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It often makes me laugh, or maybe it is cry. People go out and buy an expensive motorcycle, fit it out with lots of expensive accessories, and then buy expensive matching clothing, helmets, boots and other fine items. Then when they need to top up the oil, they buy the cheapest oil they can find.

It is a bit like a NASA rocket launch failing because of a 10 cent component. Oil is what makes your motorcycle run smoothly, and putting in oil that is not meant for your bike is making sure that you will have a problem later on.

Motor_oil

Just think about it. Every motorcycle model is different. Different in engine size, cylinder compression, cooling and a same motorcycle that lives in the desert is going to be different from one that live up up North in Canada.

Every aspect dictates what kind of oil you need to use. Your owner manual will tell you what kind of viscosity you need to use, but they will tell you a range. The viscosity will be determined as mentioned above on the displacement, the cylinder-head compression, horsepower, the kind of cooling used and most importantly, at what kind of revs your bike’s engine will run (you can understand that a motorcycle that runs at 12,000 rpm will need different oil than one that runs at 3,000 rpm).

The only thing you need to take into account, is the outside temperature and if your bike remains inactive for long periods of time. The viscosity grades are ranged from 0 to 60 (with 0 being the lowest viscosity). If you find the letter “W” after the grade, this implies that the oil can be used during the winter.

The other choice you can make, but you will need to read your owner’s manual attentively, is whether you use regular/mineral based oil, or synthetic. This can depend on the engine and the manufacturer, but often they will leave the choice up to you.

But whatever you select, select wisely. The last thing you will want is having your expensive motorcycle engine seize up while riding the freeway at 70 mph.

“Necessity is the mother of invention” as the proverb goes, and as mankind, we have a lot of needs, and therefore a lot of inventions. Here is the example of a creative man who had the need for a small and portable transportation vehicle to get around town without needing to have a bulky motorcycle or scooter. Something small and compact.

The man in question is a farmer in Hunan, China and during 10 years he tinkered on his majestical idea of putting a motorcycle inside a suitcase so that he could take it anywhere and not have to worry about parking it, and worse, that it might be stolen.

Suitcase-Motorcycle-1

So the farmer created the first ever motorcycle suitcase. With three small wheels, and collapsable steering wheel and even equipped with a fully functional GPS, the suitcase motorcycle is functional. And the design objectives were met; small and compact. The vehicle runs on a rechargeable lithium battery, so it’s even ecological.

The “suitbike” speeds through town at 20 kph (12 mph), though it has run 50-60 kph, but speed is not the issue. The whole thing weighs only 7 kilos (15lbs), so once he has arrived at his destination, he just lugs the suitcase inside, just like any other suitcase. The suitbike can ride up to 60 kilometers (37 miles) on a full charge. And if you’re traveling with someone, it can accommodate 2 people, so you can bring your pillion.

Suitcase-Motorcycle-2

I just wonder if the airlines would accept this as checked or cabin luggage. Imagine arriving at your destination airport, sitting on your suitcase, and riding away. Priceless.

What a great idea. Click here to see a video of the motorcycle suitcase.

WD-40 needs very little introduction to anyone who has something mechanical. Anything that moves needs to be lubricated and motorcycles are no exception. The following illustration is one of a biker’s normal workflow diagrams:

WD-40-Duct-tape

But so far, WD-40 has been used mostly as a lubrication oil. A handy spray-can that allows you to spray a good quality oil somewhere to make things move. But now WD-40 have extended their Specialist care product range to include motorcycles.

The WD-40 Special Motorcycle product range is currently on sale in Europe (I haven’t been able to find it in the USA, yet – but it will come, no doubt about it). The products are:

WD-40-Brake-CleanerBrake Cleaner

This product is designed to quickly remove brake dust, dirt, oil, and brake fluid from brake and clutch systems. The fast working formula dries in minutes and leaves no residue. Regular cleaning helps brake discs and pads last longer.

WD-40-Chain-CleanerChain Cleaner

This product is easy to use and quickly removes dirt, grime, dust and oil from chains. Compatible with O, X and Z ring chains the formula blasts off contaminants and dries in minutes. Regular cleaning helps to reduce wear on the chain to maintain performance for longer.

WD-40-Chain-LubeChain Lube

This product provides lasting lubrication and protection for your chain and is O, X, Z ring compatible. Its exceptional long lasting action makes it particularly suitable for dry conditions. It’s also quick drying and provides outstanding anti-fling properties. Regular use helps maintain the performance and life of your chain.

WD-40-Chain-WaxChain Wax

This product provides lasting lubrication and protection for your chain and is O, X, Z ring compatible. Its exceptional long lasting action makes it particularly suitable for dry conditions. It’s also quick drying and provides outstanding anti-fling properties. Regular use helps maintain the performance and life of your chain.

WD-40-Silicone-ShineSilicone Shine

This product is designed to give an all over great shine to your bike. The fast evaporating formula acts quickly and is easy to apply with no need to buff.

WD-40-Total-WashTotal Wash

This product is an all-purpose cleaner designed to quickly cut through traffic film and road grime. This formula leaves a great finish and is sage to use on paintwork, plastic, rubber, aluminium, chrome, carbon fibre and disc pads – basically all over the bike!

WD-40-Wax-PolishWax & Polish

This product is designed to leave your bike with a deep glossy shine. The formula contains Carnauba Wax, one of the hardest naturally occurring waxes, which provides a wet look finish and long lasting shine. It’s great for repelling water, allowing it to bead off paintwork to maintain a fantastic finish for longer. It’s easy to apply and streak free.

So now you can get a complete set of maintenance fluids for your motorcycle, all from that same dependable company (which turned 60 years this year).

You can find the whole range of WD-40 Special Motorcycle Care product by clicking here.

Is this something you would be interested in, or do you think it’s just a marketing gimmick?

Electric motorcycles have got their share of nay-sayers. Although truth be told, more and more bikers are seriously looking towards the electric motorcycle. With Harley-Davidson’s recent introduction of their LiveWire electric motorcycle, the e-motorcycle suddenly got thrust into the limelight.

Harley-Davidson LifeWire

Harley-Davidson LifeWire

Before, it was the likes of Brammo and Zero to carry the electric motorcycle evolution torch, but these startups do not have the market power that the Milwaukee brand has, and it was obvious if you followed the news; any news, since all TV stations around the world talked about it in their evening news. Even TV stations in Outer-Mongolia showed the Harley-Davidson.

But one place where electric bikes are starting to make their mark is in the motorcycle racing sport. And one race where they are doing so is at one of the most craziest, dangerous and spectator-drawing races: the Isle of Man TT race.

The Isle of Man TT race is a very long track using public roads on the Isle of Man (an island located next to England). And when I write public roads, it means that they take the normal road used by thousands of cars, trucks and buses and close it for a few hours to let motorcycles race on them. Roads that had previously seen mud, dirt, oil and even cattle droppings. All that while the motorcycles race at speeds of up to 150 mph! If you want to read more about the race and the atmosphere of the TT race, I highly recommend the book TT Full Throttle from author Nicole Winters (it’s a novel not a biography book, so the story never happened but the surroundings and facts are all true).

At this year’s IoM TT race, the current champion and TT legend John McGuinness on his electric Mugen Shinden motorcycle raced around the island, setting a new lap record for electric motorcycles at 117.366 mph. That’s an average speed, not the top speed! Below you can see the onboard video of the amazing run. The electric motorcycle is almost as fast as the ICE equivalent motorcycles (Internal Combustion Engine), which stands at 132 mph. The only difference is that the ICE motorcycles do 3 laps, while the electric motorcycle can only do one lap.

But watching the video, you know two things for sure: 1. electric motorcycles will in the next few years become mainstream, and 2) IoM TT racers are crazy and suicidal.

So maybe you are deadset against electric motorcycles, but 100 years ago people were against internal combustion engines, preferring horses. But that changed, didn’t it? So why wouldn’t electric motorcycles become mainstream?

Stolen-Motorcycle-Just-Chain-leftBarring accidents, there is nothing worse than having your motorcycle stolen. Arriving at your bike hoping to ride away and finding an empty space is a very emotional moment – a moment of despair.

Professional thieves will take your bike no matter what, you can slow them down and more important, prevent it from being stolen by amateurs.

First, let’s look at this video to see how quickly a professional will steal your bike:

You see how quick that went? The bike had two locks…

Now let’s see what you can do about Sunday-thieves or opportunists.

  1. Garage: Get a covered garage. It’s more complicated to steal from a garage than from the street. You can even buy bike shelters that you can put in your garden if you don’t have a garage.
  2. Ignition Lock: The easy one. Make sure your ignition is in the “Lock” position. It’ll not do much, but it slows thieves down.
  3. Chains/Locks: Use big and heavy chains, or approved and very strong locks. You can see from the video that a professional will cut through chains/locks like you would cut through butter with a knife. But a big chain anchored to a heavy object will prevent thieves from grabbing your bike and placing it in a truck.Placing a chain from your rear wheel to a fixed position is the best you can do. Front wheels are more easily removed.
  4. Alarm: An alarm is a good thing, especially if it’s very loud. Once someone moves your bike, the alarm goes off. No thief wants to be seen next to a very loud siren. You can get really fancy alarms that will send you a text message once your bike is being stolen, allowing you the time to contact the police to file your report.
  5. Tracking: A tracking device hidden in the bike will not prevent it from being stolen, but might make its recovery faster and easier.
  6. Cover: Cover your bike. Often professional thieves look for motorcycles “on demand”, meaning they will have been asked to steal a specific brand. Covering your bike will make it more difficult to spot.

So there you are. Remember, you can’t prevent a season and professional thief from stealing your bike, but you can make it more difficult. And another good thing to do, get a good insurance.

In the last article we explained about track days and all the preparations to go to one. It’s your chance to find out how fast you really are without running into cars, stoplights and even cops.

Now let’s look at some tips on the actually racing. Most of this you will hear from the circuit professionals, something you will really, really, need to go for. Ask them, since they will show you all the ropes, more than I can ever tell you. Track day training is going to be essential.

But for the mean time, here are a few points.

  1. Before going out, make sure you know what each flag stands for. Know when the track marshals are telling you that there is oil on the track, when the session has been called off, when to stop, etc etc. It’s very important to know all the flags, since it can save your life.Trackday-flags
  2. Have fun out there. You don’t have a career in racing, so have fun. You are not there to race everyone on the circuit. Eventually you will find some other racers whom you can measure yourself against, but don’t try it in the first few sessions.
  3. First few laps, ride behind an experienced racer. They will know when and where to brake, and enter into the corners. This way you get a “feel” for the circuit, and you slowly memorize the layout.
  4. Never, ever, look just in front of your tires. Always look as far ahead as your can, especially in a curve. If you look down in front of you, that is where your bike will go. So look towards the exit of the curve, unless of course you want to inspect the grass and gravel.
  5. When hitting the brakes, remember that most of the work will be done by the front brakes. It’s an 80/20 rule – 80% front and 20% the rest (remember your body can also slow down your bike, so not only your rear is in the 20%).
  6. If you do run off the track, do not use your front brakes. When you are still at speed, keep straight and slowly use your rear brakes to slow down. If you are still going too fast and heading for the crash barriers, get off your bike. You will stop faster than your bike.
  7. If you do go back to the pits, make sure the other riders know this, or even when you are slowing down. Race your arm, signaling that you are slowing down. This will prevent another riders from slamming into you.
  8. Don’t over do it. Know you limits, and slowly start improving them. Just because Nicky Hayden was riding in front of you and managed to take that curve at 150 mph, doesn’t mean you can. Do not ride outside your limits. It’s going to take time and practice.
  9. Slowly start lowering your body alongside the bike in the corners. Don’t worry if you can’t put your knee down yet. It takes time and practice to be comfortable doing this. Move your center of gravity (CoG) more and more to the inside of the curve.
  10. When going out on the first laps, take it slow to warm up the tires. Be safe and take two laps making sure the tires have reached perfect temperature, but when you do, keep looking behind you since other racers will already be in their fast laps, and you don’t want to “mingle” with them.
  11. Relax! Racing is about being relaxed. If you stiffen up, you will not be racing smoothly, and therefore you will not be racing at all. More likely, you will be crashing a lot. Just relax, breath going into the corners through the nose, breath out when exiting through the mouth. This way you get a good rhythm going, and you will not fog up your visor.
  12. Oh, and if you think you’ll look cool doing that winner’s wheelie, think again. You’ll find that the circuit will ask you to leave.
  13. When you are part of a novice group, and the seasoned riders are on the track, go and look how they are doing it and learn from them. Talk to them when not riding, and ask for advice. You’ll find that most of them will help you if they can.

Trackday-3

So now you are ready to go and play on the tracks. Remember, it’s for fun. You will learn a lot, and gain more skills in riding your motorcycle in day-to-day traffic in the city. And you will finally find out in a safe way how fast you really are. And that is what it’s all about.

Have fun.

Once you have got your motorcycle, you will want to find out how quick it, and you, is. If you have a sportsbike, chances are it’s very fast, and trying it on the streets is not the way to find out. You will probably find out what the inside of a hospital or morgue looks like before finding out how fast you are. The smart thing to do is race your motorcycle on a circuit. And for that, you don’t need to be a Nicky Hayden: anyone can try their skills on a race circuit. Most circuits have track days, days that the race tracks are open to the general public. Click here for a list of many track day organizers.

Find a race track close to you and call them, or check their web site. Track days are usually during the week, since weekends are for races. It’s not going to be cheap, count about $100 per day and that is just for the privilege of riding on the track.

Trackday-1

Instruction

Most circuits will have professional racers available to show you the ropes. They will take you around the track to show you where you need to watch out, when to hit the brakes, where to take your curve etc. It’s a bit like tennis courts of golf links; it’s the circuit pro who knows the track inside out. Pay attention, any advice they give is going to be important, no matter how small the details.

So don’t worry if you have never done it before. Newbies are just as welcome as seasoned track day racers. And if the pro is not available, ask the other users. A good friendship is always to be found on the circuits, people are usually eager to help each other.

When registering for track day, go for the new rider slots & training. Almost every circuit has them, and for your first few times, you will need it. Do not be ashamed to do it, everyone has done it.

Which Motorcycles?

There is no hard and fast rule. Any bike will do, but obviously you are going to be looking a bit silly racing a cruiser. Street bikes and sportsbikes will be the ones seen the most on track days.

Trackday-2b

ATGATT

If there is one rule that should be golden it’s the ATGATT rule. All The Gear, All The Time. Most circuits will not even allow you to race without proper gear. No skimping, your life is going to depend on it.

Get a full face integral helmet. Not even a flip up helmet will do here, it needs to be one piece. And the lighter it is, the more you will enjoy it since your head is going to be pulled by the G-forces.

You will need race gloves. If you do go off the bike, chances are that your speed is going to be very fast, and when sliding, those gloves will need to withstand a long slide. Unless of course you don’t mind some skin grafts.

Best is leather pants and jackets, preferably racing ones, but they are very expensive. Best are of course the one-piece racing suits. Expensive, but worth it. But whatever your have, you will need to have either leather or synthetic anti-abrasion material. Do not go out in jeans.

A spine protector really is a must. You’ve probably seen images of professional racers tumbling across the sand and gravel after a shunt. Now imagine this is you, and what your spine is going to go through!

And finally, get some race boots. They need to fit properly, since if you do go off, you don’t want to see your foot without boots sliding 150 mph over the track, do you?

Check Your Motorcycle

You are going to need to make sure your motorcycle is in racing condition. No, I don’t mean that you have sponsor decals on your bike, and umbrella girls. Tires and brake pads should be new, not worn down. The tires should really be racing tires since they stick better to the surface. But race tires wear down quickly, so be prepared to buy a few.

Remove your mirrors and if possible your indicators. If not the track will do that for you when you drop your bike the first time, but it’s not going to be neat.

Tape up your remaining lights, since if your bike goes down, chances are their is going to be debris on the track.

Your suspension should be set up properly for racing. Usually the firmer, the better. Read the manual for the best settings.

Make sure your bike has had a full maintenance done recently, and that fuel, water, coolants, fluids etc are all topped up.

Trackday-2

Going There

If you have done all of the above, best is to transport your motorcycle on a trailer. Not only does it save time once you are at the circuit, but also in case you wreck your bike, you at least have some form of transportation to get back home.

Alternatively, ask if the circuit rents sportsbikes. Some do, and this way you can wreck someone else’s motorcycle.

Check the sleeping conditions at the track in case you are a bit far away. Many circuits offer sleeping areas, but don’t expect comfort – more likely that they’ll be bunk beds.

Eat & Drink Smart

Obviously the last thing you want to do the night before your track day is go on a drinking (and even eating) bender. Avoid alcohol since you are going to be sweating a lot during the day, even if it’s cold. Make sure you hydrate continuously, so bring plenty of water.

Have a good breakfast since you energy is going to be zapped. It’s like going into combat; your adrenaline is going to be pumping through your veins, so make sure you have proteins and fluid in your tummy and more to top it up during the day. Soldiers don’t fight well on an empty stomach, and neither do racers.

Paperwork

You will be needing to sign all sorts of waiver forms with the circuit, but that’s normal. Do check with your insurance company what they will cover on track days. You’ll be surprised that insurance companies accept track days, since at the end, it improves your riding skills.

In our next episode, we will tell you more about the physical aspects of racing your motorcycle during track days. The “how to race” part.

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