This year I rode eight track days on three raceways; Streets of Willow, Sears Point and Laguna Seca. After spending most of my time training with Keith Code and his superbike school. I am now focusing on applying the riding techniques I have learned in a more open track environment provided by Lance Keigwin of Keigwins@thetrack. Both Keith and Lance offer excellent programs for learning and applying the required skills to master the art of track riding some of the most powerful superbikes built today. I plan on spending more time with both of them in 2011. I am also looking forward to riding Thunderhill, Miller and Buttonwill racetracks, I hope.
Yesterday I rode Laguna Seca with Keigwins@thetrack. It was an odd day in that it rained most of the day. Most riders including myself aren’t to keen to ride superbikes down Laguna’s five story ‘Cork Screw’ drop in the poring down rain. The turnout was lite, and most of the riders that did ride retired early. I rode about five sessions, then decided to call it around 2PM with myself and bike intact. The odd thing about the day though, was that I had a great time. The track was wide open, my bike slid around but for the most part was fairly stable – and I did not crash, like a lot of other folks (no injuries thankfully). I think the reason I enjoyed the day was because after all of the training I have had this year my riding finnaly started to click. I was a happy boy.
After committing to BMW’s S1000RR superbike this fall I have been learning how to become one with the machine. I like the fact the bike is light, 448 pounds and features an incredible 185 horsepower inline four cylinder engine. The good news is that it also features a very smart computer mounted on the tank that provides traction control including a gyroscope, abs brakes and on the fly suspension tuning for rain, sport or track setups. The suspension is also very adjustable. So adjustible you need an expert to help fit the bike to you. About a month ago I took it my local shop and spent about two hours with an engineer going over the suspension documentation fitting the bike to my height 6’1 and weight 192pounds. We did it by the book and the bike felt pretty good or so I thought.
During a break at the track yesterday, I had the bike checked by a racing suspension expert Dave Muse of Catalyst Reaction. I thought Dave would confirm my previous settings, but instead he changed my setup completely. He said he liked the bike, but the brakes were ‘too good’ and the fork springs not strong enough. He was right, in my next session the bike felt completely different. It was firm and smooth in the turns and the back wheel did not spin and push the tail up on the straightaways. Net, net I am now a big fan of Dave and plan to spend more time with him tuning the bike to my body and riding style this next year. I also would caution in not putting too much faith in BMW’s suspension default settings. Get a racing suspension expert to help, it can make a big difference to your riding and enjoyment.
Based on feedback from friends and relatives, I realize that not everyone is into superbikes. For what its worth,…I take training and rider safety very seriously. Track riding on a controlled circuit like Laguna Sega is much safer then riding on the open street.