Three weeks in the life of an RSV4 owner

It’s been a mixture of elation and frustration. Elation because the bike is, and always feels, special. Every time I get on it it’s a joy, even if it’s just to go a few miles around town. Why? The look of the bike. The sound of it – having replaced the standard can with an Akrapovic slip on exhaust, I’d initially not been able to tell the difference, but now I can, and love it. The punch of power it delivers everywhere – hitting about 10k revs once on it felt like a freight train. And surprisingly, the flickability of it – for the first time ever on a bike, I really feel like I can steer it with pressure from my feet on the pegs, whereas before it always felt like I *should* be doing that, but really wasn’t.
And frustration because I know I have so much to learn about this bike, and the weather seems to be conspiring to prevent me from really enjoying it. I’ve essentially had three (proper) rides on the bike, two in pretty cold but bright conditions, and one with some short rain showers. Since I’ve been running it in, I’ve never really had the revs above 7k, except for very quick bursts, but to be honest, I don’t know if I could ever get above 7k on the road without endangering my life or my license or both. This really is a bike that belongs on track. I’m pretty fearful of how it’s going to behave on the track. I suspect the top end of the rev range is close to terrifying. All I can hope is that one day I’m able to do it justice on the track…
In any case, more immediately, I have now got past the 600 mile mark, and will hopefully be getting the first service out of the way pretty soon. At which point I think I’m allowed up to 9.5k revs for the next 400 miles or so. As if…

Stuck in a groove

Did a trackday at Snetterton this weekend with Focused Events. All in all, as trackdays often are, it was a pretty eventful day. Failed the noise test, and had to use some tom-foolery to get through it, and as a result missed the first session. I’d been put in the novice group even though I think I’m probably inters pace mostly these days, which given the fact that it was so cold, and I’d missed sighting laps, and it was a totally new track to me, probably wasn’t a bad thing. And then during the second session of the day (the first for me) it started raining. Not heavily, but enough that you see spots on your visor, and it places doubt in your mind. As a result the first two sessions were very cautious. And then things brightened up a bit, and in the third sesion (the last before lunch) everything slotted into place, I found myself getting more confident, going quicker, and getting my knee down in a few places pretty consistently. Took a break for lunch, and had another good session, and then the penultimate session of the day I threw the video camera on there and got some good footage of Tony doing a few laps while shadowing him. And then in the last session of the day, I crashed about half way through the first lap. Clearly my tyres were cold, and I was going too fast too soon, but there are a few things that have been bothering me about it, and I couldn’t figure out why.
– Was I really going that much faster in the last session, despite having said to myself, and Tony, just before getting on the track words to the effect of “this is the last session of the day, don’t do anything stupid”?
– If I was going that much faster, why? Poor judgement? If I wasn’t going that much faster, does that mean I was at risk of crashing on any of the previous sessions, and if so, why couldn’t I tell?
– Why do I seem to be crashing “so much”? My full history of crashes after 5 years of riding, and 15 or so trackdays is:

  • Low speed peg touchdown on the Monster before my first ever trackday leading to running off the road and slipping down a grassy bank
  • Rockingham second trackday exhuberance and going way too fast without really understanding anything about tyres, heat, how to ride or anything (third ever trackday)
  • Running off the track into the gravel twice at my first Almeria outing (twice in four days, this is – didn’t drop the bike either time)
  • Cold tyres low speed low side in London just before the Pyrenees trip
  • Getting hit from behind on the last day in my second trip to Almeria – ran into the gravel, and dropped it at the end at very low speed
  • Low side at Snetterton on a cold day on cold tyres last session of the day
– I’ve just bought a new bike that’s way more powerful, and much nicer, and more expensive than anything I’ve ever owned before. The consequences of crashing this bike would be much more serious (obviously depending on the crash, and depending on what crash protection I have) than anything that’s ever happened before, so I think everything I’m doing is “under the microscope” at the moment. Can I really be trusted with such a machine? Do I really want to back off to the point that I’m not anywhere near my limit for safety reasons?
– At Almeria, I was told I was “very safe” and that I had plenty of room to push it further. Was I? How come I wasn’t able to bring that kind of judgement to the situation at Snetterton?
– I didn’t feel like I was riding with my brain out in any way. I do have a tendency to go off pretty fast, but I’d justified this to myself based on being in the Novice group when I felt like I was realistically at Inters pace, and that’s just the way I do things. If I didn’t feel like I was “going for it” how could I have crashed? In other words, I misjudged my limits really badly, and that’s what bothers me most.
So what’s next? I dunno. Let things settle for a while, build my confidence back up a bit, and I’ve made a commitment to myself that I want to have 10 trackdays incident free from here. I’m not sure why I’ve chosen that number. I want to be someone who is fast, but safe. I don’t want to be out of control. I don’t want to misjudge my limits so much that I’m anywhere near to crashing when I feel like I’m not. I guess these may sound like everyone would want them, but they define where I am at the moment, so I think they’re worth stating.

It’s about to get serious

Well, things at Serious Racing really are about to get serious. I’ve just bought myself an Aprilia RSV4-R APRC. It’s the 2011 model, but is brand new, and since it’s unchanged for 2012, I think I’ve ended up with a bit of a bargain, given the price. And I’ve also ended up with a very serious motorcycling machine. Most obviously, it’s a thousand. Then there’s the whole V4 thing. Eight stage traction control, anti-wheel, launch control, three engine mappings, a 200 section rear tyre, Brembo monobloc calipers, and power to weight ratio that quite frankly scares the crap out of me. And just because, I’ve thrown an Akrapovic slip-on exhaust into the mix. Will be picking up during the week.

I haven’t taken one for a test ride. I haven’t even heard one running. Am I ready for it? We’ll see.

675 Fairings

Just received my eBay Chinese fairings in the post (pictures below). Depending on how this weekend looks, I may fit them then, or I may wait til after the season’s first trackday at Snetterton the following weekend. First impressions – colour seems pretty good, hard to tell for sure til I put them face to face with the bike. Some of the decals seem a little off (not quite the right font, etc.), but other than that, looks pretty good. Will see how they shape up when I get them on…


Saw this video from Mr. Neeves on MCN, and I have to say, I was intimidated:

I know I shouldn’t be put off, but seeing someone who knows what they’re doing on a bike I’m thinking about on a track I’ve ridden and comparing the speeds makes me think “wow, how far off am I?”. I know I shouldn’t let that cloud things, but it’s hard not to sometimes.

Beemer test ride

Went for a test ride on a BMW S1000RR yesterday. This is something of a new experience for me, as I’m used to just sticking with what I have and not really trying new stuff. So why try new stuff now? Well, I’m at that point where I’m ready for a new (to me) bike, having had my trusty (and long suffering) Daytona 675 for over two years now, and I’m wondering if it’s time for me to step up and get a 1000cc bike. On the one hand I quite like being on a smaller bike, as it means I have to focus a bit more on technique rather than just relying on raw speed, on the other hand, having never actually tried a 1000 except for the odd ride on friends’ bikes I really don’t know how I’d fit with one. Maybe I’d just be much better? Maybe I’d be no better? Yesterday’s experiment was part of trying to find that out.

I arrived a bit early, as I always do, but they were ready for me. A very young (or is it just me that’s very old?) gentleman got me sorted and on my way pretty quickly, and away I went on the S1000RR. I managed to get out of London a bit from their Battersea showroom by heading southwest on the A3, and then turned off, perhaps too early, at the first sign of countryside. Leatherhead, Dorking, Guildford, towards Horsham and then homewards was the basic route, with more getting caught in 30 mph limits and 40 mph limits than I’d like. The weather was dry, but overcast to begin with, and improved as the day went on – a test ride starting at midday would have been perfect. Some of the roads were a bit greasy, and some of the roads I was on were clearly too small for the bike, but good to test it in a few different conditions.

So what were my impressions? Great sound, lots of power, like a big mechanical muscle just waiting to punch through concrete walls below me. Felt lighter than I imagined, and flickable whereas I was expecting to have to haul it from side to side. The brakes initially felt great, but then I found I didn’t really notice them again – do you really get used to that so quickly?. Cracking the throttle on motorways or A-roads felt awesome and terrifying at the same time, and I could hear Mr. Crafar’s words in my head about getting all my weight over the bars as I felt the headstock shake beneath me a few times. Of course, I was miles from the limit of the bike, but overall I’d say I felt comfortable with it, and even on greasy roads, “at the speeds I’m doing” it was fine in “racing” mode on the traction control – I never felt it slide around.

Is it for me? Well, I could certainly see myself on it. I think I’d be able to gel with it pretty well, and would really look forward to getting to know it better. But I think overall I need to try a few more bikes and find out if that’s also the case with others too. The cost is pretty steep, and as I find myself thinking of bikes more as track focused, with a side portion of road riding the fact that it’s just north of fourteen grand new makes me worried that the inevitable binning on a trackday would bruise my wallet even more than my ego. I’ve asked the dealer to let me know on prices, and will look into the price of track fairings, and/or cheaper non-oem fairings for if I’m riding to UK trackdays, and we’ll see what happens.