Motorcycle Roadracing: Brain Dump

Motorcycle Roadracing: Brain Dump

Location. Tracks tend to be far from civilization because the machines are loud and the land is cheap. Bring all the food and drink you need, a tent to sleep in or a vehicle you can lay down in.

Gear. One piece leather suit, wrist to ankle. Boots, gloves, helmet. Back protector (spines are important!). Air vest – when/if the tether to the bike breaks, the vest inflates immediately via co2 cartridge. They work (spoken from experience).

Warmers. Tires perform best if they are at optimal temperature. It may seem extreme, but if the racer next to you in the grid is using warmers, and you drag race him/her to turn 1, whose gonna have better traction?

Ear plugs. ZOMG. If your intake or exhaust isn’t loud enough to deafen you, the wind noise certainly will be.

Fitness. Your body weight is a significant percentage of the entire mass you’re racing, and you better be able to move it. Example: my bike is about 400lbs; I’m 140lbs. Your bike can turn a given radius with less lean if your body weight is hanging off toward the inside of the turn. The less the bike leans, the more traction you have. So you climb all over the bike to keep it going as fast as possible through turns. It’s a weird workout fighting the physics. The bike wants to be upright, going straight. It wants that really bad.

Speed. On the 650 twins, you can see upwards of 110 mph on the front straight, and whatever you can manage through the rest of the track. The tighter technical portions of the track are my favorite. Braking for turn 1 never ceases to scare the sh*t out of me.


Mechanic? You bolted that wheel on, you replaced the chain, you bled the brakes, you safety-wired everything. You are riding the machine you prepared. Do you trust your work?

Friends. It’s hard to race alone. There are too many things to forget and too many tools to have. If you’re on a budget, you fund everything and do all the repairs/maintenance. The LWT Racer team is an awesome, unlikely group of people who race (mostly) SV650s and taught me that racing is a kind of family affair. We go out there and win/lose/crash. We all wrench on each other’s bikes, work the pits, and help each other stay get out there and keep the rubber side down as best we can.


Changing your own tires

I mount my own tires because – I don’t know why. You save money, but it takes an order of magnitude longer to do than if you brought your wheels to a pro.

How I break the bead


My bestest friends who got me into motorcycling woke me up to this form of self punishment some 10 years ago. We were track day junkies and my bud was like “get a No Mar mount/demount bar and change your own tires” and I was like “sh*t yeah!”


Makeshift changer – that pipe is clutch

So I’ve got this MRP dirt bike tire changing stand, a No Mar bar, and some seriously primitive pieces of wood and pipe, and for years I’ve been mounting my own sport bike tires.

No Mars’s “yellow thing”: the 3rd hand

I think changing road tires is something I never thought was a DIY activity. I just never thought it was something Joe Schmoe could reasonably do on his own. And actually, it isn’t (without a serious investment in a real changer). But you know what? I disappear late at night, waste 2+ hours, and I come back with new kicks on my rims. And I’m pretty flippin impressed with myself and the world when this happens.

No Mar’s bar makes it possible

So there. But seriously, I don’t recommend this.

Sh*t happens

Sh*t happens

Setting the scene

After an awesome, full-immersion race weekend at Carolina Motorsports Park with CCS and LWT Racer, there was a long trip ahead of us to get back home…

Finally back to the first day’s rendezvous point in Maryland, we each emptied our stuff from the enormous Dodson Express trailer. I piled some stuff up here, piled some stuff up there, leaned my backpack against the car, loaded the bike on the trailer, etc.

One of my piles was too far away – I decided to just move my rig forward a little.


Wait – did I lean my backpack up against the car? A quick glance out the window, and I suddenly felt sick…

Don’t be fooled by that smile. Shot by Loyle 909

Well sh*t. That brandy-new (refurbished, actually) MacBook Pro I bought 1 month before? I ran over it with my Honda Element. I learned this before a 4 hour leg alone to finish the trip home. If anyone had a shovel I’m pretty sure I would have dug a hole and climbed in.

Zero Downtime

Fast forward a few days, I’m mostly over the ordeal. But get this — despite these facts

  1. The bottom of the laptop is brutally bent
  2. The bottom cover is ripped off with mounting screws torn out
  3. The screen is bent and cracked in many places
  4. The aluminum base nearly cracked near the ports

the laptop still

  1. has a functioning screen (I logged in and can get around some)
  2. has functioning wifi, bluetooth
  3. has a functioning webcam
  4. has a functioning keyboard (every key!)
  5. has a functioning trackpad
  6. still allows use of all ports


So… wow. Zero downtime at work! I just get some external gadgetry plugged in and I can git-pull and move on with my life. As the days passed, I became even more impressed with this. Rugged is not really a term I use to describe Apple products – mostly because they aren’t marketed that way. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t just run over my laptop with a car -significantly changing the device’s physical dimensions – and continued using it as a daily tool. I’m impressed.

But I wanted a laptop

Using this sexy Retina 13 (now with no screen) as a desktop-only wasn’t good enough. I missed the amazing battery life and high-res imagery that my older laptop couldn’t deliver (I hadn’t sold it yet, thankfully). And while git makes a software life worth living, I still like to keep gobs of local task branches that I don’t push to the origin. I wanted one machine to use at home and away.


After some “just fix it” pressure from the BikeMinds team and some help from my Dad and his vice, I got the laptop bent back to a near-flatness that I can live with. Mix in a replacement screen and some tools from iFixit et voila – I’ve got a 13″ Retina MacBook Pro again! One I can even use as a laptop, believe it or not.

Again – Wow.

Seriously, this laptop was run over by a car (whose tire actually pressed a SureFire flashlight into the laptop), got the bejeezus bent out of it, and kicks the same @$$ it did before any of this happened. I am pretty sure any laptop that didn’t have a cast metal body would have been a total loss. My dilemma, the laptop’s survival, and the amazing convenience iFixit brings to repairing personal electronics – I challenge anyone not to be impressed by this outcome.

But enough of that, when’s the next race weekend?

Battery tender’s lithium magic

Battery tender’s lithium magic

I bought my 2006 Kawasaki ZX6R in 2009, and hobbled along to 2015 with whatever lead-acid battery was in there. Then I decided to stop screwing around and get serious.

(TLDR? Checkout the BikeMinds mod post)

No more playing around.

By serious I mean buy a real f*cking battery. One that’s light and makes the starter motor sound like an angry animal even on the coldest days when the oil in the crank case has honey-like viscosity. So I bought a Battery Tender Lithium battery.

brand new battery tender lithium motorcycle battery

I had already gone through this with my race bike, and what I learned was that these batteries deliver. They are insanely small, insanely light, and they seem to hold a charge extremely well through long periods of neglect. <- Yes, I neglect my motorcycles from time to time and yet I expect them to work without question when I need them to. Unreasonable expectation? Not with products like this under the seat.


Speaking of under the seat, ask yourself what else you want to put under there, because you’ll gain half your battery box’s volume back after you stick this bad boy in. Take a gander:


The lead-acid medicine ball that came out of this bike was bigger. Half of it was under the tank, and half exposed under the seat (see above). You know what sucked? To get the battery out you had to unbolt the back of the gas tank and lift it up. But with this little guy? Never again.


Just re-route some wires,  play a little basic Tetris, and BOOM! Now I can remove and replace the battery to my heart’s desire. And all I have to do is remove the seat. Hell yeah!


Battery Tender: A good company

In the interest of full disclosure, after a year this battery failed. Battery Tender asked only that I ship the failed battery to them, and hardly a week later I had a brand new one at my doorstep. Shipping is cheap, by the way, since these featherlight plastic boxes feel nothing like the batteries you might be used to.

I have 2 of these batteries; the one in my race bike is going 2 years strong. The one in my street bike failed, but was promptly replaced under warranty as noted above. These perform so damn well when they work, I consider the failure a pretty minor blemish. But I’ll report back in another year or so for good measure!


Couchifying a ZX6R

Couchifying a ZX6R

The problem

My 2006 Kawasaki ZX6R street bike sits more than it rolls. I’ve just lost my taste for it – the high strung motor, the rear set rearsets, the low clipons – my track time on a motorcycle has gone to a dedicated race bike and the ZX is not what I want for street riding.


But it’s what I have. I dream of Motus MSTs, more practically Triumph Street Triples (yeah, I’m all over the place), however the cheapest option seems to be keeping what I have and finding a way to make it work for me. So I’ve committed to a last ditch effort: make my ZX6R a comfortable street motorcycle.

And to that end…

The solution?

Vario foot pegs

I currently have Woodcraft rear sets. They rock at the track, but they are not comfortable for cruising. Scratch that – that are anti-comfortable for cruising. I’ll return to stock rear sets which will allow the use of MFW‘s Vario foot pegs.


The Vario is an interesting product that mounts to stock rear sets and adds an extension between the rear set and foot peg. This allows you to lower your pegs and adds some forward/backward adjustability. Cramped and tired legs? Solved!

Apex Manufacturing’s Adjustable Clip-ons

Apex Manufacturing makes a pretty basic but compelling kit for height-adjustable clip-ons.



That’s it, I think…

Hand and foot positions seem to be the biggest cause for discomfort while tooling around on the ZX. So those are the must-solve issues. A cushy seat, a nicer windshield – that stuff will be worth diving into once I’m smiling again on long highway stints 🙂

Will report back soon!