This past Tuesday, nine-time world motorcycle drag-racing champion Rickey Gadson invited Team Cycle World Attack Performance rider Eric Bostrom to the Central Florida Racing Complex for a drag-racing lesson on the brand-new Kawasaki ZX-10R. The eighth-mile strip is located in an industrial park on the outskirts of Orlando. The 40-acre facility also features autocross, drifting, karting, supermoto and a concert venue.
The 2011 ZX-10R that Gadson brought to CFRC was fitted with a Brock’s Performance slip-on muffler. He had also altered the gearing, going from the stock 17/39 setup to 16/41 in hopes of more closely replicating the acceleration of the AMA Pro American SuperBike that Bostrom will ride at the opening round of the series this weekend at Daytona International Speedway. Gadson further modified the clutch, fitting stiffer Brock’s springs preloaded with aluminum spacers; with the tall stock gearing, the standard clutch wouldn’t have lasted more than two or three runs, he claimed. Traction control was turned off.
Gadson had suggested dragstrip testing to Bostrom back in January at the New York Motorcycle Show. “The thing I don’t get,” he’d told Bostrom at the time, “is you guys don’t practice your starts. How do you measure the difference between a good or bad launch?”
It’s true: Despite his broad and varied experience on two wheels, Bostrom has next to no straight-line time. “I’ve only been on a dragstrip one time,” he said. “It was Los Angeles Country Raceway near Palmdale, California. It was so cold—35 degrees. We couldn’t touch anywhere the cars had laid down rubber or the center stripe, leaving us less than 3 feet of track width to work with.”
While Bostrom was suiting up, Gadson told me that it was an honor to have the opportunity to work with Bostrom. “I’ve known Eric for years,” he began, “and I want him to do well on a Kawasaki. He’s a great champion. If what we do today can help this weekend, even if it’s just a small percentage, that will mean so much to me.”
After making a couple of warm-up runs (“How am I supposed to compete with that?” asked Bostrom, clearly impressed with Gadson’s smooth, seemingly effortless technique), Gadson turned the 10R over to Bostrom. “You want to get the clutch out as quickly and progressively as possible,” said Gadson. “Make sure the clutch is followed by the throttle. The clutch and throttle always work together—always.”
Initially, Gadson asked Bostrom to use his “normal” starting technique. After two inconsistent high-rpm, rear-brake-assisted runs, Bostrom rolled back to the starting line. After Gadson suggested a 6000-rpm launch, Bostrom was immediately smoother—and quicker. Gadson then suggested adding 500 more rpm. Another good run. “That was even smoother,” said Gadson. “It’s a whole different way of riding for you.”
Between runs, Gadson fed Bostrom bits and pieces of advice gleaned from a quarter-century in the sport. “It’s amazing,” said Bostrom, shaking his head. “If you give the brain one more thing to remember, everything goes cloudy.” By 4 p.m., Bostrom had made nearly 20 runs—all with the same clutch pack and little cool-down time.
Bostrom made another pass. “Where are you shifting?” asked Gadson.
“At the 330-foot mark,” replied Bostrom.
“No, here,” said Gadson, pointing at the bike’s tachometer.
“You watch the tach?” laughed Bostrom. “I don’t have time for that—I’m too busy!”
As the sun began to set, Gadson had Bostrom make five runs using a pro tree. “I want you to make these your best runs,” he said.
“No pressure!” laughed Bostrom.
On his third pass, Bostrom posted 1.61-second 60-foot and 4.32-second 330-foot times. “Is the clock right?” asked Gadson. “I can’t even do that!”
One run later, Bostrom established his quickest reaction time, a .026. “Anything in the ‘0s’ with the stock wheelbase and no wheelie bar is gettin’ it,” smiled Gadson.
Bostrom didn’t want the experience to end. “I could do this all day,” he said. Looking directly at Gadson, he said, “I can’t thank you enough.”
“You did good,” nodded Gadson. “Real good. Don’t forget what you learned here today. Remember those numbers; numbers don’t lie.”
As Bostrom left to change back into his street clothes, Gadson turned to me. “I’ll be on the starting line this weekend with Eric,” he promised, “just to give him some confidence.”