CMG Track Bike Project – Part 2

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Missed part 1? Fear thee not, simply go here.

Words: Richard Seck Photos: Richard Seck/Sheila Tang

Looking good Mr. Seck!

Tucked and cooking down the back straight of Shannonville’s Nelson circuit, I lift myself into the air stream and opt to brake just a little later than the previous lap. There’s just enough time to slap it down a gear before hanging off into super-tight, right-hand hairpin—better push that right bar a little harder if I’m gonna make it—grrrrrrind, the peg scrapes through corner, along with the toe of my boot.

Cool.

Checking my boots at the end of the session I notice that I had not only ground down the tip of the toe slider, but was also doing a good job of grinding through the boot’s leather.

Note to self: tuck feet in tighter on the next session…

LEARNING CURVE

Put bike on trailer. Drive to track. Unload. Ride.

Being cut lose on a race track, to go as fast as the self-preservation section of your brain will let you, is—IMHO—one of the biggest thrills of motorcycling. Doing it right involves a fairly major learning curve: from preparing your bike, to learning fast riding techniques, to making adjustments to the bike, to pushing yourself a little further when you feel comfortable. I have found since this project started though, that the challenge of the whole process is all part of the fun.

To begin with, just getting your bike to the track can prove a challenge if you don’t have a truck. The CMG solution was to get in touch with Rod Haskins at Stinger Trailers in California. They make an ingenious compact trailer that folds in three sections. The beauty of this design is that the trailer takes up minimal space in your garage. Once you have the drill down, the whole thing can be hitched to your car—and ready to load the bike—in less than five minutes.

Okay, good to go, but there are a lot of groups running track days, who do you sign up with?

“Who are you calling old!”.
photo: Sheila Tang

Good question. If you are in your teens or early twenties, with the self-preservation section (SPS) of your brain still developing, you just don’t care—cut me lose and get out of my way! Conversely, if you are older and care about going home in one piece at the end of the day, you probably don’t want to show up at a track day with a large percentage of the previously mentioned demographic in attendance.

I’m sure Editor ‘arris begs to differ, but I do have somewhat developed SPS, so I opted to find a more mature group to ride (I suppose mature is a relative term here).

This can be difficult in some places. Track days at St. Eustache in Quebec, for instance, are set up in various groups based on engine capacity, as opposed to skill level. I suppose the Quebecois attitude is get out there and ride, you WUS!

Track days can see quite a mix of bikes.

I attempted to race at St. Eustache once, and have the broken bones to prove it…

Out here in civilized Ontario, it is possible to find a track day more suited to your tastes, as the variety is good. The first track day I was supposed to do was the Ducati weekend at Mosport in late May (on the Monday they let Japanese bikes in). My theory with this one was—if you own a Ducati or equivalent and take it on the track—you are less likely to be going for broke. Sadly, plans to ride with the Italians had to be postponed until ‘04 due to delays on getting the ZX7 together.

It was during this time that I was connected with Ed Liu and his friend Sam who having been hosting track days in Ontario for the last few years. Ed has expensive tastes and rides either a Ducati 999 or a Moto Guzzi V11 on the track. Sam rides an RC51. The group they attract was what I was looking for, the average age was about 40 years old, and no one looked overtly nuts (present company excepted).

Ed Liu with his V11.

The way they set up the groups made a lot of sense as well. They have four groups: Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, and Advanced II. It doesn’t matter what you ride—you slot yourself based on your skill level. Depending on the day, there is also the possibility of bumping yourself up or down to another group.

I started off in Intermediate and on occasion, rode in the Advanced group.

This system works great and allows for people who have never tried riding on a track to give it a go in a non-threatening environment. For those who want to learn more, the range of experience available at a track day is fantastic. For me, watching which lines the fast guys use and how they work the track was excellent education.

SO HOW’D THE ZX-7 HOLD UP?

Zed Exy couldn’t get anywhere with Ms. 999 … snobby bitch.

Sadly, with all the other things going on this summer, I only managed two track days. The initial thoughts of running the bike stone stock, with the exception of the Pirelli Diablo tires proved to be a good one.

The ‘89 ZX-7 mill is plenty powerful for my skill level, and with the exception of the lean-running carbs, (cured by leaving the choke half on—a very CMG fix) I did not feel I was in need of any more power. The only thing I’ll do before next spring (other than regular maintenance) is find the time to pull the rack of carbs apart and give them a proper cleaning.

As mentioned in the previous article, the brakes were left stock and bled. They proved just fine. The feel was very good and the power was all I required.

Mr. Seck gently adjusts the rear suspension.
photo: Sheila Tang

The Pirelli Diablos were fantastic; they stuck no matter what I did. The only time the rear stepped out on me was when I made an error in suspension adjustment, and even then it felt like a very controlled slide. Great rubber. They even look like I could get at least another two track days out of them.

As the pace picked up, the only part of the bike that started to look like it was going to need a bit of help was the rear suspension. Actually, everything felt fine to me (I was riding dirt bikes two days prior…), but CMG contributor Ronn Moffatt was very concerned with the way the rear was wallowing in the corners. I cranked up the preload two turns from stock, but this only seemed to make things worse. Some more experimentation with suspension adjustments will be required in the spring.

Fortunately, it was a no-crash summer (if you disregard a recent over-ambitious stoppie incident at dirt bike school—ouch my ribs), so I couldn’t find out whether deep gouges in the Skidmarx bodywork would show up easily. The bodywork still looks great and now that I put some Loctite blue on the gold Pro-bolts, I’ve stopped losing them. It is a good thing they give a lot of extras in the package.

SOME THOUGHTS AT THE END OF THE DAY

Going for it.

For CMG project, I’d have to say that this all went fairly smoothly. Maybe because Editor ‘arris wasn’t involved at all.

That said, I can offer up a few things that I would change, maybe for next year. First would be to buy a good zip-together two-piece suit. Sure, they don’t look as good, but they are more convenient, in that you can unzip the top bit. Wait a second, I’d probably then need an ass to hold the pants up, scrap that one for me…

For the serious track bike enthusiast, buy a good canopy tent. From the one’s I’ve seen, Caravan Canada seem to make the best one (www.caravan-canada.com).

I was surprised see how many people just showed up at the track on their street bike, whipped out the duct tape—slapped it on the bits that shatter—and just went for it. This seemed crazy to me at first, but when you think about it, it’s not a bad way to give it a go. Just bring along your Visa, health card, and your motorcycle friendly CAA card and hope you don’t need to use them…

So there you go—no more excuses. Now get out ‘yer duct tape and go and have some fun!


TRACK DAY CHECK LIST

Oh dear …
Just have fun!
Assuming you are trailering or trucking your bike to the track. Here is a quick checklist of things you would want to bring along:1) Gear, including:

• full face Snell rated helmet
• leathers, one-piece, or zip together two-piece
• riding boots
• riding gloves
• rain suit (if you spent the money on the track day, may as well go for it)
• extra T shirt (you’ll thank yourself at the end of the day)

2) A good set of tools, including a tire pressure gauge

3) Extra fuel, and necessary fluids

4) Canopy tent, especially for the smokin’ hot days

5) Folding chair(s)

6) Food, and drinks (the power drinks actually work)

7) Visa & health card

I probably forgot something, but one of the great things about a track day, is that someone will have brought what you forgot.

Givver,

Richard Seck


Thanks to:

Pirelli North America for the Diablo tires.

Street Fighters by Design and Skidmarx for the bodywork.

Pro-Bolt for the screen and fairing mounting hardware.

Cycle World West for helping with getting the other required bike parts and accessories.

Join the conversation!