Lt. Col. pushes high-speed hobby to the limit
/ Published January 06, 2014
Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. -- We all have hobbies. While some of us like to fish, others like to camp, hike, cook, eat, sleep, etc. Whatever your hobby, one could venture to say it's something you do to relax or at least relieve stress. How relaxed would you be traveling 140+ mph on two-wheels, only inches away from other motorcycles and flirting with the edge of control at every turn? Chances are you'd be pretty tense. Maybe even white knuckled.
For Aerospace Data Facility-Colorado Lieutenant Colonel Stewart Aitken-Cade, that's a fun weekend of relaxation at the race track.
Aitken-Cade's first experience on a motorized bike came when he was a kid. He'd ride his friend's minibike around the yard and would occasionally ride with his dad on a neighbor's street bike.
"My father grew up in Southern Africa and rode a motorcycle just about everywhere," said Aitken-Cade. "He wasn't a 'biker' per se, but he knew how to ride so didn't have issue with me riding mini bikes."
During his college days at Virginia Tech, Aitken-Cade and a group of buddies enjoyed motorcycles and riding around town and blasting down the back roads between classes.
"We enjoyed the thrill of it all. Southern Virginia is just a great place to ride with so many twisty back roads and awesome scenery."
It was during one of these rides that a buddy suggested going to "track day" at a nearby race track. There, expert racers took those interested in racing on a closed track and taught them the basics of road racing.
"I remember they split us up into divisions. They put me in the "slow" division because of the size of my bike."
After blowing away the competition on his 400cc motorcycle, Aitken-Cade moved up to the "medium" division. By the end of the day he was riding in the fast group against guys on 1000cc bikes and holding his own. The rest is history, the instructors encouraged him to get his racing license, and he enrolled in his first real race.
Nearly two decades later and after winning four national championships, Aitken-Cade is still beating the bigger bikes and their riders and teaching new riders how to discover their own limits.
"The guys on the bigger bikes can take me on the straight-aways, but I fly right past them on the corners," Aitken-Cade says with a grin. "It drives them nuts. It's addictive, being just inches away from another rider at break-your-neck speeds, but you learn to trust these people. It's hard to describe the feeling of speed and accomplishment when you get it right."
Over the years, Aitken-Cade has logged thousands of miles traveling across the country racing. Along the way he's created and ran one of the most popular semi-pro road racing organizations around, the United States Grand Prix Racing Union.
Aitken-Cade also enjoys getting others involved in the sport. One of his first mentees was 2013 American Motorcycle Association Superbike Champion Josh Herrin, one of today's hottest professional sportbike racers and the 2004 USGPRU national champion.
"To me, the most rewarding thing is to help guys like Josh along. I look across the professional racer ranks now and recognize almost 50 percent of them that I've helped in one way or another. Many of my young friends are even racing in Europe against some of the best racers in the world."
When asked if his experience on a motorcycle has had any impact on his everyday life, Aitken-Cade said, "Of course. You learn to be a better driver as you can react to situations faster and proactively in many cases. You recognize vehicle limitations, road conditions and other operators and adjust your own habits to accommodate. "
That awareness may be why Aitken-Cade doesn't really ride his motorcycle on everyday roadways. Between distracted drivers and debris on the road, Aitken-Cade believes keeping his riding to the track is much safer and still allows him time to test the limits of his bike. It also allows him to satisfy his need for an adrenaline rush without putting other folks in danger.
As for when he might stop racing, don't expect that to be for a while.
"I have a buddy who's in his 60s and has been racing for over 45 seasons. I hope to be like him someday. I don't intend to quit anytime soon."
Beyond competing for championships, Aitken-Cade also wants to set records. His long-term desire is to someday set a new land-speed record for a 125cc motorcycle at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
"Right now the record stands at 122 mph, and I've gone as fast as 144 mph on my bike at Daytona Speedway. I'm gonna break that record some day."