What it feels like to crash a superbike on track at speed

The “Kinks” on the backstretch at Beaverun delay a full throttle entry into the long straight. This is to avoid speeds difficult or impossible to control down the line at the entry of the “Carousel”. You enter the straight “tucked in” (holding on with every possible patch of anatomy) and accelerating to the maximum 13,500 RPM in 5th gear. Maximum speed of the bike is little different in top 6th gear and you can get there faster. During this process, you’re literally aiming the bike. There are no corrections at this speed. At the end of the straight at about 120 miles per hour you “un-tuck” (sit upright catching air to aid slowing) and get on the brakes while downshifting to 3rd. This is a brutal process. The bike shudders and the engine protests, bumping up against the rev-limiter. When the proper entry speed is reached, you slide your butt over to the side and drop your knee to the ground, scraping the rubber knee disc along the track surface. This acts like a weathervane, telling you the lean angle is as good as it gets. Enter the corner about 60 mph. You then choose a “fastest way around” line, settle down and relax. The bike knows the way. There are no mid course corrections. If you calculations are wrong, you are either too slow or sail off the track’s upper rim.

Leaned over about 100 feet from the corner’s apex, the front tire unexpectedly washes out and in the space between two heartbeats you are on the deck. You are no longer in a stimulus-response world. Logic and deductive reason vanish. The world spins like a psychedelic dream, too much, too fast. Other machines fly by you in a jangle of blurred colors and a cacophony of nonlinear sonance. Your cognitive brain collapses to a pure survival mode. You are a powerless observer in a nonlinear world where chaos theory replaces the laws of physics. You see and feel but do not process. You flap your arms and it rains in Peking. You finally slide off into the grass patting the ground to insure you’re really still. The world stops spinning, the colors match their origin and sensibility returns. It has probably been 15 seconds. After stopping you wiggle your fingers and toes, you scramble to stand with your arm up signaling you’re OK and no ambulance needed. The waving yellow flag signals others to slow and avoid. As the flat bed proceeds to pick you and your broken machine up, others ride by slowly with their arms up, smirking with their thumbs up. Been there, done that.

(Afterword). Racing tires never lose traction. Well, almost never. The rubber formula is designed for maximum adhesion, especially on the sides of the tire where turning takes place. When they do lose traction it’s usually a tire pressure or temperature problem. Tire pressures must be incredibly accurate and neurotically checked and changed depending on track conditions. Straight up racing tires are of a compound that only works between relatively narrow temperature range (very hot). They require Chicken Hawk Tire Warmers back at the pits to insure the tire is always hot, even when not moving. And these tires only last about two days on the track, at $300.00 per tire. So most amateurs use tires that are amenable to a wider temperature range and last longer, but are not as sticky. The tire warms up to operating temperature during one lap. Does not require Chicken Hawks and lasts for an entire season usually. The particular tire that washed out on me was a Pirelli Diablo Corsa. Got good reviews when it came out. Then reports of front wheel slippage started appearing, me included and as of two months ago Pirelli came out with the “Corsa III” (an upgrade) with a different rubber compound on the sides. I suspect they figured it out too.

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