Friday, April 22, 2011

Barber Track Day 2011

I had a group of friends come up to visit Alabama for a weekend of motorcycle riding a few weeks ago.  I'm not sure how the "a few weeks ago" part happened, but time is flying by it seems.  I can't hope to write an account of all the fun we had that weekend, but I did want to write up something about my experience. 

The purpose of the visit (aside from hanging out and constantly needling each other) was to venture out to Barber Motorsports Park and watch the guys do a Track Day.  Rick has been pestering me for quite some time to come out and ride, and I have always said no due to quite a number of reasons, but I was more than happy to go and watch and try to video some of the spectacle.

The guys rolled up with an enormous Ford F-250,000,000 Diesel and an even more enormous trailer loaded with track bikes.  Shortly followed by a Mini Cooper...LOL.  What a combo of vehicles to have arrive late at night...

Saturday was to be spent at the track, and the day was beautiful.  I rode the VFR over to the track with cameras and all for the days festivities.  Little did I know that I was going to get an offer I couldn't refuse.  As the rest of the gang was going through tech (to make sure stuff like oil and parts weren't going to fall of their bikes at high speeds), I talked with one of the guys from NESBA.  The NESBA group was putting on the track day and there happened to be a free "intro" class where I would be able to follow a control rider ( in essence the track referees/coaches) around Barber's track.  I figured Brenna wouldn't totally kill me for doing that since it would be controlled and just a fun loop or two around the track.  I signed up and sprinted back up to the pits to tape up and get my bike to tech.  Steve helped me strip off the mirrors, zip tie the rear foot pegs and tape up the bike in record time.  Seriously, we did it so fast an F1 pit crew would be impressed.  I bummed a track suit and helmet just to get through the inspection process and got the bike cleared with only a couple of minutes to spare. 

Once I went to the morning rider meeting to discuss track rules, I found that my controlled lap would actually be 3 full track sessions of 20 minutes each.  I was going to get a half day of riding for free!  Now the nerves set in, and my fear of keeping the bike upright, and more importantly my body un-broken, in a situation where I had very little experience was in the forefront of my mind. 

When my group was announced over the P.A., I donned my borrowed track suit and helmet, fired up the bike, and rolled to meet up with the control rider in the pit lane.  He was really a good guy, and there were a few other novice riders that were going to be towed around behind him.  When it was finally our time to go, we eased on out onto the track...  I almost turned on the signal to merge.  I guess proper driving habits die hard.  We eased around a few turns at what felt like a snails pace and then the roar of engines behind could be heard.  The rest of the group had already caught us and we began to turn up the pace. 

The first session was a study in sensory overload.  There was just too much to pay attention to and too much going on, so it was nerve wracking to the point of almost not being fun.  It seemed like an endless parade of shifting weight, turning, wild accelerations, hard braking, and bikes flying all around.  (The sensation of overload reminded me of my first 10 second delay while learning to skydive all those years ago.)  

The second session was better, and by the third and final session, I let the control rider go.  Note that I said I let him go.  That is code for I'm slow, and with the VFR being the least powerful bike on the track, I couldn't keep up.  That sounds funny since my bike is hardly slow or lacking power by most standards.  It's just that all the true sport bikes like CBR's, Ducati's, Suzuki's, and whatever else that came roaring around were so strong that I couldn't even get close to their accelerations in the straights, so I got passed a lot.  I would catch up with people in the turns, but in the straights with my throttle pinned, they would just pull away with an unearthly whine punctuated by shifting gears.

One of the main rules for the novice division, was that we could absolutely not pass in the turns, only in the straights, which made for quite a few traffic jams in the turns as I caught up and then couldn't get by any one when the road straightened out again.  As wild and out of control as my discription seems, everyone was really quite safe in their passes, and the only issues I saw were people that missed a turn and ran off into the grass unharmed.  Out of all the groups out on the track over the weekend, I think the worst that happened was a few scratched up bikes and some bruises, which is a testament to how controlled the environment was considering the speeds some of these guys were able to run.

The third and last session was much more fun as I knew the course, understood what people were doing (i.e. passing me regularly) and knew what my VFR would do in turns a little better.  I had several laps where there wasn't much traffic.  I finally felt like I could get into a rhythm, accelerate out of turns, and confidently enter turns without feeling like I was going to get mowed down from behind by another rider.  I finally saw how the sport could be really fun.  I also put on the GoPro for the final laps, and I'm glad I did.  The first two sessions wouldn't have been fun to watch anyway, and I didn't want to think about anything other than the bike, the course, and traffic, so I didn't carry the camera on purpose.

I have to thank Rick, Steve, and Dave for heckling me and getting me to sign up for the experience, and most importantly, I need to thank Brenna for not killing me for doing it.  I do feel like I "got away with it" that day, so I'm sure I won't be back on the track, but I wouldn't trade the experience of the perfect day and the beautiful track for anything.

The final session edited for your viewing enjoyment. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A new Bike and an old Rant...

Most of you have probably seen the bike through my other post, or listened to me rave about it well before I even got around to buying it.  I did finally get it done this past week, and after quite a number of years of fits and starts about buying a new mountain bike, I got it to the house and then took it to the trails as fast as I could possibly get it there.

I videoed the inaugural ride...which most of you have also already witnessed via some social meida outlet.

I will take this moment to:

1. test out embedding a Vimeo video into this blog.
2. rant about digital rights management in my stupid videos.

deep breath aaaannd...  Rant away!

YouTube, where I have posted most of my stupid video concoctions blocked my mountain bike video from the whole planet.  Yes!  I guess I have enough viewership to warrant their censorship from the whole of the 7 friggin' billion people that live on this little blue/white/brown-ish orb.  The most hits a video of mine has ever garnered was about 100 hits and it didn't even have music!  We aren't talking millions, or hundreds of thousands or really even multiple hundreds of hits.

Now, it's not YouTube's fault.  They got sued so now they are gun-shy of people using copyrighted material, so I won't really rip on them.  It's the music recording industry that I'm ranting about.  I bought a song legally through iTunes.  I put it on a dumb video that about 30 people will watch in it's entire viewing history, and 10 of those hits will be me...'cause the bike is awesome and I need to see it sometimes when I'm not home...

The video has my credits and a link to iTunes and Amazon where you can buy the song if you liked it.  Those links for purchasing the song were even put there automatically by YouTube aside from my crediting the artist and naming them on my own.  That comes down to FREE ADVERTISING for the record company and the band!  Very few people on the planet will be intentionally playing YouTube over and over again instead of buying a song that will play on their iPods, so that can't be the reason for blocking the video.  I just don't understand the concept of not allowing small time people to use music they have legally paid for and credited to the artist.  If I were getting millions of hits on a video, or if I was somehow profiting from the playing of their song or my video with their music, I can start to get the idea that I probably should have asked permission over and above buying the music, but for 30-50 views on a video?  Come on people...  Free Advertising...where probably 1 person would go and buy the song after watching my admittedly awesome video...

Anyway, as a result, I am trying out Vimeo, where the company doesn't mess with their users.  Probably because they don't have the traffic a YouTube does...yet.

Enjoy.  The trail and the new bike are awesome...even if I might have used purchased music as a lame soundtrack.

Ride of the Niner from Brad on Vimeo.

Springtime and Luck

I guess you make your own luck with pictures sometimes, or have luck pointed out to you.  Hey, whatever works...

I had spent the night out in the tent the night after spending most of the previous night listening to little girls giggle incessantly at each other at my daughter's 7th birthday party sleepover. Ugh...

Honestly, who would sacrifice yet another night's sleep by hanging out in a tent with the kids in 40 degree temperatures?  Well...I won't say, but I know him fairly well.

The sleep deprived Sunday went pretty well though.  Mass was beautiful on Palm Sunday, and then we went home to work in the yard.  After a while of hacking brush and not accomplishing much, Brenna called me over to point out a rose.  The only rose -- On the only rose bush we have ever had.  She planted it for me years ago when we had started our first spring together in Alabama.

For the record, neither of us have squat for knowledge of how to grow roses or really anything of the plant-ish persuasion.  Through experience I can say that by some fluke gift we have found that we more than effectively grow, and subsequently catch, poison ivy in our very own back yard!  Yay!  Uh...*scratching*...whatever...

Anyway, the rose was magnificent.  It's sometimes amazing what you find buried in the overgrown mess of a back yard come spring.

Spring Rose in the Back Yard

I wasn't the only tired puppy after this weekend of riding bikes, camping, birthday partying, and goofing off in the yard.  Aiden likes hammocks as much as I do apparently.

Yay Hammocks and Naptime!!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

It's here -- let the riding a few days

No, I didn't take the time to photoshop this together.  It's an ad that I pilfered from the net. 

I finally got it.  The new mountain bike that I have been talking about for years, wishing for quite a while, dreaming about while trying out different kinds of bikes, and now own.  A Niner Jet 9 in a delicious Tang Orange color.  I'm sure it's delicious, and tangy, but I won't lick it to find out for sure...maybe. 

I even lucked out and ended up with a color matched fork that made even the bike mechanics that were assembling it drool. 

Cahaba Cycles called yesterday while I was on a one day 500 mile motorcycle journey, which may or may not be a topic of another post, to say that it was done.  When I called this morning to see how much cash I needed to bring to settle the bill, they jokingly said $10-Grand because so many people had wanted to buy this bike they had to pay for shop damage and some injury claims during the ensuing melee

It is pretty.  I'm almost afraid to take it out, dirty it up, and most likely crash it...almost afraid that is.  Since it will be filthy (certainly) and scratched (probably) after the first ride, I'll offer up a few pictures in its pristine state to record how awesome it looks for posterity.

 Ah, the motivational speech that will somehow inspire me when I'm about to throw up and walk during some endurance race this year?

Outside the shop in Homewood with the tag still on it.  Things don't get much newer than that.

Here it is ready to go home in it's luxurious transport accommodations. Yeah, perhaps I need to clean some biking stuff out of the truck?  Nah...

Do you like the blue tarp protecting the car interior? While it does serve to protect the interior from typical biking oil and filth, there are unintended consequences to its use.  I don't think I'll ever be able to vacuum out all the little blue bits that have accumulated, so just as a note to all my readers, don't use blue tarp in your vehicle.  Find something else that won't make it look like a smurf exploded in the back seat.

 Once home, I fiddled with the air shocks and hydraulic disk brakes to get some items squared away for whenever I actually get to ride it on real trails.

Ah, the beauty of shiny clean rear suspension.  This will never look the same after the first ride, and that is how it should be.

Naturally a line of storms is coming through today that will make a mess of the trails, and I also have stuff to do with the kids since I haven't seen them in a few days.  The new bike will just have to be patient while I take care of the things that actually matter.

The first ride image while out with Bryce.  Soon he will be on the trails with me, and probably sooner than later will be faster and stronger than I am too.

I'm planning on Thursday to take the inaugural ride on it, and I hope it's as good as I have imagined it to be.  Also, we will see if I can shock my body back into healthy sleep, eating, and workout patterns after being up to all hours for the past few days at Leesburg BikeFest