Among the morning rides I did with my friend Bill was a demon dash downhill that was a few miles long. He loved to get into the draft of a truck and rip along at around 45mph. I felt stupid doing it. I felt scared too. He kept saying we could pass one if we tried. We did, once, at over 50. I’m glad I can write about it now. I don’t plan to try it again. On this same road we were often passed by a guy on a Harley. The road’s in a very affluent part of the USA, but the Harley dude looked just like he should have. Half helmet, gray mustache, leather vest, jeans, shit-kicker boots…we saw him pretty regularly so I got plenty of good looks at him and all the chrome. Typically we’d be doing 35 or so without a truck to tail and every time this guy rode past us, he flipped us off. Bill, by the way, ran the local Harley dealership. It might have been the first time it happened, or it could have been the second time, but most probably it was every time that we got the bird when I asked Bill why his customers hated him. Bill was part bear, at least, at first, or like when my shop forgot to glue his tubulars on properly and he showed up snarling.
Eventually our Harley guy would pause as he passed and then grin as he popped that middle finger in our direction before powering away.
Being in the bike business and selling recreation means that I know there are some things you need and some things you want. I was reminded of this when the North American Handmade Bike Show came to Hartford for 2018 making it possible for me to head up and back in a day. It was great to see some old friends (Bob Parlee, Chris Chance…), and make a couple of new ones. I love the work from Breismeister Bicycles. As I was getting ready to leave a sales guy asked if I saw anything that I needed. I was polite, I think, rather than bearish and explained that there wasn’t anything I needed, but a lot of stuff that I could want. Fortunately the Reparto basement is full up. The garage however, isn’t. After a year of searching I got something I wanted and certainly don’t need. A Yamaha R3 is now in the garage next to the Reparto Corse E30 race car.
I’m not interested in riding the R3 on the highway. Back roads and curves are really more fun than side-drafting a semi-trailer. My longest ride so far has been 75 miles to Lime Rock Park so I could instruct for my race club. All the way home on a beautiful sunny afternoon just about every moto rider I saw gave me a thumbs up instead of the middle finger. The R3 is a 321cc little sport bike with a plastic fairing to make it look racy, but even the Harley guys gave greetings instead of middle fingers. I don’t know if any of them also pedal a bike, but after a bunch of friendly waves I remembered the Harley guy who used to flip us off and I laughed just about the same as when I teased Bill.
And it turns out that there are more moto riders at my car track days than I realized. At the race track I parked next to a friend who’s an engineer and designer so I wasn’t really surprised to learn he has a powered bike in addition to his bicycles and track day car. I had two students during the day. I was a little more surprised that both rode a motor bike at some point. Both of them seemed like they kind of missed it. One said he stopped doing track days when he got married and sold the bike when he had kids. (There were a nice pair of child seats in the back of his M2.) The other said he used it all year round for commuting because it was an inexpensive way to get around when he was a kid.
Why did I want a motorized bike? Motorbikes is where I got a start going fast. I had a Z50 Honda and an SL70 before getting a Can Am 250. The last one cured me for a while. It was too fast for the little trails we built and I felt more vulnerable in traffic on the street on it than I did on my road bike. Part of it was that I have my dad’s leather jacket from his CB750 Honda days, and it’s in perfect condition, but not great to wear to that many functions like work or a picnic. My friends and I took the lights off the SL70 to make it look like a motocross bike, and then we cut the muffler off so it sounded good. Every jump was a chance to be Evel Knievel. My parents, bless them, let me turn our yard into a track so I could play Roger DeCoster, and I learned to slide. Learning to slide the back wheel of that bike was one of the best things I ever learned.
I carried some of that over into bike racing and then into the car onto the track. I don’t slide the R3 and don’t go particularly fast on my back roads, but it forces me to practice the stuff that is important to work on like line, balance and vision. Using the whole lane is expected and perfectly acceptable as opposed to being on the road bike. And although I use the car to practice heel and toe and similar racing techniques like trying a late or early apex, etc., the R3 gives much more feedback. Suiting up with padded bits and the leather outside for protection takes some commitment, but that’s part of the feeling riding the moto gives too. I used to say that I’d only get a motorcycle to do track days, but I’m a bit intimidated by the speed and have no desire to go sliding or worse to me or the R3 to ride that aggressively, at least yet. It’s only been three months and less than a 1,000 miles so far. There aren’t too many folks that ask about racing the car and driving on the track that I don’t encourage to come out to learn how to drive better, more safely…I plan to start by seeing a track day to get a sense of what the beginners are doing.