Do not ask what you can do for Brown, but what Brown can do for you!
What Brown can do for me right now? Drop off the Pirate’s new skirts before I have to leave for work. I really need some motivation today; I’m just not in a working kind of mood and I’d rather not spent all night wondering if my S1000RR’s newest bling is going to be OK. I know my neighbor would collect the box and keep it safe at her place, but I’d rather her not have to wrestle this monster with a declared weight of 25 pounds across the street. I want to at least tear into the thing for a quick, invigorating whiff of new bike part smell before I have to leave to turn raw time into “cubic dollars”.
I decide to get ready a little early so I can stop by the store on the way to get some oatmeal and snacks for work. Guess, the UPS guy isn’t going to beat me out the door after all. I grab my backpack and hoodie, set the alarm and let myself out and almost trip over a huge cardboard box. Hell yeah!
I drop my backpack, turn around, shut the door and disarm the alarm, step back outside and pick up my stoop loot. The hoodie ends up on the floor and the box in the middle of the living room. I have 25 minutes before I have to leave, plenty of time to unwrap the present from the Bike Part Fairy.
I get a knife and cut the packing tape along the short edges and tear into the box like a nine year old jacked up on Christmas Spirit. On top lies a padded brown envelope with the word “Extras” scribbled on the front. Inside are the DZUS fasteners, Woodcraft and Armour Bodies decals, instructions and a catalog. Oh boy, this is sweet! Every piece is carefully wrapped and taped; and all of it is buried in massive amounts of brown packing paper. The next few minutes are spent digging through the box and sending pieces of thin foam wrapping and brown paper flying everywhere. By the time I’m done I have a huge pile of packing material sitting off to one side and five pieces of awesomely light, ultra flexible, mounting point Kevlar-reinforced, primered and (almost) ready to paint race bodywork.
The Pirate is going to look so gorgeous in her new skirts. If I can manage to do her justice and do her one better than a twelve-foot paint job. I’m going to have to call around town to see how much they charge to finish those panels or if I have to buy some paint and Preval sprayers and learn how to be an automotive painter in addition to my studies as a racer, personal trainer, PR manager, mechanic and tuner.
I’ve never given much thought to proper gearing. I’ve heard about it, but the most I really knew about the final drive ratio was that it was just another of many a brilliant way to screw up a perfectly good ride. I knew that changing sprockets could be used to manipulate the power delivery characteristics of the engine, add top speed to the detriment of low-end torque or sacrifice some off the top for more of that awesome arm-stretching pull down low. Want your bike to sound like an Osterizer going down the road but don’t have a 250? Bring that final gear ratio down for more of that “I’m so much faster and exponentially cooler than you” engine sound. Really gives that new $600 rip-roaring loud slip-on a ton of street cred. You’re wound up tight but get there quicker. You’re also shifting quite a bit more, because the gears are closer together at the top of the box. But be aware that you now only sound fast. Your engine is working harder and your bike’s maximum speed just took a nose dive below the need of that TRE you just bought off eBay.
Note: A Timing Retard Eliminator aka de-restrictor is a device designed to remove or circumvent the artificial top speed restriction to 186 mph imposed on Japanese-made sport bikes capable of going faster. This practice is known as the “Gentlemen’s Agreement” between the USA government and the four major Japanese manufacturers: Suzuki, Kawasaki, Yamaha, and Honda.
Want to pop those wheelies on your ‘Busa, but having a hard time getting it up? Drop a few teeth in the front and be ready for that Viagra moment!
It didn’t dawn on me when Ed Bargy addressed the issue and said that most stock sport bikes are not geared properly for the track. They are geared way too tall. You should be hitting red line in top gear somewhere on the track, usually that means the end of the longest straight. You should be using the upper three gears negotiating the track, since the gear ratios of the top gears are closer together, not as tall. This will enable you to stay in the optimal power band more easily and gear selection for any given corner is simplified since you run less of a chance of getting stuck between the choices of “lug ‘n bog” or “scream and bounce (off the rev limiter)” because your gears are too tall, meaning they are too far apart in the RPM range. Acceleration is also much better when you’re in the “sweet spot”, too. The sweet spot is the point in your engine’s power band where horsepower and torque are at their peak.
Blah… blah… blah… I listened, in that store-for-analysis-later semi-disinterested way, made a mental note of “each track usually has its own unique setup requirements for your bike”. I muse that this final drive ratio bit falls into the same category with dialing in proper suspension settings and tire selection. Who has the money for that? Not that this matters at my level. I’m still 16 seconds away from having to worry about stuff like this, or so is my conviction. For an anal retentive and recovering borderline-pathological perfectionist, I can be pretty blasé about some things. OK, I promise I’ll worry about it in 10 seconds.
I’ve forgotten all about gearing until I watched my onboard track videos. Good grief! The stuff you never knew you did wrong! Blaringly obvious! I shifted like I was tooling around on the back roads, stuck behind a gaggle of cruisers and worrying about my fuel economy! I short-shifted…. No, you can’t even call it that. I shifted so early, I had to pre-register the request with my transmission. No wonder I lost several runs on the straights, even when I didn’t forget to get on the gas coming out of a turn! I felt like I was going backwards in time when I was waiting for the bike to accelerate, it took so long for the engine “to kick in”. Shifting too soon in the RPM range and not being at full throttle are only two of reasons.
The third, it had finally sunk in, is my gearing. The words of Mr. Bargy came rushing back to me. All that information I didn’t think I needed just yet suddenly seemed a lot more important. And my bike wasn’t all that happy in the lower gears. Like I always have said, she doesn’t like to be in too tall a gear. Not that the S1000RR lugs, she just feels vibey and discontent. I can definitely feel when she is in “her range”. The buzz in the bars lessens; the bike seems to settle and is more responsive, like a cat readying herself to pounce, if that makes sense. She feels like she is on rails when you’re up in the RPM range and giving it throttle in the turns… not so much when you’re “coasting” through the corners at 5,000 RPM at quarter throttle singing la-dee-da-dee-da… it’s a beautiful day… whistling and thinking happy thoughts. Yup, I caught myself riding it like a girl out on a Sunday drive, not a care in the world and feeling fi-iiine. Gawd! I’m less of a Miss Daisy on the street. At least it seemed that way. Holy hell. I guess I was having so much fun, I forgot I was there for roadracing training, not for a stroll down the track in the beginner group.
I did watch the novice group and it was almost like they were going in slow motion. I saw one control rider going around the fast part of the track in standard street pose. You know, upright, kind of cockeyed on the bike, clutch hand resting on the upper thigh. Poor guy probably drew the short straw at that morning’s staff meeting. Bummer! And to think I almost signed up for the novice group because I thought I wouldn’t be able to keep a constructive pace in the intermediate group.
I also watched the expert group for a while. I mentioned to Mr. Slow how freaking fast they look. He nodded and said it was fun to watch these guys duke it out in the corners. I asked him that we must be crawling compared to them. He nodded in agreement: “Those guys look at you like you look at the novice group.” Wow! That’s kind of neat when you think about it. My first ever track day w/o instructors and class room sessions and I’m mid-pack in the mid-pack. That is freaking cool beans. For some reason I didn’t think I was “that fast” already.
Speed is a strange critter. Well, not speed… the perception of speed. When you are on the track you seem pretty fast to yourself. Of course you do, because you’re riding at the upper third of your skill range, or at least should be when you’re learning and concentrating on technique and being smooth, but still pushing boundaries and feeling for the limits. When you watch the POV video from that same session, you’re so embarrassingly slow, you only watch it alone, in the dark, behind a closed door. When you watch others go by who are riding at about the same speeds with comparable skill you think you’re out of your mind and can’t believe you’re actually out there doing the same. Yeah, baby!
What does this mean to me? I am at work studying the fine art of gearing selection with the help of Ed Bargy’s book “Introduction To Motorcycle Roadracing” and this handy little online tool called “Gearing Commander”. Stay tuned… this subject has the smell of walkthrough about it. I engage my brain this much while studying a subject matter, I have to put it in concise and organized form to remember it all and make sure that I have actually grasped the concept. For now, I better stick my nose back into the books and figure this thing out. I’m not going to Nashville to hit the Superspeedway just so I can do a little street riding around 6,000 RPM. I’m going to have this sorted. I already have to change my tires after every track weekend, and put the bike back into street trim. What’s adding two more sprockets to the task going hurt?
I really need a dedicated race bike… Nah! I’m the girl who wears knee pucks on the drag strip. I’m also the girl who rides her S1000RR 285 miles in full race gear just to hit the track. I wrestle drag bikes through the twisties and abuse supersports on the drag strip. Did I mention I am the first person in the world to do the entire BRP (Blue Ridge Parkway) end-to-end on a BMW S1000RR in second gear, observing the speed limit (more or less)? Why start and be normal now? =D
Mr. Slow keeps bringing up the subject of getting a dedicated race bike as soon as we pay off some things and free up a little cash flow. Today he was going on about something and my attention didn’t snap to until I heard the words: “… get that 600 you want so you can have a dedicated race bike….”
I looked up and told him that I didn’t want a 600 any more. He gave me a questioning look. “Why?”
I didn’t know that I had actually made a decision until I heard the words coming out of my mouth: “I’m racing the Pirate. I know all the other women that I know of, except one, are racing 600s, and 600s are a blast. But I’m tired of hearing about how this bike is too big for me and how I should have started small. And how I can’t do this or shouldn’t be doing that. I’m going to give them something to take into consideration.”
“So, you don’t want a Gixxer anymore?”
“Yes. But I’ll be riding it to work.”
Who would have thought that this girl cleans up so nicely? Papa Razzi swears all he did in Photoshop is soften the focus, but this is the shot he basically took. Can’t wait to see his other photos. Track Photographer, PR Manager, and Chauffeur. This girl has it all. With one exception: He still sucks as Pit Crew.
One more for the road…
Papa Razzi has higher standards and I didn’t like the way he flattened out my David Bowie Labyrinth ‘do at some point. We’re going to do this over and this time we’ll start earlier and not rush things; and trailer the bike in race trim, so I don’t have “cowlick” problems with my helmet hair and Joe doesn’t complain about mirrors casting shadows and go for that racer look, because the poser bit is wearing thin. *giggles* And I really do need to get my foils done. Even though Photoshop can fix that. 😉
Call this the dress rehearsal. Stay tuned for upgraded performance in the high (shutter) speed game. Because the Papa knows his Razzi.
Alrighty, I couldn’t help myself. I’m the one who mangled this shot as far as color tweaks. My photographer cannot be held responsible for this one… mostly.
…we’re not going to have a good time.
I don’t know what it is about safety wiring, but the task seems overwhelming and insurmountable and a big pain in the backside when you think about it; not to mention it is confusing when you first are faced with a list of stuff to secure properly to pass Tech at a track. I’ve been procrastinating this safety wiring project for the better of six months and I finally decided to tackle the subject in small increments.
Let’s start off with the important stuff:
The Tools of the Trade
- Safety wire pliers: This is a specialty tool that is technically not necessary, since you could clip the wire to size with wire cutters and twist the stuff with a pair of needle nose pliers. Technically. Do yourself a favor and buy one of these puppies! You’ll thank me later. No, seriously! Miss Busa is making these mandatory!
- Safety wire: The thickest wire I am using is 0.041″ T-304 stainless steel marine-grade lock wire, which is a perfect match for those 1/16″ drill bits. However, I use various thicknesses for different applications. I also use 0.032″-diameter and 0.02″-diameter wire. The skinnier the wire, the easier it is to work with, but due to its lesser tensile strength, it’s more likely to break. I like to use the thick stuff for places that have to be wired and are very unlikely to have to be undone. A medium-thickness wire is a pretty good all-around choice and I use it for most of everything that needs to be wired up. The skinny wire is great for wiring up such things as grips and rearset components.
- Racing safety pins: Completely optional, but they make life at the track so much easier. I like to use these in places where the wiring has to be undone and redone quite often, such as the oil fill cap, the radiator cap, the oil filter, the rear axle nut. Pay attention to the rulebook though, you may not be able to use these in certain places; the oil drain plug would be a common exception to their allowed use.
- Tab washers aka safety wire washers: Also completely optional, but these make things much more enjoyable. Also keep some of these in your tool box, you’ll never know when some extra-anal white-gloved tech inspector wants you to secure this or that and now you’re hard pressed to fix the problem since your drill is at home, no anchor point is within reach and your day could have just went down the tubes if it weren’t for these little lifesavers. 🙂 I like to use them where points of attachments are difficult or too distant to be feasible. You use them like a washer, torque the fastener down onto them, then use pliers to bend the tabs up around the bolt’s head. You can then secure your safety wire to the tab that has the hole in it. Obviously, you cannot use them as anchor points for safety wiring the exact same bolt you are attaching them to. That would be silly.
- Safety wire drilling jig: This is another specialty tool and a must-have item if you do not have a drill press and have to manually drill the holes into the bolt heads. Miss Busa is making this a mandatory purchase as well! No whining. Just order the jig set when you order the pliers and the safety wire.
- QUALITY 1/16″ drill bits. I mean it. Buy junk and they’ll break or won’t get you all the way through to the other side before they turn dull and useless! I’ve bought some DeWalt 1/16″ Split Point Cobalt drill bits which are claimed to have “maximum life in metal” and are rumored to “start on contact”. I can attest to both of these statements being fairly accurate so far.
- Automatic (spring-loaded) punch: Mine was broken, so I had to make do without; which isn’t a big deal IF you bought the aforementioned QUALITY drill bits. Tell me you didn’t buy junk! This is an optional item, unless you didn’t listen and bought a ten-pack of “titanium nitrate” bits for $1.98, then it becomes mandatory. This tool is used to make a little indentation for your drill bit to sit in to get you started and to help prevent the bit walking all over the place while you attempt to do so.
- Drill: I have some housewife-grade cheapie by Black & Decker. Variable speed, quick-release chuck, reversible. It does me just fine with those DeWalt drill bits.
- Vise: You either have to have one of these or try and talk your buddy into holding the piece for you while you come at them with the drill. 😉 I use a little suction cup mounted articulated hobby vise I got at Harbor Freight. I have no garage or workshop, so this little guy is prefect for the occasional Tool Time session.
- If you’ve got the cash to burn and the workshop to go with it, you might want to forgo the whole vise-and-drill thing and go out and get yourself a decent drill press. Way more accurate and way quicker, but overkill if all you’ll be needing it for is drilling a few holes into bolt heads to stick some wire through. Have a friend who has one? Pack your crap, hop on your bike and go see him. Don’t forget the pizza and the beer.
- Cutting oil: If you’re trying to find “cutting oil” you’ll run yourself nutters. Some people use WD-40 to cool down their bits, others use machine oil, or multi-purpose 3-in-1 oil. You get the picture. You’ll need something to keep the drill bit from overheating and to ease its passage through some of the tougher stuff you’ll ever find yourself drilling holes through. If the bit gets too hot, it’ll break.
- Safety glasses: This goes without saying. A scratched eyeball hurts like hell and you can’t ride motorcycles when you’re half-blind. Put ’em on!
Let the Fun Commence
Today, I’m doing caps and calipers. Since I have a short attention span and find learning how to safety wire almost as coma-inducing as teaching myself suspension tuning, I can only handle this mess in short spurts. I already have my axles, oil filter, and oil drain plug done. I will have to write them up later. Fear not, as this comes together I will re-organize these posts and work them into a proper how-to. This is really just something to get you started, to give you time to gather up all the tools you’ll need and give you a general idea of what is coming. I will take the mystery out of this subject yet. Because this is one of these things: You’re totally lost when you see the list of junk in the rulebook you have to properly secure, some of it makes sense. Some of it is vaguely familiar and some of it has you drooling form the corner of the mouth, mumbling incoherently. “Oil gallery plugs” anybody? As luck would have it, those beyotches may be secured with RTV silicone; a girl can do that laying on her back in two minutes flat. 😉
- Always take the parts you need to drill off the bike. Before taking them off, a lot of people like to mark their fasteners when they are properly torqued, so they know where to drill the holes for the wire. Plan how you are going to wire up the fasteners that you are taking off. Remember that safety wiring has to tighten one bolt as another tries to come loose, so the tension should always be to the right of each fastener, which will route the twisted safety wire in an s-shape between them once two bolts are wired together. Plan on drilling your holes accordingly. Some people drill more than one set of holes for just that reason, but I bet those are the same peeps who also own one of those snazzy drill presses. (I will post pictures of every secured bolt on my bike when I’m done. A pic is worth a million words and a hundred google searches!)
- Secure the part in your vise. Make sure you don’t bend or break anything. Always wrap your part up in a shop towel or use soft vise pads to avoid damaging anything. That’s one reason I decided to thread the bolt into the drill jig, even though my vise has soft rubber-capped jaws. That’s not exactly how you’re supposed to use the thing, or is it?!?
- Mark your fastener with your automatic punch, if you have one.
- Put a drop of oil on the drill bit and on the bolt.
- Carefully start drilling, making sure that your drill bit stays put and doesn’t wander around. With the DeWalt bits I mentioned earlier this is not a problem, they stay put, even without a punch to mark the spot. Once you have the hole started, speed up the drill and add a little bit of pressure, not too much, though, if you bend the bit you’ll break it. Let the bit do the work for you. Be patient. You’ll see metal shavings piling up, I prefer to clean those out with cotton swabs, wipe the drill bit off and add some more oil, then I resume drilling. Each bolt took me about 5-6 minutes to drill. I didn’t break a single bit either. 🙂 Remember those “titanium” cheapies? Yeah, I tried those first. After 10 minutes of nothing much happening, I finally admitted defeat and changed to the DeWalt’s. A world of difference! The no-name bits are going to have to be re-dedicated to drilling holes into wood or styrofoam… they suck!
- I decided to drill straight through the bolt heads, using the first hole as a guide to start the second hole. I thought that this may be a mistake and would make me break a bit, but it worked like a dream. The holes are nice and clean and perfectly aligned, which will make wiring these up a cinch, no matter where they end up in relation to each other. And I did a way better job than the ex-BMW dealer did on my axle nut, if I dare say so myself.
- The caps were easy. I decided to drill the radiator cap from the back side, so in case the bit slipped I wouldn’t scratch up the “pretty side”. That was probably a mistake, since I had to use my Dremel to deburr the side the drill exited, which is probably going to cause it to rust. We shall see. If I had to do it over, I’d drill the holes front to back. I drilled both sides of the cap because I couldn’t remember which was the one I had decided to drill. Should have marked it, but thought I wouldn’t forget. I put the racing safety pin on the side that I’m betting on. We shall see if I didn’t drill that extra hole for nothing.
- The oil fill cap is plastic and was done in a few seconds. It took me longer to put the part in the vise. I decided to drill both sides, because the cap could end up at a number of different angles in relationship to the safety wire’s anchor point.
Marianne was really questioning whether or not we even get mail in Georgia, since it took so long for her envelope to show up. I’m really wondering whether or not they’ve heard of Priority Mail in Cali. ;P Today the goods finally showed up in Miss Busa’s mail box, wrapped in hot pink, as it should be for a girl with an extreme angle (pun totally intended!). I’ve been dying of curiosity ever since she mentioned mailing me something “that I needed for my pit at the next race or track day.”
This is just freaking awesome, and I will display it with pride.
After a 90some mile ride with Mr. Slow I went to the mall, sweaty and no doubt smelling like a real biker chick, to get my hair done. On the way home I decided to stop in and get my nails done, too. Promptly was talked into a pedicure. Truth be known, my dawgs could use a little TLC; they’ve spent the better part of the past two years in motorcycle boots. Now they are all nice and soft, and sort of womanly looking. My little monkeys haven’t looked this good in a long time. Two hours after entering the salon, I was standing in the parking lot hoping I could get my race gloves over my newly acquired claws. Tight fit. I should have had her trim them shorter. Texting is a pain in the arse and so is typing. Not to mention I have to take my track tires off tomorrow and put the street rubber back on the Pirate’s feet. We shall see how strong this gelled-in acrylic-bonded stuff really is. My cats do seem to enjoy the new finger weapons. Better belly scratches. 🙂
Of course, I get caught after dark on the first day I’m using my new tinted face shield. This ought to be interesting to say the least. There’s a dude across the parking lot watching me as I get my gear on and my bike warmed up. What the hell? Well, I suppose those nails and the new do, all coordinated in team colors, are already working their magic. Another dude pulls up, waiting for me to back out of my space so he can shove his car in. Uh, dude? There’s an empty one two spots down. It’s the American way, can’t risk walking an extra 12 feet and burn all those extra calories.
The dark smoke face shield isn’t all that bad at night and if it wasn’t for that huge pile of bug guts front and center I could see just fine. It’s cold again, so I cruise along tucked behind the windshield with my chin resting on my tank bag. Yeah, going 35 mph doesn’t really do anything for me. But it’s cold, the line is a double-yellow and I’m feeling a little funky about the levers. Those nails act like little tension springs every time I curl my fingers. Eh. This will take some getting used to.
A few miles down the road I make a huge error in judgment. I’m cruising along at 5 miles under the limit behind a car and finally run out of patience. These people really should know that this road has a posted speed limit of 55, but no… the majority of motorists traveling this stretch of asphalt insist on doing 45 all the way through. That’s just unreasonable. There’s gotta be some sort of electromagnetic interference in the area that short-circuits everybody’s need to go 5 over. Oh well. As I reach the start of the dashed line, I see headlights up ahead, but judge them to be of no concern, since they are still quite a distance away. Wrong! As I lay into the throttle my error in distance/speed calculation becomes quite self-evident. I give it all she’s got and get back over on my side of the road just in time, but not before I make the poor bastard I’m passing activate his brake lights. Now I’m slightly embarrassed, so I keep up my speed a while longer just to make sure the dude behind me doesn’t get another chance to read my tag. Gawd! It’s been awhile since I had a brain fart of this magnitude. I’m only human, too. I consider making an unobserved right turn and lose the guy but then decide against it. Hell with it. I screwed up. If he should catch up with me at the next red light and give me a scolding I’ll just have to apologize and tell him that’s a lonely one point for his team since I’m already two points ahead in the stealing of right-of-ways and attempted vehicular homicide by inattentive driving, in the past four days alone.
At the next intersection the light changes to green as I downshift into first gear, so I get back up to speed when a pickup truck turning right onto the street from my right decides to prematurely exit the turn lane and occupy my lane space instead. I swerve into the yellow striped no-zone that divides the two lanes of traffic and immediately get on the gas to clear the danger before I run out of space and find myself in oncoming traffic. Unfortunately, the sand that the county tossed all over the main intersections during our Annual Snow & Ice Day was still there, collecting in all the places where traffic doesn’t disturb it any further. I probably would have seen it, if it hadn’t been for that blasted tinted visor. The rear immediately stepped out, loosing traction due to me being hard on the throttle and I ended up in a violent fishtail.
All I could think of was how weird it felt; as if the bike was anchored by its front end and shaking its rear back and forth; all I could manage to do was not think about it and stare up the street where I wanted to be, all the while musing at how snappy the entire motion really was. I thought that if I hadn’t trained myself to hang onto the bike with my knees and thighs pressed up against the tank and keeping my upper body loose, I probably would have been bucked off. Yikes! I don’t remember really, but muscle memory must have modulated the throttle enough to keep it under some semblance of control until I cleared the sand and made it all the way past the offending vehicle and back into my lane. I found myself turning around in my seat, looking at the dude in the truck, as soon as the rear was back in line and behaving itself. That’s the second time today that someone really envied me my lane space and decided to take it over.
Earlier, on the way to the mall, I had to use the shoulder to get away from another moron, this one of the female persuasion in a huge SUV. Lady, if you can’t see over the damn steering wheel, you should consider downsizing. Seriously.
Thank god for 193 horses and 83 foot-pounds of torque. I freaking love this bike!
Tomorrow I’m going to get my foils done and I’ll have my newly renewed Girl Card ready for Tuesday’s photo shoot with Papa Razzi. Go Team PLD!