Supermoto adventure in Italy

I just spent a week in Chivasso, Italy doing a little riding (actually I am still here but going back to Spain tomorrow).  Originally, I was going to ride various bikes: some at the track, maybe a couple off road, but then there was some talk of a supermoto team wanting a girl to ride this year, and I had available to me a Yamaha 450 so I decided I wanted to give it a try. I mean, I had two whole days to learn to ride supermoto before the guy came to see what I could do. Plenty of time.

The bike was stock, with supermoto wheels and a roadrace brake. The first day at the track was my second ride on a supermoto ever, and it was so much fun I didn’t even care if the team wanted me or not.

On the first day, I was the only person on the track until the afternoon, when some karts and cars showed up. Trackdays are run a little differently out here. Spectators or pit crew stand whereever they want, run across the track or walk all over it. At one point, three people stood at the transition of a fast chicane, with only some cones between them and my oncoming bike. I kept thinking… what would they do if I blew this chicane and just barreled straight into them like bowling pins?

The second day at the track I figured out body positioning a little better. I was still the only person on the track until the afternoon.

It was so cold my hands would freeze after 4 laps and I had to stop and stick them on the pipe to defrost them. But the guy came out for an hour to see what I could do. Of course, I pushed it and tucked the front on the fourth lap out, but he said I should go talk to the shop to let me give one of their bikes a try. I would definitly need to learn how to use the rear brake first….

I couldn’t practice the next day because it snowed. So on the weekend we drove 3 hours to a track in San Remo, on the coast where it’s much warmer. Of course when we arrived, the track proprietor had rented the whole weekend to a group of people who rented all their karts. This is after we called that morning to make sure the track was available to us. So I ended up riding in a (rare) parking lot to practice using the rear brake.  A group of kids gathered to watch upon hearing the engine noise and I’m surprised I didn’t crash trying to impress them.

We stayed at a friends place that was something like a bed and breakfast on the side of a mountain. It is a farm, though positioned on such a steep hillside the name farm calls to mind something entirely different. The proprietor is a sharp girl in her early 30s who inherited a wheat farm from her grandparents and built a small inn and a restaurant. She prepared the entire meal, from growing the food to cooking it, and her boyfriend served us. Her boyfriend races supermoto and sportbikes, (from whence the friend status comes) and the restaurant was decorated with farming tools and racing trophies. We were the first guests to stay there, as it opens in a week.

We had an amazing dinner. All the food and wine was grown in hothouses on the property. We started with an aperetivo  of white wine…

With olives from the trees outside the door and an oversized loaf of bread made with wheat flour grown on site…

And chopped stinging nettles(yes, those weeds that when you grab them sting the shit out of your hands) fried in olive oil…

First course was spaghetti with mussels, clams, calamari and big shrimp. And a salad of celery, tomatoes, walnuts, and some other stuff I don’t remember because I didn’t take a picture.

Second was…some kind of fish I don’t remember and potatoes and rosemary (broth grown there of course).

Dessert was an apple cake, which we were sent off with more of in the morning.

Homemade lemon grappa to finish it all off (in a Carrefour bottle).

In the morning, we just drove the three hours right back to Torino and straight to the track. It was Sunday, so there was quite a crowd of minibikes, supermotos and karts. Snow was on the side of the track but it was just warm enough to get the tires to grip.

Later in the day, a guy let me try his 2010 Honda 450, all set up for supermoto with aftermarket triple clamp and offset, supermoto brakes and a shortened swingarm. It was great, so easy to turn and slide with the lowered front, it was even easy to crash, which I did, right in front of him. Oh I’m ready to start racing again all right…

Advertisements

A special race factory

I paid a visit to Sito Pons workshop last week. It’s a big, impressive place on the outskirts of Barcelona.

1998 and 1999 250cc world championship winners observe from above.

Outside was a wall of used wheels of every kind – From old GP 500cc wheels to 990’s to 125’s. Just collecting rain water. I sigh at what could be done with these.

The wheel graveyard.

Boxes stacked in remote corners were filled with old parts from the team’s bikes throughout the years. There was also an unused dyno jet room out back, with big electronic machines collecting dust. (This is not this first incidence of this I have seen like this in Spain. In the US, a dyno room would be put into use every day!)

Which famous racer used to ride for Pons?

and which said racer had special air intakes on his carbon bodywork?

There may be forgotten parts stacked around the place, but the Pons team is very forward thinking and I suppose doesn’t have time for too much nostalgia. It’s a huge, clean, organized space with around 8 mechanics at work on different projects at any given time. There were at least 5 giant team trucks, (2 of them inside the workshop,that’s how big this place is) ready to go to their various races at any time.

Pons also runs a successful Formula Renault team. The car was spread over three work rooms when I visited.

Formula Renault car guts.
35,000 Euros carbon chassis. I left finger prints on it. (OK not really.) (OK yeah I did.)

Sito himself, while possessing the  stature of a 250cc World Champion, has quite a commanding presence and striking blue eyes that could probably sear a hole through your soul if you held his gaze too long. I didn’t test that out but I think he could probably do it.

For 2010, Pons is running a Moto2 team with German Kalex bikes. I’m attending the test in Valencia and maybe one more before the season starts. People are excited about this class and these bikes – the mechanics, the riders, the bike developers and designers,  riders from other championships, and of course, me. I am sad to see the 250s go and I will miss that sound and the premix smell. But these bikes are pretty cool to see on the track and we have to keep looking forward, just like the Pons team does.

The economy might leave the grids a little sparse right now however.

Short visit to Italy

The irony. I left Italy last August. But beginning this year, I will be spending a lot more time there. however unlike last year, time spent there will be at the track or at workshops or otherwise revolving directly around racing in Italy. I’ll be riding and racing too.

So last week I took my first trip out to Chivasso to check out some workshops, meet some people, and maybe test some bikes.

First stop, workshop of a guy who has been working in or with or for the world championship for 20 years. He now is building electronics for the Moto2 class but has many, many other projects going on, of course.

Hey look, a KTM 125GP bike.

Hand built prototype pipe.

Not your usual pipe collection

I displayed my mechanical prowess on a crank.

Sign says: read all the signs.

Sign says: Chudere sempre, teste di cazzo.

I got to check out another workshop too, this one I am a bit closer to I guess you could say. There were around 20 bikes stored under plastic and blankets. Some of them were very special. And no I won’t be riding any of these.
Of course, the usual stray parts every workshop has were stuck in every nook and cranny, as well as the usual neglect that comes along with living with motorcycles of every caliber every day for decades:
Hand painted gas tanks became doorstops, rare racers became tables for construction materials, and bodywork from bikes that won Italian championships caught fallout from sparrows nests.
Unfortunately, I did no bike testing, because it snowed.  So after a quick tour of the larger city of Torino at night, and I returned to Spain.
I am full of enthusiasm for the riding and racing I will do this year. And blind fear I will be too fat, slow and tired to race.
To help cool the boiling cauldron of terror, I intend to visit the gym every single DAY.  (OK, in truth, I’ll visit every day  just to use the showers, since my shower sucks. There’s nothing like the prospect of a trickle of freezing water to motivate one to head to the gym.)
Hey, and while I’m there, I may even work out.

California Recap

Here is the synopsis of my 3 1/4 week visit to California.

  • Long Beach moto show, where I purchases incredibly cheap offroad boots and goggles and saw a lot of old friends.
  • A weekend in Vegas with the girls, where I found the BEST slot machine ever. Behold, the Kitty Glitter.

  • My father, who understands my aversion to Xmas, made me a tumbleweed Xmas tree. I completed the display with booze.

  • Great two days in the desert, camped in a borrowed Pirate Monkey Cult tent, imbibed in some Chelada and gave myself some nice bruises.

  • Xmas at my mom’s house with my brother, where we presented my mother with a new Xmas ornament to keep in the family for generations to come – An Incredible Hulk snorkle:

And worked in my company’s office. A lot. Like 10 hours a day a lot. But I’ll take it, since this job allows me to work anywhere in the world.

Now I am back in Barcelona, preparing for 2010. I have plans that involve motorcycles – of course!

Offroad Spain

I know I am overdue for a new post –  So much has happened I don’t even know where to begin.  First, I will start with the announcement that I have had the chance to go offroad riding a couple of times, thanks to my friend Uwe and his multiple dirtbikes. Uwe is headed to Morocco to go ride around for 6 months with a couple others and I’m invited. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be able to go for more than a long weekend.

Meanwhile, I have been working remotely full time for my previous employer in the US. Because I write by trade, it means at the moment I don’t have the patience to create anything here worth a crap (not that anything I wrote before was worthwhile either).

But I can still press the button on a camera or iPhone.

Here are some photos from a couple rides I took in Valls, Spain last week. I took them just for you. Enjoy.

Cadwell Park

So, I was having a little bit of a crisis when I returned to Spain after three weeks in the US. I am not entirely sure why. I mean, I returned to a great place to live in terms of city and living arrangements, with a job I know and that am good at, for a company that appreciates me and let’s me work from anywhere, anytime.

So what’s my problem? For starters, and this may mark me as a crazy animal lady, but I miss my dogs and feel guilty for leaving them. These are two animals that have been through everything with me, one I have had her entire 8 years of life and the was my late husband JM’s dog who became mine shortly after she moved in. And since I am allergic to human children, well  I take care of these hairy little personalities and they bring me lots of joy.

I also spent time with my family and some dear friends, not nearly enough time with either, and leaving them was tough. So while I wouldn’t say I felt homesick (mind you I miss the convenience of everything, but that is another story for another time), I felt a little lonely and kind of like, well, what am I doing here since it can be so difficult to do what I want to do (ie ride motorcycles)

So I pulled myself up by my little bootstraps, chucked myself under the chin, and said, damn it, if I’m here spinning my wheels (ha) then I’m gonna make the most of it.

So I went to ride a racetrack in England.

Actually, I am not a huge fan of England. I lived there two years as a teenager and while I loved it then, I can’t see the point of me being there now.  True to form, it was cold and dark and misty with some thick fog thrown in, with many inappropriately dressed women (short skirts baring thick white thighs in 55 degree weather), over cooked carrots and peas and meat pies. For all its faults, however, people are quite friendly and the area around Lincoln is really beautiful.

IMG_0506

We didn’t get on track until 11am, because there was too much fog. It was a little rainy, and my first session I couldn’t see a thing because my shield fogged so bad, but Cadwell Park is a fun track with a famous hill that launches your front wheel if not your entire bike into the air.  I rode an R6 and got around ok by the end. I haven’t seen any riding photos, I ran out of time to look at them but I’ll post some later if I find some.

IMG_0496

We did have a drink after riding at a funny little pub with an impressive collection of keychains hanging from the ceiling, that was worth the trip alone.

IMG_0501

Italy has redeeming qualities.

I like Italy as a place to visit, but let me just say there is a reason why there are more Italians living outside of Italy than in Italy.

A very nice person here at work loaned me his Tuono for a while. He wants to sell it and lives just up the road so I had it for around two weeks. I got to take it out on a proper ride a few days after all my gear FINALLY arrived. I had to pay 50 Euro to have my own personal belongings delivered to me. This is after claiming the contents only were worth 200 USD. Had they calculated the stated value, the taxes (on my OWN, PERSONAL things) would have been over 1000 Euro. That’s not a typo, either. This is Italy.

It finally wasn’t raining one Sunday so I headed out without too much of a route, basically just “up”. My planned couple of hours ride turned into six. I only returned because I had no more money for fuel. Here are some things I wasn’t expecting to see.

CIMG2230

CIMG2229

CIMG2226

I had no idea this existed. Imagine coming around a corner and seeing this.

CIMG2242

Snow. Note the road I came through on.

CIMG2245

It was cold. There was snow on the ground.

CIMG2244

Almost to the border of Austria on the Passo Rolle.

So yes, there is VERY good riding here. When it isn’t raining.

I will be buying a bike this week. I have put it in someone else’s name – a girl at work, her boyfriend owns a business. We will sign it to his business name and I will pay the insurance to him. It is the only way as a US citizen that I can own a vehicle because it would take 18+ months to get a residency card, even though I work here legally and am sponsored by my company.

I am nothing if not resourceful.