Thursday, March 29, 2007
  Dunlop Qualifiers - 2nd Try

Right before my last track day I bought a new set of Dunlop Qualifier tires for my 2005 Yamaha R6. The set of Qualifiers I had on there before were worn down and rock hard, courtesy of three track days and a few thousand miles. They had survived two track days at Willow Springs with good performance, but their third track day at Pahrump, NV was too much to ask and my speed suffered. Riding the canyons on those things became a challenge; the bike just wouldn't grip and turn like it's supposed to.

Armed with brand new sticky rubber, I hit the big track at Willow Springs again and pushed the tires near their limit thanks to my growing familiarity with the track and some tips from AMA Superbike racer Jason Curtis. It was definitely the hardest and fastest I have ever ridden, and the tires definitely paid the price. There was one session where they simply got too hot and started sliding on me (I am by no means comfortable sliding the tires).

It's starting to dawn on me that tires will become the biggest expense of my track day addiction. Willow Springs is really hard on the right side of tires, and the way I rode last time out I'm not sure I'll use these tires again for another track day there. Some people have suggested I try using the Michelin Pilot Power 2CT, a dual-compound tire with softer rubber on the shoulders. They definitely won't last longer, in fact they'll have a shorter life, but maybe they'll handle the heat a little better.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
  Braking Practice

The $$$ brakes on Valentino Rossi's 2006 Yamaha M1

During my last ride I was able to practice braking on a deserted strip of desert road. It's something I don't practice often enough, but after re-reading Sport Riding Techniques by Nick Ienatsch I was reminded how important it is. I did multiple passes from two speeds; 50 MPH and 80 MPH (I picked 80 MPH because that's a speed I often find myself going on the freeway).

On my first 50 MPH pass I was able to get the bike stopped in a decent distance. After I stopped the bike, I turned around and looked at the distance between me and my braking marker. I thought to myself, "Hey that isn't too bad." On my first 80 MPH pass, it seemed like an eternity before I got the bike stopped even though I was pressing the bike to the limit. After I stopped the bike this time, I turned around and looked at my braking marker again and thought to myself, "Damn... that is really far away."

It was a stark reminder that braking distances increase on a steepening curve in relation to speed. In other words, the stopping distance from 80 MPH is not simply twice the stopping distance from 40 MPH - it's a lot more. To illustrate, here are stopping distances for the 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 as tested by Road & Track magazine:

October 2005
60-0 113.0 feet
80-0 196.0 feet

December 2005
60-0 109.0 feet
80-0 197.0 feet

That extra 20 MPH of speed added 83 and 88 feet, respectively, to the 60-0 braking distances. Keep that in mind next time you're barreling down the road, in your car or on your bike.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007
  Willow Springs Trackday #3
I was starting to go through crackday, I mean trackday, withdrawals lately and finally got my butt and trusty R6 out to Willow Springs (the big track) for the 3rd time and my 6th track outing overall. This was also my 3rd trackday with Cal-Sportbike, whom I strongly recommend to those who enjoy a more relaxed experience.

For those of you who've never done a trackday, they run a good trackday school at no extra cost. I highly recommend it as a first trackday for anyone who feels they're ready for the challenge of the track. Most trackday organizers will break up the riders into 3 groups (novice / intermediate / advanced), but Cal-Sportbike uses only 2 groups so everyone can get more riding time in.

Good ol' turn 4

Prepping the bike took a couple of days. I had to get new tires (Dunlop Qualifiers again) and my radiator fluid hadn't been flushed in a while. I hate flushing the radiator because taking the fairings off and putting them back on just plain sucks. The rest of the prep - taping lights, removing mirrors, disconnecting the headlights and tail lights - takes just a few minutes.

Transportation was no gimme this time either. I had to borrow a friend's car (hers is set up for towing) and rent a U-Haul trailer. I was also hauling another friend's bike, so I had to get a larger trailer with enough room. I rented the 5x9 ramp trailer from U-Haul, which is excellent for hauling bikes. It has an easy ramp for loading/unloading and tie-down loops at all 4 corners.

the bikes loaded in the trailer at 5:30 am

My day started with a brutal 3:30 am wake up call, but that was because I had to:

Shockingly we had enough time to stop at Mickey D's for breakfast and still made it there in time. Our other two friends arrived a little later and we set up camp in the parking lot. The weather was perfect. We finished taping up our bikes, got them through inspection and went to the rider's meeting.

Our pit area

Finally it was time to get on the track. This was my first time riding in the fast group so I was a little curious about the speeds. To my relief I was able to hold my own but there were definitely a few really fast riders. One of those riders was Jason Curtis, AMA Superbike racer. He was insanely fast around the track and smoked me repeatedly. He hosted a Q & A session late in the morning, which I have to say was really helpful in giving me a few things to work on. More specifically, his comments about his braking points and how far into the specific turns he was trail braking really gave me something to measure against. I worked on trail braking the rest of the afternoon and really made some good progress.

Jason Curtis, AMA Superbike racer, about to spank me

By the end of the day I felt like I had improved quite a bit on the big Willow track. I was definitely braking later, deeper and smoother, and I definitely picked up a lot of speed in a couple of areas of the track that gave me a hard time before. At the very end of the day I rode my friend's Suzuki SV1000 for a few laps to capture some onboard video (she's got a really cool little video camera hooked up to the nose of the bike). I eased up to make sure I didn't crash her bike, so those of you familiar w/ Willow Springs will notice I'm downshifting and braking a little early in places. That was really fun though. :) Enjoy the video, and some more pics are below.

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Name: Ray
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