Attn:track newbs (sort of..)
Ok, first, let me say I don't know exactly where I'm going with this thread; it's kind of a PSA, kind of a heads-up to new trackday participants, but mostly, it's kind of a personal rant/vent session. I've been thinking about how I wanted to write this for a long time, but I think the best way to do it is just to start typing, so here goes.
This year will be my fifth year riding on the track, and my fourth year of fairly hardcore attendance as I only did 3 weekends my first year. I usually average 20+ days a year at the track (not counting the first year), and I've learned tons out there. I like to think I've become a fairly proficient and fast rider, but I know I can still learn tons more, and I also know that there are tons of guys who are way faster than I am. Still, I go out, I have fun, and I try to come home in one piece, but it doesn't always work out in the most optimal fashion. This is a very risky passion, and the margin for error can be razor thin at times; moreover, that margin becomes thinner the faster I go, even though I'm more experienced every time I complete a session. Like any activity, there is a learning curve associated with track riding, but it's decidedly steeper than most.
No problem; life is really just a long, drawn out risk/benefit equation wherein we make our choices as to how we want to live and we then live with the consequences. I know that riding at the track is dangerous, but, at this point, the enjoyment, thrill, and therapeutic benefit which I derive from this activity far outweigh the element of risk involved. I fully realize that any perception of control which I have regarding riding at the track is illusory at best; after all, I am participating in an incredibly dangerous pastime, and, moreover, I'm constantly pushing the envelope while doing so. Anything can happen, at any time, and it usually does. I've crashed four times in as many years, and three of those times I got up, dusted myself off, and was, physically at least, ready to go back out the next session. Mentally, and, with regards to the bike, mechanically, maybe not so much. As far as my body, though, I was ok fine. That fourth time, though? That was a different story.
Now, believe me, I'm not trying to be overly dramatic here, as the only injury I incurred that fourth time was a broken collarbone. Fractured clavicles are actually a very common injury at the track; they usually occur when you fall off the bike and jam your elbow, which forces the collarbone up into the bottom edge of your helmet, and Voila! you no longer get to wear strapless gowns out for nights on the town. (And don't even
try to use this in your arguments, helmet haters, because believe me, I'd have been dead and gone before I stopped tumbling without my lid!) I know several ex-racers who've broken their collarbones 3 or 4 times; look around on a hot day at the track and you'll see plenty of clavicles crooked and lumpy enough to make you slightly queasy. Problem is, I'm a plumber, and it's kind of hard to do a physical trade with a broken bone which can't really mend in any way except with the passage of time. So, I was off work for a full month, which cost me about 7 grand or so. Plus, there was the damage to the bike, the portion of my medical bills which insurance didn't cover, and the destroyed gear. All in all, this accident, which was a direct result of my hobby, cost me probably ten thousand dollars.
At this point, I can actually hear you thinking, "So what? Nobody forced you to go out there. You were probably riding over your head, doing something stupid, and you got what you deserved. You said yourself how risky this is, and you're lucky that's all that happened to you. Now quit moaning like a little bitch and let me go bash some latte-swilling, cafe-posing Ducati owners!" And you know what? You're partly right. I know it's risky out there, and I totally accept the ultimate responsibility for what happened. However, and this is finally one of the points of this post, this crash was caused wholly and completely by another rider, who was absolutely riding over his head, and definitely doing something stupid, and I'm fairly certain that I didn't get what I deserved out of the whole deal.
I won't go into too much detail here. A lot of people here already know enough about the specifics, and the details don't matter that much anyway. In a nutshell, I was acting as a rider coach (my first and last day in that capacity, for obvious reasons), and during the last session of the day, a rider went down behind me, slid under me, and hit the front wheel of my bike as I was entering a turn. I was never sure exactly what happened at the time, even though there were tons of riders all around us. These things happen very fast, though, and I'm sure most of the other riders were way more concerned about not crashing than trying to catalog the sequence of events.
My suspicions regarding what happened, however, were confirmed exactly one year later at the same event when I met a couple of guys who had watched the whole thing happen from the edge of the track. Quite simply, they said the guy was going like a bat out of hell, got to the corner, realized he was going way too fast, and promptly locked up the brakes and pitched his bike down the tarmac. I'm fairly positive, no, I'm certain that he was fixated on me and just trying to keep up. Thing is, I already had a few years under my belt, and was riding at a 5/10ths pace, while he was riding at a decidedly higher level with regards to his actual abilities. Part of the reason I know this is that he didn't even realize that I was a rider coach, despite the bright orange vest I was wearing which clearly indicated that I was an instructor.
So, (and forgive me for sounding petulant, but as I said, this post is also a rant/vent) I'm out there trying to help less experienced riders become better riders, and this fucking bonehead comes out of nowhere and creams me from behind, causing me quite a bit of physical discomfort and a fair amount of financial hardship. Again, let me reiterate, I accept the ultimate responsibility here. If I was somewhere else, doing something else, this would have never happened. It did, though, and it's at least 49% the other rider's fault.
And this brings me to another point of this post. Track riding rocks. It is the most intense, rewarding, and exciting activity I've taken part in so far in this lifetime. It is a non-stop, adrenaline-riddled realtime video game on crack. But, as previously mentioned, it's dangerous. Now pay attention: it's dangerous for everyone on the track, not just you, which means that you need to check your ego at the gate. Most days, everyone goes out, has a great day, has a few beers while loading up gear, and goes home happy and elated, which is as it should be. Other times, people get hurt. A lot of times, it's unavoidable, and it's really nobody's fault. A fair amount of the time, though, somebody does something stupid. Maybe they don't signal correctly when they're exiting the track. Maybe they cross over the blend line. Maybe they don't obey group passing rules. Maybe they think that they are just about to be discovered and offered a ride in MotoGP. Whatever. There are probably 679 things you can do wrong out there, any one of which can injure or kill you or your fellow riders, and you owe it to everyone to do whatever you can to avoid making these mistakes. This means paying attention during rider meetings, listening to your instructors, following the rules, and remembering that basically, you generally aren't nearly as fast, talented, or gnarly as you fancy yourself to be. Believe me, I know tons of guys who are way, waaay faster than me (and I'm way faster than you), and they don't even hold a candle to AMA backmarkers. So chill out, listen up, have fun, and most of all, pay attention, because it just ain't fair that somebody else might have to pay the price for your fuckup.
Forgive me, please. I don't mean to lecture. All in all, I was lucky. My wife works, I have no kids, I wasn't in any danger of losing my house. Still, though, what if I was hurt worse? It could happen; I really don't even like to think about that. But it didn't, and it's cool, and I'm riding more than ever, so it's all good. Like I said, I'm not trying to be overly dramatic. There is a final point for this post, though, and it might be the main one. See, the guy who hit me works in the motorcycle industry, and he promised me a new piece of gear since the one I was wearing was totally destroyed. Now mind you, he wasn't in any way obligated to compensate me whatsoever; those are the rules of the game - I have that ultimate responsibility as soon as I get on the track. But he offered, and I'll be damned if I don't hold a guy to his word when he makes a promise. I tried to hook up with him all last year, but we didn't manage to get together, and that was ok. This year, however, I'm going racing, and I really need spare everything. I've tried to get ahold of him several times, and he won't even call me back. The last time I left him a message, I asked him to at least call me back and at least tell me he couldn't,or wouldn't, keep his promise, but he's not even man enough to do that. I've seen this guy at bike nights, and I assume he's on the board. Hell, for all I know, he might be someone I talk to on here fairly regularly. And I hope he is on here, because I want him to see this. You suck, dude. Your actions cost me thousands, and you won't even live up to your word and shell out a few hundred bucks to buy me some gear at your cost. If we're ever at the same place together, don't even bother looking at me, because I'm more than a little pissed off at your no promise keepin' ass.
There. I think I feel a bit better now.
There will always be a better ride out there. It's not the bike that bends, it's the rider. There is no spoon.
Sponsored by: TeamMCC.com
Last edited by Farmboy69; 04-14-2008 at 01:09 AM.