Q&A with Jay Tait #90. Green blooded Kawasaki rider winning races and telling you how easy it is to be a safer rider.
Jay has completed multiple advanced riding courses, raced motorcycles in BC, AB and ON, and currently is a race school instructor with the WMRC. You can find him selling both motorcycles and riding accessories at Burnaby Kawasaki. Advanced riding courses completed: CLASS motorcycle school graduate 4 times STAR school graduate 8 times West Coast Superbike […]
Jay has completed multiple advanced riding courses, raced motorcycles in BC, AB and ON, and currently is a race school instructor with the WMRC. You can find him selling both motorcycles and riding accessories at Burnaby Kawasaki. Advanced riding courses completed: CLASS motorcycle school graduate 4 times STAR school graduate 8 times West Coast Superbike […]

Jay has completed multiple advanced riding courses, raced motorcycles in BC, AB and ON, and currently is a race school instructor with the WMRC. You can find him selling both motorcycles and riding accessories at Burnaby Kawasaki.

Advanced riding courses completed:
CLASS motorcycle school graduate 4 times
STAR school graduate 8 times
West Coast Superbike School graduate
STAR pro school graduate
Moto Gymkhana intro course

2011 WMRC 250 production champion
2014 WMRC 250 supersport champion
2014 Western Canadian 250 Gold Cup Series multiple wins including one track record.
2015 WMRC 250 supersport champion
2016 WMRC lightweight supersport champion

Jay doesn’t age. Racing stops the aging process.

When did you get into riding and what kind of riding have you done?

I have seen pictures of me sitting on the tank of a dirt bike at maybe 3 years old but my first memories of riding… I guess that would be 1986, one of the kids in my neighborhood had a YZ80 so I learned to ride on that. Dirt and grass fields with friends, that is how it started. Now that I think about it we might not of even have had helmets but we didn’t know any better.

I learned to ride on the street with a Ninja 250, again a bike that belonged to someone else. My first street bike was a new 2002 ZX7R, it didn’t last long though as I managed to destroy it 10 days later. Man that sucked, I even broke my elbow in the process. Next up was a 1986 GSXR750 and then a 1997 ZX6R, the rest of the bikes kind of blur together. I still had access to the 250 and eventually spent more time on the small bike, it was less expensive to maintain and repair. I was riding for transportation, to and from work. Then I got into fast paced riding, mountain roads, that kind of thing.

I lucked out because my closest family and friends were riders, and they got me away from the fast paced street riding and into track riding. I had my first taste of the track in maybe 1997 and was hooked. I still like street riding but I have so much more freedom on the track. It really changed my riding.

What was your favorite motorcycle and why?

2004 ZX10R. I am a sport bike fan, and that bike was a breakthrough in the liter bike class. My first experience with that machine was opening the throttle and immediately breaking traction followed by the front wheel leaving the ground. Doing a burnout and a wheelie at the same time, that left an impression. The bike was a game changer.

Is there a way we can avoid fast paced aggressive riding on the street?

Of course there is a way, but for many riders it is just their nature and I don’t think we can avoid that. It is something they are just going to want to do. I understand why so many riders hit up their favorite twisty road and ride at a fast aggressive pace and I have been guilty of it far too often myself. An interesting fact I have noticed is that no matter how powerful a motorcycle is, the riders seem to get used to that and look for more. They start experimenting more. I look at it like a graph, one axis is your skill and comfort level going up and the other axis is the difficulty or challenge. As the comfort level increases, the challenge must increase or it stops being fun. The opposite is true, if the challenge exceeds the skill level it stops being fun. I think that is what happens and why riders get sucked into the fast paced aggressive riding on the street. You will see these guys using all the lanes on the road to increase the size of their “track”, and on the surface that makes sense because they are going fast and need more space. When I ride on the street I try to dare those same riders to stay in their lane, the speeds have to go down in order to do it but the challenge is back!

“Motorcycles don’t do things randomly every 3 laps, people do.”

What is one skill or technique that changed your riding?

Being aware of my visual skills because it really helped me to relax and in turn allowed the motorcycle to do what it is designed to do. Being tight on the controls does the opposite. It also helped my consistency with what I do on the motorcycle. I could practice more effectively because a soft gaze out to where I am going slows things down. I also focus on breathing because holding your breath has some of the same bad effects, and I found myself holding my breath unintentionally in some corners. As an example, every few laps I would have an issue with a certain corner. It would get me wondering if it was my suspension, tire pressure or some other part on the bike that could be adjusted. Then a light bulb went off. Motorcycles don’t do things randomly every 3 laps, people do. Chances are you had a “pucker” moment, or you freaked out, stared at something for too long etc. Relaxing allows for more consistency, consistency allows for more effective practice.

What are some of the mistakes you have made?

We don’t have enough time to talk about all of them! The biggest mistake I have made is regarding gear. First off when I was introduced to street riding the expectation was different than it is now. If you rode your bike to the local spot to hang out with the sport bike crowd, you had to be wearing full gear. Color matching suits, race replica helmets, boots and gloves. You couldn’t show up in a hoodie and jeans that would not have been OK back then. As a result I was always wearing full gear. I have had more crashes than I care to remember, and have had a number of injuries, but haven’t lost any skin. Broken bones suck, same with concussions, but I never want a skin graft. I worked at a restaurant and remember leaving at the end of my shift, some kitchen guys making comments about me being a power ranger and laughing at my outfit. Same guys probably were riding the bus anyways so it didn’t really bother me. But the biggest mistake I was making was wearing gear that didn’t fit properly. Remember that broken elbow I mentioned earlier? That happened because of the gear I was wearing. It was an $1800 leather suit that was too big, the armor shifted and left my elbow unprotected and when I hit the pavement it snapped.

Were your crashes and accidents preventable?

Nobody wants to hear this, but the rider is responsible for their bike. In 99% of the street crashes I have been involved in, technically they may not have been my fault, but it is my motorcycle. It isn’t a Volvo, it doesn’t have airbags and crumple zones to protect me. If we are honest with ourselves, anytime we have a crash, close call etc. the rider should take responsibility for it. If you find yourself in deep shit it is likely the result of decisions that could have been made better earlier on. Barring a completely random event like a wheel flying off of a car, we can prevent almost all of it.

“If we are honest with ourselves, anytime we have a crash, close call etc. the rider should take responsibility for it.”

What has been the best $100 spent on something motorcycle related?

The best money I have ever spent under $100…Keith Codes Twist Of The Wrist volume 2. I look for riding tips constantly and every year I sign up for some advanced rider training. There is always something to learn. Reg Pridmore, Keith Code, Ken Hill, Nick Ienatsch, Andrew Trevitt…this list could go on and on, and all of these guys have put valuable information out there. It is worth the $50, $100, whatever it is to improve our riding. The best adjustment you can do to make your motorcycle handle better and safer? It is adjusting the nut that connects the seat to the handlebar (YOU). I fully support that. Get out to a riding school. Read a book. Watch a DVD. We should always be learning, especially since we have a 2-6 month off season here in the Lower Mainland.

What do motorcycle manufacturers get right?

They are building motorcycles! In a car you are just along for the ride, insulated from the sounds and smells, and really just witnessing the scene through a piece of glass. It’s like sitting in front of a TV. Even a convertible, it’s a half assed attempt to experience what the motorcycle rider enjoys. The motorcyclist is in the experience. The motorcycle manufacturers get it. They understand the freedom and the experience. It is spiritual and emotional too. All the brands get it. Get out there and ride.

What do motorcycle manufacturers get wrong?

Sometimes they try to save you from yourself, that isn’t cool. I don’t need 55 rider aids to get me down to the 7-11. I don’t want motorcycles that don’t have a clutch or can’t shift gears. I want that experience. As a racer I may not give a shit about the experience because I am just looking for ways to go faster. And if a motorcycle with a single gear is the fastest than I am 100% on board. But when it comes to street bikes I want to change gears, I want the tires to move around a bit. Manufacturers can get caught up in chasing trends or trying to force products into the market. I suppose it all comes down to what sells.

“To not know if your brakes function properly, to not care about your tire pressure is crazy.”

What are mistakes that you see other riders make?

Neglect. I hate that. You are neglecting the quality of your product. Neglect of the rider or the tech. Think about it, motorcycles are unstable, they will fall over on their own. You are basically sitting on a motor and flying down the road with only two tires connecting you to the pavement. To not know if your brakes function properly, to not care about your tire pressure is crazy. Some riders have no idea about their tire pressure. When you ask them when they checked it last you find out that they had the dealer do it…last year! Wow! It’s neglect 100%. The second is the rider that thinks he knows everything, and not willing to try another way. Sometimes you find this rider dishing out advice to anyone willing to listen, and it might be bad advice. Someone might get hurt because of it. Neglect and being a know-it-all, I hate seeing either.

Who is a great rider that shouldn’t be?

The rider that can just do it! We all know one. Sometimes these guys ride well and don’t even know why. There is one in every group. They can go out and learn it fast and it takes you six months of crashing to get to that level. Some just have a natural talent I guess, they can ride so well that they could do it in their sleep. Occasionally one of these riders appears at a trackday, they go out and after only a couple laps they are flying. When they get back to their pit you can hear them giving out advice like “more gas and less brakes” or something like that. Then they head back out and do it all over again. How is that even possible? You think that you are doing everything right, eating well, drinking water, staying fit and keeping your bike tuned up. They are over there out of shape, drinking beer, eating junk food and haven’t touched the bike all year. Then they hit the track and still kick ass. Why!?!? They probably shouldn’t be that good but they are, so good for them. The rest of us will just have to work at it I guess.

Who are the great teachers of riders out there?

A great teacher is someone that can observe what the student is doing and provide information in a way that they can use and understand. It really is specific to you and the instructor that you are working with, but a short list of people that have been able to help me out would go something like this:

Aaron Hesmer from Go Flattrack, he can stand at the side of the track and see you make mistakes from 100 feet away. Richie Alexander definitely helped me out. I met him through Jason Pridmore’s Star School, and since I brought them up JP has always been able to communicate well with me. Reg Pridmore from CLASS motorcycle school has been riding smooth forever, and is a calm and deliberate speaker. I have also enjoyed putting Keith Codes lessons to work too, however I am using his text not one on one.

Locally I have had access to a number of great instructors, Troy Burstyk, Mark Krueger, Scott Borthwick, Spero Benias, Misti Hurst and more. The take away from this rambling is that if in the first 15 minutes you are not meshing well with your instructor, go find someone else. It doesn’t mean that they are a bad instructor, you simply are not connecting with them. They have to be able to work with you and that is a two way street.

What are your eating habits and exercising habits?

First of all my wife is a personal trainer, and second, I have worked in the fitness equipment and supplement industry. As you can imagine our household eating and fitness habits are always in focus. My person habits would include getting the majority of my calories from high quality foods, resistance training to build strength with high intensity interval training to improve cardio. My wife has been showing me the benefits of foam rolling, and you will likely see me at the track rolling out my forearms and calves.

Regarding trackday nutrition habits: Being hydrated is number one. I have seen people pass out on their motorcycle and crashing. Later on you find out that they did not drink any water all day. Sodium levels are also important. If you are sweating a lot and doing intense riding you will need to replenish that water and sodium. Ditch the energy drinks and the huge lunches, they aren’t doing you any favors.

You’ve read quite a few books on riding. What really stands out for you?

Sportbike Suspension Tuning by Andrew Trevitt, Reg Pridmores Smooth Riding and Keith Codes Twist of the Wrist volume 2 (not volume 1, it is super wordy).

In your eyes who are the successful riders of today?

Valentino Rossi. He has nine world championships. He has gone through some significant equipment changes and still wins. He rides his dirtbike around his ranch, has raced a rally car, he rides a 500cc two stroke and wins championships, 1000cc four strokes winning championships. He goes to the Suzuka 8 hour and still kicks ass. Closer to home, Jordan Szoke. He is a Canadian National Superbike many times over and he kicks ass on a trails bike.

If you could go back in time and talk to yourself in 1986 what would you tell yourself?

To start road racing sooner. I should have found a way. I have done mini road racing, WMRC championships and even competed in a CSBK event. I didn’t start roadracing until 2011 and wish I had started sooner. I learned more and saw my skills progress faster in the first season of road racing than all of my trackdays.

What are you excited for 2017?

Full disclosure I bleed green (Kawasaki) and have worked at Burnaby Kawasaki for about 15 years now. The ZX10RR is the bike I am most excited about this year. I sold a couple of H2’s earlier this year and quite frankly that bike is awesome, it is a supercharged motorcycle and if that doesn’t excite you check your pulse because you might be dead. Another new segment that is popping up is the light weight adventure bike, specifically the BMW 310GS and the Kawasaki Versys X 300. My guess is that many of those will be sold this year and every other manufacturer will get on board. I love having more choices for bikes to ride.

How can buying a motorcycle be a win win experience?

Focus on getting more people on motorcycles and creating a better experience for all parties. Buyers shouldn’t feel ripped off and sellers shouldn’t have to bend over backwards. Being treated fairly is more important. Be straight up and don’t lie, don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”. Be honest as a purchaser or seller and everyone’s experience would be better.



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