Bike Preparation Guide

race bike preparationThe following article aims at describing how to prepare a bike for use on a track. In the first part we’ll deal with preparation of a road-legal bike for a track day, and in the second part the modifications for racing.

Track day preparation

Most organisations in the UK don’t have any special requirement in terms of bike preparation, so you can get away with minimal changes. In general they are all aimed at reducing the risk of damaging other riders so all plastic/glass parts that can splinter have to be removed or covered in gaffa tape. This include:

* mirrors
* indicators
* headlight/rearlight
* number plate

This will also reduce the cost of repair in case of a minor spill. Likewise, it may be a good idea to consider removing the side panels of the fairings (if applicable) before venturing on the track.

Everything else is common sense , so check the chain is properly tensioned and lubed, brakes are working and tyres have plenty of tread left: nobody will compliment you on your crashing skills in the wet when their session is delayed or canceled because of you. Talking of brakes, it is strongly recommended to fit braided hoses at the front: although they might remove a certain degree of feel, they will greatly reduce brake fading which would spoil your enjoyment after two laps.

One final recommendation: There is now a growing trend that some circuits are subject to noise regulations. This means that race cans are out of the question, as well as standard ones if they have been tampered with: the homologation print on the exhaust is not a guarantee you’ll be allowed on the track as controls are carried via phonometers and they could check the total noise of the bike, including the clutch (heard this, Ducati boys?).

 

Race preparation – Compulsory

It is important to remember that all this info is available via the ACU and as such they are subject to change every year. The basic concepts however are always applicable.

Lockwiring – No bike is allowed on the race track without lockwiring in three key areas: sump plug, sump filler cap and oil filter. This of course only applies to 4T bikes, not 2T such as Suzuki RGV250, Yamaha TZR250 or Suzuki RG500. A lockwiring kit can be bought from a variety of sources and shouldn’t cost much more than £15.

Lockwiring the sump plug will be best achieved by emptying the sump (take it as an opportunity to replace the oil with a good fully synthetic one like Motul 3100V or Castrol R4) and lockwiring the bolt to a fixed part of the engine. You will need to drill the bolt, which might be difficult without proper tools: the local engineering shop should be able to help.

The next step, the oil filter, is a much easier job: just put a large hose clip around the filter itself and lockwire it onto a fixed part of the engine.

After refilling the engine with fresh oil, you can drill a small hole in the filler cap and tie it to something on the engine or the frame. A good idea is to use one of the tabbed washers that sometimes come with the lockwiring kit and put it under one of the engine bolts.

That’s it! You can be smart and lockwire other critical parts of the bike such as brake calipers or wheel spindles, which although not required is always a good idea.

Other changes – It is compulsory to replace the coolant (when applicable) with plain water (use distilled water to reduce the risk of scale clogging the passages). As per the lockwiring description above, its aim is to avoid spillage on the track. And plain water is a better coolant anyway.

Another requirement is for fitting a catch tank under the engine. This is usually achieved by fitting a racing bellypan which features a dam at the back. The catch tray needs to be drilled with at least a hole in the lower part, and close it with a rubber/plastic plug. The idea is that in case of wet racing the plug can be removed to let the water out. In some cases it might be necessary to fit a catch bottle as well for overflow and breather pipes, but if they fit in it, you can use the bellypan for this purpose as well.

You will need to remove both the centre and the side stand. Most clubs allow lockwiring of the side stand, thus avoiding removing the cut-off switch fitted to most bikes.

Recommended Changes

Two modifications which are not compulsory but very popular are fitting braided hoses at the front end and replace the original fairing with a race one (where applicable). Both changes are not always compulsory, although most clubs require braided hoses. For bikes with two front discs, the hoses have to be two separate lines as this allows to slow down the bike in case one of the hoses fail. Replacing the faring with a race one is just common sense: the OEM ones are far more expensive and heavier. Costs vary, but you can expect to pay up to £50 for the braided hoses and approx. £2-300 for a complete fairing. The seat unit is an additional £100 max.

Another one of the changes that some racers go for is replacing the clocks. There is not much weight saving, in particular for bikes from the second half of the ’90s; however race clocks are usually more robust and precise, can be better positioned with race brackets and can be adjusted for a tuned engine (rev range, shift lights, etc.). That comes at a price though, and you can expect to pay up to £300 for a high quality set like Spa Design, made up of rev counter, oil and water temperature.

You will definitely benefit from a selection of gears, but to start with a smaller front sproket and a couple of rear ones should be enough. You can start with one tooth less at the front and 2 x two teeth more at the back (eg. reduce from 15 to 14 at the front and increase from 41 to 43 and 45 at the back). Remember to avoid making the rear a multiple of the front (or the other way round), like 15 at the front and 45 at the back, as this will increase chain wear. A race conversion (usually 530 to 520 pitch) give a sensible weight difference which affects handling and reduces power losses from crank to wheel.

We will not dwelve into suspension modifications as this varies from bike to bike: if you are just starting to race, many last generation bikes like CBR600 or R6 already have a good set-up to start with, and there’s a large selection of aftermarket products to choose from, like Öhlins or White Power (WP).

Finally a word of advice: if you tune your bike avoid adding just a race can as the difference in power is minimal in comparison to a full race system. An Akrapovic race can increased power by 2-3bhp on our GSX-R 600, while the full system was pushing out up to 7bhp more (with properly set Dynojet carb kit and filter, of course), making a huge difference across the whole range.

 

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