Geared Just Right

Geared Just Right

"Only passions, great passions can elevate the soul to great things."-Denis Diderot
WORDS/PHOTO: Luke Dunphy

There is a common expression amongst self-proclaimed "gearheads" (those
who are inexplicably passionate about automotive machines) which goes to
the effect of, "I'm geared just right." Encompassing the desire to
achieve maximum speed as quickly as possible with a limited amount of
power, gearing is practically and literally the final force which has
the potential to predetermine outcomes. Understanding this theory has
lead me to the most physically and mentally challenging passion of my
life.

In the spring of 2005, I was sitting on a racebike on a track in the
foothills of the Virginian Appalachains. A 2.6 mile, 17-turn roadcourse
comprised of immaculately smooth asphault, Virginia Raceway is likened
to the Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium of racetracks in America. The
serenity of the landscape, warm sun, and relative silence was
emphatically engulfed at the dropping of a green flag at the officials
podium. Mere seconds later, I was hurling through the atmosphere at
over 120 miles per hour, part of a super swarm of furious metal
machines, when a gut wrenching realization registered in my mind over
the epiphany of high-compression internal combustion engines: All 30 of
us were trying to get to the same 24 inch piece of tarmac at the same
time!

At nearly 140 miles per hour now, we all reached the point where
throttles loosed, and brakes were frantically applied in order to have
even the slightest possibility of making the fast-coming 60
mile-per-hour right hander. God must have been chuckling openly at the
time, simultaneously recieveing 30 silent prayers of, "Please, God, let
me make it through this corner!."

As the engines stopped revving under this brief braking period, a
screetching emanation of hot race rubber on sun-baked tarmac filled the
air. A joker's grin sprawled across my face, showing little care of
the imminent danger posed at every angle to my current position. A big
Honda passed me coming out of the corner, and the smile on my face faded
along with the silence as all throttles opened up wide to launch each
rider toward the next corner. The Honda was too powerful.

And my gearing felt "off".

Skill, luck, talent, and preparation seemed ill-fated to help me
overcome my gearing mistake, and it was too late to adjust gearing at
that point. Corner after corner, I reeled in the bigger, more powerful
Honda by braking later and harder, sometimes even showing him my front
wheel before backing off the throttle to set up for the next corner.
However, his perfect gearing and excessive power thrust him out of
corners faster than I could possibly keep up with. Otherwise, I was
faster than him. I know I was. On the positive side, this rider was in
a completely different class than me. We were running the same race,
but different races, so to speak. I could finish behind him and still
win my race, because my class was smaller bikes than his. And that's
exactly what I did. I finished 3rd overall, but first in my class
during that race, only my second race ever on a motorcycle. As I
crossed the finish line, I was overcome with an undescribable
combination of emotions. My lack of ability to describe that feeling
leaves only one possible word to iterate any likeness of the emotion I
felt: Passion.

Passion seems to enter our lives when we least expect it. It did for me
on a fantastic day in the Virginian Appalachains in the spring of 2005.
It gave me a purpose, solidified specific and general goals which I know
I will achieve successfully in my lifetime with the right "gearing."
And passion became an integral part of who I am today. I don't believe
it is possible to talk to me for more than 5 minutes without sensing the
passion that I have for life, for experiences, and for those whom I
love. Passion is, and forever will be, a part of me since that day last
spring.

After the awards ceremony at the end of the race day, the rider from the
Honda expressed his thanks to me for pushing him to a new personal lap
record during the race. "Not to mention that my gearing was perfect,"
he then noted.

I'll be back on the track soon. Passion won't let me stay away for too
long. I'll be back with slightly revised mental gearing and a smaller
front sprocket.

RC51's beware!