I wonder if I’ll ever love doing something so much that I stop thinking when I do it. The background noise will fade and my ability to focus will be at its peak. I will accomplish amazing things if I ever find that kind of love. In the meantime, nothing makes me happier than seeing other people practicing that kind of love.
“What part of the bike should I take pictures of for a person who actually knows stuff about them?” was my question of the day, and I asked almost everyone who was standing near a bike. It was a real question, but it also communicated that I know nothing and I want to learn. I got lots of different responses, but I really learned the most from watching these guys and ladies in action.
When they aren’t racing, they are working on their bikes, watching their friends race, or helping a friend work on his or her bike. The sense of community is one that I haven’t been exposed to since childhood. Being a friend of Kevin’s may have helped, but everyone we met was friendly and welcoming. These guys taught me what a “monkey” is in sidecar terms.
The monkey is the guy on the left. They are also known as passengers and co-pilots, but of course I like the term “monkey” best…and this is what they do:
Sidecar racing fascinates me because of the amount of trust that these people need to have for each other. One wrong move from either person could produce catastrophic results, but that just makes their bond stronger. Really, it’s not much different for regular motorcycle racing. These men and women are out on a track, traveling at dizzying speeds, trying to get in front of each other. The turns can be treacherous if people aren’t working together, so it’s not really surprising that their community is so tight knit. Even in competition, they all rely on one another very much like a family.
The first race we really watched was an exciting one. Before the race, Caroline asked Kevin if he gets nervous before races.
“No, I just get really calm before races.”
Caroline was definitely a little nervous, and who could blame her. Kevin’s response might not have been the most helpful, but it did make her laugh which seemed to help a little. She sat quietly by herself, waiting for her race to be announced. When it was time, she suited up and headed out to face her fears head on.
I wasn’t really sure what was going on in the race most of the time. I had a vague idea of which people we met, and therefore should be paying attention to, but I was still never really sure who was in what place. Saxton, Kevin, and I were close to one of the most difficult turns in the race. I was playing around with the camera and trying to listen to Kevin tell us about what was going on. Sometime near the end of the race, I figured out that Caroline was in close competition with another racer for second place. I handed the camera off to Saxton to let him play with it so I could pay more attention to what was going on. Then Caroline rode in to take second place! After seeing her so worried before the race, it was so cool to see her come in second.
The energy in the garage was electric as people crowded around Caroline to be in the moment with her. She had gone onto the rumble strip during the race and had gotten off of it and recovered better than she expected. Everyone wanted to celebrate with her.
Now time for Kevin’s race. People in the garage were asking him questions and helping him get ready. He got into his suit, put on his boots, did some stretches, put on his helmet and his gloves, and was off. Saxton and I headed to the wall to watch.
What an experience! Seeing a friend of yours do something they are passionate about and great at, especially if it’s racing vintage motorcycles, is very cool. Since there were only four people racing, it was much easier for me to tell what was going on. I could tell Kevin was doing good. He started off strong and kept going. Then, about halfway through the race, something seemed a little wrong. Kevin was falling back. I figured I was just getting confused about the race again and kept taking pictures.
Before I knew it the race was over and Kevin was coming in. I wasn’t sure what place he was in so I was trying to pay attention to his body language coming over the finish line. Caroline had been helpful in that way. So was Kevin. He was leaning over his bike trying to look at something while he was riding it. Then I noticed the smoke.
We were worried, and so was everyone in the garage. They were talking about the race, but also speculating on what was wrong with the bike. Kevin said that he felt his front brake go around the second lap. A few people said it smelled like the clutch. A few people asked what place he came in. No one knew, but everyone was in agreement that we were glad he got to finish the race.
Kevin was feeling pretty bummed. We walked around while the bike cooled off and talked to some other people about the race and the bike. We also checked the results of the race. Kevin came in third! I was pretty impressed that he came in third, even with the problems he was having. When we got back to the bike, people were looking at it and trying to diagnose the problem. After a few of the guys, Kevin, and Saxton did something I didn’t understand that made the front wheel turn again, Kevin came to the conclusion that he wouldn’t be able to race the second day.
At the reward barbecue Kevin was upset, but made the best of it by suggesting we head down to Zion after we load the bike the next day. We agreed with the idea, and were excited to come out the next day for a while and see everyone again; Especially this guy, The Turkey, who had a cool bike, a great attitude, and the best business card I have ever received.
At the end of everything, I was sad that we didn’t get to see Kevin race again, but I was so happy for the experience of seeing him in this element at all. As a friend of Kevin’s said, “That’s the problem with racing vintage bikes, they break and you have to fix them. The new bikes, when you get them, they just work.” …but where’s the fun in that? Watching these people work together on these pieces of machinery that they all clearly really love is really what inspires me. The race is exciting for a few minutes, but what’s being built off the track is what really revs my engine.
Photography by Saxton and Taylor
All photography in this article is property of Saxtonoutdoors.com