Although I have spent a fair amount of time over the years on a motocross track, until recently, I had never been on a roadrace circuit. With a borrowed 1999 CBR600F4 (courtesy of Temecula Motorsports in Southern California), I had the chance to ride at Willow Springs International Raceway (also in Southern California).
Accompanying me was Chris Steward, owner of Trail Boss Tours and an instructor with DP Safety School. Chris was there to show me the way around Willow, as well as to teach me the basics about roadrace track safety and protocol.
Although I’ve ridden street bikes for many years, and consider myself a pretty good rider, this was a new and exciting experience — and a little nerve racking as well. Being baptised at the “fastest track in the West” (Willow’s nickname) called for a great deal of caution. I certainly wasn’t going to brake late for any of the corners on the first day. Corner entry speeds are very high at Willow.
The track also has some tricky sections, including the infamous turn 8 which some riders negotiate at over 150 miles per hour (not me).
As the day went on, and after several 20 minute sessions on the track, I became much more comfortable and really began to enjoy myself. When I am riding well on a motocross track, I feel like I am “flowing”. I started to get this feeling towards the end of the day at Willow, and I have found myself days (and weeks) later riding Willow Springs in my head in anticipation of my next visit there.
As I mentioned yesterday, the F4 performed flawlessly, and was probably the perfect bike for my inagural day on a roadrace course. It has plenty of power and, more importantly for a novice, the power comes on strongly and progressively. As I got more aggressive exiting second gear corners, the bars would get light, but nothing approaching a tank-slapper materialized. Steady and predictable, yet nimble.
If you’ve been riding on the streets without ever riding on a racetrack, you definately owe it to yourself to do this. Just make sure you ride within your abilities and knowledge of the track. Don’t try to be a hero.