Sunday, February 12, 2006

Roadracing a YSR

I sweep into turn one and carefully place my knee on the ground as I whip the bike through a beautiful arch, careful to avoid a series of bumps and keen on making up time on the rider ahead of me. My goals as I make my way out of the first corner are to maintain smooth lines, consistently apply a twitchy two-stroke throttle and regain the wind cheating aerodynamics of a full tuck. As I click 5th gear, intent on recapturing the position I had lost only moments earlier, I am topping the Yamaha built racing motorcycle out at something approaching 38 MPH.

Compared to the very fast nine year old that just cleaned my clock exiting turn seven, I am probably giving up over 70 pounds in body weight. It also doesn’t help that, at 27 years of age, the impetuous attitude that accompanies apathy toward bodily injury is not as prevalent as it was in my own youth. As I see it, this sort of attitude is required to toss a nervous, turns every time you breath, vibrating like a cheap bed in Vegas, Yamaha YSR50 into a tight corner like a dead cat.

On the next lap -once again in full tuck and praying for a tailwind- I see one of my teammates, sipping water and watching from the casual comfort of a folding chair, lean forward and wave as I pass; the signal to call me into the pits. At the same moment I spy a kid on a bicycle racing up pit road and, worried that he might overtake me before I reach turn one, I tuck lower and give myself over to the chattering blur created by my helmet bouncing between the fuel tank and windscreen. Every movement I make on the bike, from deep breaths and nods of my head to adjustments in seating position in an effort to relieve my spine of the twists needed to fit on the little race bike, causes the screaming YSR to change lanes and careen haphazardly across the track. The biggest struggle involves bringing my numb feet back to life without the little stabbing pains of pins & needles as my circulation returns just in time to shift in the seat and drag a knee through the next corner.

With the throttle wide open (is it ever closed?) I hurtle now toward turn three, a hairpin corner preceded by a downhill and followed by a steep climb. My momentum builds as the motor, now trying to keep up with the rear tire, chimes in like a hummingbird on 12 cups of espresso. The little 50cc two-stroke hits that pitch where the sound becomes an annoying, high-pitched bell ring, not unlike that of a mosquito when it flies into your ear canal and can’t seem to find its way out before getting mashed by your finger.


Leaning in, I sweep through the corner almost perfectly. My heart races when I realize the nine year old has missed his line by inches and comes out of the corner just a touch slower than I. This is my chance! Redemption for losing the position only a few laps earlier is only three feet away. Eyes narrow as we exit the corner, I plan my attack and allow my YSR to track slightly wide in an effort to carry that extra little bit of speed to overtake on the outside (he’ll never expect that) as we exit turn three. Uphill.


The revs dump on the uphill, my momentum dies and the bike loses speed as it tries to drag my 160 pound frame up what, for the diminutive little YSR50, might as well be the Alps. The nine year old gains precious ground and I curse in frustration, sliding my butt back in the seat and looking for that all important bit of extra horsepower from a well timed passing of chili dog induced gas. We crest the hill and round turn four just as I realize my last chance at saving face lies ahead. The steep, downhill plunge into turn five is my favorite section of the entire track and I typically take it, laughing with glee like a WWII fighter pilot assigned to strafing runs on a fox hole full of obese invalids, on a line that gives me plenty of speed into turn six.


The revs rise as we pour down the hill in a waterfall of seven horsepower fury, two riders embroiled in a battle steeped in pride. Entering five I take a late apex and attempt to run up the inside at the exit. My knee touches the ground and, as with every corner previous, I put my entire body weight on my slider in an effort to free the YSR of its horrific burden while I wait for my toe slider to grind the asphalt. It works! My momentum carries me ahead and I can’t help but look to my left, intoning my glory in an evil, guttural laugh as I creep past my opponent and hope to hit an isolated low-pressure zone hanging mysteriously above the track. Just… one more… mile per hour…

Cruising through six I leave a trail of plastic slider wax in my wake and can only hope that I haven’t left the door open for my optimally-sized-for-under-eight-horsepower opponent. My elation surges, then suddenly falls as I round the apex of turn seven and I am immediately passed on the short chute leading to eight. Now I know how Gibernau and Biaggi feel when, having been toyed with like school children in previous corners, Rossi wheelies past them with a yawn. My disappointment is matched only by the feelings suffered during my last blind date as the little YSR –complete with a fun personality- suffers another power loss brought on by an imperfect racing line.

Rendering my personal mission even more incomplete, my nine year old nemesis foregoes the pits as I accelerate out of turn eight; intent on blitzing up pit road for a quick handoff to Tony for his next stint in our 4 hour endurance race. On the upside, our pit stop goes well. Fuel is added to the bike and I fill Tony in on all the most pertinent bits of information, make those idiosyncrasies, of our race bike:

“Ignore all the vibrations; the bike sticks like glue anyway”, and most importantly, “ever since the 4th lap I haven’t been able to feel my feet!”

Feeling as though I have just been beaten into submission by a troupe of very angry landscapers wielding leaf blowers and chainsaws, I remove my helmet and ear plugs, shake away the buzzing tone still echoing in my head and cannot help but display one of the biggest grins I’ve ever been able to fit on my face.


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