Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Motorcycling Victoria Supermotard Come & Try Day

I’ve always wanted to have a crack on a race track, a proper race track, but I never had a second bike and I always made excuses that I didn’t want to crash my Ducati or worse, write-off my only bike.

Then the DRZ came along and I finally got my act together to just do it.

Prep

I made sure the DRZ was ready for a track day according to the basics - pegs and axle sliders on, mirrors off, bark busters on - and signed up for the Motorcycling Victoria Supermotard Come & Try Day at Broadford.

Truth be known it wasn’t my absolute first try at this.

A few weeks back I headed out to Stony Creek for Supermoto Australia Magazine’s track day. Unfortunately it was a super wet day and although I got a few laps in, and managed an off, I wouldn’t call it a proper track day due to shitty conditions.
More like sliding both wheels around a tight track pointlessly, but that’s where I popped my ‘track day cherry’, and I’m afraid to say I think I’ve got the bug.

But as far as prep goes truth be known if you have a roadworthy motard, you can get out and do this without spending more than $200 on sliders. Steve wrote a really good post about starting out on track days and what you need to think about, check it out here.

Join a club, show your support

Coincidentally after a great day out held by the club, I have also joined a club,the Classic & Custom Japanese Motorcycle Club, mostly because I had such a great day checking out all the club members bikes, but it also came with the bonus - I could apply for my MA license.

My badge of honour, I signed up as soon as I got back from Stony Creek as it’ll save me a few bucks over the track days and also opens up the opportunity to do club racing in the future … for now, lets just have a crack shall we?

Eager beaver

On arrival at 7:45am I signed up, proudly showing my newly acquired MA license, and then unloaded into the next available pit, alongside two other DRZ 400s. I was in the right place at least.

Found a guy I recognised from the Stony Creek day, Shane, so we walked the track checking out the new dirt section. It was pretty wet and sludgy at that point but far out in coming months it’s going to be a rip-snorter!

I'd say it’s only 500mtrs but it’s got a bit of everything including jumps and ruts. I was more excited about the tar, being a total novice, than the wet sludgy dirt section frightened the shit out of me truth be told. I’ll have to build up to that one.

Back at the pits and up to scrutineering for the riders briefing, Nic from MV gave us all a heads up about the new dirt section being cut out for the morning until it dried out (Dan sighs with relief), and because of that the coaching fees for the day had been dropped!

Free day at the track. I mean totally free - no fee for the pits, no fee for license holders, no fees. Nada. Woohoo!

Coaching sessions

Running three groups, Advanced, Intermediate and Coaching, I opted for the novice or coaching level as I just didn’t know how good or bad I was, and made the right decision.

Nick and Paul Bray had heaps of great tips to share as they took us out onto the sectioned off straight and ran us through some slaloms and breaking sessions. It helped me build a bit of confidence as to how the bike was going to feel in the wet when we got out. A bit after 9am we were ready to ride, and thankfully the Advanced & Intermediate guys and girls had pretty much dried it out for us. Thanks guys!

Totally psyched for my first ever lap, I lined up and headed out. It was the best feeling I think I have ever had. Pure adrenalin rush. Pinning every gear coming out of every corner I was in heaven. No cages, no Po-Po, not 'safety guards' to bump, just tar and grass as far as the eye could see.

My first few laps I took it easy around every corner warming up cold tyres, checking out the dry lines, trying to make a bit of a plan for how to attack it.
The Advanced riders know how it's done

Laps

Second lap was better, smoother, third better yet and by the fourth and fifth lap I caught up to one rider and had also been overtaken by another. Dammit! He cruised straight past me on the other DRZ like I was standing still. Never mind, next time mate.

I was so pumped when I came in, triumphant, unscathed, a track day racer. I seriously felt that good I wanted to scream. Fiero!  

Calm down princess, you did some laps like a nanna.

Another coaching session took us through basic bike gear and the difference between suits, boots and helmets and I lapped it all up. Not heaps new to learn but great to hear some technical guff from more experienced riders and people who know their shit.

In between sessions I checked out bikes, talked to other riders about their setup, and tried to pick up some tips. Nick gave me a great lesson in checking my chain as I explained mine had plenty of clearance from the wheel, yet was chewing up the back tyre.

Grab it at 3pm from behind the sprocket and give it a tug. This way the chain is at max tension between 12pm to 6pm with your sprocket, and at 3pm you shouldn’t be able to pull it outwards more than a tiny bit, a few mm at most.

Mine was pulling out 3-5mm. It was clearly rooted. That’s why the tyre was getting chewed up. Good job it’s only a Dunlop Sport. Can’t wait to get my Goldspeed rear hoop!

Lesson learnt, knowledge applied

It was end of round three going into four when I caught up with Shane and we were checking out the pits, discussing different bikes when we went to suss out his Husaberg, and I thought I’d apply my new found knowledge and check his chain and see how different it was from mine.

 That was when I saw his sprocket bolt hanging out. Hang on, three were missing! Never mind his his chain (which was fine, I checked, cause now I know how) he had 3 sprocket bolts missing - and I just happened to have a set of sprocket saver bolts in my toolbox. Just in the nick of time he whacked a few in and made it out for the next Advanced lap.

I had only just got my Goldspeed Ultrasport from Jovian on the front, and was impressed from my street time, and even more so after a single lap. I don't know how to explain tyres, they either feel great and give me confidence or they don't. The Goldspeed sticks to the road like glue at any angle and provides heaps of confidence to a novice like me. I like the profile too, it doesn’t drop in when leaning or tipping in, it’s really smooth and predictable and even in the wet on the commute I have not felt one instance of it letting go.

I found another guy running the same tyres back and front and we got talking about the differences. I was asking about the different levels of grip with a motard and different street, track and slick hoops and Paul (I think his name was) spelled it out for me.

You start out with street tyres and then you find their limits, so you move up to something like the Goldspeed. Then when you find their speed limits, and you end up running slicks.

Gary was the resident go to guy for mechanics so I had him come and check out my front end after my new speed wobbles appeared and he gave me another great lesson for the day. My pinch bolts which I had on and off several times over the last few weeks probably weren’t tightened correctly causing an imbalanced front wheel. '

He also noted that the rebound on my front shocks wasn’t the best, and I could do a few things about that, namely changing the oil first up or going for a rebuild. It was a great day. I got three lap sessions in and for a novice like me, that was enough, I could feel the adrenalin turning into fatigue and I still had the drive home and a few chores to run yet.

For my last session I felt good enough about filming my run so I mounted the GoPro on the Chesty and headed out for my last session. By this stage almost everyone had stepped up to Intermediate so only four others went out in the Novice with me, which was great as I got the entire track for a full 15 minute session pretty much to myself. Here’s the last two laps of that session.

What did I learn?

I'm still riding like a road racer. I need to get up on the tank and push the bars down more. I need to trust my tyres and tip it in harder. I brake way too early and I still have little idea how to back-it-in, but I'm trying and I reckon for my first track day at 42 years old, I did ok!

All up it was an excellent day and I learnt heaps about motarding, got to put some new skills to the test and really experience what it was like to take part in a track day. I got tips from pros, spoke with fellow DRZ owners, and found out heaps more about the setup of my bike.

Winning! I actually came home thinking the DRZ really should stay the Commutard as well as what bike I want to get just for track days. A CRF 450 would be pretty mental and might help me overcome my biggest track issue - fear.

Like I said, think I've got the bug. Now I've just gotta grow some big kahunas.

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