The Unique Experience of Triple Digit Speeds on a Motorcycle
Sport bikes are exhilarating to ride, for their cornering abilities, lean angle capability, instantly available raw power, head-snapping acceleration, and of course, high speeds.
None of which should ever be fully exploited on the street.
Admittedly, I’ve gone a little faster than the law would allow with my bikes a few times, but I have never “hit the ton” (i.e. run over 100 mph) out on public roads. Those speeds are better (and legally) experienced at a track day.
Now, I’m not full blown “track rat”, riding track days every other weekend, with a dedicated track-prepped race bike, but over the years, I’ve tried to participate in at least one annually, and they are among my most exciting experiences. For my birthday last year, my family paid for me to spend a day with the great folks of N2 Track Days, running the famed Road Atlanta. This was my third opportunity to ride there, a thrill every time. I attended with several friends from my CMA riding group, and as always, made a few new friends across the day. Best of all, I safely ran my Triumph 955 Sprint at speeds I’d never attained before, with two wheels or four.
Following check-in and completing tech inspection on the bikes, we divided into our groups- Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced. Since I get to ride track so infrequently, I had opted to ride Novice. After morning meetings to go over track rules, we dismissed to suit up for the day. Each group took to the track for 20-minute sessions, and upon hitting the course, I remembered why I love Road Atlanta so much. Dramatic elevation changes, fast sweepers, tight corners, the famed “Esses” and three straights, the pinnacle being “the back straight” from turn 7 downhill to turns 10A and 10B, just shy of a mile in length. With a slight left at turn 8, then a small right lean at turn 9, all downhill, Road Atlanta boasts one of the most thrilling straights in American road racing. On a motorcycle, speeds well in excess of 100 mph are easily achieved at multiple points around this track. It’s an incredibly fast course.
A friend asked me, regarding those high speeds, “What’s it like to ride a motorcycle that fast?” So I tried to capture the experience thusly-
“Exiting the top turn 7 from full lean, it’s getting the bike upright as quickly as possible, then hard on the throttle, clicking up through the gears, winding to redline in each. ‘Breaking the ton’ is fun, but the further and faster above 100 mph, the greater the rush. By the left hand kink at turn 8, I’m already passing 125. Chin is on the tank, throttle is pinned wide open, and I’m wrapped around the bike, clinging for dear life. Approaching 135 mph, the windshield is buffeting, the whole bike is shaking, and the roar of the big triple is screaming in my ears, either in protest or for more. The wind sounds like a tornado around my helmet as the scenery flies by in a blur at 202 feet per second. When the downhill run doglegs right at turn 9, a quick speedo glance shows I’m running 140+ mph. The noise is deafening, the vibrations are coursing through my entire body like an electric current. Suddenly it’s off the throttle, beginning to squeeze hard on the front binders with the weight shifting forward, and downshifting as I enter the braking zone. Time to set up for 10A and 10B. The rest of the course is fantastic, but all I want to do is get back around to that long downhill stretch again.”
Running at these speeds (and faster I’m sure) on a motorcycle is turbulent, is explosive, is violent. And I can’t get enough. I replay that day over and over in my mind, and others at tracks I’ve ridden across the southeast, reliving every corner, curve, and straight. Professional road racers, frequent track riders, even illegal “speed demons” are well-acquainted with the sensation of triple digit speeds, but for a novice, sporadic track rider like me, the experience of running “above the ton” is a palpable, visceral, thrilling sensation, as addicting as a drug. I eagerly anticipate the next time I’ll be able to spend a day riding a sport bike where it’s most at home- on the track.
If you want to ride at furious high speeds, and push the limits of man and machine, do it in a controlled, legal environment, astride a prepped, track-ready machine. Trust me, you’ll be hooked, as I am.
*photos by Highside Photo