Not only has the weather this year tested the patience of the nation, it has buggered-up any opportunity to test properly.
Bemsee provide a whole day’s testing on the Friday before a meeting, but this year it’s mainly rained. We did have a sunny Friday at Brands last month, but we were on the Indy circuit and the race was on the GP layout.
All this means setting my 2012 BMW Park Lane S1000RR up is still work-in-progress. I made a breakthrough at the last round at Brands by fitting a softer rear spring and for the latest Cadwell round I made some more big changes to tackle the bike’s two main (relative) problems: slow-turning and trying to stop the forks using so much travel, even with loads of preload dialled-in.
I have tried heavier 10.5kg fork springs (I usually run 10kg) to solve the excess travel problems, but it made the bike even harder to turn, so I decided to reduce the air gap in the forks by adding more oil.
Steve Jordan, top racer and owner of suspension specialists Steve Jordan Motorcycles (www.stevejordanmotorcycles.com) comes to most of the Bemsee meetings to service the paddock and gave me a hand.
We needed to remove the forks, so you can measure the air gap with them properly upright and then added more oil. Now I can run much less preload and have a much better feeling for front tyre grip when I’m braking and turning-into the corner.
Uber-fast racer Phil Crowe shared our awning on the Saturday (and set pole position for the race). He runs a 2012 S1000RR and has set-up his own suspension company (Phil Crowe Racing). To give my bike the steering agility I’m after, he suggested raising my bike at the front and rear using the ride height adjuster on the Ohlins TTX2 shock at the rear and pushing the forks down through the yokes at the front. It certainly helped and running through the chicane and Hall Bends was definitely easier.
He also suggested lengthening the wheelbase to give more grip and stability in and through the corners, which I did by putting a smaller front and rear sprocket on (and therefore keeping the same overall gearing). It made the bike harder to steer for me – I just haven’t got Phil’s strength, so I put the wheelbase and gearing back where it was.
I still ran out of time to try everything I wanted to try, so I hope the next round at Snetterton 200 is dry but I did try-out a new-for-this year medium compound Dunlop Ntec rear, which had tonnes of grip and good durability. Most of all it makes my bike so much fun to ride.
Despite the constant fine-tuning, the weekend still turned-out well. I won all three races and got into some good battles with Fireblade-mounted Danny Fowler. My brother Ben also got rid of his Cadwell demons by setting some impressive laptimes, too.
I also picked up a ‘Rider of the Day and a ‘Top Dog’ award and wrapped-up the Team Respro Premier 1000 championship – my first ever championship win in 24 years of racing.
My mate Tony Hoare had a big off during the YPM race and suffered some serious injuries. He’s going to be ok, but it’s going to be a long recovery. I was watching his race from the café when he fell, but on the bright side, he was riding like a demon, battling for the lead when it happened!
Get well soon, mate.
Next round: Snetterton 200 8/9 September
Pictures by Bryan Lancaster and Michael Neeves