Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Weekend Education

Picture it -- glorious +26 degree weather in late September.  The weekend -- no work.  A new bike to break in.  Races being taped on the PVR... get out and enjoy the sunshine.  Which I certainly did, until I was about 1 mile from home after a lovely 50 mile ride (restricted to 39mph according the max revs break in according to the manual).  Me and the KLX are getting along famously.  Light, easy, fun to ride even with 20 hp, and more fun to be had when I can open it up after break in.  The supermoto tires mean that I can go through the 2 roundabouts in town without even braking, sticking my leg out with style.
On the way home Sunday, I approached the 2nd roundabout when a young kid in a Caddy pulled out in front of me -- he misjudged my speed (I wasn't/didn't need to slow down)... while he left me a bit of room I could work with, he then decided to stop dead... why, I don't know.  My brake hand reacted faster than my left foot, and down I went in a lowside with a locked front brake.  Like my roadracing crashes, things slowed down.  I saw the rear bumper approaching my head as I slid along the ground; I enjoyed the painless sensation of my Sidi boots doing their job, protecting my left foot trapped under the bike; I immediately felt pain in my hip, but the numb type I generally associated with a hard bodycheck; worst of all, I could feel my light jacket rolling up my arm towards the elbow, leaving my forearm to make corrosive contact with the pavement.  Then, silence.
I was conscious, did not hit my head, and I avoided the car.  The klx was still put-putting while lying on top of me... although I was able to reach down and hit the kill switch with my right hand.  The driver came out from his car, and a fella working on his yard also showed up.  Yard guy picked up my bike, while caddy boy claimed it wasn't his fault (was it...?).  He suggested we exchange information, but to what end?  My bike was remarkably undamaged save for a few minor scrapes.  My arm and knee were a bit of a mess, so with no information to exchange (single vehicle accident) he left.  Yard guy stayed with me to make sure I was OK, looked at my forearm to ensure that there was no bones sticking out.  I shook his hand, started up the bike, and went home for a date with the hydrogen peroxide and an old toothbrush.  Thankfully Kate was not home yet and I could howl in privacy.

The worst of it, 2 days later...

I've been riding since 1997, and this is my first street crash.  Ironically, I wasn't speeding, I was on the LEAST powerful bike I have ever ridden on the street, and I was a mile from home.  It was a day I decided against my leather jacket... my choice.  I did have a helmet on, I did avoid the other car, and I did avoid serious damage to the bike... my race-trained habit of "looking through the turn" avoided a more serious rear-end collision.  My boots saved my feet -- had I been wearing sneakers, yikes!
2 days after, I am able to put things into perspective.  This was a real wake-up call for me.  This little bike was supposed to keep me out of trouble, and while it crashes about 1000 percent better than a sportbike, it can still be somewhat dangerous.  What have I been reminded of:
1.  Never, ever, ever trust other drivers!
2.  Always wear proper protection -- where I was hurt the worst, I was the least protected.  My bottom half was covered in jeans -- still some damage but minor.  Had I had a leather jacket on, no injuries to the arm!
3.  When in doubt, chicken out (on the street, at least) -- I had been through that roundabout many times before, much faster, but there was NO traffic -- much more margin of error.
4.  My wife is a patient woman.  She made the trip to the pharmacy for more supplies on Monday.

So no repairs to the KLX -- scratches have added character to both me and the bike.  No missed work, although I am stiff and sore all over.  Again, could have been much worse!
And I got back on the horse on Monday -- rode for an hour in the warm weather again -- with a leather jacket! 
Dad, if you're reading this, don't tell mom!  If she does see it, remind her that once again, RACING is safer than riding on the street!  Keep the rubber side down, everyone!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Carb Diet

The YZ427 carb showed up.  In decent condition, but I soaked it in a product called "Seafoam" to help clean it up.  That, and some work with an old toothbrush did a good job.  Next step is to get the right jets for it -- Sinceros Speed Works to the rescue.
The wierd thing is, it looks as if this carb will fit under the tank?!  I did need to adjust the underside with a brass hammer somewhat, but it now fits fine.  Hmmm.  I also intend to pressure test the tank again to make sure my welds are holding up.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Great Weekend

Really enjoyed the last weekend of the season -- got the reffing done on Saturday with only one bad crash (rider is OK), and the hit the track on Sunday.  Was happy with how the comfort level came back -- made some good passess, picked up speed pretty quickly, and also didn't surrender spots other than to bigger bikes on the straights.  Even caught and out-dragged an SV650 -- of course, not in a race situation, but it seems that the bike has some decent speed compared to its competition, even with stock gearing.  Was a very windy day, and the fairingless bike ran well.  In fact, the mono, with its full fairing, was being tossed around quite a bit -- more likely due to its weight than anything else.  Got to the point on the mono where I wasn't even braking for turn 1 -- just pop out of the bubble, downshift once, and hold on.  Handled pretty good!  Again, some chatter and sliding through turn five on the little bike.  Not sure if that's due to the tires (the street-based 2CT michelins) or to the suspension.  Need more time to sort it out.  Did 4 sessions on the ex and 2 on the mono.
Had the bikes loaded on the trailer a few days prior -- school had started up and I was spending some long hours -- did not want to wait until Thursday night to load up, in case I was delayed...
Trailer held up OK, but I'm keeping a close eye on it -- its covered lots of miles over the past 11 years, and has hauled more than just bikes.  Might be time to get something slightly bigger -- no extra room on the deck for anything!

No shots of me "in action" that I've seen, so I can show you tire wear -- fascinating!!!  The michelin slicks were awesome!  Not sure how old the tires were, and while they were sliding a bit out of turn 9 (asphalt, not concrete), everything was controllable.  Nice wear pattern, no cold tearing despite the lack of tire warmers and the cold ambient temps.

Of course, for me to be battling at the front, I need to find 4 seconds somewhere...!  Next year!

I wondered about the bellypan in right turns -- while it did touch down, it acted as a gauge (along with my knee) as to what the suspension was doing at the back.  I need to get faster through turn 4 -- there is a bump right as you turn in that upsets the bike -- the bump carries across the entire width of the track, except for a 1' spot roughly 3' out from the inside.  On a clean lap, you go for that spot -- otherwise, you grin and bear it.  Pegs and levers were fine -- no contact.

So now its time to get the bikes ready for winter storage -- I've removed the Cool-Aid from the ex and replaced it with glycol -- gonna do the same with the mono, although its running straight water.  Winter plans include a rear swingarm swap on the ex, and a shock rebuild/revalve -- the machine is running perfectly otherwise.  I've built a stand that will hold up the rear of the bike while leaving the swingarm free to be removed.  With the mono, my 1 gal alloy tank has arrived, as well as the carburetor.  Gonna test fit the FCR, then clean it up and jet it for the DRZ.  Mounting the tank will take some work, but I've got a few ideas.  Off to get some pink foam insulation today.  As usual, stay tuned.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

no excuses

For all intents and purposes, the ex is ready to roll... no comprimises with tires, exhaust, suspension, etc... all that is left is the fine tuning and me getting up to speed and to grips with it. 
The Muzzy exhaust came in earlier this week, and was quite easy to install -- just headers and the muffler -- 5 bolts in total.  Fired it up -- sounds pretty rorty... might be pushing the db levels at some tracks.  When I went to mount the bellypan the headers and collector pipe (as short as it is) fouled on the pan.  Spent another couple of hours cutting out a section of the bottom of the bellypan, and riviting in an aluminum relief panel.  The end result is still oil tight and should work OK.  The muffler fits well within the rear cutout and looks pretty stealthy.


Mom and Dad stopped in for a visit on their way west -- Dad played "mule" duty and hauled in some proper slicks (Michelin 250s from Motorace) as well as a few Versys parts for the swingarm conversion -- swingarm pivot axle and rear axle and adjusters, so that should help with finding the other hardware for installing the new rear end.  The Michelins can be a PITA to install, especially if they've been stacked on their sides (like they all have), but with some massaging I was able to get the beads to seat.

As I said, mechanically, there should be no issues with the bike -- everything works, nothing is compromised, all that's left is optimizing things like the rear shock (it may not be set up for my weight), and getting used to the bike.  I really hope the "experiment" that is the decision to go fairingless works out OK.  The streetfighter look is not something I am really keen on as streetbikes, but I still wonder if a full fairing is necessary on a 65 hp bike -- it is the balance between aerodynamic streamlining and coefficient of drag.  Short of a wind tunnel, I've go no way to prove my ideas.  The truth will be in my right wrist, next weekend.  The final round of the year is on the 11/12 weekend, and after my refereeing duties wrap up on Saturday, I plan to get in as many laps as I can on both bikes on alternating sessions on Sunday.  Hopefully my improved fitness will allow me to ride all day.
On the 'mono front, one of my long-term goals has always been to fit a FCR carb to the engine.  Google drz/klx400 and 39 FCR and you'll have hours of reading on the benefits of fitting this to the S/SM bikes (the E model got it stock).  I am still certain the 40mmCV I have right now is an improvement over the 36mm carb that came standard.

I was able to source this item on eBay for a good price -- I've also found a reputable page describing some jetting settings.  This is a popular carb, fitted to many models of MX bikes; therefore, aside from assuring its a 39mm, I will likely have to switch out some jets to get the carb to run properly.
Another fabricating problem is going to rear its head as well -- back in late 2008 when I was modifying the tank to work with this frame, the underside of the zzr250 tank was adapted to suit a CV carb.  In general, these carbs are "shorter" from top to bottom and so I modified the tank to suit.  A buddy of mine has a DRZ400 SM bike, and bought his own 39mm FCR.  There are no clearance issues fitting this carb to the stock bike, but I noticed at the time that it appeared a FCR would not fit under the modified ZZR tank I built... so with all mods, there is often a carry on effect.  This might mean a new tank!

ZZR250 tanks are a dime a dozen in the UK, but very rare in NA -- they were only sold in Canada... and, the only one I've seen in a year is stuck on eBay for a very high price -- fair enough, its new, but not what I need.  Again, in the quest to "lose weight", I did some research:
  • 1 gallon of fuel = 8.33 lbs! 
  • So if you put 2 gallons of gas into your bike for a 15-30 mile sprint race, you are carrying around at least an extra 8 pounds of ballast.
  • Gimli sprints are even shorter, the tight track results in lower speeds, with less fuel demand
  • A KLX400 single gets "great" gas mileage!
So, likely any new tank would only require 1 gallon of volume -- I would just need to remember to keep the tank full... and save more weight!
The plan now is to find a decent quality 1 gallon fuel cell -- go kart racers have these in aluminum or even plastic.  I'd prefer the alloy, but we'll see what I can find for a reasonable price.  Mount it in a suitable location, and then cover up the sharp angles by gluing pink foam insulation to the tank, and then cutting, sanding, and shaping the big block into something resembling a fuel tank.  The pink final copy is then covered with epoxy resin and fibreglass, sanded, and then painted like any regular tank.  About the same work as modifying a stock steel tank, but with the anticipated result of a lighter tank (albeit with less volume).
Finally, on a sad note, many of you know Peter Lenz was killed at the Indy MotoGP.  I have a very loose connection to the fellow -- I emailed and spoke with his dad awhile back when I bought some of his old bodywork -- the tail section on the 'mono was some of his old stuff.  I bought it used with some crash damage, and I had to admit I was a bit jealous of the kid when I was prepping the piece for painting -- the underside of the tail section had a really neat professionally-made decal with his name, number, and a pile of sponsors.  A real pain to remove!   Looked pretty cool and I was jealous of the then 12-year old.  His passing reminds me again how my life has been one big stroke of luck/Lucky Stroke in comparison.  The only consolation is that he died doing what he loved to do, by no mistake on his own.  Pretty cool legacy for a 13 year old.