Best Track Day Bikes

Here and SV650 parks next to a ZX6R and a few motards (dirt bikes with street-based tires).
Here an SV650 parks next to a ZX6R and a few motards (dirt bikes with street-based tires).

I often get asked from riders new to track days, what is the best motorcycle for riding on the track? In an effort to answer this FAQ, I decided to list some criteria for what I look for in a great track day bike. I’ll also list a few bikes I think are worth considering.
Ride what you own!
Ride what you own!

Almost Any Bike Will Do

Some people think that they need a dedicated track bike to do a track day. But, this simply isn’t true as long as you have a motorcycle that has a reasonable amount of cornering clearance. This includes most standard, sport, sport touring, adventure, and even touring machines. Cruiser motorcycles are probably the only machines that are not really appropriate for fast cornering and spirited riding.
What this means is that many riders don’t need to buy a new bike to enjoy the benefits of riding on a racetrack. Many track day organizations require minimal preparation, so even that should not deter you from considering signing up for a track day.
FZ-1s, VFRs, Ducati Monsters, ZRXs, all fit nicely at a track day. Even FJRs and Gold Wings show up from time to time.

Non-Sportbike Track Days

I helped start the non-sportbike track day trend in New England with Tony’s Track Days. These days are similar to regular sportbike days, but are geared more toward cruisers, ADV bikes and tourers. Read all about these events here.

Dedicated Track Bikes

That said, there are a lot of good reasons for buying a dedicated track bike. One reason is that you can set it up for track riding by stripping unnecessary lights and street paraphernalia and mounting inexpensive and durable race bodywork. You can also add performance bits that are intended for racetrack use only, such as race tires, low clip-on handlebars and rigid rearset footpegs.
Another reason is that you will feel free to push the limits, because you will be less concerned about potentially scratching your only motorcycle in a fall. See #5 below.

Criteria

Older 600s are cheap and reliable.
Older 600s are cheap and reliable.

What makes a good track day bike? From my perspective, the best track day bikes include the following criteria:

  1. Reliable- A machine that you can always count on to start and run reliably all day long, even at redline. This is why I don’t recommend dirt-bike based motards.
  2. Inexpensive- You don’t need a $10,000 machine to have a great time at a track day. As a matter of fact, if you spend all your money on your bike, then you will not have as much money available for track day registration fees and top-notch riding gear. Another criteria that makes track riding a whole lot less expensive is if you have a bike that is easy on tires. Also, forgo unnecessary bling and wait until you have at least a few track days under your belt before you make any performance modifications. Suspension and brake mods are acceptable at any time, though.
  3. 2003: Ken returned to racing once again on an MZ Scorpion 660cc single.
    Ken battles for the lead on a $2500.00, 48hp MZ Scorpion 660cc single among a gaggle of EX500 ninjas. Cheap and fun!

    Not very powerful- A moderately powerful bike is one of the most important criteria for novice and intermediate track day riders. Even advanced riders will benefit from a low horsepower machine. I raced a 48hp MZ Scorpion as an expert and had a blast. And it cost me $2500.00. Just sayin’. See the article on the detriment of too much  horsepower. See more below.
  4. Not precious- Many new track day riders suffer undue stress over the anxiety of crashing their beautiful, high-dollar, chrome and carbon laden street bike. Thankfully, it’s easy not to crash at a track day if you ride within your ability. So, if all you have is your pride and joy, go ahead and bring it to the track, but at some point when you start pushing harder, you may want a dedicated track bike that has less sentimental value.

Some Bikes to Consider

  1. This 500 Ninja was a blast to ride on the track.
    This 500 Ninja was a blast to ride on the track.

    Suzuki SV650– Inexpensive with plenty of V-twin power. Put some money into the front suspension and you’re ready to roll. A lot of fast racers choose the SV as a fun and competitive lightweight racing platform.
  2. Kawasaki EX500 Ninja– The venerable 500 Ninja has been a mainstay of lightweight roadracers in the Northeast for years. Really, really cheap. Just be sure you get a model with the 17′ wheels.
  3. Kawasaki EX650 Ninja– Similar to the SV650, but with a parallel twin motor.
  4. CBR600RR, ZX6R, R6, GSXR600, 675 Daytona, 675 Street Triple, and other 600-class bikes– The 600 class of bikes are the most prevalent bikes at a track day. They offer a good balance of power with very good suspension and brakes out of the box. These bikes aren’t the cheapest thing to run. They can eat up tires and crashing them can get expensive. Older CBRs, R6s, GSXRs and ZX6s can be had cheaply.  Note, that if you want a track-only bike with race bodywork, premium suspension and bike protection, it’s often cheaper to find a bike that is already prepared and outfitted for track use than to take a street bike and converting it to a track-only machine. Just be aware of their condition.
  5. 250/300 Ninja– These bikes are a hoot, are cheap and plentiful. However, you may outgrow the sub-20 hp and limited tire selection after a season…or you’ll go all in and race in the growing 300 class.

Liter SuperBikes: Not The Best Choice for Novices

 Jeannine waiting to go out onto the track, NHMS.
An older ZX6R and an FZ1.

In many ways it’s great when a novice track day rider shows up with a brand new $20,000 rocket. We all love seeing riders who understand that these bikes are designed to be ridden on a closed course and often cause trouble when ridden on the street where their character begs to be ridden hard.
But, these bikes can also be a hindrance to stress free learning. Many new track day riders are better off with a simple, low powered machine that keeps them running a bit slower until they can get a handle on racetrack riding. One reason my friend Josh was having trouble at his first several track days is because he was driven to ride his GSXR1000 faster than he should have. Read about Josh’s mishap.
Of course, it doesn’t take a hundred-fifty horses to get into trouble. A well setup 70 hp bike like an SV650 can corner just as fast as a literbike, but the nature of the Gixxer liter bike often begs riders to unleash all the available horses. However, if what you have is a liter bike, don’t shy away from a track day. Just be extra aware of the temptation you can feel when piloting a hyper-superbike and keep the throttle in check.

Track Day Preparation

Read all about my own Triumph Street Triple R 675 track day bike and how I prepared it for the track.
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Track Day Bike Prep-Triumph Street Triple R

The Patient:

I recently sold my trusty track-only 2005 Kawasaki ZX6R for a more upright track /street bike. I thought I would buy a new Yamaha FZ-09, but I talked with Dave Searle from Motorcycle Consumer News who told me that the FZ needed a lot of work to make it track worthy, so I opted for a slightly used 2012 Triumph Street Triple R. I rode it at a track day the day I picked it up and it performed very well in stock form. But, as a track day junkie and instructor, I needed more precise handling and I need to make sure a tipover will not keep me from continuing with my day.
Besides doing the track day stuff, I also Accessorized the Street Triple with some street-oriented stuff. You might want to check that out later.


 First, Some Video

Below is a video showing a couple of laps of me and the Striple at Loudon. I’m in the red vest. The Street Triple fun starts at 7:10.

At Barber

At Thompson, CT


Bolt on Bike Protection

You are not required to have frame sliders or any other type of bike protection at most track day events. But, it is smart to protect your motorcycle in the event that you go down. I ride on the racetrack as one of my jobs, so I do over 2,000 track miles per season. Even though My crash rate is very low, I have been known to make a mistake or two. An investment in bike protection (as well as rider protection) can mean the difference between ending your day early or getting back out on the track to finish your day on two wheels. I also carry some spare levers and foot pegs, just in case.
Here are some images of the work I’ve been doing to my 2012 Triumph Street Triple R. It is serving as my track bike and as an occasional street bike. I focused first on bolting on some engine, frame and exhaust protection. I work for Twisted Throttle, so it made the most sense that I use products that they import and sell. The stuff from R&G Racing and SW-MOTECH are top shelf, IMO and I would consider using their products even if I didn’t get the employee discount. Click the links to see all of the Twisted Throttle products for the 2012 Street Triple  and 2008-2011 Street Triple.
A few notes (see photos below):

  • Wired oil filler and dipstick caps: I leave more wire at the ends so I can simply unwind the tail end, pull it through the hole and then reuse the wire after an oil change.
  • R&G Racing swingarm spool and protector, in combination with the Woodcraft spool and protector: I have both of these swingarm protectors because I have seen too many swingarms get damaged when the threaded swingarm spools break off in a crash. I decided to add the axle spools/protectors to try and give a second point of contact to hopefully prevent the threaded boss in the swingarm from getting damaged. Another reason to have both spools s because you can’t use the rearward R&G spools to support your bike with a race stand for removing the wheel, because they must be removed to take out the axle. So you need the other spools as well.

Peter Kates from Computrack Boston works his magic.
Peter Kates from Computrack Boston works his magic.

Suspension

Penske 8389 remote shock
Penske 8983 remote shock

The suspension was upgraded over the winter to include Penske fork valving, a .95 fork spring swap and a Penske 8983 with a remote reservoir. The stock suspension is very good, but at the level I need to ride when instructing for Tony’s Track Days, I need a bit more adjustability than the stockers can provide. The remote reservoir was a bit difficult to locate, making the extra cost of a piggyback worth considering. But, it works great.
The highly regarded skills of Peter Kates from Computrack Boston were employed. PK has been around the Loudon paddock for years and is the go-to guy for suspension and chassis tweaks.After some compression and rebound damping tweaks and a change to a 750 pound spring, the shock is now setup for serious lap times. What is interesting is that the suspension now doesn’t work as well at slower speeds. It’s a bit busy UNTIL you turn up the speed and then it all makes sense (like most race setup suspension).
Forks recessed into the clamps adds sorely needed trail. And the Scott's damper is a nice thing to have for cresting hills at speed.
Forks recessed into the clamps adds sorely needed trail. And the Scott’s damper is a nice thing to have for cresting hills at speed.

One other thing I had Peter do was measure the chassis to get the rake and trail to be set at the optimum numbers for fast riding. This means increasing trail on the Triumph 675s. Many Daytona riders opt to replace their triple trees with one with less offset. this gives them the trail needed for mid-corner stability and cornering feedback. The Street Triple is closer than the Daytona in regards to trail, so instead of springing for the $800.00 triples, Peter slid the fork tubes down inside the top clams as far as possible. It looks weird, but it did increase mid-corner feel at speed without slowing turn-in.


Tires

Pirelli Supercorsa on 2012 Triumph Street Triple R after 2 sessions at NHMS (Loudon) runing in the advanced group.
Pirelli Supercorsa on 2012 Triumph Street Triple R after 2 sessions at NHMS (Loudon) running in the advanced group.

People have a lot of questions about tires. I have done track day laps on all kinds of tires, including basic OEM rubber, Sport touring tires, sporty street tires, and DOT race tires. Believe it or not, most all are capable of keeping you on two wheels when ridden at a novice, intermediate, or a slower advanced group pace. I have used Michelin Power One race tires for the last few track day seasons and loved them, but this year I am switching to Pirellis. The reason is that I always liked the feel of Pirelli tires and it doesn’t hurt that TTD is supported by Motorcycle Tires and Gear (MTAG), who also supplies Pirelli tires to the Loudon Roadracing Series.
My Street Triple comes stock with Pirelli Rosso Corsa, which is a proven track day favorite with many of the TTD staff, including my daughter, Jeannine. I rode the first 3 session at Loudon on the Rossos and had no sense that the tires were limiting me in any way. I changed over to Pirelli Supercorsa race tires after lunch so I could compare the differences and so would have fresh rubber for the track day that Tony and I will be attending at Barber Motorsports Park in November.  I got along with the Supercorsas just fine, thank you. I immediately braked deeper, accelerated stronger and cornered harder to a point where I approached my best times I typically do on my ZX6R. I was impressed.
Does the average track day rider need race tires? No. Most modern sport-oriented tires that are relatively new will do just fine. It comes down to whether your level of riding is good enough for you to actually use race ribber. Most people have a long way to go before the answer to this question is yes. Run what ya brung, mister.


Daytona Rearsets

2007 Daytona rearsets mounted on my 2012 Street Triple R

The stock Street Triple rearsets are very comfortable for street riding, but are too far forward and are a little too low for aggressive track riding. I dragged my toe slider before I was dragging my knee, which is no good, as I use my knee dragging to measure my lean angle. And without that tool, I am not able to monitor lean angle with the same level of confidence I like. The stock footpegs are also too far forward for moving from side to side without pulling on the handlebars. Footpegs that are further rearward allows me to use my legs to support my torso when flopping from left to right, especially when doing so uphill, like what happens at turn 7 and turn 8 at NHMS.
The 2007 Daytona rearsets bolt on easily with no issues whatsoever. I could even use the stock shift rod. The rear brake light switch needs a bit of adjustment, but that’s really easy to do.The Daytona pegs could be even further back for my taste, but it’s a big improvement at 1″ further back and 1/2″ higher compared to the stocker STR rearsets. I also think the Daytona rearsets look great.


Levers

I installed some shorty levers, which are more adjustable than the stock ones and are less likely to break in a crash. The short levers also accommodate two finger use and they look cool. I’ve used ASV levers before and really like them, but a lot of racers use the cheap knock-offs from China, so I’m giving them a try. I installed the levers and they seem fine. Perhaps they aren’t as nice as the expensive ones. but they are good looking and work great. I have to get used to the shorties after always having standard long versions.


Tank Protectors

Like a lot of sport bikes these days, the tank on the Street Triple sticks out on either side, enough to cause serious damage in a crash. The latest R6 tanks are known to puncture where the tank sticks out. I opted to mount the R&G Racing tank sliders on the Triple. They are glued on using Aquarium sealant. I asked R&G whether this sealant will harm paint and they say that it will not. They look a little to Squidly for my tastes, but they will do the job if I were to crash.


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.


Tiger 1050 Throttle tube and grip

I just installed a Tiger 1050 throttle tube, which has a larger diameter cylinder that the cables run on. This means that the distance (and time) it takes to reach full throttle is reduced.  Racers install quick throttle tubes as a matter of course so they can get to full throttle in an instant. Motion Pro makes a throttle kit that includes several cams to suit the rider’s preference. The 1050 tube is cheap and is a stock item that is an intermediate upgrade without going the full race route.
The installation of the throttle tube was easy. However, I read about the throttle housing c=screws being easy to strip, so I grabbed my impact driver and with a few whacks, loosened the screws. Another slight complication was that the throttle wouldn’t snap back with the larger diameter throttle tube. After some investigation, I discovered that the throttle cables needed more slack… piece of cake, since the “pull” adjuster was about 6 inches down the cable from the throttle grip. Now it’s perfect.
I took it for a short ride and I love the feel of the throttle. It seems more responsive and shifting is even smoother. Two thumbs up on this cheap modification. ($17.00 shipped from Bike Bandit)


This is where the gear shift sensor is located. The wire goes to the unit that is behind the plastic countershaft sprocket cover.
This is where the gear shift sensor is located. The wire goes to the unit that is behind the plastic countershaft sprocket cover.

Gear Position Sensor Failure

The old gear shift sensor.
The old gear shift sensor.

It seems that the Triumph 675s are notorious for having bad gear position sensors. The symptoms are a Check Engine Light (CEL) and any manner of numbers appearing in the gear indicator area of the speedo/tach instrument cluster. I bought the Tuneboy ECU reader and after many attempts to get the software to work (thanks Paul) I managed to confirm that the CEL was the result of the gear shift sensor going bad.
Some people have had good luck cleaning the old one, which worked for a while on my bike. But, in the end, the CEL kept coming on. What’s the big deal? you ask. Well, the bike ran fine, but the Tuneboy data shows that different fuel mapping occurs with the different gears. That means without an accurate indication of which gear you are in, the ECU can’t trigger the correct map.
The sensor is located behind the plastic countershaft sprocket cover with the connecting wire underneath the tank. You have to remove the gear shift rod. Hint: The small c-clips that hold the shaft onto the pivot balls poke into a small hole on the side of the shaft’s ball ends. Prop up the tank using the rod that is stored under the seat to get to the wires.
The newer version kit has a 8 inch jumper harness that plugs two of its leads into the Throttle Position Sensor located on the right side of the injector bodies.
The newer version kit has a 8 inch jumper harness that plugs two of its leads into the Throttle Position Sensor located on the right side of the injector bodies.

The new “kit” that was indicated for my bike included the sensor with a wire plug that does not fit the old plug from the bike’s harness. The kit includes a 8 inch jumper harness that plugs into the old harness, the new sensor at one end and the other ends plug into the Throttle Position Sensor located on the right side of the throttle bodies. The wire is long enough to cross underneath the fuel tank. Some say it may provide a power boost. We’ll see. At least the ECU will know what gear the bike is in.
After changing the sensor, the CEL went out after three startups. I am taking the bike to the track again in a week and I’ll see if any power advantages occur because of the new harness and sensor. Stay tuned.


General Track Day Bike Preparation

Oil filter and drain plug wired to keep fluids where they belong.
Oil filter and drain plug wired to keep fluids where they belong.

Preparing a motorcycle for a track day doesn’t have to be a big deal. Some people are under the impression that they have to drain fluids, wire bolts and tape every light in sight. While some track day organizations do require race-level preparation, many do not. Tony’s Track Days (TTD) requires very little prep. (See the video
below for requirements). Many people don’t have access to a truck or trailer and ride to the track on their street bikes. They remove their mirrors and licnse plate (if necessary), disconnect or cover the brake lights, lower their tire pressures (30,f, 30 r is a good starting place) and they are ready to go through tech inspection. Staffers are there to help with any issues. Motorcycle prep should not be a reason for not attending a track day!
One thing that seems to stump a lot of riders is how to secure a spin on oil filter. It’s as simple as getting a 4″ hose clamp from your auto parts or hardware store, slip it around the filter and rotate it so it hits a solid part of the engine or frame to prevent the filter from spinning off. If necessary, wire the clamp to a solid object (see photo).


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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 1

Turn 9 Loudon
Trying to figure out the Street Triple. Turn 9 Loudon
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Me and my ZX6 Monticello, NY.
My trusty and familiar ZX6R. Monticello, NY.
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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.

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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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