It all started innocently enough, as I was having dinner with some friends from Dainese before the West Coast Moto Jam, they suggested that I do a two-up ride with Jason Pridmore on the National Guard Suzuki Superbike. “Yeah, that’d be really cool,” I said in response, trying not to burst with excitement as to how awesome and unique I thought the experience would be. Barely sleeping the night before, I arrived Saturday morning at Infineon Raceway, and got decked out in the Dainese/AGV gear that was provided, and headed over to the National Guard Jordan Superbike team pits where we met up with Jason Pridmore.
I was accompanied by several National Guardsmen and some fans (you can win a two-up ride by following Jason on Twitter), and before we got started the AMA & FIM World Endurance veteran introduced the program to us. ”Before we start has anyone here been drinking?” asked Pridmore – the day had been hot, and this was a NASCAR venue after all. Raising his hand and looking at the ten of us, “Oh, so just me?..let’s get started” continued Pridmore. Yeah…it was going to be like that.
Swinging my leg over the pillion seat on the Suzuki GSX-R1000, Jason gave me a run-down again on the instructions, and asked me how I was feeling. “I’m pumped,” I replied. “Go as fast as you can.” Now let us take a moment to evaluate who this is the point where I made my critical error in the day, as I suspect Pridmore takes a special joy in scaring the life out of hapless moto-journalists who find themselves on the back of his motorcycle.
Actually, Jason makes it a point to say in his briefing that the goal is to make the ride fun for every passenger, and consider that a goal achieved, as you’d be hard pressed to find someone getting off the back of Jordan Suzuki without a grin that stretches ear-to-ear. However, I suspect that if you’re a motorcycle blogger with more ego than commonsense, this whole concept is forfeit, and it’s at this point in time that I would like to apologize to every pillion I’ve ever had on the back of my street bikes (you know who you are).
Going into Turn 1 at the track formerly known as Sears Point, I became keenly aware of the air whipping around my back and ass, and realized that unlike the driver’s seat on a motorcycle, which typically has a bucket shape to it, I was really just hanging in the breeze on the pillion position. It doesn’t sound like much, but for someone that’s never been a passenger on a motorcycle before, the entire experience goes against roughly a decade’s worth of motorcycle riding.
That concept would become amplified as we apexed through the first turn. “I have no control,” I thought to myself, literally along for the ride at this point. This should have of course been painfully obvious before I got on the National Guard Jordan Suzuki, but the idea really sunk in when I lost my telepathic battle with Pridmore on where the first brake marker should be.
It should be noted that Infineon Raceway is an undulating race track, with a wide mix of technical turns. On-camber & off-camber turns, changing elevation, kinks, bends, hairpins, the Sonoma race course has it all. It’s one of only two race tracks California that I haven’t ridden before, which made each turn a bit of a surprise, but what struck me the most was the G-forces we were hitting. With handles built into the tank, it really is quite easy to brace yourself on the Suzuki, and still give Pridmore plenty of room to move around on the machine — though going through The Carousel I regretted just about everything I ate for lunch, and my stomach potentiometer told me we hit at least 2G’s going through the downhill left-hander.
I should preface at this point that our pace is probably faster than what I, an avid track day rider, would consider prudent. I don’t know if this is because of the whole lack of control issue, the fact I have no clue what turn is coming next, or if Jason’s 50% race pace really just is that much faster than my best efforts. If I were a betting man though, I’d factor all three pretty heavily into my assessment, with an extra emphasis on that last point.
Gripping with all my might, we navigated through the rest of Infineon’s turns, as Jason gave me a truly unique perspective on the race course. Making our way through the Esses, and coming into the back straight, before the kink that the AMA runs to keep speeds down, my perspective goes from asphalt to blue sky. Yes, we’re doing a two-up, 75+ mph wheelie that feels like it went on for days. Please sir, can I have another? Our front wheel touches down as we go through the kink, and then it’s ludicrous speed through Turn 10 towards and towards the bus stop that is Turn 11.
Have you ever done a push-up while a small adult sitting on your back? That’s really strange if you said “yes” to that question, but I have a slight understanding of what that must have been like for you (seriously though, seek help). Pushing against the tank with all my might, we go through T11, and back onto the front straight. Our lap isn’t a flying lap, so we stop midway through the straightaway to lure the next unsuspecting passenger onto Pridmore’s Suzuki. Truly awesome, and truly horrifying at the same time, I doubt I’ll ever take a lap around Infineon quite like that again…and if I do, I’ll keep my mouth shut about wanting to go full-tilt.
How horrible my memory is would quickly get tested on that last point though, as unfortunately the video of my Infineon two-up ride got lost to the great DOS-prompt in the sky…and let’s be honest, there are more than a few people that want to see A&R‘s creator careen around a race track with tears in his eyes. No longer able to plead ignorance, I readily agreed to go for a second two-up ride, this time during the Memorial Day weekend at Miller Motorsports Park. Joined by more of our fine serviceman from the Army and Air National Guard, and a few AMA rider’s significant others (I may our may-not have helped coax Roger Lee Hayden’s girlfriend into joining us…sorry Rog), I again climbed onto the back of the Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000.
There really is no better rollercoaster than a two-up ride with Jason Pridmore, and much to the ire of my moto-colleauges, you can’t pick two better venues than the mountain ringed Miller Motorsports Park and the dynamically-flowing Infineon raceway. Since I know it’ll be a hit with some of my more inscrupulous readers and fans, find the video our lap around the Outer Loop of Miller below – there’s a glutton for punishment hidden behind that dark-smoked AGV helmet.
Big thanks to Jason Pridmore for the biggest thrill I’ve had on two wheels, and also to the Michael Jordan Motorsports Team which runs the National Guard Jordan Suzuki squad, and Dainese for putting the program together and hosting me. More importantly though, a big thank you to the men and women who serve our country in our National Guard, especially to the few I got to meet these past few weekends. You’re what the BigM weekend is all about.
Photo: © 2011 Dan Lo / CornerSpeedPhoto.com – All Rights Reserved