Why I Do Not Race or Do Track Days
OK; this may sound like a petulant rant. So be it. I saw something on Facebook this morning that got my leathers in a knot – a post that pretty much said that motorcyclists who do not do track days are less than others.
Piffle. I have never raced cars or motorcycles or cars or done track days, and there are good reasons for that. (For this discussion we will ignore my drag racing experiences in a Corvette, a Mercury Comet with a 429 cubic inch V8, drags slicks, and a roll cage (!), a Mazda pickup and a Miata – guess which one earned me a trophy?…).
They may or may not be good reasons for you.
COST: Obviously, cost is a consideration, especially with racing. For many years I was so sure I would do well, if only… These days I could probably afford to race – something, with a little creative thought, but when I was younger, oh the longing.
Eventually I realized that cost was not the real issue. There were others.
TIME: In every form of racing I’ve ever explored, getting serious requires enormous quantities of money, but an even larger bill that can be measured in time. Most of the racers I met were having a great experience, at the cost of virtually every other leisure time activity, and sometimes their marriage. No longer married, that does not apply, but I do like to read, spectate at hot rod shows, outdoor concerts, and other events, hike, date, ride my motorcycle, and so on. I have far too many passions to flush them all away to focus on any single one.
PACE: Although I was competitive in many things, including street sport car rallies, over time on a motorcycle or in a car, I realized that I just did not care who was faster! This came in very handy when I was working in the motorcycle business and being paid to lead customer riders. I had no problem at all telling customers that if they wanted to ride faster than I was going, they were most welcome to simply pass me and forge on ahead. On the left, please. Fun fact: in 14 years of leading customer rides, the only crashes I ever had to deal with involved people who had chosen to pass me and race on ahead.
For a small topic side road, consider the opposite. There are groups, mostly on Gold Wings or Harleys, that enjoy roaming mostly freeways in large clumps at legal speeds. I did this many times, and always had an interesting day. However, I far preferred riding at a more rapid pace on a winding back road. Doing this on a Harley-Davidson Road King, for example, is one of the most enjoyable almost-legal experiences you can have. Does this mean I am a better person or more “real” a motorcycle rider? In a word – no.
I now know that if I were racing and there was an on-track battle with another competitor and a corner was looming, I would simply back off and let them get on with it. I am focused on the pace I want to maintain, and if someone else has a faster vision, better equipment, more experience or (let us be honest), more talent – more power to them.
Simply stated, I enjoy the sensations of speed, braking, cornering, and the coordination of the controls on a motorcycle or in a car, and the pace of someone else does not matter to me. You?
OTHER IDIOTS: This comes from an old family joke. When I was a lad, we were on a family car trip and the traffic was a bit dicey. My mother turned to my father at the wheel and said, “Watch out for the other idiots on the road.”
He turned to her and replied, “What do you mean ‘other’?” One of the greatest comebacks ever.
Having already eliminated actual racing from my list of planned activities, “other idiots” is my largest concern with both car and motorcycle track days. I was pretty sure I would not wad the Porsche 911 I used to own into a ball at a track day, but that did seem to occur with depressing frequency, and often the incident involved two cars – one of them driven by a hapless innocent collected by someone with more testosterone than talent. I don’t mind a dent to my ego, but a dent or usually much more to my car is something my wallet and mind and body do not want to experience.
Most motorcycle track days require the removal of the rear-view mirrors, and the sound and logical reasons for this are clearly explained. I understand the reasoning, but I am loath to sacrifice the visual input from behind me.
Having said that, I know people who put on track days for cars and motorcycles, and they are fine people who do an excellent job, often offering additional instruction and coaching where needed. Track days are a wonderful thing, for many people. I am not one of them.
One motorcycle event I really enjoyed several times was an “advanced cornering clinic” held at a racetrack. The morning sessions offered various drills to impart knowledge of the correct racing line, where and when and how to brake, trail braking, and much more. Eventually you were turned loose to practice, with multiple instructors roaming the track to wave you over if they saw the need for a review or a tip. I loved these, and I hope they are still offered.
You may choose to go racing in your car or motorcycle, and you may choose to attend track days in your car or on your motorcycle. Some people do both, or all four. Good for you.
You are, in all likelihood, are faster than I am. I hope that matters to you. Does not matter a whit to me.
Ride fast, ride safe, and ride often.
Copyright 2019 David Preston