I attended the Gingerman Track Day sponsored by Motoworks Chicago on August 13, 2012. Gingerman Raceway in located near South Haven, Michigan, about 2.5 hours from my home near Chicago.
The event started at 8 am, and since I lose an hour going from Chicago to Michigan, I got up at 4 AM to make it there on time. I ran into some rain going around Lake Michigan, so I stopped and put on my rain gear, but I still arrived a little on the wet side! Gotta get me some better rain gear!
Johnny Scheff of Motoworks Chicago has been sponsoring this event for 9 years. Motoworks is a BMW, Triumph and Ducati dealership located on South Western avenue in Chicago, about 8 miles from my house. Johnny partners with the Sport Bike Track Time folks who supply instructors, photographers and event coordination. Our event coordinator was Nick “Gunshow” Amelio, STT Northern Region Director.
The first step of the day (after signing waiver papers and my life away!) was to get my bike ready for the track and to pass technical inspection. Here I am taping up all my glass and plastic per instructions from the track technician. Interesting to me was that they wanted our brake light taped completely black so that riders behind you could not see when you were braking. They told us this is because lights tends to make riders focus on the lights instead of watching the rider, his body shifts and position, and the track environment around you. Riding this way took a little getting used to, but it turned out to be true. I could tell much more about the rider in front of me without seeing his lights.
The other interesting and important thing they had me do was to air down my tires to 30 PSI instead of my usual near 40 PSI… for obvious reasons (more traction)!
Once the bike passed inspection, I attended the riders meeting and heard all the rules, policies and procedures for the day, designed to keep it a safe and fun event. A few of the rules were:
- Safety is concern #1
- No passing on corners
- No passing your group leader
- This is not a race!
- Have fun!
The leaders then asked us to self identify if we were novice or more experienced riders. Even though I have over 25,000 miles of road experience and an Advanced Riding Technique 1 Workshop under my belt, it was still my first track day event, so I went in with the “novice” group.
Next, I attended a meeting with 5-6 other novice riders and our instructor for about 30 minutes. My group instructor was Chris Hipple, STT Northern Instructor. This meeting was followed by 30 minutes of track time putting into practice the things we had just been instructed about. This cycle of 30 minutes on, and 30 minutes off track extended throughout the day, except for a lunch break, and then some later afternoon free track time.
Myself and one other guy were the only 2 Bonnevilles there that day – both black. Definitely we the most “classic” looking bikes there. Most everyone else were on sport bikes of many types including: Ducati, BMW, Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, Triumph, Kawasaki, Moto Guzzi and more. I didn’t see any Norton’s or BSA’s.
It was a rainy overcast day, which turned out to be perfect for learning the valuable skill of how to ride on wet pavement. Some of the things we worked on throughout the rainy day were:
- How to pick a “line”
- Entering and leaving corners
- High speed gear shifting without using the clutch
- Leaning and body position shifting on turns and corners
Here’s how I improved on the “leaning” skill.
Another skill I had never tried or mastered was shifting without a clutch. It turns out that most any modern bike has a transmission capable of this. What you do is let up slightly on the throttle and kick the shift lever up to the next highest gear, then bear down on the throttle again… all within a spilt second. It works!
Here I am working on picking my line through a curve.
Many motorcycle clubs or dealerships sponsor these types of events throughout the country. Overall this was a great day of valuable learning experiences for me, and an event type that I would recommend to any serious rider. The cost of this event was $200, which included all the track time and instruction, the lunch break, a CD full of hundreds of photos of the day and beverages to stay hydrated.
I was pleased with how my Bonneville performed throughout the day. It certainly was no match for the sport bikes with larger engines on the straightaways, but it can hold its own through the curves. I was able to get a sense of just how much my tires will “stick” to wet pavement. I was very surprised at how well my stock Metzeler’s did. It helped to increase my confidence, but with a healthy respect when riding on wet pavement.
A few more random shots.