At the bike show in January, you can see the signs of PMS – parked motorcycle syndrome. Bulging eyes at the sight of chrome, nostrils flaring and inhaling that fresh scent of new leather and fish tales being told every five feet. Needless to say that by May the ‘need for speed’ has kicked in. That pent up winter anxiety is bursting fueled by a renewed sense of discovery.
These are probably the reasons that May was chosen as Motorcycle Awareness Month. The month that most riders are back on the road and the month that drivers need to be reminded that they are once again going to have to share the space and look for different movement in their daily drive.
One of the top road messages being driven home by law enforcement: Speed kills. We read the signs everywhere. We see it on television. You don’t have don’t have to be a rider to get this message. However, the adrenaline rush is just too tempting at times and hence that four-letter word entered our vocabulary. R-A-C-E.
RACE is not motorcycle specific and there are appropriate venues for which to take part in this pass time.
Fourteen year veteran of the RCMP, Nancy Joyce, has a tough job being on both sides of the RACE fence. While Joyce is not part of the RCMP traffic division, she was spokesperson for the RCMP in their 2009 Live to Ride Another Day campaign and as a member of an all ladies motorcycle racing team – Siren Racing.
Talking about contributing factors involving motorcycle accidents, Joyce said, “I could say that riders who ride over their heads or level of experience is a big one.”
Learning to ride safely is key to staying alive on two wheels. If you are a speed demon, then Joyce suggests taking it to the track. Even if you don’t want to race, learning how your bike handles at high speeds or in difficult situations is beneficial to every rider. Better to find out in a safe environment than spur of the moment in a traffic situation where you may not have time to think but only react. Do you know what to do?
Joyce began riding in 2001 upon graduating from a motorcycle rider training school. She rode for four years and volunteered at the Mission raceway for two before taking the plunge into the race grid. Her years of riding experience, both on and off the track, have driven Joyce to share her knowledge. Having learned to ride with Cyclelogics owner Randy Cook, Cook became the perfect partner to host track days with Joyce.
There are various track days offered across the country depending on where you live. What track days do is provide the safe space in the form of a closed circuit for riders to come out and test their skills with their own motorcycles. It isn’t a school but rather an environment to improve cornering, braking and acceleration of the motorcycle with a tried and tested tips available for the asking. If you don’t want to ask, then you are free to work and develop your own skills without having to worry that a vehicle isn’t going to see you or someone doesn’t pull a left turn in front of you or back out of a hidden driveway.
Race enthusiasts can bring their bikes to the Pitt Meadows airport, B.C. driving centre tarmac. The riders are split up into three or four different groups depending on numbers.
“We can have riders that have 50 cc’s, super motorads, cruisers and even racers come out,” continued Joyce. “It allows them an opportunity to test their bikes out and to increase their riding skills in a really safe and controlled environment. Recently we had a group of riders come out for a day of wet weather riding. It rained all day. The benefit is that we also have a lot of skilled riders and racers out there, that if the riders come out and they want some feedback on what they’re doing right or wrong or otherwise, there’s a lot of people out there that can provide that feedback.”
One of those individuals available is Spero Benias. Benias is an instructor with acclaimed Star Motorcycle School in California. As a qualified instructor, he comes to Pitt Meadows track days to coach the riders at their request. His main focus is help refine riding skills of riders and racers.
For newer riders, a track day opportunity is key. Open the throttle and go as fast as you want (and not get a ticket), learn how your bike feels at higher speeds, learn how to possibly avoid an accident at high speed and gain confidence on two wheels.
For those interested in racing, this is a good opportunity to see if you have what it takes to go to the next level.
“This is a soft introduction to racing,” says Joyce. “It’s not the big track, it’s not like going to the Mission Raceway. It’s a coned course. You don’t hit any walls if you go off the track, you just kind of go through the cones and everything is good. But it gives women an opportunity to figure out if they like that kind of riding.”
Getting involved is simple.
“A motorcycle learner’s licence is okay, without restrictions” says Joyce. “As long as you come out with some sort of basic riding skills. If you’re young and you haven’t ridden a lot, it’s probably better if you have a little road time, but other than that, come out and see what you can do with your bike and learn a bit more.”
Safety is key with this event so you must wear proper gear. Boots that cover your ankles, gloves that cover your wrists and obviously a DOT helmet. The very basic in clothing is kevlar gear but leather is best. If you have both, even better. If you are worried about a spill, that’s good because chances are it will happen but not at the high speeds you think so injury potential is limited.
When do most spills occur?
“We have had people that are riding outside of their comfort zone because they want to try something new with their bike so it happens,” says Joyce. “You know, some people slide but that’s how you learn.”
Joyce herself is constantly trying to improve her riding and racing technique. Last season, she raced an SV650 in the middleweight twins competition with Westwood Motorcycle Racing Club (www.wmrc.ca).
“I had some great crashes,” laughs Joyce. “I went down in the fastest corner (turn 4) of Mission Raceway – wearing full protective gear, one piece leather and back protector – and all I remember seeing is sky, grass, sky, grass . . . . but I walked away without injury. Yet in February I was ice skating – not very fast – when I fell and broke my wrist.”
Joyce intends to continue racing but has changed her style. She recently parted with her Suzuki SV650 and replaced it with a Honda NSR50 mini-bike for racing. Her street ride is a BMW F650GS dual sport.
Racing for this season begins in April and continues through September at the Mission Raceway.
When Joyce isn’t racing or working (teaching), she continues her skills by attending race schools and has even travelled as far as Australia and attended the California Superbike School at the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit. Joyce has learned the basic skills of motorcycle mechanics along the way and carries a proper tool kit for quick fixes.
Sharing her knowledge is equally important to Joyce both as a racer and an RCMP officer. Hosting Pitt Meadows Track Days is not only fun but a great way to get out there in the riding community in an approachable manner.
“Most of my riding community is only learning now that I am a member of the RCMP,” laughs Joyce.
Take in a track day in your community or come out to Pitt Meadows on July 9 or August 6. You can also try out a mini-racer at the Greg Moore Raceway in Chilliwack on May 29 or June 10. For more information you can contact Nancy through the Siren Racing website at www.sirenracing.ca.