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July 23rd 2012 Track Day at Loudon, NH

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Ducati Summer

I’ve been getting out on a motorcycle as much as I can this summer.  Work has been super busy (our business tends to flow in cycles), so I haven’t been able to ride as much as I’d like, but it’s still been a good summer.  I picked up a track bike early this summer so I could push myself at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway more.  I’ve taking my Monster 900 on the track several times, but she has so much custom work and parts I’m always very anxious about wiping out.  Now I have a used dedicated track bike, which is a bit of a beater, but very fast.  I was on the track up in Loudon last month, and had a great time.  It rained the whole day, which made things a bit slow and very wet, but I still enjoyed it and got to practice some good racing.  You can see photos from that day here:

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Yesterday some friends and I did a big loop up into New Hampshire.  We followed this route, more or less: http://www.motorcycleroads.com/75/289/New-Hampshire/Monadnock-Run.html I missed a turn once, and we ended up on one of the best roads ever totally by accident!  Overall we had perfect weather, really great roads, and had a great time.  Everything from big sweepers to super tight turns (one caught Britt by surprise).  There was very little traffic and generally good pavement.  I can’t wait to do it again!

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I’m heading back to the track tomorrow for another track day. Usually I ride up the night before, stay in a hotel, do the track day and then ride back, but this time I rented a U-Haul trailer and will be driving up in comfort early tomorrow morning, and then driving home after. This also means I can track-prep the bike before hand, as I did today, and not have to spend time dealing with converting it from street legal to track-happy, and then back again. So it should be a great day! I’ll report back when I’m done.

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Mount Washington Ride 2011

Last year a large group of about 12 motorcycles rode up to Mount Washington from Boston, drove up the mountain, and came home via the Kangamangus Highway (which has got to be one of the best roads in the Northeast.  You can see pictures here: Mount Washington 2010 Photos

This year was a much smaller ride, just three bikes: myself, Christian (which Hannah riding with him) and Alex.  All Ducatis, which was fun.  Having a smaller group was easier in many ways and made the whole day a little more laid back, although I did miss the massive group ride dynamic as well.

It was a long day, leaving my house at 9 AM and getting home just after midnight, but it was a lot of great riding, amazing views, good photos, and good friends.  Climbing Mount Washington was amazing as always.  At the top there was a huge glider circling the mountain and leveraging the wind and updrafts.  I shot some video of that.  On the way home at a rest stop in New Hampshire I got some cool photos of the moon behind impressive clouds.

You can see photos and the glider video here:   Mount Washington 2011 Photos

or just look below:

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Ducati Track Day at NH Motor Speedway

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Only three days after I was in Loudon, NH at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS) two Sundays ago, which you can read about in Emma’s Blog post about NASCAR, I was back in Loudon, back at the NHMS, but this time it wasn’t a family outing, I was here alone to ride my Ducati Monster on the NHMS Road Race course. I’d done a track day here about 10+ years before, back when it was the New Hampshire International Speedway before NASCAR purchased the track a few years ago and renamed it, but I hadn’t had my motorcycle on a track since. I HAD however had my car on this track just two months earlier for a two day performance driving Audi track event (which was amazing), so I was re-familiaried with the course, the turns, the best lines (although they vary a bit from cars to bikes and between vehicles based on weigh, power, and many other factors), the pit entrance and exits, etc…

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I was riding the same bike as I had 10+ years ago, my ’96 Ducati Monster 900 (Mona), although within the previous month I’d enhanced the engine with a 944 high compression conversion and 41mm flat slide FCR Keihn carbs which gives the bike much more power and lets it pull right up to redline without falling off as previous semi-stock engine setup had done (previously it had an open air box, tuned jet kit, slip-ons, lightened flywheel). I’d also installed SpeedyMoto Tall Boy clip-on handle bars to replace the stock uni-bar. The clip-ons give the bike a more aggressive riding position and allow for better adjustment for finding the perfect set of angles and positions for the most hand/arm comfort.

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Despite some trepidation around the event, mostly from not having tracked my bike in over a decade, and also from no knowing anyone at the event, everything went very smoothly and I had a really great time. I slept at a nearby hotel the night before so I could make the 7 AM start time without having to leave Massachusetts pre-dawn and exhausted.  I made it to the track at 7 AM and soon discovered that I was one of the very very few people there who didn’t have a huge enclosed motorcycle trailer specifically for hauling my bike(s), tools, gasoline, multiple race leather suits, coolers, etc… to the track.  All I had with me was my backpack with a couple small tools, some tape, water bottle, power bars, and yesterday’s clothes.  I was one of the very few true amateurs there as it seems like almost everyone else either raced competitively at some level, or the very least did enough track days to warrant the expense of a motorcycle racing trailer and tow vehicle.

We were all split into three groups based on experience.  I was in the middle group as I’ve been riding for many years and have done a track day in the past.  Each group rotates through classroom time (learning theory) and track time (applying theory) with short breaks in between each for water/bathroom/tinkering needs.  Basically you’re in the classroom for 20 minutes, then you get a ~10 minute break, then you’re on the track for 20 minutes, then you get a ~10 minute break, then back into the classroom.  You might think riding only 20 minutes of each hour isn’t enough, but when you’re on the track, at track speeds, really pushing yourself and trying to improve your form, line, throttle control, etc… 20 minutes is physically and mentally exhausting.

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I learned a ton that day, everything from body position and how to hang off the side of the bike to increase your cornering speed, from the differences in best approach lines from the car I’d driven there two months ago to the bike I was on now, I learned that my bike was WAY faster than it was previously, and also that there are many bikes and riders who are much faster than me:)  Both the bike and I made it through the day unscathed, although the tires are nicely worked:)

I had a great time and now I’ve got the bug.  Next year I plan to do a lot more track days, and am wrestling with how to best balance my love of racing my car and my bike.  I also need to figure out if I should pick up a used track bike (there are a lot of reasons that tracking my Monster is probably not the best idea – everything from my gas tank being a work of art and virtually irreplaceable if/when I do lay it down and the fact the bike is really setup for street riding not track riding, and I don’t want to ruin the street-ability of it).

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Montreal Motorcycle Road Trip

This past weekend Christian and I rode our Ducati Multistradas up to Montreal. We took the long road up, driving West on route 2, connected on to route 116 (which was great) and then rode North on Vermont route 100 from the Massachusetts border up to 108 to St. Albans. Route 100 has got to be the best motorcycle road on the East Coast! It’s amazing. Beautiful sweeping turns through the Vermont mountains, with the tree leaves changing colors for the Fall, no traffic, no police, just open road.

The only downside was it was colder than expected, and once we headed into Northern Vermont, gaining altitude and once the sun had set we quickly moved from chilly to COLD! We started having to stop at gas stations just to warm up a bit indoors before continuing on. We rolled into Montreal about 12 hours after we set out, cold but alive. The bridge we drove over heading into the city gave us a killer view of the night time city skyline. While the ride up was cold, the amazing ride and roads more than made up for it. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

We stayed at the Opus Montreal, sister hotel to the Opus Vancouver (one of Emma and my favorite haunts out there). Other than a rocky start with room service, the stay was great!! We did some shopping (warm gear for the ride back), walked all over the city, hit the casino, did Old Town the next day, some more walking, and had an early night in after some great Italian food.

We rode back on the fourth day, heading back directly on the interstates, which is less fun than back roads, but if you have to ride on interstates I-89 through Vermont is probably the best one for a beautiful ride. We hit Brookline early, grabbed a slice of pizza before rocking the William Gibson reading/signing at Coolidge Corner.

It was a great trip! Amazing rides, great company, and exploring Montreal was a lot of fun!

Here are some pictures from the trip: