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