As I prepare to head out racing this week, I can’t help but think of how much work it is to get everything prepared properly. When I first ventured out as an offroad racer I was pretty green. There was so much to learn and figure out and no good resource to make it easier. For the most part it was a “learn by doing” exercise with lots of learning from mistakes. It strikes me that all this is a good metaphor for life in general.
Tecate Enduro Starting Line – It was a good day
Here are a few things I have learned over the years. Lessons in racing become life lessons too.
1 – Set your goals high, regardless of starting point or experience – Always be looking upward, be pointed at your goal. Start everyday thinking of that goal and how you will work towards it. Don’t be discouraged by the length of the journey. The journey is what makes the goal worthy.
2 – Nothing worthwhile comes easy – If it was easy everyone would do it. The top is a narrow perch, but few will work hard enough to get there. Getting a trophy for showing up is not a win. I have finisher pins that are far more valuable than some trophies, because getting to the finish was more than most of the other competitors could do.
Long day 4 at the Czech ISDE, half the riders are out, felt like the only one left on the course
3 – Make it to the finish – This sounds like such a cliché, but in life it is very real. Finishing is a mental exercise, having the will to do so. The core of being a racer is to be mentally tough, mentally prepared. Every action starts in the mind. It requires the same kind of training as your physical body. Some days you just have to outlast everyone else.
4 – Preparation – My buddy and Motorsports Hall of Famer Ron Bishop loved to talk about the 7 P’s of racing – proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance. You can never be over prepared. If something is really important, it needs a backup. This applies to both the motorcycle and the race strategy. Being able to think ahead to possible contingency plans is a huge part of racing because things seldom go as planned.
Portugal ISDE Tech Inspection, lots of preparation led to this moment
5 – Take care of your motorcycle – Winning a race is seldom about simply going fast. Crossing the finish line is what matters. So many racers can look fast early on, but for whatever reason cannot last until the checkered flag. Abusing the bike, pushing past its performance limit, is seldom the key to winning.
6 – Take care of your body – Old racers know, young racers find out the hard way. It is easy to replace parts on the bike, hard to replace them on the body. Your body needs to last a long time, until long after you have quit racing. Take care of it. Speed comes with practice and experience. You can’t just twist the throttle and expect good things to happen.
7 – Spend money wisely – Few riders are really hampered by the performance of the motorcycle. Most bikes are better than the rider. Flashy aftermarket parts are seldom race winners. But mundane things like tires, tubes, clutch, chain and sprockets can mean the difference between a good day and a dnf. Spend the money where it accomplishes the most good. “Penny wise pound foolish” is a timeless adage. Spending hundreds of dollars to get to a race only to have a $50 part fail is discouraging.
Clinching a National Class Championship in Utah, good days don’t always make for pretty photos
8 – Get the proper tools – Over the years I have figured out all kinds of tools that do a certain job just right. They save time and help make sure the job gets done correctly. Some are expensive, but many are not. My sockets are brand name because they have to fit properly and last. But I have an inexpensive breaker bar that I cut short to fit in the tool box, it has a 27mm socket and its only job is as axle wrench. Saves time and is always the perfect tool for the job. The same goes for the tools in my fanny pack.
9 – Make a list – I keep lists of everything. There is so much that needs to be remembered when preparing for a race. Once I write it down it frees my mind from that concern, I know it is recorded and that clears my head to move on to the next task. All of my bikes have a strip of blue painters tape on the fender. I write down everything that the bike needs, even if I am not going to get to it soon.
Romaniacs Day 3, exhausted, had to dig deep that day
10 – Take responsibility – I am responsible for my own race result. If that means I rely on someone else’s work or performance, it is my job to make sure they do their job right. It is that simple. Yes, things do not always go as planned. So each failure becomes a lesson. From each failure a plan is made to make sure it does not happen again.
11 – Race for the right reasons – For the vast majority of us, racing is a purely personal pursuit. There is no money, little glory and lots of disappointment. It is important to know what your motivations are to make sure they are healthy and sustainable.
I could go on to write an essay on nearly every one of these points. There is so much that could be talked about. But the point I would like to leave is that as I learned and improved in each of these areas, they become practices that I carry into my daily life. Every day becomes a kind of race. Not in the sense that there is a hurry to get anywhere. But in the sense that each day is a challenge where I want to be prepared to perform the best I can.
Laughlin Hare Scrambles – end of a good day of riding
As for the racing itself, there is no experience quite the same as sitting at the finish line, exhausted from the physical and mental exertion and sharing that moment with your buddies. We talk of the course, that moment when we were side by side in battle, when one fell and so on. The comradeship brought on by adrenaline and shared experience is one that cannot be replicated many places in life.
Another day begins