Thursday, August 6, 2009

Are You a Fan or a Spectator?

I know a lot of people who describe themselves as race fans. My buddy, TJ is one of them. He knows who’s where in the point standings, all the way to the twentieth place. He had to upgrade his Tivo because his old unit was full of AMA and SBK race videos he couldn’t bear to delete. The last three times I’ve been to his place he’s asked me if I want to watch the last lap of the Catalunya race again. It was thrilling the first three times. Now, not so much.

Bring up the topic of the Buell motorcycles in AMA racing and he goes borderline apoplectic (He’s a die-hard Suzuki GSX-R guy). Sometimes I’ll start on that topic, just to spin him up.

With all that passion, I was surprised at his response when I asked him what he did to support motorcycle racing. He looked at me like I was nuts.

“Support! What do you mean, support racing? I watch it all the time! You don’t know anyone who’s a bigger race fan than me!”

Poor TJ. I didn’t know how to break it to him. He wasn’t a fan. He’s just a spectator.

A fan is a fanatic. Fans’ passions spur them to action. To be a true motorcycle race fan, you have to actually DO something about it. Get involved. Here are my suggestions for going from a spectator to a true fan:

Get out and race. The best way I can think of to really get involved in motorcycle racing is to race. Seriously. I don’t expect you to crash the next Isle of Man TT, but several local clubs have track days at Willow Springs Raceway or Glendora. Getting on the track is a great way to hone your skills for the street and gives you a better appreciation for what’s going on the next time you do watch the pros race on TV (or better yet, on the hill overlooking The Corkscrew at Laguna Seca Raceway). Check out the Willow Springs Motorcycle Club (, Take it 2 The Track ( or the Red Hot Riders ( as examples. If you’ve never ridden on a racetrack, don’t worry. They all have orientations and classes for first timers, and you’ll ride with other newbies at first. One last point about racing – keep it on the track and off the street.

Work on your own bike. A lot of races are won or lost in the pits. You’ll have a better appreciation for what the pros are doing when you hear the announcers talk about a suspension tweak or tire change if you’ve actually done it yourself. If you think you can’t work on your own bike, try going to a clinic put on by one of the local bike clubs or Privateer’s Garage (http://PrivateersGarage.Com)

Meet other fans. Go for rides with other fans and stick around afterwards to share a meal. I know in the age of the internet, it’s less fashionable to actually meet people face to face, but sharing a day with other people who share your passion, and learning from them will do wonders for your appreciation of the sport, and you’ll likely make friends who’ll ride with you to your next track day or race day road trip.

Put your money where your heart is. If you want to support motorcycle racing, how about supporting motorcycle racers? Not every pro gets the big contract and lots of endorsements. A lot of racers, like rodeo cowboys, live off the purse. If they don’t win, they don’t eat, and that makes it tough to get to the next race with a working bike and good tires. A small donation to your favorite racer or team is a way to be part of the action. Watching your favorite pro on TV is a lot more fun when you know you’ve paid for the tires on that bike. Shawn Higbee, for example, has a button on his website (http://Higbee-Racing.Com) where you can donate to the team via PayPal. If you’ve ever been inspired to work on your riding skills or spent an enjoyable afternoon watching racing on TV, drop a few bucks in your favorite racer’s inbox.

TJ really thought his slavish button-pushing and TV-watching made him an ùberfan. I almost didn’t have the heart to tell him he was a mere spectator.


Did I mention it was fun to get him all worked up?

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