If you think a three- or four-hour NASCAR race is a grueling test of mettle, meet Shane Williams. He does it on two wheels "” and for twice as long.
The Cincinnati native is a competitive endurance motorcycle rider, a sport that tests the limits of equipment and human alike.
Unlike motorcycle sprint races, which consist of a few laps over 20 minutes, endurance races are set for four, six or eight hours, and include full-blown pit stops with tire and rider changes. Whichever team completes the most laps in the allotted time wins, and the race ends.
An endurance rider can stay out on the track for upwards of an hour and a half before pitting and being relieved by a teammate, waiting and then hopping on the bike to do it all again at the next pit stop. A six- to seven-person pit team can add fuel and change tires in less than 20 seconds.
"The most strain is usually on your forearms, hands, triceps and also your hamstrings," says Williams, 41, who stays in shape by running three times a week. "Because when you're going 170 mph and coming into Turn 1 and you have to drop down to 40 or 50 mph for a second gear turn, all that force is coming down on the palms of your hands "¢ for every turn."

A rider has to deal with both the physical demands for long periods, and has to be focused at all times. Because in such a long race, riders get spread out, making for constant traffic in races that can feature anywhere from 15 to 42 bikes.
Inevitably, accidents happen. Williams' worst came as a young racer, when he was thrown over the handlebars and knocked unconscious.
"The ambulance picked me up and brought me in. I thought I was fine. They diagnosed me with a concussion and two broken ankles," Williams says.
He has had "many" incidents called "low sides," where a rear tire slips out. "Normally you'll just slide off the track," he says. "Your bike may take a tumble and get torn up a little bit, but I'd say nine times out of 10 you're pretty safe with a low side."
But safety is paramount, with a combination of lots of open runoff space, armored boots, one-piece race leathers with Kevlar, a rigid back protector and $600 helmets, which are required to be made within the past three years and never hit the ground in a prior accident.
Williams' team, Team Velocity Racing based out of Georgia, has finished second and third in its class in its two races this year in the WERA series.
While winning is nice, it's not only about that for Williams. He loves endurance racing because of the team aspect, the camaraderie with his "home-away-from-home friends and family."
"The camaraderie is absolutely amazing especially given the riders and teams are in competition with each other," says Sean Clarke, who runs WERA with his wife Evelyne.
"I've seen teams give each other parts and help during a race knowing that it would cost them the championship to help their competitor "” but they do it anyway because they'd rather win on the track than off," Clarke says.

After all, with little prize money or glamour, Williams' type of racing is an "expensive hobby," requiring extensive long-weekend travel 5 to 6 times per year from his full-time job as Vice President at Prestige AV & Creative Services.
A highpoint came on the famed asphalt of Daytona International Speedway in March of last year, when he finished first in his class on a wet, 42-degree day when he had to race solo for two hours.
"That was one of my most memorable races," Williams says. "It was very cool (going) around the tri-oval in Daytona a foot away from the wall in the rain."
Many of Williams' racing memories sit on his shelf in his office at Prestige, trophies with special meaning, like the one he received for finishing third in his first race after his dad passed away seven years ago. The first race his dad attended was his first endurance race in 2002 after transitioning from sprint racing.
He also shares his motorcycle passion, always tempered with safety, with his wife Maria and children Nina, 9, and Aidan, 7. Maria sometimes takes one their two Italian Ducatis for a spin and the kids ride two of their four four-wheelers. Williams also owns a Suzuki GSX-R and a Honda VFR 800, both sportbikes, and a Harley-Davidson for "cruising."
Williams, one of a select few endurance motorcycle riders in Cincinnati, loves all aspects of riding, but racing is where his heart lies.
"When you get on that bike you can't do anything else but race," says Williams. "You can't think about, "¢What's my job tomorrow or what are we eating for dinner tonight or are my kids being good?' You're like, "¢OK, here comes Turn 1,' and that's it. I love it."