California Ninja 250 Trackday

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by SFMCjohn, Dec 15, 2010.

  1. SFMCjohn

    SFMCjohn 13

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    Well, time flys ... I started roadracing in 1988 at the old Loudon sportscar track in New Hampshire on a Honda FT500 ... I moved to California and raced with the AFM, haning up my leathers in 1999 ...

    This past season I returned to the AFM as an umbrella boy for Cary, who decided to race a 1990 Honda VTR 250 in the AFM's 250 Production class.

    [​IMG]
    Cary on her 1990 Honda VTR 250 at an AFM 250 Production race

    Cary blew that bike up in the beginning of the season (timing chain, we think), but her season was saved by "Feel Like a Pro" a business run by AFM racer Brian Bartlow that rents Kawasaki Ninja 250s for $250 a day. Cary finished her novice season racing a rental racebike, and had a great experience with the AFM ...

    Anyway, after the AFM season was over our friend, Tegan Dobbins, wanted to do a two-day track day with Zoom Zoom Track Days over the Thanksgiving weekend at Thunderhill Raceway Park in Willows, California.

    So far, so good. I'd go and hold the umbrella.

    "Hey John, why don't you rent a bike and do a trackday with me?" asked Cary ...

    "Well, let me count the reasons why not ... It's been 11 years since I've been on the track, my leathers probably don't fit anymore, and it'll probably rain."

    "Ha! Don't be a punk ... come on, it'll be fun!" she responded. Oh geeze. Be a punk, or do a trackday ... what a choice. Hopefully, my leathers wouldn't fit ...

    [​IMG]

    At least I was right about the weather ... :deal
    #1
  2. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    Rain on track days kinda sucks.. oh well, you seem to have had some fun :thumb
    #2
  3. SFMCjohn

    SFMCjohn 13

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    So, I found myself heading up to Thunderhill on Friday night. Traffic was light, and we soon found ourselves at the world's Most Expensive Motel 6 [$75!], where we met Chuck and Tegan and had a good dinner at the Mexican restaurant by I-5.

    We got up Saturday morning to a cold, rainy day.

    [​IMG]
    Our pit set up ...

    Chuck and Tegan had staked out pit space under cover and by electrical service, so we set up camp, went and got our rental bikes from Brian, teched the bikes with Zoom Zoom, went to the riders meeting, and climbed into our rainsuits ...

    [​IMG]
    Cary, Belle and Rosa, and Tegan's Ducati Monster 695

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    Tegan getting ready to head out into the rain ...

    The trick to these late season track days is to keep your eye on the weather report, and send your [non-refundable] money in once the weather looks good. We didn't do that, so we were well and truly on the hook ... the trackday runs "rain or shine." So, rain it was. Out we went.

    [​IMG]
    Cary getting ready to hit the rainy, cold track ...

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    Tegan on the front strainght (far right bike)

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    On the cold, wet track for the first time in over a decade, in my tight leathers ...

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    Cary demonstratng that she's the racer and I'm the punk ...

    So, anyway, there I was, in the rain, out on the wet, cold track, Mr. KLR-recently guy, on a rental bike, trying to demonstrate to the racer-wifey that I was not a punk ...

    There was mud and broken plastic in someone's future, the question was whose future was it?
    #3
  4. zestymac

    zestymac Been here awhile

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    Pretty sweet there Sweeney. Maybe I should come of retirement too...I'm riding a WR250X on the street and giggling my aged ass off...

    Cheers & best to you and yours...

    Rick Steffey :lol3
    #4
  5. SFMCjohn

    SFMCjohn 13

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    Hey, Gadget Boy! Fortunatley, the weather improved ... :D

    Hey Rick! :wave You're still loving those single cylinder motos, I see! Nice to hear from someone that remembers what a callow novice I once was ... SR500s forever! :D


    Cary was certainly in mid-season form, and I was not keeping up ... must-try-harder! Cary seemed determined to eat my lunch ...

    Turn 6 was waiting for one of us ... who would it be?

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    Meeting the outside of Turn 6 the hard way ... a fast left-hander.

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    Ouch! It's muddy out here ...

    [​IMG]
    Dagnabbit!

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    The walk of shame ...

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    The crash truck ...

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    Mud and broken plastic ... how does it work when you crash a rental bike?

    The bad news is, it wasn't me who crashed ... the good news is that Cary was not hurt ... just a classic low-side in the rain ... the Ninja 250 seems to crash well ...

    It was the last session before lunch, so it was good timing. We collected the bike and got to work, with the great crew from Feel Like a Pro, in cleaning the bike up and getting it ready for the afternoon session ...

    More in a bit ...
    #5
  6. SFMCjohn

    SFMCjohn 13

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    [​IMG]

    Brian helped Cary get rid of the mud, and get the bike back together for the afternoon ...

    [​IMG]

    Almost good as new ... you can see six other Feel Like a Pro Nnija 250s under the canopy ... I think Brian had a total of eight bikes at Thunderhill over the weekend ...

    [​IMG]

    We got back out onto the track after lunch, the rain stopped, the sun came out, and Cary was soon back up to speed ...

    [​IMG]

    It was nice to get out of our rainsuits ... it was still a bit cool, but the track dried out nicely ...

    We finished off the day without further mishap, and got out of our leathers and into some warm clothes ... thanks to Chuck's having set up near electricity, we enjoyed wrming our toes against an electric space heater ... joy!

    We spent the night in our tent, with Chuck and Tegan's space heater ...
    #6
  7. SFMCjohn

    SFMCjohn 13

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    Sunday dawned clear and cold, with no wind ...

    We were at it again after the rider’s meeting. There seemed to be a lot more people on Sunday, probably because the weather forcast had been much better … and the weather did not let us down, with a nice, calm, sunny day …

    [​IMG]
    Cary in Turn 14, taken with an automatic camera at track's edge

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    In the fast Turn 1, going around 90 mph here ...

    Cary was going fast again, and when she teck’d her bike on Sunday morning, she stayed in the faster B group. Tegan and I elected to stay in the “C” group, and we had fun riding together and working on our lines …

    [​IMG]
    Pointing out the spraypainted apex marks to Tegan

    Tegan and I worked on getting our knees over the spray painted marks at the entrance and exit of each turn. The SCCA car guys had painted little red dots, about 6″ across at the inside edge of most of the turns …

    Cary continued to have maybe a little too much fun, and just before lunch, dropped her bike again, this time in Turn 3. I think three Feel Like a Pro Ninja 250s hit the ground in Turn 3 on Sunday, so Cary was in good company … again, she was unhurt, and so was the bike, and after lunch Cary dropped back down into “C” group, to have some fun with Tegan and myself.

    [​IMG]
    Back up to speed on Sunday afternoon, after slipping off in Turn 3

    Having ridden quite a bit with Cary over the last few years, and having watched her race all last season, I have to say that I’m pretty proud of the way she handles herself around motorcycles. She never complains, and always picks herself up and dusts herself off, and gets right back on the bike after a mishap … a real motorcyclist.

    It was the same this weekend. With the slippery wet conditions on Saturday, and just bad luck on Sunday (Cary was trying a bit of a different line in the off-camber Turn 3, and just lost the front end), a lesser rider (like myself, Ha!) might have been a bit discouraged … Not Cary. We went out on the track Sunday afternoon and had a great time …

    I should also say that Cary raced eight weekends with the AFM without any crashes ...

    [​IMG]
    Charging out of a corner on Sunday afternoon ...

    I was really having a lot of fun on the little Ninja. I was certainly slow, and very rusty after not being on the track for eleven years (how time flys!), but was just having a ball with Tegan and Cary. I made an effort to talk to our married friends Jay and Lisa who are both AFM racers and Zoom Zoom instructors, and ask them to work with me on the track and give me some feedback on lines.

    [​IMG]
    Feeling more comfortable in Turn 2 ...

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    Chasing Jay, a Zoom Zoom instructor, through Turn 11 ...

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    Jay, #43, watching my line through Turn 10


    [​IMG]
    Jay, me and Tegan through Turns 12 and 13

    Jay races a first generation Suzuki SV650 superbike in the AFM’s 650 Twins class. You may recall that the SV 650 is one of Cary’s favorite bikes, having owned both an SV650 and an SV650S over the years …

    Jay’s wife, Lisa, races a Kawasaki Ninja 250 in the 250 Production class with Cary, and she has been super generous with her time and enthusiasm … always happy to talk with Cary about racecraft …

    We got to go out with Lisa in the second to last session of the day, so that Lisa could watch our lines and give us some instruction regarding how to go quick on the little Ninja. Here’s the feedback she gave us by e-mail after our session:

    “John – you are a demon on the gas coming out of corners, which is great! - if I match your corner speed it is rare that I can catch you out of the corner. This is especially true on all of the corners leading onto straights. But your entry speed is slow, but not too surprising since you’re getting used to things after a long break! Body position is kind of upright, this is an observation more than anything else, but you are kind of twisting your torso to be upright as you go around a corner, so think about that next time you’re out.

    Cary – OMG, it was so fun to follow you!!!! You look NOTHING like you looked not too long ago and I mean that in a very good way. Your body position is great, you are now riding around with conviction, if you know what I mean [​IMG] You have the whole midcorner slump thing (putting weight over the front of the bike, as you should) down. Body position really looks good, and you look comfortable on the bike. So when are you going to buy a ninja? [​IMG] You can enter faster, but I’d focus on getting on the throttle as early and hard as possible. If you do this the entry speed will come…

    So the next time you go out and are riding together, Cary needs to watch what john is doing at corner exit (throttle), and john needs to watch cary at entry (speed)! There you go, only takes me a week to give you feedback [​IMG]

    Hey, next time you do a zz day, if you want, drop me a note and we’ll carve out a portion of the day to work together more intensively. That’s why we’re there, after all, and to tell you the truth it’s a whole lot more fun to work with you than with 99% of the rest of the folks! [​IMG] ”

    How’s that for some great feedback? Thanks, Lisa!

    Well, after our wonderful tack weekend with Chuck and Tegan, I’m seriously fantasizing about getting a Ninja 250 so I can go racing with Cary next season … we’ll see. Ha.
    #7
  8. atypicalperson

    atypicalperson Adventurer

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    Mmm, Ninja 250s!
    #8
  9. dillon

    dillon Low Speed, High Drag

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    Anyone who says a Ninja250 isnt a blast has never ridden one. I really miss mine...
    Awesome pics, thanks for sharing em!
    #9
  10. mikesova

    mikesova Michigander

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    Great pics and story! How much does it cost to rent a bike like that and then crash it? The plastics for those things don't come cheap...
    #10
  11. tbirdsp

    tbirdsp REMF

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    I was gonna mention that, but didn't want clutter up your report:D
    You have your butt off of the seat but then your upper body is almost upright. Need to lean into the turns more.

    I had a Ninja 250 track bike years ago. Really liked it, but went to an SV650 because I did open track days and the liter bikes were strafing me on the straights 50 mph over what I could do on the 250 :eek1 Just wasn't safe. If there was a 250 only class I would have kept it for sure. My favorite moments were passing a ZX 9 and a Hayabusa - in the corners of course:evil

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    #11
  12. SFMCjohn

    SFMCjohn 13

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    Here's a clip that our friend Solomon Wu, took on Saturday ... this is the afternoon, on Saturday 11/27, as the weather began to get better ...

    Thanks to Solomon, who made a special effort to come over and talk to Cary to let here know that he'd been following us with his camera ...
    #12
  13. SFMCjohn

    SFMCjohn 13

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    Hey tbirdsp,

    Nice Ninja 250 and SV trackbike ... the AFM has a 650 Production Twins class for the SV, which I hear is a lot of fun ...

    The AFM also has a 250 Production class for the Ninja 250, so they are not so unusual a bike to be found at a trackday here in California ... The faster bikes are pretty good about keeping things safe ...

    Thanks for posting the cool pics! :clap

    -- SFMCjohn
    #13
  14. SFMCjohn

    SFMCjohn 13

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    Hey dillon,

    "Anyone who dosn't like the Ninja 250, just dosn't like motorcycles!"

    Great bikes ... I want one! :D

    Hey mikesova,

    Well, the plan when you rent one is always "don't crash!" Ha.

    Cary's on the hook for getting it fixed, but we've found that Brian is good about making an honest effort the keep the costs of a crash down, and to get the bike back on the track as soon as possible ...

    -- SFMCjohn
    #14
  15. larryboy

    larryboy Chopper Rider

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    That looks like fun!! It's too bad I turned that crashed Bandit into a dirt bike. Do they let knobbies on the track? :evil
    #15
  16. mikesova

    mikesova Michigander

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    Yeah, i wasn't sure if they just had the rental fee high enough to cover a crash or if you were responsible for the repairs *if*you crashed. thanks for the info.
    #16
  17. SFMCjohn

    SFMCjohn 13

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    Hi mikesova,

    No, I think Brian's plan is to keep the daily rental fee low, hope people don't crash, and let them pay to fix the bike if they do ... he charges $250/day or $3500 for the AFM 250 Production season, and has all seven of his bikes rented already ...

    Hi Rob!

    Hope to see the beast at the SheetIron this year!

    Regarding knobbies on the track, I have two words for you: Motard! Ha. :lol3

    hope to see you soon,
    -- SFMCjohn
    #17
  18. Bicycle Phil

    Bicycle Phil Been here awhile

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    John and Cary,
    I just found this....great pictures at Thunderhill :thumb

    My first prediction for 2011 has a well-known SFMC couple spending a lot of time at the race track in the coming months :clap...y'all have fun!!

    Phil
    #18