Tuesday, 19 May 2015

TT Machine Test

Been absolutely flat-out finishing and prepping the bikes - so this is an update from Friday...

After getting back from collecting the Triumph and track prepping it with John Trigger at 02h00, I managed a few hours sleep before loading the bikes and van to be a Mallory Park circuit for testing by 08h30.

I get to the circuit and sign on - I miss the first session as I unload the bikes, get setup and get the bikes noise tested. After all the troubles over the last few years at Mallory, there is a 103dB maximum limit on a static test for the day with drive-by monitoring down the main straight. The KMR comes in at 100dB and the Triumph scrapes through at 102dB on the static test.

The Norton team are there with Cameron Donald and Adam Child testing their TT Superbike and Lightweight bikes. The Norton Superbike is a custom framed Aprilia RSV4. That V4 sounded the absolute dogs bollocks out there. The Lightweight bike is a Kawasaki ER-6 with different body-work on. Close up, both bikes are surprisingly rough. I am surprised... maybe they are test bikes. But I have a feeling that those are the only bikes. We'll see in 2 weeks time.

All geared up and I make my way to pit-lane for the first of my test sessions on the KMR. I get a few approving nods and people are checking out the KMR. Adam Child comes over and tells me "We're admiring the bike.". We have a chat about the KMR and the TT while we wait - within a few minutes pit-lane opens and we are on circuit.

Team Norton with Cameron Donald (he used to be my wife's favorite TT rider ;-)

With cold tyres, I warm up on the bike gently. First heavy braking into a corner and I make a mental not to adjust the brake-lever. The bike is surprisingly smooth and docile. I start winding it on and 15 minutes later when the session ends, I'm really getting into it. I fiddle around with the brake lever a few times during the session, the bars need adjusting but everything else is just spot-on.

After the session I give everything a check and change the brake pads on the Triumph. Soon, I'm on circuit again on the KMR. I was in the fast group. I though t that on my little 90 horsepower bike against superbikes with twice the power I would be blown away. There are 2 or 3 riders that do just that... but the rest I either overtook or was pretty much level with. The wee KMR is such an easy machine... so smooth, balanced and planted. Built for the TT :-) I am super happy with it when I come in after another 15 minutes. I park up and put the cover over it - no use wearing out the machinery!

1 hour 20 minutes of racing on the Isle of Man and 2 sessions on track - a race tyre... superb!

Next session and I'm due out on the Triumph for the first time. Unfortunately, there is an incident at the hairpin my session and they call lunch early. The two ambulances cart 3 riders off to hospital. A reminder that track-days can still be dangerous.

After lunch and there is another hour and a half delay as we wait for one of the ambulances to return. There was lovely sunshine with a cold breeze - perfect conditions for the sunburn that I got on the back of my neck while fettling the Triumph. I am so tired from the last few days work on the bikes and lack of sleep - I can't keep my eyes open and retire to doze into and out of consciousness in the back of the van.

I wake when they announce the next session on track. I scramble groggily onto the bike and head out on circuit. Despite having had the bike on tyres warmers for the last few hours, as soon as I ask more than just a pootle from the bike, the grip levels feel terrible. I pull in to have a check in case there is something wrong. All seems as it should. I head out again and start to wind that 3 cylinder up to it's max power at 14 000 rpm.

The freshly track-ready Triumph stayed in the van overnight...

The engine is just so smooth and creamy. She pulls from low down at 4000 rpm - like a big vee twin :-) She hits 10 000rpm and just keeps on pulling! Beautiful! On one lap, coming out of Devil's Elbow, a rider comes up my outside... I pin the throttle and level-peg with the other bike next to me all the way to the braking zone for Gerrard's. I roll off early - I then see it's Cameron Donald on the Norton Superbike next to me. Either he wasn't on it or the Triumph pulls damn impressively despite running TT gearing that is way too tall for a short circuit. On both bikes I only use 5 or the 6 gears.

The brakes are bloody fantastic on the Triumph. They really show the KMR brakes up to be mediocre. I'd say that's the only weak point of the KMR... on a short circuit. Around the TT course this will be far less of a disadvantage. Maybe it's just the Brembo feel that I'm used to - the KMR has a ZX-10 Tokico setup. The Triumph stops as quick as it accelerates :-)

Next thing, I'm getting the black flag waved at me. I cruise around and pull into the pits where I'm told my bike is too noisy and I must fit baffles. I have no baffles and with that open race exhaust is was always a risk of taking it to a track-day. Especially at Mallory. I promise to keep the revs down and they let me out on track again. If I get another black flag, I'm sent home so I keep the revs below 12 000. A bit disappointing because she pulls like a demon and sounds fantastic on full chat.

The offending object of beauty

A few adjustments here and there and I get out on the next session to just get some bike time. K-Tech sent the incorrect steering damper fitting kit and without a steering damper, she was real lively over the bumps and coming down from crossed-up power wheelies. JT will have the correct kit for me on the Isle - so that should work out ok.

More titanium exhaust porn on the KMR... 

I struggle with edge grip. As soon as I get the bike down, she feels like she is loosing grip. I hardly touch my knee down and can't get her on her ear. I had a few slides in the earlier session, but I start getting her stepping out on both the left-handers (the only two on the track). It's those crap road tyres. Michelin Pilot Road 4 tyres just aren't meant for the track. I had some old Pirelli Supercorsas that I was going to fit... but after midnight, JT and I just didn't have appetite to change tyres. I am getting frustrated that I can't accelerate like I want and the cornering is also limited by the tyres.

Triumph - One and a half sessions an a new road tyre... they're shit.

My riding starts to get scrappy - the lack of sleep and sunburn factoring in. I get a big slide coming out of Edwina's and I decide to call it a day. I didn't have the energy to change tyres for the last session and on those tyres there was nothing more for me to learn... and a lot to lose. Lesson: rather go on track with worn out old race tyres than brand new road tyres.

I left frustrated that I couldn't get more out of the Triumph, that I had to wait another hour before they opened the gates to let us out but mostly by fatigue. But... the shake-down was a success. The testing is done, some adjustments made, some lessons learned and most importantly, some bike time on the machines that are going to take me around the Isle of Man in two weeks time. Nothing broke or fell off. No leaks or problems. Both bikes felt comfortable and strong. I stayed on. We're happy :-)

These two bikes followed me home... I'm happy... really... I am...

Now... to finish off the Triumph build and get both bikes prepped for the TT!

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