Friday, December 03, 2004


There is more than one motorcycle championship. There's the 125, the 250... There's super bike...

But if you want to call yourself the fastest man in the world... You run in the Moto GP.

You may run 215mph down the straight away... and sometimes in as little as 100 yards, you scrub down to 45mph entering a turn. You steer the bike not with the front-wheel, but the back. You slide the back-wheel with the throttle... like you're on a dirt-track. But you're not on dirt. You're on asphalt.

You scrape your knee along the ground to give you some means of keeping your position on the bike stable. In a 3000 pound Grand Prix car shifting your weight here or there means nothing. On a motorcycle though, moving your butt 2 inches back is the difference between a back-tire breaking loose, and power-wheelie.

My hero's don't catch touchdown passes. They don't hit home runs. They don't dunk basketballs.

My hero's race motorcycles.

They risk their lives in every second of every race. They risk their lives in every second of practice.

They break bones... and yet they race. Their legs are held together with titanium rods... yet they race. They cut a hole in the boot, because the pin holding their ankle together has poked out of the skin, and that's the only way to relieve the pressure. Yet they race.

There is no Hans device. There are no crumple zones. If you wreck... and you will wreck... there is only asphalt and rock to greet you.

And why?

In the end, the racers of MotoGP are just like all athletes at the extreme. Pick out the top 25 players in the world at any given sport, and what you find is will. You find drive and determination. Focus.

Focus on the one thing that matters in the world... and to the racers in MotoGP... that one thing...

Is Faster.

Remarkably since 1960 only one MotoGP racer has died on the track, and that, was in a vehicle with 4-wheels... not two.

So we watch these men push themselves on those... things. Things. That's what women and cowards call them. Things. The women and cowards who call these men... my heros... crazy, use that word to describe what they cannot understand.

Maybe they are bloody mad. They're mad for pushing themselves to go to the edge, and for scant brief periods, beyond it... and for going there with 20 other men, who are just as mad as they are.

I love MotoGP for the honesty. In America we have the myth of 110%. Coaches and commercials shout it. We must go 110% all the time!

Such stupidity. Any racer knows what 100% means. It means going as fast you can, while still controlling the bike. They don't claim to run at 110%. They gleefully admit to riding most laps at 95 or 98%. But there are those moments... late in the race... when the tires are warn... when the track is a little dirty... But that checkered flag lurks... and suddenly... lap-times that were dropping off... have spiked.

For two or three laps... they race past the edge. Because past the edge is where they have to be to be... Not to win. It's not about winning. It is... was... and always will be... about...


Is it maddness? In one race the men were fitted with monitors to track their heart-rates. Valentino Rossi, the dominant force in MotoGP, never had a reading higher than 120 beats per minute. Can you imagine that? Riding a motorcycle at 215mph... yet at it's peak, his heart-rate never rose above 120.

In my estimation, there is only one vehicle in the world that should have a No Fear sticker on it... whatever two-wheeled demon that happens to be screaming beneath Valentino Rossi. He's not a madman in a fit of passion. He's a child at play.

By the Grace of God... Moto GP is returning to the country that dominated it for so long. Moto GP... is coming back to America.

So as you watch your favorite sport over the next couple of months... Take some time to think... Do these men show you how to live?

I cannot ride like these men. I can only taste tiny scraps from the table at which they sit. Those scraps come on a clear summer morning... after the haze burns off... out with your boys... On a nice stretch of straight... open road. Then... just once in a while... I can throw the throttle of the big CBR open, the back wheel breaks just a little, then snatches the concrete and I feel the hand of God punch me in the chest while she rockets forward. The front-wheel goes light and moves up ever so slightly. The monster screams like demons descending on the earth, and the whole tapestry of the world stretches in my periphial vision.

Then... just for those few brief seconds... I know what it feels like to go Faster.

It's a fleeting thing. I break throttle and back her down, and the rest of the ride is after-glow.

We're a club. If you are in it, you are in it. If you are not... you are not. To the outsiders... the cagers... we're crazy. We're those people who ride those things.

So we are.

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