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 GSXR1000 K6, Suzuki GSXR600 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