Would you believe it, I've had yet another absolutely epic weekend at the track! Only difference being, this time I got to ride! Hampton Downs racetrack hosted the "Big Bike Day Out", a new event organised and run by the awesome crew at Playday On Track. Two days worth of bikes doing laps, at a comfortable pace for pretty much any rider! Last weekend was the first in a new ten year venture between the organizers and Hampton's, and it was a huge success! Saturday had a reported 120 bikes, some of who continued into the 100 odd that made up Sunday's numbers. Add to that a few cruisers, some extremely quick Super-Karts (on Sunday), as well as a small contingent of classic cars, it was pretty packed! One of the countries top suspension gurus was there giving out free advice, as well as the teams from the local Kawasaki and Honda shops. There was no end of cool toys for any avid biker to admire!!!
The organizers somehow managed to squeeze in 6 full sessions for each group on both days, which I thought was pretty amazing in itself! I only had enough finances to attend on the Sunday, but I spoke with a few people that did both days and the story was the same all round - there wasn't a single complaint to be heard! From what I could gather, everyone in attendance thought the event was top notch. Even the top Superbike guys were happy to chat, share advice, and give the newbies (ie: me!) any help we might need to improve upon our skills.
First session out, I was pretty nervous, and only turned in some pretty slow laps. I'm not entirely sure, but the rear tire on my little 250 felt a bit squirmy, and I wasn't getting as much top end power as I thought I should be. So at the end of the session I pulled back into the pits to check my tire pressures, and drop a couple of PSI out of the rear. Quick check of the oil and water, anything that might have come loose, bolts, etc, then it was pretty much time for the second go! Straight away, once back out on track, the bike felt way more stable through the turns, and I was getting better power out of the turns, which kept the revs more in the "power" range, thus giving me more top end, especially down the main straight. The whole bike really felt like it was working properly, which had me smiling! I finally got the rear tire heating up enough to start scuffing it on the turns, and my leaning is definitely looking better than before. I was told the track temperature at mid-afternoon was 54 degrees Celsius!
I skipped the third session to talk suspension with the guru himself, Mr Robert Taylor! Such a worthwhile decision, he has just sent me an email following up on our discussion, detailing in specific a whole bunch of small things I can do with my setup, even though I don't have any 'proper' adjustable settings like most new sport bikes have. Simple things like filling my forks with slightly more oil, to reduce the air gap, or installing longer spacers on shorter springs to reduce the spring friction inside the fork tubes... Lots of things the average biker would never think about! Whether or not I'll even be able to feel the difference if I do slightly change anything, I don't know, but it's nice to know that I can change things up eventually if I choose to.
For the rest of the sessions on track, I concentrated on my lines through corners, focusing on things I had been told by previous instructors, and got quite a good flow on by the end of the day! My confidence in my tires, suspension, and throttle control are definitely growing with every lap, and even though I'm far from what others would call "fast", I reckon I'm doing pretty good!
The only slight issue I had throughout the day was the bike overheating towards the end of sessions, but only if I was changing gears over 14 thousand RPM. If I shifted before 14k, the bike's temp stayed in the middle, but if I got even close to the 19k redline then things started to get hot quite quickly. I think I need to upgrade to a bigger radiator, and my research has found that one off an NSR250 will fit with only small modifications, and has a thicker core for more fluid. Apart from that though, the bike is running mint!
Anyways, a huge thanks to Ash and Gary and Tony from Playday On Track, you guys put on a great event! I'm already looking forward to the next one!
Next weekend my partner and I are taking our car to a show'n'shine, something a little different to the usual I know, but bound to be fun too!
Check out some quick pictures from the track below, I've also uploaded a full set to my Flickr account...
Till next time!