Published on December 11th, 2013 | by Guest Writer
HANGING WITH #21 – BAYLISS DOES UNCLE
Long-time Bike Me! member and beloved North Korean Despot, Uncle Kim Jong-Il, recently went for a bit of a ride with a fellow named Troy Bayliss. You will excuse the gushing, but Dear Leader has been an emotional wreck ever since that cross-dressing basketball player came to visit him.
I’d had six months to anticipate this day. As I went to bed the night before a gnawing knot of anxiety fed happily on the pit of my stomach. Since I get paid to think about this shit in others I tried to work out why I was as nervous as an Edwardian bride. I used to get a bit nervy the day before a track day but that hasn’t happened for a long time. I had gone through my checklist to make sure I didn’t wake up in a cold sweat asking myself if I had packed the WD40. It came down to one thing. I had no idea what to expect. I know my lady, the lovely Rachel, had spent a motza sorting this for me, and I knew that everyone was expecting me to have a great day. When Rachel contacted Boris to check out the suitability of such a gift he had replied “Uncle will shit and piss himself with excitement”. The pressure was on. I had to have a good day or at least look as if I did.
Upon hearing the alarm early the next morning I leapt out of bed like a sprung milkman. Rachel was in attendance to savour my expected shit-eatin’ grin. Her son, Connor and his mate, Liam were given the day off school. They appeared very happy about this but I was unsure as to wether this joy was due to the lack of school rather than the presence of Troy Bayliss.
I mentally crunched the numbers on the way up to Broadford. Since the day cost $850, and the track costs about three large, and then there are the marshals and paramedic… surely there would have to be about 20 people there to make it all worthwhile for the organisers. I thought I’d get maybe a passing handshake and perhaps an autograph amongst a clambering bunch of Bayliss groupies. But when I crested the hill overlooking the pits, I thought I had arrived on the wrong day. Broadford was just about empty. I drove up the pit lane and there were four guys there and three bikes (all Ducatis). I checked my watch. I wasn’t that early, surely? I got out of the car and walked over to the pits. This bloke sticks out his hand and says, “Hi. I’m Troy. The thought crossed my mind to look at him and say: “No Shit!” but thankfully I thought better of it. Instead I grinned like a loon and made my way back to the trailer to offload my bike. Troy followed and asked if he could give me a hand. That didn’t seem to compute. Again I just grinned like a starstruck Belieber.
Tie-downs were loosened and the ramp was put in place. I pulled back on the bars and the bike rolled back three inches and stopped. WTF? I looked down and remembered I had put a padlock around the front wheel. So I got the key out. Well, I would have got the key out but I had left it on the bedside table. Now if you take five words such as “cunty”, “fucken”, “shit”, “fuckstick” and “Jesus” you should be able to juxtapose them to make 3125 unique sweary combinations. I think I broke the laws of mathematics. I asked one of the organisers if i could borrow an angle grinder or a set of bolt cutters. To my relief he toddled off and brought back the most beautiful link splitter I had ever seen.
It was a bloody cold morning and I set up the tyre-warmers and got into my leather romper suit. I got chatting to one of the other blokes and asked how many more we were expecting. He reckoned that this was it. There were just six of us. Really?
Still nervy, I took to warming up the Aprilia. It is never a chore to go through this important little routine and on a quiet and crisp morning it is a positive delight. Even the Ducatisti came over to run largely appreciative eyes over Nero. One guy in Ducati leathers mentioned that it was a bloody nice bike. “Thanks Troy!” I said, trying hard not to do a little happy dance.
The rider’s briefing lasted all of 30 seconds. Troy stated that we were gonna have a beaut day and it was time to “Get on it”. As I walked back to the bike I casually mentioned to the vicariously happy Rachel that I was gonna head out and bang out a few laps with “My mate, Troy”. She gave me that look. The same look I get when I say something hugely offensive/misogynistic/racist/unromantic or cynical. It is a wondrous mix of horror and disbelief; but most importantly, acceptance that she is indeed a very lucky woman.
It was bloody cold out and I thought it was best to play it safe rather than have a nice lie down in the gravel traps. The bike felt a bit weird and I was convinced the repair I did on the rear brake master had let go. I could feel it sliding coming out of Turn One just where the camber changes. Shit! Called into the pits and jumped off the bike. The brake was fine but the tyre was as cold as a mother-in-law’s smile. At the end of the warmup session I used my newfangled IR temp gauge and saw the ground was six degrees. The cold coupled with my lack of ability was gonna make for a slow-lapping (even by my standards) day.
When we got back into the pits everyone mentioned they were sliding and spinning up. I was pleasantly surprised to see that all of the other guys there were mug punters just like me. I felt a little better. We decided to go out and hit it a bit harder as rain was forecast for later. As we were leaving to get on the bikes, Mr Bayliss suggests that I am trying too hard to hit the inner apex of Turn One and thinks I should follow him around for a few laps. As casually as I can, I say “Sure”. And thus a couple of laps are spent trailing a three-times World Champion as he gives me a private tuition session. It all seems a bit surreal but I remind myself to focus and that it would be worse to bin it than to appear as slow and hackish as I really am.
Then something happened that I didn’t really expect. Troy waved me through and it was obviously my turn to lead him around. Trailing him around may have been a bit surreal, but riding as hard as I dared with his booming Panigale seemingly inches behind me was a total mindfuck. No matter how many times I tried to get my head around it I just knew that this was one of those moments that will live with me forever and I should just enjoy it. After three laps he pulled alongside and gave me a big thumbs-up. He then did something that could have burst my bubble a bit, but in actual fact, made the whole day a lot more special. As I commenced some late braking into Crash Corner he passed me on the gas. The sheer beautiful brutality of his cornering was awe-inspiring. It felt similar to watching an F18 Hornet pass over you at 50 feet. The best description I could come up with was “controlled violence”.
After a few hours it dawned on me that this guy just really loves riding bikes. Even at lunch, when we were all due to sit down and nibble on canapés, you could tell he was just itching to get back on the bike. It also struck me that he genuinely gets off on helping those less skill-blessed than himself. It didn’t seem to matter as much how well you rode, but rather that you were riding, was what seemed to do it for Troy.
We had two breaks during the day when ‘adrenalin package’ types from the city were kitted out in leathers and plonked on the back of the Panigale to have seven shades of shite scared outta them. This answered my question of how the day paid for itself. Five-lap sessions at $500 a pop with 24 takers is a lgreat funding exercise. And it was interesting to watch peoples’ reactions to the ride. Some were scared shitless before and relieved after. Some were blasé both before and after. Most were helped off the bike and stood speechless while Troy just grinned at them. The ones who could form words all said the same thing: “The…the…brakes!’
Nicole from Champion’s Ride Days was doing the MC thing and she mentioned that she knew when someone was a good pillion. One such slip-of-a-lass had all the attributes needed, weighing 40-odd kilos and knowing when to lean. When the Panigale powerslid onto the home straight, Nicole mentioned this could be one for the ages. Now consider that the outright lap record for an ASBK Superbike at Broadford is 57.9 seconds. Three laps in a row, Troy went under the minute mark with a best of 59.6 seconds. Two-up. Fuck! As if the young lady wasn’t thrilled enough, Troy told her she was the best pillion he had ever had and if he was even doing a ride day anywhere she could ride for free and they’d break the lap record. It was hard to tell who was the more chuffed.
By this stage in the day the two lads with us were suddenly smitten by a huge dose of hero worship. The target of their adoration seemed perfectly comfortable with this and posed with them, answered their questions and signed everything they brought to him. The two-up bike is fitted with static handlebars mounted to the filler collar. Liam asked if he could sit on the bike and have his picture taken. “No problems”, was the reply and as Troy went to get on the bike the young fella leapt on the front relegating Mr Bayliss to the pillion position. I reckon the pic that was snapped will stay on that kid’s wall for many a year.
Throughout the day we rode and rode and rode some more. I usually do about 100kms on a track day. I was already up to 170 and was starting to feel it. Sitting in the pits I reckoned that if I had done about 80 laps then Mr B had knocked out about 250. He didn’t even have the decency to look tired, either. But this was a never-to-be-repeated experience and sleep is for the weak so I went back out again. Number slotted in right in front of me and motioned me into the pit lane. I was given the tip of placing the flat of the foot on the outside peg and the flexed ball of the foot on the inside. Off we went to practice and I swear I had never ridden smoother or faster than I did after that.
The day started to wind down and I had a couple of bits and pieces that I wanted signed. I am not an autograph kinda guy but I do make exceptions. By this point my fatigue was only surpassed by the quiet awe I felt for this pearl of a bloke. My mate, Son of Elvis had called him the “Nicest Man in Motorsport” and I have to say I fully concur.
You have heard the oft-quoted warning of the dangers of meeting your heroes because of the possibility of disappointment. Looking back on my anxiety earlier in the day, a lot of it was down to not knowing what to expect. I could not have expected six people in the group. I could not have imagined Troy Bayliss to be the stunningly and disarmingly genuine bloke he is. I could not have expected to have so much fun and store up so many memories. The rain stayed away and I returned home exhausted with cold-torn tyres and a zombie-like grin that stayed with me for three days. I wanted to write down my experiences but I felt unable to focus and decided to just write a few notes and enjoy the afterglow.
I had feared the possibility that I would not be able to convey sufficient satisfaction to the wonderful woman who made this dream (that I didn’t really know I had) possible. You know, like Christmas when you have to repeat ad nauseum how great your presents are? In actual fact, I was simply incapable of expressing how awesome the entire day was. I still am.