Track Day Riding – Is It For You? Part Three in a Four Part Series

Part III

After several weeks of endlessly scouring Craigslist a promising bike finally appeared, it was a 1994 Yamaha YZF750R and it was rough. It hadn’t been properly washed in years and wore a thick layer of grime on everything to prove it, the battered plastic was held together with zip ties and hanging off in places. The tank had a large dent in it and to make matters worse, it didn’t have a title so it could not be resold as a street bike if I didn’t like track riding. The title issue makes for a potentially low ROI since it can only be sold as a track bike. On a positive note, the seller had no idea what he had and the YZF really was a diamond in the rough. He was not a bike guy and had acquired it in a trade with some other “stuff” and was just looking to get some cash out of it. His asking price was $1200, well within my budget, and he was willing to negotiate. And negotiate he did. Don’t ask me how but I managed to get him to sell me the bike for $600, which is amazing considering the fact that the bike was nearly complete. The only things missing were a brake lever, a battery, and the air box/ air filter. I did have to pay $50 in gas to get to and from the seller. But spending only $650 left me with a very nice chunk of change for any improvements I needed or wanted to make.

A little history on the YZF… It was produced from 1993 to 1998 in two forms, the standard R and the SP model which came with a single seat. Unfortunately only the R model was sold in the US. The SP was the limited edition, homologation model of the YZF750 that was used for the World Superbike Championship and it was basically a race bike with lights. I doubt I would have gotten the SP model for $600. The YZF750R was introduced to the US in early 1994. A 1996 model was an early factory release in 1995 and won Sport Rider Magazines 1995 Bike of the Year award and made Motorcyclist Magazines “Best 50 Used Motorcycles” list.

So it would appear the YZF has the lineage to be a great track bike if we can find a way to, without breaking the bank, bring it back to its former glory with a good old GMW resurrection. We typically go at it in several phases; phase one will be wheels and brakes. The yellow OEM wheel color was simply too much for me to deal with and the paint scheme we had decided on called for black rims so the wheels would have to come off. The bearings had to come out for powder coat making it a perfect time for new ones from All Balls Racing. The tires would be replaced with Michelin Pilot Power 3’s and EBC HH pads will slide into the six piston calipers, organic compound pads in the rear. We finished off the brake system with a set of custom Venhill steel braided brake lines and fresh DOT4 fluid.

Phase two would be engine, carburetors, and a radiator flush. The valves needed checking and the valve cover gasket needed to be replaced, oil was leaking from the front. The carbs would certainly need a serious cleaning and synchronizing. While inside the carbs a Factory Pro jet kit will be installed to get the most out of the five valves per cylinder power plant. Phase three will be cleaning up the wiring harness to get rid of unnecessary connectors, eliminating the alternator and installing a more compact instrument cluster. A total loss power system makes sense only for a track bike since the only power used is for spark and starting. The YZF is a real porker, weighing in at 490 lbs. wet so the weight savings is welcomed. A lithium battery will also be used for a total weight savings of about  15 lbs. It’s  not a ton of weight, I know it doesn’t seem like much but with the removal of all the parts required to make the YZF streetable plus these 15 lbs, and we’ve taken 54 lbs off the bike.

Phase four will be fairing: the OEM plastic was so badly cracked, broken, and zip tied in so many places the YZF looked like more like it came from Frankenstein’s workshop than a Japanese manufacturing plant. Plus the upper is too tall. During the 90’s Airtech Streamlining developed a WSB upper and lower that makes the YZF skinnier and lowers the front by several inches which completely transforms the look of the bike. It’s a must have along with the OWO1 solo tail section they make.

Part I Part II

Track Day Riding – Is It For You? Part Two in a Four Part Series

Part II

So the decision has been made. I am now going to buy a bike, get a set of leathers, road race boots, a fresh full face helmet and take myself to a track day at the nearest road course, Carolina Motorsports Park here we come! At EDM we have a weakness for buying rough bikes and restoring them to their former glory, or making them into purpose built bikes for the type of riding we plan to do. This track bike would be no different. We didn’t have a particular bike in mind, the only criteria was that it had to be a middle weight. I’m a bit afraid of too much horse power. The bike of choice would need to be either a 600 or a 750 and the price tag could be no more than $1,500. Our total budget for the bike was $2000, with $300 of that going to tires. The idea behind the price was to keep it low just in case I crashed, the financial blow wouldn’t be too great. If you decide this is the sort of thing you want to do and have a larger budget, it will make finding the right bike quite a bit simpler. Our budget is very low which means we will have to search high and low plus find something in pretty rough condition, or a bike with no title, or both which kind of sucks but it is what it is. On Craigslist I found several beat/ stretched GSX-R’s in my price range. I also found a few CBR600’s, however they were also stretched. But I found nothing that looked to be our candidate. I did find a few SV650’s which would have been great but they were just outside my budget.

In between the hours spent scouring Craigslist for a bike, I did some research into what it takes to actually get on a track. It’s actually really simple. From what I have found you can either go to a performance school where they formally instruct you on how to ride on a track, some even provide the bike and leathers. Look for Keith Code California Superbike School. Or you can do a “Track Day” where you go out in groups and run laps, it’s a bit like an open practice day on a MX track – but not really, see below. In my searching I found there are many companies who run Performance Courses and several who run Track Days at road courses across the US so it should be easy for you regardless of the state you live in.

A friend of mine has been doing track days for several years and he suggested I go to one that Performance Riding Experience (PRE) puts on. They are on the Eastern Side of the US and they run track days once a month at three or four tracks in my region. Check their website for more details Performance Riding Experience. It looks like getting onto a track will prove simpler than finding a cheap bike.

While finding a Track Day to participate in is pretty simple, it turns out it is quite a bit different from showing up at a motocross track, paying your 25 bucks and having at it. Track Day riding is run very differently from track riding on a motocross bike. To start with your bike has to go through the scrutiny of tech inspection. You can’t run coolant in your radiator and the oil drain plug has to be safety wired. Additionally, mirrors must be removed and lights have to be covered with tape. Beginner/ novice riders have to attend mandatory riders meetings/ classes before and after each session and there will be two or more control riders who go out with your group each time. One rides at the front of the group to set the pace and one rides at the back as a sweep in case anyone has trouble keeping pace. As the day progresses the control riders move around and will provide feedback about your riding, entirely different from a track day at a MX track. Most of the open practice days I have gone to at MX tracks are a free for all with the grouping determined only by displacement not skill – it’s actually kind of sketchy…

Part I

Track day = fun day! Part I in a Four Part Series

Track Day Riding Is It For You? Part I

In the 80’s I was a teenager listening to new wave music and surfing twice a day. When I wasn’t in the water one of things I liked to do was watch Grand Prix motorcycle racing on TV. America dominated GP racing in those days with guys like Wayne Rainey, Eddie Lawson, Kevin Schwantz, and Freddie Spencer. As they went from circuit to circuit to the most amazing road courses the world has to offer I dreamed of a day when I might throw a leg over a GP bike and give it a go. Watching these supernatural beings as they made it look easy wrangling the wild 500cc two stroke beasts of the era was always my favorite, especially in slow motion playback, bikes that weigh a scant 286 lbs and produce a tire shredding 200hp, bikes that were affectionately known as “the unrideables” because the power came on like a light switch. I firmly believe the elegant grace and beauty that is motorcycle racing, off-road or on, can only be truly appreciated in slow motion. Each second contains countless elements of intense drama, from subtle body positioning to keep the bike in line, to rear tires lifting off the ground under hard braking, to lofting front wheels as bikes accelerate hard while still banked over turning, as they exit a corner. Add to this the endless sliding, front and rear wheel drifts that seem to go on forever leaving massive amounts of rubber in their wake. Check this video for a classic example.

In addition to a history of riding dirt bikes on MX tracks and trails, I have owned a street bike of some form for the majority of my 49 years and I have always wanted to see if I have what it takes to manage a sport bike on a road course. In fact, it’s on my bucket list. Even if I only do it once, the prospect of not having to worry about gravel in the middle of a blind turn or grass in the road from some dude who has just mowed his lawn. Or worse, some distracted driver veering into my lane is incredibly appealing. The trouble is, track riding is dangerous, right? I have two young children and a wife to support. What am I thinking? I can’t be going around some track with a bunch of other nitwits at 150 mph!

It is possible that I have overly romanticized the idea of track riding? That climbing into a set of leathers, sliding into a fresh full face helmet, and then tossing a leg over a bike that has been safety wired and prepped for the track. That pulling the clutch lever for the first time, shifting into gear and easing out onto the hot tarmac, clicking up through the gears as I pick up the pace with each lap would be something I would enjoy. That having my tires come up to temperature, leaning deeply into a corner with my knee just skimming the ground, letting me know that I am leaning the bike just enough, applying as much throttle as I dare while leaned over, increasing it as I move toward the exit of the turn, then whacking it open, to gobble up hundreds of feet in mere seconds, hurtling myself to the next series of turns might just be the thrill of my lifetime?

I say yes, count me in!

Part I Part II Part III

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