Boys Trip to Hong Kong

Quick trip to Hong Kong with some mates underway.  We're just here four days, swooping in to get some custom suits made.  This place is NOTHING like I was expecting.  I expected something like Beijing or Shanghai, instead this is loads like NYC.  The masses of people, the retail options available, number of American stores around like 7-11 and Pizza Hut, English actually gets you pretty far, tons of white people everywhere, nice cars, great roads an infrastructure, interesting architecture, impressive public works and buildings.  

Didn't plan it this way but turns out this is one of the biggest party weekend in Hong Kong - some event called Rugby 7's.  Don't completely understand the cultural significance, but for some reason it's invaded by Australians and Europeans and many of them are dressed in elaborate costumes to partake in supporting their favorite rugby team?  Movie characters, super heroes, pirates, it's quite like Halloween in the states.  This isn't just a young mans game, the rugby fans are in their 40's and 50's and beyond as well.  It's like San Francisco's street festivals, roads are closed and streets packed with people.

Off to find Michelin star rated dumplings and traditional markets, hope to catch the light show on the city buildings tonight....


AFM Round 1 - Buttonwillow

Of the two racing leagues I compete in, American Federation of Motorcyclists (AFM) is the more competitive one.  It's one of the oldest racing clubs in the country, it's nationally known within the motorsports community.  Last weekend was the season opener at Buttonwillow Raceway Park (where yours truly is the proud Foursquare mayor).  Our race weekend was partially rained out, by Saturday it was clear that Sunday was going to be a wash (I'm so punny, aren't I?)  Contrary to many other racing organizations, ours does NOT run races in the rain.  I'm hugely in favor of this policy.  While the tire manufacturers do make tires purpose built for racing in the rain, that's another set of tires and rims to haul around, and frankly I can't afford to push my bike in the rain due to the inevitable mishaps that would occur.

New to my race career this year and racing season are a few minor changes:

(a)  Like with my other racing organization - WERA, I am racing as an "Expert."  This is roughly akin to varsity vs. junior varsity level competition.  Due to number of race weekends completed successfully I'm now classified as Expert.  This means the competition is as stiff as it gets, and I don't get to race in the "Clubman" series which is only for new racers.  My number plate on my bike is white to reflect my Expert status, Novice racers ride with yellow number plates.

(b)  I'm investing in racing this year like never before.  I'm hiring a professional coach (Ken Hill) a couple times for one-on-one coaching, very excited for this.  The waiting list to get in for coaching is literally years long, I'm eager to get with a master level racer and learn.

(c)  I have a second bike built out to campaign as my backup.  I may also use the second bike throughout the year as a tool to play with suspension settings and gearing changes.  The bikes have a small horsepower difference, mostly because one of them has 10k race miles and is getting a little tired.

(d)  My chief pit mate and racing buddy is now with kid and has halted his racing career.  Many of the guys I started racing with have crashed out and called it quits, lost the interest, don't have the life circumstances to still go after a fundamentally insane hobby, moved out of the area, or paused their race careers to pursue other things.  So this year promises to be an intimate relationship between me, the bikes, the track, and the sport.  I will inevitably develop new friendships along the way, but this not something to head out and do with buddies casually any more.  I am having a big gut check about my interest in this sport lately due to the solitary nine hour and more drives to tracks in Las Vegas and Utah.  Doesn't lessen my interest in the sport, but does make me qualify my reasons for doing with greater gravity.  This comes at great sacrifice to time spent developing geographically local relationships, and I have to be extremely deliberate about getting out of this what I'm seeking.

Now for the results!  Of my three races, two did not run on Saturday due to compressed schedule resulting from the impending rain.  Bike suspension is a funny thing.  It's something of a black art, with equal parts magic, mechanics, speculation, trial and error, geometry and personal preference.  There is certainly a right and a wrong, and currently my setup is wrong.  I hope to remedy the current configuration and am enlisting the help of paid experts to assist.  Things as they are, I feel pretty good about my performance last Saturday.

I raced in the Open Production class, bikes of any size engine can compete, but "production" means there is a limit to the modifications which can be performed on the bike.  Chiefly, must use OEM forks (internals of the forks can be and have been upgraded), must use OEM wheels and brakes, engine may not be modified.  Most of the meaningful and significant parts that one could upgrade for big performance gains may not be modified.

Of the thirteen bikes on the grid I placed fifth.  I started in seventh place, and had my best laptimes at this track by many seconds.  So I'm pleased.  I was also within reach of the next two racers in front of me - if I had my best lap time of the race EVERY lap of the race... I would have ended up with a better position.  This is also true for the people who beat me, but the point is that I'm in the hunt.  Probably the first time I've really felt "in the hunt" for a podium position in an Expert class race.  SO, it was an outstanding weekend!

I have a WERA race in Las Vegas between here and there, but next AFM race is April 17th at Infineon Raceway/ Sears Point in Sonoma.  This will be one of three races that my San Francisco friends can manage attending without much logistic challenge, so if you fancy being part of the Quinton "Slowpoke" Jones official pit crew - make sure to come by and root me on!

The Friendship Plant

I have a fun tradition going with my friends, thought I would tell you about it.  Similar in propagation to a chain letter or Amish friendship bread, we have a friendship spider plant.  I first was gifted a branch of this spider plant some fifteen years ago in college.

Spider plants are funny creatures.  As you can see above, they have spiky outgrowth on the top like Bart Simpson hair or something.   I think this gives them a punk rock undertone.  If my spider plants wore tee shirts, they would surely be black tee shirts with a tuxedo undershirt printed on them.

They are ideal pets for single people.  I travel some 180 flights a year and still have not managed to kill one of these things, despite weeks at a time of neglect, no attention to pot size, temperature, sunlight and frankly very limited attention to water.

When a spider plant is well watered, they spawn little offshoots like the one on the left in the picture above.  Those offshoots can be sat in a bucket of water till they grow roots, then planted on their own, and they make a net new spider plant!  I give them to my friends, then over time they give them to their friends.  We are probably on generation seven or eight in some cases since I started giving them away to friends.

There are few things in life I enjoy more than going to a dinner party at a friends house and seeing a distant descendant of my spider plant in their house.  Regrettably I am not as diligent and process oriented about the distribution of my spider plants as I would like to be.  Some of my best and most long time friends have still somehow escaped being the recipient of one of my spider plant gifts.

If you are one of the three people on this planet who actually reads my blog, it's 100% fair game to feel like you should have one of these plants and drop me a note to mention it.  I have a couple that need planted right now and gifted...  They are reasonably ugly little plants, but quirky and charming in their own way
(kinda like most of my favorite people...)

Important Statistics

This is an extremely important infographic about infographics I rather fancy from Phil Gyford

More Twitter Wordles!

Oh, snap!... new twitter wordles!  Apparently "engine" is one of my most blogged words.  ROFL.


The Bay Tour

A friend flies planes and took me up for a tour over San Francisco last night.  Great sunset trip starting in Palo Alto, up the peninsula over San Francisco, over Marin and down over Oakland, touching down in San Jose, then back up the peninsula.  Living in San Francisco as a single person in my mid-thirties is definitely a Peter Pan experience.  All my friends have exotic and expensive hobbies.  I love it.  Here are some picture...

WERA West - Cal Speedway and Las Vegas Rounds One and Two

Racing in January is strange.  Feels too early to be race season already?  Here's updates...

I forked my twitter profiles and broke off motorcycle related tweeting to a new profile.  Follow me there for more timely updates, we'll see how much I can keep after this blogging thing this year:

Clicky, Click!

Scrambling to get the new bike together by January for WERA round one, I was driving down to Los Angeles calling every Yamaha dealer from San Francisco to LA on the way hoping to find someone with a clutch lever bushing for a 2008 Yamaha R1.  Fortunately Yamaha motor america is located in Cypress, California and I'm only a couple degrees of separation away from someone who works there.  Made it to the track in time to race, with a bike that was race ready.  Most of December was a sprint to get the bike together, so fairly amazing that I even got down there ready to ride.

Suspension is installed but not tuned, it might take me half the season to really get my suspension behaving like it should.  It's a game of millimeters.  Still, with a net new bike, all my handiwork in December putting the bike together in question, and no familiarity with the glitches of this particular machine... I was able to muster a 3rd place and a 6th place at Fontana for the WERA West season opener.  This is my first season racing as an Expert - so competition will be much more fierce this year.  To calibrate, the fastest guys on the grid in my races are pro, former pro, or about to be pro.  All in all, couldn't have hoped for better.  Not a bad start to the 2011 season!

Then round two at the end of January took place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  I didn't place as well, but had fun, kept the bike upright, and got to be on the track at the same time as one of the fastest guys in the world... Jason DiSalvo (#40 below, me following... well trying to follow... ha!)

Also, I got a couple sponsorship offers at the start of the season, some formal and some informal.  I got a great brake sponsorship offer from EBC, they are already my favorite brakes but now they're paying me to ride with them?!?  w00t!.  Mission Motorcycles is my Yamaha shop of choice, they do great work and are awesome people.  Keigwins and Pirelli also help me a little, and are generally great to work with.

Also got some on board video from the Las Vegas round I'm still trying to find, hope to post it up here soon...

Dyno Tuning A Race Bike

First thing I did with the new race bike was dyno burn it in.  When any motor is new, the valves haven't completely set yet, and during the first few hundred miles on the engine it will settle in.  Valves seat with compression on the engine, the "engine braking" action that happens when you take your foot off the accelerator and put negative pressure through the system.  The momentum of the engine propels it forward, not the ignition.  Think pull vs. push.

Horsepower is important on a race bike, and properly seated valves make better horsepower than improperly seated ones.  So the first fifty miles on my bike and first three oil changes were done on a dyno at Mammoth Motorsports North of San Francisco by about an hour.  $250 and a day later, I gained three horsepower.  Dyno graphs later if I can find time to scan in my maps.  I'm at 152 rear wheel horsepower.  This puts me well under some of the newest bikes and tricked out bikes which make over 200 hp, but overall it's a lot for a bike that weighs about 570 lbs full of gas with rider.


What's That You Say? I Have A Blog?

I guess proof that I'm becoming uni-dimensional and incapable of discussing any topic that does not in some way involve motorcycles...  I have abandoned this blog basically since 2010 race season wrapped up.  Hilarious.  Let's catch up...

Spent the racing off-season, well... still scrambling around doing racing related things!  No exciting exotic holiday adventure travels this year, I stuck around Seattle visiting family.  Which was great!  I have trips planned this year already to Ireland, South Korea and Hong Kong though... so I'm still aiming darts at the map and trying to get to new places.

Working in computer security has maybe made me paranoid, or I'm just getting older and trying to build more figurative parachutes and seat belts into everything I'm doing staving off disaster scenarios.  Or I have zero impulse control and was simply tempted by a screaming bargain.  Whatever the cause, I ended up purchasing a second race bike in December.  It's exactly the same bike as my other race bike, now when I drive up to 15 hours away to a track in another state, a simple mechanical failure won't keep me from being able to race for that weekend.  I'll be bringing both bikes to the track with me for most races this year.  Disaster Recovery/ Business Continuity Planning at it's finest... my security friends would be so proud.

Financially, a race bike might something like this:

Bike.............  $8300 (new model bike is more, this is a 2008)
Shock..........  $900
Forks...........  $1100
Exhaust......    $2000
Body work...  $1000 (fiberglass and paint)
Electronics ... $500
Other stuff*... $2000

* clipons, rearsets, brake lines, brakes, tires, sliders, number plates, tuning, etc.

So I spent much of December evenings and weekend in my garage putting this bike together, and got it out racing early January already.  Health permitting, this year I will be doing all AFM races and all WERA West races.  Basically double the races I did last year, and expanding to some tracks in Las Vegas, Utah, Southern California, and all the local Northern California tracks.  I'm getting professional coaching, and will basically put in as much practice time as humanly possible for a person with a serious day job.

I feel like I'm living vibrantly racing bikes.  I get clues from the outside world about this...  When my truck is loaded up and heading to the track, I get all kinds of looks and stares.  Especially from meat heads, little boys and old men.  When old guys are looking on I like to imagine they're thinking, "go get 'em... and give 'em hell" Realistically they're probably thinking, "what the f*ck is that clown doing...?  he's not going to live to be my age...."  Ha, ha.  Either way, I'll take it.


WERA West - Auto Club Speedway

Went to Los Angeles last weekend to race in a WERA event.  WERA is a national club vs. the regional AFM I participate in, but the level of racing is perhaps comparable.  It was fun because the points don't count toward anything and I could just grid up and race.  The track in Fontana, California was built chiefly for NASCAR events.  It's a giant oval with seating for tens of thousands.  The motorcycle track uses part of the NASCAR oval, but most of the track is on the infield to make the track interesting. 

I had only been to this track once before, so was excited to get laptimes in the race of 1:36.  My friend who has been here ten times this year and considers it his home track was at 1:36 times before the weekend started.  In the race he got down to 1:34's so I could not keep up with him while competing, but it was fun to try.

WERA racers are NICE.  It was an absolute train wreck at the start of both my races...  I thought we had a two wave race, so I was waiting for the first wave to split before putting the bike in gear and revving the motor and getting ready to start.  Instead I realized it was a one wave race as we were on the two board (starting in about 2 seconds...)  I freaked out, stalled my bike, scrambled to click it into neutral and start it again, then click it down into gear, flip my visor down, and actually launch my start about a half second after the green flag flew and the race was underway.  Despite being slow off the line initially, I guess I'm just getting comfortable racing, I shoved my front tire in front of like four guys (and one girl) at turn three and simply pushed forward.  This would never be possible in AFM, love you guys but simply AFM racers aren't that nice and wouldn't give up a spot just because I had a crazy look in my eye.

I ended up getting second in one race and fourth in the other, which was slightly this side of a miracle given the weekend in the whole.  The air temperature was as much as 108 throughout the day, and the track temperature was up to 150 degrees.  This makes the track slick, and sufficient hydration near impossible. Also, prime conditions to upset my body enough to need to call in professionals to help.

I was practicing during testing sessions on Saturday, and drank three (3) gallons of water through the day.  By the time I pulled off at 4PM to get ready for Sunday races, I was feeling light headed and disoriented.  I tried drinking my way back into feeling normal with water and electrolyte drinks, but after four hours it was 8:00 PM and I still had a splitting headache and was growing nausea.  So off to the hospital I went, which turned out to be a good move.  Testing my blood proved I was hypokalemic and hypocalcemic which sent my body into rhabdomyolsis   Basically my muscles were eating themselves.  But after four hours on an IV and four liters of saline and potassium drinks I was feeling good and dismissed at 2:00 AM.  I left unsure if I would actually proceed to race Sunday, but I was feeling okay in the mid-morning so I suited up and went out there to take it easy and just pull out if I wasn't feeling alright.   Both the studliest and most idiotic thing I've done in quite some time.  What can I say... it's racing!

Again, all is well that ends well.  So that's a wrap on the race season for 2010, time to rebuild my suspension and start the several month season of bench racing (i.e. reading about racing) and getting ready for 2011.  Here's my little trophy room I'm growing.  Feels a little like high school where everyone is a superstar and you get trophies for every possible achievement, but I'll take what I can get.  Ha, ha.