Team Bike lead at Spa, £2k bike chooser, and pan­niers on a race­track.


BIKE’S ROCK­ING­HAM TRACK­DAYS are fa­mously friendly, both on and off track. Partly it’s be­cause your fel­low read­ers are a per­son­able bunch, but it’s also down to the no van rule. There’s some­thing about ev­ery­one hav­ing to ride home at the end of the day that gen­er­ates a feel­ing of off-track com­rade­ship and on-track re­spect. There’s no cut­ting up, no div­ing up the inside and no ter­ri­fy­ing close passes. Po­lite­ness reigns. In fact, the only per­son the mar­shals have to have a word with is, er, me, for not notic­ing a yel­low flag and blithely over­tak­ing a gag­gle of riders go­ing into the hair­pin. Which brings us to the CB1000R+. This is not a mo­tor­cy­cle which en­cour­ages po­lite­ness. In the first few laps it’s not too bad, its syrupy power de­liv­ery and lux­u­ri­ant ride qual­ity eas­ing you into the day as the Dun­lop D214s warm up. It’s all swoopy cor­ner en­tries and seam­less midrange drive onto straights, a bike so well-man­nered you could take it for tea and bis­cuits with grandma. But as your con­fi­dence grows and you be­gin to re­mem­ber which way Rock­ing­ham goes, the CB1000R+ starts to cor­rupt. Its peak power is 143.5bhp, which in the con­text of 200bhp su­per­bikes and 180bhp KTM Su­per Dukes sounds a bit lame. But on a tight­ish track like Rock­ing­ham, it’s the per­fect amount un­less you have GP skill lev­els. It’s easy to ac­cess (no power­bands here), hellish fast and just about ex­ploitable by a not overly tal­ented rider. Razz­ing it up to the 11,500rpm red­line com­ing out of Rock­ing­ham’s third gear first cor­ner then grab­bing fourth be­fore the kink feels al­most as fast as the su­per­bikes we tested here three months ago. Not bad for a tarted up 2006 Fire­blade en­gine. Then there are the brakes, which are noth­ing spe­cial on pa­per (4-pot ra­dial To­kico calipers) but they bite hard and, in con­junc­tion with the big pis­ton forks, con­vey huge con­fi­dence in the front. I’m no de­mon braker, but this set-up has me push­ing un­til the ABS cuts in, dis­con­cert­ingly

shed­ding stop­ping power when I need it most. Within six laps, all sem­blance of fi­nesse has ex­ited stage left and testos­terone and adren­a­line rule. Cor­ners are charged, throt­tle ca­bles stretched and nerves shred­ded. It’s great fun, but there is a prob­lem – the CB never set­tles com­fort­ably into cor­ners, es­pe­cially if there are bumps. Some­times the rear wal­lows, other times the head shakes, and round the fast bumpy cor­ner at the back of the cir­cuit you get both at once. I don’t know where to start ad­just­ing things. I hand it over to Langy with­out telling him the prob­lem. He’s a smoother rider than me so maybe he won’t ex­pe­ri­ence the is­sue. ‘It’s odd,’ he says, af­ter bang­ing on about how great the CB’S brakes are. ‘It felt ar­tic­u­lated through cor­ners, with the front and back do­ing dif­fer­ent things. My Z900RS feels much more bal­anced.’ I hap­haz­ardly fid­dle with the damp­ing front and rear but run out of time be­fore find­ing a so­lu­tion. Oh well. I’ll just have to do an­other track­day. It’d be rude not to. John West­lake New bike editor Been rid­ing for: 33 years Owns: 2008 Yamaha Fazer 1000 and Beta tri­als bike

THE WRONG BIKE in the wrong sit­u­a­tion can some­times be the most re­ward­ing and grin in­duc­ing mo­ment of your bik­ing life. mag­a­zine track­days have been some of my most favourite times on two wheels for this very reason. I know I should have a Kawasaki ZX-10RR un­der­neath me but no, I have our Z900RS to play with. Poor choice? NO. With 108bhp, sweet revving 4-cylin­der and pro­gres­sive brakes it comes alive as the first ses­sion passes with ease and I am pleas­antly sur­prised. I haven’t tweaked the sus­pen­sion, ev­ery­thing is set to stan­dard and I have only low­ered the tyre pres­sures to cope with the 24 de­gree heat on the day. When pushed in ses­sion two the soft sus­pen­sion does wob­ble through a bumpy left and al­though it makes me feel heroic the ’pegs are touch­ing down when I’m pre­tend­ing to be Mar­quez. The wide seat and large tank help when us­ing my thighs to grip through cor­ners and the Dun­lop Sport­max GPR-300 tyres are stun­ning and they never let go… once.

‘Within six laps, all fi­nesse has ex­ited stage left and testos­terone and adren­a­line rule’

Near the end of the day John and I swap bikes and hit the track. I’m pack­ing a big­ger punch with the CB1000R but that doesn’t mean much when a more tal­ented JW flies past me on the RS. I don’t see him for the rest of the 20-minute ses­sion. Back in the pits, lid off and John’ s grin­ning. ‘Be­cause the retro looks are so well done – clocks with pukka Z1 fonts – I half ex­pect it to han­dle in an au­then­ti­cally crap 1970s fashion too,’ he says. ‘But of course it doesn’t. It’s good. The sus­pen­sion is too soft on track, but it’s so well bal­anced fore-aft it doesn’t com­pletely lose the plot. The en­gine per­for­mance matches the chas­sis well too – 108bhp isn’t enough to blast out of cor­ners, so you have carry speed and roll it on (throt­tle re­sponse is good). Hi­lar­i­ously loud in­duc­tion roar too.’ The track is not its nat­u­ral home but the Kawasaki was so much fun here – and that’s im­por­tant. Paul Lang Art di­rec­tor Been rid­ing for: 23 years Owns: Du­cati M900 Mon­ster, Honda CR250 Su­per­moto and Honda Mo­to­compo

I’M LATE TO the track­day, hav­ing picked up a Du­cati Pani­gale V4 for my forth­com­ing trip to Italy (p60). To John and Paul’s sur­prise the V4 stays in the van and I take the Tracer on track. It’s wearing a tank bag, soft pan­niers and I’ve screwed on a Givi screen ex­ten­der for less buf­fet­ing at speed. Snig­gers from the on­look­ers. They think I’ve picked the wrong bike for the job. The fi­nal ses­sion of the day is my first ses­sion of the day. I’m at the head of the fast group on the warm-up lap, but it doesn’t stay that way for long. John flies past on Langy’s RS at the exit of Tarzan, and Langy fol­lows down the straight on the CB1000R. Their tyres are still hot from the penul­ti­mate ses­sion. It takes me three laps to warm up the new Miche­lin Road 5s to ac­cept­able stick­i­ness. Then I start adding speed and lean. Brakes are su­perb for un­branded four-pots on small 298mm discs. Yes, there’s dive at the fork, but you can crush the lever and pull the bike up hard with­out en­gag­ing ABS. Add in a bouncy shock, though, and the Tracer needs time to set­tle into a mid-cor­ner squat. And play­ing about with the throt­tle means it runs wide on ex­its. Chaotic, then. But for some reason the Tracer still feels con­trol­lable. It’s the ex­tra 60mm Yamaha have stuck on the swingarm. The tweak pushes the rear wheel back, in­creas­ing front wheel weight bias, which in turn keeps the front stuck to the ground. In MT-09 guise (or even last year’s Tracer 900) the three-cylin­der CP3 en­gine has so much pep it’ll raise the front in sec­ond gear. But now you just get strong, fat drive. The front sim­ply skims the track, even up the sec­ond-gear hill out of Yent­wood. And the story’s the same on the exit of Tarzan. Langy and John are still snig­ger­ing when I get back to the pits. Would they like a go? ‘Too late, the day’s fin­ished,’ is the quickas-light­ning re­ply. They’re vis­i­bly re­lieved that com­ing up with an ex­cuse was so easy. But they’ve missed out. The V4 would ob­vi­ously be stag­ger­ing around Rock­ing­ham, but con­sid­er­ing its tour­ing re­mit the Tracer is sur­pris­ingly good. Plus, rid­ing a bike with pan­niers on a race track is hi­lar­i­ous. Ben Lind­ley Staff writer Been rid­ing for: seven years Owns: Suzuki GSXR1000 K6, Suzuki GSXR600 K3, Yamaha QT50 ‘Yama­hop­per’.

R1200GS Ral­lye Sport Story this month: putting on miles for forth­com­ing Big Test.

Yamaha Tracer 900 Story this month: En­joy­ing the Bike track­day. See be­low.

Kawasaki Z900RS Story this month: fun day out in Corby. See be­low.

KTM 790 Duke Story this month: im­press­ing ev­ery one, ev­ery ride.

Honda CB1000R+ Story this month: rock­ing Rock­ing­ham. See be­low.

On track, re­ally sur­pris­ingly good

‘Not a mo­tor­cy­cle which en­cour­ages po­lite­ness’

Not RS’S nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, but what fun

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