ELKHART LAKE -- This weekend, June 1st - 3rd, motorcycle racers from around the world will be flying around the circuit at Road America. FOX6's Jen Lada got a chance to cruise the course on two wheels!
Chris Ulrich started riding motorcycles when he was 16. It's kind of the family business.
"I grew up hanging out with the greatest, fastest racers to come through the United States," Ulrich said.
Now, at 32, Ulrich not only races for Geico Suzuki - he's also the official driver for the team's Two-Seat Superbike Ride-Along Program.
"I've given well over 500 rides, and each one has come back unscathed, safe and sound, and we really pride ourselves on that," Ulrich said.
To keep that record in tact, passengers are outfitted in professional-grade safety gear, including a leather suit with plastic armor, a back pad to protect the spine, boots, gloves and a helmet.
"Have them go out and experience what we experience every lap, and feel the adrenaline rush and see how much fun it is," Ulrich said.
The Suzuki GSX-R1000 is the same bike Ulrich used during the 2011 AMA Pro Session - with slight modifications to accommodate a passenger.
The ride has been compared to a roller coaster, but that's not entirely accurate. On a roller coaster, riders are secured to seats with harnesses and bars, so when things get frightening, they can mentally disengage and trust that the safety mechanisms will do their job. That's not the case on the back of a bike.
"For one, we're not strapped in. There's no safety belt. You have to grab around the passenger seat and the foot pegs, and then you have me," Ulrich said.
Passengers aren't manning the gears, but they must stay alert. On a motorcycle, weight distribution is huge, so it's important that the passenger works with the driver.
It is physically and mentally demanding, but incredibly thrilling.
This particular superbike has been clocked at nearly 200 miles-per-hour. The bike got over 160 on the back straightaway on the day FOX6's Jen Lada took a ride.
"It's just an intense experience. You have two straightaways, 160 plus and that means on our own, bikes were going to be going 180 miles-per-hour," Ulrich said.
It took about five minutes to complete two laps - five minutes of gripping, squeezing and deep breathing.
The sport is huge overseas and growing in the United States. The goal of the Two-Seat Superbike Ride Along Program is to spread the word about the sport and help fans appreciate what these athletes do.
"For me, it's to get people excited about motorcycles," Ulrich said.