Thursday, January 26, 2017


We all get warnings, it's up to us whether we heed them or not.  The last few months I had been ignoring all sorts of warnings in various aspects of life.  I didn't think much of it during last Sunday's rainy solo woods ride when I took my goggles off so I could see.

Five minutes later I was given a nasty, but merciful reminder when my front wheel caught a 1" sapling and turned it into a whip.  And where did this whip land?  Squarely on the the part of my body that was no longer covered with protective gear.  My nose.  Hurt like hell and I had to stop for a minute until the tears cleared, but it could have been worse.  A lot worse.  I could be typing this looking out of one eye.

We ignore the warnings at our own peril.  Listen to them.

A mere inch from partial blindness.  Stupid.

Not much good in this position, are they?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Get Your Mind Right

"You could end up seriously dead..." -Kenny Roberts Sr. 

Pavement or woods, road course or rutted single track, racing a motorcycle requires you to operate within a certain head space, nearly all the time, on track or off.  Step outside of that, lose focus for an instant and bad things can happen.  There is no room for your insecurities, daydreams or personal bullshit.  There is only the now.  You and the motorcycle and what you must make it do.  Moto-GP contender or weekend privateer, it's the same.  Like an unwavering law of nature.

Many choose to dabble, dip in a toe, play at it.  They don't last long.  They don't win.  Which is fine, some are content merely to say they have done a thing, cross it off some arbitrary list before dying.  Then there are those who want to do it as long, as fast and as well as possible.  The racer soul finding contentment nowhere else.

The best can get into the mindset with ease, I believe this is a major factor in what we would call "talent".  Some competitors have an express elevator to the zone, while the rest of us struggle to locate the fucking door.  Make no mistake, it is a huge advantage, because at the end of the day, racing is truly a mental game.  The fanciest equipment doesn't mean shit if you can't get your neurons firing properly.  To win a race, you have to know you are going to win, because it doesn't ever just fall into your lap.  A racetrack is no place for doubt.  Doubt costs time.  And lives.

Personally I have always found ritual helps me get to that place, or at least in the neighborhood.  Putting my gloves, boots, helmet and equipment on the same way every time, left foot first, left hand first.  Doing the same set of stretches in the same order, crouching down on the left side of the bike to get the leathers in place.  These things all tell my brain and my body what is to come, and what will be expected of them.

You have to do whatever it takes to get your mind right.

Because if it ain't right, it's wrong.

This is not the place to be thinking about work, or a fight you had with your woman.

Neither is this.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Here I Go Never Slow

I've always wanted to go as fast as I can.  Ever since I was a fat little kid crashing my Batman tricycle into one of the supports of our carport bloodying my nose to the 100 mph get-off in Turn 2 at Mosport in 2007 that left me with a forever wonky ankle and shoulder, velocity has been a big part of my life.  As well as the pain that can accompany it.  A matter of paying dues I guess.  I've got the scars on my body and brain and a whole room full of useless plastic trophies to show for the pursuit of it.

The most important lesson to learn is that you have to sneak up on speed.  Contrary to popular belief it's not a reckless wing and a prayer and blind luck that keeps the rubber side down.  Nobody ever won a race by going balls out, until they had spent lots and lots of time going with balls in, brain on.  A study, and a fine art that one never truly masters. 

The endeavor is lonely, because others can only get you so far.  After that it comes down to you.  Many of the moments in life where I learned what I was really made of happened with a helmet on.  As well as many of my failures.

And the only thing I would change is to have done it all even faster.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

2016 VCHSS Season In Photos

2nd place, 40+C division.  Not bad for a first season of racing off-road and first time on a dirt-bike in 10 years.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Douglas Adams demonstrated the inherent folly of trying to understand the meaning of life, the universe and everything in his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, whereupon we were aware of the answer (which was 42), but nobody knew what the hell the question was that brought us there in the first place.

Still we continue to look for it.  Meaning, I mean.  Even though we are not always quite sure what that means.  Some are fortunate to find it in their work.  Or in a significant other.  Failing that the rest of us are left to our own devices.

I consider myself lucky enough to find it in the ride. Despite the inevitable calamities of modern life, I have always found meaning on two wheels.

And I'm thankful for it.

Every apex an answer.  What was the question?

Friday, January 13, 2017

No Go At Pipsico

October 30, 2016 Spring Grove VA

Finally the final round.  I'm ready for the 2016 Virginia Championship Hare Scrambles Series season, my first racing off-road, to end.  Sick of driving, sick of loading and unloading, sick of damn porta-potties, sick of the sound of dirtbikes and the goons riding them.  Wherever I finish today will not affect my 2nd place points position for the year.  That takes a lot of pressure off, which will hopefully allow me to relax right into a win.

It's warm, and humid.  The weather has been all over the map, cool one day, hot the next.  The course is typical VCHSS coastal hare scrambles, woods racing, a little bit dry, no major environmental challenges.  I plan on a good finish.  So do the twenty other riders in class.

The bike lights immediately when the green flag drops, with a quick flip flop chicane before entering the woods.  Diving for the hole-shot, quickly finding myself swallowed up by three other riders.  These guys are not screwing around today.  It's like goddamn NASCAR out here.  Bars bang, somebody goes down, another gets caught up in the course marking tape, dragging it behind him.  This is not for me.  Not this early, especially with the temps rising and nearly two hours left to race.  I have to let them go and hopefully they will tire themselves out.  I get shunted as another eager beaver jams his way past.  And another.  No quarter asked.  None given.

Unable to match the fervent early minutes of this race, I try to settle in to a rhythm, ride like I know I can.  The leaders are visible from my sixth place vantage point, not far off.  Patience, the mistakes will happen.  And sure enough they do.  I pass the 5th place rider when he bobbles a corner.  It's still too early to make a big push, but you have to take the opportunities given.  I get an odd impression the rear end of the bike is bouncing around more than usual off of bumps and roots.  Blaming myself for holding on too tightly, I try to force the relax (never a good thing).  The leaders begin to pull away.  At the end of the first lap I am in eighth, and struggling.  Nothing seems to be going right.  There is no flow, nothing smooth at all about what is happening.  Racers are passing me sitting down, looking utterly in control, while I am standing, fighting everything and losing ground.

Then the mind games start.  I'm frustrated and flailing trying to go faster.  This shit ain't working.  The idea of fun goes out the window.  The handling of the bike seems to be deteriorating, or is it just my spirit?  The course is not overly technical or even challenging for that matter, but I can't seem to make anything happen.  Halfway into the second lap, still in eighth, and just looking for it to be over.  Whenever I try to pick up the pace, the Gas Gas turns into a hammering, pogoing, ill-steering pig.  Second lap turns into the third with things no better.  Halfway through the final go round I manage to pass 7th place and make it stick.  There is a brief flicker of hope, but I can see no riders ahead.  I am alone.  There is nothing left to do now but finish, a frustrating seventh place.  Season over.  I breathe a sigh of relief.  As I've gotten older, there is always a part of me that is relieved when a race season ends with rider and machine intact.  I know too well the flip side of that coin.

A quick look at the rear of the machine reveals a blown shock, despite having been rebuilt just a few races ago.  That explains the poor handling.  If I were the type of person to need an excuse, this would be it.  But I'm not, so screw it.

Mama said there'd be days like this.  

Off the start, on the outside, in 4th.  That was the best position I would hold all day.  And not for long.

Looking ahead.  To when the damn race (and season) is over.

Bouncing around like a rag doll on a blown shock.

At least this one is sexy.