Our aged R1 no longer feels its age on track. Now it’s just feelin’ it

Performance Bikes (UK) - - CONTENTS - Pho­tog­ra­phy Si­mon Lee


ONE OF THE FIRST rides on my R1 last year was PB’s Rock­ing­ham track­day. Apart from a set of part-worn Racetecs to re­place some rock-hard tour­ing tyres the bike was just as I bought it: 20,000 miles old and a bit unloved.

It didn’t stop, hold a line or fuel cor­rectly, and wheel­ied ev­ery­where be­cause the shock had way too much re­bound, and stayed com­pressed. You could con­dense that all into one word: crap.

But it’s essen­tially good un­der­neath, and I’ve been chip­ping away at the is­sues over win­ter. The last change was a set of Miche­lin Pi­lot Power RS tyres: a strong scorer in PB’s tyre test, so they sounded like a good op­tion for the quick road/oc­ca­sional track use the R1 gets. Another bonus is they qual­i­fied me for one of the rub­ber firm’s (£50) track­days. Bar­gain. Take a lit­tle bit more of my money, Mon­sieur Biben­dum...

I chose Cad­well – an old favourite of mine, but not vis­ited for three years. The first ses­sion was rub­bish. I was rusty, aching, strug­gling to get it to change di­rec­tion through the Goose­neck and Hall Bend as the forks fired back up, and not feeling com­fort­able. The han­dle­bar an­gle isn’t ideal, and it stops the master cylin­der ro­tat­ing low enough for my hands. I didn’t have much con­fi­dence in the front to ride how I’m used to. But then, my cir­cuit ex­pe­ri­ence is mostly based on a 250, MiniTwin and a 600 – not re­ally the style for a litre bike. The first change I made was... me.

In­stead of re­ally putting my weight for­ward and rid­ing the front tyre, I sat a lit­tle fur­ther back, giv­ing my­self a bit more lever­age but also load­ing the forks dif­fer­ently. It made a huge dif­fer­ence – not just through the di­rec­tion changes, but ev­ery­where. I had bet­ter feel for the bike, it re­sponded more smoothly, held a line bet­ter and I could get on the gas bet­ter. Not ideal: but I’ve not got around to the sus­pen­sion over­haul it re­ally needs, so rid­ing around it was good enough for now.

The brake over­haul, new Black Wi­dow half-sys­tem with match­ing re­flash, Cor­dona quick­shifter and the just-fit­ted Sigma slip­per clutch all came to the fore once I’d got my act to­gether. The throt­tle re­sponse was much bet­ter, and the baf­fle­less cans went through noise test­ing at 102dB. The quick­shifter and slip­per clutch made the big­gest dif­fer­ence, though.

The quick­shifter felt nat­u­ral in­stantly, mak­ing it eas­ier to hang on along the straights and not slide back along the slip­pery seat. No missed gears, just slick shifts and good lever ac­tion.

I al­most for­got the Sigma clutch was there, be­cause it feels like that’s how a bike should be­have. No back­ing in no mat­ter how hard or early I went back through the gears, the revs only ris­ing slightly as I went down the gears. There is the op­tion of ad­just­ing it to slip more, but as it’s sup­plied it re­tains a use­ful lit­tle bit of en­gine brak­ing while can­celling out neg­a­tive ef­fects. Be­fore, it snaked around on the brakes and needed ear­lier, more grad­ual stop­ping to en­ter cor­ners in con­trol. It re­ally helped at cor­ners like the down­hill left of Mans­field; it’d be a night­mare with­out it.

I’ve never tried Miche­lins be­fore, but I was im­pressed. They did start get­ting chewed up on the right shoul­der to­wards the end of the day, but de­spite the racy-look­ing tread pat­tern they’re bi­ased to­wards road rid­ing, and aren’t in­tended for the sort of in­tense ham­mer I was giv­ing them. They weren’t let­ting go or snap­ping side­ways, just spinning and mov­ing a bit. I liked the con­fi­dence they gave through Hall Bends, and I could re­ally get that lit­tle squirt of throt­tle on through the sec­ond right, over the crest. With­out be­ing too big-headed, I barely got passed, and was putting a torquey 160bhp through the rear tyre. If you or your bike ask a lit­tle less, they’re a per­fectly good road tyre that will han­dle mod­er­ate track use.

Miche­lin put on a good event, with not-too-full groups, so I got qual­ity track time. The only prob­lem is my rear tyre is a bit toasted, so they’ll be sell­ing me another be­fore long. Crafty old Biben­dum...

‘The first ses­sion was rub­bish. I was rusty, aching and strug­gling to get it to change di­rec­tion’

Carl sets up another nuts-out en­try to the Moun­tain

Change in rid­ing po­si­tion helped at the Chi­cane

Biben­dum, or ‘The Miche­lin Man’ to his mates, helps Carl wave good­bye to more cash. His rear Power RS (be­low) isn’t long for this world

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