How long have you been riding and how did you learn?
I started when I was 9 on a Z50 that my grandfather had. It became mine and then I went a dirtbike. Then when I was 13 I was racing motocross. That lasted four or five years. Then onto road racing at age 19. It looked cool and a lot of fun, I was in.
You started racing at Westwood Motorsports Park?
I was able to catch the last couple of years. There was a great group of fast guys. Steve Crevier, Gary Goodfellow, Steve Dyck, and Tom Walter. These were internationally fast guys, not just locally. Westwood had a great name for itself in the racing community. We were also able to practice weekly. It was only $10 to $15 to practice. The level of riding was very high since we were able to practice so much. A semi fast guy from Westwood would go down to Portland and go down and win a race. The guys down there didn’t like that.
How did you become fast?
It wasn’t quite the way it is now. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I just got on the road race bike and followed faster people. I crashed a lot. After half of season I sorted out the crashing part and was able to win some races. In my first five times on the track I crashed four times. I was transitioning my skills from dirt to pavement [It is easier to go from motocross to road racing than road racing to motocross]. My motocross experience helped but I still had a lot to learn. First off, I knew how to launch a bike off the start. Not very many people knew how to do that at the time. Second, I would be late on the brakes into the corners. The rest, trial and error. Learning to race is really important too. The fundamentals of racing across any platform (downhill skiing, motocross, etc) helps with motorcycle racing. It is one thing to learn the track, or to think you’re quick. If you don’t know the focus and dedication to racing. You have to learn. Since I had motocross racing experience it made the transition to road racing easier.
What is one skill or technique that changed your riding?
I was charging the turns too hard (more motocross style) and hard on the brakes. I transitioned to being easier on the brakes and carrying more corner speed. I was softer on the brakes earlier which allowed me a smoother entrance into the turn. I had to slow down a bit to go faster. Be patience. [practice slow to be smooth. When you’re smooth, you’re fast!].
Through the years of teaching I did at WCSS. There was a natural tendency with street riders to charge the corners too fast and turn in too early. It would push them wide on the exit. As soon as a student forced being faster on the track, they’ed revert back to the poor form. Be patient.
“I had to slow down a bit to go faster.”
What were some of the more memorable mistakes you’ve made?
Being over exuberant, trying to hard and too competitive. I was expending my energy too fast. Near the end of the race I was tired and not keeping my lap times. Not being patience enough.
Target fixation was my other big problem. On the track I’d watch someone go off the track and I’d follow them off. It was ridiculous. I really had to work to correct it. Definitely not something you want to do on the street.
What was one of your favorite motorcycles you raced?
The 2006 Yamaha R6 was an amazing motorcycle. The handling, the braking. I was able to go a lot faster.
What is the best $100 or less you’ve spent on motorcycling?
I rented an extra set of wheels for my RZ race bike. It allowed me to run two sets of tires which allowed me to compete in two different races. The logistics of changing out tires between two races was not going to happen. It is far easier to swap out a full set of rims. It cost $75 for the whole season to rent these spare rims. It made things easier.
[LR This is a great idea. I did have a spare set of rim for my Ninja 1000. If you’re riding on big trips. The annoyance of not having enough tread to last the trip is frustrating. Your tire may have 3,000kms left on it but your trip is 4,000kms. What do you do? A mid-trip tire change would take long enough to alter your plans. Not to mention asking you riding buddies to wait for you. It also applies to doing both track and street rides. You don’t need the same tires. Get a set for the track and street.]
What do motorcycle manufacturers right?
They get just about everything right. Now they are developing the electronics which will prevent some crashes. They are making the bikes easier to ride. It is also what they do wrong in making it too easy to ride.
What mistakes do riders makes at a racing level?
Not taking the time to launch the bike off the line. It is the part of the race where you can make up or lose the most amount of positions.
Who is a great rider that shouldn’t be?
Anyone that can turn a great lap time is not getting there by luck. There is not one definitive method for body positioning that is going to be 100% right. There are fundamentals to it. You do what works for you. You have to figure yourself out.
What were common mistakes students made when you were teaching at West Coast Superbike School?
Rushing into the turns and turning it in too early. Not having control through the turn and screwing up your exit. On both the street and racing it is not safe and doesn’t result in better lap times. By turning in too early you end up doing most of your turn after the apex which is too late. You should get your turn done just before the apex so you can get the good drive out of the corner.
Mid-corner body positioning was also not enough. You need to move your body into the turn more. Help the tires around the corner. If your tires have to do more leaning it is not as safe and slower around the corner.
“On common mistake… “Rushing into the turns and turning it in too early. Not having control through the turn and screwing up your exit. On both the street and racing it is not safe and doesn’t result in better lap times.”
What good books, movies or documentaries do you like?
Twist of the Wrist by Keith Code. It is not the be all end all. You will have to figure out what works for you. So read and take tips from everything.
Who are successful riders?
Valentino Rossi. He is incredible, has longevity, and evolves with techniques. He made the leg dangle. Now almost everyone is doing it. Jorge Lorenzo has done well winning three MotoGP championships. He can go out there and beat all the leg danglers. There is more than one way to win a race with technique.
Locally I have always looked up to Steve Crevier, Gary Goodfellow, Steve Dyck. Gary Goodfellow has quite the story. He was originally from New Zealand and came to Canada. He ran a motorcycle shop (Suzuki?). He sponsored some guys to race for him and Gary himself was a GP motocross racer in Europe. The racers he sponsored didn’t last long. He said “screw it” I can go faster than these guys. So he went and raced. He won a world super bike race in Japan and he was a local Westwood guy. He even finished second at the Suzuka 8 hour. If you look up some match races on youtube. The big races had Schwantz and Rainey out in front. You’d have Gary Goodfellow in third on a sub-par bike. He was keeping up with factory guys. He thought, if they can go that fast I can too.
When I was racing in Quebec, it was a practice session. I was sliding the front into this turn. Gary saw this and explained that I needed more corner speed. I explained to him that I was sliding the front tire already. He said it doesn’t matter, you have to slide it harder then. I told Gary that’s why I am Troy Burstyk and your Gary Goodfellow.
If you could go back in time and talk to yourself before you got into racing motorcycles what would you tell yourself?
Rob a bank! I had some potential but I did not have the finances to chase it. During my early 20’s at Westwood I was scraping by. It would have been nice to have some money for more bikes and tires and to be able to race at more tracks to see where it could have gone.
If you had $25,000 to spend on motorcycling where would you spend it?
I would get a Ninja 250 and go race that. It would cost around $6,000 for the bike and the associated costs for the year. That would get me a year of racing in the 250 class. The great thing about the 250s is you don’t need several sets of tires. With a 600cc racebike you go through a lot of tires. That gets expensive. To be competitive you need a lot more money and even a sponsorship.
What are you excited about for 2017?
My Harley Davidson. I am approaching 50, I don’t want to be crouched over a sport bike. I don’t want to be tempted to go fast or even join a group sportbike ride. I’ve only ridden a bike one way, as hard as I can. With the Harley I am not tempted. I should probably wear more gear…