• Ryan Gabel

My First Time on Track

My body began to tense up and I could feel my pulse quicken as I stared down pit lane towards the flagger. He stood under his little blue awning waving riders onto the track, completely oblivious to how nervous I was feeling. While this wasn’t my first experience doing something dangerous and I had been riding motorcycles for more than two years, I had never been on track before and had no idea what to expect, so I tried to remember the basics.

Breathe, focus, I told myself.

I could feel the cool air flowing between my nostrils as I began to think more clearly.

Where am I? And what am I doing? It’s a mantra I chant in my head every time I plan to swing my leg over a motorcycle.

Any kind of riding is dangerous, but pushing yourself and your machine to its limits on a track is when you are the most at risk. This is because when you are riding on the track you focus on one thing, going fast. There is no need to pay attention to traffic, lanes, telephone poles, buildings. You are focused on one thing, going as fast as you can.

The deafening sound of race bike motors on the track sent my brain into overload as I began to breathe quicker and my vision narrowed. I could hear the exhaust notes as motorcycles came whizzing around turn 18 and headed for the long front straight.

The flagger waved his green flag for us to head out as I followed my, now co-worker, onto the race track for the first time and headed up the hill, past the aircraft hangar, toward turn one. I will always be grateful to Teddy for introducing me to this wild world that I can happily call home.

The distinct sound of my v-twin powered Ducati superbike rang in my ears as I twisted the throttle and watched the RPM’s soar. I felt the visceral grunting sensation of the Desmodromic valve system as it vibrated throughout my entire body providing the feeling of being a part of the my machine, as if we were one. The quick shifter belted out its unique sound each time my left foot grazed the shift lever. Before I could blink, I was in third gear well over 100 mph when I noticed Teddy start to brake for turn one.

I followed right behind him feeling my bike pitch forward as I gradually applied pressure to the front brake lever with my right hand.The incredible power of Brembo race brakes caused the bike to slow much faster than I expected. This resulted in a sort of purgatory feeling as I waited for my bike to approach the turn in point. Finally I felt comfortable tipping the bike on its side and heading for the apex of the corner, as my body and brain tried to process all of the new feelings.

It’s strange to watch professionals lay their motorcycles on their sides, dragging their knee and elbow sliders on the ground through a corner. It is even more strange to experience these sensations in real life. The impossible angles more experienced riders achieve still astound me and will leave any new fan with their mouth agasp searching for words to describe what they’ve just witnessed.

The rush of the ground coming up to meet me was incredible as I felt nearly helpless in the transition between grabbing the brakes and twisting the throttle. This transition stage is often the most difficult for a rider and their motorcycle to navigate. The electronic suspension that firmly planted my superbike to the ground began to cope with the lean angle and the change in geometry as the brakes were released and I began to apply the throttle.

My motorcycle showed no lack of confidence.

As I looked up the track toward my corner exit and eventually turn two, I began to realize this is home.

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