We turned a 2007 Honda CBR600RR into a club race bike. This is how a rookie in Team Mid Life Crisis Honda got on.
May 8, 2011
Oulton Park circuit, exit of Shell oils hairpin.
Yes, the Honda is still alive and kicking and, in the spirit of this age of austerity (and the fact that I love the bike), I'm rolling it out again. Its previous storage space was a bit too tucked away and far away for regular TLC to be applied, but now...
May 8 2011
So step one was to take the panels off, the wheels, brakes, change the oil and filter, check the pads for wear and, since I had one, change the standard air filter for a Pipercross race foam affair (the OE filter looks like corrugated board). I have no observations to make on the fitting (except to thank the lord for race plastic rather than road fairings) and I have no observations to make on any difference in performance, since I haven't ridden it yet, but I'd doubt I'd notice any changes anyway. I'll have to check if the air-fuel ratio changes on a dyno, but, again, I'd be surprised. What I can vouch for is the weight saving over the stock item. 281g compared to 98g – you could spend a lot on titanium bolts to save almost 200g. Or go on a diet.
September 21 2009
I've just had a Dyna Pro Interceptor fitted to the Honda and if the dyno graph is anything to go by, it's made a bit of a difference over what was fitted and fuelled before. The Bike Interceptor was dialled in by Mark Dent of Dyna Pro, at Steve Jordan Motorcycles at Great Bookham and the improvement to power and torque (throughout the rev range) was impressive – almost too good! In effect, the base run (with a PC III and Dynojet ignition module) made 110.35bhp with a DIN correction. After 50 runs or part runs and considerable adjustment (taking fuel out mainly), the Interceptor-fuelled figures were 118.24bhp on DIN. In addition, torque increased from 44.19 ft lb to 46.56 ft lb. The same day, the same dyno, same correction factor. The bike will be given a proper run out at Brands Hatch Indy during a Bemsee race weekend at which point we should (hopefully) feel something. Or maybe see a slightly better lap time (god help us). More later...
Well, the latest news is that me, the bike and chief tech Dave Smith survived a Thundersport GB practice day and race day at Oulton Park and I have to say that it really whetted the appetite for more racing and another day or three at Oulton.
It's easy to write this now but on Saturday, watching the rain hose down on the undulating full circuit, I was dry-mouthed and anxious – but that's how racing gets me. My results were in line with the previous outing at Pembrey (not brilliant), but I didn't expect that much more at a circuit I had only visited once, two years ago and found intimidating and bewildering. Since that was only on a trackday, I knew I was going to get my arse handed to me on a plate. And lo! It came to pass. Among the many riders to show me the way was race winner, 19-year-old Irishman Glen Irwin who was 18 seconds clear of Chris Mort and Darryl Cox.
Yet again, I'm obliged to report that the Honda and the various bits all performed impeccably. All that needed adjusting was the HM Quickshifter which needed the sensitivity adjusted so that a gentle tap on the gear lever was all that was required to keep the engine singing. The fork and rear shock had a little bit more compression damping dialed into them as the test day progressed and a bit of preload removed from the rear when the rain came down on Saturday but that was it. There were no handling worries.
Speaking of handling, I was more than happy with the Metzeler Racetec Interact tyres I fitted on Friday afternoon. From the moment they came out of the warmers and I rolled out of pit lane, they inspired confidence. I'm always cautious on new hoops (considering how I crashed this bike two years ago that's not surprising) but the front Metzeler felt soft and sticky. To bullshit a little, I like a front end that's a bit squidgy, a bit soft, the sort of front end that a fast racer would probably describe as too soft and road-biased, but it feels good to me. I had a worn set of Michelin Power One tyres on in the morning and I'd say that the turn-in was about the same on both, but there was a better feel from the Metzeler which was also less upset by the whoops and crests of the Cheshire circuit.
But the most useful addition of the shortened weekend (there was only one day of racing with a 20 minute qualifying and one 13 lap race), was the help that the UK director of the California Superbike school gave me on Friday. Andy Ibbott helped me strip back my approach to riding to something more basic. 'You're over-complicating things,' said Andy after one session on Friday and, to cut a long story short, he helped me cut 20 seconds off my worst to best lap time. True, a big chunk of that was down to increasing track familiarity, but without Andy, I'd have flapped and become frustrated, trying to simply 'Go faster' rather than thinking myself faster. Which is lucky, since I'll be at Snetterton in early July, trying to lap faster than I did when I was there last year. Finally, a track I'm a little bit more familiar with...
I really should have a bundle of pictures of a stunning new Translogic dash fitted to the Honda. As it is, you'll have to wait a bit. As promised, I took the bike down to Alan 'AC' Cook at Crescent Performance and made him coffee while he nipped, spliced, soldered and, er, mounted a Translogic Microdash to the CBR600RR.
Having only seen web images of one, I was stunned when I saw it in the flesh. It's a solid and substantial looking piece of kit and when it was powered up, it looks, as the cliche has it, 'proper factory.' Translogic, a British company, started off making shift systems for GT race cars back in 1991 and is now the world's biggest quickshifter outfit whose systems have graced many racebikes. In fact, the Dynojet quickshifter I ran on the bike last year was a Translogic design and production.
In any case, the Micro dash is now on and functioning beautifully. According to AC, on a scale of one to 10 (one being checking the air in your tyres and 10 being gas-flowing a cylinder head), the dash fitting is a 'Seven' but you need decent tools and a bit of confidence, not to mention and wiring loom manual for your bike and some common sense. In short, there's no way in hell I would have tackled the job myself. Or rather, I would have started it then messed it up and needed help.
If you somehow manage to smash your original clocks, then the chances are this dash is going to be a lot cheaper than an OE part. The replacement Honda clocks were going to set me back £800 and they're like hen's teeth on eBay. At £399, it's half the price and has all the gubbins you need to wire it to a road bike with fuel lights and indicator lights too. Having said that, it's far more at home on a race or track-only bike. As a parting shot, AC's advice was 'Make sure you read the manual.' Now...where did I put it?
Would you believe it. One minute I'm contemplating packing up and here am I today contemplating cheating (a short-lived engine mod fantasy). More seriously, plans are already in place for the next round of the Thundersport Metzeler Formula 600 championship at Oulton park in June. Firstly, I've just taken delivery of some Stomp Grip, the 'sticky', grippy pads you fix to the tank to help you grip the tank and feel secure at the same time. I remember Paul 'Youngy' Young fitting some to his Triumph supersport race bike and extolling its virtues. Now our chum Paul is not a rider to make changes for the hell of it (he uses standard Triumph grips and stock clocks), so I reckon I'm on a safe bet with this US kit.
Also, because there's plenty of time between races to keep the bike spick and span, I've got some 'S' Doc 100 Power gel cleaner. It's not the cheapest, but I'll say its the best. Concocted and brewed in Germany, this is cleaner designed to clean rather than scour your bike and its paint. "Totally non-corrosive" it says here. Unlike some others maybe?
Well, that's the first race of the season out of the way. I skipped the opening two Thundersport GB rounds at Mallory (too cold and early) and Cadwell (too scary), convincing myself that vague work commitments made my absence explainable. So I made my way to Pembrey in Wales, scene of last August's crash. It was also the last time I took part in a race.
The headline is that I managed to go a bit quicker this time – and more consistently quicker – and I didn't crash out, but I didn't really drive home happy (and I've been there before too). If I could have managed a 1-07.999 I would have been less unhappy. As it was all I did was a few 1-08.1. I was two tenths from contentment! Congrats to Gary May, Jenny Tinmouth, Michael Price and Darryl Price who occupied the podium places in all three Formula 600 races.
Thundersport GB has grown considerably in the winter. I'd say it was about three or four times busier. Last year there were nine supersport bikes, this year there are nearer 60 in two classes. And they all seem a bit quick, so quick in fact that I felt like an interloper on Saturday, so if I ruined anyone's fastest lap with my mobile chicane antics (my high compromise, low corner entry speed stye...) I'll apologise now.
There are a million stories from a race weekend, but I wont bore you. The clocks are still smashed from the last round, so I have no tacho. The Michelin Power One race tyres (mediums) I used (34psi hot) worked well but only started to warn me that things were close to cooked in the final of three races. That's two qualifying sessions, one 18 lap race, 10 minute morning warm up, one grass-tracking excursion and two 12 lap races worth of abuse on Pembrey's abrasive surface.
The main thing I learned at the weekend is that a couple of track-based launches don't constitute decent preparation for a race meeting and it came as a real shock to the system to be on track with guys (and Jenny Tinmouth) who were already well up to speed (and obviously more talented). Being old, I take a bit longer to get going and, in racing, you need to be scaring yourself from the opening session, not the final laps of your last race...
John Ranger, aka the Graphics Man, did us proud on the colour scheme though, the bike got more comments than any bike I've ever ridden and the new HM Quickshifter was tip-top. Now I've got to get some Metzeler Racetec tyres and a Translogic dash fitted before the next round at Oulton Park in early June. (Thanks to Rob and Nicky Hoyles, as ever as well as 'Huddy' for a chain splitter. If it wasn't for youse guys, I'd have driven back home along the M4 even more pissed off...)
So, after a brief visit to Steve Jordan Motorcycles in Great Bookham, it was time for John Ranger at Graphics Man to add some art and colour to the job.
John Ranger, aka Graphics Man, was the designer responsible for the design, paint and decals on the Honda last season and he recently contacted me to find out what I was doing this season, once again offering his services. I gave him the nod and a couple of days later, this design dropped in my email.
Tremendous! A little bit retro and a little bit Freddie Spencer with a little bit of Honda Britain thrown in for good measure. I dare say John will tweak it between drawing board and execution, because he's always coming up with little modifications, but I'm chuffed.
And I'll be number '5' this season. For some reason someone wanted 'my' old number '54' for this season, so Thundersport GB has allocated me 5. Me and Colin Edwards eh? The Texas Tornado and the Bookham Breeze...
Time to waken from hibernation! There's an HM Quickshifter to be fitted, suspension to be refreshed, Motul race oil to be tested! Hello, Steve Jordan Motorcycles...
In truth, it was big boss Steve of...Steve Jordan Motorcycles who called me. Since Steve loaned me the Ohlins TTX rear shock and the Ohlins fork internals (new shims, pistons, oil), he wanted to make sure the bike was ship-shape and his shock was still in one piece.
And, since I know Steve and fast lady wife Sarah have both raced with HM quickshifters for years, I thought while the bike was getting its pre-race MOT, maybe that would be a good time to try the HM Quickshifter. And...and..since Steve has a dyno, we could carry out an oil change and try a back-to-back test on the Motul 300V race oil. I've spoken to race teams who suggest that pukka synthetic race oil in a high-revving bike can 'release' a horsepower or two. The first race is in March, but I've got my ACU licence for 2009 and Thundersport GB membership so I'm pretty much set.
November 12 2008
The MLC Honda and me survived the three-day Racedays Jerez end of season blow-out and, thank god, I went quicker than last year. That's the long and short of it. I went just shy of three seconds quicker than I did last year. OK, my times were still dog slow, but three seconds is a reasonable chunk of time.
I had some new PFM brake rotors and Performance Friction pads to bed in and, having asked advice of Leon Haslam and Racedays Superbike Academy engine builder and mechanic Andreas 'AB Tuning' Breulich what the best method was, I took their advice. (Three easy laps with very gentle initial braking building up to full power by lap four) It worked a treat. Great initial stopping power, a sense of getting a little bit more brake for a little more pressure at the lever and confidence and feedback to trail more brake than ever before into the apex. The rotors are lighter than the Galfer rotors by a few (30g) grammes on each side too. I 'll stick with the Brit PFM kit from now on.
November 6 2008
The chaos of my life has compromised my bike preparation. But the Pyramid Plastics carbon fibre crash protection kit is on too.
First off all, I don't know where the time has gone. The scrutineering sticker from the Pembrey Thundersport GB reads August 24 which is when the bike was crashed. And there we were scuttling around the workshop on October 31. It's a disgrace and I feel ashamed. OK, I had to hunt about to get some replacement bits, but still...
Anyway, after the Profibre UK bodywork was popped on – and its a bit tight in places – we discovered that the Ermax clear screen is perfect as an aftermarket part with standard bodywork, but too short for race bodywork, leaving a gap at the bottom of the screen where the road bike 'sidelight' should be. Ooops.
And then there was my inability to source seat foam for the Profibre seat unit. The original Speedfiber seat foam has been the envy of all who have sat on it, used it and admired how well it has stood up to a season on track. It remains firm and crumble-free.
And then there was the Pyramid Plastics carbon fibre generator and engine casing cover kit. Unlike the Profiber carbon-Kevlar part, the Pyramid stuff glues on and is fixed still more securely with a couple of bolts. Which would have been fine if the bolts had aligned perfectly but a little bit of filing was required. No matter, it's on now and bike should be waiting for me in a pit garage in Jerez with a new pair of Bridgestone BT-003 tyres as well as some secret squirrel hoops from Michelin.
October 31 2008
Finally, the crashed CBR600RR is starting to look like a bike again, thanks mainly to Pro-Fibre UK. Just in time for Racedays at Jerez too...
Actually, the whole thing is shaming. I can offer no excuses as to why the bike took so long to get back into shape. I was dicking about trying to find clocks, looking for advice on the best way to go, been on a family holiday and can offer only the usual excuses about 'time flying' but the truth is, it was out of sight and out of mind.
However, impetus in the shape of a Racedays three-day event at Jerez – a now traditional end of season event – forced me to do something. I had met Rich of Pro-Fibre ages ago and he suggested that if I ever needed bodywork, I should give him a call. So I did. And down he came, with a box of top-quality glass-fibre bodywork, which he then set about fitting in our decidedy chilly work space.
Rich has been working in fabrication for years and only started Pro-Fibre with a partner a few years ago, but they've got a reputation (mainly with northern club racers and trackdayers at the moment) for making high-quality, well-fitting bodywork. They supplied the British supersport championship winning Embassy Triumph team this season by the way. Check out the full range of kits here or call 07772 112027.
There are a few more things that need done to the bike before it can be packed into the truck and sent on its way to southern Spain, but with trust chief tech Dave, I'm...er....confident. Actually, Dave's more confident than me, but I trust him.
September 1 2008
The fall-out from the Pembrey crash continues to vex me. Working out what needs to be repaired and how much it's going to cost is...getting ugly. And expensive.
I suspected that smashing the clock pod was going to be the most expensive part to replace. What I didn't count on was just how expensive it was going to be. I contacted a local Honda dealer and asked how much. "For a complete pod it's...£820.80. But that includes the VAT." Oh great, fan-fucking-tastic, that includes VAT! There is no way on God's good green earth I'll be paying that.
I started thinking about alternatives. Like a full 2D or Motec dash, after all, they couldn't be much more expensive, could they? OK, more seriously, I happened upon the UK company Translogic, who look like they have a nice range of dashes that will suit. They're on holiday at the moment, but their trick kit is about half the price of the Honda kit! So it looks like a no brainer.
August 26 2008
If you race, you expect to crash at some point. I knew that. But I didn't want to crash out after three laps of race one and put an end to my Pembrey Thundersport GB weekend!
You never expect to crash, do you? You rarely see a crash coming as you ride on track. And this one was no different. Turn three at Pembrey, a long, long left hander, I missed the apex by a foot, I was going a bit quicker into it and running wide. I decided to add a bit of lean and (I think) I rolled off the throttle too. At which point the front tucked and down I went, sliding along. I remember thinking, 'Relax and keep your arms and legs up and in'. I slid for a bit longer than I thought I would for a 60mph off but came to a halt in one piece.
Which is more than I can say for the bike. Smashed clocks, smashed lap timer, a holed generator cover, snapped Dynojet quick shift gear rod, smashed screen and seriously dented fairings. The race doctor suggested that I get my right hand pinky x-rayed and it's a weird colour but still pointing the right way, so...
So, now I need to repair my lovely bike! The 'good' news is that PLJ Photo reckon they got me 'in action' so to speak and there was a telly crew from Motors TV throughout the weekend and the tail end of my crash has been posted on YouTube. Not a total waste then! More seriously, the drive home and concomitant mega-grumpy mood is not something I want to experience again.
August 21 2008
Cymru? I've never raced abroad before. Does Wales count? Dithering over, I'm off to Pembrey in Welshest Wales to race with Thundersport GB. Without Dave!
As far as I'm concerned, racing at Pembrey circuit constitutes a flyaway round. Considering Brands Hatch is 30 miles away...). Really. I'll confess that I was dithering over participating at this one for a couple of reasons. There are no garages and no electricity in the paddock, it's a long way away, Dave can't go because JP is racing at Cadwell BSB round, I'll be sleeping in the van and I've never raced there so have no data to stare at in between sessions. Plus the weather has been shit which isn't a problem on track, but the prospect of sitting in the van listening to the rain batter off the roof for three days...
Yes, you're right, I should shut up and get on with it. Actually, the 'Yaxley Flyer' Rob Hoyles will be there and has offered assistance. Mind you, he's been so busy winning MRO races of late, I'll have to fight past his fans and various team managers offering him supersport rides in 2009! More later.
July 22 2008
The MidLife Crisis Honda team re-visited Brands Hatch for a Bemsee meeting. The learning curve is still steep. And I'm nowhere near the top of it yet.
Which is a long-winded way of saying that when I make a step forward, I discover a new series of 'problems'. So, I start off and I'm slow and my starts are crap. Now I'm a bit faster and my starts are a bit better and...whoah...what the fuck is this melee at turns one, two and three on the opening lap? What are all these guys doing around and in front of me? Years of trackday briefings – no diving under people, safe, wide passing – allied to dead-eyed fear means this 'fighting' for a space is a hard problem for me to get my head around.
In the end I got around the problem of fighting for a place in the corner by offering it to anyone around me who seemed to be in more of a hurry/more desperate than me. And then I got frustrated catching riders up and struggling to get past them. But that's not a new problem.
And, since this was my first Rookie race with Bemsee since March, I discovered that the grids were bigger and everyone has improved in my absence – the bastards! How dare they all improve while I wasn't looking! Special mention to Max 'Maxi' Hunt and John 'Jeb' Cobold, who head and shoulders (about two seconds a lap!) above the rest of the grid, finishing well clear in each of the four 8-lap races at the weekend.
Did I mention we couldn't use the same gearing we used at Thundersport GB because the 200/55 section rear Dunlop D211 tyre (otherwise excellent) wouldn't fit the swinging arm? That would be worth a tenth or two...wouldn't it? It's straight from the 'Boys Bumper Book of Excuses' that one – and it won't be the last time I delve into that thick and well-thumbed volume. And my next chance to dive into my deep well of excuses will be after the Thundersport GB weekend at Pembrey in Welshest Wales at the end of August.
July 17 2008
The MidLife Crisis Dunlop Promach Dynojet Speedfiber Motul RS Taichi Racegrafica...Honda (phew) team is off to race at Brands Hatch Bemsee meeting this weekend
Yes, the MLC Honda squad (me, Dave Smith, the Sprinter van and, er...that's it) is going back to its roots this weekend at a Bemsee club meeting. I'll be running onto the relatively more even playing field of the Rookie 600 class. After a couple of Thundersport GB races 'mixing it' with riders who were considerably quicker than me (hello there Gary May, Rob Hoyles, Ashley Midwood, Billy Mellor, Andrew Hooper, Alistair Kirk, Nick Green, Paul Charman, Marty Lennon, Paul Smyth, Oliver Riley, Sean Chaston), I'm going back to Brands Indy circuit.
Mark Sears of Dunlop Motorsport has found me a pair of D211 tyres that will be the envy of the paddock and I clearly will be trying to go quicker than I did the last time I was there. No pressure then...
July 4 2008
The Snetterton round of the Thundersport GB championship saw Team MidLife Crisis roll up and share a garage with a race winner – Rob Hoyles.
As I mentioned below, I arrived at Snetterton circuit with a pair of Dunlop D211 race tyres in the van, determined to put them to sword, so to speak. I have something of a fetish for tyres, I reckon they are really important and if I convince myself I've got top hoops, my confidence rises and my lap times drop.
Thundersport GB has a 600cc class rather than a rookie 600 class as in Bemsee, which means that I really am propping up the time sheets, although the fast guys in the class are all skillful and generous when diving underneath me. The thing is, it's not a track day, it's a race, which brings with it a different set of on-track etiquette.
Long story short, I went quicker than the last time I was here. In fact, relatively speaking, I went way quicker, like seven seconds a lap quicker – down to a best of 1-17. And, yes, I know I had a lot of scope for improvement, but it still feels good. I was eleventh twice and got a tenth too. It doesn't sound too bad until I confess that I was lapped – but so were four others!
The D211 tyres were confidence inspiring and laughed at my efforts to get them to complain. The rear was faultless (ie no slides or spinning) and I know I could have and should have tried harder. The front was a bit stiffer than I am used to but was planted on the brakes, it felt like it was really stuck to the track when turning in on the brakes.
And a special mention to Rocket Rob Hoyles, our sometime road tester, who came away from the weekend with two second places and a win. Well done Robbo!
June 13 2008
Dunlop D211 tyres. Yes, that's right D211 tyres are the latest and greatest from the Motorsport boffins at Fort Dunlop. And I've got a pair for the MLC Honda for Snetterton Thundersport GB round.
The D211 was 'launched', so to speak, at the Daytona AMA race in March. I say 'launched' but it's not a tyre you'll find in the local tyre shop. It's DOT legal of course and is currently being raced on supersport and superstock bikes in AMA and other international championships. Ben Bostrom won on a pair at the recent round of the AMA supersport championship at Miller Motorsports Park. In fact the whole supersport podium was on the D211 tyres.
Mark Sears, Dunlop's Motorsport tyre designer explained that these hand-made beauties are proving so popular with pukka racers in Spain, Italy and the USA that they can hardly keep up with demand. There are seven, yes, seven compound elements in the rear tyre and a triple compound in the front tyre. I'll be trying to do them justice at the end of this month. Mind you, irrespective of what I do on them, I know that Gary May, championship leader in the 600cc and 1,000cc class is using them to great effect, so, uh, they're probably pretty good. Christ, every day I run out of another excuse...
June 9 2008
Never was a 'team' better named. The Team MidLife Crisis Honda and young Cara were photographed because...well...just because. MidLife Crisis indeed. For those are curious, check out www.carabrett.co.uk which is under construction. And the latest MLC news is that we (OK, me and Dave, not Cara) will be in Thundersport action at Snetterton at the end of the month.
June 2 2008
Team MidLife Crisis Honda descended on a Thundersport GB meeting at Brands Hatch. And had a good time. Shocker. Due to a combination of testing in Spain and downright stupidity and incompetence, Team MidLife Crisis Honda missed the Silverstone round of the BMCRC (Bemsee) championship a couple of weeks back. Just as well, given the atrocious weather conditions and a severely truncated two-lap rookie race on Sunday. Sounds like I didn't miss much.
So, keen to test the tweaked bike and curious to see what racing was like with another club, Brands Indy was the ideal circuit to dip my rookie toes in new Thundersport GB waters. To cut a long story short, it was a great weekend – and not because I went quicker. There was a load of extra lap time, qualifying sessions and longer races – 15 laps rather than 7 at BMCRC - and it didn't rain at all!
Again, to cut a long story short, I went considerably quicker than I had when I was last racing here in March (56.5 to 53.3) partly down to the new Dynojet quickshifter (faultless), a new Sigma slipper clutch (also faultless) and a few more ponies (Leo Vince and Power Commander) but, if I'm honest, more down to chief tech Dave punching me in the face and then saying, calmly, 'Brake less, chase the throttle on corner exits and lean more'. OK, he didn't punch me, but the advice was sound.
For the record, all three podiums were occupied by the same riders. Gary May won two out of three, Jenny Tinmouth won the final race with Rob Hoyles coming away with two seconds and a third. If I say that I finished 11th and 10th in the races, it rather flatters me, since there were only 14 riders and I was lapped by the leaders, but what the hell, I had a good time and went quicker than I ever have around that circuit. I'll certainly be signing up for the next Thundersport event at Snetterton on June 28-29. Hopefully I'll go a bit quicker than I did the last time I was there.
How much difference would a Leo Vince full system make to the power figure on the MidLife Crisis Honda? Guess where we went to find out? Er, Dynojet UK HQ.
Yes, we packed the bike and headed to Preston, Lancashire, to the headquarters of Dynojet in the UK, run by engine tuning legend Frank Wrathall and a small team of equally skilled operatives.
We strapped the bike to the Dynojet dyno and Martin did a few runs on the bike in stock trim to get a base reading before taking off the stock system and fitting the Leo Vince. The Italian SBK system has stainless header pipes and a stainless connector pipe, to which fits a titanium and carbon end can. According to Martin, who's seen more exhausts than I've eaten Lancashire Hot pots, the Leo Vince was a very well put together set of tubes, with excellent welding. "Normally an exhaust will need 'a bit of coaxing' to fit but this went straight on, no bother. Very good."
Which is fine, but what sort of power gains are we talking about here? Martin, proving that he knew what he was talking about, predicted both base power (111bhp and 46lb-ft) and reckoned that with some time spent on the dyno and the Power Commander III, it'd be around 117-118bhp.
Guess what? Martin was spot on on both counts. The stock exhaust and no PC III made 111bhp and 46.7lb-ft and the addition of the Leo Vince and PCIII added over six bhp to a healthy 117.2bhp and 47.8ftlb. The hike in the peak figure is pleasing, but far more important was the increase in power and torque in a steady curve from 5,000-10,000rpm, where the new exhaust and PCIII adds around six bhp all the way over the stock system. That's in the part of the rev range where I'm (low revving!) out of some corners, which should mean better corner exits. And, even better, the noise figures with the baffle in (with no power loss) are 102dB at 7,000rpm, which is comfortably under the Bemsee noise regs. Though not standard trackdays which set a limit at around 98dB...hmmm. I'll worry about that later, for the time being, I'm pleased as punch. My bike is now more powerful and carrying less weight.
Eagle-eyed readers will note that the previous time this bike was dynoed it only made 106bhp. Well, since it was brand new at the time and it was a Dyna-pro dyno, the figures aren't really comparable. You would expect an engine that had done a couple of thousand miles to produce a bit more power anyway.
Racing eh? After round two of the Bemsee Rookie 600 championship at Snetterton I'm turning into a race fool. Grumpy, stressed, unbearable. Terrific!
I don't know where to start. I scored fewer points than I did in my previous outing, but then again, I only had three races rather than the four that were on the programme, which is not a bad excuse.
You know those suspension tweaks I talked about? New fork internals? Forget it. I was almost weeping on the Friday test day. Someone had stolen my bike and cloned it, then replaced it with this alien craft. It didn't feel like my old bike - particularly at the front. It was as stiff as a board and my confidence was shot to hell.
Long story short, 0.95kg/mm springs felt way too hard for a rider on my pace and with my, ahem, 'style' (ie slow and smooth rather than fast and hard on the front end), so out the forks came and off to Steve Jordan's traveling workshop. Bless Steve, he was flat-out and the last thing he needed to see on a Friday night was Dave and I clutching forks and the stock fork springs. But...well, he fitted the stiffer Ohlins springs and my weekend was looking like a total embarrassment, so it was pretty much up to him.
And, of course, as usual, god bless Dave for setting the bike up with the new kit fitted. I went out for my five lap warm-up on Saturday morning with Dave's settings in the fork and within two turns I was happier and two seconds a lap quicker. Still crap, but not quite as crap. I had my bike back. Later in the day, I lopped off another two seconds as I started to regain some confidence.
The moral of the story? Don't go spending money on fancy-Dan suspension kit unless you've got time to sort it all out. Be careful who you listen to when it comes to advice and, unless you have a Dave Smith in your garage, you're (possibly) going to feel like a chump. 'Better' suspension is an entirely relative concept!
And why three races instead of four? The last one on Sunday evening was canceled. And it was wet as well which I seem to do OK in. Relatively speaking of course.
On the plus side, the bike looked terrific, thanks to John at Racegrafica. And thanks, again, to my race garage chums Scott Halliday and Matt Flower (Bourne Racing) for tools, tea and support. Next time it'll all be better lads!
April 10 2008
Seconds out, round two. The second round of the Bemsee Rookie 600 championship is on at Snetterton this weekend. The forecast is...well...who cares about the weather? What I mean iis that as long as it's above freezing and I can keep some heat in the Dunlop D209 GP Racers, what the hell do I care if its wet or dry?
Alas, a bout of man flu meant that I didn't get to Mallory park or Cadwell park for some track time on the new suspension, although happily chief tech Dave Smith was willing and more than able to don his leathers and do some suspension twiddling. I trust him. He's miles quicker than me! More later.
Steve Jordan of, yes, Steve Jordan Motorcycles in Bookham, Surrey, treated the MCL Honda to some Ohlins bling. That's a high-quality, top dollar bouncers in a club race bike.
Let me clear about this from the start - I did not ask for a complete Ohlins refit of my bike's stock suspension. I've never had any problem with the suspension but when Ohlins dealer and qualified technician Steve asked me if I would like some fitted to the bike, well, just ask yourself - what would Jesus do? Yes, the good lord himself would have thought, "Fuck it, why not, let's see what it feels like."
So the bike and I spent an afternoon at Steve's spacious workshop in Bookham, near Box Hill in Surrey and Steve got stuck in. Basically, the MidLife Crisis Honda now has a brand new Ohlins TTX36 rear shock and the forks have had an Ohlins re-valve, new shim stacks, new (heavier) Ohlins springs and new (lighter) fork oil. That's Ohlins 5w fork oil, funnily enough.
And how does it feel now? I haven't got a scooby. Because I haven't ridden it yet, but as soon as I get out on it - like on our Cadwell Park track day, I'll let you know. In the meantime, I had better raise my game. You don't want to be pissing around at the back of the grid with that sort of suspension do you? No pressure then...
Once I saw the rest of the bikes in the Bemsee garages at Brands Hatch I realised that the MLC Honda could probably do with a bit of colour and graphics. Enter Racegrafica with this 'rough' design.
I say 'rough' design because I emailed John at Racegrafica last night asking if he had any ideas and, when I got to work next morning not only had her replied, he had attached this design which he said was a rough starting point and what did I think? Quick or what? That's customer care with knobs on – and I'm not a customer. Not yet, although I'll be off to the Surrey workshop very, very soon.
I think the basic colours and shapes look great – because I did like the original Honda paint scheme – and all of a sudden the bike looks like as well-prepped a bike on the outside as it is on the inside. Turns out that Racegrafica has done work for a number of teams, including Craig Jones of the Parkalgar world supersport team and, almost inevitably our freelance chum Rob Hoyles.
Although this isn't the finished design, I'm so impressed with the look and speed of the turnaround, I thought I should share it! Contact John at email@example.com or check out the gallery pages on the Racegrafica website.
Is this what club racing does to you? A week after the first event, I'm scanning timing sheets, thinking about gearing, starts, Sigma slipper clutches, chassis mods and...more power!
Truly, the race bug appears to have bitten. In spite of less than stellar results (!) I feel I didn't do myself or the bike justice. So I'm toying with ways to 'improve' the bike and rider before the next round at Snetterton in early April.
I did the Brands Hatch races with the bike in stock trim - 106bhp - and now I'm thinking about trying to do what every normal person would do if they could. Which is to say that I fancy an exhaust system and a Power Commander re-map. I saw a number of Micron systems on Hondas running in the British supersport race bikes last year and I know that JP had good power gains with a Micron system on his R1. So, backing the Brit company, I'll see if I can source a Micron system and a Sigma slipper clutch in time for the next round.
And Dave's words are ringing in my ears - 'Before the next round, we're going to get you some practice start time'. I checked the results and discovered that in one particularly bad start I lost no fewer than seven places. From 13th on the grid back to 20th before getting to the first corner! Seven! I'd have been as well stopping and having a cup of tea. Grrrr...
March 11 2008
Brands Indy circuit was the opening round of the Bemsee club race season. And the venue for cherry-popping at Team MidLife Crisis Honda.
I don't know where to start. To discuss the weather, the nerves, the races, the atmosphere, the stalwart support from Dave Smith in the garage or the sleep loss. Ages ago I explained that part of the motivation for not-very-quick me to try racing was based on a comment made to me by former multiple Honda world supersport champion Sebastien Charpentier that the CBR600RR was 'good enough to race at a decent level straight out the box'. Was he right?
Well, of course he was. A better rider than me could have won a rookie Bemsee race on my immaculately prepped bike, shod as it was with fine Dunlop D209 GP Racer tyres. The bike had the power and the tyres and the set-up. What it didn't have was a quick enough rider!
I could go on for thousands of words here, but I will only make the blindingly obvious observations that no amount of trackdays will prepare you for racing, for the nerves, for the grid start, for close passing by faster-starting riders, for the sanity-questioning fear and the physics-defying genius of Dunlop wet tyres, which I had my first experience of.
How was it? It was frustrating. And I've got an awful lot to learn. So I'll be back and it will get better, especially with Dave helping me. Needless to say there's a story being prepared for the June issue of the magazine. In the meantime, thanks to Dave and Powerbike riders Matt Flower and Scott Halliday who were in garage 18 with me. Cheers men, I'll bring some magazines next time.
February 25 2008
A Bemsee training day at Brands Indy circuit threw up a few glitches and cranked up the stress levels at Team MidLife Crisis Honda. It could have been worse.
A training day for rookie racers is a good idea, it really is. More experienced (OK, older) riders tell horror stories of sending off for an ACU licence, getting one and going racing, thrown in at the deep end with little idea of what to expect on a race weekend. The terror of scrutineering, the form filling-in, the holding area, the warm up lap, grid assembly and start procedures and club-specific rules were all touched upon - or experienced.
OK, none of it sounds complicated, but when you are brand new to racing and already stressed and nervous at the thought of a grid start, it can get bewildering. Which is why Bemsee runs these training days which also include the obligatory ACU test paper which has to be passed.
I'll be honest and admit that I was initially sceptical of the benefits (having access to lots of advice from experienced riders) but I really rated the day that Tony MacBride ran because there's nothing like the experience to crystalise the many and various little time and energy-sapping elements that go to make up the totality of a race weekend. There are too many to list here, but even making sure you have your race numbers, making sure you put them on neatly and making sure you put them on to the satisfaction of the scrutineers is more of a task than you'd think.
And that's before the actual technical inspection itself. The Team MidLife Crisis Honda would have failed if it had been a pukka race weekend. Failed. I need to lockwire more bits. I need to drain the radiator of slippery glycol anti-freeze and I need to fit a shark-fin chain guard. Apart from that...not bad!
Club racing is not like trackdays, it really isn't. There's so much stuff to do and so little time. But hats off to www.racenotadmin.co.uk because I now have an AMB transponder. Now, about those spare wheels for wets...
I have a Bemsee - ACU training and school day at Brands Hatch this Sunday and it would be easier for me in the long run if I had a transponder for the event. So in my haste to find one, I happened upon www.racenotadmin.co.uk, made some enquiries and, two days later there's an AMB transponder blinking away, charging on my desk. So, a good price and double quick delivery allied to further discounts on tyres and consumables from the site. Not bad at all, certainly worth a click through.
And the shagged tyres from Almeria Racedays have been changed and fitted. Nice shiny Dunlop D209 GP Racer tyres, a soft front and a medium rear are all ready to get toasted in the tyre warmers. Is it only me that likes the smell of hot tyres? Is it only me who has access to the tyre-oriented brain of Phil Plater, Dunlop's bike sport head honcho?
And, a little scrutineering problem has been banished. If you fit non-bending rearsets, the end of the footpeg has to have a shiny plastic bung in it. So Mick at Promach sent me a couple. You've got to read these rules closely. I've tried to, but no doubt something wont be right on Sunday at 8am...
Truly, you would think that once you've got your bike 'sorted' to please those folks I understand are called 'scroots' (sorry, scrutineers) that your troubles are over. Oh but they're not. Dave Smith, chief tech (whether he wants the title or not) of Team MidLife Crisis Honda, has been telling me I need spare wheels since the project first saw the light of day. Well, I've been a bit sluggish about sorting it. And now that I have, Jesus H. Christ – have you any idea how much spare wheels for a 2007 Honda CBR600RR cost? I'll tell you. £1139.94 a pair. No brake discs, obviously. Can I afford that? Can I hell. Time to scour the breakers websites...
And then there's the small but important matter of a transponder. A what? The little transmitter that records your lap times for the race organiser. Well it turns out that Dutch company AMB has the market sewn up (in much the same way as Apple and its iPods) so that the price of these little boxes is the same everywhere. And the best price I've found is at www.racenotadmin.co.uk. If you are in the market for an AMB TranX260 Rechargeable Transponder that's the best place to go as far as I've been able to discover. And if by some miracle you find one cheaper than on that site, don't bother telling me.
February 12 2008
The CBR600RR is back from Almeria in one piece. I'm a bit happier and a bit quicker but displaying worrying symptoms of having been bitten by the club race bug...
The worst thing about a Racedays track event is the fact that you have a transponder on your bike which records your lap times. The best thing about a Racedays track event is the fact that you have a transponder on your bike which records your lap times.
Rather than either just riding around and enjoying yourself or riding around and trying to improve on a specific corner or series of bends, you end up trying to improve your lap time. And the more you chip away, the more you want. And that, in two paragraphs was the story of my three days with Racedays at Almeria. Which turned out to be a bit chilly (13 degrees at best).
I confess I ended up taking part in a none-too-FIM sanctioned 600cc race. Two warm up laps and eight laps and a grid start. Hmmm. I'm going to have to work on those starts...when 2007 R6 Cup third-placed finisher David Paton came past me near the end of lap seven, all I do was laugh and shake my head in disbelief at his smooth, super-quick style. Thank Christ the 18 year old Scot will (probably) be competing in the European Junior superstock championship rather than the Bemsee Rookie 600 class in 2009!
(And, for those real race anoraks out there, young Paton's best lap was a 1-44 on a circuit where a world class lap time on a BSS/WSS tuned bike is a 1-40. Paton did his riding on an R6 with a pipe, a Power Commander and one tooth off the front sprocket.)
February 6, 2008
As I write, my lovely race bike is heading for Almeria circuit in a Motofreight truck for three days of track riding in some proper racer company. Yeah, yeah, what a lucky bastard, I know.
I'm torn between feeling guilty and just thinking, 'well, sod it, it's a weird job I have and this is one of the massive perks.' Which is to say that I'm off to Almeria circuit to take part in a three-day Racedays extravaganza with the usual suspects.
The bike hasn't been changed much since the last time I was out on it at Jerez in November. Dave Smith, the de facto chief tech of Team MidLife Crisis Honda, made a fine job of spraying the inside of the fairings black ("because it looks much better") and he brought in his special glue to attach the Speedfiber carbon-Kevlar engine covers (hope I don't need them, of course).
I've got a pair of Pirelli SuperCorsas on them from Jerez with plenty of wear left in them as well as a pair of Michelin Power Race tyres to try out. And, fingers crossed, I'll get a bit of tuition from the four coaches out there. You know, Ron and Leon Haslam, Jeremy McWilliams and Iain Macpherson! I'll post more updates up over the course of the weekend, if I can get online!
January 8 2008
In essence, the bike has gone back to Honda, but I needed to take it out one last time (really). We're off to Almeria on Thursday 10th January to run a test on the new Ducati 848, Suzuki GSX-R750, Triumph Daytona 675 and - the best 600cc supersport bike of the moment, the Honda CBR600RR.
So, rather than give my Honda back to Honda and them give me it back again, we're using my long term bike (put back in standard trim). So I had to make sure the bike was running OK, didn't I? In as much as I've been riding a Peugeot Speedfight2 100cc 2-stroke scooter for a couple of weeks, the Honda felt like a turbo charged Hayabusa, but in a good way. Even although the roads were cold (but dry), the bike felt like I had never been off it. All that bollocks about the controls falling easily to hand and the bike putting you at your ease? Yeah, it's true. And what's going to happen on our exclusive wee road and track test in southern Spain? I dunno, but the Honda isn't going to disgrace itself. Check the site next week for the latest.
December 16 2007
I'm going to confess that I rode another bike recently. I've had a few days on the Suzuki B-King. It's a bit different from the CBR600RR. No, really...don't run away. The thing that strikes you (particularly after riding the CBR6 and a Peugeot Speedfight 2 scooter on other days) is the massive bulk of the B-King. It feels massive, it feels wide and it feels a bit top heavy with a high-feeling seat.
Bearing in mind I've been riding in rubbish wet and cold weather, I have to say that it is an impressive lump of bike, astonishingly powerful engine with super-smooth fuelling and a sporty-feeling chassis. It's nowhere near as big and saggy as I thought it was going to be.
But it's been too wet, cold and/or dark to really explore the bike, these are random thoughts. And I think it could be a cult bike, but I can't see it setting the world on fire. Really, for the sort of riding you would do on a bike with this look, do you really want to spend B-King money???
So the cold and the salt have arrived and the prospect of any decent riding in the UK is diminshing. At which point, you start to plan and dream. And, after three days on track at Jerez, it's easy to get carried away.
I'm already starting to think about cheating, as far as keeping the race bike in stock trim goes. Having been surprised by how flat the stock bike felt in comparison to the stock bike with a Power Commander felt, I'm wondering if I could get away with just...you know...fitting the PC to the race bike, still keeping the stock exhaust system. And, well, if Andy White at KAIS suspension is keen to overhaul the rear shock, pre-season, would that make a big difference in an 8 lap race around Brands Indy? I mean, it's still the same shock, isn't it?
And maybe a gearing change, maybe three up on the back and one down on the front, that's not a big deal is it? Really? It's not like fitting a Sigma slipper clutch, a full Micron system and an engine re-build, is it? I mean...come on...
My god, no wonder serious racers are so tempted to 'bend' the rules.
November 11 2007
It was the final day on track at Jerez circuit with Racedays. I was going round in frustrated circles till Ron Haslam gives me a few pointers. I´m too knackered to write much. My knees went on the last session around Jerez, I just couldn´t haul myself from one of the bike to the other. And I´m still knackered. But after three days on track, you would expect that of an old giffer, right?
Anyway, long story short, late in the day, I went out and did a few laps with Ron Haslam, came into pit lane, had a chat about trail braking into corners, went out, did another three laps and came in, had a chat, then he let me get on with it. And I set my best lap of the three days in the next and final session. Ron Haslam...he knows what he´s talking about you know! Time for a beer. Maybe two..
November 10 2007
I was maybe a wee bit too lax at Jerez yesterday, a bit too slack when it came to putting in some laps. How else do you get to know a circuit unless you ride around and around and around? In particular it take time for me to get up to any kind of speed and I can only do that by doing laps. So today I did laps. And sweated a lot. Because it was 26 glorious degrees.
The bike feels great. I'm basically on the same suspension settings as Oulton park, which are keeping me happy, with a little bit more rebound damping on the fork (and I would add another click of rear preload if I hadn't forgotten my C-ring spanner).
What I did change was the angle of the levers on the bar, both brake and clutch and now they 'fall to hand' as the cliche has it, much easier and so my wrists are nowhere near as sore as they normally get after back-to-back track days.
Anyway, the atmosphere is great in the garages, lots of helping out, lots of cameraderie and not too many crashes, certainly none that have damaged bikes beyond riding or seen riders in the medical centre. I was having a hard time on a couple of corners and got Leon Haslam to draw me a diagram and point me in the right direction, which worked a treat. There's nothing like a bit of expert advice to straighten things out. I went faster than yesterday, so something is working. And, even better, I've got a bit of on-track tuiton from Ron Haslam tomorrow which should help a bit! More later...
November 9 2007
Jerez circuit with Racedays. Tea, biscuits, tyre warmers on some new Dunlop GP Racer tyres. No rush, three days on track ahead I've been at Jerez before and I know that on the third day of a Racedays 'weekender', everyone has run out of energy, tyres and money, so I'm in no rush to flog myself or the bike. So far things are going well but I have to say that I'm a bit surprised by how flat the Honda feels, compared to the one I'm riding on the road - which has a few more bhp thanks and snappier throttle response thanks to a Power Commander and a Crescent re-map. Maybe the extra two teeth on the rear just aren't enough? It just doesn't seem to rev as quickly through the midrange either, so gear selection has to be spot-on. And obviously it's been anything but in many cases.
Racedays ran a raffle prior to the two hour endurance race on Friday. The fella that won didn't actually want to pair up with Ron Haslam in the race, so put his winning ticket up for auction and another couple of hundred quid was raised for Riders for Health, which is not bad going.
Anyway, so far every time I feel as though I've got in the groove the session has been stopped, so I'm a wee bit frustrated, but it's early days yet! More tomorrow...if I get a decent pic!
You would think it would be easy to convert a CBR600RR into a 'proper' race bike. But nothing is ever easy in a workshop, is it? So, thank god for Dave 'the Goat' Smith. I'm not saying that I couldn't have managed to turn a crash-damaged bike into a BEMSEE rule-abiding, scrutineer-pleasing 'race' bike, but it would have taken me months and I would have bodged so many little things that the defacto chief tech of Team MidLifeCrisis Honda would never have countenanced.
Frankly, the list of details that Dave attacked with gusto, from Hel brake line routeing to cush-drive fitting, swingarm bobbins tweaking, lever drilling, breather bottle fitment is too long to go into in detail here. And that's before we mention soldering the kill switch on the sidestand into neat closed-loop happiness...
And there's much, much more which you'll read about in the mag soon. I tell you, you learn a lot about a bike by taking it apart. Or rather, by watching someone else take it apart.
The Speedfiber body kit went on well enough, the tapered seat pads and Evo-Stik are now close friends, the Renthal rear sprocket and Pro-Bolt kit, the ProMach rearsets all look "proper factory" and, best of all, I'm off to Jerez with Racedays for three days of open pitlane action in the Spanish sun for what Dave described as a 'shakedown' test. Hmm, he also told me to get the rear spinning. I'm sure he was serious. More later.
The Speedfiber bodywork for the crash-damaged CBR600RR turned up, so we thought we'd see how it lined up. Amazingly well, is the answer. Hats off to Speedfiber!
It's all very well to take delivery of a giant box of pattern fairing parts, but it is another thing to actually try to fit them to a bike. It is only in the act of trying to fasten the various dzus-fastened pieces of bodywork to the bones of your bike that you appreciate how accurate pattern body work needs to be. A couple of millimetres here or there just isn't going to cut it. Or, actually, cutting it is exactly what you find yourself doing – between blasts of thermo-nuclear cursing.
Well, for all of you Honda CBR600RR owners, I bring tidings of great joy. Buy Speedfiber body work and the job is a dream. As a relative novice in this quagmire of filing, cutting, bending and snapping, I was impressed at how quickly and easily the Spanish-made Speedfiber kit went on to the bike. Dave Smith – no stranger to the joy of pattern race fairings – was almost in ecstasy, such was the ease with which everything lined up and fastened up.
And not only does the fiber line up sweetly, there are seat and bum pads and a neat double-bubble style screen as well, plus the lower fairing is pre-drilled with drainage hole and rubber bungs to keep the race scrutineers happy. Truly professional kit.
True, there were a couple of 10mm trims to be made in the lower fairing, but other than that, everything fitted and fastened first time. I am assured that this is a rarity for pattern plastics and fibres and truly I can recommend Speedfiber without a qualm. Not the cheapest, but the good stuff so very rarely is.
The trip down to the Crescent Performance centre at Verwood to get a Power Commander and DNA air filter plumbed in was well worth it.
You may know that the 5,000rpm fuel map glitch that haunts the Honda has bugged me out of all proportion. But I know a man who knows how to exorcise the fuel-air mix demons that torment me. Alan Cook is one of the few tech types who is known only by his initials - AC - which, quite frankly, puts him on a par with Madonna, Prince, Bono, Mandela, Ghandi and the Pope. AC knows his way around Dynojet dynos. Basically I rode the bike down to Crescent and AC and Trev got stuck in while I stood about looking at the Rizla Suzuki race bikes.
Now, bearing in mind all I wanted was to be rid of the troublesome EU-reg appeasing fuelling glitch, AC spent an age in the dyno room and came out smiling. Basically AC added two foot pounds of torque and seven horsepower throughout the rev range thanks to his skills with the Dynojet Power Commander software. And, on the ride home, how could I not notice the extra grunt? And that was with a stock exhaust system, a Power Commander and a DNA filter. Hats off to AC and Trev.
For those of you nursing a crash damaged Honda CBR600RR, help may be at hand in the shape of Speedfiber, a Spanish company with a good reputation for aftermarket fairings. In my stuttering efforts to repair the damaged Honda, I have hatched a not very cunning plan to sort it and race it. Yes. The fact that I've never raced before and am fast-approaching 47 years of age is neither here nor there. It's Sebastien Charpentier's fault. The former world supersport champion reckoned that you could race the stock bike to a decent national level as it was, straight out of the crate. Well, you can see where that statement has led me...looking at the slightly crashed stocker it all seemed to make sense.
Which brings me to Ian Emberson, the man importing Speedfiber into the UK. He's sent me down some pics of kit that will fit via the miracle of the Dzus fastner and plans are being made, schemes schemed in the company of Dave Smith, the unwitting crew chief of Team Midlife Crisis (MCS). Stay tuned race fans...
What is it with suspension? Why can't I just leave it alone? What is it about me that thinks there are 'magic' settings that will work on every road that I ride on the way to work?
After our Oulton park track day and the fine job that Andy White of KAIS made of helping me set the bike up, I reckoned that it was a bit too firm for some of the bumpy roads I ride to work on. The front is still more or less OK, but the rear feels like it's bouncing off some of the bumps and ripples at, ahem, higher speeds. I've cautiously dialled and clicked the rear compression adjuster but, if I'm honest, I'm still not sure I can't find a better compromise. Arse.
I was lucky enough to have top race suspension sorter Andy White of KAIS suspension in the garage at our Oulton park track day. He fiddled and I, er, burned with impatience to get out on track So, at Oulton Park track, Andy White, the King of Kais had a fiddle with the bike and made a huge difference to the handling. I'll write about it later (in short, less preload at the front, more at the rear as well as more compression and less rebound damping at the rear), but in trying to check the settings so as I could note them down, I realised that the rear rebound screw in the shock is really light. Which is to say that in trying to screw the adjuster all the way in, it just seemed to turn and turn...and turn...and turn...
I messed about and did my best safe-cracker light touch to feel it setting at maximum in and sorted it OK, but it's bloody light and it took my by surprise. In fact I thought it was busted and to be honest I'm still not sure that it isn't, because it feels a hell of a lot different from the previous 2007 CBR600RR shock I tweaked. So, take it easy on your rear rebound screw!
Stunning insight alert! I've been dicking about with the Honda's suspension and I've come to some startling conclusions...
I'm one of those fools who reckons that suspension is there to be adjusted. Otherwise why would Honda ]et al, fit adjustable suspension to sports bikes? So I get the screwdriver out to attack the compression settings, having decided that standard preload settings are fine for me.
I wont confuse anyone (including myself) with the settings I've messed with...OK...I added a little bit more compression damping in the fork, and more compression damping in the rear. My stunning insights are this: 1. There aren't a huge number of turns from fully in to full out in the fork compression, but I reckon a quarter of turn makes a difference. 2. If I set my bike up for the bumpier, slower roads on my ride, it feels, uh...less good on the smoother, faster roads. My stunning insight? Suspension is a compromise and no matter how much you click and load and tweak, it'll never be perfect everywhere.
See, told you it was profound stuff!
Well, when Dave Smith offered me the keys to his R1 last night, how could I refuse? Ah yes, the Yamaha R1. I wasn't sure if I could even get it off the sidestand. After the Honda it just feels heavy and looks huuuuge. It didn't take more than a half a mile for everything to fall into place again though.
Dave, our best spannerer by a margin, has his bike in mint order. It's the first time I think I've ridden a bike with this many mods that didn't feel weird or compromised. Everything fits perfectly, everything works perfectly and it was sparkling clean too. The man and his machine are a credit to us. Anyway...
Pluses? The engine; the fuelling; the midrange (probably the top end too, but I never got beyond 11,000rpm on my urban commute); the finish; its stability and planted-ness at the front. Minuses? My god I had forgotten how badly your arse and legs get roasted by the underseat pipes. And I'm not sure that the new front brake is any better than on the 2006 model. In fact, it might not even be as good...but then again I don't know what pads Dave has in there now. This is a man's bike. Where are the keys for the Honda?
So, back from holiday, I take advantage of dry roads and a new red CBR600RR and ride the long way home in what you might call a spirited fashion. Ah, it's great to be on a bike again, it's great to be on this super-light, super-responsive little red rocket. Get it up to 11,000rpm and enjoy the noise and the brakes, that feeling that you could put it anywhere, make it turn and go where you want it to. Ace.
So I get to a small, off-camber downhill roundabout (it's busy with stupid car drivers, not my favourite) but I notice that the front end feels quite different from the black and white CBR I crashed at Snetterton. It feels more vague, a bit harder to flip-flop out of the strangely-configured roundabout. I have a think about this as I head for the next couple of bends and it feels weird.
I press on another half mile till I come to the next corner – 90-degree uphill right – and something isn't right. After the next turn I'm sure there's a problem and I stand on the pegs and look over the front, expecting to see a nail the size of a totem pole sticking out the tyre. The next turn I nearly fall over, I've got a puncture and I have to dab my way into my road. From perfectly inflated to utterly flat inside of two miles. Where's the Rema Tip-Top repair kit? And where are those Dunlop Qualifier RR tyres?
July 17 2007
Catch up. Previously, on 24 days after crashing... Dave and I did get into the garage and peel the smashed plastic off the Honda and it was a lot worse than it looked. The petrol tank had a dent in it, the nose faring turns out to be one piece and so that needed replacing and so it went on. Very depressing. So I gave up (yeah, yeah, lazy bastard journalist) and the bike went back to Honda for them to assess it. The upside was that they gave me another one to run about on. The downside is that I don't want to fit my Renthal sprocket and Sigma slipper clutch to the replacement. Arse. People – don't crash.
It seems like a while since I've reported on the damaged and dirty Honda and, in truth, not a lot has changed. I've been on the phone trying to sort out some new bits and replacement parts, I've been on holiday and I've been trying to sort out some photo time for it. The fact that it's a staff bike means that a crash becomes a story and if its a story then it needs pictures. And if there are crash pictures then there are before and after pictures and we can't start work until the 'before' pictures are taken. See? Not that straightforward is it? We need a snapper, Dave the Goat and me all in the same rooom at the same time and it's not that straightforward either.
I called Dobles, a big Honda dealer, to ask if they had some parts in stock and was invited to bring the bike in so as they could assess the damage. Er, no thanks, just give me the parts. I've contacted a couple of companies by phone and email looking for some rearsets and have got precisely nowhere. It can't be that complicated, can it?
STOP PRESS: Ermax UK, suppliers of fine screens, are now bringing in Italian PP rearsets and parts and are sending me a replacement set for the bike. Good work you people! Nice pics and info here.
Now that I've plucked up the courage to scrape the dirt and vegetation off it, I have to report that the bike crashed pretty well. There are scrapes on the plastic, but they can be touched up and made to vanish and, in the end, all I need is a new nose faring, an upper faring, screen, brake reservoir and rear sets. Looks like the R&G mushrooms really did do their job after all.
All the lights and indicators are working, the engine is running and the clocks are fine. So, maybe it's not a total disaster after all. OK, it is a disaster when you crash, but maybe it's not quite as bad as it seemed.
I was really (really) looking forward to our track day at Snetterton, my first chance to ride the bike on track and on a circuit I had ridden before. I have no excuses. It was my first session, it was cool and misty, there was a bit of 'damp' in the air, I set my tyre pressures, as usual, they had been scrubbed in at Bruntingthorpe and that was that.
Two laps reasonably steady – I'm just not that stupid – then, at the start of lap three, at turn two, Sears right hander, I thought I was running a wee bit wide of the apex, tried to pull the bike over a bit more, leaned a bit more and I 'lost' the front. Utter rubbish.
The R&G crash mushroom worked pretty well, although I still lost some metal from the engine casing, the plastics are fucked, the screen smashed, the right headlight was dangling from a wire, the swingarm bobbin ripped our and fucked the thread on the swinging arm, the footpeg and brake lever on the right are gone too. Plus the master cylinder on the front brake ruptured and poured brake fluid all over the bike.
And all because I couldn't wait to get on with it. Top tip people – when it's a bit cold and moist – give your tyres longer than usual to come up to temperature.
Have any other CBR600RR owners noticed a tiny rise in the revs when letting out the clutch? How the hell does that work and why is it only about 50 (?) revs? Its not going to stop anyone stalling is it? Anyway, I've just dug out the track settings that world supersport Sebastien Charpentier dialled in to the press bikes for the launch at Alabama last year to see how well they work around Snetterton on Monday. If they seem to make a difference to the handling – in a good way – I'll let you know. In the meantime I've also had some Dunlop Qualifier RR tyres delivered. Things are looking good!
June 1 2007
With the dyno run done and the 'base setting' known, what's next? Are there clues at the Isle of Man TT on the Padgett's Honda with its new Micron system?
It's inevitable of course, but I'm thinking about changing the exhaust system on the bike. At the World supersport race at Silverstone the Hondas in the event were running...Akrapovic (six teams!) and Leo Vince on Kats Fujiwara's Althea Ceramica Honda. But I've just had a chat with Mr Micron in the UK and he tells me that there's a new Micron system running in prototype form on John McGuinness' Padgett's Honda on the Isle of Man in the TT. I know JP ran a Micron system on his R1 last year (?) and it produced the best figures of any system he tested. I'll be speaking to Mr Micron after the TT...
May 24 2007
DYNO RUNS AND SPEED TESTING
I rode 334.5 miles yesterday. A reasonable day's tally, I trust you'll agree. I rode up to Bruntingthorpe proving ground to do some top-speed, flat-out in sixth gear speed testing. I can't claim there was much science involved, but I saw 163mph at best on the long straight at Bruntingthorpe, although it hovered and flickered between 161-163mph depending on how tucked in I was. Seems like a reasonable figure. I dare say if I had taken the mirrors off then I might have sneaked another mph. But 163 is enough to be going on with. Now I'm going to change the rear sprocket, add a bit of low down grunt and lose a bit from the top. It's not going to get any faster than that.
And today I went to Steve Jordan Motorcycles in Great Bookham and strapped the bike to a British-made Dyna Pro dyno. Wheeling a bike into a dyno room is like taking your first born into a torture chamber, it feels like you're about to have terrible violence done to something you love.
But Steve didn't mess about and four runs later (allowing time for the bike to cool down in between) revealed a healthy but normal 106.29bhp@13,909rpm, with 43.1Ft/lb of torque up at 11,538rpm. The curve is impressively smooth and, apart from that dip at just over 5,000rpm, I'd say it can't be much improved on.
However, that's not going to stop me trying. The Dyna Pro team has a new fuel mapping module in the pipeline and, in the interests of fairness and journalistic integrity, I'm going to see if we can sort one for the bike and see if we can lean the fuel-air mix a bit as well as lose that 5,000rpm dip.
May 22 2007
Ah, we're a spoiled bunch here at SuperBike. How many Honda CBR600RR riders can get their bikes serviced at the Honda institute near Slough?
The first service isn't too drastic and all it took was taking off a lower panel to get access to the sump plug and oil filter. However, even these simple jobs is made much easier by having a hydraulic work bench at your disposal. Yes, say goodbye to rolling around the floor and say hello to a clean and tidy work surface.
Matt the Mechanic could have done the first service on my bike with his eyes closed – he's been spannering since he left school and, because it's rude to ask people's ages, I'd say that was over 15 years of experience...
In fact, Matt replaced the oil (Castrol GTX 10-30 semi synthetic) and fitted a new filter in no time, then proceeded to go round the bike, re-lubing the clutch and brake lever pivot bolts and, inevitably, tightening the D.I.D. chain which had a few millimeters of play too many given that it had stretched and bedded-in from new.
And here's the top tip of the day. Rather than using chain lube, Matt sprayed a fine mist of Wurth HHS 2000 fully synthetic grease which Matt insists is better than regular chain lube. "It won't rot the O-rings in your chain, it dries to give a fine, tacky covering, so it protects your chain for a while and it won't get flung off onto your swinging arm." The bad news is that it's not cheap and it's not easy to find in the UK. The good news is that it's cheaper than a new chain...
And, with a squirt of brake cleaner on the rims to take off the road filth, it was off into the rain and the school-run and M25 traffic. Did the bike feel better? Well, thanks to the chain being correctly tensioned, the gear shifting was slicker and I swear it was revving freer. Maybe it was the fresh Castrol...
The first service mileage approaches and with it, a chance to dyno the bike and check the power figures. Anyone want to guess what the figure is going to be? The odometer – where does that word come from? – is slowly rolling over towards 500 miles and a first service at the impressive Honda Institute. I would have been happy to carry out a first service myself, I'm really not that handless, but Honda has insisted that the servicing is carried out over there. Maybe I'll hang about and do the work under Keith the mechanic's watchful gaze? Maybe pick up a few pointers. And, once the service is completed, I'll be taking it to a local dyno to see what the wee black and white beauty is making. Anyone got any stock dyno figures for an '07 RR? Anyone of the guys on www.600rr.net? If you are running a CBR600RR, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Fitting an Ermax double bubble screen poses no problems to the worst mechanic in the wide world of biking. Once you take the OE one off, obviously... Sometimes you've got to wonder – in awe – at Honda. There are six screws fastening the screen to the nose fairing on the CBR600RR. Six plastic screws, each with a nylon washer and a rubber washer. OK, so what? Well, the screws are different lengths, which is to say that the two at the top of the screen are shorter by a few millimetres Which makes them lighter, saving a tiny amount of weight.
Maybe it's a fluke, maybe the shorter screws are cheaper to buy, but in a class where weight is being shaved off in every conceivable way, I like the fantasy that an engineer came up with this little idea. How much easier would it be to order a million screws the same length? How much quicker would the production line run if all the screws were the same length? But no, they're not, because Honda engineers want to save a gram. Or maybe two.
I discovered this near microscopic attention to detail when I was swapping the standard screen for an Ermax double-bubble version. Needless to say it was piss-easy because Ermax makes good stuff. The edges lined up, the slots and screws all lined up and all I had to do was loosen the allen screws fixing the mirrors to the fairing bracket and the job was done. And, guess what? Yes, incredibly, windblast is reduced by 47 per cent. Yes, that's right, 47 per cent! And it also now requires 68 per cent less effort to get behind the screen out of the wind. You think I made those figures up? Yeah, I did, but you know it's 'miles' better.
OK, I know its early doors, but the EU emissions regulation standard fuelling glitch between around 4,000-5,000rpm is a pain in the arse when filtering. First gear around those revs is suburban filtering speed and it bugs me. Anyone else bothered by this? I'm going to sort a Power Commander III and be done with it. I reckon I might find a couple of extra horses as well. If anyone has got any CBR-related observations, fire them my way at email@example.com
Whether you spend time on a motorway or on a racetrack, you'll probably end up fitting a taller screen on your CBR6. Personally I don't think it affects the aesthetics of the bike much and there's a definite improvement in deflecting wind blast. I dare say it'll add a couple of mph on Hanger Straight at Silverstone or Revett straight at our upcoming SuperBike track day at Snetterton.
And I opted for a clear screen this year because I need to look where I'm going now that I have a tiny, underpowered 599cc supersport bike as opposed to the fear-inducing 1,000cc behemoths I've been hanging on to on for the last three years.
In the meantime, you'll want to check out the Ermax website for prices and details.
R&G CRASH BUNGS AND SWINGARM BOBBINS
When I picked my CBR600RR long term test bike up from Honda, the press mechanic, Keith, said he hadn't heard of anyone doing crash bungs for the new bike that didn't require fairing cutting. Well, here they are, from R&G Racing. For those who don't fancy taking a drill to their pristine plastic, get in touch with R&G and ride with a little less fear of the low-speed tumble costing you a mint in new panels – or worse.
I fitted them this morning and even for a spanner-phobic fool like me, it was a piece of piss. No cutting, just losen the fairing panel, undo an engine bolt, replace it with another and off you go.
I reckon they stick out a fair way though, maybe too much, but what the hell, I'm assuming that R&G know what the score is. Curiously, when I was at Valencia WSB last weekend, I checked out the Ten Kate CBR600RR bikes and they don't have bungs, just carbon fibre engine case covers glued on. Do the Dutch know something we don't?
Anyway, I'm riding a little more easily now that the R&G kit is on. Clearly I hope I never have to really test them out, but if I do, you'll be the first to know. Check out www.R&G-racing.com for details of all the kit. I've got a set of R&G swingarm bobbins on as well.
BOX FRESH 2007 HONDA!
Right, as you've probably worked out, I've got a new Honda CBR600RR as a long term test bike and I already love it. I was on the launch in Alabama and reckoned it was going to be top dog in the class and, thankfully, our test team agreed when they did the big comparative test in the May 2007 issue. And I was also reassured to read that all the big European bike magazine tests (Motorrad, MotoSprint, Solo Moto) agreed with us too.
I got it when it had 5 miles on the clock and am in the process of running it in for at least a tankful of fuel. And by running in I mean never really straying above 8,000rpm, making sure it's warmed up before I push on a bit and try to roll on the throttle progressively rather than really yank it back. So far, so good, I think me and it are going to have a real good time together, it feels so nimble. And it looked really nice in the centrefold shoot (Jully 2007 issue) with Holly last night! Wey-hey!