During the long winter months, every biker tries to find something biking related to occupy them when riding is less possible. Usually this is fettling the bike(s) in some way, getting them ready for the riding season. Well, in my particular case, it was something a little different.
In November of last year, myself and the other members of the Serious Racing crew headed to Almeria to grab some winter Spanish sunshine and some glorious sun-soaked trackdays. Well, kind of. In the end it pissed it down with rain for a fair portion of the time we were there. However, one pretty cool discovery we made while there was GPS lap timing devices, and RaceChrono in particular. It’s a free app for Android that lets you attach an external bluetooth GPS device like the Garmin Glo, and get 10 updates a second of your position and speed on track. It has a pretty cool interface on the phone for looking at your data and analysing your sessions. We were pretty blown away by it. And we all thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could easily compare these online? As it turned out, there wasn’t something that provided this yet, so I thought I’d have a crack at writing one myself. The results are soon to be available to the public (we’re currently in a closed beta) for free (at least until it gets so popular I can no longer afford to host it out of my own pocket) at https://serious-racing.com/. You can use it to compare lap times with friends, and get faster by drilling down into the data and seeing where someone is faster, or comparing your own laps and seeing where you’re faster. It’s pretty cool stuff, and we hope you’ll be as excited about it as we are!
It’s that time of year when I feel the need to sit down, put my feet up, grab a snifter of whisky, and look with a whistful eye to the year gone by, and the year to come. In a biking sense obviously.
The highlight (with some tribulations of its own) of the unaccounted for year on the Serious Racing blog was the Almeria trip. It was mixed in a lot of ways – partly because two of the three of us had gear nicked and are currently trying to work with the insurance people to get compensated for it, partly because the weather was so poor, for Almeria, which meant not so much dry track time, and partly because I felt like although I improved relative to my pace last year on the Daytona, I didn’t feel like I improved as much as I was hoping I was. The reason for this was mostly because I’m comparing myself to Tea Monster who was officially “on it” in Almeria, and posted better sector times (more on that later) in the first two sectors than me. Made me come away feeling like I didn’t really get the most out of the RSV4.
But it was still a cracking trip. Good laugh as always, the rain wasn’t entirely dampening in respect of our spirits (we did quite a good job polishing off a litre of whisky to dampen with spirits ourselves), and four days on track can really never be bad, however bad it is.
Here are a few videos to amuse you…
Just left me with some things to focus on for next year, which brings me to… my resolutions for 2013
– Focus on corner entry speed. I feel like I’m very slow coming into corners, from a combination of the bike being so fast that I’m getting freaked out and slowing too much, and that I’m also aware that I can just fire it down the straights and catch up, and this seems to sit like a bug in my head, slowing me down.
– Don’t focus on knee down. I can get my knee down pretty much any time I want if the conditions are right. But I find I slow down slightly to do so, oddly. Slow down and increase the lean. Don’t do either – carry more corner speed, don’t focus on knee down, and wait for it to come again as a result of going faster rather than “because I want to”.
– Learn how to take off the wheels and change brake pads. I’m tired of paying for someone else to do these basic things that I could (and should) do myself. It stops here.
A week ago today, myself and Tea Monster headed to Brands Hatch (GP circuit) for what may (for me at least) end up being the last UK trackday of the 2012 season. I guess technically three trackdays doesn’t qualify as a “season”, but who’s counting? Anyway, being the middle of September there was the inevitable worries about the weather, but as it turned out it was pretty much perfect. Sunny skies and although the temperature wasn’t blisteringly hot, it was as good as could have been expected for that time of year.
For me, the goal of the day was to just get more comfortable with the RSV4. As only my second trackday on the bike, it was important to just be progressive and grow in confidence on the machine. At Rockingham I’d felt no faster overall than on the Daytona 675, and especially slower and less confident in the corners. I guess that was the inevitable side effect of a different bike, and a shiny one at that. I think this time around I was still slower in the corners than I was on the 675, but overall I was way faster (or so it felt) thanks to what can only be described as the awesome power of the RSV4. It really is a missile. On pretty much every lap it was wheelie-ing out of two particular corners, such that it prompted me to check the wheelie control settings and discover they were off (!). With that fixed, I’d get a bit of head shake, but still keep the front mostly down, and drive nicely out of the corners. I can safely say I’ve never experienced speed like that before. Now I understand…
So overall, it was an entirely incident free and “moment” free day from my perspective, I grew in confidence on the bike, and there were moments where I could begin to see the potential of my riding on the bike. Got my knee down just the once, but that’s honestly not a priority at the moment. I know that when we go to Almeria in November, I’ll be wanting corner speed and knee down to be the order of the days, but for the moment I’m happy with the confidence building and bike familiarisation that’s happening. Bring on Almeria!
Had my first trackday on the RSV4 last weekend. All in all went well – I don’t think I was actually any faster (yet) than on the 675, but was cautious and progressive, and definitely had a lot of room for improvement.
And then the day after, I picked up a set of replacement RSV4 Factory fairings from your good friend and mine, Mr. Ryan Clare. Take a look at these beauties:
Last night I took the introductory maintenance course at http://www.ovalmotorcyclecentre.co.uk and I have to say, I was mightily impressed. It started off slow (Matt warned it would), and I was thinking, “uh oh, we’re just going to be going through the real basics here”, but even though we did only really cover the basics, it was clear that Matt’s depth of knowledge was substantial. Even down to how to clean and lube a chain, the precise way that he did it was clear, well explained, and thoughtful. The setup of the place is great as well. Really wish them luck as a business, and will be happy to use it whenever I can. Going to be popping in on Friday to get Matt to look at my suspension to give me a good base setup before my trackday on Saturday…
Well that was an intense 24 hours. Woke up at 6am to get a flight to San Francisco, did the whole airport commute, airport wait, plane ride, customs rigmarole, and found myself 16 hours later in sunny San Francisco. And this time it really was sunny. Because it wasn’t really San Francisco. I’m staying with friends in Burlingame, just south of the winter micro-climate that often is San Francisco itself, and the weather here was just perfect. Coming from London at the moment, that means a lot.
Within a few hours, I was sitting on the back of a Triumph Tiger XC 800 soaking up the sunshine on my way to pick up my ride for the week. We pulled up outside Armando’s house to see a pristine R6 with a fully adjustable shock, custom shorty end can, gold rearsets and gold levers being washed and prepped for me by my good friend Armando. It really doesn’t get much better than this. Except it does, because after chatting for a while and catching up, gawping at the bike for about 30 minutes or so, toweling down the bike and lubing the chain, Mario and I headed off for what would be one of the most intense motorbiking experiences of recent memory. Almost four hours on totally varying roads – a bit of city riding to get us out of San Francisco, some freeway to get us south of the city, then twisties of all descriptions from there onwards. Bumpy on and off camber B-road type twisties, tight, nadgery, narrow twisties on “goat track” tarmac, and finally sweeping smooth tarmac snaking its way with perfect switchback curves from the coast up to the ridge at Alice’s Restaurant. Wow.
A quick burger (what else, this is Merika, folks) and then a quick night ride back to Burlingame. And let’s just cap it all off with a beer in Mario’s garden looking at the stars, shall we? Lovely jubblies.
Well, having just got the RSV4 out of its run-in period, I’m sorry, and somewhat ashamed, to say it’s also recovering from it’s first scrapes. Dodgy incident involving a U-turn, only a very little throttle and some cold wet tyres on a cold wet road. This meant I had to have the wing mirror replaced, as well as the clutch lever assembly, and left me with a scratch on the tank and a bent frame slider. Well, I’m happy to say she’s almost back to her former glory. Some tank sliders have taken care of the tank, and all other bits have been replaced. See for yourself:
Got the front and side fairings mostly on. The fit isn’t perfect, but it does fit with a bit of pulling here and there. The only thing that doesn’t quite line up is the holes for the mirrors, so I’ll need to do a bit of cutting/drilling there. Overall pretty happy. I think it’s pretty close to being sellable at this stage.
It was pouring with rain most of the day, but I still had a good day with the bikes. How? Well, I thought I’d take the opportunity to strip the Daytona 675 and get her ready to put the new fairings on. Something about working on bikes, no matter how trivial that just makes me feel good. And then once I was done, I cleaned her up a bit, and threw the tail piece on from the new fairing set. There was a little straining involved, as it’s not quite a perfect fit, but overall it wasn’t too bad. Things don’t line up perfectly (as you’ll see below), but overall it’s not too bad. Will have to see how the rest of the pieces line up…