In preparation for the Suzuki Superbike Shootout of Georgia at Road Atlanta this weekend, I was asked to participate in a ride-along on the back of a Suzuki GSX-R1000 Superbike and yes, it was as impressive as it sounds.
The Suzuki Superbike Shootout of Georgia is divided into five classes, all of which will race this weekend. The Superbike and Superstock 1000 are the classes with the most powerful bikes followed by the Supersport and Superstock 600 and the KTM RC Cup class is open to riders ages 14 to 22.
This weekend will have non-stop two-wheel action on the track. Friday will mainly consist of practices as riders prepare to qualify and race on Saturday and Sunday. Gates open at 8:30 a.m. each day. Tickets for Friday are $20, while Saturday and Sunday tickets are $40. Two and three-day ticket packages are available and kids 12 and under get in free.
Two-hundred and five horsepower, fully loaded, the same type of bike they’ll run in the MotoAmerica race. Only difference was they added a seat on the back. For me. With nothing but foot pedals and handle bars to keep me in place, I was whipped around the 2.55 mile Road Atlanta track.
This was no parade lap either. I was going 160 mph. Let me say that again, 160 mph on the back of a superbike.
The only assurance I was given was that the Team Hammer Suzuki Two-Seat Superbike Rides had a spotless record. Nine-hundred and fourteen had come before me, and I was determined to make sure that No. 915 wasn’t the one to screw it up. Waiver was signed and it was off to the track.
I have to say, the amount of G-forces these riders endure on a regular basis boggles the mind. I mean I was sore after just three laps. I can only imagine what it would feel like after an entire race. The G-forces I felt when my rider, Chris Ulrich, was breaking were the hardest. I was literally up off of my seat.
The forces in the turns had me holding on for dear life. As much as my thighs were hurting, I was most assuredly not about to let go under any circumstance because that would have resulted in something 1,000 times worse. I know it’s a cliché, but I was literally along for the ride.
The straightaways were the most fun. That’s where we topped out on our speed and Ulrich told me afterwards that he popped a few wheelies during our ride. I had no idea. I was too busy trying to keep my head attached to my shoulders as the wind was doing its best to rip my helmet off, but I was fully protected, or at least as protected as you can possibly be going 160 mph on a motorcycle.
I was outfitted in the same gear the professionals wear. My favorite piece of equipment had to be the spine protecter, which is a piece of hard plastic you strap on your back to keep your spine from breaking as you get thrown from the bike. Leather suit with kneepads, OK that’s cute, but bring out the spine protector and it’s on.
The last words that were spoken to me — at the time possibly forever — were “relax, remember to breathe and trust your rider.” That’s what I did and it must have worked since I’m here writing this now.
Ulrich was great. He really made me feel at ease and when the clock struck noon, I was ready to go. Ulrich and I tore up that Road Atlanta track and it will be something I will remember for the rest of my life, but for Ulrich and the rest of the MotoAmerica riders who made the trek to Braselton, there is still work to be done.
This is the second year MotoAmerica has been to Road Atlanta and last year’s Supersport winner, Garrett Gerloff, is primed to repeat. Gerloff already won the series opening race at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, last week, and knows what it take to win at Road Atlanta.
“The key here is to be smooth, hit all your breaking markers because if you try to rush this track, a lot of times you’ll just run wide and mess up the next set of corners,” Gerloff said. “As long as you can carry your momentum, I think you can do a pretty good lap time here and that’s my goal for tomorrow.”
“It’s a family sport,” said Ulrich, who will be competing in the Superbike class. “I mean, my family has been involved in motorcycle road racing for 36 years, and I grew up at the race track.
“It’s such a great environment to be around. It’s exciting, it’s electric and I really enjoy being in the paddock and look forward to seeing all the fans out here.”
Having never been on a motorcycle before in my life — that’s right my first time was at 160 mph — I have a newfound respect for these athletes, who are out there having fun and want the fans to do the same.
“It’s just really exciting to see everybody having a good time, enjoying the racing, enjoying all the fan activities that are out here and hopefully it’s the same this weekend,” Gerloff said. “Everybody having fun at MotoAmerica.”
“It’s such a beautiful sport,” Ulrich said. “I hope everyone at home comes out and checks out the series and checks out the greatest motorcycle racers in the United States.”