Track Day Tire Dilemma

Modern sporty street tires are quite capable of fast track riding.
Modern sporty street tires are quite capable of fast track riding. I have street compound Corsa 3s on the ZX6 in this photo.

Tires can be a source of anxiety to a motorcycle rider. And it’s no surprise, since our tires provide us with the traction we need to make it home in one piece. When it comes to track days, many people use their only street bike to also ride on the racetrack. This is great because they learn the limits of the machine with which they spend the most time.

But, having a bike that is used for both street and track means compromising on certain things, one of the most important being tires.

Below is  a letter I received from a subscriber named Kevin from the UK. I replied to his email and hit the “Send” button, only to have it bounce back. Since this is a FAQ subject, I decided to post it for everyone to read. I am also hoping Kevin reads this reply, so that he knows that I am not ignoring his question.

The Question

Name    Kevin
Subject    trackday tyres – please help!

Hi Ken,
I have been searching the internet in order to get some advice re tyres when I stumbled upon your web site which has some great advice – you are clearly very knowledgeable, I wonder if you can help please? I own a 2006 GSXR 1000 K6 and have just booked a four day track day to Almeria in Spain in September, I need to buy tyres for this trip and am torn between either Supercorsa SP (so road compound) or SC compound (SC2 rear, SC1 front), can you help me decide which is best for me?

Here’s some information related to my situation: – I have participated in UK track days (but not since 2011) , I am generally at the front of the novice group or in the slower half of the intermediate group – I’ve never participated in a European track day before and wonder if the heat is a consideration (it will be around 75-80 degrees) – I used to have a dedicated track bike (only used for 1 track day!) which I ran an SC2 rear and SC1 front on but the GSXR 1000 is now my only bike, from now on it will spend 90% of it’s time on track with a small number of outings on the road Based on the above, do you think the SP (road compound) version of the Pirelli Supercorsa will be ok or would you recommend the track compounds and if so would you recommend an SC2 rear and SC1 front or SC2 for both front and rear? I’m worried the road version will lose grip due a combination of high ambient temperature and constant track use – does this sound feasible?

Based on your suggestion, how many track days do you think I will get from the front and rear tyre, would one front and one rear be ok for all four days or would I need two rear tyres and maybe two front tyres (the trackday is running three groups, 20 minute sessions so is not open pitlane). Would the road version last longer than the track compounds on track or would it be the other way around? This question sounds silly, but how can I tell when the tyres need to be changed? I’m scared that if the answer is to wait until they start to slide then I might crash!

I’ve never used tyres solely on track before so have changed them when they squared off but I realise this won’t happen on track so I’m not sure when I should change them – I want to get as much use as possible from them as they are very expensive but I don’t want to crash! Finally, I have a set of tyre warmers which I used on the SC2/SC1 combination, if you think the SP (road) version of the tyre will be fine, can I use the tyre warmers with them?

Thanks in advance for taking the time to read this, it’s very much appreciated, esp since we have never met and I found your details on line, apologies for having troubled you but this is literally making me lose sleep and you seem to have the knowledge and ability to give good advice.

Tire warmers are necessary for racing, but not for track days.
Tire warmers are necessary for racing, but not for track days.

Regards, Kevin

My Reply

Kevin,
Tires are a big source of stress even for seasoned track day riders. I have not seen you ride, but in your particular case, with the pace that is typical of a novice/intermediate track day rider, you could go with either Supersport street-oriented tires (Supercorsa SPs), or race compound tires (SC1 Super Soft/SC2 Soft).

It’s way easier to have a track-only bike so you don’t have to spend energy worrying about street versus race compound. But, realistically, street rubber is so good these days that you can push them pretty hard on the track and they will perform very well. Besides, novices do not typically need race rubber. However, as your pace picks up and you graduate to the faster ranks, street rubber will not perform well enough for sustained fast laps. That said, I have run advanced group laps on Pirelli Corsa 3 (Corsa Rosso) street-oriented tires with no troubles.

If your bike is going to be on the track 90%, then go for the SC2/SC1 combo. Although you could also go with the SC2s as I’m sure that they will be more than sufficient for your pace and may last a bit longer. The question is whether you want to use them on the street. A lot of people do use race compound tires on the street (often as “take-offs” discarded from racers), however you will wear them out pretty fast. And, you must be aware that race-compound tires will not heat up as quickly as the street-oriented SPs and will never get up to full temperature at street speeds. They may even provide less grip than street tires in normal street riding conditions.

If you find yourself riding more than 50%  on the street, I would consider moving to street rubber. But, once you become a solid intermediate track day rider you will want race rubber. The SP street compound will work, but want your tires to be better than you are whenever possible.

When it comes to tire warmers, they are nice but aren’t necessary, especially for street tires. Two laps at a moderate pace is enough to get them up to temperature. Even race tires don’t require tire warmers, but they do allow you to go fast after only a few corners. I do not use tire warmers at track days. I’m too busy working with customers to mess with them.

Too worn? The tire on the left still looks good, but it was starting to slide, so new rubber was mounted.
Too worn? The street-oriented Pirelli Corsa 3 on the left performed very well and still looks good, but it was starting to slide, so new rubber was mounted. Street rubber has it’s limits when you start going fast.

Deciding when to change tires is a stressor for most people. I did crash once after asking a front Corsas 3 to go one track day too many. The tire had endured a lot of abuse it wasn’t really designed for, so the punishment from too many hard laps caused them to not grip on a cold out lap. If I had just taken it a bit easier until they warmed up I would have been fine.

I tend to change front tires every 6 days and 4 for a rear, or earlier if the tracks I have ridden are particular abrasive. (I don’t know about Almeria).  That is after riding at all group levels with several expert track day laps thrown in. So, in my opinion, you will likely get the requisite 4 days out of both rear and front. Is there going to be a tire vendor at the track who can sell and mount tires if the tires are wearing faster than expected? Often there is. Find out so you can be prepared with tools and stands to change your tires at the track between days.

Good luck,
Ken
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Other posts related to tires and traction:

How to Preserve Traction by Managing Load

How to Develop a Traction Sense

Traction Seminar: Motorcycle Tires

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Guest Writer: Get Back on the Horse

The latest guest post is from long-time track day rider and club racer, Ian Vivero from Smelly Dog Racing who has an interesting point of view about post-crash psychology. So, listen up. The floor is yours’ Ian.


Ian #604. Photo by Arcy www.otmpix.com
Ian #604.
Photo by Arcy. www.otmpix.com

Getting Back on the Horse

In 14 years of riding I have, thankfully, only had a handful of crashes, and most were more embarrassing than anything else. Tip over’s at a stop or low speeds due to a patch of sand, a misplaced foot, etc. are common and happen to (almost) everyone in their early years. Even as a seasoned rider I recently tipped over my brand new Victory thanks to an unfortunate combination of factors. These things can hurt one’s pride, but for most we can walk away with minimal damage to self and bike, learn from our mistakes, and move on. These events are not what this post is about.

What I do want to talk about are two crashes, both of which occurred on the racetrack. The first one occurred during a track day on my 919, which was the result of a bad line that pushed me into an off-camber part of the track and left me with less than zero ground clearance, picking up my tires and putting me on the ground. The second occurred during a race in the rain when I crossed a paint line while trail braking into a corner and the front tire ran out of grip resulting in another low side.

Despite the obvious differences, there were many similarities between the two crashes. In both cases I was relatively unhurt and the damage to the bike was minimal enough to allow me to ride back to the pits. In both cases I knew exactly what I had done wrong (bad line, trail braking over wet painted markings) and how I could have avoided it.

The Aftermath

That’s the good news. The bad news is that I was left with a lasting reduction in confidence that I didn’t experience from my other get-offs. Why? Both occurred on a race track so perhaps it was the venue, though I’ve gone down on the track before and not had the same issue. And while the damage to the bike and my injuries were worse than a simple tip over, I’ve had worse mishaps that I was able to shake off. So what caused me to be so shaken up?

I believe the “when” mattered more than the “where” or “how”. You see, both crashes happened at the end of the day, which gave me no chance to get back out. Instead, I was left to wait until the next track day or race weekend to correct my mistake. This allowed my mind to endlessly replay the incidents over and over for days or even weeks.

Replaying the incident made a relatively minor crash grow into something much bigger and far scarier. When I finally did get back on track, it suddenly seemed like a dangerous place for me to be.

All of this was purely mental of course. By then I had largely recovered physically and the bike was mechanically sound. But because my mind was so clouded, my riding suffered horribly. Without realizing it, I began to fight myself in every corner, which caused me to keep running wide. To compensate I started braking earlier and crawling through the turns.

My muscles grew tired and sore within a couple laps from constantly working to keep the bike under control. My death grip on the bars left the front end feeling vague, leading to even less confidence. Each session left me more frustrated and exhausted than the last. Eventually I noticed what I was doing and began to relax and by the end of the day things seemed to be working properly again… And yet I was riding at a level far below where I had previously been. It took a great deal of time and effort to regain my lost mojo. Time and effort that could have netted some real gains were spent simply getting my confidence back.

The Takeaway

Which leaves me with this piece of advice for whoever cares to take it: The next time you drop your bike in a parking lot, lose your footing at a red light, or carry a bit too much speed at a track day and end up in the weeds, get up, get back on the bike and do whatever you just tried to do again, only this time do it right. Not only will you learn something in the process that can make you a better rider, but you will also retain your confidence before it has a chance to run off without you.


Thanks, Ian. The aftermath of a crash can be both physically and mentally scarring. I’ve seen countless riders lose confidence after a scare and either give up riding or not enjoy riding the way they had previously. While we cannot expect to avoid all mishaps, we can minimize them by riding within our limits (even when racing). Some say you have to crash to learn how to ride fast and win, but I don’t think it is a prerequisite. Yes, crashing comes with the territory of racing hard, but it usually sets you back and is generally a bad idea. You can learn to win without crashing, IMO.

You do this by learning all you can about traction and how a motorcycle stays on two wheels. This knowledge comes from many sources, including quality blogs, books, instructors and other skilled riders. But in the end, the secret to minimizing crashes is for you to apply this knowledge on every ride or race and develop sensitivity to the physics of riding well, at any speed.

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Guest Writer: Track Day Rain Riding

Adam Butler is the first ever RITZ guest blog contributor. Adam is an expert level roadracer with the Loudon Roadracing Series and is one of my co-instructors for Tony’s Track Days. You can read Adam’s biography here

Let’s see what Adam has to say.


Do you like riding in the rain? I sure do!!

by Adam Butler

Adam Butler: "If you could see the smile inside my helmet".
Adam Butler: “If you could see the smile inside my helmet”.

If you ride track days on a regular basis chances are that you will find yourself presented with a rainy day. Some of us really find riding in the rain a fun and rewarding experience while others do not embrace the wet conditions as much. Some riders just don’t want to get wet. Others feel intimidated by the reduced traction available and don’t want to take a spill. I can understand the desire to keep your bike shiny and clean.  I prefer to take the chance to get out in the wet and work on my traction management. Riding in the rain presents a great opportunity to hone your smooth riding technique.

Ribbit!

There are some things that you can do to make your wet time on the track more enjoyable. The number one thing you need is a good frame of mind. If you go out with an open mind and a positive attitude you will have much more fun and success. It’s easy to have a fun, positive attitude in the dry…heck, we all love carving turns on a dry 70 degree day. Having this same outlook in the wet will make your experience much better.

Stay Dry and See

There are some gear related things that you can do to help. Some basic rain gear will help you stay dry. I have a basic Frogg Togg two piece outfit that goes over my leathers.

This will keep me from getting soggy. Some good no fog treatment for your face shield helps you see better. (Ken: FogCity shield inserts are one option)

Tires

The last thing is to make sure your tires are in good shape. Any time you are on the track you need to make sure you have good quality tires. Dedicated rain tires are great but you can have a good time on street tires too.

Traction management in the wet all revolves around being smooth. When the conditions are wet there is less traction available. So naturally you will be able to get away with fewer mistakes. I start out slow and easy. I start my ride nice and easy and get a feel for the conditions. Then gradually increase my pace as my comfort level increases. The key is to stay relaxed. For me, that involves keeping a light attitude. I often will chat to myself or sing a little.

So next time it rains at a track day head out and give it a whirl. Just remember to bring your smile with you…. 🙂

 

To read more about traction management check out these posts:

 

What are your thoughts about riding in the rain, either on the street or on the racetrack?

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How to Save a Front Tire Slide

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Sometimes it's not possible to save it.
Sometimes it’s not possible to save it. www.motorcyclistonline.com

Is it possible to not crash when you experience a front tire slide? Maybe.

Both of my recent track crashes were the result of a sliding front tire (both were caused by me asking too much of a cold front tire). Sometimes it happens too quickly for you to respond. But, sometimes there is enough time to perform a maneuver that just may save you from a fall.

Survival Instincts Are a Bitch

Let’s say you are rounding a curve and the handlebar starts to feel vague in your hands. At the same time, your proprioceptors (aka kinesthetic sense) tell your brain that balance is being compromised.

Your brain is alerted to the threat and triggers your muscles to tense. The rush of panic and muscle tension happens in an instant. Many riders end up on the ground because their survival instincts cause them to overreact and make matters worse.

Saving the Front in a Corner

I’ve got bad news for you, that vagueness you feel at the handlebars is your front tire losing traction. This is bad, because a front tire slide is one of the most difficult situations to recover from. When cornering, the front tire is responsible for both lateral grip and direction control (steering). More times than not, front tire traction loss is the result of asking too much of the tire. Side forces from cornering, in combination with cold rubber and perhaps contaminated pavement is an easy recipe for tire slip.

When the front tire loses grip, it “tucks” underneath the bike and throws the bike and rider violently to the ground. But, is it possible to save yourself from falling?

To help the front tire regain traction (or at least not lose any more grip) you must first not add to the problem. This means staying relaxed (Good luck with that). With light handlebar pressure, the tire and suspension can work fluidly to manage surface irregularities.

If you tense on the bars, you will put stress on the front tire and risk pushing the tire over the limit of grip. Whatever you do, avoid trying to countersteer the bike into a deeper lean.

Assuming you can remain somewhat relaxed and neutral, the next thing to do is to relieve the work the front tire is doing. To do this, get on the throttle! I know, it’s counter-intuitive, which is why it’s not easy to do. But gassing it transfers load from the overworked front tire to the rear tire.This allows the front rubber to halt its lateral slide and keep rolling.

Yes, you will probably run wide, but hopefully you have enough road/track to let this happen. You can minimize this drift by using moderate throttle application to save the front tire slide. Just don’t goose the throttle so hard that you careen off the road or track or spin the rear tire.

Uphill Unload

A fellow instructor pointed out a caveat  to the common cornering situation. Dan mentioned what can happen to traction when you are going uphill. He witnessed a fellow rider (with a passenger) lose the front and crash in front of him just as the crashing rider was getting on the gas. Why would this happen if what I say about relieving stress on the front tire is true?

The likely explanation is that the uphill slope, in combination with the weight of a passenger and the application of a bit too much throttle, unloaded the front tire too much. He probably also added a bit of steering input that tucked the front tire beneath him. The lesson is that load management and traction management go hand in hand and you need to develop a keen sense of how various factors can affect tire load and grip.

The Knee Save

For those who are accustomed to dragging knee, it is possible to relieve front tire stress by levering the bike with your knee. Anything you can do to take pressure off the front tire will help the tire regain grip.

Saving the Front While Braking

The other way to experience a front tire induced crash is to overbrake so you skid the front tire. This can happen whether you are upright or leaned. If this happens, get off the brake, NOW! This will let the front wheel roll again so you can regain control. Then get back on the brakes (you were braking for a reason, right?). But, this time squeeze the front brake progressively. You can still brake really hard (less so if you are leaned), but it must be done gradually to allow time to put load on the front tire, which increases traction.

Practice? Really?

It takes a good amount of skill and presence to control front tire skids. Like all other tricky situations, practice and experience increases the chance that you can act correctly and save a crash. Practice? How? Ride in the dirt, my friend! Pushing the front tire is a regular occurrence when riding on loose surfaces. Learning to control slides in the dirt is less risky than suddenly needing to manage a slide on your street bike. With this experience, you can train and condition your mind and muscles to react properly when a slide happens.

The other way to train yourself to react properly is to push your bike hard enough to get it to happen. I don’t recommend this, because front tire slides can easily go wrong. But, if you eventually go fast enough at track days or when racing, you will inevitably experience the vague feeling of your front tire on the edge of traction loss.

DO NOT go fast enough to slide the front on the street!! You will die. On the street, it’s not likely that you will have enough time or space to pull off this hero maneuver.

What? You don’t ride on the track or in the dirt? Well, the next best way to practice is to visualize successfully performing the maneuver. Imagine yourself cornering hard, feeling handlebar vagueness and then gradually rolling on the throttle as needed to drift the front. It’s not ideal, but it’s the best way to prepare for saving a front tire slide. Me and the ZX6R Monticello, NY.

Expect It

Another way to prepare for front tire slides (and many others) is to expect them to happen. This pertains to all times when you are in traction-reduced situations, including when cornering or braking hard.

Have you experienced a front tire skid or slide? If so, how did that work out for you?


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New Bike, New Track

It’s hard enough to get accustomed to a new-to-you bike, but throw in a new-to-you racetrack, and things can get interesting. It’s kinda like patting your head while rubbing your tummy in a circular manner (I’m pretty good at that, BTW). Normally, I get up to speed fairly quickly when I ride a new track, evaluating each corner for its character: radius, camber, and whether it is an “entry” turn or an “exit” turn. But, it took me longer than normal to sort out the Barber track, mostly because the track consists of blind corners and a layout that is somewhat complex.

This means that it took a few sessions to not feel lost. I would be asking myself, “Wait, is this that tight turn or is it that turn that opens up?”.

Add to that the need to acclimate to a new-to-me motorcycle and the first day at Barber had me not exactly feeling Stig-like. The second day was much better.

Which way do I go?
Which way do I go? Notice the fogging face shield.
Copyright Raul Jerez / Highside Photo

Learning the Barber Motorsports Rollercoaster

I could tell you all the super-secrets I use to learn new tricks, but I would be repeating myself, because I already wrote a lengthy article on tips for learning new tracks on the Tony’s Track Days website. Read it HERE. Share any other tips you have in the comments below.

Even with my book of tricks in mind, I had a harder than normal time figuring out Barber. Now, to be fair to myself and to put things into perspective (lest you thought for one minute that I wasn’t awesome from the start), I was going respectably fast in the Advanced group after the first session. However, my standards for pacing with the fast guys made me rather discouraged. I know many of you slowpokes are used to being passed by half of whatever group you ride in, but I am not (just kidding). But, even after the third session, I was feeling a bit too much like I should be in the Intermediate group.

This would not do, so I consulted with Tony and my faster peers from New England and discovered that I was slowing too much for a few corners and not getting on the gas nearly early or hard enough. The last two sessions were better, as I started identifying the problem corners and applying some of the reference points Tony and the others were using.

Mother Nature's Tire Warmers
Mother Nature’s Tire Warmers

Sunday morning was 25 degrees F, so we substituted the frozen on-track festivities for a walk around and some bench racing around the tire warmers. Tony and I didn’t bring tire warmers, so we opted for Mother Nature’s warmers, which worked surprisingly well (at least on one side of the tires). After lunch, the temps got up to a whopping 35 degrees, so we pulled on our leathers and hit the track.

Nippy fingers and a fogging face shield told me to take it slow, but after a few laps, it became apparent that the track itself had some grip. Since it was 70 degrees only a few days before we arrived, the ground wasn’t nearly as cold as the air and the asphalt was well over 50 degrees…not great but acceptable.

Let the fun begin. The rest of Sunday was a blast. I started getting up to speed hooking up with Keith, Woody, and Rich. Tony, Adam and Aaron were too fast for me.  See the videos HERE.

But, wait! There is more to this story, so read on.

The ZX6R owenstrackdayphotos.com
The ZX6R
owenstrackdayphotos.com

A New Bike

If you’ve been reading the RITZ blog at all you probably know that I sold my most-awesome ZX6R for a Triumph Street Triple R. I really didn’t want to sell the ZX, but a medical issue required me to make the switch from a crouched racer posture to an upright naked posture (oh, grow up).

The differences between the ZX6 and the Street Triple’s spanned only a few areas: handling, gearing, power characteristics, body position, throttle response, drive timing, front tire grip, footpeg feel, shifting ease, wind noise, and color (I wonder how the Striple would look painted Kawi Green).

With all these things to adjust to, it took me most of the first day to get a good session in.

Is this bike twerking? Copyright Raul Jerez / Highside Photo
The new bike.
Copyright Raul Jerez / Highside Photo

Where’s the Power?

In a nutshell, I wished the 675 had more power. I know, I know power just masks poor riding. But, it also is very useful when trying to pace with the big boys.

The Triple doesn’t drive nearly as hard as the ZX636, so I needed to learn to ride the bike more like a small displacement bike, like a SV. To get the bike out of corners and reach acceptable speed on the straights, I needed to go from cracking the throttle to Wide Open Throttle (WOT) immediately to get the drive I wanted. I found myself using full throttle a lot. The 1050 throttle tube helped make full throttle a bit quicker compared to the stock tube, but a MotinPro unit may find its way onto the Triple’s handlebar end fairly soon.

Why is my Bike Twerking?

OK, so power was down, but that is something I found to be rather fun to manage. Full throttle is never boring. I even think I could have kept with Tony if the bike had better manners in the handling department. Don’t get me wrong, for most riders, the Street Triple R’s fully adjustable fork and shock would be awesome, especially for street duty. The bike never scared me, but I was pushing the bike fairly hard and found the bike wanting to wiggle like Miley Cyrus when cresting the turn 3 hill at full honk. I never felt as if I could drag a knee over that hill with the way the Striple was Twerking beneath me.

Perhaps there was some more adjustments that could have tamed the beast, but the temperatures were so low and the oil so thick that any adjustments would probably not net any real benefit, so I left the adjusters at the Loudon settings and dealt with it. Peter at Computrack Boston will be receiving my forks and order for a new shock by the end of the year so I can have more range of adjustment to suit my style.


In a future post, I will talk about my experience as a track day customer, as opposed to an administrator/instructor. I made note of several areas that helped me better relate to track day customers I work with. Stay Tuned.

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Barber Track Day Videos – Street Triple R

Sometimes, video is worth a thousand words, so here I present three videos from the recent trip down to Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama.

Below is a video that Aaron (Aprilia RSV4) shot of my first few warm up laps during that last session. The video does not show just how much of a roller coaster this track is. The elevation changes are significant. The Museum turn where we ride over the curbing is a less extreme version of the corkscrew at Laguna Seca.

Here’s one where I follow Tony onto the track and then he takes off. Tony got a hang of the track pretty quickly. It was about 45 degrees but sunny, so after a few slow laps, the tires were able to get warm enough for us to lay down some fairly quick laps. I was still learning the track and I can see several areas where I could maintain higher entry speeds and get on the gas earlier. Can you spot these places?

Ken follows Keith on his new-to-him 1100 Monster EVO racebike:

Below is a video posted by Keith (Ducati 1100 EVO Monster). I appear after 4 laps or so. Thanks Keith!

Barber motorsports part X-Act Nov 24 from GYRO BOX on Vimeo.

 

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Tony and Ken’s Barber Experience- UPDATED

Tony from Tony’s Track Days and I are leaving for the southern state of Alabama to take in the beauty (and warmth?) of the Barber Motorsports Park and absorb decades of motorcycle history at the Barber Museum. We’ll be riding our motorcycles with X-Act on Saturday and Sunday. Reports to follow. In the meantime, enjoy this video with Ben Spies and Colin Edwards. I’m afraid our trip…I mean Mancation… may be scarily similar to theirs:

Track Day Prep

Tony and I are riding with X-Act Motorsports and they, like many track day organizations, require glycol anti-freeze/coolant to be removed and replaced with distilled water or one of their approved substances. Those of you who ride with TTD know that we don’t require customers to drain their coolant. This is because in the many years that we’ve been running track days, we rarely ever have much trouble with coolant spills. Yes, occasionally some dribbles out of the radiator overflow from a gravity-challenged bike, but it’s never been a big problem. But, it sure can be a hindrance for regular street motorcycle riders to remove their coolant.

And now I’m reminded of just what a pain it is to do. I’m mechanically inclined, so this chore is well within my abiities. But, still… it’s messy and time-consuming when I could be doing something much more productive like polishing my wheels.

The Bull dog ready for some barber action.
The Bull Dog ready for some Barber action.

Transforming the Street Triple from street duty to track bull dog is not a big deal. (I decided that it looks like a bull dog) Although, I discovered that Triumph makes silly decisions that make it unnecessarily difficult to take street stuff off. One poor decision was to put the front turn signal connectors underneath the fuel tank! WTF? To raise the tank, I have to remove the Scott’s damper, so I’ll be putting connectors where Triumph should have put them in the first place: between the tank and the signal housing so the directionals can be removed in seconds, not tens of minutes.

X-Act also wants us to zip tie our sidestand up, which TPM requires, too. Again, we at TTD never found this to be an issue, but it’s a small thing to do. I’ll just make the zip-tie loose enough to slip off so I can use the stand in the paddock. No, we aren’t bringing paddock stands…light is right on this trip.

Gear packing

So, the bike is ready. Next on my list is packing my riding gear. I have one of those really cool Ogio gear bags on wheels, but Tony tells me he has matching plastic bins that fit perfectly in the back of his truck, so I may have to leave the sexy Ogio at home.

I keep all my track stuff in one place, so gathering it up was easy. I kept my tattered Vanson leathers aside until I found out whether my TTD Heroic leathers would be arriving in time for the trip. I heard from Todd today and he says that the leathers must have been shipped by camel, so they won’t be at my house before I leave. He says they will be at the hotel in Birmingham when we arrive. We shall see.

If they do arrive, then Tony and I will either look like we intended our matching black and yellow TTD leathers to look…like team colors. But there is a slight risk that we could be mistaken for advocates of same sex marriage (I don’t know Tony’s politics on this matter, but I’m pro, BTW). We’ll see how the southern boys react. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Brrrrr?

Wait, I thought Alabama was supposed to be warm, or at least warm-ish. But, the extended forecast says 45 degrees on Sunday. Is this some cruel joke? Well, I’m not laughing.

Now, we hearty New Englanders can handle the cold temps, it’s just that we prefer temperatures that don’t conspire to make our tires Flintstone-hard. What I can count on is the warmth of good friends hanging around the tire warmers and fighting over Wendy Butler’s cookies.

The Trip Begins

I meet Tony at his house on Wednesday, Nov. 20th at 9:00 AM. We’ll load the bikes and hit the road. Anyone know where there is a key fob store near Rt 84?

We made it to Virginia and will do the rest of the trip tomorrow. All is well so far. Tony hasn’t farted once, at least he denied doing it, but I don’t buy his claim that Renee spilled baked beans in the truck last week. I didn’t argue.

So, a trip to Walmart scored us a tarp, extension cord and tarp tie downs. So, now the bikes are tucked in for the night with the ceramic heater I brought turned on high to guarantee that our radiator water won’t freeze.

We Have Arrived

Well, 19 hours of driving later, we pulled into the hotel located just down the road from the racetrack. we’ll be meeting with the other Northerners for dinner and then we’ll hit the museum tomorrow. Look for lots of photos of the museum in the next couple days.

The Barber Motorcycle Museum

I’ll let the gallery speak for itself.

First Day on the Barber Track

We expected cold and possibly rainy conditions, but the weather Gods looked favorably on us and gave us dry and not too cold temps (for us New Englanders). We were in the 40s in the morning, with 50s in the afternoon. Getting heat and keeping it in the tires was a challenge, but the grip was fine for the pace we were running as we learned the track.

So, what is the track like and was it worth driving 20 hours to get to experience its awesomeness. In one word, yes. It’s a combination of fast, flowing corners with some tight stuff thrown in. The biggest challenge was to figure out where the heck I was on the track. There are a lot of blind corners, many hidden by hilltops. I would be approaching a hill, not remembering what was on the other side. Once I crested the hill, I would say “oh yeah” and then get on the gas.

By the last morning session, I was starting to not be so lost and was picking up the pace. The afternoon sessions went very well, except for the riders who didn’t understand the concept of taking a couple of laps to get some heat int he tires before wicking it up. That session was a wash with two red flags almost as soon as the session started and again at the restart. Oh well.

Up and Down, Left and Right

The Barber track is a medium-fast, flowing roller coaster of a track. It was a challenge to learn, but once I figured out where I was on the track, things went well. One problem was the cold temperatures. Saturday was in the low 50s and wasn’t bad, but it was 30 degrees when we arrived on Sunday.

We decided to give the track and the air a chance to get a bit warmer before we rolled. After lunch, we went out and proceeded to lay down some respectable laps. I did not have tire warmers, which would have made the first few laps less stressful, but the tires did eventually warm enough for fast, knee-down cornering.

Here are some photos from the weekend. Thanks to Raul Jerez / Highside Photo.

See videos of the Barber Track day HERE.


Since this will be our first time at Barber, we will be putting our “Learning New Tracks” skills to use.  I did write an article on learning new tracks last year for the TTD website, but do any of you have tips for us that you find helpful?

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Adjusting to a New Bike- Part 3 – Power Delivery

This is number 3 in a series on adapting to a new motorcycle, whether that means borrowing a friend’s bike, swapping bikes on a ride, or adapting to a new bike. Please share your experiences in the comments section. If you’d like, read Part 1 and Part 2 to see what other challenges we often face when adapting to a new motorcycle.

Too much throttle, too quickly. photo by Tim Richer
Too much throttle, too quickly. photo by Tim Richer

You Can’t Handle all that Power

Testing the brakes is probably the first thing you should do when swinging a leg over a new bike. Many people think that power delivery is the most important thing to calibrate to, because acceleration is a more obvious and intimidating force…fewer people seem intimidated by brakes. Even though more people seem to get into trouble with unfamiliar brakes, plenty of people fail to consider what they’re in for when twisting the throttle.

Throttle Transitions

One of the most common issues I have when riding different bikes is how smooth or abrupt the power delivery is when transitioning from off-to-on throttle. This can be a serious control issue if I am at full lean. When I crack the throttle, I am looking for a smooth delivery of power. But, some bikes are not mapped (FI bikes) or jetted (carbureted bikes) correctly for a gradual, controlled transition. What I get instead is a lurch that upsets the tires and sends the bike off line. One of the worst bikes I’ve ridden was an early model Honda RC51. It took all my tricks to control that bike’s fueling (see below).

I had my mind set on buying a new Yamaha FZ-09, but after hearing about the abrupt throttle delivery, I decided on the Street Triple, which is know for decent throttle control and response. Although it could be better, IMO.

Manufacturers try to find the balance between meeting emissions requirements and acceptable performance, which means that the fueling is often too lean for good throttle control. This is where Power Commanders and other aftermarket products come in. With a little time and a laptop, you can adjust the fueling the way it should be for performance, at the expense of emissions…something the manufacturers aren’t allowed to do.

Getting on the throttle
Getting on the throttle
photo: www.owenstrackdayphotos.com

Throttle Response

Throttle response is another factor that varies from bike to bike. Throttle response is how quickly the engine responds to rider throttle inputs. A snappy response is good for sportbike riders that want immediate results to get the bike launched as hard as possible. This is especially desirable when riding on the racetrack. Many racers install quick-turn throttle housings to get to full throttle with as little wrist movement as possible.

Street riders usually want a less aggressive throttle response so that inadvertent throttle movements don’t result in unwanted acceleration. But, slow throttle response can make a bike feel sluggish, unexciting and lazy.

Managing All That Power

To get a feel for throttle response and power delivery, find a straight section of road and roll on the throttle gradually. Grabbing a handful of throttle grip could land you on your ass if the rear tire spins or if you loop it in a mondo wheelie. In either case, you now own a bike that some idiot crashed (you).

If you are testing a bike with multiple power delivery modes, you may want to set it to the “rain” mode to soften power delivery. After some time, you can try the full power modes. Apparently, the FZ-09 has acceptable throttle transitions using the least aggressive power mode, but what fun is that?

Keep your right wrist in a comfortable down position for better control.
Keep your right wrist in a comfortable down position for better control.

Throttle Tricks to Try

Here are some simple things to do to help manage throttle control:

  • Ratchet Throttle- Instead of rolling the throttle like a rheostat, move your wrist as though you are rotating through a series of “clicks”. This measures your throttle position better to help resist introducing too much throttle at one time.
  • Keep your wrist down- A comfortable wrist-down position “locks” your throttle in position and helps control throttle movements.
  • Relax- Arm tension transfers to the handlebars and handgrips.
  • Anchor your thumb- Stick your thumb out a bit to make contact with the handlebar control pod to lock your hand in place. This is especially useful when riding at slow speeds.

What experiences have you had with throttle characteristics on different bikes?

Part 1 can be found Here.

Part 2 can be found Here.

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Thompson (CT) Motor Speedway Progress Report

Northeastern Racetrack Drought is Officially Over!

Tony with the Thompson Speedway pace car.
Tony with the Thompson Speedway pace car.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway has been the only game in town for motorcycle track day riders and racers for many years. We New Englanders had to drive 6 or more hours to the New Jersey Motorsports Park in southern Jersey to ride another racetrack. But, that’s is changing. Last year, New York Safety Track (NYST) opened its doors, making motorcycle track days a reasonable drive for most of us Northeasterners. Now, we have Thompson Speedway building a road course within 2 hours of Boston, 3 hours from NYC, and an hour from Providence! If that isn’t enough, Palmer Motorsports Park is well underway in Palmer, MA. Tony and I have been talking with the owners about running track days there in 2015.


View Larger Map

Tony and I went to Thompson this past week to review the progress of construction. We met with Josh about the Tony’s Track Days 2014 schedule and with Louis about certain changes we wanted to have happen to ensure that motorcycles will be accommodated. Our list included barrier protection where a lot of runoff isn’t possible, redirecting path of travel to minimize risk when going under the bridge, as well as discussions about curbing, and runoff material. Louis and Josh listened carefully to our concerns, so we are confident that they will do the very best they can to make Thompson a safe as possible.

The track

Thompson-map-with-numbers3The track itself is 1.7 miles long and combines very fast, sweeping sections, a loooong strait, and some very tight corners, some off camber. Tony and I have decided that we will run it in both the counter clockwise and clockwise directions, to expand the “number” of tracks we have available to us in New England. We also run NYST in both directions, so that alone can be thought of as 4 different tracks to ride! Take a look at the drive around we did last week.


Thompson Speedway clockwise

Thompson Speedway counterclockwise

Facilities

A beautiful new garage is being built next to a scoring/observation tower that will have a classroom  and a pro shop. There is a golf country club connected tot he facility that will be serving lunches and dinners for track day customers. Camping will also be allowed.

 


Adjusting to a New Bike – Part 1

Turn 9 Loudon
Trying to figure out the Street Triple. Turn 9 Loudon
www.owenstrackdayphotos.com

Me and my ZX6 Monticello, NY.
My trusty and familiar ZX6R. Monticello, NY.
www.owenstrackdayphotos.com

I recently sold my trusty ZX6R for a more upright Triumph Street Triple R as my track day bike. I needed the more upright position as a way to help a chronic neck problem. The Street triple allows me to sit up when I’m working with track day customers at a slower pace. But, the upright and exposed ergonomics means I  have to hunker down to get out of the wind blast when I’m going flat out.

I’ve ridden all types of bikes on various racetracks  and usually acclimate myself pretty quickly to them. While some adjustment was not entirely unexpected, it did take a couple of sessions for me to start to get along with the ST-R.

The first track session on the Triumph was my first time riding the bike (I picked it up on my way to the track). The track was cold and a bit damp, so I took it easy. I came in at the end of that session not knowing whether or not I made a mistake buying the Triple.

The night before, fellow TTD instructor, Joel Allen helped me adjust the suspension to accommodate the bumpy Loudon circuit and then Peter Kates from Computrack Boston rechecked Joel’s work (spot on) the next day. Thankfully, I knew that suspension that is set up for going fast simply does not feel right when you’re not going fast. Riding at 60% made the bike seem like it wouldn’t hold a line. I kept hope and went out for another session. The track was warmer and so I got up to speed. Ah, that’s better. A smile was on my face at the end of that faster session.

The increased pace helped make the handling make sense, I then had to adjust to the upright riding position, which is not nearly as intuitive as a sportbike posture when riding fast. Sitting on top of a bike instead of low behind a fairing makes 120 mph a tiring experience. Transitioning my body from left to right at turn 7 and 8 at Loudon required me to use too much handlebar support while accelerating up the hill.

More rearward footpegs would be needed (I traded the stock rearsets for Daytona rearsets, which should help). Midway into the second track day of the 2-day event, I mounted Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa race tires so I could see what the bike was capable of. I was pleasantly surprised how well I got along with the Striple, with my lap times edging very close to my typical times on the ZX6R. Next stop, Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait.

READ PART 2- Adjusting to a New Bike – Unfamiliar Brakes

Read all bout the track day preparation I have done to the Street triple R.

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Triumph Street Triple R gets accessorized

The Street Triple is serving duty as both a track bike and a street bike. It's great on gas.
The Street Triple is serving duty as both a track bike and a street bike. It’s great on gas.

The Street Triple R has been getting the track day treatment with protection, top shelf suspension, and race tires. You can read about the track makeover HERE.

But, since I’ll be riding the Striple both on the track and the street, I’m also adding some street goodies to help make it a bit more street-able. It’s a great street bike to begin with, but a few select accessories make the Street Triple R a nice road companion.


R&G Tail Tidy keeps the turn signals out of the way and save a ton of weight.
R&G Tail Tidy keeps the turn signals out of the way and save a ton of weight.

R&G Tail Tidy Fender Eliminator

The R&G Tail Tidy allows my bike to be ready for both track or street. The fender eliminator save a lot of weight and keeps the turn signals tucked in in case of a fall.

Click the link below to view the Twisted Throttle product page for the Tail Tidy.


Seattime

Here she is with all her track protection and street goodies.
Here she is with all her track protection and street goodies.

The Triple R came with a Sargent seat as well as the stock seat. The Sargent is very firm, like I know Corbins to be. The shape is much flatter than the stock two-toned seat, which unlike the stocker, keeps my gentlemen from getting “tanked” when braking. The Sargent isn’t perfect. The forward edges are a bit sharp and it kinda keeps me on a single position. The Sargent makes most sense on the highway where I am angled forward into the wind, which scoots my butt back into the “pocket”of the seat’s shape.

On the track, I found the Sargent to be too restrictive when hanging off the bike all the way.

This is where the stock seat is superior with a crowned shape that allows for easy side-to-side movements. It’s really easy to change the seats, so I’ll use both for their respective purposes.


Lord of the Tankring

I’ve used the SW-MOTECH/Bags-Connection Quick-lock tankbags for a while now. The bags are very nice, but the real advantage of these bags is the tankring mounting system. The bag clicks on and off the tank so easily that I will never go back to straps or magnet tankbags.

The heart of the system is the tankring that mounts tot he gas filler ring around the gas cap and the mating ring screwed on the bottom of the tankbag. With this tankring, I can switch my Bags-Connection Sport tankbag on both of my bikes; the Sprint RS and the Striple within only a few seconds.


Lord of the Flyscreen

Naked bikes are, well, naked. As as such, expose the rider to a wall of wind. This isn’t bad for most street riding situation, but once it gets chilly and you hit the highway, that wind blast becomes a bit much.

I knew the Triumph OEM flyscreen would not give a heck of a lot of protection, and it doesn’t. But, I hope that it will give me a place to tuck when I’m flying down the racetrack at over 100 mph. We shall see when I head to Barber at the end of November.

Update: I added the Sport version of the  MRA X-creen from my street bike (Sprint RS) just before leaving for Barberrrrr…it worked great. From twistedthrottle.com


Phone Mount

I’m installed a RAM ball to the Triple’s handlebar mount so I can have my phone within sight distance for those times I use my iPhone’s GPS function. The phone itself will be attached using the spring-loaded RAM X-Grip device. It’s proven to be a secure mount during off road adventures with the guys and gals at Twisted Throttle.  I mounted the RAM ball on the forward right handlebar mount so that the phone would not block the more pertinent information on the LCD screen (speedo, time, etc.) As it sits, it is tucked close to the master cylinder and only blocks the tach past 14,000 rpm. Not a problem on the street.

The RAM GoPro ball makes mounting the camera a breeze. No need for sticking mounts on the bodywork. Just be sure to tether the camera housing to the handlebars in case things get loose.

I can listen to the GPS navigation through my Interphone Bluetooth Intercom. I also listen to music when I feel like it. This is the system I use when I do one-on-one instruction on the track and on the street when I travel with my family.

Update: The Striple has not seen much street time since track day season has begun. It’s slowly but surely turning into a track day-only bike. Take a look at how it’s become outfitted for the track.

Product Gallery. Buy from here and support RITZ

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Another Racetrack in New England! REALLY?, Yes!

New Englanders Rejoice!

This is a huge project!
The construction of the Palmer Motorsports Park is a huge project!

Yesterday, Tony and I attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the Palmer Motorsports Park located in south-central Massachusetts. Palmer is scheduled to have some activity by the end of 2014. With the opening of the New York Safety Track in central New York, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park located in northeastern Connecticut, and the Palmer track Northeast motorsports enthusiasts who like to ride or drive on a racetrack have a lot to celebrate.

This is a big change for us New Englanders, because until now, we have had only New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Loudon) nearby. Many of us trailered 6 or more hours to New Jersey Motorsports park to get our racetrack fix on. The racetrack drought seems to be over in the Northeast.

View Larger Map


Track Layout

The track layout is ambitious with 15 corners, 191 feet of elevation change and over is 2 miles long. The track will snake through blasted out hillsides. Track runoff is being discussed to allow for safe motorcycle track day events to be held. Tony and I are working with the track designer/engineer to make sure these concerns are considered.

Another view of the track model.
Palmer Motorsports Park track model.

15 turns and 190 feet of elevation change!
15 turns and 190 feet of elevation change!


Video

Check out the video of an animated lap around the proposed circuit:


Terrain

The park is within a hollow surrounded by tall hills. The lowest point is 830 feet above sea level, the highest is 1020 feet. The town of Palmer is 330 feet above sea level. This track requires a lot of earth moving, including blasting through granite to carve the course through the very rough terrain. See the photos to see what I mean. These guys are the real deal and the town is behind the effort in a big way!

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Slow Motorcycle on a Fast Track: No Shortage of Fun

Last September I had the opportunity to ride a friend’s Kawasaki Ninja 250 on the Thunderbolt road course at New Jersey Motorsports Park. You may wonder why I would choose to ride a bike with around 32 horsepower on a circuit that is made for high horsepower bikes. The answer is that a well-ridden bike is fun no matter its power output.

The video shows the Intermediate (Yellow group) session with Tony’s Track Days. Before anyone asks; the suspension and every other component on the 250R is stock. Thanks Younia, for the ride!

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Selling Motorcycles Makes Me Sad

The lucky new owner of the ZX6R. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
The lucky new owner of the ZX6R. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Why is it so hard to let go?

Yesterday was a sad day. I delivered my 2005 Kawasaki ZX6R track bike to its new owner. The transaction went really smoothly; the new owner is a track day friend who I like and who I know will take good care of the ZX, and I got the price I needed for the bike and all the spares. So why is it so difficult to part with this conglomeration of aluminum, steel, rubber and plastic?

I know I’m not alone. Many people I talk with have the same experience as I when it comes to saying goodbye to a motorcycle they’ve owned for a period of time. I’ve been sad every time I watched the taillight of all my previous bikes roll away in the back of some stranger’s truck or trailer. The Honda CB900F, the RD400 race bike, the Ninja 750, the VFR800, the MZ Scorpion racer, and now the ZX6R.

It makes me wonder what exactly causes this attachment to a machine. Here are a few of my thoughts:

  • Motorcycling is more than transportation. When we ride, we become immersed in an experience and the motorcycle plays an intimate part in that experience. I equate it to having a dance partner whose subtle moves become familiar over time.
  • Bikes are riding “partners”.  You can become more or less involved and attached with a particular bike depending on the experiences you had “together”. For instance, the motorcycles I have had the most epic experiences on tend to find their way deeply into my heart.
  • Motorcycles become part of a rider’s identity. Deciding to sell a bike that you were proud to own can require you to rethink your identity and sense of individuality. The act of letting one bike go to make room for a new motorcycle requires a certain amount of personal reflection as we transition our identity to the new machine.
  • We invest in our motorcycles, both emotionally and financially. Many of us care for our motorcycles as if they were a human, putting the “good” oil in her,  lubing all the necessary parts, and keeping her clean. We spend money on personalizing our machines so they fit our identity and needs. Whether this is crash protection, chrome or carbon fiber bits, or luggage or navigational farkles that we bought with the idea of finally conquering those epic adventures.

Goodbye ZX6R

My ZX6 spent last night in its new owner’s garage. I can’t help but feel sad, even though it’s new chapter will be as bright as the old. But, does the green ZX mourn for our severed companionship. I hope not. I would hate to think that it felt abandoned like a child left on a doorstep. If there is any consciousness the ZX has, I hope it understands how much I appreciate its friendship and that it will always have a special place in my heart. *sniff

Tell me about your experiences with selling bikes.
What bikes were the hardest for you to let go and why?

A thought on selling race bikes

I’ve sold three race/track bikes. The thing about parting with a bike that you’ve relied on to not only perform well enough to allow you to beat the competition, but also to be solid enough to keep you safe when flirting with the hairy edge of control can be extra difficult. Race bikes require an extra level of personalization so that the suspension, controls, and engine/fueling performance is suited to your individual preferences. A lot of time and money is spent getting a motorcycle right so it can perform on a racetrack at an expert level.

That said, many racers look at their race bikes as journeyman tools that have one purpose; to get the job done. Once it becomes uncompetitive, it is cast aside for a sharper instrument. I don’t mean to sound cold, but the mindset of a serious racer is different than a street rider who takes pride in being a motorcyclist and chooses a particular bike not only for how it performs, but also for the pride the bike gives its owner.

My ZX6 was unique in that it was a track weapon, but not to win trophies, rather to do my job as a track day instructor, and to provide me with fun when I got to run hot laps on my own. As such, I have shared countless miles with it revving over 12k rpm and at sometimes crazy lean angles. It was a companion that made me feel (and look) good. I will miss it dearly.


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