Bathams SMT BMW S1000RR superbike
AT MACAU, there are no weight limits for race bikes; in fact, there aren’t many rules full stop. We decided to take the Superbike that I raced at the North West 200 and TT, and go a bit mad making it as light as possible to have a good go at winning the race. Alec went to town on it, and started by swapping the wheels for carbon ones, then changing the rear subframe, seat unit and all the bodywork for carbon-fibre. We use stainless steel exhaust headers at the TT for their durability and strength, but Arrow sent us some thin titanium exhaust headers that saved 1.5kg alone. Most of the nuts and bolts were swapped for titanium. The swingarm was replaced with a Fortis Engineering unit which, as well as being 1.66kg lighter than standard, also carries its weight lower, and allows us to adjust it for flexibility. The K-Tech forks are their latest generation KTR4 units that have better internals, are lighter than the previous generation KTR3s. He also fitted a smaller oil cooler, but bigger radiator. Elsewhere, the yokes are custom-built, and cut away more than the ones I use for the TT and NW200. The engine is the same 6.2 spec as the HP4’s. It would be easy to describe my bike as a catalogue special, and to a point that’s what it is. There isn’t anything on it that you can’t buy over the counter, apart from maybe the yokes. But that is only part of the story. Alec and the boys have to know how to put it all together, and set it up so it works as the combined sum of its parts instead of just a collection of go-faster stuff. That’s where Alec’s experience and ingenuity really pays off. The first time I rode Alec’s creation was in free practice at Macau, and I was fastest, so we got straight into fine-tuning the set-up rather than chasing our tails making big changes.
I’ve never ridden my bike in its full extreme lightweight spec on a short circuit, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It still had the exact settings we finished with in Macau, which means really stiff on the front end for good support during the heavy braking into the Lisboa hairpin. The settings are over the top for the supersmooth surface at Valencia so I would have loved more time to make changes to the set-up to suit the track, but Johnny was keeping an eye on the time we had available and wouldn’t let me get distracted. “It’s hardly going to be shit, is it ?” was his response. He had a point.
My bike felt very different in some ways to the HP4, and very similar in others. The main similarities were, unsurprisingly, the engine performance and fuel injection. They’re virtually identical. The more subtle differences between the two bikes are that the HP4 felt a little bit more agile turning than mine with its high, hard front end. Also, I seemed to not be caught in between gears on the HP4 as much as I was on my bike, meaning a close-ratio gearbox is now on my shopping list. The HP4 seemed to have just the right gear for more corners than my bike did, which I probably wouldn’t have ever noticed unless I’d been able to ride the two bikes back to back. The biggest differences between both bikes are the electronics. I can’t say one is better than the other, but they are very different. The engine braking strategy and blipper on my bike are far smoother than the HP4. By which I mean more gentle and easier to use – more refined, which shouldn’t be a surprise, as Alec has effectively tailor-made the maps for me over the last two years. My engine braking feels like it has less fuel cut-off and therefore less intervention than the HP4, which means picking the throttle up after braking is smoother and easier. Speaking of which, my throttle feels heavier, which is probably just down to different springs. It was great to get some short circuit laps in on my lightweight Superbike. I would have loved to get more time and play with the set-up, but for now, we need to get it ready for the North West 200, which means setting a lot of the trick lightweight stuff aside until the next Macau GP.