I have always said, “When the gate drops the bull#%@& stops.” Let’s see who has done their homework during the off-season. Frequently I am asked, “What is the best way to prepare for the new season?” Well, there are many ways to look at this. Not only is there the need to be physically fit, you also need to get your program all set by the beginning of the season. It takes a good three months to get your bike dialed in the way it should be. Now let’s remember, before you start testing suspension and engines you really need to be able to hang on to the bike for at least 25 minutes. You need to be in shape to test properly or you are basically wasting your time. How can you test if you’re not able to push like you should at round one? Here are some easy steps to look at:
Set-up. I would say the most important part of your bike set up is the suspension. Considering the power these bikes are putting out today, suspension is the first item to focus on. So where do you start? What suspension company has most of the top guys? I would make some phone calls and talk with a few companies to find out what they’re offering. Can they come out and test with you at the practice tracks? Will they attend any national tracks? Can you call them for advice? The number one item on the top of the list is you need to be confident with your set up. If you don’t have confidence you’re going nowhere. There are 10 national tracks and they are all different! Figure it out and invest your money in suspension set up. Once you feel like you have a good set up, start practicing at different tracks to see if the set-up is good. Give your suspension guy some feedback. Here is a very important fact: once you have your set-up, please get the same suspension components for your practice bike. I will tell you later why.
Now let’s look at the engine department. If you’re on a 450 you really don’t need to do much unless you are Colton or Brett Metcalfe speed. You don’t need more power. If anything you will need to fine tune it for yourself. Try flywheel weights and ECU mapping changes to make the power smoother hitting. Yes, it feels great to have tons of power for the first couple of laps. Tell me how that works out at the 20 minute mark of the moto. Try testing with different rear sprocket sizes. This is a cheap and easy way to move the power around. Another good idea is to get your valve seats cut. This will give you a few extra ponies for a small investment.
Set-up. Here is one important fact that most riders don’t think about; make sure your practice bike is as close as possible to your race bike’s set up. Suspension and engine set up should be exactly the same. Why would you ride a stock bike and a fully pimped out race bike for the races? They will have a completely different feel to them. It will take half the day to get used to your race bike. Spend your money wisely if you want results. You can put the bling parts on the race bike and that is good for at least a second or two per lap.
Please don’t forget to make sure you practice with good tires on your bike. Why would you go out and test or practice on used tires? The difference between new and used is so different it’s not even funny. Make sure you get the right compounds for the track conditions. If you’re not sure, take a quick walk around the pits and see what everyone is using.
Okay, so now you have the two bikes with their engines and suspension set up. Let’s head down to a rough practice track that no one likes riding on. The rougher the better. If it’s too easy, how do you expect to learn anything? The next step is to make sure the transponder is working. Yes, it’s time to compare lap times from bike to bike to make sure they are pretty close. This is where your money will be really well spent. Invite your suspension guy to the test track and see if you can improve your lap times. I have never seen a stop watch lie about you going faster or slower. This is where you better be in shape because you are going to do lots of laps. Now stay on the main line, no cutting the track or you’re just cheating yourself. Remember to bring the following items to test with you: rear sprockets, tires, offset clamps and even different handlebars. You are looking for as much advantage as possible. Every second you save adds up after 12 laps on the track.
Ready to Win!
Now let’s review. The most important item on the list is to make sure your confidence level is high. Remember, arm pump is due to hanging on too tight. Why are you hanging on so tight? NO CONFIDENCE!!! I don’t think I have ever heard of a rider winning the race and complaining about arm pump. The weekends are the easy part of the racing, the testing and training is the hard part. If you complain and blame everything and everyone before yourself, it’s time you look in the mirror and ask yourself the question, “Whose fault is it really?” See you at the races!