Tony and Ken’s Barber Experience- UPDATED

Tony from Tony’s Track Days and I are leaving for the southern state of Alabama to take in the beauty (and warmth?) of the Barber Motorsports Park and absorb decades of motorcycle history at the Barber Museum. We’ll be riding our motorcycles with X-Act on Saturday and Sunday. Reports to follow. In the meantime, enjoy this video with Ben Spies and Colin Edwards. I’m afraid our trip…I mean Mancation… may be scarily similar to theirs:

Track Day Prep

Tony and I are riding with X-Act Motorsports and they, like many track day organizations, require glycol anti-freeze/coolant to be removed and replaced with distilled water or one of their approved substances. Those of you who ride with TTD know that we don’t require customers to drain their coolant. This is because in the many years that we’ve been running track days, we rarely ever have much trouble with coolant spills. Yes, occasionally some dribbles out of the radiator overflow from a gravity-challenged bike, but it’s never been a big problem. But, it sure can be a hindrance for regular street motorcycle riders to remove their coolant.

And now I’m reminded of just what a pain it is to do. I’m mechanically inclined, so this chore is well within my abiities. But, still… it’s messy and time-consuming when I could be doing something much more productive like polishing my wheels.

The Bull dog ready for some barber action.

The Bull Dog ready for some Barber action.

Transforming the Street Triple from street duty to track bull dog is not a big deal. (I decided that it looks like a bull dog) Although, I discovered that Triumph makes silly decisions that make it unnecessarily difficult to take street stuff off. One poor decision was to put the front turn signal connectors underneath the fuel tank! WTF? To raise the tank, I have to remove the Scott’s damper, so I’ll be putting connectors where Triumph should have put them in the first place: between the tank and the signal housing so the directionals can be removed in seconds, not tens of minutes.

X-Act also wants us to zip tie our sidestand up, which TPM requires, too. Again, we at TTD never found this to be an issue, but it’s a small thing to do. I’ll just make the zip-tie loose enough to slip off so I can use the stand in the paddock. No, we aren’t bringing paddock stands…light is right on this trip.

Gear packing

So, the bike is ready. Next on my list is packing my riding gear. I have one of those really cool Ogio gear bags on wheels, but Tony tells me he has matching plastic bins that fit perfectly in the back of his truck, so I may have to leave the sexy Ogio at home.

I keep all my track stuff in one place, so gathering it up was easy. I kept my tattered Vanson leathers aside until I found out whether my TTD Heroic leathers would be arriving in time for the trip. I heard from Todd today and he says that the leathers must have been shipped by camel, so they won’t be at my house before I leave. He says they will be at the hotel in Birmingham when we arrive. We shall see.

If they do arrive, then Tony and I will either look like we intended our matching black and yellow TTD leathers to look…like team colors. But there is a slight risk that we could be mistaken for advocates of same sex marriage (I don’t know Tony’s politics on this matter, but I’m pro, BTW). We’ll see how the southern boys react. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Brrrrr?

Wait, I thought Alabama was supposed to be warm, or at least warm-ish. But, the extended forecast says 45 degrees on Sunday. Is this some cruel joke? Well, I’m not laughing.

Now, we hearty New Englanders can handle the cold temps, it’s just that we prefer temperatures that don’t conspire to make our tires Flintstone-hard. What I can count on is the warmth of good friends hanging around the tire warmers and fighting over Wendy Butler’s cookies.

The Trip Begins

I meet Tony at his house on Wednesday, Nov. 20th at 9:00 AM. We’ll load the bikes and hit the road. Anyone know where there is a key fob store near Rt 84?

We made it to Virginia and will do the rest of the trip tomorrow. All is well so far. Tony hasn’t farted once, at least he denied doing it, but I don’t buy his claim that Renee spilled baked beans in the truck last week. I didn’t argue.

So, a trip to Walmart scored us a tarp, extension cord and tarp tie downs. So, now the bikes are tucked in for the night with the ceramic heater I brought turned on high to guarantee that our radiator water won’t freeze.

We Have Arrived

Well, 19 hours of driving later, we pulled into the hotel located just down the road from the racetrack. we’ll be meeting with the other Northerners for dinner and then we’ll hit the museum tomorrow. Look for lots of photos of the museum in the next couple days.

The Barber Motorcycle Museum

I’ll let the gallery speak for itself.

First Day on the Barber Track

We expected cold and possibly rainy conditions, but the weather Gods looked favorably on us and gave us dry and not too cold temps (for us New Englanders). We were in the 40s in the morning, with 50s in the afternoon. Getting heat and keeping it in the tires was a challenge, but the grip was fine for the pace we were running as we learned the track.

So, what is the track like and was it worth driving 20 hours to get to experience its awesomeness. In one word, yes. It’s a combination of fast, flowing corners with some tight stuff thrown in. The biggest challenge was to figure out where the heck I was on the track. There are a lot of blind corners, many hidden by hilltops. I would be approaching a hill, not remembering what was on the other side. Once I crested the hill, I would say “oh yeah” and then get on the gas.

By the last morning session, I was starting to not be so lost and was picking up the pace. The afternoon sessions went very well, except for the riders who didn’t understand the concept of taking a couple of laps to get some heat int he tires before wicking it up. That session was a wash with two red flags almost as soon as the session started and again at the restart. Oh well.

Up and Down, Left and Right

The Barber track is a medium-fast, flowing roller coaster of a track. It was a challenge to learn, but once I figured out where I was on the track, things went well. One problem was the cold temperatures. Saturday was in the low 50s and wasn’t bad, but it was 30 degrees when we arrived on Sunday.

We decided to give the track and the air a chance to get a bit warmer before we rolled. After lunch, we went out and proceeded to lay down some respectable laps. I did not have tire warmers, which would have made the first few laps less stressful, but the tires did eventually warm enough for fast, knee-down cornering.

Here are some photos from the weekend. Thanks to Raul Jerez / Highside Photo.

See videos of the Barber Track day HERE.


Since this will be our first time at Barber, we will be putting our “Learning New Tracks” skills to use.  I did write an article on learning new tracks last year for the TTD website, but do any of you have tips for us that you find helpful?

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Ken is author of "Motorcycling the Right Way” and "Riding in the Zone" (book and blog). He is also the "Street Savvy" columnist for Motorcyclist Magazine, and former longtime author of the Proficient Motorcycling and Street Strategies columns for Motorcycle Consumer News. Ken is Lead Instructor for Tony's Track Days, a 20 year Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructor, and owner of Riding in the Zone Motorcyclist Training.

Posted in Adventures, All Things Motorcycle, Motorcycle Musings, My Motorcycles, Track Days Tagged with: , ,
10 comments on “Tony and Ken’s Barber Experience- UPDATED
  1. Jamie McKee says:

    Ken – sounds like you and Tony had a great time. I’ve been to Barber once and loved it. As you said, lots of elevation changes and blind crests. And the museum is just icing on the cake. I could spend days lost in there.

    John and I did a California Superbike School there. We didn’t have cold temps but we did have a hurricane and monsoon rains to deal with. The museum corner downhill in the wet was a clencher. And despite those conditions, I grinned the entire day. I was, of course, jealous of the guy on the BMW GS that drove by our little zx-6’s …I guess that dual sport rubber warms more quickly and handles the wet better. Either that or I was just a big chicken.

    The pros make learning a new track look so easy. I haven’t found that to be the case. Maybe practice helps. As they say, “How do you eat an elephant…one bite at a time.” I don’t try to learn the whole track, just sections…a couple corners here, a couple corners there and eventually you’ve got the whole track. I find it also helps to tag along with someone faster and watch their turn in point…trying to pick a reference point nearby to cue off the next time around.

  2. Marc Robidas says:

    Interesting track layout, the number of left and right turns are almost the same? Looks like a fast n fun track.

  3. Allen Camara says:

    Have fun guys! Jealous I am! Heroic Leathers? I see a comic strip coming soon………..

  4. Jeannine Condon says:

    Now in terms of your “Mancation” which of you is Colin and which is Ben? 🙂

    Have fun with your Manpanion 😉

  5. Bill Fenderson says:

    British Customs saw the need to correct the front turn signal connector issue on the Striple….they sell an extension pigtail that makes it easy to remove/install your signals for track/street. No need to reroute the wiring to fuse area, instead access is behind radiator cowls with no tank raise needed. They also sell very nice LED replacement signals. I hope you and Tony enjoy your trip!

  6. Bill Cool says:

    Count all the sculptures you see while riding the track 😉

  7. Wendy Butler says:

    I hope all of you have a great time and enjoy every minute on that track! Can’t wait to hear the stories and see what cool key chains you come home with! 🙂

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