Ready for hauling beer and race fans: a JDM Suzuki Carry 4x4 Kei mini truck.
Ready for hauling beer and race fans: a JDM Suzuki Carry 4×4 Kei mini truck. (Anders T. Carlson/)

More than most tracks, Road America is a celebration of humankind’s victory over walking (read the Capturing Road America With The 360fly 4k Camera article). It’s a shrine to the gods of cornering speed, modern rubber compounds and track bikes. Cars and motorcycles race here because they’re too dangerous to operate in public. Like ants on a dropped Popsicle, race fans are drawn here to consume the thing that makes their little lives livable. In honor of the men and women who go faster than we’re capable of, we ride smaller, less powerful versions of their motorcycles. And we walk as little as possible.

The annual motorcycle race at Road America (called MotoAmerica Superbikes at Road America for sponsorship purposes) accomplishes two things. One, it puts plebes like us in our proper place (the stands) and elevates people like Kayla Yaakov and Danilo Petrucci to their proper place (on the track); and two, it offers the chance to use the weird vehicles we’ve collected over the years. Race weekend is a showcase for two distinct abilities: riding motorcycles and accumulating them.

Make no mistake, Road America’s main attractions are the 14 wickedly fast turns that make up the 4.048-mile track, largely unchanged since 1955. But woven throughout the grounds are dozens of paths, ranging from near-impassable woods to enduro-friendly trails. These are the track’s lifeblood. Approximately 15 miles of authorized roads, paths, and trails connect fans with the track, spectator stands, pits, and generous concession spots. Roads meander through camping sites, four separate bridges cross over the track, with groves of trees helping you feel pleasantly lost.

The headline here? Skip your next car or new motorcycle payment and buy a pitbike or scooter.

It’s the one weekend in Wisconsin where Harley-Davidsons become just another motorcycle. The spectacle of the King of the Baggers race certainly draws a crowd, but the real show is ‘90s-era ABS plastics, people-watching, and oddball vehicle survivors. Superbikes are anything but “run what you brung.” But for those of us not racing, it’s a chance to show off miniaturized, much less powerful caricatures of what we see on the track.

Like most of America, weekends at Road America have gotten expensive. In past years, unexpected camping wristbands added insult to financial injury, leading the faithful to feel they were paying for the sins of the no-shows. But this year we pulled in to gate 4, made up a camping spot number, and were quickly ushered into our familiar playground. Maybe we were part of a trend; this year’s attendance was easily twice last year’s. Without getting into politics and/or pandemics, the party was on in 2022.

The racing’s just a small part of the RA charm. As a “racer” with AHRMA, I never saw Kettle Moraine trail or the single hidden bench above Canada Corner. I never rode the dirt trail alongside the main straight wall leading to turn 5 or the one to the Carousel. Although I rode the track, sometimes well, I barely understood the surrounding geography. I had no idea what I looked like when laboring my way up Thunder Valley. Apparently, it’s uphill.

Although you may only ride plated vehicles in RA, five minutes with a screwdriver can legalize any vehicle. Relax, it’s a pitbike; it’s not like you’ll be riding it 6.5 miles to the Kwik Trip for more beer. For your troubles, you can ride, or at least get close to, much of the aforementioned 15 miles of authorized pathways. Kick that pitbike to life and go find a favorite vantage point.

For the view, it’s hard to beat Hurry Downs, set atop turns 6, 7, and 8. For the lazy, there’s food, beer, and bleachers right there. Maybe you like long straights with downhill corner entrances? Find turn 1. Or turn 5. Or go back to Hurry Downs, grab a beer, and watch who drops balls first and brakes last before the left-hand turn 8 sweep into the Carousel. Or maybe it’s uphill charges into the unknown, minus sight lines; park yourself by the Toyota Bridge and watch racers hurtle headlong into turn 6, or brave the forest by Canada Corner and watch the torque-sapping climb up Thunder Valley at turns 13 and 13A.

The Kettle Moraine trail gives you a zoolike sense of danger as waves of bikes thread their way through the narrow Kettle Bottoms section, caged in by debris fencing. Stay left past the go-kart track beginning at the Kink, which motorcycles skip by taking the safer Bend line. An asphalt trail shadows Kettle Bottoms, letting you feel the wake from passing racers

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By: Anders T. Carlson
Title: Going Off-Track – the Joy of Road America
Sourced From:
Published Date: Tue, 21 Jun 2022 21:11:15 +0000

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