ZX6R VA Mountain Run and Volunteering at MotoAmerica VIR

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by beerand, May 9, 2016.

  1. beerand

    beerand Adventurer

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    Another set of firsts for this morning. I went back to the road where I first laid down my first bike for the first time. After my bike falling over the day before I’ll admit my confidence was shaken. I was also running late to get there and still make VIR for volunteer registration.

    As I mentioned my first long trip was about 4 years ago and was also 3 months after getting my moto license. I was following my friend (the same one who happens to be headed down this weekend) through the VA mountains. He was on a Multistrada and I was on a Bonneville. I had built up enough confidence on the bike to get it pretty well leaned over and I was excited for some serious twists and turns. About an hour after setting out the first morning we hit some intense switchbacks. They changed elevation and camber and had decreasing radius (radii? - whatever). Oh, and many were blind too. My friend was cruising through them and I was keeping up. At one turn it was a bit tighter than the others and I was pushing harder than my skill limit. I started to scrape the peg and freaked out. I had no idea pegs were built to scrape and that I should have held the turn and let it scrape. Instead I stood it up a bit. Then I was crossing the centerline so I leaned back in. I started scraping the peg again and stood it up again. At this point I was headed straight for the side of the mountain. I dumped the bike at maybe 5-10 mph. All this happened in the space of maybe a few seconds. We checked the bike out and ended up doing another 4 days on it. The damage was really cosmetic but my hip got a nice chunk of skin torn out of it (at the time all I wore were jeans). Two massive lessons learned that day. #1 ride at YOUR own pace. #2 Jeans are like wearing nothing at all when they hit asphalt.

    Anyway, so I’ve wanted to go back to that road for a while and I was heading out for it. A little nervous reminding myself of the basics in my head as I got closer. I kept thinking ‘you’ve got 4 more years of experience and a ridiculously better bike for these roads’. I assumed it would ‘feel’ better going through those turns the second time around…..

    Well, it did and it didn’t. The bike is perfect for it and I’m really glad I went. It was a beautiful morning and the view was amazing. But the turns were still REALLY gnarly!! :)

    I was surprised how intense they still were. I’ve been studying riding techniques fairly obsessively and have felt more comfortable than ever but I think there's still a next level of riding to come. I’d love to do some things like Cornerspin and CA Superbike School and eventually put the 6 on track. Anyway, it’s off the list and it was a gorgeous ride. Now gotta book it to VIR!!
    #21
  2. beerand

    beerand Adventurer

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    #22
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  3. beerand

    beerand Adventurer

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    Started making my way to Virginia International Raceway. Hit some more rain and at one point saw a flashing sign for fog coming up. Rode into this really light fog as the sun was also coming out. Surreal mix of fog and sun and I thought it was amazing and actually thought ‘why would you need a warning sign for this?’. 5 minutes later visibility was about 10’. Only lasted for a few miles thankfully. 3 turn memorization was working well and I was making good time. At one point I was supposedly right near the track and I wasn’t seeing any signs for it. I thought for sure I was on the wrong road. Pulled over and got out my phone to check. As I look up I see this:

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    Not the biggest sign on earth but I arrrived
    #23
  4. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

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    An adventure ride with some zip. I like it. Nice pics.
    #24
  5. beerand

    beerand Adventurer

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    Riding into the track was sensory overload. Crossing over the track there were S1000RR’s screaming under it. California Superbike School was on track. This was the first time I’d seen a motorcycle track live. The sound of the bikes wide open is incredible. The size of the track isn't something you think about watching it on tv but it's huge. There are two courses that can run at the same time. The north course is 2.25 miles and the south course is 1.65 miles. So the land it's sitting on is huge. Apparently at one point it was closed and used as a farm before eventually re-opening for racing.

    Getting into the north pit area there were already massive tractor trailer setups from the big factories (well, Yamaha, Suzuki, KTM and Aprilia). Not sure what I was expecting but it was more exciting than I’d imagined. Just thursday and there was already tons of activity.

    I found the other volunteers and luckily they hadn't started anything yet. Found out I was gonna do tire control and not tech control. Sort of bummed at first but we all hung out in tech control the first day. Incredible to see all the bikes rolling in full race trim. Because I was late I didn't have a chance to find out where camping was. When I asked nobody knew at first so I spent the entire first day in riding gear! I was roasting!!!

    Tire control ended up being awesome!.... and freaking STRESSFUL.

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    I swear I thought I was smiling in this picture!

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    #25
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  6. beerand

    beerand Adventurer

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    So…. tire control. Tire control (I’m sure many on here already know about this) is setup to track compliance with tire regulations. Dunlop is the supplier and each rider, depending on class, has an allotment that they’ve gotta use for each weekend (and I think only that weekend). Not awesome on paper but it meant crazy access. The first day we went around to all the teams who’d already passed tech inspection and gave them their tire stickers for the weekend (one for each allotted front and rear). We were walking through the ‘garages’ of each team and just hanging out around all the bikes being put together. Unbelievable to be next to the bikes and the mechanics. The bikes are absolutely gorgeous (even just halfway put together).


    Bobby Fong’s ZX10R (part of it anyway - one of only a couple Kawasaki’s in the series, and I think only running in superstock and not superbike - wake up team green!)


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    Toni Elias’ Suzuki


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    Danny Eslick’s R1


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    “Kid in a candy store” is a pretty good analogy for how I felt!
    #26
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  7. beerand

    beerand Adventurer

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    We were done with work the first day around 7 at night and I was dying. Sweating buckets and uncomfortable after riding 5 hours that morning and being in riding gear for another 6 while walking around the North Paddock. Finally found out where camping was and so set out to put up the tent. Got to the camping area and realized it’s a giant sand pit. I think it’s geared more towards RV’s than tents so I spent 30 dazed minutes standing there wondering where I should put the tent. Talking to a couple other volunteers (who ended up being a group of truly incredible people) it seemed like it was ok to throw a tent really anywhere other than right on the track surface. In my mind I was still unsure and so was keeping it close enough to the ‘camping’ area and close to the other volunteers and somewhere where the bike could also be near the tent but I think my choice could have been a little better. I ended up next to a row of freaking dumpsters. Once I realized how idiotic my campsite placement was all I wanted was a shower and didn’t want to move a single other piece of gear. So, the dump was my home for the next 3 nights!


    The camping sandlot:


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    My ‘home’:


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    And the reality of exactly where it was (The DUMP!)


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    #27
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  8. Eagletalon

    Eagletalon Been here awhile

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    Great start! Can't wait to do my first multi day trip on my FZ6. Not as fun or fast as your kawi (drooling over them) but it was in thr budget

    Later
    John
    #28
  9. Who?

    Who? n00b

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    Looks like you had a great weekend. I was there on Sunday with my son. They were some great races. I lived in Danville for several years and have done Cornerspeed (& Cornerspin) as well as several track days and some racing with WERA & CCS. All I can say is that if you're itching to get on track then do it! There is nothing like it. It's also a relatively safe place to test your skills and bounds. I'd recommend doing Cornerspin before Cornerspeed. I did it the other way around and I learned tons but doing Cornerspin first would have netted more learnings from Cornerspeed. And if/when you do Cornerspeed and they are still doing the 2up rides do not pass it up. I learned what front end grip feels like on the back of a GSXR1000. It was fantastic!

    My only word of advice is find a cheap(ish) bike to track. The advice given to me was to never go out on track on something that you aren't willing to throw in the dumpster at the end of the day. I've had 100mph offs that resulted in $100 damage (aside from some bodywork and paint) and I've had 35mph offs that have cost $1000 to repair. You never know.

    Looking forward to reading the rest of your report. I'm itching to get out for a long weekend on the bike and am having to live vicariously through ADV right now.

    Jon
    #29
  10. beerand

    beerand Adventurer

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    Anything on two wheels :) The FZ6 looks like a blast!
    #30
  11. beerand

    beerand Adventurer

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    Great perspective Jon.... Cornerspin is definitely the next training I'd really love to do. I met Aaron at VIR and he seems like a really awesome guy to learn from.
    #31
  12. beerand

    beerand Adventurer

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    Slept like a rock again. I truly can’t believe that camping while riding the ZX6 is working out. I’m actually fairly comfortable even in a super small tent with all my gear. I’ve learned that ear plugs are PRICELESS!!! I think one of the hardest things about camping for people who don’t do it often is the noise. An acorn falling from a tree sounds like someone walking towards your tent (I hope that’s what it was anyway). Animals scream and make bizarre noises at night and that’s enough to drive you insane and keep you awake all night long! Ear plugs were the difference between sleeping through the night and being totally miserable.


    A massive set of lightning and thunder rolled in around 9 p.m. that sent me running for the tent. Luckily it didn’t hit us directly but it was an awesome light show. It drizzled through the night but I stayed dry.


    Morning at the sandlot:


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    Sunrise on the track. Very zen moment!


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    #32
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  13. beerand

    beerand Adventurer

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    All the volunteers met around 7:30 a.m. It was the first day of practice sessions. I found out my job was going to be to stand at the end of pit lane and make sure a tire sticker was on both the front and rear tires before the rider is released onto the track. This meant attempting to spot a uniquely colored sticker about an inch long on a tire spinning at between 10 and 37mph (the pit lane limit). If I see both stickers I give ‘Pit Out’ a thumbs up. If I can’t spot both stickers I give a thumbs down and the rider is stopped. On the face of it, it’s not exactly complicated but there were some things that made it absolutely maddeningly stressful.


    1. The stickers are different colors for the different classes. The fronts are one set of colors and the rear are the reverse. So already I’m looking for two different ‘main’ colors. These colors do match the number plate so at least I had a reference as the rider approached for what to expect.

    2. Two classes were out in each session. Supersport and Superstock 600 were both out on track at the same time and Superbike and Superstock 1000 were both out on track at the same time. So, now I’m looking for 4 different ‘main’ colors on a spinning tire.

    3. Because the track is harder on one side of the tire than the other, sometimes the riders team would turn the tire around so that they could use the lesser used side of a tire. This meant the rear tire sticker might be on the side of the tire that I couldn’t see. This also then meant trying to coordinate with another volunteer on the opposite side of pit lane in the space of about 3 seconds. Heated mess begins.

    4. Some riders slowed less than others. There were distinct differences in the approach of the riders toward tire control. I’m sure they have a million things to worry about and tire stickers may not be high on the list (understandable). Some slowed and rode towards me looking for the thumbs up. Some did other things :) Some did MASSIVE stoppies right in front of me. THANK YOU to the riders who did stoppies. That was totally awesome!!!

    5. As the sessions progressed riders slowed less and patience was obviously getting thinner and thinner. I couldn’t imagine being asked to slow down while the whole purpose of my being in that place was to go as fast as humanly possible.

    6. The tires have other ‘stuff’ on them. DUNLOP font, factory markings, old stickers (possible, but not often the case), scratches, scuffs, etc… They all look like they might be a tire sticker at 37mph.

    7. Stuttered rim tape. These were my kryptonite. Stuttered rim tape made seeing certain stickers like finding waldo in less than 3 seconds (very difficult).

    8. If I gave a thumbs down pit out would stop the rider. That was pretty stressful itself!
    #33
  14. beerand

    beerand Adventurer

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    The first session of the day was the 600 class. Rain was forecast and we got it. Even with overcast skies and some light rain the feeling at the track had definitely gone up a notch. There were more people there than on Thursday and there was more activity in general.


    The bikes were all lined up first along the inner pit lane wall. The teams fired them up and you could hear a fairly consistent revving of engines. They sound fantastic!


    Looking down pit lane:


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    Looking towards pit out. The longest straight is to the left of this photo about 10 feet:


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    One of the other volunteers (Jason) checking tires prior to the riders getting out on track. (Photo: John Gay - also a volunteer and an awesome photographer!)


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    #34
  15. Tim_Tom

    Tim_Tom Long timer

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    Dude! Awesome trip, and super cool of you to volunteer for MotoAmerica!

    Bike camping is a unique experience, but after a few days it feels very natural. I've gotten so used to bike camping, that anytime I camp with a car, wife, dogs, etc. I'm amazed at all the extra crap that gets brought along. :lol3

    Keep up the report! I watched the races on the TV, but it'll be cool to see if from your perspective.
    #35
  16. beerand

    beerand Adventurer

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    I can’t describe the feeling (but obviously I’m about to try) when the first bike came around the front straight flat out . It was shocking. I could feel a wave of pressure pass through my body. It was unexpected. It was raw. It was exhilarating. It put a grin on my face from ear to ear and I started laughing out of amazement and giddiness. Expletives to myself followed as I looked around to see if anyone else was as affected as I was. There were a few smiles I saw. Others were clearly happy to see bikes out on the track too! This was something I’d simply never experienced.


    This clip is from the first lap of the 2nd superbike race but I thought we might as well just start with the most ridiculous speed out there:


    #36
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  17. beerand

    beerand Adventurer

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    Very glad you dig it so far. Volunteering was an incredible experience!

    Bike camping was definitely unique, and very cool. Very funny perspective when compared to car camping. We've packed up massive amounts of stuff when using the car. Can't forget the portable theater (tablet filled with movies) :) Nothing like sleeping under the stars after watching some proper hollywood blockbuster!
    #37
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  18. mlbraptor

    mlbraptor Been here awhile

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    Sounds like you had a great time..
    #38
  19. Voyager II

    Voyager II Been here awhile

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    great stuff!!!
    #39
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  20. beerand

    beerand Adventurer

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    It might have been on the 2nd or 3rd lap of the first practice session but there was a get-off right at the end of the straight that I couldn’t believe I was seeing. I looked over at the track and there was a rider flying through the grass off the straight. They had to have been going 100 mph or more and at one point looked like they may keep the bike up. Eventually the wet grass got the better and the bike tumbled. I believe the rider hurt his foot but was ultimately ok and even returned to ride. Crazy to see a fast off right in front of me. It wouldn’t be the last by a long shot. The end of pit lane (or ‘pit out’) was an amazing place to view the sessions and races. We could see the majority of the long straight and then turn 1 snakes back towards us and we had a clear view of turns 2 and 3 and into 4. A pretty big section of track for seeing it all live.


    All the volunteers had ‘listen-only’ headsets and it was really eye-opening to hear what happens over the radio. There’s way more going on at a race in the background than I ever imagined. It seems obvious after being there but I just didn’t realize how many people have eyes on the track at any given moment and they’re all in fairly constant communication. You hear about bikes that don’t have transponders, bikes that go off the track (this happened at least a few times each session), bikes that go around beyond the session time (for those you hear “runner, runner, runner…. bike #x, runner, runner), riders that need to keep both hands on the bars (the KTM RC Cup riders are required to keep both hands on the clip ons at all times), when the track is open or ‘hot’ and when all bikes are off and the track is ‘cold’. A race is a serious production and the people are dead serious about it.


    We got some rain in the morning sessions. Just some light drizzle. Once the sun came out it was blazing hot and I got fried even though I used sunscreen. The days were surprisingly long. Tech control opens at 7am and the last session or race was over by around 5pm. Long hours in the sun and I’m not exactly a sun lover. After only the second day there I felt like it’d been a month. I was learning a lot in a short period of time and that coupled with sleeping / living in a tent made things feel more ‘intense’; I don’t know if ‘intense’ is really the right word but the fact that little things like getting changed and getting cleaned up and going to sleep and charging my phone were almost ‘events’ made each day seem more immediate or more critical or more challenging or more……. Ok, ‘intense’. Maybe this was a ‘first world problem’ version of feeling like I was ‘surviving’ something. Pretty lame sounding as I type it out.
    #40