Today, April 13th, I celebrate one year since I started riding track days.
I’ve been riding motorcycles for almost 30 years. My first bike was an orange 1979 Suzuki DS 80 that I got when I was 10. For most of the past couple of decades I’ve been riding heavy cruisers and touring bikes, but two years ago I bought a Yamaha FJR to ride to work. It’s a bike that fundamentally changed my riding – by far the sportiest bike I’d owned, it was always teasing more speed out of me. I pushed it harder into corners and generally rode it much more aggressively than those big road hogs. I was riding it less like I rode a motorcycle and more like I rode my mountain bikes – more body language and a much closer connection with what the bike was doing. This bike was teaching me things.
About the same time, I made a few friends in the racing scene, and they began encouraging me to come to the track. This was something I’d thought about doing for a long time, but it wasn’t until events conspired in several unlikely ways that I finally found myself sitting in pit lane on that cold April morning, waiting to take my first lap at The Ridge Motorsports Park. I had enrolled in 2-Fast’s Performance Riding School to get acquainted with the process and learn some new skills. I was a little nervous at first, and worried about crashing, messing up my pretty bike, or just looking stupid in front of a grid full of (I thought) bad-ass racers. But as soon as we were up to speed I forgot all that. Fear and uncertainty melted away as I got the tires warmed up on my FJR and fell into the funnest experience I’ve ever had in my life. It was about half way through that first session, as I came around Turn 6 the third time, I felt my right foot lift off the peg and hang there as I pressed the bike hard into the left-hander. I looked up and saw Mt. Rainier gleaming in the gorgeous morning light, and had a premonition that my life was about to change forever. “Okay, so *this* is what the rest of my life is going to be about.”
The day wore on and I wore out, but I wasn’t too tired for another session, right until the end of the day, when I packed up and shared a few beers with the new friends I’d made. Far from being exclusionary, the ‘bad ass racers’ I met were kind and eager to help me learn the ropes and give me advice on how to improve. I was already hooked when I looked at the ground-down foot pegs on my big sport-tourer and said to myself – “I think I’m gonna need an R1” – which I bought a few weeks later. My priorities suddenly shifted, but even then, I had no idea how this day would change my life.
The first image below is from that day. It seems like a million years ago now, and it’s hard to believe the bottom image was taken less than a year later – just two weeks ago – in almost the exact same spot. In that year I’ve made countless new friends, pushed myself out of my comfort zone, and become a better rider than I ever thought I could be.
Thank you to 2-Fast, to The Ridge, and to all my friends for welcoming me into this wonderful world. Here’s to the first year of the rest of my life.
photos: Jason Tanaka