12 November 2012

Ride Report: Track Demo and Cheaha

10 Nov 2012:  Finally a ride longer than 20 miles
I was really anxious to ride after not being able to since the last ride.  I'd begged my brother to ride Baby to work one day so he could get a bit of a workout after sitting for nearly two months.  A little seafoam in the tank and he was still running like a champ.  I convinced Cruzman to sign up for the NESBA/Yamaha Bike Demo at the Barber Motorsports Track Day.

I was a bit panicky leading up to the weekend because we'd yet to receive a follow up email like they'd promised in the registration confirmation email.  Once we got that, I fretted about whether or not our (my) riding gear would be sufficient.  Turns out, I shouldn't have.  I pulled out of the drive way at 4:20 a.m. so I could meet Cruzman for breakfast at the Waffle House on Thornton Rd.

It was a bit of a chilly ride but my homemade heated gloves, bargain hand guards, and chinese (eBay) grip heaters did exactly what they were supposed to.  My homemade heated vest didn't work as well due to my weight loss.  Looks like I'll need to make a new one.  Meanwhile, Cruzman has to wait to get his broken glove replaced  (read the whole story). I'm pretty sure Cruzman didn't have to wait too long for me to get there nearly an hour later.

After breakfast and gassing up, we were back on the interstate heading for Barber Motorsports Park giving me the chance to see the sun rise behind me with several glances in my side mirrors.  It got colder before dawn and I really wished I'd made the new heated jacket liner before this ride because I knew it'd be likely I'd need it.  The Sun was a welcomed sight when it finally was high enough to break the tree line and the temps warmed slightly but probably not enough for Cruzman's cold hand.

I spent the early part of the ride worrying that we hadn't left soon enough only to discover that we crossed the Central time line and lost an hour.  It's a good thing I trusted Cruzman to set the times and route this time.

I expected a detailed sign in but all we needed to do was check in before the security booth to sign the track waiver then check in at the Yamaha truck to sign the Yamaha waiver.  No one ever checked (or scanned) our license like they do when you go to the dealer demos.  No yellow sheet to confirm you have signed up and can ride the bike you selected to ride.  The good surprise was that we'd be able to do two demos instead of one and that we wouldn't have to wait around until 9 for our assigned time.

When we showed up at the truck, the guy only asked if that's what we had to wear on the track and that we needed to pick some leathers out of the trailer due to the track rules.  Okay.  They had two pair of women's leathers left and fortunately one of them was mostly big enough.  Cruzman had to get a size that was too big and perforated.  He looked like he'd shat his pants and I'm sure I looked like I was stuffed into mine.  But we had leathers and were off to sign in.

Cruzman got the R1 first then chose the FZ8 for his second demo.  I got the FZ8 first and the R6 for my second demo.  Remember this was my first ever track experience.  There were maybe 6 bikes in a group with 3 control riders interspersed throughout the pack.  We were given light instructions about maintaining the group spacing and being able to pass someone if they had too large a gap plus some other stuff I don't remember.  We were also told to be ready as soon as the first group got back because they wanted to be done before 9 due to the number of people that were there for the actual track day.

Before the first demo, one of the track day riders managed to drop his bike after the track day inspection.  He had the bike up and away before anyone could go over to see what was going like anyone else might have done.  That was about all the excitement before we actually got on the track.  Well that and the smelly neon green shirts they gave us to wear to denote our status as Demo Riders.

I was about the fourth bike in line on the FZ8 for my first demo.  Right away I was impressed with the smoothness of the stock bike, much smoother than Baby could ever dream of being.  The first lap was fairly slow, I guessed to get us used to the track and bikes.  Good thing  because the front brakes on the 8 are a bit touchy and took a little getting used to.  The leathers also took some getting used to as they interfered with me turning my head to look through and especially up through the corners.

Yamaha FZ8
I never did see the rpm gauge but glanced down a couple of times to see mid 70s on the straights.  Now that I think about it, I didn't count the number of laps we rode either but think it was about 4 or 5.  Just enough to make you wish you had a few more.  The 8 was great coming out of the corners but lacked the getty-up at the top end which made it feel really tame.  I suppose if this bike had been available in 2007 when I was shopping for a motorcycle, it would have made my list.  But just as certainly would have been replaced for the FZ1 within a year or two.  The device is very agile but really left me wanting more power.

At best, the FZ8 is a stop gap bike.  The styling is neat in the true naked kind of way.  No wind turbulence or anything like that since there's no fairing to mess up the air.  In fact, I think the seating position is a little too up right but everything else was fairly comfortable, actually familiar would be a better word since its ergos are basically the same as my Gen1 FZ1.

FZ8 Ergos from cycle-ergo.com
As soon as I got off of the 8, I moved to the R6.  I knew what to expect from this as I rode it earlier at this year's dealer demo.  I thought it'd be much better on the track than the street with its ergonomics and that was the reason I signed up to do the demo.  Well that and the chance to ride on the track.  Back in the spring, I thought the R6 was a great bike but it confirmed how much I really don't like the true sport bike riding position.

Once we got on the track, the first thing I noticed was how much longer it took the engage the brakes than on the 8 or my 1.  They didn't feel any weaker but it was just a longer pull before they actually did anything.  Again the first lap was slow and again I never saw the rpm gauge.  In fact, on the 6, I never really had an idea of what gear I might have been in.  Just like my first ride on the R6, the power was what I'd expected.  It was as smooth as my Gen1 but not as smooth as the 8.

In the low RPMs, the bike didn't feel like it wanted to go anywhere but if you kept the rpms up, it drove out of the corners pretty good.  I couldn't really notice anything else because halfway through the second lap, my neck started complaining about the riding position.  I gripped the tank more with my knees and leaned a little more forward but that only served to give me a good view of what the inside of the top of my helmet looks like.

R6 Ergos from cycle-ergo.com
By the straightaway on the third lap, I was really hoping to see the checkered flags which may explain why I picked up the pace a little after that.  I just wanted off of the damned thing.  It rode like it rode, the track experience wasn't worth being that uncomfortable.  The R6 may make a great track device for anyone else but me.  The engine and brakes did what they were supposed to do but between my neck being mad about the way I had to hold my head and the collar on the leathers making turning my head even more difficult I didn't really care about evaluating what the bike was or wasn't!

It was with great relief that I un-assed that thing and was back on my own two feet again.  I'm not going to say never again but it's damned close!  Just for grins, take a look at the ergos for what I'm used to riding after I customized it a bit to reflect my non-stock handlebars.

I was also happy to take that stinky shirt off.  They need to burn or wash those things.  The leathers were getting comfortable making me realize it might not be a bad investment for me to make.  I know I feel invincible when I have my Fieldsheer Flex Perf jacket on, I'm guessing I'd be truly invincible if I got my own leathers.  Add that one to the shopping list!
Demo truck and bikes all lined up and waiting for riders
We hung around and took advantage of our track access to watch a couple of the track sessions.  They started calling the intermediate riders first and as soon as the Yamaha Demo guys got done, they got on the track.  By the time we climbed up to the viewing area (after a long discussion with a fellow demo rider about track days and buying leathers) they were at least half way through their session.  There had to be nearly 50 bikes out there and it looked like pure havoc.

I completely understood eflyguy's comments about his first trackday as I watched the slower riders get accosted by much faster ones.  The sound of the mass of bikes was awesome and reminiscent of a day at the races.  A good ear could pick out the different makes of bikes represented, at least the 4 cylinders from the 3 and even a 50cc sounding thing.  I was admiring their courage when I noticed a corner person waving a yellow flag and turned my head in time to see a rider down and the bike sliding away.  Lowside or highside, none of us knew.  The yellow flag was soon accompanied by a red one.  The rider tried to get up but had to crawl off of the track to get out of the way.

It was a few minutes before the bikes got off of the track so the safety people could get help to the downed rider.  We hung around and watched the person get in the ambulance and then another session begin or that session continued.  I wasn't sure.  After a while, we decided to walk around the paddock.  By the time we got to the front again, the wrecked bike was sitting out front but the rider was no where to be seen.  The front fairing was destroyed and my guess is that person's weekend was over.

Getting ready to head for Cheaha
After a visit to the port o potties, we left Barber taking the interstate back towards Cheaha. On the way, we ate lunch and got gas.  Then a little more interstate to Cheaha.

Our radios died so we pulled over at the Scenic Outlook to switch to the backups
I'm happy just to be able to ride!
Cruzman and Stella at an overlook along AL 281 heading towards Cheaha State Park
Me and Baby at an overlook along AL 281 heading towards Cheaha State Park
There can only be one:  So far, Baby is still the perfect bike for me.
They haven't repaved the roads so they're still as crappy as ever but the views were beautiful and it warmed up to be a very nice day to be on the motorcycle.  We had no big plan for the ride just to do the Demo and to ride Cheaha over and back.

We weren't the only ones enjoying the good weather.  There was a lot of traffic but AL 281 had plenty of passing lanes that we took advantage of.

This time I made sure I took plenty of pics.  We got to the gas station and took a bit of a break before heading back over.  Cruzman wanted me to ride in front so he could see how visible my hyper lites were.  Mine are 10 years old and still get the job done after transferring them from the VX800 to Baby.

I can't remember why now, but I pulled over at another scenic area.  While we were there, I found the magnetic lens I lost at the gas station earlier this year!  It'll be just fine after a good cleaning.

Did I mention it was a perfect day to be out on a motorcycle?

Once back at Hwy 78, we decided to take the scenic route home through Piedmont, AL.

Only a few more daylight hours left and we're still in Alabama!
I rode 434 miles, most of it interstate, but it was an awesome day!  It was good to be back on the bike again, so good that I'm going to try to get out next weekend too.

Thanks for reading,
patrice, theWolfTamer


  1. WT,
    Good to see you back to riding and picture taking. I get your posts and I am also Cruzmans friend. I enjoy your posts but even more so when they are not totally technical. You do a great job of writing and even the techy ones are done very well. Keep up the good work girl!


  2. Thanks Chuck. I should be riding a lot more than farkling from now on.


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