Riding the Perfect Road


The day was perfect for riding a sporting motorcycle; the sun was shining brightly and playing peek-a-boo with the clouds; the air temperature was hovering in the 60s and most of all it wasn't raining. The road's surface was clean and just waiting for the bite of rubber from a motorcycle tire to caress its surface.

The R1 was running perfectly; all of its moving parts spun and whirred in synchronized mechanical harmony, just as its designers had intended. Sitting on top of the motorcycle my ears were filled with the howling sound of air being pulled into the massive air box, by its four 40mm throttle bodies; and the deep muffled scream of exhaust gases exiting out of the carbon fiber wrapped exhaust can. All of this happening just below the R1's vivid black gas tank. It was the sound of the R1 turning air and fuel into horsepower.

The more I ride the R1 the more impressed I am with its power and agility. Where was this machine when I was younger? On second thought, I am glad I didn't make its acquaintance until now. A younger me, wouldn't have been mature or skilled enough to control it. At times I wonder if I am now.

My 2007 Yamaha R1

Today it was just us; me and the R1 heading out to enjoy some sport riding. The road I am currently traveling is taking me to "my perfect road"; it is a good challenge for a motorcycle and its rider's skills.

Over the years I have discovered some of the best back roads to ride a sportbike on, and some of them are more challenging or dangerous than even I want to ride in a full sporting manner. But none of them are perfect, either the road surface is too rough, too sandy, too much traffic or they pass through too many residential areas. The best roads go through farm country, skirting around fields or forested areas devoid of civilization along their borders.

The perfect road does exist, and I am headed there to enjoy it, even if it's just for one pass up and back for its total 22 miles of bliss.

On the way I diligently practiced my cornering; locating the best point to turn-in, and forcing myself to look through each turn as far down the road as I could. I set up every corner as if I were traveling at higher speeds. All of this practice was done at a moderate speed; all the time practicing applying the brakes smoother, faster and harder. I felt the bite of the rear tire hooking up (getting traction) and practiced smoothly accelerating out of the corner. With each turn I got better, I was getting smoother, and with each turn I carried a little more throttle, getting more drive out from the corner's.

Honda CBR 600 F3

I learned allot about sport riding last year, riding my little Honda (CBR 600F3). I developed a sense of timing and smoothness to make the bike corner at some pretty hair razing speeds. At least it seemed that way from my view over the handle bars. I was never comfortable enough to look down at the speedometer during mid corner or even at the entrance or exit; my eyes and head remained fixed on the road ahead. I just felt it in the motion sensing part of my body. Your sense of speed is related by the scenery that passes through your peripheral vision; you rely on your body's sense of motion.

But, there is a big difference between 600cc ten year old sportbike and a new 1000cc sportbike. Most of the time the little CBR's engine was screaming along at red line; redline is that point on the tachometer where all of the numbers are in red. At redline the engine can't rev any higher or make any more power. The little CBR lacked the pure horsepower and torque of the liter size R1. With some 140 horsepower at the rear wheel the R1 was not a motorcycle to be taken lightly. It has a well-earned reputation for its lifting the front wheel in the air at anytime you foolishly slammed the throttle wide open. It also weighted in a less than the smaller 600.

The sign I just passed said I was leaving Virginia and another a few feet away another sign welcomed me to North Carolina. It's amazing how the road surface just changed in the short distance between signs, and became so much better. Not too long now and I would arrive at my perfect road. The R1 picks up speed with my growing anticipation. I am rushing to finish the last few miles as quickly as possible.

The stop sign which marks the beginning of the perfect road is in my sight and it's rapidly growing larger in my face shield. With two fingers, a slight pull on the brake lever, and the motorcycle's weight shifts and it pitches my body and the machine forward slightly compressing the front shocks while it slows. The howl of the air box dies away; my right foot is busy down shifting the transmission as we slow to a stop.

I come to a complete stop with both feet down, the engine at idle and the transmission in neutral. I take several deep breaths while mentally reviewing all the instructions I read over the night before in Keith Codes' "Twist of the Wrist".

I adjust myself in the R1's seat; I check my pockets to make sure they're closed. Why, I don't know, it must be an unconscious thing, because you don't know what else to do when excitement is welling up inside of you. Am I trying to prolong the feeling or just trying to master some control over my emotions?

After pulling in the clutch lever and stepping down on the shift lever; I smoothly roll on the throttle while letting the clutch out at the same time. Leaving the stop sign we're turning right the ride begins.

the perfect roads humble beginings.

How quick this bike is; before hitting second gear I am arriving at the first left hand turn faster than I expected. I missed my turn in point and now the corner is blown, we still make it just not on our intended line and not as fast an exit as we were planning.

Coming out of the left-hander we go into a right hand turn, our speed is down because of our poor exit from the last corner. This right hand corner is completed almost perfect. It leads us to a short straight down hill, we pickup enough speed to shift up to third and set up for the next right hand turn.

I picked my turn in point and then slid over to the right side of the seat and tank keeping the throttle set as I push the right handle bar to start the turn-in. The R1 went into the corner and came out smoothly our speed is now rapidly picking up.

We move from one side of the lane to the other going from one turn to the next. With each turn you can feel the big 190 back tire bite as it rolls through the turn on its edge, as if it were on rails, never losing speed.

Up a rise and quick left turn down into a dip; the road goes on. Its surface is perfect; it's clean no holes, no oil and no distractions; 11 miles of road without houses, traffic or side roads to contend with (No civilization).

We come up on one of my favorite parts; the chicane. Ten or so small sweepers; you can see through all of them. They lay out like a snake warming itself in the sun. My speed picks up into the big numbers, those with three digits in them. A quick glance at my speedometer shows 14, I glance once more 140. With my eyes fixed on the horizon the center lines that run down the center of the back of the sunning snake; become mesmerizing as they flick from one side to the other in my peripheral vision as I straighten out the road.

The countryside is a blur. My attention was becoming fixed on the double lines whipping from one side of my view to the other when a winged insect met his demise from a collision with the upper part of my helmet. Inside my helmet the bugs smack sounded like a gun shot. It woke me up from my hypnotic state, and returned my attention back to the job at hand.

I see the next turn coming up it's a right hander, I'm on the front brakes while down shifting twice. We shed speed very quickly, as I set up forth next corner; I turn in, keeping the throttle open; the engine is pulling. I am hanging pretty far off the right side of the motorcycle, my knee is out like you see the racers do on TV. Our set up for the corner is perfect. The big 190 bit down and we finish the turn without losing any speed, another left and another right hander and we're heading down hill.

The surrounding landscape now changes, the trees are bigger and closer to the road, and the next turn is a quarter mile away. I tuck in, trying to get as aerodynamic as possible; 14, 15 show up on the speedometer's big window. The quarter-mile has disappeared, I back off the throttle and we're now setting up and braking for the next right-hander.

I'm favoring the extreme right side of my lane, almost on the centerlines; this always bothers me. I wonder if the tires will stick on the paint. Braking and down shifting quickly slows the bike for the corner's turn in.

The R1 has an amazing amount of engine brake, twist the grip and shut the throttle off and it's ton of engine brake will pitch you against the tank, adding pressure to the front brake lever and you're slowing down almost as fast as the R1 is capable of accelerating; well, maybe not that fast.

The turn in front is a decreasing radius, which means the turn gets tighter as you make it. I lightly push the on right grip during the turn; tightening up the R1's arc through the turn. We exit the corner fast. Because of my excellent set up and execution, we come out of corner with good drive, the front wheel is feeling light, and the shift light is flashing. The shift light is set to flash when the tachometer indicates the engine is at 10,000rpms and will continue to flash until I do something to lower the engines rpms; either shifting up or rolling off the throttle.

A snick sound is heard or more it's felt when I shift up to the next gear. The shift is done very quickly without losing any rpms. As the shift is completed I turn up the throttle a bit too quickly; and now the R1 shows its beastly side; the front wheel lifts off the road surface; so slowly you don't even notice it's a foot off the road and rising.

If it's a straight section of road you may not ever know it, but if the front wheel is turned slightly to one side the bike will shake when it comes down. Eventually the shaking will stop, but not before your cardiac condition is tested.

A small bend and it's onto another straightaway, at this point never having the R1 visit redline, I am curious to know what it feels like. I have never accelerated as fast on any motorcycle as I did on the R1 at just 9000 rpm in 3rd gear. It was mind rushing how fast this motorcycle will hurl you down a road. I twisted the throttle to the stops, and the air box is now howling so loud I can't even hear the wind rush or the exhaust note. I see the shift light flashing from the corner of my eye, the tack needle is in touch with the red wedge on the tachometer's face.

The road is disappearing faster than I have ever seen before. The scenery that's passing in my peripheral vision is blurred like the Starship Enterprise at warp speed. Fear starts to settle in on me. I can feel the small hairs on my spine standing up under my clothes. And still the shift light is flashing with panic of that "Captain, she can't take any more" ringing in my head.

"Snick," I up shift, and then back off the throttle letting the engine brake bring us to a long slow stop. I have reached speeds, which will put you in jail for life in a matter of milliseconds. I have no idea just how fast, but it has to be a new personal record for me.

I'm excited, scared, my heart is pounding, and I have to visit one of the trees alongside this perfect road for some relief. Coming out of the woods all I can think about is how awesome it is to be alive right now, on this day, at this moment, and riding on this perfect road.

the perfect roads turn around point...

As I calm down from all the excitement, I start to think over the ride and critique it in my head. We were good here and not so good there, should have done this or that. Now that the thrill and excitement is settling down we mentally note to work on the smoothness once again. Real corner speed comes with smoothness.

The return run is slower the speeds are still high enough to get you arrested in any state, but a lot slower than our first run. Trying to hold my excitement in check, and now feeling the strain from the physical and mental intensity of the day; I try to keep myself focused and relaxed.

I figure I was lucky today not to run into anything or miss a corner.

The ride home seems to take less time than it did to get there. But then I think that's true of all trips you take. The return ride is calmer; the excitement is much less as are the speeds. I'm starting to feel tired and hungry. How I wish I were ten years younger, but then don't we all.

Once home, after cleaning the bike and putting my riding gear up I settle in front of the TV.

I guess a nap wouldn't be a bad thing…..

Back to the Index of Stories