Track Days are Good for the Soul!

Date :

April 30, 2015

 Track Days are Good for the Soul!

Any day at a track day is a good day. There is but glory and joy in spending hour after hour strafing apexes.

One recent day, I popped up at 4:30 a.m., necked a pot of coffee, and crawled out to the CW pickup that was loaded with an EBR 1190RX and Yamaha FZ-09, hoping the caffeine would take effect before any major decision-making points were foisted upon me in traffic. Three hours later I was east of Indio at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway, an oasis of twisting tarmac in the great rocky desert of Southern California.

It was not a day of comparison testing, photography, and video shooting while frantically chasing waning light, but just riding at the track, a pure pursuit of improved technique, better lines, safer speed, and more fun.

I spent most of my time on the EBR because it was the last bike I’d ridden at the track and also because it has excellent feedback from a fine chassis, precise steering, good, widely adjustable traction control, and a broad swath of predictable, abundant power. It is a sharp, familiar tool that allowed me to dissect the track and focus on my riding.

Riding at the track, for me, is the best combination of mental and physical, asking so much of your brain’s analytical power to be precisely executed during real (fast moving) time in the material universe. All the factors that go into a perfect corner or lap are infinite to an infinite power, which is what makes it so artful, beautiful, and…elusive. When I get a taste of that harmony and feel like I am treading the edge of available everything at a speed that makes me smile, there is a pure joy that connects me with the world in a way that is the very meaning of life.

It’s also a kind of meditation that helps me take out most of the mental garbage that builds up from normal daily-grind non-peak living like waiting in line at the DMV or doing your taxes or having a driver on his cell phone change lanes on you.

Back in the October 2014 issue, I wrote a column about wanting to get in shape (“Sit down. Sit up.”), and after a few half-hearted fits and starts, I dug out my 1981 Motobecane 10-speed, which in current times would be referred to as a “road bicycle” since available speeds are now in the 20s.

It does have only 10 gears and weighs 27 pounds, an easy 10 more than almost anything you can buy that’s halfway serious today. I have managed to get about 75 miles a week in for the last two and a half months and feel much better for it. I bring this up because in the latter half of the day at Chuckwalla and after riding nearly every available session, I wasn’t physically tired. I’ve got a way to go yet in dropping some pounds, but I was so happy to not have a lack of physical condition interfere with a cubic-large volume of track laps. It brought a feeling of peace.

Aside from dirt riding, operating a motorcycle at a road course is one of the best ways to work on your skills and to remind yourself of how your motorcycle works, what it’s capable of, and how it communicates with you.

After this renewal of a deeper relationship with the contact patches, my street rides have been infinitely better, as has my mental state. A pure track day is a perfect trash day to clear out the stuff that doesn’t matter and remind you that the best part of living is being alive.

Get out there!