Three years ago, I had a high side crash at turn one on Thunderbolt at New Jersey Motorsports Park. It was the last race of the season, so I didn’t get an opportunity to dust it off and redeem myself. That’s bad luck. After I got out of the hospital (broken collar bone and a massive hard drive reboot concussion), I brought my race bike, a Suzuki SV650, to Tim at Tim Harney Motorcycles to replace my pretzeled forks and fix all the bits that broke. Then, at the turn of the next season, our Triple C Racing spec Miata team gained steam and I was in the Miata paddock many weekends with the guys. The weekends I wasn’t racing cars, I was out on my new Yamaha 250cc motocross race bike, thanks to my wife Kelli – she’s excellent with Christmas gifts. I never rode ma MX bike, and at 40 years old, that’s a late start, but being a city kid, I never had a dirt background and it’s an important part of riding. I wanted to learn how to master a sliding bike on the dirt, because picking up that education on a road racing track isn’t advisable. I rode that bike for two years on private farm tracks Upstate, out on Long Island and wherever else I could bring it. The physics of riding a motorcycle are the same on road as they are on dirt, but the application is different. My first season was filled with crashes. My second season was a bit smoother, a bit better to watch, but still filled with crashes. From the training, I’ve learned to open the throttle with more authority to stand the bike up and then keep the power on when the front wheel gets light and the rear slides and bucks, looking for purchase on a loose surface. Fully commit with the throttle and allow the machine to do its job below me was the main takeaway.
2017 is the year, I decided. Starting in January, I went on a diet and made myself a more common fixture at Crunch Fitness in Fort Greene. Riding a motorcycle near its limit or your own is about as physical as it gets. Before I could get my mind right, I had to get the body right. Right now, I weigh 154 pounds. That’s lighter than I’ve ever been in my adult life. I’m approaching similar levels of strength I had when I was 19. I’ve been going to the gym in the mornings with Kelli and Phelim Kavanagh – son of CCC founder Phil and second generation CCC royalty. We push each other.
YCRS. Like most anyone who attends, I left transformed. Nick and team helped me recognize I have been rushing corner entry my whole life in both cars and bikes. It’s one thing to race to an apex, but it’s another thing to slow yourself enough to really get your vehicle pointed in the right direction for a meaningful throttle pull out of the corner. I strung together more than 100 laps of Thunderbolt together with the YCRS guys in all conditions, from cold rain to a sunny, dry tarmac. Never once did I have a moment where I thought I might bin it, where in the past, I’ve had one of those moments nearly every other lap. Something clicked. I rekindled the talent I had, learned a few new skills and strung it all together to learn that the only thing more satisfying in the world than dragging a knee around a corner is hoisting the front wheel on corner exit with a purposeful, totally committed roll of the throttle.
I’m feeling good. I’m ready for more. Next up, a track day at New York Safety Track on June 24th and 25th.