If I told you I was sitting in the paddock with my friends on a beautiful sunny weekend at Hallett Motor Racing Circuit in the rolling hills of Oklahoma I’d normally be describing a feeling of complete bliss. On this particular day however, I was staring blankly at my SV650 - a bike which moments earlier was a shiny, well-sorted machine with a couple race wins under its belt for the weekend. Except now it was in shambles; body work tattered and dragging the ground, controls broken and mangled. This wasn’t bliss - this was torment.
I had basically been T-boned mid-corner by a fellow racer who lost control braking into a hard corner. He tried to overshoot by crossing in front of me, but he collected my bike just as I was about to reach the apex. As you can see by the photos, I never saw it coming. The bike wasn’t too bad but it sure wasn’t getting fixed in time for the next race. With a championship on the line, it appeared I had no choice but to throw up my hands and call it a weekend. Fortunately for me, my paddock buddies weren’t having it.
I stepped next door for a few minutes to check on the rider whom I tangled with on the track. He was a little banged up - concussion, broken clavicle and some other injuries. As I stepped into his paddock area I could see he was slightly out of it so I attempted to lighten the mood with my greeting: “Hey man I’m glad you’re mostly okay. And since you’re not going to remember this tomorrow anyway, I’ll go ahead and say it: You’re an ***hole for running into me!” We both smiled and agreed it was a racing incident, and we’d move on.
After checking on my fellow rider and making sure he understood there were no hard feelings, I returned to my pit with full intentions of getting out of my leathers and starting to load my mangled bike into the trailer. Instead I was taken aback by what I found: My friends (and fellow competitors!) were modifying one of their street-legal second gen SV650’s for me to race the rest of the day! The sight was really something to behold: A crooked, hastily zip-tied number plate hung from the fairingless front stay. The only bodywork on the bike was my damaged first-gen belly pan, “affixed” (barely) right up against the engine using massive industrial zip-ties up over the frame. The kickstand had been removed and tossed aside but the contraption still adorned street tires and a license plate frame. The team of friends had already arranged with a vendor to have my slicks swapped over, then we’d be ready to race again!
I couldn’t help but laugh, and at the same time feel an overwhelming sense of appreciation and humility. Later that day I went out and got a big podium on that horrible looking stock SV… beating some of those same folks who helped get me back out there with that cobbled-together motorcycle. I snagged some crucial championship points in the standings, and it was all thanks to my friends and fellow competitors’ kindness. Oh and later, we all drank a bunch of beer and made fun of each other.
People ask me all the time why we started Bison. The truth is there are many reasons, but one of the big ones was knowing that once I am done racing I will have something which keeps me connected to both the community and the atmosphere of the race track. I’m a loyalist. When I love something, I love it hard. When I do something, I go all-in or nothing. Once I discovered motorcycle roadracing I knew there was no way I’d be able to walk away from it cold-turkey, and Bison allows me not only to stay connected to the community but also to provide a service to the people I have come to love. With all of the above in mind, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows out there. As with any community we have our fair share of bad apples, cliques and internet trolls.
I think we can all agree that there are some big personalities and equally-large egos in the paddock, but many of those same folks have big hearts. Unfortunately the good people aren’t always the most vocal ones, so many times the boisterous, vindictive ones tend to lead conversations and control narratives - especially on social media. For the past several years I’ve watched people (many of whom I consider to be mutual friends) tear each other to shreds on social media, and it’s disheartening. Let’s face it: whether we’re at the racetrack or commenting on a motorcycle page on social media we’re doing so to escape the stresses of everyday life, not to replace it with a different type of drama.
We’re at a critical junction not only in our community of riders, but as a society. It’s time that we step back and reconsider our actions as individuals - especially within the motorcycle community. Every time we throw a leg over a motorcycle whether on the street or at the track, we risk serious injury and we understand it may be our last. It’s time to look across the paddock or the intersection and remember there is a face and a soul behind the visor of that helmet. That person is a father, a mother, a son, a daughter… a friend. We must look out for each other, not tear each other down. Let’s rekindle that today!
I want to hear your story of positivity within the community! I know there is a ton of stuff out there that never gets mentioned or acknowledged, heck I have three or four more stories I could share myself! In the comments section below (or in our corresponding social media post) drop a comment telling us about a time you saw a positive act within the motorcycle family.