I never had any interest in riding a motorcycle on a track. I really love my motorcycle. It’s a rare bike in North America. One year only, 2008, and only a handful made it to Canada. Not a chance I was taking it on a track!
Then, I did a friend a favour.
Friend: “Could you swing over to Western Speedway about 11:00 am Sunday and drive my car and bike into the pits? I’m busy until noon and there’s a track day for supermoto. You can do a few laps on my bike if you want.”
Me: “Sure, but I’m not buying another (3rd) motorcycle.”
If you’d Googled “famous last words” at exactly that moment, you would’ve seen my photo appear at the top of your search results. I had the normal list of reasons. Don’t want to crash, not interested in racing, expensive, etc, etc. Then, I actually rode a motorcycle on a closed track for the first time. NOW, I get it!
I’ve been riding motorcycles on the street for 40 years as of summer 2021. Dirt bikes for years before that. Without question, I feel much safer on a closed course than any public road. I’ll never stop riding on the street, but there’s a sense of safety on a closed course that’s undeniable. No SUV driver smiling at their crotch while I’m stopped at a traffic light. No inexperienced driver in a vehicle beyond their skillset. No vacation traveler towing a trailer for the first time. Everyone on the course with me is just LIKE me! Riding a motorcycle! The track is clean, we’re all moving in the same direction, and there’s no car about to pop out of a hidden driveway. The people aren’t just aware of me, they’re alert for my safety and their own!
The unexpected side effect? I’m a MUCH better street rider! I don’t mean faster, I mean more skilled. I have more control and better skills to react to sudden changes in conditions. When I’m on the track, I’m always practicing skills. It’s inherent in the activity. Learning braking limits, testing corner entries and exits, trying different lines to see how they suit me, my motorcycle, and my comfort levels. And next lap, I change it up and practice a new skill, or vary my approach. Before, when I’d head out for a ride on public roads, 75% of my attention was on riding, leaving a 25% buffer for the unexpected. Now, it’s closer to 50/50. I have fewer close calls with cars because my awareness is much wider. I see surprises BEFORE they become surprising.
I’m going to keep riding closed courses as long as I’m a rider. Unencumbered by gravel and deer and minivans, it’s the place I most enjoy my motorcycles. It’s time for you to join me!