Diary of a First Time Racer
Author: Ashe Ilsley Date Posted: 30 October 2020
Racer Fast Dave (or at least significantly faster than our Dave) was kind enough to lend me all his gear; his leathers, gloves, everything. They dubbed them his 'lucky leathers' as he hasn't died while wearing them yet. This is a racer who goes fast and comes off a lot. So, thank you Dave.
They do weigh a lot, and by the end of suiting up, I swear I was about 10kg heavier than I was before. I nearly died just from walking around! A lot of protective gear, but as always, safety is paramount. This is also why we wear the high visibility vests and ride in a group; so other racers are aware that we are newbies, and know to be more cautious.
Just to the right of this image is the starting line. We all lined up in an area that resembled a car park (for lack of a better description). Here, everyone gets ready to go. We sit there for a while until the riders who were on before us leave thetrack. We get the all clear with a wave of the flag, and we're off.
I did a total of three races throughout the day. During these, the riders did change in and out a lot; people getting on and off. I was one of possibly five riders each getting trained up by Rob, the Motorplex's racing instructor, who also loaned us his bikes for the races. These bikes are specifically designated for training racers.
Being my first time on the track, it was both nerve-racking and exciting. As soon as you get going, you almost immediately amp the bike up to fifth gear. Rob signalled to us when this time came, and off we went. After the hand signal, we shift into fifth gear and do not change the entire time. We don't stop until the end – where I just hit the clutch, brake and rolled it out. Finishing is the same as when you begin (on a separate stretch, of course, so you don't accidentally get hit when pulling in!)
This experience was significantly different to riding a road bike. The Hurtle Gear demo bike Jane Honda, to be specific, which is the bike I've learned to ride on. I was expecting these race bikes to be easier to ride than Jane as they, at first glace, appear a lot smaller and lighter.
This proved not to be the case, which I learned during a practicing session where I dropped the race bike in the parking lot. My first thought had been how small the bike was, but as I squatted down to pick it back up, I found myself stuck. It was much heavier than I'd been expecting.
Not only are these bikes heavier than road bikes, they're set up differently as well. The handlebars are closer together and I found myself more tucked in than what I'd previously experienced on the road. It's not quite as relaxing as a road bike. Interestingly enough, they also didn't have speedos, so I couldn't quite gauge how fast I was going. All I do know is that you're never quite going as fast as you think you are!
By the third race, the vibrations, mixed with the more hunched pose, started to take a toll on my wrists. I definitely wasn't expecting racing to be quite so physically exhausting. The novice in me thought the bike would be doing most of the work. Absolutely not the case! It was so tiring, but so much fun.
Bring on next season!