Friday, April 14, 2017

Long time no talk!

Hey Friends!

Haven't been riding much lately since I'm in graduate school. I did pull the bike out of the garage though and had it down in DC for a week when my car was in the shop. I got my first parking ticket when I parked in front of my school building (it's ok for scooters to park there but not sportbikes!).

Riding back home on I-95 I also got flipped off by a lady who was a left lane hog. I politely waved at her to move to the lane to the right and she wasn't having it! Just to reiterate, it's against the law to cruise in the left lane...pass left, keep right!!! This needs to be a huge concept taught for drivers. Probably part of the reason Americans are so bad at driving and why our roads are so unnecessarily congested. If someone approaches from behind, MOVE RIGHT!!!

Anyways, I've booked a trip to New Zealand for this coming December. Should be an amazing trip and I will definitely post pictures.

Finally, I bought a pair of Alpinestars GP Tech gloves in white/black. They are phenomenally comfortable with pretty much no break in period necessary. The only gripe right now is the left hand slight pinching between my ring finger and middle finger. I'm playing with the velcro straps to see if I can get rid of it. Will let you know when I figure it out, but otherwise, an amazing glove that I got on close out for $230!!! Separate gripe, they have a nice plastic wrist slider strap but due to it, it causes the glove to roll over to the back of the hand when placed on the counter. This causes the glove to roll and potentially fall off your bike if you put it down the wrong way. Easy way to get scuffs, but also, not a huge deal!

Keep in touch,

Pandabear


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Moar trackdays!

Hello again,

I said I was more or less done with riding for now, but it seems that was mostly for street riding!  After getting a bit hooked on the track, I ended up going for two more track days!!

I've learned quite a lot in three track days from being coached and sitting in on classroom sessions (and putting concepts into practice). I've picked up my pace, and I feel more comfortable going through turns quickly.  I can 150% say that I've become a better rider in a short period of time.  I can't say street riding would ever provide that boost so quickly.

Why yes, that is indeed my new Bell Star Carbon RSD helmet!

After my first track day, I picked up on the racing line, and practiced being smooth throughout the corners.  On day two, I worked on my body positioning, including anchoring better under braking and transitioning into leaning off.  On day three I picked up my pace and got a better handle on how hard I can brake in straight lines, in corners, how much gas I can apply while leaned fully over, and in general, how my bike handles.  Comfort level with my bike? Hopped on a rocket and went through the roof!


In general, I feel much more attuned to my bike's feel and feedback, and how my inputs affect my riding. Enjoying a nice cool down rain shower on day 2 allowed me to test my resolve on a partially wet track. I had no issues except for a small slide going over a puddle on a left hand turn.  My relatively new Pirelli Rosso Corsa's did the job and sorted out the issue, though I think a rain tire (for racing) would have been much better.  Street tires seem to be a bit of a compromise and while the are definitely better than race slicks, they aren't 100% fool proof...still have to use common sense and some caution!!

Body position needs some work. While I was close to touching down and dragging knee (even as a short rider!), I don't think I extended my leg far enough outwards.  Regardless, speed and skill is more important than dragging knee, it's not a goal but a by product.  I am still thrilled by my improvement and that's what counts!

I may have to book one more before I leave for school...more to come!

- Pandabear

Monday, May 9, 2016

My first trackday!

Hello friends,

I had my first trackday on April 24th!  I had been wanting to do it for a long time now and was always kind of a chicken.  I had a lot of doubts about doing it or going alone but after realizing you can't rely on others to go with you, I just said eff it and went!  So here are things I'd like to share from my experience.. it's a long post, but I'll try to be as helpful as possible!

Prep... wear a race suit, 1 or 2 piece leathers. Wear race boots, race gloves, and have a back protector. For my organization (Absolute Cycle Experience), 80% tire tread and 80% brake pad life. The rest, just make sure things were tight on the bike.  I myself swapped all pads, got Pirelli Rosso Corsa's, and I'm glad I did because you want STICKY TIRES! Tech inspection was straightforward, they eyeballed tires and brakes and then hand checked pegs and such to make sure they were secure. Cake.

At the track itself, I dropped tire pressure...front from 36 to 31 and rear from 42 to 32. Street tire pressures do NOT belong on the track, you need GRIP. Next time I'll do 30/30. This was reiterated at the riding school, as one of the first things mentioned. I'll get to the school in a bit.

So let's get to the important part, my experience! I rode to the track (was the minority). If you are worried about crashing on a trackday, then don't crash! Ride at a comfortable pace and take it slow.  I rode at a pace a bit faster than on the street, but it was within my comfort zone and I took my time getting there. Everyone I talked to said the same thing... take it easy and let your tires warm up as well as the track surface itself.  Gradually increase your pace, don't go guns blazing. Unlike cars, as you know, motorcycle riding is way more in-depth and traction is EVERYTHING. There were numerous crashes from people going too hard too soon as well as riding beyond their skill level. Several people got taken away in ambulances.  Just don't...and you will be fine!!

I was nervous upon arrival.  I felt like people were looking at me and judging me...but they weren't. They are there to have fun and improve themselves too.  Once I started talking to people, everyone seemed way cool and very helpful.  I met a really nice family and they offered me food, drinks, and let me use some of their equipment.  I also made a good friend and we are arranging for another track weekend together!  Really, as the org said, just check your ego at the door. Go in with a clear mind and you'll have a blast.

I asked where the tech location was and some guy guided me over there.  I started chatting with some people and they put me at ease, quickly. The staff was very helpful and pointed me in the right direction.  I sailed through tech and attended the riders meeting.  Then I was guided over to the intro school where some control riders were teaching newbies like me.

The program was really great.  They take you immediately into the class where they teach you about racing lines and what to do/not to do.  They give you a bit of information, and then they take you out in a group in a follow the leader format.  Really easy and as long as you follow them, you learn and have a great time.  Then you go back into the class and learn some more info and talk about things you can improve on. Rinse and repeat.  Each time out, they increase the speeds. Biggest thing there is that they set you up for the corner speeds from the beginning.  After that, it's simply increasing speeds on the straights and introducing some braking before the turns. Also, they tell you to NEVER look behind you, no matter what.  Your line is everything and looking behind is a quick way to crash or cause a crash. Focus on what you are doing and don't try to compete, it's not a race.

I spent the day trying to be smooth on the brakes and throttle and managed to keep a nice pace. The first couple sessions I was with the class.  The last two sessions, we were set off on our own, and I stepped up my pace to what I was comfortably having fun with. On a few turns, I started feeling uncomfortable and knew I was off the throttle coasting, going too fast for my skill, and beginning to overload the front (recipe for a low side crash) so I slowed my pace.  While it's fun having your face about a foot above the pavement, I knew I was getting tired and so I kept myself in check.  Knowing your limits will keep you off the pavement.

So all in all, I had an absolute blast. All my prior fears are gone and now I am hooked on the track. I've got two more days booked before I have to head to grad school, and I'm stoked!! After riding on the street a few times afterwards, it's just not as enjoyable due to cars, speed limits, debris, and the constant peril of significant injury/death from hitting things like guard rails, trees, rocks, etc.  I'm so glad I took the plunge and went to the track, and I hope this helps you make up your mind to go as well. As a first timer I can easily say, it's not as scary as it seems to get there, and there are tons of people ready to help you if you reach out to them and ask. So stop making excuses and pull the trigger, I can guarantee you, you won't regret it!!!

All the best,

- Pandabear