A YEAR INTO HIS ROLE AS TUNER, ANDREW HINES KNOWS WHERE HE STANDS, OR MAYBE NOT
There's one thing Andrew Hines has yet to grasp since he assumed the role of full-time crew chief, and it's different from the kind of challenge one would think. Sure, as a rider, he checked almost every box of knowledge, straddling his Harley-Davidson by winning six series championships and 56 national events, the most in the class.
As a crew chief, he still has one unmastered detail.
"I've been joking with everybody; I still don't know where to stand on the starting line," Hines admitted. "After being on the bike and knowing my position there for so many years, I'm like a butterfly bouncing around all over the place; I just don't know where to go.
"It's been different [being a crew chief]. I don't have that sense of control over our destiny as far as being the rider. I became a really good racer there in the last ten years of my career, and I could win rounds for the team when the bike wasn't there and things. So having that lack of control and relying on everybody else to get the round wins, it's a different feeling for sure. I don't have that full control aspect as being crew chief and rider."
Even when he rode, he still had his hand in the cookie jar as the tuner. In other words, Hines knew when the pucker factor would be high.
"When I was riding and tuning, most of my tuning came from riding," Hines said. "I could feel what was going on with the motorcycle, and I could know exactly where I was in the race track and feel if it wasn't revving good in third gear, fourth gear, or if it was trying to shake the tire at 20 feet or 60 feet, and I could correlate that with the computer when I got back to the trailer.
"Now, I rely 90% on the computer. I rely on Eddie for kind of, like, is it is shuttering? Does it sound lean? Does it sound rich? What's it doing down track? Then I can kind of tune from there."
Hines said his dad Byron, a championship tuner of legendary status, taught him that as good as the computers could be for tuning input, it is just as essential to lean on old-school principles of feel and intuition..
"You got to make the motor happy," Hines revealed. "Whatever that time ticket says is what is actually happening with the bike. So you can theorize and do a bunch of different stuff to try and make yourself better, but if the ET number doesn't move and the speed numbers don't move, you're not doing anything to the bike. So it's more old-school tuning, more the feel of what does it look like on the track? What does it sound like? And that's kind of the way I went in 2022, and it's paid off. We've gone down roads where it's like, 'All right. Stop believing the data. Go back and throw the tuneup in that went fast, and work from there."
Not having his own seat as a data logger has made the proposition a bit challenging from behind the ride.
"It's definitely more difficult for sure," Hines said. "I don't have that built-in G-meter in my butt. So it's not there now. And unfortunately, being a rider for so long, I don't have the look of watching the bike leave the starting line. I could see it leave; I'm like, 'Okay. Yeah. It didn't quaver the tire,' but from the starting line, I can't tell the difference between a 1.04 and a 1.06 [sixty-foot].
"It's hard to see in real-time what it's doing. So we rely on high-speed cameras and the data from the computer to do that. That's what I was used to looking at for so long. Because I was on the bike, I don't have that sense of what I should see all the time. That's kind of a blindside thing I didn't expect to see coming."
Hines misses some aspects of being a rider outside of the ability to tune by feel, and one of those is the peace only a rider can experience before a run.
"The thing I've correlated the most after not racing since here last year is that peace, the 10 seconds of peace from the time the guys tap you and tell you you're straight, you're good to go, other lane's ready, from that point until the tree came, that was my time," Hines explained. "You couldn't mess with my time. That's what I miss. That was the time I could cut everything out. It didn't matter what was going on at work, in the pit area, at home, you know, thinking about family, missing them. There was my time. That was just me and the bike."
The peace, Hines admits, is replaced with other challenges, such as finding a place to stand behind the bike. And in keeping the right look on his face.
"I'm thinking about way too much stuff all the time," Hines admitted. "And it's just a level of... And people see it on my face. They're like, 'Ah, Andrew looks angry or mad."
"It's intensity. We're out here to make these bikes the most badass things on the planet, and you got to be laser-focused all the time."
Hines has to be laser-focused, regardless of where he stands.