Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Gymkhana in Birmingham

Gymkhanas are a cool thing to do. I know some of y'all are thinking of the 80's karate movie, but that's gymkata. This is different. The idea is to set up courses in a clear lot and then try to ride them and get better at them all the while getting better at riding YOUR bike. In Alabama we have an internet group called bamarides.com that is a great site to visit to find some really cool rides in the area or just to talk to other folks who like to get out and wander. They are also connected with http://amgrass.com which is the American Motorcycle Gymkhana Riders Association. A few weeks ago these folks set up an event at the old Century Plaza shopping mall and invited riders to come out and have some fun as well as get better at riding. I've been talking about going to one of these, but JT finally got me to actually get out and do it. I'm glad I did. The day's weather was not great, but for real riders it was fine. It was overcast, cold and windy, but I've ridden in much worse so off I went.

When I arrived I was greeted at the sign up tent/entrance where I was asked to fill out a few basic forms and was given the run down on how things operate. The first thing you do is roll over to the practice/test area where you can run the circles they have set up to practice or even go make circles around a light pole if you're that bad at it. Once you think you're ready one of the folks running the event watch you make circles. The obstacle is a cone with a circle of cut in half tennis balls. You make circles around the outside of the circle both clockwise and counter-clockwise then you do it again on the inside of the tennis balls. Once you accomplish this and they are satisfied that you can at least control your bike they let you go over to the fun courses.

They had 3 courses set up for riders to ride. One was a small figure 8 and it was the only timed course. The others were a lot longer and more involved, but you ride them at your pace and the idea is to just become a better rider. The figure 8 is where you  can actually see your improvement though, it consists of 5 laps around the course and exit. My first run I did it in 1 minute and 7 seconds. I was being careful and got comfortable. My next run I did it in 47 seconds, the fasted time of the day was 33 seconds and it was on a small bike. I'm pretty sure I got the "most improved in one run" prize ;-) I also had one of the fasted times for a cruiser style bike. JT on his Nightster got his bike into the low 50's but the height of his bars slowed him down. He got faster when he leaned the bars back, but it felt weird and the point of this is to get better with the bike you ride in the configuration you ride it in.

Later on things started to wind down and a few people started to play, but even then things were done in a safe manner and at no time was anyone in any unnecessary danger from someone else's antics. Basically it was a fun day and I learned that I do know how to ride my beast and I plan to do this again on my Triumph and my Flyrite if I ever get them ready to ride on a weekend when they are running one of these. Check it out if you can and have some fun while learning some stuff too.

JT waiting to do a run on the figure 8

JT riding the figure 8, you can see someone on one of the other courses in the background.

JT on the 8 again the next course was long enough that more than one person could ride it at a time.

JT again

When you weren't riding you could stand around and talk about bikes or swap ideas on how to get faster.

Everyone is welcome as you can see

My bike resting after my run.

I wasn't the only one taking pictures.

There were 3 courses set up beside each other in this stretch of parking lot.

Everyone was having fun riding all kinds of different bikes.

One of the two fastest bikes of the day.

Looking across the courses.

It was fun to watch him ride this monster. It can lean much farther than most people think.

My last shot of the day. Like I said, everything was safe and we all had some fun.


  1. Glad I finally got you out...
    Thanks for sharing the pics, good stuff.

  2. We have a big one coming up on November 9, from 10 to 4, at the Alabama Traffic Safety Center at the University of Montevallo. Come back out and play with us again!