As a practice likely to present a positive contribution towards a long and happy life, highsiding powerful motorbikes is not a great choice. In fact due to the likelihood of loss of life/limbs/faculties/mobility/motorcycle/self respect, it is a decidedly poor selection of pastime.
For the uninitiated, a highside is when the back of a speeding motorbike decides to overtake the front but part way through the manoeuvre decides instead to throw itself on its side, thereby catapulting any human who was previously straddling said bike skyward. The closest equivalent is jumping out of the sunroof of a car at speed. A happy ending is highly unlikely for either rider or motorcycle.
Contributing factors to the likelihood of a highside are increased angle of dangle, reduced coefficient of friction and increased power applied through the rear tyre. So gassing it through a wet off-camber left hander is a good place to start.
A lowside, in contrast, is a cowardly manner of removing yourself from a travelling motorcycle. It involves slowly laying the bike on its side and sliding carefully onto the tarmac.
There were three crashes I am aware of at Jerry’s race circuit in southern Spain last weekend. Big Blue, Marc Marquez and me. Two of these riders took the easy route into the gravel, lowsiding their way off their bikes in slow motion like ungainly leather slugs. One (the man who won the MotoGP series this year) went crying to hospital for a shoulder operation, the other moaned for two days about his staved finger.
The third stuntman was I. Having spent the morning enjoying an open pit lane riding my S1000rr on Sliperelli wets – the brand new rear having been carried to Spain as hold luggage – I started to build pace during an afternoon session. The section from corner two to exit of four was the section of track I had spent most time trying to get right and I am confident my line was good. But without so much as a by-your-leave or even a hint of a warning the rear let go at 70mph. I was highsided across the track, the bike ended up just in the gravel and me much further in. I don’t remember much as I landed on my back and was knocked cold, but I wasn’t too nimble to my feet when I did come round.
But did I whimper? Did I whinge? Not me. Besides it only hurts when I move. Or stand up. Or sit down. Or turn my head. Or walk. Or breathe. Or lie down. Particularly lying down. But as I say, not a word of complaint from I. Despite it being very, very, very sore. And the bruises are huge. Like across my fat arse and down my gorgeous thigh. But I don’t even mention it.
What of the bike and gear? Well the bike has been worse – it didn’t tumble but it did swallow a lot of gravel both down it’s throat and also up its exhaust as it managed to end up with the exhaust pointing forwards. So new exhaust, sticky out bits and fairings. Another beautiful Arai is toast, although insurance should cover it. BKS leathers are intact (they really are exceptional) and my Held gloves appear undamaged. X-rays in Spain and UK confirmed that my skeleton is in no more pieces than before the crash, which is nice.
Warning – this is the bit when I get preachy, shoving ‘lessons learned’ down your throat like you can’t think for yourself…
For the love of all that is holy, never go on track without one. One look at the pattern of damage on my pastey carcass would tell you that immediately. I can also tell you that based on the pain in my back a week later I am confident I would not be walking today had I not had a back protector on that day. I’ve always worn one and always will. Despite the utter agony I am quietly tolerating without even mentioning it, I am truly grateful that all I have is torn and twisted muscles. Baz Luhrmann reckoned suncream, I’m here to tell you its back protectors.
So what else happened? Well we got to see some real racers in action, from both the Irish racing scene and the MotoGP paddock. We got to spend a bit of time admiring the MotoGP Aprilia garage and chatting to one of their techs as well as having a great chat with an Ohlins tech in the hotel bar. On our way to the flight we got to watch the MotoGP lads put in a few practice laps on the 2020 machines too, amazing to see.
But what was most impressive was the professionalism of the Irish racing contingent. I knew Blue was coming with a ‘new’ bike, a late model S1000rr but not the 2020 model. I was expecting something pretty flash but I hadn’t appreciated the technology leap from my 2010 bike to this rocketship. It turns out that weight saving, higher performance and reliability have been achieved through the intensive use of one particular space age material…
For it was duck tape that constituted 80% of this BMW. From the front to the back, it was liberally employed on a vast range of applications.
And not only on the bike. Helmet technology has clearly progressed significantly since I bought my old-fashioned Arai, because the latest Shark lids now use not only duck tape – but also superglue – to hold the visor on. Fascinating, Arai really need to start paying attention to these cutting edge developments.
Another aspect of the Irish paddock strategy is electrical safety. As a retired H&S man, Phil loved sharing space with these guys.
Yet another aspect of Irish racing strategy that never fails to impress is how paddock space is maximised, using every available inch of space in search for ultimate efficiency. It’s like Blue packs a self-inflating lifeboat at the bottom of a giant toolbox and within five minutes of arriving pulls the orange pull-cord and runs. The resulting carnage is what we live amongst for the next three days.
One side-effect of this ultimate tool-spreading strategy is the absolute iron-clad guarantee that Blue is the last man packed up. Every. Single. Time.
What about Phil ‘Ginsters’ Miles? The man who wasn’t sure if he was over this whole trackday thing seemed to leave with a definite spring in his step. And no wonder. Having sorted his suspension he started taking chunks out of his lap times and was banging in some smooth laps with great lines. He ended up making a considerable improvement on his previous PB and I have a feeling the GSXR won’t be for sale any time soon… Phil also insisted on waiting around while the little Spanish doctor lady x-rayed and probed me, for which I am very grateful.
Me? Well I shared my remaining time between self-medicating regular doses of cerveza and being a fairly useless pit bitch, all the while not once mentioning the excruciating pain I was suffering.
Worth a mention of Track Sense who deliver hassle-free, professionally run track days every time. Highly recommended alongside No Limits for the very best Euro trips with great customer service.
A great trip with great company, you really can’t beat a good euro. But always wear a back protector.