Takin’ It To The Track

December 1 2009

In our previous issue of Motorcycle Mojo, we ran a story about the All-Bike Drags at the Grand Bend Motorplex. The sidebar at the end of the story focused on the fact that anybody can ride in off the street and enter their bike in a drag race: no special license and no special training required. You just need the desire to go as fast as you dare in a controlled environment. We thought we’d take our own advice and go racing for an afternoon.

Roger, our multitalented sales guy at Mojo, phones me up. “Wanna go drag racing?” “Hell Yeah!” is my immediate response.

Folks, I have never been drag racing in my life. I’ve watched it, marveled at the horsepower, but have never set foot on a drag strip. I wander around my shack thinking about going drag racing for next few days. Drag racing…I don’t have the first idea what to do, but the idea amuses me to no end and I am quite excited when the big day rolls around.

We have two machines to run: a 2009 Yamaha VMAX, which is knocking on the door at around 200 hp, and a 2009 Harley-Davidson V-Rod Muscle, which looks way past fast even when parked.

Cayuga Dragway Park is now known as Toronto Motorsports Park, and it’s quite an establishment. Located about four miles south of the town of Cayuga, Ontario, it boasts a full road-race course, the drag strip and a very well put together motocross track. If you’re bored at this place, it’s your own fault.

People start to roll in from registration with a mix of ‘run-whatcha-brung’ machines, all ages of metrics in all shapes and sizes, from late-model touring bikes like Ultra Classics and loaded Wings, all the way up to the big boys on pampered gazillion-dollar rockets.

After some wander time, Glenn and Roger show up on the VMAX and V-Rod and Gwen on her new ride, a very sweet Suzy. As soon as I see the bikes, this incredibly weird feeling comes over me. I’ve done some wild stuff: ten years in marine search and rescue, another ten of running into burning buildings while more sane people were running out, thus I’m not what you’d call an excitable guy. Today is different. For some reason my normal composure has taken the day off. My heart rate is going up, I’m sweating worse than an ice-cold can of beer on a hot day. Oh man, this is weird. I jump on the V-Rod and take it for a spin around the parking lot. Heart rate is still too high. I do the same on the VMAX, but that bit of rocket science just makes the whole issue worse.

It’s going to be a bit of a wait before we wiggle our way through the tech inspection, so I talk to some of the guys and ask dumb questions about drag racing. I see this guy on a Hog who’s sitting in the line-up and ask him, “So you line up, the yellow staging lights start to flash down and then when the green light turns on you, umm go, right?” He tries to see my face behind the big ‘newbie’ sign I’m walking around with. “Well, sorta,” he replies. “The staging lights come on and start to run down the tree, but if you see the green you’re waaay too late.” Okay, remember that, treat the green light like a cabbie would in downtown Toronto.

I wander across the track. What the heck! My boots are sticking like a wet tongue on a frost-covered steel fence post in the dead of winter. I find out that it’s drag strip glue. Oh, c’mon, they make glue especially for drag strips? Yup. Now there’s a helmet ponder. I guess that’s what happens when guys from 3M have a real slow day…”Hey Vern, once yer done with those sticky-note thingies, I got this drag strip idea.” I also surmise that drag-strip glue means I might not have to do a burnout to warm up the rubber. Thank God, because I’m not real good at that trick. Pro guys probably smoke tires like a good Cuban cigar. The first set of guys light up their tires and my heart goes ballistic. If I keep this pace I’ll need to pressure-wash my drawers before I get to the staging lights.

Roger rolls up on the VMAX. “Wanna go?” Gulp. “Okay.” I climb into my rumpled riding gear, jump on the bike, and my whole insides feel like disorganized goop. Thankfully, we skip the burnout thing, which suits me just fine. Glenn gets set up on the V-Rod, and bang! We’re off! My brain is screaming “Keep the front-end down!” Then something odd happens between my ears. Everything quiets down. I get tunnel vision and become as calm as a wet pail of soot. All my pre-ride jitters were nonsense. It all comes down to simply turning on a tap. I fly down the strip, but since I’d left my visor up my eyeballs are now at the back of my skull –maybe that’s why I have tunnel vision. I roll off the throttle and coast to the timing shack where you get your this-is-how-fast-you-went receipt. 12.649 seconds, 114.25 mph. Oh yeah! Mother of speed! Let’s do it again, can-we-can-we-can-we? All of my body parts feel normal, except for a wicked helmet-crackin’ grin. Glenn and I putt back for the next run. (I beat him by the way.)

When we get back to the starting grid, Roger is all smiles and asks me if I used the VMAX’s shift light. It’s this monster spotlight, aimed directly at your face, that’s mounted on the upper-right side of the speedo housing; it pops on when you’re supposed to shift. “Light? What light?” See, there ya go, tunnel vision.

While we wait for our next run, I note the riders. What a mixer! There are guys and gals ranging from twenty-something to fellas well into their seventies, and these guys know what they are doing. The next time you see Gramps on some good-looking ’84 1000 cc Kawasaki, think twice about who’s going to come out of the hole first, ’cause ya may get a surprise.


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