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!
Would be better punch out of the corners esp on to the long straight, but would benefit coming out of all corners; would give more engine braking into corners – less braking needed to apply manually.
OK, rather than watch Downton Abby on Christmas Day, I watched my on-boards from the recent trip to Almeria, and compared them to Crafar’s Almeria vid to see where I was going wroing/could improve – here’s the findings.
1. Observation: I am in too high a gear in the infield – coming out of many of the corners I am in 6-8K rpm i.e. I am in 2nd or 3rd when I should be in 1st or 2nd (esp at the end of the long straight). Looking at Race-Chrono my speed on at the end of the long straight, through the chicane and on to the long straight warrants only being in first (40-50 mph). Maybe also the left turn onto the long up hill left hander.
What does Crafar do: He’s in high revs all the time, He comes down 4? gears at the end of the long straight.
Benefit: Would be better punch out of the corners esp on to the long straight, but would benefit coming out of all corners; would give more engine braking into corners – less braking needed to apply manually.
Plan: Try and use lower gears. Find out the top speed in all gears and use Race Chrono to plan the gear to use for each turn. Practice down-shifting under pressure – it has to be as second nature as up-shifting!
Danger: Going into 1st mean more chance of the rear locking up even with a slipper clutch. May have to give less throttle (or time its application better).
Wish List: A line of LEDs that indicate rpm that I could stick on my screen like a ZX-10R. Yellow 1 to 9K rpm, Green 9 to 12K rpm and red above. Down blipper ?
2. Observation: using too much engine braking it seems. The time spent decelerating (all be it at a very slow rate seems to long).
What does Crafar do: You can hear when he’s off the throttle but its for shorter periods.
Benefit: Longer spent on the throttle would mean higher speeds on all the straights.
Plan: If not accelerating, brake. Work with braking markers. Brake into turn in.
Danger: Too busy at turn in time; harder to judge speed; miss turn in point; run wide due to excess speed.
Wishlist: Data acquisition would show how much brakes I’m applying and for how long. How about a light that shows brake application on my screen?
3. Observation: Head too far away from inside bar – can look crossed up. No knee down so no I’m getting no indication of lean.
What does Crafar do: Sits high but looks good.
Benefit: Better weight distribution; less lean required; looks better in pictures 😛
Plan: Drop inside shoulder; put head closer to inside clip on, splay legs!
Danger: I’m not used to this, try clinging onto bike rather than sit on it, physically to hard.
Wishlist: Could rearsets make a difference? How about a higher seat?
4. Observation: Front forks don’t have the range of adjustment required. Although the shock seemed OK, everything on forks was wound up to about max. Bumps at Almeria were making the whole of the front end shake.
Plan: Upgrade springs, fork cartridges and oil to give the adjustment I need.
Danger: Can’t get the bike to work on the road anymore.
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!
Nearly two weeks after my visit to Snetterton I have a trackday at Mallory. Unfortunately the Summer of 2012 is the wettest for 100 years (we now know) and so I get to do my first wet trackday. The rain in the morning wasn’t to bad in the morning but by lunchtime it was full on deluge. Since I was on my Hornet I felt I had an advantage with ABS, and the grip wasn’t as bad I thought – it felt surprising going round the outside of people on Gerrards without falling off.
My thanks to Ryan Clare (a friend of Serious-Racing) for keeping me a space in the cow shed and providing the coffee. In return I was his pit bitch and helped fit the wets to the RSV4. No pictures of riding as there was probably not enough light or something. On the whole I think I prefer a dry track…
At the end of May I got back to Snetterton for a third time in . This went well and I even got my knee down a few times at Agostini – a first for me. Of course the photographer didn’t get this on camera, but this is close enough for me 😉 Otherwise the day went well and I got to practice my track craft some more.
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.