There were some long days and weekends, but they were nothing compared to the seemingly endless nights. From the moment that “Road to Daytona” got the green light, this was our plight. The Team Cycle World Attack Performance Kawasaki crew assembled one bike after another. They kept up this rhythm for eight straight weeks.
Our original ZX-10R racebike was delivered within the first week. There we were, late on a Friday evening in Southern California, loading my van. Several hours later, the bright night skies of Las Vegas were reflecting off my tired eyes as I drove solo across the desert. Just three hours later, I was on the racetrack with nearly 200 horsepower under me. Better than coffee? No doubt! Conducive to best results? Doubtful.
Each day, the shop looked entirely different. Yet the permanent fixture of weary faces remained the same. Incredibly, the guys kept pumping out beautiful green bikes like they were Santa’s helpers. Pretty soon, there were six of them, and we were 3000 miles away at America’s fastest track posting some of the highest trap speeds in the history of Daytona International Speedway.
This incredible effort is testament to the great lengths we go to chase our passion. Everyone involved on every level with getting our team to Daytona put in a stellar effort. The hard work made the magical moments sweeter than imaginable: A mid-day nap in a helmet and tight-fitting leathers. Encouraging our suspension-specialist-turned-pit-terrorist to “smoke” a cigarette through a Nomex balaclava while holding 5 gallons of race fuel. These are memories that will last a lifetime. They justified the insanity. That and, of course, winning, which, unfortunately, we didn’t do. We certainly had the motor; we just lacked development time.
After returning from Daytona, we were left with the question, “Will the team go on?” All involved had the ambition to do so, but was it really feasible? Everyone was already stacking race-team duties on top of their normal 9-to-5 responsibilities.
We go to the track to win. Just as felines get high on catnip, we thrive on competition. Anything short of victory in this arena is failure.
Back to the ZX-10R: I have little doubt that, in time, we could stand on top the podium. As we saw in the 200-mph top-speed number posted this past March at Daytona, the majority of the bike is already there. Qualifying within 1 second of the pole time set by AMA Pro American SuperBike Champion Josh Hayes in our first outing highlighted the Kawasaki’s potential. But as we learned from our mistakes at Daytona, time is the key. Better performance can only be found through more testing and getting more races under our belts. Unfortunately, we don’t have that luxury.
For me, the opportunity to be reunited with Kawasaki, the company with which I enjoyed so much of my racing success, was special. Additionally, having the chance to pass my knowledge on to rising-star JD Beach made me feel as if I’ve come full circle: My first year at Kawasaki, I was teamed with three-time AMA Superbike Champion Doug Chandler, a childhood hero of mine.
Reflecting on the events I’ve just described, the thing that really strikes me is just how much enthusiasm I still have for the sport of motorcycling. It seems if you were to do anything for 20 years—in particular, professionally—it would get old. I mean, even a chocolate lover couldn’t endure eating the sweet stuff every day for that long and not grow to hate it! Yet our sport has greats like Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa who are either nearing or already in their early 40s and still winning races and championships.
Two wheels are and always will be the only thing that gets me there—“there” being an indefinable place that surpasses all others. Anyone who rides motorcycles on the street, in the dirt or at the track knows exactly what I mean.
It will be tough for me to watch from the sidelines as the AMA Pro Road Race regulars line up at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California, later this month. Of course, I can always enjoy the spectacle of competition. Racing is at an all-time high right now. Margin of victory is close in all of the classes, and the show is better than ever.
Stepping completely away from the sport will be impossible, of course. I will continue to get my fix cheering my brother, Ben, flogging old beauties on HD Theater’s “Cafe Racer” (we’re filming Season 2), continuing to ride and write for Cycle World and enjoying the desert on some adventure rides with my family and close friends.
Additionally, I’m excited to announce that I have signed on as Director of Developing Projects with the US Cup mountain-bike series and Team Sho-Air/Specialized club cycling team. We will be introducing a fun, new format to the SoCal racing scene with a 6-hour mountain-bike event that will feel like a Saturday afternoon family BBQ combined with an evening endurance race immediately followed by an awards festival.
Expanding the Sho-Air club team nationwide will give me the ability to travel around the country and participate in many different races and events, working toward linking like-minded two-wheel enthusiasts with a community of health, fitness and camaraderie.
My immediate goal is to continue developing awareness and advocacy to make the road a safer place for cyclists and motorcyclists. We can all benefit from strength in numbers. Integrating horsepower with pedal power is a challenge for which I am passionate. The fitness earned from cycling makes you both quicker and safer on a motorcycle. As they say, the proof is in the pudding. Try to find a top motorcycle racer who does not spend considerable time on the pedals. For many of us, it’s just another way to have a great time on similar ground.
I want to give a huge “thank you” to my friends and fans for your support over the years. You have made the hard times bearable and the good times truly sublime. Until I see you again at the track, keep twisting that throttle and spinning those cranks.
See you on two.
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