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I crossed Bali from West to East and picked up my friend Shae on the way in Ubud. She was in Bali for a visit and excited to join me for a little adventure on two wheels. It was my official “Second Test Ride” and I was planning to visit Amed, a gorgeous fishing town on Bali’s Northeast coast. I didn’t expect it would get as adventurous as it did.
The first bit of the ride from central Bali to the East Coast wasn’t much fun, as there was a lot of traffic and not much to see, but I got excited when I spotted the peak of Mount Agung, Bali’s highest mountain (3142 meters). Mount Agung is an active volcano with a huge spiritual significance for the island’s Hindus. Balinese legend has it that Agung was created when the Hindu God Pasupati split Mount Meru (the spiritual axis of the universe) and formed Mount Agung with a fragment. Bali is an island of temples. The Department of Religion has cataloged at least eleven thousand temples - small and large, local and regional. In every temple a shrine is dedicated to Agung. The Balinese recognize these geophysical facts of life, and the island’s many volcanoes, lakes and springs are considered by them to be sacred.
As we got closer to the foot of the mountain, the landscape changed and the roads began to wind… a dream of every biker, but at this stage a big challenge for me as I was still very unfamiliar with the bike and had to get used to it’s handling. The road got steeper and as we climbed with our small bikes through the rainforest like landscape, I found it hard to keep my eyes on the road, as the views were so spectacular. If we had stopped as often as I would have liked too, we wouldn’t have reached the coast before sunset. The one thing I always will remember Bali for is the lushest green landscape my eyes have ever seen. Leafy forests and rich rice fields as far as the land reaches to the ocean.
As we came closer to the ocean and the sun was slowly setting, we rode past an outstanding water palace, where ponds reflected the low evening sun and created a breathtaking picture. It was too late in the day for us to stop and explore that magnificent place, as we had to find accommodation before it was dark. We decided to come back in the morning and instead ended up taking a dip in the ocean during sunset. Floating in the warm water was incredibly relaxing for the tired limbs that have spent all day in the saddle. Due to the fact that I am still pretty tense while riding and not yet as comfortable with me new bike, it literally felt like washing the stiffness of the road off. I stayed in the water until the full moon rose and slept like a baby that night.
I started the new day with some Yoga moves and mediation by the beach and kicked my friend out of bed after that because the Water Palace was waiting!
Taman Ujung has a combination of Balinese and European architecture throughout three large ponds connected by long elegant bridges and pathways. Its foundations were first laid out in 1919, under the rule of ‘Agung Anglurah Ketut Karangasem’. The complex underwent a series of expansions and pool additions around a single existing pool which served not as a royal bathing place, but instead a site for punishment of accused proponents of black magic or Balinese witchcraft known as ‘pangiwa’ and ‘leyaks’. The site suffered near devastation by showers of hot ash following the eruption of nearby Mount Agung in 1963, and also weathered an earthquake in 1979. Restoration efforts throughout the decades made way to its current splendor that truly is as heavenly as it’s name “Water Place” promises. Imagine yourself wandering through a calming and elegant garden, surrounded by mirroring ponds where the smooth and relaxing sound of falling water drops truly pleases your soul like one of a king.
The peaceful silence came to an end when we started the engines of our bikes to follow the narrow coastal road towards Amed, which I experienced as the most beautiful one I had ridden. Breathtaking ocean views, small and remote villages that appear almost as if the tourism hasn’t found them yet, colourful fisher boats in tiny little bays on the bottom of the majestic cliffs of Mt Agung. With every road bend a new scene opened my heart and extended my soul. While throttling along I was thinking, how much better it could still get on my adventure and that all this was just the beginning. It was hurtful knowing that these were memories that I couldn’t capture for you, as I don’t have an action cam to film while riding. The streets were so small and steep, that it was hard to stop for photos, so it happened that I stayed just with myself in the present moment and gave myself permission to enjoy this ride without capturing it with anything else but my heart. Talking of the heart, it was touched when some local boys at the side of the road gave me high five while riding past. This was one of my best moto moments and put the biggest smile on my face.
Past Amed we followed the road up north, which was a straight road in great condition; perfect for me to open the throttle a little and test ride my baby above the average speed of 30-40 km/h here in Bali. Instead of continuing to the most northern point of Bali, Kubutambahan, and to take the main road back down south from there, we ended up cutting through the mountains from Tedjakula… with the increase of meters above sea level, my heart rate increased too!! And our body temperature sank. That’s where our little trip turned into an adventure. The roads where narrow, steep and wet, the serpentines tight… and so it happened that one car came around one corner very fast, taking over the whole road and almost wiped me off my bike. Both of us came to a stop; but being absolutely inexperienced in these kind of riding conditions. I lost control of my bike and dropped it. Without any help, I probably wouldn’t have been able to pick it back up on such a steep road as well as getting myself back in the saddle without the motorcycle rolling down reverse… I was a little bit shaky but jumped right back on it until we found a better spot for a little break. The group of about 10 kids that gathered around our bikes as well as examinated shyly the two “Bules” (Indonesian to describe foreigners) riding through their village, put a big smile back on my face and almost made me forget the little incident form a few minutes ago.
With every kilometer it got colder and foggier and all of a sudden we found ourselves in the middle of the clouds,a condition that didn’t allow you to see further than maybe five meters. It was mystically beautiful but didn’t make the ride any easier. Our tummies started growling but we decided to ignore them until we got out of the mountain, as it already started to get darker. This highland area is known as Kintamani*, with villages sitting on the rim of the huge Batur caldera about 1,500m above sea level. This area offers dramatic views of the active volcano Mount Batur and serene Lake Batur. Only we couldn’t see any of that! Ah well, I still loved it! It was challenging, yes, and I was glad I wasn’t alone, but this ride had been the first real taste of adventure and it made feel me so incredibly alive. Sensing my body aching and freezing, my muscles getting tired and experiencing a bit of fear trembling through my veins was something that I hadn’t felt for a while and made everything else in my life disappear in that very moment. I felt present and fulfilled; a little bit proud, too.
In a very low speed we made our way through the clouds, keeping the mind sharp to react quickly to the bad road conditions and things showing suddenly through the thick fog. Of course we totally got lost, as there was no chance to really see where we were going. We didn’t make it back to Ubud until late at night but filled our bellies at a traditional Indonesian night market before we sank into bed extremely exhausted, but with sooo many new and amazing, ever- lasting memories and more riding experience. I decided to stay for the night before I continued my ride next morning back to my recent home base Canggu; knowing I will be given sh*t by the boys from Verve Moto for the bend handlebars and broken brake leaver…
I had the opportunity to sit in and observe Jason Disalvo’s Speed Academy following Round 2 of the AMA Pro Subway SuperBike Doubleheader at Road America. I have to say I was impressed with the format, instructor articulation and class structure. One of the class participants was Sarah Lahalih who holds a number of accolades both on and off the bike. In terms of motorcycles, she is the brand ambassador of Triumph America. In fact, you might have seen her recent collaboration with Yoshi Kosaka of Garage Company on the 2013 Triumph Scrambler coined Lahalih-Wood. She also ran a motorcycle school based in Chicago and invests a lot of her heart and time working with currently enlisted military personnel for the Department of Defense. Aside from that she has raced in a couple series and holds records on the acclaimed Bonneville Salt Flats aboard a Rocket III Roadster. She was outfitted with a Triumph Daytona 675R and was taking the class to prepare for next week's round of the Thruxton Cup. I asked her to relay her personal experience.
Having taken several racing and track day schools, (including Freddy Spencer, Jason Pridmore, Reg Pridmore, American Supercamp, Suzuki Supermoto School, California Superbike School, etc.), I took something positive away from each experience, but some were much better than others. As a lifelong student of the sport and motorcycle instructor, I base my experience on a few different things. Here is what I experienced at DiSalvo Speed Academy at Road America.
Credibility: Jason Disalvo has been racing since we was 4, and has had, and continues to have a very successful racing career, including a 2011 Daytona 200 win. Check out his bio. Jason’s partner Brian Stokes, (also Elena Myers Crew Chief), has also had a very impressive race career and you won’t meet a nicer guy. Over his career, Stokes has won a staggering 32 National Championships, spread among WERA, CCS, and ASRA. Check out his bio.
Communication and Delivery of Material: If you have ever seen an interview of Jason DiSalvo, you know how articulate he is. Beyond that, Jason is poised and confident, and he translates that into a teaching style that immediately makes his students engaged and hungry to learn. It also makes him very approachable and accessible, which in turn gives them the confidence to ask questions.
Ability to adjust to different skill levels: This is not a cookie cutter course. Jason and Brian know they had varying skill levels in class and made adjustments accordingly. However, the focus was on body position, and there was a very specific body position they were looking for from all riders.
Application of the Skills: There was a specific goal for each session. Each rider was followed and filmed for 1 lap which was reviewed in the classroom immediately following the session. This review session was incredibly insightful and helpful in making positive improvements moving forward. The combined skills all came together during the final session of the day. Reviewing the video with the rest of the class created an environment of support and praise as everyone had improved significantly. Speed was never a goal, rather is was body position, correct lines and smooth use of controls.
Room for Growth: We all left Speed Academy, aware of our strengths and areas we need to improve. There was no promise of learning everything we needed to know about racing in one day or even one weekend, however we were given great tips on setting the foundation for growth and improvement. We were also given the SD card of all of our filmed laps, a t-shirt and a certificate of completion.
Facility and Equipment: Road America is a beautiful facility with a rich racing history. It was my first time on that track and I was happy to experience it under the guidance of Jason and Brian. Speed Academy supplied me with a Triumph Daytona 675R for the day. I have talked at length about how much I love that machine. It’s an amazing all around Sportbike, really capable of anything and so so forgiving. The Quick Shifter spoils me and is hard to say goodbye to.
Overall, I had a great experience at Speed Academy. I learned some new tips from current racers on current technology. Most important, I felt safe and confident during my sessions, which allowed me to focus on my skills.
I had really hoped to stay more on top of the blogging this season, so I’m a bit sad that I’ve taken so long to tell my story from Jerez. The truth is, a few weeks ago I used up all the funny and upbeat ways I could think of to talk about crashing. So… maybe that’s a hint on where this is headed. (insert long sigh here).
Like most tracks in Europe, I’d never laid eyes on Jerez before boarding a plane at the end of March. I was super happy to know that we would get two days of testing there a week ahead of the first round of the CEV. As seems to be the case when I show up in Spain (every. single. time.) it was raining. Luckily, it cleared up in time for us to get some quality laps in.
First off, let me say this: Jerez is pretty awesome. OH EM GEE does it have some fast stuff on it too! Wow. Testing went pretty well as my crew tried to help me sort out a few issues. By the end of the two days of testing, I was feeling really excited to get to racing.
In the days between the test and the race a few World Superbike teams as well as the Ducati MotoGP teams were in town to do a little testing. It was really fun getting to see Cal Crutchlow and his lovely wife Lucy. Cal brought us in the garage to see a little bit of how the team works. I don’t think it’ll ever stop being cool checking out that kind of stuff. When you see how many people are working so hard behind the scenes its pretty neat. More importantly, Lucy took the time to explain to me how a good old fashioned Irish kneecapping takes place. It sounds like it might possibly be the most polite and violent thing I’ve ever heard of. I’m not actually sure how we ended up on the topic, but it was pretty fascinating to me! If you ever meet a genuine Irish person, I highly recommend not owing them any money.
Just when I didn’t think I could take it any longer, Friday finally rolled around and it was time to get back to riding. We got two unofficial practices Friday followed by two qualifying sessions on Saturday. Friday morning went decent, with me getting back to my best test times from the week before. That afternoon we tried to fix a problem and unfortunately didn’t seem to hit the mark. I was able to get back to the same time again, but not to improve it. I think that might have been the start of me becoming a bit derailed.
If my old German jiu jitsu coach had been around the next morning, I’m pretty sure he would have said “Meelessa, you must stop trying to drive a Trabant through the Berlin Wall”. If you’re not German, I’ll save you a trip to Google and tell you that a Trabant is basically a car made out of cardboard. That was his nice way of saying you can’t take something that isn’t working and just charge through it harder. Suffice it to say, I went backwards. The train was officially off the tracks.
In the second qualifying session we pretty much put the bike back to the last setting that I hadn’t whined about. I went out and straight away went a few tenths faster than I had gone up to that point. Then on the very next lap, I went into the Curva Sito Pons (a fast one.. fourth gear on a 600) and chucked a perfectly good motorcycle into the gravel trap. Sigh.
My team worked so hard to fix my bike all night. The roll through the rocks was pretty unkind to it, so I felt pretty bad that I created so much work for them.
The next morning I hobbled through warm up and resigned myself to having a hard race ahead of me. Crashing in qualifying really didn’t do me any favors, and I was so far back I was really just relieved I could see the start lights!
When the lights finally went out, I found myself fighting really hard just to maintain the position I had qualified in (seventh out of the Superstock riders). I could see that I was way off of my own pace and was pretty frustrated. I finally got by the rider I had been fighting with and with no one close in front of me was just trying to get my head back in a good space and get rolling at a decent pace. But then, before we’d even reached the halfway point of the race, I fell again, this time in Turn 11 (also fourth gear, ouch).
I walked away from the crash just dumbfounded. I thought to myself, “I’m not a crasher!” but then laughed because thats what everyone who crashes a lot always says.
A few hours later, I remember looking at my fearless husband Josh and saying, “The disappointment is just sitting inside me like a rock”. I could physically feel it. I guess the thing is, after how testing had gone so far and how great things are with my team, I really expected a better weekend. I didn’t understand how things had gone so wrong.
You can imagine that it was a long trip home. The next week or so, that disappointment didn’t leave. I felt like I really didn’t know how to feel hopeful about things since I wasn’t really sure what had happened to make things go so pear shaped.
It turns out that Josh is pretty smart. He hadn’t said much about the whole thing until almost a week later. Then, while we were out for a training ride on bicycles, it came up in conversation. He had some really interesting insight and some ways of looking at things that I hadn’t really considered. He helped put things in perspective so that I was able to stop looking back on my first CEV race disappointed and instead look forward to the next one with hope.
Sometimes you try hard and you fall down trying to figure things out. That’s racing, right?
But just in case… I think I’m going to do some laps on the mini bike in the backyard and try and “figure things out” at less than 100 mph.