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Speed Demons

Scott Laudon and Jeff Quam take a timeout in the pit area to polish up their racing bikes at the Brainerd International Speedway Sept. 18. Laudon clinched his second straight championship in the Super Twins Division that day.

There are many different ways people use to push their personal limits to fulfill their need to walk on the edge.

For most of these thrill-seekers, speed enters the equation at some point, and there are a bevy of ways to accomplish this.

Detroit Lakes' Scott Laudon and Audubon's Jeff Quam both use speed -- high speed, that is -- to fix that need for pushing their limits.

In both cases, that high speed is obtained by jumping on their motorcycles, which act like their own personal rocket, to reach speeds up to 180 miles per hour, while navigating twists and turns.

All this entails trying to pass other bikers who are reaching those same speeds of 100 to 180 mph, with curves ranging from a mild 30-degree angle to more steep ones of 90-degrees, while one's knee is mere inches from the hard and unforgiving concrete of Brainerd International Speedway.

Oh, yeah -- that hard, unforgiving surface of the 3.1 mile BIR racing track is the racers' landing surface, after going 100-plus miles per hour, if they are involved in an accident.

So, is that pushing one's limit and walking the edge? Yes, but it's more like a razor's edge.

But racers such as Laudon and Quam would have it no other way.

The racing duo has the opportunity to push their limits up to five times a year during May through September at the BIR.

Both Laudon and Quam race in the Central Roadracing Association (CRA) events, which attracts up to 200 motorbike enthusiasts from the four-state region.

There are five race weekends held at BIR, starting in May and ending this month, with the last event held Saturday, Sept. 18.

It's a time where high speeds are reached and unbelievably fast times are eclipsed.

But it also brings more than an increase of endorphin production.

Race weekends bring fellowship among the motorcycle community, bragging rights and a sense of adventure many don't ever dare to try.

And that's the attraction for many -- the thrill of going fast.

It costs plenty to go fast

In a way, Laudon and Quam got each other into Superbike racing.

It started when Quam sold Laudon his first motorcycle at the tender age of 15 years.

"I have been in love with motorcycles since then," Laudon said. "(At BIR) there are no cars, no sand and a lot less dangers of street riding. I just love it."

After Laudon discovered that the CRA was going to start holding Superbike races at BIR, he was instantly in.

In return, Laudon introduced bike racing to Quam, who was already a racing fan and competitor in other avenues, such as BMX, Nordic skiing and biking (the pedal kind, that is).

"Scott has been my most expensive friend," Quam laughed. "Where else can you race your motorbike like we do here and reach those kinds of speeds? You have all the protection and gear on, so it's just been a great time."

But when Quam was eluding to racing bikes as being expensive, he isn't lying.

Although it's a lifestyle, it costs money to upkeep the cycles, pay dues, purchase safety equipment and lodging during race weekends.

Laudon sinks much more money into his racing than Quam, who mostly competes at BIR for the enjoyment of the sport.

For Laudon, though, his racing is more serious than just competing.

"I guess annually, I spend up to $20,000 racing bikes," Laudon said. "That includes the five weekends at BIR and some races around the U.S."

Of course, the most expensive purchase is the bike itself.

Laudon's bike is a Honda RC-51 -- which expends 1,000 c.c.'s --  while Quam rides a much smaller Ninja 250 c.c.

There are 24 different classes of races at BIR during those five weekends, which depends on experience and the size of the bike.

Although Laudon spends up to $20,000, it has been repaid in success -- not cash, since there are no cash prizes for the winners.

He is the two-time CRA-BIR Super Twins champion, after clinching his 2010 title Sept. 18, by winning all five events over the course of the season.

There are about 15-20 racers in the division in each event, as Laudon and his Honda RC-51 has pretty much dominated the track in the Super Twins for two years now.

Top end speeds in the Super Twins is 180 mph, while having to break around 90-degree turns -- like turn three at BIR -- to slow down to 40 mph (a difference of 140 mph within seconds), which makes it a challenging race.

"It feels great winning two (and going undefeated)," Laudon said. "It's a tough thing to do. I think I'm building a name here and that helps pick up sponsors. Without my sponsors, I would have never made it this far."

Quam -- who has two seasons underneath his belt -- races in several divisions, as does Laudon (three seasons), and with his 250 CC bike, he competes in the Ultralight SuperBike division, among others.

"It's not a big deal what place I finish in, but the more experience you have, the better you place," Quam said. "I just like going out, having a good start and being smooth going around the track."

Each race in every division consists of six laps around the 3.1-mile course. Laudon's first-place time in the Super Twins, Sept. 18, was 11:33.764.

On the course, there are brake markers laid on the side of the track before each curve, which signifies it's time to brake and slow down.

But with that type of speed, there will be accidents, and that's when the carnage can start.

That's where wearing the heavy-duty protective gear comes into play. A spine guard protects the spine from hyperflexing the wrong way.

A thick leather jumpsuit -- along with a helmet -- protects skin from becoming a part of the track, while composite plastic on the shoulders and shins protect those parts from obvious trauma, which comes when a body hits the concrete going 130 mph.

As far as that knee goes, which is precariously skimming on the ground around the turns, the riders have a knee puck which rubs and protects that vital body part as well.

Despite all that protection, wrecks do occur and injuries happen, as both Laudon and Quam can attest.

Laudon has been involved in two wrecks, one being serious three years ago, which unfortunately came with his father in the BIR stands watching his son for the first time -- on Father's Day.

"I was in a wreck where the rear tire gives out and you are basically catapulted off the bike," Laudon said. "I damaged my left knee, my tailbone, had a concussion and was rushed to the emergency room.

"It was my season-ender and I learned you can destroy $10,000 on a bike in a heartbeat out here."

Quam broke his ribs last May, after he lost control of his front end in the corner and was slammed to the track with a good amount of force.

"That's always your great fear, wrecking," Quam said. "That's what's going through your mind constantly, but you can't dwell on it because everyone crashes sometime. It's the nature of the beast."

Laudon estimates there are about four to five crashes per weekend, but on the grand scale, racing bikes is still not as dangerous as street riding.

"For one, it's hard to ride a bike like mine on the road because it's so powerful," Laudon said. "On the track, there are no cars or traffic to worry about besides the other racers, who are trained to race.

"This is a controlled atmosphere and all the racers here are trained beforehand to be safe on the track. We also are decked out with a lot of protective gear, and the guy riding on the road has a bandana on with a pair of jeans.

"So yeah, I think street riding is more dangerous."

Another attraction which goes along with the adrenaline rush is the racing family one is absorbed in. Laudon and Quam are a part of Team Combat, which consists of 10-12 riders from around Minnesota.

It's not just all racing during the weekends at BIR, either. Most of the racers bring families, who camp out on the 500-acre racing complex.

There is plenty of talk and posturing between the racers, and everyone helps everyone out in the pit area.

"You hang out and get to know everyone; that's another reason I do it, is just to be with the people here," Quam said.

"Everyone here are gearheads and if someone needs parts or help to get their bike on the track, everyone is here to help," Laudon added.

There is plenty of sacrifice which goes into a season for each racer -- be it money, time or in the worst case scenario, bodily injury -- and the dedication to the sport of motorcycle racing is second to none.

Being able to go 180 mph on a bike, legally, is just the extra cherry on the top for these racers.

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.