Just spent a long weekend in the woods battling the heat and humidity. Fortunately, despite the doom and gloom in the forecast I didn't have to battle Mother Nature's full wrath as initially feared.
Saturday was a school day, thanks to the horrible looking forecast it was a small group of five riders making for an awesome student to teacher ratio. Aaron ran things with Jake LaForge providing additional insight and coaching. The program starts off with simple drills to get you focusing on specific ideas in isolation. You don't need to worry about corner speed or entry while doing a basic circle drill to get comfortable sitting on top of the bike and pushing it under you with a foot down for example. Between drills we run some hot laps to cool down ourselves and the bikes while we internalize what we just went over. As the day progresses the drills begin to combine the skills, chaining simple ideas together and easing riders into doing tasks on a bike that normally would have garnered a big scared 'NOPE!' if asked to do out of context.
Take backing it into a corner for example, the first time you see someone like Jake do so effortlessly while exaggerating it for fun, to a road racer it looks like the laws of physics have been temporarily turned off. He should be crashing at multiple points, and how in the hell is that the fast line through a corner?! Break down the process into individual skills, and suddenly things start to click. It's not magic, and there is a means to get to that point that don't involve highsides, lowsides and ambulance trips to figure out. In my case I'm not there yet, I know where I'm lacking, and my comfort zone for what I can tolerate on the bike clearly has increased from trying. And that's the school's ultimate goal, to nudge you outside your safe little 'box' you typically ride in without scaring you, expanding your toolbox of tricks. The proof is when you see the small kids in the class go from weeble wobbles to dragging pegs and chirping tires into corners.
And, while it's a school, and the focus is on learning, it's more fun when you're out there with friends. This weekend Doug came up to try his hand at this 'supermoto' thing, and Colin wasn't about to let me get any quicker without upping the pace himself. Aaron yelling "MOAR!" while doing a circle drill plus Colin hounding me in hot laps makes for a LOT of encouragement to push.
One other aspect I love about hanging out at Boxshop is the community. I got food practically thrown at me at lunch and dinner on Saturday. Do I look like I'm missing meals with any regularity? Do not answer that question. In any case, I need to bring grillables for others next round to return the favor.
At the end of the day, just as everyone was realizing that they had finally had enough track time in that brutal heat, the sky opened and we got hammered by rain for a bit.
School over, it's time to see how well all that training translates to the real world. In Supermono pavement practice, I got to pace myself against one of my Boxshop nemesis, Ben Gloddy. He is a special rider, that at age 12 you can just tell is going somewhere. There are lots of fast kids racing motocross, flat track, etc, but Ben is more than just fast. He's smart on track, he pushes but doesn't take foolish risks, and off the track he's incredibly polite and well spoken. That actually seems to be a trend amongst the kids that ride at Boxshop, they are almost all polite and well behaved. I was nothing of the sort at that age, and don't meet many kids outside of this sport that are this decent to be around. Back to Ben, he's been showing me up on the pavement since I started racing a TT-R. Initially I could hang with him, he was coming from a flat track background with a bike that wasn't quite dialed in for pavement and didn't have a lot of trust in his kit. That didn't take long to change and eventually he would handily beat me. While I could claim that it was all 'cause he was on an 85cc two stroke rocket compared to my aircooled dog, the truth is he's a better rider.
Since I've switched to Mistake I've got nearly twice the displacement of his CRF150R, and I'm on a two-stroke to boot so I should have motor motor motor on him. Yeah, all that does is delay the inevitable. In practice I was able to hold him off for three quarters of the session, I knew he was back there as I could hear his thumper looking for the right moment to pounce out of every corner. Ultimately he went around the outside of me in the big sweeper. From there I was not quite able to pace him. I wasn't getting slaughtered as badly as last event, but still wasn't quite up to his speed. Progress still.
After practice his father told me to go ahead and take him out the next time he tries that outside pass move. His mom was not quite so enamored with that suggestion. Later in the day his father passed on a follow up to get his point across to me: If you're not scaring yourself at some point on track, you're not pushing hard enough or progressing. Again, it comes back to getting outside your comfort zone to improve, and he saw me 'riding comfortable' in practice. Thank you.
In the heats, I tried to push, third in Supermono with JC executing a beautiful dive on me into Opie's Twist on the last lap. 4th in Open AM. Open AM in particular was fun with all the bikes, 9 entries this round. Traffic, lots of variations in skill and speed. Lots of battles! In particular, JC Bernier put a beautiful pass on me in the dirt. At some point this weekend I got semi-comfortable with berms, and fended off a couple pass attempts by people trying to cut the first dirt turn early with better speed out of the berm. JC was having none of that, we drag raced over the table top and first jump, I went into the start of the berm expecting him, on my inside to try and cut the turn. Instead he slammed up into the middle of the berm blocking me beautifully. In hind sight because I started the berm at it's beginning what I should have done was exited early, completing my turn before getting blocked by JC setting up another drag race. Something to practice. Aaron and I discussed the flat track turn that had really been giving me trouble, and while I didn't execute the plan fully there I did pick up some speed.
In the Supermono main, I got an OK start, and worked my way up to 2nd by capitalizing on a couple crashes in front of me. No surprise to Ben getting a well deserved 1st in the class.
Open AM was a proper dog fight. This time around we ran the full dirt section instead of the abbreviated path used earlier. This meant three berms instead of one, no flat track turn at the end, and a double to freak out over. I had a couple good scraps with Colin in the dirt. I dunno why but I was feeling better than normal and was getting the smoker right sideways in the dirt in places. I cleared the table top properly on one lap, a new first for me. I also attempted the double at one point, came up short but the bike sucked it up with no drama. I think I can pull it off with a clean run out of the berm, if I close my eyes and don't think about it so I don't hesitate on the throttle. Even coming up short is faster than checking up and rolling it.
It's funny how that double looks so scary, when the distance is shorter than the table top, and the height isn't as bad. I've no problems hitting that table at whatever speed, but my brain is convinced that not hitting that double at exactly Warp 3.07687 is going to result in total destruction, either by coming up short and bouncing backwards into the past, or worse my spine shooting out of my body on impact. Conversely, if by some freak accident somehow overshooting (never gonna happen) I'd burst into flames on reentry to the atmosphere. The reality is it's a lil jump and I'm on a full size MX machine designed to tackle FAR worse hits.
All in all a damn fine weekend, even if I'm 10+ lbs lighter from sweating so much. It's been a long time since I've seen salt stains on my leathers, ewwwwww.
Normally my reports contain tails of woe involving carburetors, suspension geometry, some odd ball one off part made from a meteorite failing, etc. No such luck this report, my smoker did decide to eject it's kickstart screw during the school, but Jake 'The Man with a Plan' LaForge was right there with a screwdriver and loctite. Other than that I didn't think about the bike and just rode.