Friday April 2nd, 2010
The Brits call it an "Off"
Had a bit of an episode last weekend at the Texas Mile. I’ll tell you about it because it reminds me of something very important and it created a bit of a “teaching moment”.

Pretending to be a hero- soon to be humbled.

Karl said to me Saturday morning that Tim Chin had mentioned to him at the Mojave race that he should rebuild his brakes. I squeezed them and agreed. They were kind of mushy and vague, but they worked and I figured he could do it after this meet. Though spongy, there was lever and adequate stopping power so I made a pass and there seemed to be nothing to worry about. Later though, when I went out for another run, I was making a turn while pulling out to get staged and as I reached out with a couple fingers to slow a bit (Karl’s bike does NOT like to go slow), the lever moved too far and then the brakes grabbed hard in the turn, causing me to put a foot down. I definitely did not like the feel of that, so I tried ‘em a couple more times in a straight line pulling up to stage. I clearly was thinking to myself “I don’t like this, I may have some trouble here, I need to be very gentle on the initial pull on the lever, don’t grab a handful, be ready.” Another, more serious little inside voice was saying “Don’t make this pass, go back and bleed the brakes…. It’s not that important…” About then, the starter motioned me forward and I just …went.

Shouldn't really be here...

This bike is really fun. It pulls hard when spinning the tire just a bit and doesn’t want to stand up. It rips through the gears and puts you hard against the seat. It goes zero to 200 in about 17 seconds, so for about that long I forgot about the brakes. When I saw the mile marker coming I got ready for a less than aggressive grab on the lever. As it flashed by, I pulled a little slower and a little gentler than usual. Nada. I took another pull and got some brakes. This took about three seconds, maybe four. In that time rolling off from 207 mph I may have traveled nearly 1000 feet out of the usual 2500 available. That’s the 1000 feet where I should have knocked off 100 mph, also the 1000 feet between the mile marker and the big dip where the asphalt changes to concrete and where you usually have to get OFF the brakes to avoid locking up the front on the bounce. So now I’m going way too fast way too far along. As soon as I cleared the bump I was pretty much back to normal hard braking, but as I looked at the end of the runway approaching REALLY fast it was quite clear to me that I was going off the end. Looking at a place you don’t want to go, knowing that you ARE going there, traveling triple digits really focuses your attention. I adjusted my trajectory to aim for the narrow white gravel strip on the right side of the grass area. I was braking end-of-the straightaway-with-sticky-race tires-hard. Except, I didn’t have sticky race tires and nice road race suspension. I locked the front on the bumps and it tucked. I got off the lever and recovered it, just like I would have hoped to the rain. I remember thinking (quickly) “I can’t believe I caught that”. I stayed on the brakes as hard as I could for a couple seconds and this is about where I get to the gravel. I think I was going about 50-60 mph. I was running out of pavement four or five seconds too early. The next few seconds were strictly sandy moto-cross. I was standing on the pegs wrestling with the bike through tractor ruts in the soft dirt. I don’t think I ever really stopped. If I had, I would have gotten stuck, so when I got the thing under control I sort of paddled my way around a U turn and headed back out the way I came in. I came face to face with a course marshal in a white Dodge pickup. He was grinning and giving me a thumbs-up. I just nodded because I was afraid to let go of the bars. I didn’t want to finally tip over after all that exciting riding. Back in the pits we looked at the data and, sure enough, I was working the throttle in the dirt.
This could have hurt, but instead what I got was about 15 seconds of the best riding of my life.

Skid marks ACROSS the tire. Not good!

The whole episode, although exciting, and generating a fun story to tell, makes me feel really stupid. Why? BECAUSE I KNOW BETTER. I knew I should have dealt with the brakes before we raced. I knew I should have turned around in staging, and worst of all, I knew when I left the line that I might very well get my ass handed to me at the other end of that mile.
But I went anyway, with no real reason to have done that.
I’ve learned, or thought I’d learned, over decades of flying airplanes, riding fast bikes and driving fast cars that if it doesn’t look right or feel right, if that little inner voice tells you it just doesn’t seem right, you better LISTEN. Every time. Every time. And never stop riding the bike (or flying the plane) until it's stopped. These reminders are not fun.

Posted by Doug @ 12:58  -  Permalink  -  4 Comments  -  0 Trackbacks


Great read doug! and I am very glad it ended out the way it did! it was great seening you again over the weekend!
From MadMike on 2010-04-02 20:56  -  Permalink

good rideing. your story pushes the fact i need to go over my duster real good before the 650hp new engine goes in. it is time to check my hoses and pads also.
From 2000redrocket on 2010-04-11 11:27  -  Permalink

Dr. Doug, You have PAID SOO Many dues in your life time, it was simply Just time for you to get a Break! Of course as my Dad always says, "Experience is Always something you get Immediately AFTER you need it!" Dr. Doug you are now "More" Experienced!
From VincentHill on 2010-04-13 13:20  -  Permalink

No time for downshifting? great story.
From H2 to ZX12 on 2010-04-18 05:21  -  Permalink

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Doug Meyer has been working with race engines professionally and as a hobby for the past 45 years. He has built engines for everything from dragbikes and cars to outboard race boats, from the famous Can-Am sports cars and an F-1 car to motorcycle streamliners. He spent many years as a professional race team member and engine builder. Everything from nitrous to nitro, Doug's had his hands in it. He has set 16 Bonneville speed records...
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