Feature: Track bikes

Date 09.6.2015

Presented by
  • Motorcycle Trader

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Track bikes

The phenomenon of rider training is now pretty firmly entrenched in the road-riding landscape. There are courses that cater for people from beginner to the very experienced and even courses for active racers, usually carried out in the safe environment of the racetrack.

Born from all that training activity was the track, or ride, day. And why not? After all, this is where you get to thrash around the track, pretty much left to your own devices, albeit with sensible rules. Track-day operators report ever-increasing take up, saying one of the reasons is the move towards riders trailering track-specific bikes to these events. That way, you don’t have to ride home after a big day at the track and pay registration on a bike you only use very occasionally.

This is a growing trend. In the past, most participants would ride to and from an event (many still do), and the ones who did make use of trailers carried road-registered motorcycles.

So, there is a new marketplace category – the track-day bike. But what’s out there and what should you look for?

Well, to try and demystify the process, we’ve decided to look at three bikes that make for good ride day choices.

2001 Aprilia RS250

The good news in our part of the world is that both the Aprilia RS and the Suzuki RGV250 formed the basis for local 250 Production racing, so there are lots out there that will already have things like race glass (cheaper and lighter fairings than the originals) and lock-wiring.

Both offer pure racetrack performance. In fact, this is about as close as anyone on anything like a budget can come to the pre four-stroke grand prix experience.

Let’s concentrate on the Aprilia. Built between 1998 and 2006, the bike is powered by a two-stroke 249cc, single crank, V-twin that’s good for 41kW at 10,500rpm, and dry weight is 140kg. Look no further than those numbers to see why this is a ride day howler.

The brakes on the RS250 are dual four-piston Brembos up front on 298mm rotors with a single, twin-piston caliper, and 220mm rotor at the rear.

The bike owes its look to the 1993 250GP winner and if you don’t think the RS is absolutely beautiful to look at, well we can’t help you.

The chassis is a ripper and the bike really makes a superb choice for a ride day mount. Riding a two stroke is different: you really need to develop a purist’s racing style to be fast (lots of deep braking and strong corner speed) but the RS is up to just about anything you want to throw at it.

There’s nothing as satisfying as putting your 250 wheel up inside a litre bike as you enter a corner on the racetrack, trust us. Sure, you’ll be passed on the straight, but there’s not a whole lot of bragging rights up for grabs there.

You’ll be kick-starting this thing so you better learn how that works. Be as sure as you can any prospective purchase has had good oil (synthetic, two stroke) all its life. Service history
is gold for a bike like this.

2001 Kawasaki ZX-6R (J2)

We’ve picked a 2001 ZX-6R, (a time when the model was a Supersport racing favourite and will therefore be reasonably plentiful and a bit of a bargain), but you could supplant what we are going to say to include the Honda CBR600RR, Suzuki GSX-R600 or the Yamaha YZF-R6 of the same period.

Supersports are really the wise choice for the far greater majority of potential ride-day bike purchasers. They’re much easier to ride than a two stroke, not as brutal and therefore less likely to spit you down the road than a litre bike.

Don’t let anyone tell you there’s not enough power on hand on a 600. Ride day operators we spoke to consistently suggested riders report their fastest track times aboard a Supersport, even when they’ve regularly ridden much more powerful machinery. Power delivery is much more linear and that’s great for rider confidence. You’ll be as fast as you can be on a 600 and that has to offer a major drawcard as well.

The ZX-6R is powered by a 599cc, liquid-cooled, inline, DOHC, four stroke, four-cylinder engine (ditto the aforementioned other brands). The highlight is the bike’s reputation for unburstability. Kawasaki has always built them hard and tough. It has a brilliant twin-spar aluminum chassis, beefy 46mm front forks and six-piston calipers at the front, which represented the best brakes in the business for its time. Toss in performance figures of 81kW at 12,500rpm and 66Nm at 10,000rpm, along with a dry weight of 172kg and, well, what can we say? See why people are fastest on middleweights?
Keep an eye out for road rash.

These things are getting a little long in the tooth and any with a racing background will have tasted tarmac at some stage. That’s not the end of the world, but you really don’t need a bent one. Don’t worry too much. Parts are everywhere for the ZX-6 and its ilk and they are pretty cheap to keep going.

2002 Suzuki GSX-R1000 (K2)

Okay, so you want a big daddy. Are you sure? Perhaps you should re-read what we wrote in regard to the Supersport category above. Still want a litre bike? Well, okay… We’ll look at an early GSX-R1000, the K2 model of 2001, in the interests of keeping costs down. Unless you’re a millionaire, having a bike in the shed that sees the light of day five times a year needs to earn its keep on the price front.
Fast. That’s the big advantage here.

The GSX-R landed at a time when the Yamaha R1 ruled the roost, and pretty quickly assumed the mantle of top dog.

Power comes from a 998cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four stroke, four-cylinder engine, which makes 107kW (143hp) at the rear wheel at 10,800rpm and 110Nm at 8500rpm. But there’s more. How does a dry weight of 170kg sound?

The bike won many international ‘Bike of The Year’ awards in 2001 and has gone on to become one of the most influential sportsbikes of all time while enjoying an envied record in regard to reliability.

As far as racetrack cred goes, the GSX-R1000 has won eight AMA Superbike titles. Enough said.

These are not all over the place to buy as an ex-racer but they are pretty easy to convert. It’s about stripping rather than adding, so there’s not a huge cost involved.

There’s a fair bit of peer pressure when a rider turns up at a ride day on a big-bore beastie like this. If you are not fast, well the simple fact is you don’t need a litre bike and you’ll look a bit of a sausage.

Ride one well, however, and you’ll be the king of the paddock.

Logic rules

A big upside is the fact that the ride day bike doesn’t have to have a roadworthy certificate, allowing damaged bikes into the picture. Auctions are a great place to start.

After all, you’ll be piffing things like mirrors, original fairings and blinkers anyway. Smells like a bargain, right there.

Bear in mind you’ll need access to a good trailer, and it really is nice to do a ride day with friends. An idea here is to pool on a trailer. Keeps the costs down and you can share having the thing laying around the front yard.

Oh, and remember, you’ll be buying tyres regularly. In fact, we’d be planning on a new rear for every ride day and a new front for every second one.
Racetrack work simply destroys tyres. That’s a good thing because a nice, soft tyre is keeping you off the deck. Be happy to pay it.

So, the ride day bike. It will keep your licence intact, it will improve your riding and there’s no safer environment to see what you and your bike can do than a racetrack. It’s superb fun too! 

RIDE DAY CHECKLIST

 

Although it’s not technically necessary, to participate in a ride day you should hold at least a provisional motorcycle licence. Your licence should be current and valid for your type of motorcycle. Competition licences are accepted by most ride day promoters but check beforehand. Ride days will cost around $150-plus, which often includes your lunch. Our experience is that you will get more than enough track time during a typical day.
As a general rule, your track bike should be in roadworthy condition. Here is a general list of what you should check.
• All treaded tyres must have a minimum of 2mm tread depth at the beginning of the day – this includes centre as well as sides.
• Slick tyres can be used on a dry track only.
• Front and rear brake pads must be deemed to have suitable material to complete a day at the racetrack.
• Front and rear brake rotors must be above minimum thickness as per manufacturer specifications (this measurement is stamped on the rotor carrier).
• Front and rear brake lines must be secured correctly and must not leak or weep fluid.
• Front and rear brakes must operate correctly upon testing.
• Fork seals must not show any signs of leaking or weeping fluid.
• There must be no evidence of oil leaks
or weeps of any kind.
• Fairings must be secured correctly (no
race tape!).
• Any damage to fairings must not have sharp or jagged edges, or in any way
be deemed a potential threat to any
other rider.
• Footpegs and mounting brackets must
be secured and aligned correctly.
• Exhausts must be secured at all mounting points.
• Levers or pedals that are bent and deemed difficult to operate must be repaired or replaced.
• Throttles must snap back to the off position when released.
• There must be no evidence of fuel leaks of any kind.
• Handlebars must be secured and show no evidence of being able to move or be bent from the original shape intended by the manufacturer.
• Racks should be removed.
• It is recommended participants drain glycol coolant from their cooling system and replace it with water and a corrosion inhibitor.
• Remember to take nutritious food, drinks, a foldout chair and earplugs.