By: Red Rider Magazine staff
In the last issue of Honda Red Rider magazine, we elaborated on the versatility sportbikes can deliver by showing how a few simple additions will transform a formidable canyon-carver into a more broad-based platform readily capable of long-distance touring. This time around, we’ll stick a little closer to type as we transform our 2007 CBR1000RR—a gentleman’s express long-distance companion in the last issue—into a track-day bike with a few simple mods.
In this case, don’t view the track as a place for racing or even competition; instead, think of it as a tool for learning, a controlled setting free of cross-traffic and other road hazards, where you can grow to become a better rider. Track days and riding schools abound all across the country, with literally hundreds of options. We’ve detailed one school—HRCA Partner Reg Pridmore’s CLASS Motorcycle Schools—in an accompanying sidebar on these pages, and you can go online to the HRCA Clubhouse at www.hrca.honda.com for additional info, including a listing of more than 50 tracks in 30 states where you can set wheels to a road course.
These many organizing bodies typically require various regimens for track-oriented bike preparations, so we have covered the basics in this article. With a modest assortment of tools and a modicum of mechanical know-how, this transformation should take an afternoon to accomplish. Restoring your mount to full street-going status following your excursion to the track should take even less time, especially now that you’ve become familiar with the drill. So roll up your sleeves and let’s begin the wrenching!
At the track, you won’t need your rearview mirrors; in fact, some organizations require them to be removed or taped over. On the CBR1000RR the mirror mounts hold the upper cowl in place and therefore need to be retained. Simply remove the bolt for the mirror stalk from the threaded mount. It’s firmly cemented in place with lots of thread locker, but it will come out with moderate effort.
The taillight, brakelight, running light and turn signals also need to be deactivated. Disconnecting the wiring for these elements requires unbolting the tailpiece in order to gain access, so it’s just as easy to unbolt the entire assembly, including the license-plate holder. To black out the headlights, tape them with painter’s tape; duct tape usually leaves some messy, gooey splotches. We added a layer of black duct tape to our 1000RR to make it spiffier for our photos.
Remove the belly pan and fairing sides to facilitate a number of steps, including the unbolting of the front turn signals. Many organizations will require that the engine drain plug, filler plug and oil filter be locked in to place. On the CBR1000RR, a reinforcement plate bolts to the engine cases in the drain-plug area; drill both bolts and safety-wire them together.
The blade-shaped handle of the oil fill plug can be easily drilled, and Honda has conveniently left a small ear around an adjacent engine-case bolt that can be drilled to serve as a safety-wire anchor. Next, a large hose clamp will need to secure the oil filter in place. Simply locate the clamp mechanism next to the engine case to prevent the oil filter from rotating.
Run-of-the-mill engine coolant prevents freezing in cold weather, but it’s made with ethylene glycol, very slippery stuff that should not be used at the racetrack. Instead, drain the cooling system (see your owner’s manual for instruction), flush with water and refill with a high-performance coolant for the track such as Engine Ice, Cool-Aide or Water Wetter, products that lower operating temperatures and lubricate water-pump seals much more effectively than plain distilled water. Naturally, your machine should be entirely free of leaks of any kind; be sure to check it over thoroughly before setting off to the track.
Fresh tires are also a must in preparation for a day at the track, and they need not be dedicated track tires for you to enjoy yourself on a closed circuit. The tires we selected for high-performance street use in last issue’s installment, Dunlop’s Qualifiers, worked quite well during this trip to the track. Even at elevated speeds, the grip returned from the Qs was impressive.
To create a little more room and streamline things, you can remove the passenger pegs. The one on the right side mounts on a heat shield that can also be removed, since a second aluminum heat shield remains in place over the exhaust system. We also decided to install frame sliders as “insurance” since a damaged frame is not as easily replaced as bodywork or bolt-on controls in the event of a tip-over.
With these few tasks under our belt, our erstwhile street machine now becomes a track star, ready to take us to the next level of the riding experience. Whether you choose to learn under the tutelage of a former racing champion, a more experienced riding buddy or your local track-day organizers, you’re likely to find that time spent on the track will serve to expand your riding horizons and make your street riding all the more enjoyable!
Sidebar: CLASS Motorcycle Schools
When you consider riding your streetbike on a track for the first time, what kinds of emotions bubble to the surface? Excitement? Fun? A few butterflies? Let’s face it: For many riders, first thoughts regarding a track-riding experience can seem pretty intimidating. Such feelings may arise because we’re racing enthusiasts and we fully expect to witness hair-raising, thrill-a-minute bar-banging taking place all around a track. Also, the thought of riding on a track somehow automatically gives the impression of ultra-high speeds, perhaps much faster than we may be comfortable experiencing.
So let’s quash such thoughts right from the get-go. In this case, when you think “track” don’t envision Nicky Hayden or Miguel Duhamel at speed. Instead, think back to high school gym class when your teacher took everyone out to the track to get in shape to run the 400-meter dash. As such, the track is a place to practice and learn. For first-timers aboard motorcycles, that track analogy plays out especially well when you put yourself in the hands of someone like HRCA Partner and three-time AMA Superbike champion Reg Pridmore and the staff of his CLASS Motorcycle Schools just as we did recently.
CLASS is about becoming a better rider; Pridmore focuses on teaching how to become a smoother, safer and more confident rider. According to CLASS philosophy, your speed may develop well during the course of the day, but speed is never the objective per se. Mental focus and motorcycle control are the primary elements, and they work to instill a number of key concepts and riding techniques that can take the rider forward along his or her learning curve.
To that end, a sequence of chalk talks focused on instruction regarding more effective braking, shifting and cornering plus much more are interspersed with track sessions that last plenty long enough to allow for application of techniques and practice, practice, practice. The pacing of the track sessions are well controlled by five to eight instructors who ride along with students to ensure that every rider grows comfortable with the track setting from the very beginning. The instructors observe everyone carefully and often wave students over to discuss implementing various techniques while the riding session progresses. It’s all conducted within a very relaxed, non-competitive atmosphere; there’s no speed limit, but there’s also no pressure to go faster. The objective is for you to gain confidence and learn better motorcycle control at your own pace rather than just flying around the course and scaring yourself.
CLASS schools are open to riders 18 years and older who have a motorcycle license and a fair amount of street-riding experience. Students ride their own motorcycles and all makes are welcome but a minimum engine displacement of 250cc is required. Stock motorcycles are preferable, while supersport bikes are welcome too. On the day we joined Pridmore’s CLASS session, one rider brought his cruiser for the day and was just as pleased as anyone else in attendance. Standard schools last a full day, from about 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.—that’s plenty of riding, believe us! Students are divided into two groups based on experience and ability and both get equal amounts of track time and classroom instruction.
Prices vary according to locations, but wherever you decide to ride with CLASS, you’ll surely overcome the first-timer anxieties in no time at all, and also come away a better rider for the experience. Many riders return over and over again to continue extending their learning curve, not to mention having lots of fun again and again! To find out more about the CLASS program, go online to www.classrides.com or call (805) 933-9936.
For more information about CLASS riding techniques plus a listing of tracks all around the country where you can have a chance to experience a track day or sign up for a riding school, visit www.hrca.honda.com where we’ve provided extended coverage in the HRCA Clubhouse.
Originally published in the December 2009 of Red Rider Magazine.