It’s dark, wet and cold and 04:30 in the morning on the 12th September and I’m struggling to get into my 1 piece race leathers. Damn you bacon rolls.
The idea of a trackday for me, is to explore the limits of possibility and to have huge amount of fun. Fun can come from many different guises at a trackday, the speed, the acceleration, the banter, the day off work are all possible candidates but soon you will start to add two or three of these together and the fun factor scale is exponential. Add to that the journey there on the bike, a CB500S, covered in fur (the FLOOF) and the day is almost guaranteed to be a success before you’ve even set off into the dark, wet and cold morning.
I eventually tucked everything I could into the leathers and managed to get the zip up. Then into my waterproofs and then I pointed the little furry CB500 east and headed to Cadwell Park which according to google maps is 130 miles away. All was going great until 126 miles when I went over a bump in the road and my left hand foot peg snapped off. I circled back around and found the remnants of the foot peg in the verge it has snapped off about 1 inch from the pivot. It was just enough to rest my toe on and operate the gears but not so good for the track. I soldiered on, cussing loudly. However the sun was out and trying to dry the roads up.
Arriving at Cadwell I met up with a few of the Twitter crowd I pointed at the snapped peg and wondered what the solution could be then, as if Occam himself was there one, of the blokes said, “why not use a pillion peg?” Of course this was the perfect solution so a quick swap and I was back in business. Stuffed a bacon roll had a brew then sat about waiting for the noise test check and the safety briefing.
The exhaust on the FLOOF is a cobbled together cheapest I could find ebay special that did not have the baffle fitted, however we passed the noise check so must have been under 102db then a bit more waiting around until the novice group I was in was called. Novice? Yes. First time to Cadwell and 4th time on track. That in my mind and according to the NoLimits track day organisers rules means I should be a novice. This was going to be fun.
Unhindered with the need for generators and tyre warmers and track stands I was ready at the first call and waiting for the 2 others in my group I was with, a 32 year old ZXR400 ridden by an experienced trackdayer and a young chap on an R1. I meandered down to the holding area and shrugged off the pointing and staring along with the name calling and was focused on the familiarisation laps. Now I’ve never been to Cadwell before but I have done my homework on the Playstation so at least I knew my way around and what to expect. Until of course I get out on track and it’s the same but massively different. For 1 it was will wet and the FLOOF still has 19 year old BT45 tyres on. they are not good in the wet. The 3rd corner out of the trap is the hairpin, I went sideways into that one and immediately regretted my blasé tyre choice. Then it was a run through Barn corner under the trees, still fully wet and then the start finish straight. No overtaking on sighting laps so I kept pace with the group that was being lead around by an instructor. About ¾ of the way around the red flags came out and I thought that’s great they are showing us where the flag marshalls are. Nope, it was a genuine red flag, someone had gone off on the sighting lap! So we returned to the holding area while they got scooped up in the trailer. Another sighting lap followed and then we were off. Great fun on a narrow circuit and many of the riders in the group were clearly nervous in the wet so plenty of space was required for any overtakes. The CB500 has little to no speed down the straights so was often overtaken but the big bikes, but that’s just cheating.
The track now has a definite dry line and the footpegs were starting to make themselves known – I should really learn the correct body position – I was having a great time and really starting to mix it with the sports bikes. They’d leave me standing down the straights and I’d overtake them around Chris Curve or into the gooseneck or up the mountain, doing wheelies or through Hall bends or into the Hairpin only for them to sprint back past me down the straight. Where I could then overtake them again at coppice or Charlies they’d sprint back past along part straight only to be overtaken again at park corner. It was hilarious and I was really enjoying myself. The FLOOF never missed a beat and the tyres were enjoying the dry bits.
I was now in that danger zone of getting too cocky. At this point I normally have a word with myself and ease off but things were going well and I was invincible, on the brakes and around the corners not so much on the straights, the track was dry and the sun was out and all the people in the novice group that were on slick tyres and race bikes started to gain speed through the corners. I was already at full speed so needed to start to really push the envelope to catch and pass the bigger bikes and eventually the enevitable happened. I ran out of talent, ground clearance and grip all at the same time and had a little lie down in the grass. Many expletives were uttered between bouts of laughter. Because it was very funny indeed.
Session 4 was spent with a scaffold tube straightening out my handlebars that had been bent so far that the steering was unusable and fixing the right hand foot peg that had snapped off. luckily I had a spare pillion one that did the trick but now I was all out of spare footpegs.
Session 5 was more about getting straight back on the horse, the bars were not quite straight the exhaust was working but mangled and the footpegs were fine, except there didn’t have any spring back or hero blobs. The main man from FlieOnTheVisor website https://fliesonthevisor.com/ had made the journey over and had put a GoPro on the bike for an article he was writing. https://fliesonthevisor.com/three-seconds-faster-at-cadwell-park/ I started out slow, just to see if there was anything wrong with the bike but after a lap it was fine, bar the odd riding position due to the handlebars. So I cracked on, had a word with myself when the red mist descended and kept within the limits of physics. I managed a PB time of 2.03, I overtook some bikes with 3x my BHP and had some great fun. Which is what it’s all about.
As session 5 was finishing the rain started so I’d made the decision to head home. I got a bit lost on the way and ended up having to filter Nottingham town centre at rush hour which was as much fun as the trackday to be honest. Then there was 2 huge tailbacks on the A50 and A500 the FLOOF was in its element, full rain, filtering and getting to the front. I’m always an advocate of stretching yourself because that’s where the real learning takes place, and on the 12/09/22 at Cadwell’s Hairpin I learnt about the limits of traction and I’m better for it.
Photographs by Peter Wileman Photography Ltd