Wow what a crazy few weeks it has been! What transpired recently was almost stealth-like in nature, so quick yet subtle. It all started by Rob Weaver of CrotchRocket.tv casually asking if I would be interested in racing a EBR1190? I was unsure of what to make of the question. Of course I was interested, but thus far bounds of energy have been soaked into such a dream never to materialize. More or less my candle was growing dim about the possibility.
A few days passed, Rob kept poking me and we discussed the concept a bit more in detail. Eager and ready for the opportunity, but just the same, I was holding back trying not to jump the gun. The next thing I know, Rob kicks things into high gear and jets off to Milwaukee to pick up the CrotchRocket.TV EBR1190RS. Then it hit me, whoa, Rob is serious about this and we are going racing next week!
So the Wednesday before the WSMC Streets of Willow event, Rob’s removing the street parts and preparing the bike for the track. I’m unable to drive to meet him so we plan on finishing up the setup at the track on Friday. Off to the track I go with trailer, Buell 1125R race bikes and spares to meet up with Rob. We arrive at the Streets of Willow for the Friday Motoyard track day, unload, and set out on track to compare the old Buell1125R and new EBR1190RS race bike.
I know the rest should read like a fairytale, and honestly is does play out to be that kind of ending. However, the racing reality is that success is constantly working against the odds and obstacles that appear. The fairytale ending is only possible after enduring the fall of inflated expectations, properly executing timely and decisive actions to combat the obstacles, and manage the physical and psychological steadfastness to conquer the competition.
So before the fairytale, comes the inflated expectations. It’s not surprising that in today’s world of rapidly advancing technology, the assumption is that new equipment is always better right? Well in the history of fresh off the press motorcycles, new and improved can be a tedious and elusive path to finding speed. Even with significant improvements on several key components, there’s no guaranteed advancement without the proper setup. The tuning of a motorcycle roadracing setup is best described as a huge matrix of variables. The magic of the setup is found by understanding the relationships between those variables. And when properly aligned, the string of variables can be played to create a beautiful harmony.
It just takes a quick look at the 1190RS spec sheet to determine it’s clearly a better motorcycle. It has two fundamental improvements, more power and less weight. Chassis stiffness, aerodynamics, ergonomics, and mass distribution are more subtle enhancements. But to take advantage of those details, the rider needs to feel connected and in control of the motorcycle. The bike needs to respond appropriately to the road and rider inputs in a consistent manner.
Properly tuned suspension for the course and rider are one of the keys to feeling connected and in control. After a day of testing the bikes it was clear that this is where we needed to merge the old with the new. So the tested and proven Traxxion Dynamics AK-Gas forks and Penske rear shock were installed on the new 1190RS. Additionally, the chassis geometry was measured and adjusted to suit the Streets of Willow track. This was a huge leap forward in confidence and performance.
With such amazing credentials on the EBR1190 spec sheet the expectations permeated the pits. As much, the obstacles we encounter each and every session on the track seemed like thorny spikes in our forward progress. Race one and two were impeded by many pending issues. But, one by one we persevered and overcame the issues, just in time for the Formula One race. By Sunday afternoon, the bike had a solid setup with only a few minor issues lingering.
This is the grand finale, the WSMC Formula one Race, with a mixture of aggressive and talented Pro riders in the field. As the start time approaches, there’s nothing more that can be done with the bike, it’s go time! Nothing more but mental acuity and riding skills from here on out to the checkered flag. Having the confidence in the bike, check. Knowing the competition and the track characteristics, check. Visualizing the task at hand, execute each corner for every lap with accuracy and precision like a Swiss watch, check. Read the pavement through the tires, up the suspension, distributed throughout the chassis and finally interpreted through the body, check. Enjoy the ride, feel the rear end dancing while hard on the brakes. As the cornering forces develop, let the body drape down and around the bike to firmly unite. Once the corner unwraps, it’s time to squeeze the trigger and ease the Dunlop tires to their limit of adhesion. Twelve laps later, coming out of the last corner heading toward the checker, it’s a period of elation to realize the accomplishment and success.