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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

First Track Day

I heard a lot of talk about how much a rider learns and how much fun he/she has at a track day.  Several friends had participated in one or more track days and highly recommended it.  My son had been riding his own since he was 15 (ridden on the back since he was 7) and was pretty good, but I thought improving his skills and adding to his knowledge would likely improve his safety.  So on his 18th birthday (in February) I signed him up for a RideSmart track day (in June).

I was later convinced I should participate in the track day with him and share the experience.  On June 11, 2015 we loaded up his Kawasaki ZX6R, my Honda VFR1200 and a close friend's, Sergey, VFR1200 and headed to Motorsports Ranch in Cresson, TX for a RideSmart Track day.
Two VFR's and a ZX6R heading to the track

We spent the night across from the track so we did not have to get up so early the next morning.  We arrived at the track at 6:40 to unload and make sure the bikes were ready for the track i.e. no lights, light lenses and reflectors taped...(list of requirements)

Richard make last minutes adjustments
Once the bikes were prepped we checked in and signed appropriate paperwork, picked up leathers (first timer get 1/2 priced registration with appropriate coupon code and free leather rentals) and proceeded to "tech" inspection.  Once "tech" places an inspection sticker on the bike it means we may enter the track (at the correct times).

Richard and I both decided to have the suspension adjusted by Roger of OnRoad OffRoad Cycles before hitting the track.  We left the bikes with Roger while we rode in a truck for the "track preview."

The preview consistent of several trucks with Level 1 riders in the beds.  We would stop at each corner or series of corners and an instructor would discuss the correct line for the corner and point out markers on or beside the track to shoot for.
Richard relaxing between sessions
After the preview we had a few minutes to grab a drink, snack and/or visit the restroom before the first class session.  (For Level 1 riders each hour consisted of roughly 20 minutes class, 20 minutes prep time and 20 minutes on the track.)
Rob and Richard in class
The first class session covered safety, awareness, cornering and a few more things.  After class we picked up our bikes from Roger.  We could tell an immediate difference in the suspension of the bikes.
My fellow VFR 1200 rider, Sergey pushing the Honda
Track session #1 was "round-robin" - riders were lined up behind an instructor (about 8-10 per instructor) and we followed the person in front of us at a reasonable pace to see the "line" for each corner.  After one lap the rider directly behind the instructor moved to the side and slowed down to take the end of the line.  Now a different rider was directly behind the instructor.  Before the session was over all riders had ridden behind an instructor.
Quick pace around the track
We then repeated the pattern  of class, break, track in 20 minute increments. The next few sessions had riders in groups of three sign up to wear a numbered colored jersey and a specific instructor would follow a rider while the other 2 followed instructor for a lap.  The group would briefly exit and instructor would give advice/instruction to the rider.  A different member of the trio would then take lead.  Riders not in a trio for that session were allowed to ride and work on their skills independently.

Richard, Sergey and I wore orange for our trio session.  Afterwards during the class session our instructor showed us video he recorded during our time and discussed in greater detail points to work on.  It was productive seeing myself on video.  Certain concepts became clearer.
Sergey leading the instructor around the track
This Youtube link shows me following an instructor following Richard.  (At 2 minutes we exit and the rest is of the instructor talking to Richard, so stop or you will be bored :) )

Starting about 11:30 hamburgers for lunch were provided so we took a longer break.  We were back on the track by 1:00 and continued the routine until 4.  We were all pretty tired so we skipped the last session (4:00 to 5:00) and started loading the bikes.

Inspecting the tires told the story of a lot of left hand corners.

My overall impression is this:  It was fun, informative, educational and I improved as a rider.  I also gained an understanding of my skill limits and my tolerance level (I know the bike can handle more than I am willing to do).  I did NOT become "hooked" on track days as some riders have become.

I will probably do another one.  I think once a year or so will be beneficial.  I do think if a rider has not experienced a track day they should.











Wednesday, June 3, 2015

An American Hero, my dad.

For the most part my posts are directly related to motorcycling i.e. roads, gear, restaurants, motorcycles...; however, I have posted a few times about my dad, Pfc Wendell Osburn, WWII veteran and Purple Heart recipient. 
Dad visiting with another WWII veteran
In 2011 I posted about a Memorial Day event in Decatur, Texas we attended.  In 2010 I was privileged to accompany him on Honor Flight to Washington DC which was an amazing two days that really touched Dad's heart and made him realize how important his service was and how many people deeply appreciated his sacrifice and the sacrifice of his family.

Brick at the Wise County Veterans Memorial Park, Decatur, Texas
At the age of 90 years, 7 months and 7 days Dad passed away on Mother's Day in his home.  Although our family celebrates the amazing life he lived and the impact he made on his family, his church and his country and we are assured of his salvation, it has been very tough. 

He leaves behind seven daughters, three sons, 26 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

I learned so much from Dad and will miss him greatly.
Words from the past are still true - from the WWII Memorial in Washington DC
I want to thank all of our veterans and current armed forces for their dedication, sacrifice and service.  When you see a veteran please take time to shake their hand, buy them a meal or in some way thank them for their service.
Dad, I can never repay all you did for me, taught me and the many ways you blessed me.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Rattler, North Carolina

It was a nice sunny Sunday in North Carolina (June 2014) and we had enjoyed a morning at the Wheels Through Time Museum and a satisfying lunch in Maggie Valley now it was time to ride.  I had planned a route which included a lot of curves, but I did not realize at the time NC 209 was also know as "The Rattler."

Nine of us on seven bikes jumped on NC 209 just north of Waynesville, NC at the intersection of NC 209 and US 23.  After 4 miles we rode under I-40.  The Rattler started off with 8 miles of easy long sweepers without a lot of curves.
Photo opportunity under the canopy near a river on The Rattler
Without much warning the road got really interesting and twisty!  The next 24 miles of NC 209 earned its name.  Fun tight turns with a few stretches of straights and a sweeping curve or two all under the canopy of the big trees and at times tracing Spring Creek made for some great riding.
My son, Richard, on his 2009 ZX6R Ninja
This was a great opportunity to get time on some Smoky Mountains roads before riding The Dragon (US 129) the next day.  This was my son's first summer trip on his new ride and on mountain roads like this.

We shifted a cheek and dropped a knee into the corners enjoying every mile.  The scenery was great and the shade nice, but going from shade to sunlight and back made for intense concentration due to the change in visibility.
https://www.dropbox.com/s/8o8tolv9uf6jyux/Screenshot%202015-05-05%2013.06.44.png?dl=0
Another factor adding to the fun and pleasure of the ride was the lack of traffic.  I am not sure we saw over 6 cars/trucks on the 33 mile ride.  We were able to ride at a nice pace and not be concerned about traffic.

The Rattle had a good amount of elevation change.  There were some uphill grades at 15.5% and down at -10%. Here is a website with more detailed information.
 Old country barn on NC 209
My only regret is not turning around at Hot Springs, NC and riding The Rattler back to I-40.  It is a great road and I will make sure to hit it the next time I am in that area.  I highly recommend it.









Tuesday, April 21, 2015

MotoGP at Circuit of the Americas, Austin, TX

Please overlook my tardiness with this post.  It should have been out last week.
Cota day 1, waiting for practice sessions to start
April 10-12, 2015 was the 3rd year for MotoGP at COTA in Austin, Texas.  I attended the first MotoGP in 2013 as a spectator.  This year my son and I attended the races as volunteer track workers.  Wow! what an experience.  There was the added bonus of MotoAmerica's SuperSport and Superbike/Superstock classes also racing that weekend.  A total of 5 classes to enjoy.
Richard and I ready for action
Not only did we get to see the world's best sportbike riders, we got to see them up close both on the track and in the paddock.  No crowds to disrupt the view of the races, plenty of space to move and be comfortable and drinks and meals delivered to our location.
 The sound and the speed is amazing - first practices of day 1
We asked to work together and to be track marshals.  Our duties included track inspection each morning and between races/practices and assist riders that go down or have mechanical problems in our assigned area.  Otherwise, watch and enjoy the races.  We saw several riders go down, but only one slid to a stop in our area for us to help.  Most of our work was removing rocks and debris from the track.  The rider we helped sure was young, not sure he had started shaving!  He was on a Moto3 (250cc) bike.
Day 2 - helping Moto3 rider after a high side on our corner
Volunteering was a full 3 day commitment with morning check-in between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m.  Breakfast and drinks were furnished each morning.  Parking was free and transportation to and from our track station was provided.  Each station had a cooler with water and soft drinks.  At various times the drink wagon (a side by side ATV) would stop by and make sure we had drinks and/or ice.  A box lunch from Jason's Deli was delivered at lunch time and on Friday and Saturday after the races a dinner was provided at the volunteers tent.
Amazing lean angles
Friday a track parade lap for volunteers and certain other groups was an option.  Due to other commitments we did not participate, but will next year.  We heard is was great and riders hit speeds close to 70 mph!

Saturday there were more practice sessions and the qualifying sessions.  The MotoGP qualifying session saw Marc Marquez display his competitiveness with a remarkable sprint back to his garage to his 2nd bike, after 1st bike mechanical problems, and then set a COTA track record as he qualified for the pole position.
video

For the Sunday races we were moved to corner 2.  We could see the big hill immediately after the start and the tough corner #1 before the riders headed down the hill to corner 2.  What a great view! The races on Sunday had some longer breaks in action which allowed us to visit the pits.  With our stylish (ha ha) track volunteer outfits we were able to walk though the pits (where spectators were not allowed). 
Walking the pits Sunday morning
We were able to take photos of the bikes and even saw a few of the riders including Marquez.  We got really close and watched as crews finalized the bikes for the races.
 #99 Jorge Lorenzo's Yamaha Movistar bike getting ready to race
 Looking up the hill to turn 1 Sunday morning and waiting for the fog to lift
 Rider and bike waiting for the fog to lift and the races to begin
 Rossi's bike getting final touches
 Grandstands beginning to fill
Marquez's #93 ready to roll













  #46 ,Rossi, has both bikes ready to go, one with racing slicks one with rain tires
 Nice bike and someone pointed out there were umbrella girls in the background - coincidence I am sure
 Nicky Hayden's bike - the lone American
The MotoGP race concluded with Marquez (Honda) winning his 3rd consectutive COTA race (there have only been 3) with Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) taking 2nd and Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) finishing 3rd.  After the checkered flag while the riders were taking a final lap Dovizioso ran out of fuel and coasted to our turn, stopping so we could push his bike off the track and he could catch a ride back to the podium.  Pretty cool to see his bike up close.  They are so light due to the carbon fiber and other advancements on racing bikes.
2nd place Dovizioso's bike waiting pickup after the final race
We are looking forward to volunteering again next year.  The days were long, the vantage point was awesome, we were well taken care of and we got in without a ticket!  If you enjoy motorcycle racing I would recommend volunteering at least once.  You get a new perspective.
 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Honda VFR 1200 Review - 11,000 miles

March 23, 2014
On May 31, 2014 I bought my first Honda motorcycle.  A new 2012 VFR 1200 with less than 5 miles on it, even after Mac and I took test rides on it.  For reasons unknown to me the VFR 1200 does not sell that well here in the USA, so this brand new two year old bike was mine at a great price.

I wasn't looking at the VFR originally, but a friend and R1 rider at the time (now he has a 2014 VFR) suggested I consider it (Thanks Sergey).  After some research on my own I decided I should at least sit on a VFR. 

I had a Yamaha FJR 1300 for almost 4 years (60,000+ miles) and was considering another one along with the Aprilla Copone and VFR.  After sitting on all three, looking at options, features, maintenance, insurance and overall "gut" reaction I decided the VFR was for me.  (The price was a big "plus" along with the fact insurance priced it as a two year old bike.)
June 2014 ride to Nocona, Texas
The fit and finish is top of the line.  The sleek lines and curves gives the impression the bike is "fast" and the looks are not deceiving.  The 1237cc V4 produces smooth consistent power.  The stock seat is plenty comfortable for me.

I was not confident with the stock tires, but once I mounted the Michelin Pilot Road 2, and later the PR 3's, confidence in the curves increased greatly.

I ordered the saddlebags for the bike, they do not come stock. The only customization included Zero Gravity windshield, Two Brothers slip-on exhaust, T-Rex Racing sliders and Grip Buddies
Zero Gravity tinted windshield is about 2 inches taller than stock and works great.
The exhaust exchanged reduced the weight approx. 15 lbs and improved the look and sound of the bike (compare 2nd photo and last photo).  The Zero Gravity windshield reduced buffeting considerably and added to the eye appeal.  The Grip Buddies were added because I like the comfort of the bigger grip and the vibration reducing neoprene.
 June 2014 on US129 a.k.a The Tail of the Dragon - photo by Killboy.com
I have commuted, ridden back roads with twisties, ridden in Dallas traffic, taken weekend trips and extended trips.  The VFR has taken me on the windy roads in the Smokey Mountains, including the Tail of the Dragon, and over many mountain passes of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and New Mexico.  I have ridden a few miles in a day up to 650 miles in a day.  I have travel without saddlebags, with saddlebags and even fully loaded for camping.  I have put the bike to the test and I have found myself always smiling.

Loaded for camping in Colorado
This the first bike I have owned with traction control and/or a slipper clutch.  I like the both features; however, the first time the traction control engaged was a little surprising and at the same time comforting.  I was glad to feel it work so much quicker than I could react.  The slipper clutch works great and makes downshifting smooth.  The single-side swingarm not only looks sharp it makes changing the tire very convenient.  I love that feature!
Enjoy the view from the Pikes Peak Veterans Memorial outside of Cripple Creek, CO
The seating position is slightly more aggressive than the FJR which took a little getting use to.  I like the lighter weight (589 lbs - wet - although I know that is heavy compared to some bikes) when it comes to backing up or moving around in the garage.  The detachable saddlebags are a great feature requiring just unlock the bag and lift the handle - very convenient.  I have not added the trunk, but a friend who has it on his VFR is a big fan.
Very easy to remove saddlebags
The VFR's handling is solid and breeds confidence in the twisties.  There is plenty of ground clearance for leaning hard.  The levers are adjustable and operate smoothly.  Breaking is the best I have had (6 bikes so far).

I love the bike.  I can not stop smiling when riding (except when a distracted cager makes a bad move).  It is more "sport" than "tourer".  MPG for me has been consistently 39.5 with a mixture of city and hwy. 

If I were to retire and tour for weeks at a time year round I have to admit I would go back with the FJR due to comfort, storage, fuel economy (40mpg vs 44mpg) and sitting position.  But, for now I am loving every mile on the VFR!
Enjoying US 129 a.k.a The Dragon