Round 5 of the CVMA Winter Race Series happened in February 2016, but before I go into the race recap, I also took my bike out to Chuckwalla at the end of January with Socal Track Days to do some more testing. My corner speed was way off last round, especially at the end when I put the Bridgestone tires on, and I wasn’t feeling very comfortable with the bike mid corner. I added a GPR steering damper after my 3 near misses last round, and I got the new Annitori Quickshifter installed so I needed to test that out. I also installed the Woodcraft Universal 1.5″ rise clipons under the triple clamp with the Graves steering stop. I wanted to get some more time on the Bridgestone slicks before Round 5 and most of the faster guys were recommending I try lighter springs in the front forks as well. I had just installed the AK-20 cartridges from Traxxion before round 4, and they sent them with .80 springs (which seemed reasonable, that’s what I ran in my R6), but Chuckwalla is unique track on the little bikes. The corners are fast and open, and you spend a considerable amount of the track with the throttle wide open. This ends up keeping your weight shifted back through the wide fast corners and takes too much weight off the front wheel. Lighter than usual springs in the front helps keep the front down and the bike balanced and improves traction in the front. I had Traxxion send me some .75 springs for the front, and I swapped them out before the track day.
I tested the new Quickshifter with the default settings, 45 sensitivity and 70 kill time. Right off the bat, it seemed to work the way it was supposed to. In my first couple sessions, I didn’t get any false kills like before. The sensitivity was a little low at 45, so I increased it to where I had it before on the previous unit, 60, and it was buttery smooth the rest of the day. Kill time at 70 ms. Awesome, glad to have that issue resolved. I can now wholeheartedly recommend the Annitori Quickshifter Pro for the R3, awesome unit and pretty inexpensive.
I’ve tested the three main choices for clipons now for the R3, the Vortex clipons, which mount above the triple clamp, the Woodcraft R3 specific clipons, which mount below the triple clamp, and the Woodcraft Universal 1.5″ rise clipons with Graves steering stop, which also mount below the clipons. I did a complete writeup on my findings here:
But the short and sweet is that the Woodcraft Universal 1.5″ Rise clipons when used with a Graves steering stop are the ideal setup for the R3 in my opinion. This gives you the farthest forward and lowest possible clipon bar position.
The most noticeable thing I changed was the steering damper. I used one on all my other bikes, but I guess I got used to not having it on the R3. I could barely ride through the pits at first without running into things lol. But once I got on track and opened the gas, I loved it! It really helped stabilize the bike mid corner. It gave the bike a feel that reminded me of the super stable CBR600RR. Once dropped into the corner, it just stayed put. I liked the change.
One important thing I need to point out, I have always used the Woodcraft Shark Fin Toe Guard on all of my bikes,. I think it’s an excellent guard to protect the rider in the event of a lowside where your foot may get caught by the sprocket and cause terrible damage to your knee. However, at the Socal Track Day, I had a very close call. It happened while I had the small Bridgestone slicks on which reduce the ground clearance, especially in the back because the 120 rear tire is quite a bit smaller than a standard 140 rear tire. While coming through the fast left turn known as the slide after the back straight, my Woodcraft toe guard dragged on the track and caused a nasty slide on the rear tire that nearly put me on the ground. Startled, I threw up my hand and immediately pulled off track to try to figure out what happened. While inspecting the bike, I noticed the bottom of the guard was ground off from contacting the ground, so I removed the guard for the rest of the day. I hadn’t had this happen with the 140 size rear tires, but I imagine it was close, and I don’t recommend this guard to anyone for their R3 unless you modify the guard and bend it in toward the chain to increase ground clearance. Here’s a post on how I modified mine in case you have one already and want to use it. Otherwise, I recommend the Graves guard instead, which doesn’t reduce ground clearance as much and is made of carbon fiber instead of aluminum so if it contacts the ground, it won’t lift the rear wheel off the ground.
Now back to the tires and suspension…again, before I say anything about the Bridgestone slicks, I need to get my lap times down under 2:05, and I wasn’t nearly there. The bike still felt weird mid corner. It was like it would turn in 80%, then fight back a little, and not hold a good line, not want to finish turning all the way to the edge of the tire. It was requiring too much work for me to make it turn where I wanted and I was running wide a lot. I’m not a consistent enough, or fast enough rider to easily sort this out, so I’d have to talk with some of the other guys at Round 5. Maybe a geometry issue, maybe suspension, maybe both, maybe neither and it was just me. I had been changing a lot of things and getting more used to the bike, so it was hard to say if it was me or a specific thing I had changed. However, I was able to notice that some of the areas of the track where I felt some harsh bumps before had disappeared, so I think the lighter front springs were a good idea.
CVMA 2015/2016 Winter Series Round 5
Round 5 was packed! I think each round this year has been busier than the last. Jason, ‘Mad Hammer’ Madama came down again with some friends from Colorado, and Ari Henning and Josh Fogle both made it out, along with the rest of the KTM cup bike kids, and Alex Dumas, a young, 13 year old, Canadian rising star, also on a KTM cup bike, but with Pirelli Supercorsa tires instead of the spec Dunlop Alphas. There was sure to be some good battles at the front.
I wish I could say I was battling with these guys at the front, but I just wasn’t feeling it. My corner speed was terrible. When I tried to push my entry speed and mid corner speed faster, the bike still seemed difficult to turn. I got some advice and tried some suspension changes during 2nd practice and Qualifying, but it wasn’t helping much. I can’t remember exactly where I qualified, but somewhere around 9-10th I think.
Because I was just trying to sort out the handling at this point, I decided to put the Pirelli Supercorsa tires on before the races. It was risky to change something major before a race, but since it wasn’t going well, I didn’t have much to lose. I had run them on my previous bikes and I was used to the feel, so I thought I might trust them a little more. I wanted to try to eliminate variables at this point until I felt like the bike was handling the way I expected. Plus, I had seen Hammer run them with extremely successful results, and hadn’t seen anyone run the Bridgestone slicks yet. I would have to save the slicks to evaluate later.
In the first race, the corner entry seemed a little better with the Pirelli tires but mid corner was still iffy. However, when I got on the gas coming out of the bowl, I was getting some major pogoing from the front. It was so bad, that after a couple laps, I threw up my hand and pulled in. I had a number of different people push on the bike, play with the compression and rebound settings, and give me their input, including Andy Palmer, Ari Henning, and AJ from Paradigm Racing (all very smart, very respectable racers/tuners). We adjusted everything that can be adjusted in the forks up and down, and adjusted the rebound in the shock. I did as much trial and error as I could with only 1 more race Saturday and 2 practice sessions Sunday, but it wasn’t going well. When I had discussed it with Ari in more depth Saturday night, he started thinking it may be a geometry issue also. With his Honda 300, he ended up having to raise the front of the bike drastically from stock to increase the trail and get the bike to stabilize mid corner. The fact that the Pirelli tires helped turn in kinda made sense, since both front and rear are larger diameter than the Bridgestone slicks, but difference between the rears is more than the fronts, so the back of the bike is a little higher with the Pirellis. But I didn’t have much explanation for the pogoing yet, or what to do about the mid corner feeling like I was struggling to get to the edge of the tire. Before my last race on Sunday, Andy suggested I go out, and try shifting my weight front to back and visa versa and see how the mid corner handling changes. I tried this, and it felt like the bike stabilized and finished the corner easier when I shifted my weight back. I also remembered thinking before that the bike would finish the corner easier when I opened the throttle. Both of these scenarios involve shifting weight off the front wheel, which will let the forks extend slightly, and temporarily raise the front of the bike and lower the rear. It was seeming more like a Geometry issue, but I wasn’t sure which way to go, since the turn in seemed better with the back higher, but the stability and finishing the corner seemed better with the front higher. I will have to address this more later when I know more.