Thursday, August 13, 2009

Modifying Pros and Cons

As some of you probably know, I ride a ZX-10R, and she is my baby! We met in the spring of 05. She was mine the very next day. Over the years I've bought a few odds and ends to help her appearance, but now I'm about to get serious. Phase II is all about performance:

Racefit Exhaust $800
Power Commander $350
BMC Race Filter $90
Velocity Stacks $250
Brisk Plugs $80
Pro Flo Reusable Oil Filter with Coder $100
Heat Tape for Header $80
New Chain $170
Front Sprocket $40
Rear Sprocket $80
Bragging rights along with a well-stroked ego $Priceless!

Upon completion, my kitten will purr at idle. She'll have an ominous growl at 6000 RPM, and well she'll flat out scream anywhere above 8... Another advantage is the deep loud exhaust note and the consistent notification to other motorists of my whereabouts. Loud pipes save lives, right?

In the words of Ed Bargy at my son's race school..."All a complete waste of money."

The funny thing is that I agree with him, albeit for different reasons. See, Ed elaborated that modern day sportbikes are an absolute marvel in speed and control, and that some upgrades to the suspension would further enable the pilot to exploit the power, balance, and control that comes stock on these awesome bikes. I think Ed Bargy has spent most of his life involved in racing at some level or he would know.

Unfortunately, Ed and I are on a different page. Maybe like a different book! As a matter of fact, as I wrote that part about exploiting the power that comes stock on modern motorcycles, I could hear a certain ZX-10R that was sitting quietly across the store from me start to snicker...Usually she is sweet but sometimes she's just plain mean...

One thing I have learned over multiple visits to the track is that my skill, confidence and ability to control panic and knee-jerk reactions grows exponentially with every trackday. This helps both in avoiding crashes on the street and being faster on the track.

So, for the $2040 I'm going to spend on the outright performance on a bike that already out-performs me by tenfold, I could have an additional 15 full trackdays. Now, the skills that I would build through 15 extra days at the track would most likely not be enough to exploit a 163 HP machine, but the stress-relief and enjoyment would be immeasurable...Back to loud pipes save lives. I know this to be true. However, they also alert police officers to your whereabouts and what you are up to.

Now, if I could just take my own advice...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Front or Back, Which One is Best?

One of the most important parts of riding is the building of proper habits...

And using both brakes for every stop is one way of achieving this. When we use both brakes, not only are we creating good riding habits, but we are also learning what each brake is capable of. How much play is in the lever? How much pressure should be used for each individual stop? How is the application of each brake modified from leisurely stops to hard stops?

Knowing each brake inside and out is crucial when the city street starts throwing you the curve ball. For instance, the 70 mph-screaming in your helmet-I don't want to die-hard-stop calls for a perfect balance between a serious and progressive pull on the front lever and enough finesse to keep the front wheel from locking up. You're probably going to lock the rear wheel, which is ok as long as you don't release it. If the rear brake locks, the bike will feel a little squirrely. Don't allow this to take your attention off what is important: 1. the front brake 2. keeping your eyes locked solid on your escape route or the place with the most stopping room. Continuous practice of hard stops at different speeds will help you to get this right so it's there when you need it.

However, knowing the rear brake is equally important in other situations, such as driving off the road at speed. In the dirt, pumping the rear brake as you down shift seems to be the best approach. I've personally driven off the track at Jennings GP at turn one at over 100 mph twice, and this technique saved me from going down both times.

The type of bike you ride plays into this as well. If you ride a big cruiser you're going to get as much as 30% of total stopping ability from your rear brake. Practice will enable you to account for this during your stops. With sportbikes, however, your rear brake is more of a stabilizer during hard stops and should be used as such. Either way, keeping your eyes up and on your escape path is crucial. The harder you stop the harder it is to keep your eyes up. So practice!

Finally, don't forget your downshift. Getting stopped in time is only part of the battle. If that step van behind you can't get stopped (and he probably can't) you'll need to get out of his way. This won't happen if you're stopped in 4th gear or sitting in neutral.

So, use both brakes and downshift to 1st gear during all stops. And practice.