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Common Tread

A look at the other side of the racer's life

Jun 04, 2014

Super-slow-mo shots of sliding tires from the 2,500-frames-per-second camera, Marc Márquez in earnest conversations with the engineers in the garage, the controlled, nervous determination on Dani Pedrosa's face... Honda produces some slick videos, as well as some sleek motorcycles.

It's a glamorous world, this racing business, right? Yes, it is. But not always.

More than ever, thanks to Twitter and Instagram and the like, racers give us peeks into their lives, even the less glamorous parts. Even the painful, frustrating, can't-believe-this-is-happening parts.

Consider this Tweet from Pedrosa about "dolor y sufrimiento" (pain and suffering). Pedrosa needed surgery to relieve the arm pump problems he was having. Imagine using that arm to slow yourself from speeds well above 200 mph at Mugello in the hardest braking zone in MotoGP.

Over the winter, AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Champion Brad "The Bullet" Baker was treated like a celebrity when he went to Barcelona to participate in the Superprestigio, an indoor flat-track race that attracted many top roadracers from Europe. Flat-track is a preferred form of training among top roadracers, boosted in no small part by the fact that Márquez endorses it (and, not surprisingly, is very good at it). Baker was the American flat-track specialist who showed the asphalt guys how it was done, winning his heats and delighting the crowd with a duel with Márquez in the final, until Márquez crashed trying to keep up.

Then, a month ago, Baker was training at Colin Edwards' Texas Tornado Boot Camp, another rider collided with him and his bike fell on his arm, breaking it. Trade the smiling young women bearing trophies for an anesthesiologist and a doctor with a scalpel.

One month ago, having already clinched a record-tying fourth consecutive championship in AMA Monster Energy Supercross, an FIM World Championship, Ryan Villopoto was, for one night, the most celebrated man in Las Vegas, cheered as he led every single lap in the season's final Supercross race. A few weeks later, as the outdoor motocross season began without him, Villopoto tweeted that he was bored on the couch, hoping the swelling in his surgically repaired knee would soon subside.

Back in MotoGP, Nicky Hayden had arthroscopic surgery again yesterday in hopes of curing the problems in his right wrist that have caused him pain all season and kept him from racing at Mugello this past weekend. That wrist is starting to look like a potential career-ender. Mick Doohan won five consecutive world championships without the use of his right ankle, but nobody ever won a title without a functioning right wrist.

So go ahead, watch the Honda video and soak in the power and the glory. The racers do. They know they'll need the echoes of those cheers to carry them through the bad luck, the rehab and the dolor y sufrimiento that are sure to come.