Long-term tests: Triumph Street Twin, Husky 701, BMW F800GS
An afternoon on track with the 701 Supermoto gives Liam an opportunity to sharpen his suspension-tweaking skills
If there’s one thing I’ve not done enough of over the last few years it’s track riding, and with the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto under my custodianship this year I’ve got a bike almost perfectly suited to the task of providing circuitbased fun. Supermotos are generally thoroughbred race machines, after all.
It’s taken me most of the year to get the Husky to a track, but when Senior Road Tester Michael Neeves let slip he was testing a new bike at Rockingham and the circuit would be free to use for the afternoon I knew I had to escape from the office. MCN’S Head of Content Tim Thompson also jumped at the chance to take his long term Yamaha MT-10 for a spin, which then allowed me to take advantage of Tim’s years of experience in both riding and writing about bikes.
After the first session – which only lasted a few laps as there were too many of us on track at once – the rear tyre (a Metzeler Racetec RR K3) was already looking like it was taking a beating. The confidence it gave me after just the first sighting lap was incredible. Tim saw the rear tyre and asked me how the bike felt during the short session. Bouncy and unsettled was the only response I could come up with. It wasn’t exactly inspiring confidence.
Master Tim lent me the screwdriver from his MT-10’S toolkit – the Husqvarna doesn’t have one – and gave me a crash course in the dark art of suspension, of which he is a master. Seeing the state of the rear tyre, Tim started me out on the shock, turning the compression fully in to find out how many clicks out it is as standard (see box out). Tim suggested four clicks in on the rear compression to start with. Do five or six laps and see how it feels.
Immediately everything felt slower. Not my lap times, the suspension travel just felt more controlled. The biggest area this was felt was the fast off- camber right-hander. Previously, running through the dip in that corner the Husky seemed to continue bouncing long after, but everything felt much more level with the new rear compression setting.
Back into the pits for a chat with my new guru I felt like a proper racer, tweaking things for faster lap times. Chasing that extra tenth. Master Tim suggested looking at the front suspension now. Under hard braking the front was diving incredibly quickly, and bouncing straight back up when the brakes were released, leaving the bike a little unsettled going into corners. Four clicks in on the compression and back out to test.
Almost immediately I felt I could brake later, and the bike felt more composed on corner entry. More apexes were hit, and braking late – one of my main problems when track riding – felt much easier. The Husky was still moving around more than I was used to bikes moving around on track, but by this point I was getting used to it and accepting that’s how supermotos are. One of the biggest issues now was just holding on down the fast straight out of the first corner. With nowhere to hide and one arse cheek hanging off my arms were aching from just trying to hold on.
After a quick break for some water and a banana, I consulted with Tim and opted to keep settings the same for the final session. After a couple of laps the bike felt livelier – it wasn’t as planted around the three long lefts, my favourite corners at Rockingham.
Chasing the perfect setting is a constant battle. Change a setting, you go a bit faster. Change another setting, you go a bit faster still, requiring more adjustments as you work the suspension harder. With a bit more time I would have looked at changing the rebound – especially on the front to stop the forks returning so fast, but I was happy with what I’d learnt in just a few sessions. The suspension changes also worked wonders on the rear tyre. It looked better at the end of the day than it did after that first short, bouncy session.
‘Immediately I felt I could brake later, and the bike felt much more composed’
With Tim following on his MT-10, Liam was able to put his suspension tweaks into practice