For a very long time, I have wondered, mused, pondered, and been flat amazed that bikers don’t go to the track as much as I would expect? In the good ol’ U.S.of A., motorcycle rideing is largely a leisure time activity. As such, I would surmise that we american bikers like to play with our bikes every chance we can get. And I hope to tell you that given a chance to go for a ride that I always will decide to do so. The question is never stated as, “Can I go for a ride?” Rather the question is nearly always stated as, “Why can’t I go for a ride right now?” Lots of my biker budds have the same passion as me to go riding and play with the bikes as much as possible. Yet, I cannot get hardly any of them to join me once per year at the track? After 10 yearsd of trying to figure all this out, I have arrived at only one possible conclusion. If a rider does not go to the track once per year, then I conclude that said rider sucks and should probably give up motorcycles, forever. That rider should take a hike, go fishing, or do something that he/she really likes and leave motorcycle riding to others who give a care. Read on if you want to know how I can support this conclusion.
I was reading a child development article. (Don’t ask. I am prone to read a wide variety of stuff on topics that often have others wondering about me.) The article said that kids about 12 years old tend to adopt two types of mind-set; 1- Fixed mind-set and 2- Growth mind-set. Of the many character traits of the Fixed mind-set, same are a desire to not get laughed at, thought of as being dumb, percieved making errors, and achieving mastery on a limited basis so as to avoid humiliation and all the nasty stuff that the age group has to overcome. I remeber dance lessons at this period of my life and you better believe that I would have preferred to crawl into a hole full of itchy leaves and venemous animals than go to a dance. The Growth mind-set kids knew that they would look silly learning many new things for the first time. But they take it on faith that after a few initial attempts that they will get good enough to pass the awkward and humiliating first effort moments. And laugh off these errors as just part of the fun getting to try new stuff. My first attempts at Guitar Hero were hystericly funny as long as they were not posted on youtube but only shared with friends and family. I did get better, barely. The article concluded that kids with the Growth mind-set did much better at nearly everything. So. As a motorcycle rider, ask yourself which mind-set you have when it comes to all things about motorcyles and riding?
When the movie On Any Suday came out, the narrator said that Malcom Smith liked to ride many different events every year and Malcom was pretty good at them all. Naturally, I wanted to be just like Malcom (and Steve McQueen and Bart Markle) and ride everything possible for me to try. Took me 20 years before I got the chance to ride in the desert in Nevada, Thank-you Casey Folks! Was I any good at desert dirt bike riding? No. Was I good enough to live and have a great time? You Betcha! Same for being a bike mechanic, Same for being a sidecar pilot and a sidecar monkey. Same for trying a trials bike. The log crossing picture is hystericly funny. I did enjoy teaching the MSF/BRC and not failing misserably at that. My bike trips have been pretty good even if I still sorta suck at packing the camping gear on the bike and trying not to kill myself while camping. My bike camping budds like to have me along for the silly camping entertainment. I can do all three Stooges at once in camp while setting up my tent. Compared to my campsite, the latrine looks like pretty good shelter during rain. Yes it is hard to live like this. Yes, if one is going to be dumb one must be tough. But tough is not enough. One must be able to laugh at one’s self just long enough to see that one is getting better at the desired fun.
And this is why riders (we) don’t go to the track once per year. Many of us have a Fixed mind-set about motorcycles. We do not see many chances to grow ourselves as bikers. We really do not want to make a small but constant effort to improve ourselves as bikers in any way. I go to the same diner for breakfast with my biker budds every sunday morning. I ride the same roads with them every sunday. Does this make me a better rider? Does this open new riding opportunities and small but achievable challenges to get better AND HAVE MORE FUN? Nope. Yes, I enjoy doing this and would miss the weekly comraderie if I had to give it up. But it would not be for long before I found something better to do and good people to do it with.
Granted, there is some Fixed mind-set riding that I do. Hopefully, that part of me contains all the best riding habits that I have and will not be easily shaken off. Unfortunately, it also probaly holds my worst riding habits that I have so much problem deleting. The riding Growth mind-set has the most fun and the best opportunity for real and quick riding growth possible at the track. I get to really play with my bike there. I get to discover good riding skills and make habits of them there that I cannot seem to better anywhere else. No matter how much I practice in a parking lot or try to really concentrate on my riding commute, the track makes the simple mastery of my bike come together for me like no place else. I have to go to the track once per year. My entire biker sould cries out to be let loose for the fun, the thrill, and the knowlege of the track and my bike. Like new dance steps, the first three times at the track were a little rough, wobbly, not much fun for me. even so, I had one or two moments of tiny success and my heart soared with the fun and sense of 9minor) accomplishment. I could see where the track experience was going to be like Nirvana if I could hang in there for the first 3 tries.
Every once in a great while, a biker budd who I think highly of will say about some little moment, “Holy Carp, Fran, how did you learn to ride so well?” And my reply is often,”that was something that I picked up at the track.”
My fav local track is 250 miles from me. It is well worth my effort and my fun to make the effort to get there once per year. My track experience pays off in so many unexpected and delightful ways throughout the riding year that I refuse to live my life or ride my bike without riding the track once per year.
Many track days and riding schools allow spectators and have free or nearly free track time for street riders. Go look and see if the riders are having fun. The riders’ grins and gleeming crinkly eyes should tell you everything that you need to know about how much fun it is to play with and get better on your bike in a place where real growth is highly probable, the track.
Hope to share the track with all of you sooner rather than later,