Just the best fun
It seemed like months ago that Ed & I had booked for the IAM skills night at Knockhill. Before we knew it, it was holiday time and the bikes were packed. First stop Knockhill. Very excited.
Well, no. I had to stop before Knockhill. Shame really, I was having a great time, then WHAM! Hit on the visor of my helmet by what seemed like a golden eagle. I put my hazards on and stopped. I knew the bird was currently between my legs! (Ok, get mind out of gutter, right now)I got off the bike and the (dead) bird popped off the other side. Not quite as big as I thought, but a rather large robin. Poor wee thing.
Didn’t have time to mourn nature’s loss, we were on a mission to Knockhill!
By the time we arrived, there were already a few keen beans there. A good blether was had before the safety briefing by Rennie, Martin & the Knockhill representative, who I remembered from my driving track days.
Issued with our team bibs, our group was given a briefing by Robert, our Mentor.
I had previously ridden with Robert and knew he was a demon on a bike. To start with we did ‘sighting’ laps behind our leader, to get the feel for the track. I was really glad I had been on the track many times before, it doesn’t however prepare you for going on it on your bike!
Luckily, I have had the finest instruction on cornering that anyone could wish to have. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not quick, not totally competent, (are you not always learning?) but I am very comfortable (yet still learning) in my ability on Smoggy, my wee F650GS. My boots have paid testament to that, in particular my right boot has been scraped frequently going round sharp bends. My left boot doesn’t get the same grinding. I’m working on that.
So, an ideal opportunity to hone your cornering skills. A controlled environment with some top class instruction. We all got the chance to ride in front so our mentor could observe our techniques.
Being a bit of a chicken, and generally a safety kind of girl, I didn’t think that I could happily get Smoggy further over in the bends. The first few laps, my boot was scraping. Robert told me to pop the balls of my feet onto my pegs instead of the arches, where I am normally more comfortable. Remember I have dinky feet however the intention was to make it harder to scrape my boots. Still scraped them – woop!
Round we went, I think most people at the track had big grins on their faces. Some though didn’t ‘get it’. I felt sorry for them. I know one person in particular who was struggling, was offered individual instruction and refused. Another was given instructions and ignored it. I guess what you put into the evening is what you will get out of it.
With the exception of the hairpin, my evening was spent in 3rd gear. I revved the nuts off of poor Smoggy, and took great delight in doing it. Oh, that stunning vibration that you get from the engine, through the seat, as you get up to 7,500 revs – nice. 😉 The hairpin was a 2nd gear corner. I knew I had cracked it… well as much as I could on my wee bike when I got the hairpin just right. I heard the distinct crunch and grind of my foot peg as I went round the bend, just as I was about to exit the bend. Sadly, I had to slow down, my time leading was up. I couldn’t stop laughing though, so much so my shoulders were shaking and was quite glad to see the lads go passed me for the last laps. I was still laughing when I pulled into the pits.
The biggest learning curve of the evening was Robert getting us to brake harder prior to turning into the corners. That worked for me. I’ve never been an ‘aggressive’ rider, so it was an excellent chance to try hard braking in a controlled environment . When you need to brake hard, then at least you have tried it, know what the bike will do, not shit yourself, and still give your steering input to get round the bend safely. All educational.
Since the Skills evening I have put it to the test. On unfamiliar roads, you read the LPOV…. Your brain says ‘corner’ when in reality it needed to say CORNER!!!!! It has given me a new skill, given me that tiny bit more confidence that perhaps I didn’t have this time last week.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not over confident, just more comfortable with my skill levels. Everyone should be prepared to learn, no matter how good you think you may be.
My hubby enjoyed himself too, maybe not to the same extent as myself though. He’s a life-long biker and in my humble opinion very skilled. I don’t think he got as much clear track as I did to play about with his GSA. He did however manage to plooter round in a lap in 6th gear, including the hairpin and still caught up with the group in front.
Me, I’m up for the next one, with bells on. Possibly the balance of abilities could be considered in the groups so those who can corner at greater speeds have the space to do so. Then perhaps some folk might not feel overwhelmed. Just because a person rides a GS or a KTM Adventure, or a super-dooper bike, doesn’t actually make them capable at cornering or capable on a track. Only my opinion for what it’s worth.
Great value, great craic, huge grins and most importantly, a great experience. Thank you to the RTT team for organising the event, I totally admire the time, effort and sheer dedication that you put into making us all safer and more skilled riders.