Smell This It Smells Really Bad

Brainerd Minnesota 1998

Originally published in the October 1998 City Bike Magazine.

I’ve discovered a behavioral phenomenon that I’m prepared to take public. It can be found in relationships, in motorcycle racing, and in the refrigerator. It’s called “Smell This — It Smells Really Bad”. Here’s an obvious example using the fridge: You’re at my house for breakfast. I’ve pulled out the Quisp for myself and the Mueslix for you. I reach for the milk and notice the expiration date — four days past. I’ve lived long enough; I know what it’s going to smell like. But I open the carton and smell it anyways. Whoa! But here’s the kicker, I then pass the carton to you. And you have even more reason to not smell it then I did. And you smell it too! What the hell is that?

Mid-Ohio was complete chaos. I lost fourth gear Saturday morning and had to ride the heat race without it. After the heat Todd and I pulled the motor and split the cases. A clip had broken on the output shaft, allowing the gear to slide around. Mickey and Eric from Orange County Triumph came over and helped us put it back together. I rode for two laps on Sunday morning making sure the bike was shifting smoothly, and then started to pick up the pace on the third lap. The clip broke again exiting the keyhole and I missed a shift, the motor over-revving and spitting out shims. Two laps of practice on my rebuilt transmission, and I destroy my cylinder head. We worked on the motor for the next three hours, and I made the race. I faded from fifth as the transmission worsened, eventually finishing ninth.

After the race, I gave the motor to Orange County Triumph. I built four motors myself this season, and it obviously wasn’t working out. At least their motors are fast before they break.

Todd and I drove to Brainerd expecting to put the bike together Thursday night. Eric from OCT didn’t show up until Friday morning, and we missed the morning session. We missed the afternoon with an oil leak. I didn’t go out in Extreme practice because Ben Bostrom was already going 60 mph faster than I was.

On Saturday, we had a short morning practice and the heat race. We left the track having completed eleven laps for the weekend.

During the Sunday warm up, I was pushing trying to get up to speed. My lap times were still dropping SECONDS a lap. On lap four I binned it in turn one — flat out in sixth gear. Finis. Kaput. No mas. The crash has been well documented by now so I won’t romanticize it. It happened for the same reason I crashed at Laguna Seca, trying to play catch up due to mechanical problems. I was lucky to only break my hand. My bike broke into two large, unequal pieces.

My season smells bad. But I keep on smelling. Maybe I’m a gas huffer, addicted to Elf Pro 110 and Motul contact cleaner. I’ve seen this happen before, and didn’t heed the lesson then. When I was in high school there was a kid in my grade named Clayton Perry. He lived next to the local gas station, and everyone claimed he had a habit. One morning an ambulance roared into the school parking lot — lights flashing. They rolled Clayton out on a stretcher, a bloody bandage on his head. Apparently, a piece of knotty wood kicked back from the table saw during shop class, and whacked him in the head. Seemed pretty straightforward to me. But the consensus among the students was different: Sniff gas, go to the hospital.

I had a cast on my hand from Brainerd. My friend Rachel wrote “Schadenfreude” on it. The only German I know is “Zeitgeist” and “kurtmund”. She said it translates to “deriving pleasure from another’s misery”. Welcome aboard. The train doesn’t have any brakes. We’ll be departing for Colorado shortly.