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Fine Grind


Whether friction or stiction, the problem must be fixed


Doug Lawrence is unhappy. There’s a grinding, or a catching, or a snagging within the throttle cables on his XR750. The facial expression of the elder Doug Lawrence suggests he’s heard this grievance before. Doug’s cables have been infiltrated with grit, at least that’s his suspicion. If I twisted his throttle, I’d likely think it OK. (Incidentally, another man’s throttle should never be gripped without invitation. Tellingly, Doug did not seek my opinion.) But Doug’s reservations should not be questioned. His number 1 plate is all the evidence necessary for him to be believed.


(To lend credence to Doug’s concern, it must be noted that a flat track race is a fiesta of aerated rock and stone that drifts back down to earth as fine dust, like flakes inside a snow globe. The dust gets in your ears, under your fingernails, beneath the eyelids and, most worryingly, into the brain. And no matter how furiously you blow your nose or root around your nostrils with a finger, you can’t dig it all out. Ever.)

An expert-level flat tracker can ride just about any kind of track well. But at the highest levels of competition, riders cleave into one of two camps: either slick-track-subtle or cushion-track-impulsive. Most Canadians—raised on pea-gravel half-mile horse tracks, are the latter. Doug is an anomaly. He isn’t a stuff-it-in-the-corner with abandon man. He isn’t a half-off-the-bike, wheels-off-the-ground showoff. Sometimes, on a rutted cushion track, he can look tentative. But put Doug on a blue groove track as slippery as a greased cooking sheet and he’s in his element. With a dropped shoulder or a torso rolled to the rear, along with a throttle hand that can sense when a tire is just at the edge of breaking traction, Doug motors away while lesser riders slither sideways hopelessly. For most of us traction control is a feature wired into a motorcycle at the factory. Doug, however, got his software straight from the womb. 

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