Created in 1974, Texas’ Central Motorcycle Racing Association (CMRA) sanctions, organizes and hosts area race events. CMRA offers a rider’s school teaching riding technique in the classroom and hands-on practice skills on the track. Rider’s Schools are available on the Saturday of most event weekends. Successful completion of a Rider’s School course is mandatory for all would-be racers and suggested for anyone wanting to become a better rider.
Everyone knows that racing is a dangerous sport. Racers accept and manage that risk. A critical part of risk management is proper bike maintenance. Don’t add to your risk by riding a motorcycle in poor condition, or your bike could wind up hurting you or someone else.
Proper preparation and maintenance are the keys to getting the most enjoyment from your investment of time and money. A poorly prepared machine is unsafe. You can expect the tech inspector to be very unsympathetic when examining a dirty or neglected motorcycle. Any vehicle that is raced undergoes serious stress. When you race a motorcycle, you will punish your machine. Being competitive in a race means that you push your machine to its absolute limits. This applies equally to the motor and the chassis. Because of this, you need to make sure that your bike is in the best condition that it can be.
Before the race, race prep will take up all those off-work hours between practice sessions, (and football widows thought they had a complaint!) The conventional wisdom is that you should start on small bikes, and learn to ride before you get enough horsepower to really hurt yourself. In the US, the most popular starter racing bikes are the Suzuki SV650, Kawasaki EX-500, the Yamaha FZR 400, the Honda Hawk GT-650, and Your Current Street Bike.
Then comes the stripping off all the street stuff (lights, signals, kickstands, etc), replacing the radiator coolant with water, safety-wiring anything you wouldn’t want to come loose at speed, putting on number plates, adding a steering damper, etc. The MARRC Roadracing School Bike Prep Guide offers a good bike prep guide.
Weight is directly related to horsepower. It is estimated that every seven pounds you eliminate, gains one horsepower. Try to get rid of any extra metal on your bike that you don’t need, like passenger seat supports, chain guards and lighting fixtures. Unsprung weight is any weight that is not supported by the suspension — typically the swing arm, wheels & wheel components, chain & sprocket and brake calipers. There are many benefits to reducing unsprung weight. One of the most noted is that, 1 kg of reduction in unsprung weight is approximately equal to 6kg reduction in sprung weight.
One easy way to reduce unsprung weight is the use of lighter weight wheels. By reducing the weight of the wheels, you also reduce the gyroscopic effect. The gyroscopic effect is the force that is generated from a spinning object. To get an idea of what this is, hold a bicycle tire in your hands and spin it. Now try and change the direction of the wheel. You will notice it is hard to do especially if the wheel is heavy. By reducing weight in the wheels you will reduce this effect resulting in better handling during cornering and improved acceleration. Magnesium wheels are the choice for most Superbike racers, and some are even going to carbon fiber but these are very expensive and typically not as durable as cast aluminum.
Of course, it’s simpler if you buy a bike that’s already being raced in the class you’re going to join–that way all the grunt work of race prepping has been done.
Equally important to a race-prepped bike and license — protective gear is vital. The old adage about two kinds of motorcycle riders, those that have been down and those that have yet to go down, probably originated on the track. Chances are good you are going to crash and going to break bones…collarbones, fingers, hand-bones, wrist-bones, foot and anklebones – they’re all susceptible in when you separate from your ride. Serious weight leathers with foam padding and hard plastic body armor, boots, race gloves and a good helmet are essential. Buy quality or you’ll pay the difference in medical bills. For quality on a budget, check out www.newenough.com offering brand-name closeouts and used gear.
Your fitness level determines how long you can go, before your awareness levels are lowered to the point that you only react after the fact and not as a problem starts. The longer the races, the more demand there is on your mind and body to stay at its highest potential. (I’m not exactly sure what that reference specifically has to do with road racing…)
When your job description on race day entails flirting with the limits of tire adhesion…accidents are bound to happen. The money you saved by not insuring the track bike would be wisely spent on a medical policy that covers you in case of track injury. American Motorcycle Association offers a policy, appropriately named ARMOR that covers you during participation in AMA sanctioned events. A race weekend may run you $500 for entry fees, food, fuel and tires, but a race injury can bankrupt you.
As a spectator, the lean provides the ooh and ahh responses. For the racer, the lean is determined by turning geometry, t= arctan [ v^2/(g*R) ] v is your velocity, R is the radius of your turn, g is the gravitational constant, t is the “lean angle.” It’s the angle between the horizontal, and a line from the contact patch of your tires through the center of gravity of the bike-rider system. By sliding off the inside of the seat, the rider’s body weight is moved towards the inside of the corner. This means the bike needs less lean for a given speed and turn radius. As ground clearance is often the limiting factor in cornering (particularly at higher speeds) this allows the rider to corner at higher speeds.
At lean angles below 45 degrees from the horizontal, tires no longer purely roll and are rotating more about a vertical axis rather than a horizontal one. This makes them act more like a rotary brush of a street sweeper than a rolling wheel. With steep lean, the contact patch twists in place scrubbing away traction and power so that leaning farther reduces cornering ability and ultimately causes a washout in the turn.
Racing motorcycles takes a special type of rider, a special type of machine, large amounts of practice and even larger amounts of skill. Purebred race machines compete on closed, paved road courses, piloted by races intent on one thing, getting to the checkered-flag first. Take a Saturday or Sunday, venture out to Oak Hill (Henderson) Texas World Speedway (College Station), MotorSport Ranch (Cresson) or Hallett Raceway in Oklahoma and experience the thrill of high-speed, two-wheel pavement action. From local clubs to world championships, motorcycle road racing is the best time you can have with your leathers on.
BGR salutes our road racers and offers laps of encouragement to: Steve Breen, Joseph Browning, Shane Carter, Joe ‘the Cop” Chatham, Key Cyr, Greg Fowler, AC Freeman, Chris Headley, Matt Maschmann, Kevin Mays, Chuck McCoy, Scott Millspaugh, Paul O’Brien, John Orchard, John Sblendorio, Albert Schilling and Edward Walker.