on much bigger machines: I keep getting jammed up behind bikes headed into Turn 1 slower than I want to be going and lock up my rear tire on one occasion shifting down into first.
It hops across the pavement and my brain, unperturbed, simply registers it as, “Oh, interesting.”
Funny how you can get used to that sort of thing, something that might induce terror under other circumstances.