Friday, June 29, 2007

My Unbreakable Bond with Speed

by Nicole Hoffman

I didn’t always have such an attachment to speed. I mean I really enjoyed riding my pink “Huffy” as a kid and I went to my dad’s hydroplane races quite often, and I really loved to hang out with the guys and their dirt bikes and 4-wheelers in high school, but I couldn’t have predicted my attachment to riding motorcycles.

Dad and me at boat races

I know exactly the moment I fell in love. I was 21. It was my first time – one Friday night in Daytona Beach. It was a tradition of sorts to ride every weekend with a group of friends. We made no plans really, we just all showed up. This night was my night to show up riding solo on my new Honda 600 F2! We always rode in groups, and of course some had better riding skills than others. Well, let’s keep in mind this was my first time. I got left behind the group because I was so overly cautious about everything – braking, accelerating, turning, stopping and putting my feet down (that would barely touch!). As I approached an intersection the light turned yellow, I panicked. I locked up the rear brake and went sliding sideways through the intersection (I was alone, thankfully…imagine the embarrassment??). I gained control over my bike and caught back up to the pack…okay, so I didn’t actually do any catching up, they waited for me. I told no one of my story…I was keeping that excitement to myself because I knew they would never let me keep riding that night, afterall we had all night to ride yet!

I was scared nearly to death over my little stunt, but the adrenaline – it was intense! It was that moment that taught me that I can handle this, not really the bike, more the fear. It was that very moment that I started pushing past any fear that I had about going fast, going further into the turns on a race track or just pushing past what I never thought possible. The more I practiced and the more I raced, the more I wanted to keep pushing my limits.

My first year as an expert racer I really pushed. I think I “fell down” (that’s what we call it, we don’t “crash”) about 3 or 4 times in that many races, and previously I hadn’t fallen down but once in a season. I learned where the limit was, maybe where my skill limit was, or the bike set-up for that greater speed and cornering. And there lies the challenge in’s fine tuning the bike and suspension, it’s developing your skills as a racer, it’s the mental aspect of pushing past that fear. I say this because so many people ask me “isn’t it scary to race at Daytona?” My answer is usually “not after the first time.”

I suppose I do have a bond with speed, it is in my blood and goes back generations in my family. But the bond has really been in the camaraderie of the sport, in motorsports actually. I know that the friends my grandfather had, and my dad has, usually stemmed from racing. It’s quite a family. And I am so happy to be a part of it…hopefully for a long time to come! So if you are near Elkhart Lake, WI on July 8th, come out to the SunTrust MOTO-ST race. You will have a blast. And make sure you come say hello to the Team.

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