Scanning it in

On a beautiful fall day when the birds are chirping and the squirrels frolicking insanely in the pine-tree, I’m inside nursing a sprained foot that I re-injured, collecting digital bits and bytes – materials of my portfolio, from years ago when I cartooned a bit for CityBike. This one had to do with the return of Freddie Spencer and the issue of riding a Ducati vs. his weight…

UPDATE: That (above) was when Fast Freddie went to Superbike, after the diesels (4-strokes) took over Formula One. Before that, during the recession of ’93 he was on a French Yamaha 500cc two-stroke with the semi-big-bang motor, and I was on the other side of the tape with a Media Pass and a long lens, thirty-feet from the track’s edge. It was a time of great personal delight.
During practice I saw a bike come screaming into Turn #5 at Laguna. For the race (and from my Reg Pridmore class a few months prior) I remember #5 was configured as an intentionally confusing kind of nasty combination of three-apex left-hand corner with a couple dips, and a rise on exit that all played havoc with suspension and traction — but was easy to get into from a photographer’s POV, and had the potential to produced some great high-side crash-footage. A couple guys had already gone down within the hour, but in unspectacular low-sides when their suspension and traction came to odds with their braking-point.
And here comes a guy on a shabby looking nondescript blue-gray bike, well above the speeds seen earlier, practically sideways going IN and as out-of-shape as any guy who was just about to toss it away – and suddenly somehow through a series of twitchy miracles and judicious application of throttle, he snapped it through the dips, rises and apex on a completely different “line” than any rider previous, and was gone up the hill to #6… And I had to look in my book for the number: Freddie Spencer…And he was my hero after that.
I waited until he came around again and got a pretty ok shot.

About NotClauswitz

The semi-sprawling adventures of a culturally hegemonic former flat-lander and anti-idiotarian individualist, fleeing the toxic cultural smug emitted by self-satisfied lotus-eating low-land Tesla-driving floppy-hat wearing lizadroid-Leftbat Califorganic eco-tofuistas ~

6 thoughts on “Scanning it in

  1. Did you take the class on the new track, or the old one?

    CityBike had a photo of me and a couple other bikes in the last corner, with a Harley sliding across the corner into the shooter's lap. Think the HD lost it while braking. Might have been the first lap of an AMA race, early 80's.

    Turns 2 and 3 of the old track intimidated me, for some reason. They were taken pretty much flat out, and it would take me most of a race before I could keep my right wrist from rolling off a bit. Part of the problem was a lack of track time, as only the AMA raced there, the AFM stopped some years before. Seems some lawyer moved close to the track, and sued everyone who made noise.

    When I did that class, I had to back off and upshift between 5 and 6 due to the sound meter set up there. I had a set of Staintunes on my Duc, and was warned I would get banned if I set off the meter. Couldn't re-install the stock mufflers, as the pipes had been cut and welded just in front of them, to increase ground clearance. The stock pipes would drag that elbow. (stupid design for a Duc, looked just like the pipes on the Dunstall Norton that would drag on city street corners!)

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  2. Six – that track is unmerciful! I think everyone in the Reg Pridmore class passed me twice. My FZ600 was no match for all that asphalt and I felt lost out there. The Corkscrew was easy though, just cut the corner and ride over the edge and go down the waterfall…

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  3. Amen Dirt.
    I thought I was hot when I did Code's school. Then, as I was flogging around the track, riding at 9.5 tenths, one of the instructors rode up in front of me, turned around and pointed to his tail (indicating I was supposed to follow his line). He then proceeded to run the rest of the lap with only occasional looks forward and one hand on the bars.

    I loved Alice's. We used to ride up 1, go to Alice's for lunch, then ride over to San Jose and stop into Road Rider's.

    I did get to ride Laureles Grade with Bubba Shobert once. The boy was still fast but he was surrounded by squids.

    I also had good luck with the Dunlops Will. My F2 came with Battleaxes and I stuck with them for a while. Just before I sold it I put on some D207's (I think, it was a while ago) and loved them.

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  4. Randy M came into Cycle Sports a couple times around '78ish. Looking for parts for his TZ250. There were a couple parts in common with the RD's, but he stopped coming in when we wouldn't stock TZ parts.

    I did Keith Codes school at Laguna in '97, I think. Rainy day. Had put some new tires on my '96 Duc SS-SP. REALLY bad choice of rubber. Supposed to be a big seller for the 4cyl bikes. Sucked big time on the Duc. No traction at either end. Think I kept them on for two weeks, and sold them cheap to the girl who did tires at a shop near Alameda.

    Those Ducs tend to push the front end, so you really need sticky rubber. I was sliding both ends in most corners. The front would let go when tipping in for the apex, and then the rear would slide soon after gathering up the front end somewheres in the middle of the corner. I still had the stock (TALL) gearing, and the heavy flywheel, so it wouldn't slow down when the throttle was chopped. So, I was usually going too fast for the corners. This was during the no brakes, no shifting, part. Traffic thinned out as the class continued, due to bikes crashing in the wet. Mostly they crashed at the top of the Corksrew, IIRC. You crash, your're done riding.

    That class, with those tires, was the scariest time I've ever had on a track. Those tires slid everywhere. Felt like riding a dirt bike on ice, except those Ducs have very restricted clip-ons swing. I hit the stops a few times, which is damn scary itself. Had a friend who crashed his on the street from that problem.

    Drifting my Guzzi racebike was no big deal, but this ride felt like I was near crashing virtually every second the wheels were turning. I was thinking maybe it was just a slippery track, so went for a long ride the following weekend, up Hwy #1 north of the Bay. Got rained on, and it was pretty much the same. Lots of sliding around. Just a little less slippery. I went over the hill to #101, and rode home on freeways. And that just sucks on that bike!

    After that, I only put D207's on it, and ended up only using race compound tires for the street and track. The conventional wisdom was it was a waste to run race tires on the street, but the Duc is an exception, I think. With a near stock bike, I could push into and out of corners, while tip-toeing the apex, and exhibit obvious frame flex. Spent a day chasing higher hp bikes, and it wiggled going in and out of corners all day. Might have wiggled less with enough hp to spin the rear. The other Ducs had 20-30hp more, with the same tires, and no wiggle complaints like mine. That was my last serious ride, prior to suffering a stroke.

    A year later, one of those Duc riders tried a cheaper tire, lost the front end and died after sliding over a cliff. Leg got trapped under the bike.

    Drat, I've got to start paying attention to word count. I'm just rambling on…

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  5. I agree about the switch from the two-stokes to the diesels – it made me sell the XR400 and buy a KTM300 just to smell the pre-mix. Sometimes you'd see randy Mamola up at Alice's on Skyline. We talked one afternoon for a bit. Those guys are all arrested-adolescents who's childhood was accelerated away from them on the wings of hydrocarbon – their talent was too much.

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  6. Dude, I never knew this about you. I am so stoked to find another who loves this stuff. I met Rainey (actually a few times) after his accident. He likes to run his racing chair up and down the Rec Trail. I was a bicycle officer (between stints on the motor) and he'd stop to chat. Really nice guy.
    Kev was always onme of my favorite riders but never met him. I do know Doug Chandler semi well. He had a shop in Salinas before I moved and we used to go in to buy bicycle and motorcycle stuff. Another great guy. I took in my 996Superhawk and had him sell it for me.
    I loved Laguna (I never call it Mazda raceway). I took a class from Keith Code. I have 22 laps at speed on a ZX6. The first time I went down the Corkscrew I scared the crap out of myself. It's like falling off a building.
    One of the saddest days of my life was the switch from 500cc 2 strokes to 4 strokes. I quit watching after that.
    Next time I'm back in town for a visit I'm dropping you a line. I'll but lunch in exchange for some stories.

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