Roadracing World’s David Swarts got into a crouch that resembled a catcher poised to throw out a runner trying to steal second base. He rocked to the left while pivoting his head to the left, then rocked to the right while pivoting his head to the right, and he calmly explained proper positioning on the motorcycle.
Clad in full leathers, gloves, an Arai helmet, and TCX boots – all topnotch safety equipment personally selected and fitted to me by Swarts – I joined the other Two-Seater riders as we huddled around the #18 Suzuki GSX-R1000R Superbike resplendent in its bright-yellow Dunlop livery and graphics, and shod with Dunlop’s top-of-the-line U.S.-made racing slicks.
Chris Ulrich appeared from the M4 Suzuki team transporter wearing leathers that perfectly matched the two-seater motorcycle he was about to pilot. Swarts calmly told us to trust Ulrich. Ulrich echoed the same sentiment. I’ve known Chris for several years and watched him race at the pointy end of the AMA Superbike field. Of course, I would trust him, but his and Swarts’ words and gentle demeanor redoubled my trust.
Climbing onto the back of a motorcycle is something that I’ve only done a handful of times in my life, even though I’ve been riding motorcycles for more than four decades, and I am a Charter Life Member of the American Motorcyclist Association. I’ve certainly never been on the back of a Superbike about to circulate New Jersey Motorsports Park’s 12-turn, 2.25-mile Thunderbolt Raceway. Perched high on the pillion of that Gixxer gave me a front-row seat on an honest-to-goodness 204-horespower Superbike. Swarts had instructed us to just breathe. Funny thing is, I don’t recall breathing at all during the entire experience.
My senses were piqued just leaving pit lane. I didn’t expect Ulrich to get on the gas so hard and go so fast even before we were out on the track. I re-checked my grip on the sturdy handhold bolted to the top of the Suzuki’s fuel tank as we blended onto the racecourse.
Leaning when Ulrich leaned and looking in the direction we were going, I have never before gone that fast into a corner nor have I ever leaned a bike over that far. This is where the trust part came in. I trusted Ulrich, I trusted the Suzuki, and most of all, I trusted those Dunlop tires.
On Sundays at the track, our Chaplain Raymond Rizzo regularly speaks about the trust and faith we have in God. He often uses an analogy that we trust that the chair we are about to sit in will hold us… and sure enough it does. Going on a Dunlop M4 Suzuki Two-Seater ride with Chris Ulrich is an even more persuasive example of trust and faith. We went through that corner, and many others, and I’m still amazed at how tenaciously those Dunlop racing slicks stick to the track.
Swarts told us that, on the first lap, we would probably feel tense, but on the second lap, we would be more relaxed. My experience was the exact opposite of that because, when Ulrich did the next lap, an honest-to-goodness flying lap, it took me right back to the previous year when I made a one-minute run down Park City, Utah’s U.S. Olympic Bobsled Track with none other than Superbike rider Mathew Scholtz sitting right behind me in the sled. That was previously the most intense 60 seconds of my life, but that once-in-a-lifetime experience was definitely surpassed by my Two-Seater ride with Ulrich.
Thankfully, Swarts had noticed that the faceshield on my Arai helmet was open when I had first climbed aboard with Ulrich, but my hands were already clutching the aforementioned passenger handhold. So Swarts obliged me by carefully lowering my faceshield and ensuring that it was secure. And, when Ulrich and I came rocketing down NJMP’s Thunderbolt front straight, I realized the full benefit of that full-face Arai helmet. If it hadn’t been strapped beneath my chin and had the faceshield down, that helmet would’ve been pulled clean off my head by the tremendous wind blast from going about 150 mph across the start-finish line.
We came through turn one and wound our way through those same corners as the previous lap, and again, I marveled at the speed we were going through the turns, with Ulrich actually accelerating hard in places where I would have been squeezing the brakes if it were me behind the handlebars and riding by myself.
Ulrich turned into pit-in and brought the big ‘Zook to a stop at the exact place we started. Swarts helped me off the bike, Ulrich looked for my reaction, and all I could do was give him a fist-bump… followed by a big hug.
Being a writer throughout my entire career, and also an absolute chatterbox if you ask anyone who has met me, something came over me following that Two-Seater Ride that has never happened before.
I was speechless.
The Dunlop Suzuki M4 Two-Seater Ride is an outreach program that not only gives the media and fans a chance to experience what it’s like to be a MotoAmerica road racer, but the proceeds from donations to the Two-Seater Rides go to the Roadracing World Action Fund, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization.
The Roadracing World Action Fund promotes motorcycle racing safety, and in particular, encourages and facilitates the use of soft air barriers at motorcycle racing events, including all MotoAmerica races.