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Shane - Superlite (#43)

Pacific Motorcycle Club & Bike Rider Magazines Summer Series Round 1

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Originally the first round of the PMCC was meant to be on the long track. However, safety concerns have eventually meant that it is no longer possible to use the long track at all.

Stevie picked me up from work at midday. It was a gorgeous, sunny Friday but I'd just had a message asking if I knew anything about the accident at Hampton Downs. I was originally going to Marshal at the ride day that was on. However, when I managed to get a ride down to Manfeild with Steve it meant that we'd be heading down on the Friday so it wasn't possible to go to Hampton Downs. A sad and avoidable incident that should never have been part of the circuit's design.

We picked up my bike and gear and hit the road. It was a very uneventful drive until we stopped at Hunterville for something to eat. The food at the cafe there is fantastic. Whoever the cook is she's got talent that's wasted on a hole in the Earth like Hunterville. However, it wasn't the food that was comment worthy. The young lady there was quite a sight to behold (she's 18 officer, honest) and when she dropped some cutlery Stevies face lit up with anticipation. The disappointment when she nudged the cutlery along with her foot instead of bending over to pick it up was worth the price (4 hours of Scottish "small talk" ie moaning and bitching).

We rolled into the paddock at Manfeild to find a whole bunch of people all set up to stay the evening. There'd been a test day that day and quite a few people were staying until Sunday. So we found a stall and unloaded the bikes then figured out where to sleep. Steve had brought his tent along and I decided I'd climb in the back of the car and crash there. I helped him set up the tent because he'd forgotten how it went together. Not that I knew, but two people who don't know has got to be better than one right??

Seeing as we'd had plenty to eat at Hunterville we didn't bother finding any dinner and went straight to the servo to fuel up for the weekend. Getting 25 litres in my can and whatever Steve's took we headed to the Supermarket to get some supplies. Lots of meusli bars, a bunch of banana's, lots of liquids because it was going to be hot and a few beers, we headed back to the track to sociable.

I grabbed my chair and headed over to talk to a some people, meeting FroggyFrenchman, Pete and Sue, Grant and a couple of others. Eventually they all headed off to their various beds so Steve and I went for a wander to see what Billy was up to.

We hung around talking crap with Billy for a fair while until I decided I'd head for bed so I wandered off and climbed into my sleeping bag in the back of our vehicle.

It wasn't a bad place to sleep, although I quickly decided I'd grabbed the wrong sleeping bag and had probably gotten my wife's one, which is much narrower than mine. Other than being a bit cramped I was warm enough (once I'd thrown my jacket over the feet end of the sleeping bag which was sticking out the back). I wasn't cold but I could've been warmer if the sleeping bag wasn't inside out

Practice Day

As is per normal, the first person up ends up waking everyone else up simply by moving around so I climbed out and wandered around to see what's what. After talking to various people Janet stuffs some bacon and an egg between some bread and hands it to me, which I gratefully knock off while wondering how long Steves going to keep snoring. Turns out he was hungry and climbs out of the tent just as I'm stuffing the last of my breakfast into my mouth. Steves ravenous so we both climb in the car and head off to McD's.

If there's one thing you can say about Feildings McDonald's it's that it's a wonderfully warm place to be on a cold, windy morning.

Steve is incredulous as I pull the top off my Sausage and Egg McMuffin, stick the Hash Brown on the top, cover it with tomato sauce and put the top back on and proceed to devour it. Back to the track I put the tyre warmers on and wander around to find out what the story for the day is. I sign in and to take the tyre warmers off again to take the bike to scrutineering. Oh well, at least the warmers weren't on longer enough to heat cycle the tyres.

I wander off to find Robert Taylor as the primary aim for the day is to get my bike set up after Robert and Dennis serviced and altered my suspension. Robert told me to wheel it over as we already knew what alterations were needed, ie shortening the spacers in the forks as there was too much preload on the springs even though the adjusters were wound all the way out.

Once Robert was finished I got my shit together and went out for my first session. By the first corner it was blindingly obvious that the steering was now more appropriate for a tractor than a race bike. I didn't even consider doing any more track time with the bike as it was and decided to circulate around to the pits. However, at no time during the alterations to the forks and the rest of the fiddling and messing around did petrol manage to find it's way into the tank. So coming up to Higgins the bike just died and refused to go any further so I wheeled the bike off the track and leant it up against the tyre wall, waiting for a pickup, wondering if I'd forgotten to hook something up as the light for low fuel hadn't come on.

After 1.5 sessions they sent the recovery vehicle out for me.

Back to the pits I immediately put some fuel in and wheel it back down to Robert. This time he starts work on the rear end to get some ride height.

A bit later I head out to warm up the tyres and it's heaps better, but still way wrong so I head back in again. By this time it's lunch and I've done a total of 1.5 very slow laps. More fiddling and I'm out for another test session. It's even better but after a couple of laps I'm in again as there's still too much trail on the front.

This time Robert gets me to attack the bottom eyelet with a file as the linkage hits the bottom of it and we can't bolt things back together.

After about 30 minutes of very patient filing Robert doesn't say "more" again. Which is good because I was about to go and find a grinder as using a file was getting near useless on the thickest part of the eyelet.

Bolting her back up I head out for the last session of the day and find the bike ridable. I finish the session getting quicker and quicker. It's still not right as it's trying to understeer/tuck the front under in all 3 sections of any turn, but it's as good as it's going to get and I'll be racing it like that tomorrow. Basically there's too much rebound damping, meaning anytime the forks decompress they're not doing so fast enough and the front wheel starts to leave the ground. It was happening when easing off the brakes, mid-corner when the weight starts to come off the front and on the exit when the throttle is opened up. Despite the lack of practice laps I've managed to do I'm still very pleased that we're making good progress.

Sign in and scutineering are setup so I do both, having to redo the lock wire on the oil filter as it had broken at sometime.

Setting a bike up with custom suspension is quite a bit more difficult than with standard road suspension. Standard suspension is a compromise and, by definition, it does almost everything adequately. Nothing spectacular, but it works well enough and when you tune it you can make some small but decent improvements. With customized suspension you're doing away with all of those fringe/boundary cases and narrowing things down so that the suspension works extremely well for a small set of circumstances. Basically, the target is smaller and further away so to make progress the rider needs to be able to explain what's happening in detail. The flip side of aiming for a smaller target is it's easier to miss and the consequences are more dramatic.

People had been trickling in all day and by evening Paul Duncan, Gavin Pelham and Nicki and Frenchy amongst others had wandered in. We decided dinner at the pub was a good option so rounded up those 4 and headed for the Drovers. A couple of rounds of beer and a bunch of gourmet pizzas and we were all feeling good. Which generally translates into "make fun of the Scotsman", talk about somebodies mum in a g-string and some funny as hell stories. Ask Frenchy to "pass the 10mm" sometime, I was crying it was so funny.

We got back and we were all feeling good. These are the times that make the social side of bikes so appealing.

I was going to crash in the back of Paul's van as he had a motel room and he wanted to leave the van and his gear there so that nobody swiped his spot in the morning. So I grabbed my gear, climbed in the back, found a decent light and stuck my nose in my book for a while until I was too drowsy to read anymore and nodded off.

Race day

Next morning I was dozing until Steve whacked on the door and said he needed to get some decongestants. The previous night he hadn't wrapped up warm enough and had caught a head cold. This morning he was blowing snot like a 3 year old. So we shot off to the servo because that'd be the only thing open at that time and he got some LemSip's. After that we went to McDonalds again then back to the track.

Superlite/Formula 3 (why the hell did they have to change the name ffs) were 3rd up, which was good as I wouldn't have to wait around all day.

Practice was up so I headed out. I knew what the problems with the handling are (we'd reached the limit of what Robert Taylor could do at the track and he'd need to take the front and back ends back to the workshop) and figured out how to ride around them. That doesn't mean I'm able to do a fast qualifying though and end up a very disappointing 23rd with a high 1:28. Last time out I was doing 1:24's on the short track without pushing things. I'd spent some money and a fair bit of time and gone backwards 4 seconds. Motorsport can be a bitch.

Qualifying had felt slippery and I was never too sure if the problems were with the bike or because of the cold track. In the end I'd say it was a combination of both.

I wandered around dejected for a while and eventually decided I'd just go out and ride around to see if I could narrow down what was happening with the bike.

Race 1

I managed to fluke finding my grid position, stopping in a random spot then looking down to see it was actually where I was meant to be.

The marshals came through, the lights came up, the lights went out and we're off.

I get a fairly decent start, gaining a couple of positions off the line. Unfortunately I lost those again coming into the 1st turn when my visor pops up and surprises me, making me button off a good 50m short of turn 1, allowing a couple of bikes past. I hadn't clipped my visor down properly so it popped up 1 click, but that was enough to put me off for a moment.

It isn't until the hairpin that everything starts to get sorted and I'm really surprised at how much quicker pretty much everyone is out of there. What looked promising in terms of positions I could make up rapidly turned into "cover my arse and try not to lose anymore" mode. At Higgins a couple of ZXR's come past me as I'm having to take lines a 2 stroke would use to try and keep the number of transitions for the front end to a minimum.

The gap in front of me gradually gets larger as I just concentrate on getting to the end of the race without losing the front as it's threatening to.

Just as the white flag comes out Jason Easton comes past me, followed by Daniel Kempthorne a short while later, then Nick Cane into the hairpin, Scott Moir does his usual and goes past my nose so close he almost disappears under my front fairing, then Dillion Telford and on the exit of the final corner Paul Duncan goes high and wide and manages to get around me on the ripple strip. He said sorry later on but I told not to worry cos he wasn't anywhere near as close as a couple of the others.

After having a look at the results I'm very pissed off, coming in 18th with a best time almost identical to my qualifying time.

Race 2

After sitting around stewing for a while I'm grumpy and not looking to make any friends. Gridding up I wait for the marshals to move through the grid, the lights come up, the lights go out and we're off again.

Another half decent start but this time I've put the anti-fog pinlock insert on my visor and closed it up properly early on so I don't have a repeat. Everyone bunches up for turn 1 so I go around the outside, understeering on the exit and having to throttle off momentarily so I don't leave the track. Around to the hairpin and it's a log jam again, but once again everyone pisses off and leaves me standing. Everything gets sorted out and I start settling into a more aggressive pace, trying to ride around the problems without making a mess of it all. I manage to hold off Josh Walby for an entire lap, until I understeer well past the exit of the hairpin, allowing him through. I set about chasing him with the aim of taking that position back and find the harder I push the better the bike feels. However, it never feels good enough to start pushing the boundaries and finding those 4 seconds a lap that I've lost since last time.

I gradually lose ground to Josh because even though I'm pushing the front hard I'm not able to get on the throttle until the bike is almost vertical and pointing in the right direction.

Even though I'm losing ground I'm starting to enjoy pushing the frontend to the limits and start to settle down and smoothen things out. Really the only thing I'm concentrating on now is making sure Paul Duncan, who was the last person to lap me in race 1, doesn't do the same again. This time I'm definitely into the last lap before Jason Easton comes past me, then Nick Cane and finally Daniel Kempthorn. I cross the line and thankfully Paul hasn't come past me at all. So at least I managed to accomplish that. I also started having some fun eventually, even though the bike was handling like shit.

Seems I finished 15th this time, with a best of a high 1:27. It seems getting pissed off found me 1 second, but that was all.

Motorsport can be a shit of a thing. Time and money had been spent on suspension and I'd changed the sprockets so that the front was a 13 tooth instead of 14, with the rear dropping 3 teeth so that the final ratio was similar. I'd found in the past that the 13 tooth seemed to get the bike driving harder out of corners than the 14 tooth. However, it seems this was an illusion. The 14 tooth felt lazier and slower but the extra diameter means more torque at the rear for the same input, basically working as a multiplier and making the power delivery smoother at the same time. It seems these are the same reasons Triumph went from 14F 42R for the early TT600's to 15F 45R. The ratio is the same but the later models are smoother and quicker.

One of the good things to come out of this is I'm very happy with my ability to ride around problems and make the best of bad handling. I've spent lots of time in the past trying different techniques and altering how I ride and this seems to have translated into the ability to adapt rapidly. That ability to adapt is something many people claim is lost these days because changing the hardware is relatively easy so they don't have to do the more difficult changes to their riding.

So plenty to work on for next time.

Thanks to:
Stefan @ DL Consulting
Bruce and Doesjka @ Layer X

Here's a photo from the Fruity One (kiwifruit)

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  1. Frenchy's Avatar
    thats racing all right, maybe you just need to grab your 10mm's and find 3 seconds there
  2. Mental Trousers's Avatar
    Nothing wrong with my 10mm's mate, hold out your hand and I'll prove it The rebound problem definitely isn't my imagination. It's one of the most dangerous problems you can have with suspension. Basically the forks compress and don't decompress fast enough, so the front wheel starts to leave the ground. Gets nasty real fast.

    I had fun once I started getting pissed off and just tried to ride the arse off the thing. Not a quick way to ride but it feels good.
  3. scracha's Avatar
    Shane, just hook up the 4th cyl again and don't tell anybody. We'll figure out some sort of noise cancellation device.
  4. kiwifruit's Avatar
    Makin' it look good since ages ago
  5. CM2005's Avatar
    It was good to have a bit of a dice with ya mate, looking forward to next round!!