Saturday, February 20, 2010

Chris' 2010 Motorcycle Racing Schedule

Because the formatting on my e-mail sucked!

Here's our 2010 schedule:
Buttonwillow March 20-21
Infineon April 24-25
Infineon May 22-23
Thunderhill June 12-13
Thunderhill July 10-11
Infineon July 31-Aug 1
Thunderhill October 2-3

Venue Event Date
  1. Buttonwillow March 20-21
  2. Infineon April 24-25
  3. Infineon May 22-23
  4. Thunderhill June 12-13
  5. Thunderhill July 10-11
  6. Infineon July 31-Aug 1
  7. Thunderhill October 2-3 (tentative)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sportbike Upgrade: 2007 GSXR 750 - AMAZING

Check out the new ride: 2007 GSXR 750:

Not a scratch on the bike:

I'll do a full post on the new bike, but here's a quick lap around Grizzly Peak and Centennial Dr. in the Berkeley Hills.

It's also a test of my new Vholdr helmet camera, way cool!! Stay tuned for more on the GSXR

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Buying tires in the Bay Area

Researching: Where to get the best deal on sportbike tires and installation in the San Francisco Bay Area

As of July 2009, the Verdict: Motorcycle Superstore +
Out the door price: $339.98, tires installed

The details:
Motorcycle Superstore - online motorcycle vendor (location: Oregon)
Most motorcyclists turn to the internet for great deals on parts (typically less expensive, sales tax can be avoided in some cases, and you can browse at your own leisure). However, most motorcycle riders don't have the proper tools to handle tire installation so it's not as easy as "add to cart" and "checkout"...or is it?

I was pleasantly surprised to find Motorcycle Superstore who had great deals on tires (Dunlop Qualifiers at the time were 25% off but I was too chicken to stray from my Michelin Pilot Powers this time). They also had a cool service I had never heard of before, "preferred installer program."
  • Preferred Installer program (link) - You order your tires online from Motorcycle Superstore, they ship to the "preferred installer," you take your bike or your wheels to the installer, and voila, you get new tires at the best price possible. My single compound, Michelin Pilot Powers came to a grand total of $273.98 with zero sales tax (buying from California) and FREE shipping (for orders over $75 or $100, I can't remember). Very cool and cost effective.
  • Choosing an installer - After selecting and purchasing the tires, I clicked the "preferred installer program" and started going through many tire installers. The highest rating and lowest price was the and being close to my new place in SF, I opted to Robbie's business near 10th and Lawton, SF, CA
  • Robbie, the MotoTireGuy in San Francisco seems to have the best installation prices: $(35+3)/tire for installation and disposal fee for wheels ON THE BIKE. For wheels off the bike: $(15+3)/tire. These were the best prices listed on the preferred installer program page.
Other dealers in the bay area charge about $100 to install new tires on top of the tire sale price.

Buying the tires online:
Ordering my tires online through the was a very easy process. Select your tires, know the tire sizes for front and rear on your bike because they'll ask you to specify, submit your zip code to select your "preferred tire vendor" and purchase. Voila! Your discounted tires will be shipped to the preferred installer (for my order shipping was free and looks like it will take about 2 days to arrive).

The only feature of their website that I wish they had was to simply buy the "set" of tires. I picked up the Michelin Pilot Powers single compound and I had to select the front and rear tires separately. Maybe some people mix and match but I simply wanted the set. After talking to Robbie, he said mixing and matching wasn't a bad idea but no real advantages come to mind.

Don't forget to check the "closeouts" too before you buy. There was nothing I wanted at that time but they did have a Michelin Pilot Race rear tire and I thought about mixing and matching and then decided against it. Maybe they'll have some discount sets in the future that I'll pickup. Remember, race tires are NOT good for street riding as their warm up times are much different and wet-weather drivability is poor (information from Robbie).

They then gave me a survey which I didn't want to take but they offered me "$100" which ended up being $100 in magazine subscriptions. Which they then charged you $2/ea for the year subscription so if you're into magazines, maybe this is an option for you. It may also be a scam; hard to tell.

Installing the tires!
So after I submit my order, Robbie was informed of my purchase and that tires would soon be shipped to his business. Robbie was quick to update me when my tires arrived at his work and was very flexible with scheduling. This was the first time I had really conducted business via text message but it worked out just fine.

One note about Robbie's business: he doesn't carry tires or have any new tires in stock for you to just walk in and choose (he has some used tires which he'll sell you but he may not have your size; call to find out). He labels clearly on his website to order the tires from an online vendor and have them shipped to his business. Motorcycle Superstore was the best prices and did have fast service. Save Robbie the hassle by reading his website thoroughly before you call and ask him the same question the last 9 callers had asked, "what kinda tires do you have in stock?"

I arrived a few days later with my motorcycle (wheels on) near 10th and Lawton because I feared a miserable parking situation in the Sunset district. Not really the case. Anyhow, Robbie quickly takes my bike, puts it up on the stand, and gets to work. Meanwhile, he's offered me a seat and suggested I "grab a soda in the fridge." Some good ol' fashioned customer service.

After talking some, he finds my clutch lever is not adjusted properly (it was lacking the "nickel's" worth of space between the lever and the housing) and fixes the problem; no charge. He then suggests some tire pressures which were higher than track settings which was fine. He informed me that if you run your motorcycle at lower pressures on the street, you may feel strange performance and run the risk of bending / scratching your rims in a pothole.

He gravity balances my tires, ensuring he hasn't damaged my rims during the installation and wraps up the job.

It was no surprise Robbie was listed as the number one preferred installer at Motorcycle Superstore. He was very knowledgible about tires and had them on my bike in a little less than an hour (and I showed up late - I don't recommend this).

If you have any questions, he's happy to help, but just don't ask him if he has any tires in stock at his business for you; that's not the way the system works!

Using the tires:
Remember what every mechanic normally tells you after new tire installation: ride it like a Grandma for the first 50 or so miles; let the manufacturing chemicals burn / wear off, leaving you with fresh new grippy rubber. Don't be the guy that falls down in the driveway of the shop!

Thanks for everything Robbie - see you in 3 track days or 3000mi, whichever comes first!!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pacific Track Time: Infineon - April 24th 2009

Another successful trackday under our belts.  Pacific Track Time hosts another awesome session even though the B+ class was frought with crashes.  Recover well gentlemen, we hope to see you out on the track again soon.  Above is a picture of Eric, myself, and Shawn with our machines (photo by Mrs. Hobbs and loyal asst. Hayden)

Some of the day's highlights were:
  • Infineon Raceway itself - this was my first time riding this track and as the "big wig" Ken Casey from Race Ready Motorsports put it, "[Infineon's] easy to learn but difficult to master."  The challenge in the morning made the faster afternoon sessions much more rewarding
  • Dr. Hobbs' Helmet Video Camera - showing a high degree of care and compassion for his fellow trackday compatriots (Shawn and myself), Dr. Hobbs bought and installed a helmet camera so he could film us on the track!  If only I could stay in front of him for more than 3/4 of a lap!  Check out his video on YouTube (note my mini wheelie at the start 0:05 - 0:08):

  • Complementary Lap Timers - apparently, Pacific Track Time is the first trackday program to offer complementary laptimers powered by RFID (Radio Frequency ID).  Similar to "FastTrak," riders wear a small decal on their helmet that has an electronic chip and antenna which communicates to a base station that tracks when the chip passes a specific point on the track.  Riders after each session can simply take their helmets to a beacon connected to a display computer and instantly see their laptimes from the previous session.  TOO COOL!  This laptiming system is apparently the first of it's kind in the world but I expect it to catch on with any racing community.  An article about the system is on (go to article).  My fastest lap time: 02:03.596
  • New Arlen Ness 1 piece leather suit - As the aging connection between my top leather jacket to my bottom leather pants fatigued, the fear in my brain about what my back, stomach and other body parts might look like if I were to hit the pavement served as the impetus too buy new leathers.  Size 54 with room for a good size back protector, this new suit has a great feel.  I'm 6'4" 170lbs and I typically have difficulty finding leathers that fit properly.  These were a good fit at a great buy; thanks again Race Ready Motorsports!
  • Dito's photos: There's like 3 guys who are riding w/the number 9 but check out the one's at the end with my new suit!  So SICK!! (link to
As we rode Infineon for the first time, here were some observations that were made (see figure if you get lost in the descriptions):

  • It's a highly technical track; less top speed, more complex cornering and braking (anyone who watched me hit turn 9a and 11a could describe my troubles.
  • The B+ class (or the middle group) tends to crash more than the A and the C.  Speculation is that C class riders know they're learning, thus they ride cautiously.  The A class riders are just damn good and know exactly what their doing 99% of the time.  And B (or B+) riders believe they're "good" so they can go in the faster group, but that belief is often skewed by ego, peer pressure, and cold tires.  All those things combined create high-sides, low sides, and any other unfortunate way you can crash a motorcycle.
  • TURN 1 is best handled by rolling off the throttle at the Start / Finish and dipping left into the corner at the turn marker (today it was a T-shaped piece of tape).
  • TURN 2 up the first hill allows you carry some additional speed.  Careful though as it's an off camber right hander
  • TURN 3 is a sharp left, again, going up a hill so speed is okay
  • TURN 3a is just on a crest so you'll need to pick a landmark so you know when you're headed the correct direction down the hill.
  • TURN 4 if taken late allows you to merge TURN 4 and 5 together so you can carry as much speed as possible. 
  • TURN 5 heading into the carousel is fast and for me was in third gear.  Then, rolling slightly off the throttle entering
  • TURN 6, I upshifted to 4th gear  and hugged the corner with a cushion of about 5 ft.   Leaving TURN 6,  you're on the gas and waiting for the wide corner in TURN 7.  I was able to pass people on the outside of TURN 6
  • TURN 7 was a turn where I often got passed on the inside.  The tendency is to start from a wide left and swoop over to the right, but people get inside you easy and boom, you're passed.  The long semi-straight path where you're hard on the gas, makes your front end prone to a "schimmy."  Thankfully the pitch and balancing of my Honda CBR F4 is well designed and thus my front end damps this unstable non-linear oscillation often caused by road bump (impulse) or hard acceleration (lightened front end load).  Often times riders fix these problems by using "Steering Dampers" manufactured by companies like Scott, Ohlins, and others.  (picture 1, picture 2)
  • TURN 8 and 8a are fast corners.  Just keep up speed cause someone's probably hot on your tail.
  • TURN 9a gave me the most trouble during the day.  I just didn't quite figure out the hard braking into that chicane.  And if you get through the first right and you're chicaning over to your left, there is a piece of mended asphalt which can get your rear wheel spinning unintentionally.
  • TURN 10 is straight forward and finally, 
  • TURN 11 is again a hard braking followed by a tight right hander in 2nd gear.

Infineon w/PTT was awesome!  I was timid at the beginning of the day but by the end I was getting more comfortable on the track.  My fastest laptime was in the low 2mins but I'm awaiting a response from PTT to find my official times online.

5 more track days to go!  WooHoo!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Prepping your sportbike for the track

There many ways to prep a sportbike for the track.  I'll mention three:
  1. OCD-you tend to rebuild your engine between each track day, you've polished your chromie valve caps, and you've ironed your underarmor
  2. The Responsible One-you print out the checklist, you make sure you have everything on that list.  You probably have adjusted your chain, washed your bike, and done a thorough inspection.  Then you bring the fun stuff for yourself: digital camera to take a picture or two of some of the OCD people's bikes.  Overall, this person has balanced the right amount of time and effort to have fun on the track.
  3. Me-my version of inspection is to ride it and if nothing falls off, tech inspection complete!  Now now, don't worry, I did print up the sheet, and am making sure I have everything on the list but I didn't look too hard at my brake cables, nor did I do anything about the slightly overfilled and dirty oil (probably should have changed it after I installed that new race clutch).  Lets just say that at my last track day, the first session out, we were all suited up, mounted on bikes, engines running, and I was saddled up, tightening one of the bolts on my fairing.  Literally on the bike wrenching, seconds from being on the track. Yikes!

In the top figure, you can see the portion of the headlight with the blue painters tape.  This is to keep the glass from shattering all over the racetrack; when and if I fall.

Definitely going to bring the tools, tons of beverages, and faith that it will not rain!  Looking forward to Pacific Track Time's offering of lap timers.  If anyone wants to donate an Apple iMac 20" or other Mac computer product, I'm looking to develop some iPhone applications relevant to motorcycle riding.

I look forward to posting my trackday performance soon!

When it's foggy out, ride above the fog

While it's never wise to ride your motorcycle when you're emotional, sometimes a good, focused, even quick motorcycle ride can help clear a mind.  After starting the motorcycle, you instantly begin to focus on all the subtleties: the slight chatter of valves asking to be tuned, the initial sponginess of the brakes followed by precise, surgical grip, and the tightness around the knees and lack of blood flow due to the jeans under leathers.

Wait, wasn't I worried about making one of the million deadlines, meeting with one of a hundred people, concerned about where I was going to eat dinner?

The motorcycle calls for your unfettered attention and with that focus, a rider can truly enjoy a fun, safe, and exciting motorcycle ride.  Becoming aware of the road, it's variables, and everything else is priority one on the bike.  Determining why you're mad at your girlfriend, or how you're going to get the deliverables have little room on the motorcycle.

Thus, the motorcycle allows you to ride above the fog:

This little ride also served as the prep run for this weeks TrackDay at Infineon Raceway.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Chris McCoy's Track Day Fund: Help Chris and Donate Now!

Barring better judgment, I just spent more than half my salary on 6 track days at Pacific Track Time (PTT).  For $895.00, you can go to six regular track time events.  Assuming each track day is typically $180, you get a savings of roughly $1080-$895 = $185 or 1 trackday!  Cool!  But I'm hoping my fans can help support my trackday riding via sponsorship (read on to see the benefits):

Thanks to my current sponsors:
  1. Sarah Wodin Schwartz ($10)
  2. The McCoys ($395 from the sale of their couch set)
  3. Who's next?

Sponsor a Student: Chris's Track Day Fund!

So because this hobby is a bit expensive, I could use help!  If a generous donor is willing to sponsor me for $XX / lap at the various raceways I'll be riding (Thunderhill, Reno/Fernley, Buttonwillow), I'll throw your company's decal on my bike.  The person or company with the most generous sponsorship will get the biggest and most visible advertising spots.  Here is my expected performance:

Benefits to you:
  • Exposure to a targeted market - Advertising comes from the pictures they take of us on the track (  I'll buy the images and post them to this blog.  You tell your clients, friends, etc. that you've sponsored a UC Berkeley mechanical engineer to fund his favorite hobby: motorcycle racing.  I'll continue to post articles relevant to motorcycle racing, racing technology, and other motorcycle news giving your company logo continued exposure.
  • Feel good - you give a student the opportunity to explore his passion for motorcycle racing and watch him apply his mechanical engineering skills to drive faster around the race track!
  • Learn Something - I plan on posting my learned riding skills, maintenance tricks, and other fun topics.

Pacific Track Time has a new website!
Pacific Track Time just recently updated their website to make managing your trackdays' dates / times better.  Once they've cleaned out a couple minor glitches, should make buying trackdays a breeze (minus the handing over the money part).

Please Donate Now:

I'll try to find PayPal donation methods and import them into this blog.  Otherwise, you can always e-mail me or comment if you or your company might be interested!

Thanks in advance.  Look forward to a great season!

p.s. I learned how to create a PayPal Donate button through this cool (blog)