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John Reynolds: Riding Masterclass

Fri, 17 Dec 2010

When I first started racing about a thousand years ago, my local stomping ground was a place called Three Sisters near Wigan. 

It wasn’t glamorous but it was brilliant. An hour from home and with about a million corners crammed into just a km of tarmac. The Three Sisters was a reference to the three coal slag heaps that had once occupied the site before. See? Not glamorous.

In my first full year of club racing (1987) I entered every race I could afford and won fifty two, five championships and set the outright lap record that stood for a couple of years. I thought I was the mutt’s nuts. 

Then, I remember a lad of similar age rocking up on an old but immaculately prepared 350TZ. Like me, he and his dad turned up with the bike on a trailer. We avoided each other in the heats but met in the final. It was raining. Me on my four-stroke single Spondon Rotax versus this mystery guest on his TZ350 Yamaha.  We were never further apart than half a wheel’s length but he beat me – fair and square – to take the last race of the day. It was a proper reality check.

His name? John Reynolds and we’ve known each other ever since. In a strange twist of fate I was his press officer in 2000/2001, the year he won the BSB title and a wild card race at Brands Hatch WSB. I still have that laurel wreath in my garage.

I’ve just had another wheel-to-wheel moment with JR on this GSX-R600 launch at Almeria but this time it was much more gentlemanly and there was no plastic winner’s trophy to fight over. It’s my first visit to the Spanish track and with all its blind crests and hidden apexes I was struggling. John graciously agreed to show me the hidden line.

I’m glad I asked. Where I’d been making three corners of three corners, John swept through them in one, threading them together in one graceful, effortless arc. Clamped to his back wheel for eight laps also allowed me to study, in fine detail, exactly what he was doing with his body positioning, gearshifts and throttle openings. It would have taken me all day to fathom what he showed me in just twenty minutes.

And it also showed me something that you tend to forget when you’re riding on the road every day. Winter gloves, heated grips and sketchy road surfaces dull the enjoyment. Riding a sports bike on a warm, dry race track is a spiritual experience if you approach it as a never ending learning curve. You will never stop learning. Never stop honing that crucial accuracy, delicacy, smoothness and pin-point precision.

It’s official. Bikes are brilliant.

If you fancy riding at Almeria I can’t recommend it enough. Sell some stuff on eBay, do some extra overtime, rob a bank. Whatever. It’s a box you just have to tick. See Focused Events website for details…

By mark forsyth

See also: What Has James Stewart Been Up To? [video], Air time Kenny Roberts-style, Milan Show: Moto2 tried and tested.