Being a journalist gives some wonderful experiences many will never have the opportunity to see or do, one of those is being thrown round Silverstone pillion in the back of an Yamaha R1 Superbike. The location would be the newly revamped Stowe circuit, this is situated within the south part of Silverstone while surrounded by the vast range of diggers ripping up the GP circuit for the 2010 Moto and F1 GP’s, all building towards a spectacular revamp of the home of British motorsport, but more on that later. So its time to take a bus down from the BRDC building to the Stowe area and prepare for an experience that steps into an unknown region of my automotive passion.
Into the changing room and those all important life saving warm air fans are blowing away, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, race circuits are cold and today was bloody freezing. Luckily despite my initial concerns, I was able to find leathers that fitted and awaited my experience, not so much nervous but apprehensive of the unknown, as a passionate racing fan I had complete faith in my rider but I could tell some journalists were a little too consumed with fear to care about anything else.
Upon getting on the surprisingly heavy leathers, I put on the all important biker boots and was ready to go. Biker boots felt surprisingly strange, with solid flat soles they have no roll when you walked, making for a toddler-like clomping sensation and certainly an unusual feeling. Walking outside and I felt oblivious to the cold air, a short segment to camera and focusing on the job at hand. Meeting my instructor, Andy informed me we would be riding a Yamaha R1, to put my right arm round his chest to hold on during acceleration and my left arm resting on the fuel tank to support during braking.
So moving away and when the bike was slowest it felt at is most vulnerable, its a strange feeling, almost like a floating sensation. Accelerating out of the pit area and up the first straight I feel that sudden burst of speed followed by heavy braking, a good introduction to the coming experience and an indication of the g-forces to expect. The course then winds downhill before a right left chicane then a fast left-hander back onto the main straight. Generating some heat in the tires and we begin to build up speed, first thing I struggle with is air coming into my helmet. From experience in karting you always leave a little gap to prevent your helmet steaming up, not so with biking so I swiftly close the visor and it’s back up to speed. By lap 3 things are really hoting up, gathering good speed into turn one, I’m really feeling the acceleration now, so much in fact, that I feel the riders body moving away as we acclerate. I hold on tighter and I’m suddenly far more aware of where I am, looking out to the side I see everything moving past as a rapid rate, that a loss of concentration could see a rather nasty response.
Certainly a life experience, I’m definitely someone who prefers to be in control and would love to have a single ride. Physically it’s very demanding and requires a lot more concentration than driving a car. Leaning your weight, dealing with acceleration and braking forces, it puts strain on all muscles and especially the neck for pillion passengers. Then you have the visual limitations of the helmet, all combining in a totally different experience to their 4 wheel counterparts, and it’s for this reason I see why biking creates such dedicated passions. An experience everyone should sample and a big thanks to California Superbike School for all of their work in making this happen.
Now I’m back off the play a bit more Moto GP knowing (as if we didn’t before) those guys are all heroes.
A big thanks to Nick Williams for pictures of some of the on-bike action!