Performance Bikes (UK) - - Race Legend -

IT’S BEEN 15 years since I was last here at Va­len­cia, test­ing the then new Fire­blade with my then new em­ploy­ers, HRC, in prepa­ra­tion for the 2004 British Su­per­bike cham­pi­onship. To re-fa­mil­iarise my­self with the cir­cuit, we have got hold of a bike that I’m very familiar with. It’s the very same road-go­ing S1000RR that I used in the first Rutter Test at Don­ing­ton Park last year, and then to lap the TT course at an av­er­age speed of 118mph for our spe­cial TT test in June. Much like my ap­pear­ance would have you be­lieve, RX66 RWK has ac­tu­ally had a tough life, and it’s about to get a good bit tougher. Af­ter 15 min­utes of riding, I’m happy I know which way the track goes, and pit for a drink. Johnny gets the gaffer tape out (he’s got a van full of it; long story...) and at­taches the dat­a­log­ger to the BMW’s pil­lion seat so I can push for a bench­mark time.

The bike is giv­ing off heat that can be felt from yards away, and stinks. The brake lever comes back to the han­dle­bar, there are lumps of chewed up Met­zeler slick tyre stuck to the in­side of the rims and un­der­tray, and the fuel light is on. It’s a bit shagged.

You can’t es­cape the fact that, for a road bike, the S1000RR is hard to beat. I’ve rid­den loads of them for PB over the years, on track and on the road, and this par­tic­u­lar one sev­eral times. It gen­uinely never fails to im­press. It has no dis­cernible weak­ness, and is blessed with a mas­sive range of abil­ity. I mean, I lapped the TT course at 118mph on this, on or­di­nary road tyres, and could have def­i­nitely gone faster if there weren’t so many damp patches. Johnny has rid­den one to Spain and back in three days, and here I am lap­ping a MotoGP cir­cuit on one fit­ted with slicks. It’s the ex­act same bike with noth­ing done to it other than the gearshift pat­tern be­ing re­versed and the ABS switched off. It took Johnny two min­utes to do both.

I would say, how­ever, that putting it on slicks and thus in­tro­duc­ing ex­tra grip and forces that go hand in

hand with race rub­ber (es­pe­cially on the su­per smooth, and grippy sur­face at Va­len­cia) did mean that I felt like I had reached the lim­its of the bike’s stan­dard sus­pen­sion and brakes. Ba­si­cally, both over­heated af­ter about half a dozen re­ally hard laps and lost most of their pres­sure and damp­ing. It’s not a com­plaint as such – for a com­pletely stan­dard road bike, given how hard I was push­ing it, the brakes and sus­pen­sion coped pretty well. And it’s no co­in­ci­dence that they are the first two things to get up­graded on a race bike.

Gen­er­ally, though, the road bike felt OK, but com­pared to any race bike it felt slow, not as ur­gent nor as pre­cise. It felt low and long, and the throt­tle felt com­par­i­tively soft – also, at times it felt like I had to wait for it, which is that ur­gency thing. But, when all is said and done, it’s all rel­a­tive...

1 They’re noisy de­spite the size of that si­lencer

2 Fully ad­justable rear shock reached the limit of its damp­ing abil­ity af­ter six laps

There are few bet­ter tools for fa­mil­iaris­ing your­self with a cir­cuit

3 Road bike’s dash is yet to en­ter the 21st-cen­tury world of the TFT dis­play

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