This year I decided to try my hand at flat track racing and I signed up for the half day of instruction offered by www.goflattrack.com
Sunday June 10th was the day and Pemberton Speedway was the place, all I needed to do was show up, the school supplies everything from all of the safety equipment you need plus a Honda 450 motorcycle in flat track configuration. http://flattrackbc.com/racing-info/pemberton-speedway/
Since I’m leaving on my cross Canada trip in two weeks I thought a fully loaded trip to Pemberton would be a good test ride to see how the fit and handling was going to work out on my Vulcan with everything I planned to bring and decided to head up on Saturday and camp overnight and come home Sunday night after race school.
Saturday turned out to be very cold with rain showers but I wasn’t going to let that stop me and I managed to avoid the on and off rain up to Pemberton, often missing it by a few minutes in places judging by how wet the roads were. Arriving in the early afternoon at the speedway Saturday’s race class was getting underway so I went and found a place to set up my tent and have some lunch. Pretty soon the weather took a real turn for the worse with gusty winds and turning very cold raining off and on, blustery weather that had me taking shelter in my tent to read. The weather did clear enough around dinner time so I was able to cook up a quick camp meal before turning in early.
The weather was looking a bit more promising, the sun was trying to stay out and it was a bit warmer, after making breakfast and my 2nd coffee was kicking in I took a wander over to the track area to look around and taking the opportunity to walk the track and have a good look at it. It may seem flat and compacted when your in the stands but up close and personal is another thing, you start to see the ruts, the heaves and the bumps, I also noticed how turns 1 and 2 were slick with clay on the inside and dryer, looser dirt higher up, corners 3 and 4 were dry, well rutted down low and loose sandy soil higher up in the turn towards the wall. I was scheduled for the afternoon class so spent the morning packing up camp and doing some stretching and limbering up for what was soon to come.
After signing a waiver and paying for the course I was given knee and elbow pads, motocross pants and boots, a motocross jersey as well as a chest/back/shoulder pad combo and of course a full face helmet and goggles. I opted to use my own gloves. Once I was fitted up it was time to find a ‘hot shoe’ that fit the boot I had on, I say boot as you only need one for the left foot. A steel plate in the shape of a boot print with a small edge to hold your boot in and a steel strap to slide the toe under with what looks like a dog collar thru a ring at the heel that is tightened over the arch of the foot to hold it on…. and this is why everyone starts walking with a limp as soon as you get it strapped on, it’s kind of comical.
The class was taught by Aaron Hesmer, Canadian Speedway Champion and a guy who knows his stuff, we got the basics of sitting position and why, he covered the bikes and how they handle and what has been done to them that makes them flat trackers such as no front brakes and we were given the heads up on track safety. Once everyone had that down we could grab whatever bike we wanted and head out on the track to feel it all out. By my second lap I was pretty comfortable sliding around the corner with my left foot firmly planted on the ground and began to spin the rear wheel more letting the bike drift through the turns….for about 6 laps.
It’s amazing how quickly I tired, I had to come in for a rest and pretty soon so did everyone else.
After we all had a chance to catch our breath there was another class session while Aaron explained the finer points of flat tracking, one reason my arms were burning out so fast was due to the death grip I had on the bars and I had to keep reminding myself to loosen my grip, and it worked but this was just one small thing on the long list of things to think about all while going as fast as you can on a rough surface and very quickly you begin to see the scope of what it takes to be a professional racer. Fighting the bike around the track like I was is not the way to do it. And so the afternoon went, we would go out to try different skills and Aaron would coach us from the sidelines or from his bike on the track while we were able to pull off and on again as we needed. I didn’t take long to see how everyone was improving and letting the bikes open up a bit more on the straights and levels of confidence increasing in the corners.
All to soon I realized the afternoon was drawing to an end as were my physical limits so I stopped before I was going to hurt myself or someone else. Peeling off the motocross gear and getting back into my leathers I was soon back on the road home and I don’t think I stopped smiling the whole way.
If you’ve ever thought of giving flat track racing a try or just want to brush up on your riding skills this is a great course to take, a ton of fun and Aaron is a great guy who explains the concepts of flat track in a way that’s easy to understand and in a casual setting, check the link at the top for dates and places.
**Next week I leave on a 6 week X-Canada trip… follow that on my instagram @Opus710WheelspinAdventures.