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Motorcycle Cornering Clinic

Monday, July 02, 2012

After an amazing weekend, how do I cap it off?  I take Monday morning off of work, hop on my motorcycle, and go to a Team Oregon cornering clinic at Pat's Acres Racing Complex in Canby.  The goal was to work on making turns smoother (and thus safer) while being, at the same time, faster and more precise.  It was an amazing class!

This was actually my second attempt at taking the class.  The first attempt was during the week I took off to build a fence (or, as it turned out, build a retaining wall.)  That class got rained out.  Today's weather was sunny and warm, almost perfect conditions for motorcycling comfortably!  I got there at 9:10 AM, unfortunately a few minutes late, but was able to jump right in.  The first time around was a chance to learn the turns and the best lines to take.  We were going counter-clockwise, or, as my boss - who used to race go-karts there informed me - "the proper way".  We weren't allowed to pass, but it really wasn't necessary.  Then we went out to try it again, with higher speeds.  We could pass along the straight if we needed (and I both passed and was passed) and there were instructors out there at some of the turns, coaching us on timing.  It was like the classes I teach, but instead of 5-15 miles per hour in a parking lot, we were doing 10-50 miles per hour on a race track.  The feedback was good, and I worked on my timing, making sure I was on the throttle before the turn, and making sure the bike was positioned properly.  I won't say I was necessarily very good at any of those things, but I was improving quickly.  It was fun braking hard and feeling the anti-lock brakes on my back tire barely kick in before I was ready to get on the throttle and turn.

Then we took a break, which I needed.  I was already dehydrated - yesterday's racing does that to you - and this gave me an opportunity to down some fluids quickly.  The lead instructor gave us some feedback, "the turns are okay, you're all braking too late, but your head turns are generally excellent - as I would expect from a group of instructors."  We all chuckled.  

Upon resuming, we did the exact same exercises in the opposite direction.  This shouldn't have come as a surprise to me, since we do it in the classes I teach, but it did.  That realization made me laugh, as my students are always surprised when we reverse an exercise.  Starting out, I was again terrible - my lines were all botched, my speeds were all wrong, and I felt like I didn't know how to ride a motorcycle.  Still, a few laps in, things smoothed out.  

The final task was to have an instructor follow us around the track for a couple laps, then give us feedback.  The feedback I received was "Burton, your apexes aren't great.  For two turns in the same direction, try to have an early apex; for two turns in the opposite direction, try to have a late apex.  Now go play."  That direction, "go play", isn't something I expected to hear, but I definitely went out and try my turns differently.  I could feel when I was closer to getting it right, and was frustrated when I could tell it was wrong.  Still, it was exciting!

In all, I put 95 miles on my motorcycle this morning, and the round trip was about 66 miles.  That means that I put almost 29 miles on my bike and, considering the track is only about half a mile long, that means I went around over 55 times!  This was one of the most fun things I've done on my motorcycle in years.  I learned a lot, got great advice and feedback, and will hopefully use this to improve my riding even more!  I hope the advanced rider training class, of which the cornering clinic is a portion of and which was in the classroom while we were on the track, learns as much.


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