Faster, faster, faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death.
No clutch? Right. No clutch! Up, up, up. Go fast. Now front brake. Only front brake. Clutch. Down, down. Elbows up. Your elbows are up right? Were they up before? Yes. Yes. Yes. Is your crotch as far up as possible? I can’t go any farther. Where’s your ass? Outside? OUTSIDE. Now push that shit into the turn. All your braking done? Maybe? Yes. Looking through to the exit? Yes. The oil patch still there? Around it? Through it? Go wide? Fuck it. Don’t look at the stupid tape. Head up. Keep on the throttle. Smooth, dammit. That wasn’t smooth. OK sorta smooth. Apex. OK ok. Clutch? No clutch. Shit, waste of time. Up. Up. Up. Go fast. Are you breathing? Deep breath. Repeat.
When we were sent home from work with the statement 'until further notice' ringing in our ears, there were a million questions. There are still a million questions. As a relatively healthy person in NYC, I wasn’t worried so much about myself as I was about my old, guitar-playing neighbor that I share the halls with. For myself, the thought was: 'How do I stay mentally and emotionally present? Connected to family and friends? How do I allow myself to be sad, but not too sad? How do I stay okay?' Okay seems to be a pretty appropriate benchmark.
My answer to those questions on any normal day would be motorcycles. It would be to see my chosen family sprinkled through the five boroughs and beyond. It would be that chosen family on the road on our damn motorcycles. But obviously those things were off limits now. It felt wrong to go fast and far as hell with the people I love.
After a few weeks of isolation in my Brooklyn apartment, and working through what was truly important to me, I decided to pack up and drive cross-country to be with my parents. I had been gone for 13 years. Did I even know what California was like? My parents and I don’t really get along that well. Could I do the work I wanted to do with them during this crisis? I wanted to find out. Oh and Dad has two motorcycles. Fuck it.
Bikes lined up and ready to go at San Diego's SoCal Supermoto — Cassandra Ficacci
For myself, the thought was: 'How do I stay mentally and emotionally present? Connected to family and friends? How do I allow myself to be sad, but not too sad? How do I stay okay?' Okay seems to be a pretty appropriate benchmark.
I did the drive, alone, in 3.5 days with two cats. In approximately 2,800 miles, I interacted with four people. Now, I am across the country, living with my family in San Diego.
It feels fucked up to say, but life here is easy. I am lucky enough to still be working. I operate on New York hours from 6 am to 3 pm. I share responsibilities with two other adults (the parents). The mountains are three minutes away. The ocean, 15 minutes in the other direction. The roads are endless. They’re twisty, tree-lined, steep, and calm for hours. I’ve put 1,000 miles in a few weeks on a bike that’s not mine. California is so beautiful it hurts, in all the right ways.
The California life has been good to me. But the sun can’t keep the demons at bay. I mean, it can help, but for how long? The cross-country trip and newness of people to share space with had to wear off eventually. Riding in the canyons with my father on the weekends has been special every damn time. Riding for me is always a reflective space. As much as I need to focus on the turn at hand, my mind still wanders and chooses its own path. In motorcycling, and in life, I needed to be intentional in refocusing.
Speed demons attacking the track at SoCal Supermoto — SoCal Supermoto
We laughed A LOT. It felt so good to ride and not think about anything else. Even with a long pause due to a bad crash in another group, there was so much track time.
Enter SoCal Supermoto. With restrictions slowly being lifted in California, my chance to refocus appeared in Riverside, California. What typically is a day with up to 20 riders was instead a sold-out class of eight people. On May 9, I showed up to a wide open track and rotation of bikes with varying degrees of battle wounds from the slow (and also super fucking fast) people before me. There was classroom time and track time, and each classroom session concluded with the order, "Don’t crash."
I didn’t crash. I wasn’t fast by any means, but you’d better believe the instructor complimented my form. Then in the same breath he added, “You’re not even trying to pin it.” Yeah, yeah ...
Between sessions we wore our masks. Battling the sweat from all over, we kept our faces covered while trying to drink a gallon of water as fast as possible and answering our instructor’s questions, mostly incorrectly. We laughed A LOT. It felt so good to ride and not think about anything else. Even with a long pause due to a bad crash in another group, there was so much track time. I was so damn tired by 2 pm, roasting in the 86F California sun in my borrowed leathers. There were three more hours to go. Must. Keep. Going.
COVID isolation two-wheeled therapy at SoCal Supermoto — Cassandra Ficacci
Maybe if I stopped talking shit to myself about how I could have taken the corner better ... faster ... stronger, I’d get on the throttle a little earlier. Stop making excuses, Cass. Refocus. JUST PIN IT.
Before one of the last sessions of the day, our instructor warned that he was about to go 'all hippy dippy' on us. He said that he wanted us to forget about going fast (ha), and told us to enjoy the ride. To appreciate the fact that you have your health, you have these machines. He was really speaking my language. I went back out, did a few 'fast' laps but then took the inside and held my hand up. The five lonely palm trees sprinkled along the track brought me so much joy. Somehow, during the eight hours I had been there, I had completely missed the mountains in the distance littered with cut in trails. It was just good.
For the last three years, motorcycles have been my ultimate self-help. Being told I’m 'slow as fuck', being challenged, being asked to look at what I am doing and how I can improve. Not being inherently good at something and still wanting to try. Getting way out of my comfort zone. Just going out. Doing the damn thing. I get to revel in the feeling of accomplishing something and gaining new knowledge that I can take with me. Maybe if I stopped talking shit to myself about how I could have taken the corner better ... faster ... stronger, I’d get on the throttle a little earlier. Stop making excuses, Cass. Refocus. JUST PIN IT.
Five lonely palm trees sprinkled along the track at SoCal Supermoto — Cassandra Ficacci
For those lucky enough to be planning a trip out west, you can find out more about SoCal Supermoto on their website at socalsupermoto.com and Instagram: @socalsupermoto. And you can follow Cassandra's continuing adventures on Instagram at: @crasserole.