So many can answer this question, with endless reason why… This is my story.
When I was about 6 years old, my grandfather had a farm that I spent most of my summers (and winters) on. There is where I started the obsession of pushing the envelope. Danger with control, frightened with clarity, freedom without compromise and most of the twist of a throttle and how it made me feel. Now I bet as your reading this and subtlety unconscious nodding your head, you will be shocked when I reveal that these experiences were not on a motorcycle, rather a Honda 110 3 wheeler. These times however, set the ground work for my passion for 2 wheels vs. 3 or 4.
My 2 wheel adventure started in 2004 and like most, had only a faint understanding of exactly what I was about to experience. A few friends of mine had been riding for roughly 6 months and after saving for a good bit of the summer, I finally secured via a somewhat local dealer a 2004 Suzuki GSXR 600. Like most, I had no gear only a helmet I had purchased for SCCA days with my BMW M3. Now at this point before we proceed, the point I would like to stress is that I had absolutely ZERO experience on a street bike or how it would change me. After signing of all the papers, I loaded the showroom shined, yellow Gixxer in the back of my friends truck. Why you may ask, I didn’t ride it home? Great question, I had Zero experience and home was 1.5 hours away on the interstate.
Upon arriving home, I was over anxious to don my new matching yellow and black helmet along with my matching black jacket and yes, matching black and gray gloves. (I know better now…) Like I said, I didn’t have a clue what I would experience and what I should purchase. Gear? Parts? Accessories? But before all that, I gear up with jeans and hiking boots. Yes, the type you’d climb Everest in and on the road I went.
Turning out of the neighborhood, NOTHING felt in sync. Clutch, Throttle, Front Brake, Rear Break, Turn this way and that… I felt like I was 4 years old learning to ride a bike with the training wheels still on. Finally out of the neighborhoods tight turns, I was on the local highway. 40 MPH felt fast and 55 MPH was on the upper limits. I felt, barely in control. Meanwhile my friends who had been riding for 6 months now were if anything fast but, were running circles around me. As this might sound familiar to some the next is what we all eventually do… Where do you think we were headed to? Yep, Interstate. Let’s see what this baby will do.
As I turn onto the on ramp, thankfully it was straight with a slight hill to climb. First gear gone, shift to second, 6000 RPM feels like all the power in the world. Now comes 3rd, then 4th, and so on to 6th. I feel like James T. Kirk asking Scotty for all the Warp Drive the engine can give me. The wind I did not expect. In full racing tuck which is by the way, extremely difficult in hiking boots, I glance at the speedo as everything is in a blur around me and I have topped out at a whopping 73 MPH. Sound familiar to anyone? If you’re really honest with yourself, some if not all you might be shaking your head in agreement.
So after months of “testing” myself on local roads, I felt restrained, shackled and reserved. I felt like I could learn more, become a better, faster rider but with 8000 lbs. SUV’s, questionable road surfaces and the ever elusive animal of some sort in the middle of the road, I decided to take it to the track.
My first track day was a whirlwind. I was lucky to be close to one of the arguably best tracks in the nation, Barber Motorsports Park. After spending all week preparing with getting gear together, getting my bike safety wired and prepped and reading through the rules, regulations, flags, corner worker signaling, do’s and don’ts, and so on. I was excited, nervous and confused at 7AM on that Saturday morning as I went to tech my bike. Drivers’ meeting was next then on to Novice Class. 40 Minutes later, I was geared up on Hot Pit, trying to stay cool, look cool and not wreck the first time out. Then just like that, I got the green and off I went. Exiting into Turn 2, following a track instructor that seemed to be riding at 15% of his own ability, I felt like I was already dragging my knee. Laughably, I was nowhere close. A few laps in I calmed down, became more focused, started to break things down and analyze each breaking point, every turn in, lean angle grip, throttle control and most importantly where I needed to look. No more target fixation. I was looking “through the turn.” First lesson I ever learned on the track and in my opinion, the best and most important. “You GO, where you LOOK.”
By the end of the day, I was more than just hooked. I seriously felt like I was a part of something. Not just the fluidity of me with the bike but the friendships I had formed that day. All levels of riding skills, demographics, personalities and definitions of “why” we ride; yet all had that common bond. We Ride.
Like most, I work full time with a demanding career. The stress from deadlines, problem solving and economy, tax my mental state weekly, if not daily. At the end of a long day or week, I gear up. In my “non-matching” helmet, jacket, pants, gloves and race boots I pull in the clutch and fire up my sanity, my clarity and my passion. As I roll out of the driveway, all that is on my mind is the sound of the motor, the sewing machine whine of the breaks, the mechanical clog of the next gear engagement and the huge sigh of joy and ear to ear grin on my face. The purity of riding is Zen. It cannot be explained from one to the next, it must be experienced. If you haven’t experienced, you wouldn’t understand. If you have, you are probably itching to get out on your bike right now…
Ten years later, countless track days and weekend trips with friends both new and old; have lead me to a point where I wanted to do more. To create something bigger than me and my world; while inviting others who share these core elements, Ride Fast, Ride Hard but Ride Safe to Ride Again. I ride because I feel riding cleanses me of stress, helps me to be a better problem solver by training me to think ahead, and most of all takes me to places I would not have normally seen or experienced while enjoying the company of my fellow riders. This is why “I” ride. Why do you?