Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Wish I had/took time to update this more

Since June:
Raced in my first CMRA races.  One more race weekend as a Provincial Novice and I should be a fully licensed racer.
Became a track day instructor with Fastline Motorcycle School, teaching novice riders.

And that's about the only 2 big highlights.

Monday, June 3, 2013

I got to ride the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) this weekend

You read that right.  I got to do a track day on my SV650 at the new Formula 1 track in Austin.  What a great experience.  I normally ride level-3/advanced sessions but had to settle for level-2/Intermediate to get an open slot.  My best lap time appears to be about 3 minutes flat but riding level 2 and following the passing rules for that level (6-foot buffer, no inside passes, and no passing at all from turn 3-9) and it was pretty limiting for my SV650.  Still, I made some outside passes and got several on the brakes.  And all day I was NEVER passed in a corner or on the brakes so I was pleased.

You really only need 2 words to describe the track:  SMOOTH and STICKY.  Oh and AWESOME facilities.  A world class facility it truly is, and everything around Houston pales in comparison.  I'm going to cry a little the next time I go to a local track. :-)  Seriously, the surface is stupid smooth.  I don't think there's a bump nor seam anywhere.  Practically flawless.  It was so smooth that both my buddy and I thought we had lost our knee pucks the first time we touched down because just glided on the surface.   It is very technical with blind corners, SLOW corners and FAST curves.  It wasn't TOO hard to learn but after just 1 day we were barely scratching the surface of how fast we could really go.  It's hard to unlearn the sketchy surfaces that we're used to riding on back at home.

Turn 1 is TIGHT.  The hill leading up to it is super steep with a 130 foot climb.  I heard a lot of bikes get back on the gas early on going up the hill because they slowed down too much half way up the hill.  But at the top it's flat so there's a lot going on to get the bike turned in right.  You can't see the apex until you hit the top of the hill and then it's RIGHT THERE.  Then it's hard on the gas going down the hill to turn 2.  The S-turns were my favorite part and were well suited to the SV650.  You can carry a LOT of speed after you get the flow down. Then I'm full throttle, hanging off the bike zooming through turn 10 headed up to a tight turn 11.  On the long straight (which actually slightly curves the right right and goes uphill a bit in the first half) I topped out at about 130-132 mph and and the inline fours and big twins was probably doing more like 155 and beyond.  There's a nice right hand double apex that tightens up after the left 12 turn, then another fairly tight left hander, but not as bad as 1 or 11.  Followed by a TRIPLE apex that can be just crazy fast if you want it to be.  Turn 19 comes up quickly but is actually pretty open and can be taken pretty fast.  Then it's another tight left hander onto the main straight and I would hit about 120 by the base of the hill.

So it's a lot of work, but you get a couple of good straights to relax for a few seconds.  I actually get more tired at my local tracks which goes to show you just how much a smooth surface really makes for a more relaxed experience.  And the tires... every other place I've been to the tires look melted and torn up with slag and ball of rubber everywhere after a session. Well, off the track at COTA they look practically new with a smooth clean surface.  So again, even with crazy grip, the smooth surface really makes them last or at least they wear very evenly.  The overall wear was still probably pretty high because we'd come off the track and our knee pucks would have solidified strips of melted plastic hanging off of them.

Here's a video of one of the sessions:

And a close call in another session.  Keep your eyes open at 48 seconds.  It happens fast.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Only 1 Track Day in April...

...but what a day it was!

Well, that's 5 track days down so far and that was just by the first weekend in April.  There was a track day this weekend but I cannot make it due a scheduling conflict.  Then there was supposed to be a track day on 4/28, but the provider had to cancel it due to some conflict.  So that leaves my next available date as May 5.

But back to the one April track day.  We were back at MSRH with my favorite track day provider, Fastline MCS. The other local providers have their strengths, but I really like the family atmosphere of Fastline.  But I digress (I always wanted to use that phrase. Hopefully I used it correctly).  As I've started doing this year, I arrived at the track the night before the event and camped in the paddock area, thereby avoiding the super-early wake-up and morning drive to the track to get a good spot.  It was just, "wake up and I'm there."

For this track day I decided to step up to the Advanced level to get out of the traffic jam and erratic driving that is the Intermediate level.  Additionally I signed up for the Advanced Racing school for some personal instruction with Brandon Cleland, assisted by Tony Nguyen.  To start the morning the track was dry, temps were around 70 and there was a lot of traction from the start.  Brandon had us to go out in the first session to get warmed up and check out the track conditions while he and Tony did the same and shot some video of Brandon demonstrating the racing line around the track.  After that session we came into the classroom for review and instruction.  We then repeated that pattern throughout the day.  Ride and classroom, ride and classroom.  In class we talked about different items like lines, body position, braking, etc, aided by a track diagram and video of the previous session.  The close instruction and one on one mentoring allowed each student to pick out their strengths and weaknesses and learn how to improve.  For me, my main area of improvement was braking.  They said my body position was good but just get off the seat a little more, and getting on the throttle wasn't a problem because when riding the SV650 you can almost treat the throttle like an on/off switch!

So the day was pretty busy.  We'd ride the track, come back and put our warmers back on and whatever else needed to be done, then hustle off to the classroom.  Then with about 5 minutes left before the next on-track session would start, we would quickly go back to the bikes, get ready and head out on the track.  The pace was pretty hectic at times, but it was totally worth it.  Working with the instructors I was able to knock almost 3 seconds off my previous best lap time and I was still dropping 1 or 2 tenths a seconds a lap each session.  When the day ended I was still improving despite being pretty exhausted.

Overall it was an exciting day and we were disappointed when it had to end.  Three days later we were still talking about the fun we had and the new friends we had made.  It's a shame I won't be going back for almost a month but then again, having a weekend that isn't go go go will be nice.

Here's a video from a few laps around the middle of the day having fun with a guy on a CBR600.

And this video is one of my fastest laps of the day.  After watching it again, I can see LOTS of places for improvements.  I hope I can drop a few more seconds next time and maybe even run a sub-1:50 lap one day.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

March was a busy month

First there was the RideSmart track day on May 9 at MSR Houston. It was actually a 2-day event on the 9th and 10th but I was lucky that I only did the 9th because it rained quite a bit on the 10th.  I talked about that one last time.

Seven days later it was time to go back to MSRH, this time with Fastline MCS.  And to throw a twist into the day, we ran the track backwards from the normal direction.  So looking at the track and the outside section, we ran that counter-clockwise.  For the most part, running the opposite direction isn't a LOT different from the regular direction.  If  you were familiar with the track, then you already knew the layout.  You just had to prepare for a lot of corners being slow-in, fast-out instead of the other way around.  My lap times running that direction have typically been withing 1-3 seconds of the times going the regular direction.  After the super-structured weekend with Ridesmart, it was great to just go out and have some fun.

The next weekend I wasn't riding, but the CMRA was up at Texas World Speedway in College Station so I went up with my oldest son on the 24th  to watch some racing and hang out with friends.  It was chilly and super windy, but we still had a great time watching all the fast riders and helping friends get ready for their races.

Finally, for the last weekend of the month  I decided to go up to a Track Tactics event at Eagles Canyon Raceway (ECR).  We had quite a bit planned already as it was Easter weekend, but Friday night and most of Saturday was free so off I went and 2 buddies met me up there.

This was my first time going to ECR.  It's quite an eye-opener compared to the almost completely flat tracks around Houston.  ECR has about 70 feet of elevation changes.  I was ready to step up to the Advanced level class at MSRH, but since I'd never seen ECR before, I stayed in Intermediate for this one.  That was a good idea for several reasons.  First of course was the new track, and secondly, it rained for several hours Friday night, dropping over an inch of rain in parts of the area.  So all day we had to deal with a far from ideal track surface and changing conditions.  At least the rain itself had moved on during the night, leaving us with breezy, partly cloudy conditions. The track in perfect conditions would be a challenge, so throw in spots of the track weeping water, water running across the track at one point and just overall low traction and we were slipping and sliding all over the place.  We still had a good time, even after I had a low-side in turn 6 with about 10 minutes left to go in the day.  It was a spot that a lot of people had trouble with and I trail braked just a tiny bit too much and lost the front end.  Come to think of it, trail braking at all that day was probably a bad idea!  Anyway, it was all fun and damage was mainly limited to some bent rearset parts and a few scuffs on the plastics.

Here's a couple of laps around the middle of the day

And this is the low-side at the end of the day.  .

I rode the bike back to the pits and had it ready to go for the next track day just 7 days away on April 7.  I'll continue that in the next post. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Too busy riding, no time for posting

Wow, it's been a month since my last post.  Quick summary with a full writeup later.   Done a couple more track days.  Rode a new track, and set a personal best time at a track I've ridden a lot.  Had one minor lowside with mainly rearset damage at one track day but was ready to go and rode again 6 days later. Next track day will be in May.

More to follow.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Level 2 with Ridesmart at MSRH - 3/9/13

Yesterday started out wet but finally dried up. Level 2 was a crash-fest with one concussion and a couple of broken collar bones but I avoided any mishaps. I had 2 riders collide right in front of me, and I had to avoid one of the motorcycles that fell right in front of me and went sliding down the track right in my path.  It may be time to level up and escape the madness!

I had the Dunlop tire guy put me a set of the new D211GP-A dot race tires on in the afternoon and I almost immediately ripped off a lap a full second faster than my previous best time. I should pick up more speed as I get used to the improved grip.

Riding with the RideSmart organization was ok but I still prefer Fastline.  Ridesmart was more restrictive on the level 2 riders, mainly by only allowing passing on the outside in the corners.  While the intention is good, I think it also bunches up the field more by removing some passing opportunities.  A big issue I saw was riders not getting off the racing line to slow down.  I saw several times where a rider would put a hand up to signal that they were slowing to pit, but then rolled off the throttle without moving out of the path of overtaking traffic.  I saw several near misses because of those.  And also, when a yellow or even a red flag comes out, that doesn't mean that you should immediately roll completely off the throttle.  Instead, back off just a little to kill your acceleration, keep going, and be careful.  Ridesmart should send out a feedback email in the next day or 2 and I'll mention those in my response.  I know I've heard them mention it before at other events.

The next event is just 1 week away on March 16.  We'll be back out at MSRH, but with Fastline this time, and we'll be running the track counter-clockwise, which is "backwards" to the direction it's normally run.  70-80% of the track will be the same, with just a few adjustments in a few key areas.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ready for another track day

Track day coming up on Saturday.  Bike is ready.  New clutch cable arrived in plenty of time, as well as a new adjustable clutch lever.  The stock lever went in the track box.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Broke a critical part

I readjusted the drive chain slack today. It had loosened up a little at the first track day. I also noticed that my master link was a little tight and squeezing the o-rings too much so I may swap it for a new one.

I also lowered my shift lever about 5mm so I don't have to pick my toe up as high to upshift. Then I started to take a little slack out of the clutch lever and cable. I was doing it per the service manual and turning the adjuster at the clutch lever when suddenly the adjuster broke in the middle of the threads and broke a strand in the clutch cable too! So, I immediately went and ordered a new cable and adjuster. Fortunately the track day is 2 weeks away so there should be more than enough time to get the parts in.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

First 2013 Track Day Complete

After my last post, the next several days became a rush to get the SV ready to go so i never took the time to update the blog. I did post quick little updates on Twitter and Facebook, so here they are are from oldest to newest.

1/31 - I just need to put the gas tank back on the sv650 and it'll be time to fire it up with the Bazzaz for the first time. That should happen tomorrow after work. Then I'll have Saturday to put the fairings back on and get everything together for the Fastline trackday on Sunday! woo hoo!

2/1 - Fired up the SV650 this afternoon. It ran fine with the new FI system and the quickshifter is cutting the ignition like it should. Now just to organize a few cables, give everything a 2nd look, and put the fairings on. It's ready to head to the track.

2/2 - Test ride of the sv went well. All done except belly pan and upper fairing. May add a little more slack in the throttle as its a bit tight and twitchy.

2/3 - I had a fun day at the track today. Stronger brakes were great, the quickshifter is just awesome, and having tire warmers was very convenient. The ability to go out on the track and go full speed without any warmup laps is hard to beat! And finally, with the aftermarket ecu/quickshifter, throttle response was VERY smooth.

2/16 - Next track day is scheduled for 3/9. I have just a few small adjustments to make and everything will be ready to go.

Here's a video of one of the sessions.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Almost ready to ride

All of my high priority items are almost complete.  Unless I run into a major issue, the SV should be ready for a track day this Sunday 2/3.  I'm on call at work, so hopefully that will be quiet so I can make it to the track for at least a few sessions to get everything tested and start getting used to all the changes.

Here's the updated list with just active and recently updated or completed items.

  • 4 piston front brake calipers – Installed. Pending test ride
  • Aftermarket ECU - Bazzaz Fi-Quickshift installed - Electonics in place. Needed one small part for the rearset to install the quickshifter sensor.   That is on order and should arrive tomorrow.  Then I can finish that part and button everything back up.
  • Oil change, check spark plugs, check fluids - Complete. Installed new NGK plugs
  • Replace front brake reservoir hose (schedule with new calipers) - Completed with caliper installation
  • Upgrade brake pads and rotors - New EBC double-H pads installed. Scuffed old rotors with 80 grit sandpaper to remove old pad material.
  • Extra levers, pegs, gas tank, etc. - Got a swingarm in excellent condition for 50 bucks from a SV650 forum member.
  • Spare Dzus fasteners - in hand. Will use a couple when reassembling the bike this week.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Making progress

Here's the latest updates as of today.  4-piston calipers and Bazzaz fuel-control/quick-shifter are the last major items to complete before my first track day.  If I can make it out to MSRH on February 3rd, I can give everything a shakedown and then have 3 or 4 weeks to make any changes before the next trackdays on 3/9-10 and 3/15.

Updates and changed information in bold

Quick turn throttle tube - Complete
520 chain and sprockets - Complete. test ride successful.
4 piston front brake calipers – Calipers and brackets in hand. Started teardown of stock components
Aftermarket ECU - Bazzaz Fi-Quickshift on order
Oil change, check spark plugs, check fluids
Captured wheel spacers – rear complete, front parts in hand but I may hold off on these. They replace the speedo sensor and I still want that on the motorcycle for now.
replace rear spool bolt - Complete
Lap timer – XT Ultra Lap
Replace front brake reservoir hose (schedule with new calipers) - parts in hand
Spring clip for rear axle nut - Complete
safety wire & pliers - not needed for track days but will be required when I/we race the SV
Upgrade brake pads and rotors - need to order pads. Will forego rotors for now
Woodcraft clip-ons - future planning
Check lower triple/steering-stem for straightness
Lightweight upper faring stay
Lightweight sub frame - future planning
Extra levers, pegs, gas tank, etc.
Sculpt/lower/firm seat pad
Spare Dzus fasteners - on order
Tire warmers - Purchased and tested. - Complete

Saturday, January 19, 2013

520 Chain - First test ride

First test ride on the SV650 with the 520 chain and dropping a tooth on the front sprocket. Everything looks good and sounds clean. But HOLY COW... standing start, engine barely up to temps, cold rear tire...up on the tank as far as I could get, head over the front tire, rev to 5000, smoothly but quickly let off the clutch while feeding more throttle (quick turn throttle now, remember), and ....LAUNCH! Front tire is instantly skimming the pavement and the bike takes off like never before. I never even got to full throttle so I could keep the front down before I had to let off since I'm on a residential street with cars and a slight curve.

Now to go put those 4-piston front calipers on. This track season is gonna be fun.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

First track days coming up

There's a track day on February 3 at MSR Houston.  I MAY go to that one if everything falls into place.  I still need to install my new front calipers.  We'll see if I have time this weekend to get that done.  If so, then I'll just watch the weather when it gets closer to the 3rd.

The next track day I could do will be on March 9/10 and March 16.  I'll almost certainly go to the one on the 16th since that's with Fastline.  March 9/10 is with Ridesmart and either or both of those dates are a possibility too.  All of those are at MSRH.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sprockets and chain

A few pictures of the 520 chain and sprockets on the motorcycle.

The clutch actuator and sprocket cover are still off in this photo.  Chain slack has not been fully adjusted either so it's hanging a little low.

 Master link riveted. Excess grease still present
Still not adjusted

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Rear Captured Spacers in Place

I finally got back out to the garage today and made a little progress on the SV.  I got the captured wheel spacers in place on the rear wheel and sprocket drum.  Then I attached the new Superlite RS7 520 rear sprocket from SuperSprox to the drum and put it all back on the swimgarm.  The new chain isn't in place yet so I haven't tightened everything up yet, but at least its up off the floor again.

I started working on installing the new front sprocket but that's all just finger tight for now too. I needed some blue loctite but either I'm out of have misplaced it because all I could find was my tube of red.  I don't want to put something that strong on it since I may want to swap it out quickly at the track in the future.  I'll stop by the store in the next day or 2 and get a new tube of blue.  After I get that installed and torqued down I can put the new chain on.  Then maybe a short test ride up and down the street before tearing into the front brake calipers to start that upgrade.