Sunday, 31 May 2009

It ain't so dark nomore...

Today is the first day my wrist isn't hurting so bad. Must be the diet of pain-killers and alcohol finally beginning to work through my system. Often I can feel the wire poking out the knobly bone on the outside of the wrist... this is the 'kebab' the surgeon was referring to - gives me the heebie-jeebs!

Looking at sourcing some parts to turn the monster into a better flat-tracker and not a bone-smasher. They don't have a vast selection, but check out some cool stuff at Banke Performance.

These are the babies that'll give me loads more steering-lock... and help porevent highsides and bone-crunching landings!

Check out these uber-cool bikes from Mac Motorcycles:

The top one is kinda Ducati Monsteresque... very sweet!

Thanks Sideburn Gary for the link/mag/blog.

I got lots of cool stuff coming up soon... just need to find the links in my well polluted favourites.

It ain't so dark nomore and I think I can see the road to wellness up ahead...

Friday, 29 May 2009

Plated and Riveted

Saw the orthopaedic surgeon on Tuesday morning. He sends me off for more x-rays... the an  emergency CT scan. Things are not looking good.

The top of the radius is smashed and the tip of the ulna is far away fron where it should be. My whole hand is about 1 inch from where it should be on the end of my wrist. Not good.
I need a plate screwed into the top of the radius and a wire to bring the tip of the ulna back in place. Fuck!

Good news is they can operate that afternoon. Guess it was an emergency for the NHS (public health service) to be able to do that. At 16h00 they wheel me into theatre and I drift off to sleep.
I wake in agony. My wrist hurts like a muthafucka! They give me morphine through the tube in my right hand. Bejeesus! That hurts as much as my left wrist! It is the same level of pain I experienced when the Honda nearly killed me at Oliver's Mount (story for another time). About a  9 out of 10. 10 would be a pass-out. Christ! I wanted to pass-out. I feel the morphine working through my body but my wrist is still killing me. "How's that?" I'm asked.
"Fuck me! Not good."

They give me more morphine... this time the burning in my right arm is stronger than the pain in my left wrist. If I was corpus-mentus I would have jumped out of the bed!

I'm struggling in a dopey haze. Someone is holding me down and telling me to relax. I try. They comment that it shouldn't hurt that much. Well it funkin did! More morphine please...

"Is that better?" I'm asked.
I try to relax...
"Fuck me! Not really." I manage to garble. "Anyone got a pivo?" Only now do I realise the joke was lost on them... pivo is Croatian for beer... I wasn't really with it. Someone tells me that they can't give me any more morphine... kinda grateful as the pain if it going in was now greater than the pain on the other side... it was starting to work.

I try to relax. The morphine makes my body feel warm and soft... like a sticky-toffee pudding... but my wrist still hurts like fuck. It's improving though... about an 8.5.

I drift into and out of consciousness as they wheel me to the ward.

That night, between to pain, the nurse waking me every 2 hours to take blood pressure and pulse and dear David next to me, I sleep in 20 minute shifts... mostly just dozing. Concentrating on my breathing and trying to keep my mind off the pain.

David. Ah David. David is a forty-something bloke. A beheomouth of a man with the mind of a six year-old. I'm sure he's a lovely guy... but at 1 in the morning... just when I drop off, he wants to play with his coloring-in books. He chats loudly, continuously. He has a nurse in attendance every second... who I guess was bored too, becuase they entertain him. At 4 in the morning when he is whining he cannot find his purple felt-tip marker I felt like finding it for him, then shoving it up his arse! I just couldn't move. This continues till 6 in the morning. Bejeesus, Mary and Joseph!
Everyone in the ward loved David!

I couln't do another night of that without harming others so am immensely pleased when I hear from the surgeon in the morning that the surgery went well and I can go home as soon as my pain is under control, hopefully that afternoon.

I wait till 3 o'clock for my perscribed pain-killers to turn up... this is 7 hours since my last dose... I'm in agony. Pain under control? Like fuck! But I smile and act perky because there is no frikkin way I'm spending another night next to dear David. Physical pain can be managed with the mind... and is forgotten quickly... mental/emotional pain is more difficult to manage. I wanted out of there!

I'm jovial and discharge myself saying that my mother is waiting for me in the parking lot. Behind that smile I was almost crying. I feel weak and am in agony... but I swallow a handful of pills and make it to the chevy that was still waiting for me in the parking-lot. Christ! That short walk  seemed like a long way!

The 5 miles home seemed to take hours.

Almost 3 days after they cut me open like a tin of spam... and it still hurts like fuck. But I'm back at work and feeling better about everything.

I'll get some cool x-rays and scans up as soon as I get them...

Monday, 25 May 2009

Manx GP 2009 - The Plan

So… the wrist is broken… in two places. Seeing an orthopaedic surgeon tomorrow – likely I’ll get a proper cast from the elbow ( just got a half-cast now). Sick of this crap on my arm already… tired of the pain. Can’t rotate or move the wrist from side to side without big pain. Not fun. 12 weeks to the Manx GP. That gives me about 6 weeks to repair… 6 weeks to get fit. Still got a bike to build! Doh!

Nay worries. I will be at the Manx.

I’ll be doing the Ultra-lightweight race on the morning of Friday 4th September on a Desmo Due 620 Monster. 4 laps of the hallowed ?TT Mountain Course. Mike (MD Racing) is kindly sponsoring me for this ride, providing the bike and will be on the Isle wielding spanners for the team (and of course... the all-important set-up work...). With only 62 horsepower and weighing over 165 kg,  the wee beast is going to get a thrashing... but I think she'll go well. Looking for a 90 mph plus lap.

On the same day, in the afternoon I'll roll out for the Senior race. I'll be doing that on my first race bike. Candy. The 1998 Aprilia RSV SP that I did the 2006 Manx GP on. The gearbox was worn and the engine due for a refresh (8 500 miles of thashing around tracks!), I crashed her at the Gooseneck at Cadwell in October 2007. She hasn't run since. Cartwheeled and landed on the nose/clocks - split the headstock open. I stripped her into boxes over the winter but has been a challenge to get her back together.

The welding god who is Geoff repaired the frame (so technically she is no longer an Aprilia...) and the engine is with Andy at Southern Cross. What a frikikin' mission to get parts for this rare beast... and the price! Bejeeesus! She's putting me in the poor-house!

Currently having custom head gaskets hand cut and hopefully will have the engine back in a few weeks. Then the build proper shall commence. Got some trick bits for her. I hope to get her together as a better bike than she's ever been. 112 mph is the target for this baby. Hopefully I'll have some time to blog the build.

(Manx GP 2006 - 108 mph on a stock 1998 bike ain't bad... but missed out on a replica by 8 seconds... that still fuckin' hurts!) 

Been watching on-board DVDs and playing the playstation for the past few months. I do a lap in my mind every morning while driving to work (I tend to 'lean' into the turns and land up zig-zagging my way down the lanes!). I am more prepared than I have ever been. Just the small matter of a fucked wrist... but this will heal. There is no choice... it has to.

Don't think I'll be doing any racing (flat-track included - bloody dangerous!) till after the Manx. A few track-days to shake the bikes down and do some setup... but that'll be it until I head down Bray Hill for first practice on 22nd August. Just won't have any time... and can't risk injury. Man! I can't wait!

(Manx GP 2005 - on a 156 bhp Mille... she pulled like a bastard! Engine case cracked during practice... stuffed a rag in the fairing and finished 12th in the Newcomers, 104mph and a replica... with a boot full of oil! I had no idea what I had gotten myself into! I had no idea how much that place would blow my mind!)

I was all entered and physically prepared to go last year... by my mind just wasn't into it. I had the 600 Honda all ready, ferries, crew, accomodation... everything set. But there was a nagging in the back of my mind, I just wasn't sure, I had to work up my motivation. I just wasn't into it. Not the mental space you want to be before fucking off down Bray Hill at a kazillion miles an hour.

It was that bloody bike... the Honda. I just didn't trust it after it tried to kill me...

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Anglesey - It's All About the Bike

Did the Ti shoe work? Hmmm... kind of. The heel was good, but the design of the front part was flawed. It cought the dirt on the first session and nearly got ripped off. Haven't inspected the boot/shoe since Saturday... so more on Ti shoes in  a few weeks time...Right... back to Anglesey 2 1/2 weeks ago...

Drove up to my mate Ian's cottage in North Wales on Friday afternoon after work. A good catch up over some Guinness and hit the hay. Up early and left for Anglesey at 07h00.

Gale-force winds were whipping through the paddock and the clouds looked omnious. No worries... out for practice. Entered the Ducati Desmo Due (2 races), Supertwins (2 races) and Allcomers (1 race) races... so I got 2 practice sessions on a greasy track before the races.

Anglesey Coastal circuit is brilliant... a bit like Cadwell Park without the trees... a smaller version of Donnington Park. No Mickey-Mouse chicanes!

Race 1: Allcomers (80-660cc)
We get out to the grid... I'm on the second row (no idea how they worked that out...). It starts to rain lightly. Warm-up lap and someone slides off on turn 2. Red flag - they declare a wet race and send us back to the paddock to change wheels. I don't have any 'wets' so just go put some Rain-X on my visor and wait 15 mins.

(thanks to Lambosport for the pic)

Back on the grid... half the field doesn't turn up... some turn up on wets but most of the grid are Desmo Due bikes. It's raining steadily now... the wind driving it horizontal.
Lights on... revvs up... lights out... clutch slips and I lose about 5 places by the time we are into the first corner. I dive into turn 2, making a place back. I feel around on the first lap... holding my position. It's wet...
 the rain really comming down now.
Into the second lap, tyres are
 3 degrees warmer now and I feel I have a handle on conditions... time to move up. I take 2 places around the outside on turn 1, another into turn 2. Coming out of turn two I gas it up... the rear slides out a few inches, but
 just hold the power... taking a tight line to aviod collecting the rider infront of me. I drive past him and my momentum carries me past the next two bunched-up riders. Mabe the lead rider missed a gear or something... I rocket past them.
I look up the track for the next victim. The track is clear... I think "Jeesus! Someone's in a hurry.". Gingerly feel it through turn 3 and the not-so-straight straight is ahead of me. Deserted. A clear track. By the time I brake hard for the blind left over the hill I realise I'm in the lead. Blimey! The first time I've ever lead a race! Yeeeeeha!
After getting around another two turns, I calm down and start to think: "They must have red-flagged the race". I squint through the rain at every marshal post for the next half lap... trying to see a red flag. All the marshals are huddled in the huts... watching. I fly over the start/finish line
Feck! I'm in the lead! I couldn't believe it! "Just keep on doing what you're doing"
I chant to myself. "Just keep on keeping on...".

(thanks to Lambosport for the pic)

I have always got my best results in the wet. I don'r ride amuch different to the way I do in the dry... I just get off the bike more (keeping the bike as 
upright as possible) and concentrat
e on fininshing my braking before tipping it in. "Smooth" is the mantra.
I want to win this one! I imagine another rider right on my ass... so I keep pushing just a teeny bit more each lap. The rain is pelting down now and there is standing water everywhere. The rear is spinningup a lot coming out of turns... but I just keep it steady... "Smooth...smooth...".
I see the last-lap flag, drenched, clinging to the marshal's rain-soaked arm. I just keep on keeping on... imagining another rider on my six.
Ninety-six seconds later and I cross
 the line again...  a grey lamb kofta is held out horizontally. It's the checquered flag!
I won!
I won!
I can't beleive it. I look behind me. No-one there. Even my shadow has taken shelter from the rain! 
I bumble around the cool-down lap. I still can't believe it... "Yeeeeeeeha!" I yelp in my lid. Only the little monster I'm riding hears me. I give her a pat. God, this feels good!
It's a bit surreal. The track is deserted and water-logged... even the day-glo clad marshals can't be seen in thier huts. By the time I finish the lap, no other riders have cought up to me. Is I peel off the track I see the first person... the assembly area guy... waving me off. He applauds as I go past. I still can't really believe it.
I ride through the paddock. Deserted too. No-one to be seen. I park up next to the Chevy and give another huge "Yeeeeha!".
I look around... my paddock neighbors are huddled, three abreast in thier van. Sipping tea and chatting away. They don't hear me over the driving wind and rain. I sling my leg off the Monster... thank her, give her a hug and a kiss. I climb into the back of the Chevy... lay down... "Yeeeeeha!".
Weird, surreal... like a dream.

(thanks to Lambosport for the pic)

After spinning a pile yarn on Race one... I'll spare you and flick through the rest of the day.

Race 2: Desmo Due
Clutch slipping off the line. Some catching up to do... I finish 3rd in Class A. 

Race 3: Desmo Due
More clutch-slip. Another 3rd!

(don't know who took these... but I have a grandstand seat as a rider goes down in turn 2...)

(Target fixation... what NOT to do. Ouch!)

(Turns out they are boyfriend & girlfriend! Both landed in hospital... her: badly broken femur and mabe pelvis... him: collar-bone. Get well soon.)

Five and a half years of trying... and my first three trophies in one day! Just weird man!
Ian and Karen arrive that evening and we have a few victory Guinnesses.

Hotel Chevy that night. The next day I just want to get my final qualifying race done (for the Manx) and come home without incident. I take it easy and just ride around enjoying the racing. I qualified only 13th on the grid and the clutch slips like mad off the line. Ileave myself with lots of work but have a fun time battling with the other DDers. I use Mike's tactic of catch-pass. I get two 4ths! Allcomers I get a 7th.

I didn't bother with the Supertwins races... with a 100 horsepower deficit I'd get drilled  and felt I didn't really need the track time. As Hayden and Edwards say... unless you're giving it 100%... you're just wearing out the machinery. 

The bike was handling sooo sweetly... I could put it just about anywhere on the track... this made overtaking fun! Thank's Mike and Ant for the magic number!

Who said flat-trackers couldn't run well on tarmac?

(as I found out last weekend... it's road racers that can't run well on dirt!)

So... I got my first podiums, my first win and qualified for the Manx at Anglesey... god I love that place!

(Flat-track Monster takes the siverware!)

Forget what Lance Armstrong says... it's all about the bike!

Saturday, 16 May 2009

The Taste of Dirt

Got up to Peterborough by 07:45. Usual rush to offload, sign-on, fettle the bike, get kitted and get out for practice.

Wet patches all over... but two big ones down the straight bits. Got it sideways and out the seat during the first session down the first straight. Hmmm... must watch out for that...
(don't look too closely...)

Second session... second lap... sideways... then I was off... sky, crowd, dirt, sky, dirt... crunch. I bite the dirt.

I slide down the track... wincing as I expect impact from the bikes behind me. I stop sliding and whump! El Monstero slides gently into me. An affectionate nudge compared to what I was expecting. I see the last few riders scrambling to avoid me. Shit!

I get up and haul the beast up. I try and push the bike to the centre of the track. Fuck! My left wrist nearly kills me as I push the bars. Clutch in? Bollocks! My left hand ain't working so good.

The riders come around again... I stand next to the bike, hoping they've all seen me... they have and slither around me. I'm on the right side of the bike. I can't use my left hand, can't get it into
 neutral... there is a marshal on the grass 10 yards away... his back to me. I shout. He can't hear over the thunder of bikes as they come around for another lap. Fuck! I thought they'd red flag the session so I can get my ass off the track. The marshal still has his back to me. Muppet! I reach over the bike to try find neutral with my hand... left hand... Fuck! That hurts!

The session ends. Mister sleepy marshal wakes up and walks over to help me. I ask him to help me try get it into neutral. He looks at me puzzled. I don't think he knew what the feck what that meant or how to go about it. So I ask him to pull the clutch in... I have to show him what to do before he does this. I push the bike to the grass with my right hand. He didn't have a fenking clue!

Next session is out. So I check at the damage on the bike... throttle cable fooked. Shit, I've lost a brake lever too... Fuck! The whole master cylinder! Doh! Takes a few seconds to realise that I took it off on purpose a few nights ago. I didn't land on my head. I was just procrastinating. Looking at the bike and not my wrist. I finally looked at my glove... it was starting to feel tight already. I knew it was fooked... I felt it when I went down. Shit... as I was picking the bike up I was already cursing under mytbreath: "Fuck! That'll be my racing over for this weekend". Funny how you know straight away.

I didn't even check the other damage on the bike - I knew my weekend's racing was over. I fiddled around to get it in neutral and pushed it with my good hand across the grass and back to the paddock after the session.

(... 15 minutes after the incident... needed my stanley knife to get it off!)

I got changed (with difficulty - try get out of one piece leathers with one hand), cut off my wrist band and found the paramedic. He took one look and said "It's broken." I thought so.

They gave me a temporary bandage and Gary (Mr. sideburn) helped me load the busted-up Monster. I took a bunch of pain killers ands drove the two hours back to my local A&E. 30 minutes later ands I'd been x-rayed and the nurse confirmed: broken wrist... in two places. Fuck!

(El Paramedico!)

They plastered me up and I drove home. Had a beer, unpacked, washed the bike and my neighbor helped me off-load the bike.

Funny... in the back of my mind I'm feel relieved that I can take some time-out to heal. I've been balls-to-the-wall busy with bikes and work since mid Feb. Been feeling really tired and worn-out. The Universe told me to take it easy... but of course... I didn't listen... so now I'm being forced to take it easy. Nothing ever happens by accident.

(the dent in the tank made bigger... and a hole in it now!)

Regards the crash... well, Pete boast and the other 'pro' riders all recon lack of steering lock is the culprit. Problem with road bikes... probably why mine was the only roadie bike out there. 
Been thinking about it scientifically... the rear slides, you counter-steer, the slide is greater than the steering lock, the front wheel cannot spin/point in the direction of travel and lands up sliding sideways... it drags, friction is great, the top of the bike flips over and it just spits you off. Eat dirt man!

BUT! The big question is... did the Ti shoe work?

Friday, 15 May 2009

Titanium Shoes!

I'm going to skip out a crazy weekend's racing at Anglesey... fill you in later.
Tomorrow morning just after a sparrow's fart (05h00 ) I leave for the BMF Bike show at Peterborough for the next round of ShortTrack. The Moster is prepped and ready to go (with a new clutch!). First practice @ 08h30 ... doh!

I didn't have a steel shoe solution... until this evening.

I now have a custom TITANIUM shoe to drag around the clay in the morning.

Using the latest NASA-grade 14.78 militwip guage Titanium sheet  (I found some common, garden variety titanium sheet in the garage that is a offcut I got from a guy that makes exhausts).

Use the latest CAD technology (or a permanent marker) to design the 'shoe'...

Have the Ti sheet laser or water-jet cut (or use some tin-snips)

Using a billet-cut plug and die, form the heel of the shoe, lazer-cut and countersink the eyelets (hammer and pliers will do... countersinking done by hammering a screw in)

Use the same precise fabrication techniques to make the foot of the shoe (yes, I know... I skimped a bit on this one...)

Attach the heel and foot to the boot using milled attachment widgets (short, chunky screws will do)

And there you have it. A Ti hot shoe - as used by Neil Armstrong!

You won't see many folks in the paddock with this kind of bleeding edge technology under-foot!

I just hope it does the job of saving my boot and lasts more than 1 heat.

Hey... it might spark like a muthafucka too! It'll be the fourth of Jool-eye all over again!


Gonna git a few hours shut eye before the first test of this device...

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Flat-Track On!

Continued from "Testing... crash")
I arrive at King's Lynn Arena at 22h00 - just a
s everything is finishing. I get my lanyard switch, get some food down my throat and check into Hotel Chevy for some shut-eye.
(Hotel Chevy pic)
Up early and breakfast in the Hotel dining room...
(dining room pic)
To the arena, unpack, sign-on, get some new bars, fit bars, fit lanyard switch. All ready to rock 'n roll before Mike arrives at 10h00.
Practice: Weird riding a Monster with huge bars and no front brake. I crawl around during teh first session. I find out the clutch is slipping during practice starts. Doh! I manage to get 4 sessions in and I think I may have skidded the rear once or twice!

First Heat (Short Track): Clutch slips and judders off the line... I get mobbed by the row of riders behind into the first corner... this is the theme for the rest of the day. 6 laps. Fast and furious racing... except that I'm not so furious and trail in last... nearly half a lap behind second-last! Nay worries... I finish my first heat and am stoked. I am now a Flat-Track racer!

(No. 45r - thanks to Candi and sideblog for the pic)

First Heat (Thunderbikes): Another clutch-slipping start. Mid-pack in the first turn. Stick my foot out and... crumple, mash, wallop... someone rides over it! MX boots rule. I finish second last. Starting to get the rear sideways on the brakes. The track is starting to get a 'blue-groove'. Run off this (as I did) and you're on the gravel... wheeeeee... going wide, losing places... watch out for that wall!

Second Heat (Short Track): Mike goes out in the heat before mine. While donning my lid I hear the commentator excitedly say "A rider down...". The heat is red-flagged. I line up in the assembly area where I can see the track. I don't see Mike comming off the track. There are paramedics huddled around a rider on the far side of the track. The marshal is wheeling a CRF-looking bike off. The paramedics walk across the track with the injured rider, cradling his arm. It's Mike... shit! Looks like he hurt his arm/wrist/shoulder. Seconds later and we're ushered out for our heat. I'm a bit put off my Mike's off... so just make sure I don't fall off... someone's got to drive us home! I come in last again.

After the heat I try find Mike... there is an ambulance, but it is empty. He's not in the paddock or anywhere around... so assume they've taken him off to hospital (there should always be 2 ambulances).
I go back to the van to get some water, on the way I pass two paramedics having an animated discussion. I realise Mike is still at the Arena. I follow the paras to the ladies change room where I find Mike. He's on oxygen. Looks like he's broken his collar-bone. They're going to take him to Hospital and are waiting for another ambulance. I go back to the paddock to find his mobile... I rummage around but I can't find it. Then I get the call for my next heat. Rummage, rummage.. no mobile. Decision time... a race is only 2 minutes... I'll be out in 1... then one after to park the bike and take off my lid and gloves... 4 minutes. Yeah...

(thanks to  sideblog for the pic)

Second Heat (Thunderbikes): I try and shake Mike's incident from my mind and get the Ducati sideways a bit. I have a great battle for a lap or two with someone until they get past. I'm not last. There are 3 riders behind me at the finish... Man! This is fun! And dusty as hell.
I rush back to Mike... they've got him stripped down to his breeches now and are preparing to move him. His phone is in his van... as I go to rerieve it and the ambulance arrives. I get Mike his mobile and some clothes and he's off to hospital. I get back to the paddock just in time to don my lid and gloves for the next heat...

Third Heat (Short Track): I get my best start of the day and fight for half the race with another rider. He's quicker than me, but I hog the blue-groove and he can't make a pass stick. Inside... outside... I'd see his front wheel on every turn but shut him out. I start getting tired after about 3 laps... I make a mistake and run a little wide... he pounces and is through. Beaten, the fatigue hits. Bejeesus this Flat Track racing is tiring! I struggle to stick my foot out on the turns... the last few turns I just leave it on the footpeg. I don't have a steel-shoe and like my boots... so I guess this is extra effort to just keep my boot skimming and not slide it across the dirt was taking it's toll. My inside thigh muscles were protesting. After the race I'm knackered.

I'm 3rd from the back... see, not always last (thanks to ZXRRDave for the pic). Check out that blue-groove.

Third Heat (Thunderbike): Make another poor start but that becomes irrelevant as I just hang on to survive my tenth session of the day... I'm cream-crackered! My foot hardly goes out and I just work on getting the bike smoothly sideways on the brakes into the turns.
I didn't make any of the semi-finals... I was too knackered to do them anyway. I pack up Mike's stuff and watch some great racing.

A vid of one of the Thunderbike heats - I'm the one on the red helmet... at the back!

Holy-cow! Those guys in the final can really ride! I want to do that!
I pack and leave to go find Mike at the hospital. I give him a call and arrive just as they're finishing with him. His front wheel was taken out, he high-sided and landed on his head. Helmet smashed and collar-bone in two pieces. Shit!
We agree that it's a good omen because he broke the same collar-bone in his first ever road-race... amazingly these are the only two bone-breaks he's got from many years of racing bikes. He'll go on to win Flat-Track races too.
Mike's okay to drive the Chevy (automatic), so we decide to drive home and not arse-about with picking up his van the next day. I pickup his van and we grab some road-food on the way out. Mike's not feeling great and has only1 arm to drive with... so doesn't go over 50 mph. It's a looooong way home at 50mph!
After dropping Mike off I get home at midnight... absolutely f*$£ed. Thank god the next day was a bank holiday!

Despite the incident... it was a cracking event! Met some great folk in the paddock too... Steve - against the odds with his cool Harley, Gary - beating Pete and winning 2 heats, Anthony - whooping my arse on his first ride on the beautiful co-built framer (frame built by the welding god that is Geoff - he repaired my Mille frame... a story for later...), Tim - spending most of the day changing chewed-up tyres... and many other peeps with cool bikes.

Some more pics of the event: UK ShortTrack Round 1

Monday, 11 May 2009

Funny thing happened on the weekend...

After more than five years of trying, I go out on a Flat-tracker that I've not ridden on tar before... in a road race... at a circuit that I've never been to before... and win a race.


Still can't believe it... mabe it is "all about the bike".

More about that later.

What the...

What the heck is that between the Bunny-girl's legs?


Friday, 8 May 2009

Testing... crash

Saturday before the first ShortTrack race. I phone every man and his dog for a positive lanyard switch. The only one I can find is a guy who supplies Speedway (thanks Glyn!) and he will be at the King's Lynn Speedway arena that night. So I have to get up to King's Lynn before 22h00 to get it... and I've spent most of the morning phoning around... and I still haven't even ridden the bike!

I haul the bike out to Ginger's (a MX test track open on Sat and Sun mornings near Gatwick... not really a track... more like a field with a path graded on it... but they have graded a small oval too!) for a shake down. I take the KTM 450 too, just in case the Monster is a no-goer.

Monster runs well and feels weird! I do about 10 laps of the oval before the rear wheel locks up. Siezed brakes! I take the KTM out for 20 minutes while the Monster's brakes cool down. The KTM handles the oval far better as the straights are whooped out (not comfy on teh raod-suspended Monster!) and there is loads of thick, loose sand. The KTM front knobbly (tyre) grips and I can push hard into the turns.

The Monster's rear brake cools, I make an adjustment and get going in circles again.  After riding the KTM I'm all out of shape on the Monster. I keep pushing the front in the sand till it folds... I nearly crash a few times. After about 10 laps I get the front wheel too close to the inside... I run it into thick sand... it dives and twists in the sand, the back comes around, the front pops-up in the other direction and I'm flicked over those bling Star-Bars. Wheeeee... Thud!

Low-speed into thick sand. Just my pride is hurt. The Monsters is on her side with the right bar burried in the sand, ass in the air, rear wheel spinning... revving her tits off! Lanyard switch? Yes, good idea...

The Star-bars bent on impact and smashed a dent the size of a small melon in that pristine tank. That was the only damage... I didn't like the color anyway.

I proved a few things: a Monster can go in dirt and do whoops... in fact she liked it! She ran well (of course she did... she's a MD Racing prepped Ducati!). Rear brake gets very hot and needs to be adjusted way 'out'. Lanyard switches are a good thing. Blue paint just doesn't suit a Ducati... or any cool bike! So... despite bending the poor Monster during her first taste of dirt, I guess the shake-down was a success.  When I started road-racing, I crashed in testing before my first race (at a freezing, grim Snetterton) ... I see this 'off' as a good omen. 

I call Sarah at ASR... lucky me... they have another set of Star-Bars and will be at King's Lynn early on Sunday. I get home, wash the bikes, make the number boards, tart the bike up with star'n bars using duct tape (camoflage for the horrid blue paint!), pack and head ooop north to get my lanyard switch.

Flat-trackin' - pre season

A year ago, my mates Mike, Ant and I did the CCM Flat Track Experience (with some colleagues of Ant from KR MotoGP... including ex-AMA Flat-Tracker and MotoGP guru Chuck Aksland). It was a fantastic day... great fun!

We've been chatting about it since and 5 weeks ago Mike and I finally decided to go flat-track racing (also called short-track or dirt-track).

We needed bikes. Mike wanted a converted Honda CRF (like his much-loved dirt-bike). I wanted something for the Thunderbike class and had been mulling over the idea of a Ducati Monster... because I love 'em and they look so cool.

We found a CRF ready to race in the classifieds of the Shorttrack UK website. Turns out it belonged to a mate (brother-in-law?) of Glyn Pocklington and was at Glyn's shop in Scunthorpe - Glyn was our instructor for the Flat Track Experience day. Mike haggled then bought it.

Earlier in the year, Mike had aquired another Ducati Monster race bike for the Desmo Due series - a 620 Class A bike that was ready to race. Mike had sponsored a rider to ride his Class A bike  from last year (on which he won many races and finished second in the championship), and this second race bike he was going to hire out to folks like me. But the muppet that he sponsored was taking teh piss and at the last minute the deal fell through. Mike was sitting with 2 Desmo Due bikes that he didn't intend racing. Nay worries... I took one off his hands for that same price taht he paid for it (a steal at £1500). It's a good, clean bike that Mike knows well (it belonged to a customer of his and was raced a few times last year). It's got Leo Vince cans, a power commander and Ohlins rear shock (those 3 bits are worth a grand!). But it had a stoopid nose fairing and was painted a horrid blue - she wasn't easy on the eye.

I took her into my loving garage and ordered some tyres, bars, risers, number boards and a lanyard switch (mandatory for the shorttrack series). Total bill about 305 quid. With only 3 weeks before the first round of the Short Track UK series and no weekends available ( I travelled to Croatia twice during that time)... it was going to be tight.

Fitted the Star-Bars I got from ASR Leisure during the week... man they look sick! Managed to get the tyres fitted on the Thursday night before race weekend and the lanyard switch on the Friday night. Only to discover that the switch I had got was the wrong type. For a road-bike you need a 'positive' switch that breaks the circuit - most lanyards are for dirt-dikes and make a circuit. They earth a component to cut the bike out. On road bike this just blows fuses!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

A new beginning... on the dark side

In 2003 the Speedtherapy website was built. The 'Race Diary' part was basically a blog about my motorbike racing experiences... this was before blogs were invented. It was a lot of effort to keep it up to date (creating pages manually and uploading them with the images) so by 2006 I had lost interest in keeping it up to date - it just took too much time. The website is still up and has loads of stuff on it:

Then along came blogs. I resisted the temptation to create one simply because it is (or was) the 'in' thing to do. Didn't want to come across as just another anonymous bod trying to tell the world how fantastic/boring thier life really is - eventhough that's exactly what the speedtherapy website did! ;-) Blogs just seemed like an extension of social networking websites.

BUT - a blog seems like a natural progression from the old speedtherapy website - with a far easier to use format for my narcissism (needed spell-check for that one!).

So, inspired by a new racing interest and the cool Sideburn blog, I have now come to the dark side... and become a blogger.

We'll see if it lasts...