AFM round 5, 2011

We have problems with our RC8R.  We have challenges with our team.  We get zero help from KTM.  I am tired of being thrown around by this motorcycle.   How’s that for an opening line?

Yes, we did recently solve a huge issue with our Ohlins forks.  That was a bullshit deal – it’s entirely possible that Barry Wressel may have saved my life by discovering our forks had come apart internally.  I thank him for taking the time no one else thought to, to look into them.  It was Barry as well who got our Penske shock working.  So what gives then?  If our forks are dialed, our shock works, and we can choose any off-set we want with our triple clamps – how is it our RC8R is still so unmanageable?  Well that’s the same question I have…

I came in from our first (and our only) practice Sunday morning, looked Barry Wiggles straight in the eyes (which looked by the way, so anxious to hear rewarding things about handling, drive and stability) and I said, “I hate this bike.  I hate you.  If you have a sister I hate her.  I hate racing, and I want to go home and eat ice cream.”  That’s how we started our race weekend, Sunday morning.  As for why we started our race weekend, Sunday morning, that’s another story all together.

As we move closer to finding a better setup for this KTM RC8R, it is gradually becoming more appropriate to address our lack of power.  We already have KTM’s “clubman” kit.  This includes increased compression via thinner cylinder base gaskets, an Akropovich exhaust system, cam timing, and a different air filter.  Since our KTM RC8R motor is actually an 1195cc twin, and the specs for a 2009 (which is what we have) boast 159.34hp, and a top speed of 169.55mph – you would think we’d be ok straight out of the box.  After all I used to turn some pretty fast laps on our old Ducati 999R, and that thing at it’s peak had 152hp in 2005.   …so yes you would think we’d be ok straight out of the box….  But I have always thought, since the very first time I raced this RC8R, that something might be wrong with it.  The power just never seems to come-on.  And forget about how easily we get passed out there when everyone else’s throttles are twisted to the stop.

So for round 5 we set out on a quest for more power.  This ended us up back at our old friends Nichols Sportbike (  Nichols are the ones who made our triples for the Superduke two years ago.  Mikey Lawrence runs their service department.  He’s pretty deep into the software system we use to generate new maps for our bike’s ECU – “TuneBoy” ( ).  The TuneBoy company is actually based in Australia, which is a bitch when you have issues to sort out due to the time difference, so we’ve been struggling to get their system working with our RC8R.  Mikey worked those issues out in twenty minutes.  That kid is on the ball.  Mikey also suggested we try a relatively new device to help us generate better mapping perameters – it’s called a WEGO, it’s made by a company called Daytona Sensors.  ( )

WEGO tuning, Daytona

This WEGO is a pretty cool device.  It comes with two (one for each cylinder) oxygen sensors, which screw into the exhaust system.  The WEGO then monitors how efficiently your motor is running by measuring the percentage of oxygen-to-fuel ratio AS you are at speed out there on the track.  Try hard as you like, you just can’t reproduce real world speed/air/Oxygen/ram-air effects to any measure of accuracy while you’re locked up in someone’s dyno room.  So this thing records twenty minutes of your bike running at speed.  Once back in the pits you download the data from your WEGO and use it to fine-tune your map, making it richer or leaner wherever you see fit.

WEGO map

That all sounds great, right?  TuneBoy gets the new map INTO your ECU, and WEGO helps you fine-tune that new map.  Finally we were gonna show up to a race with some horsepower, which we actually did, but not until Sunday…  Just like anything else in life, with new opportunities come new risks.  Any time you work your way into a computer (ECU) and mess with it’s operating system, you run the risk of turning it into a “Brick.”

“BRICK” – Dictionary definition – a solid, worthless, very expensive hunk of recycling refuse – which just so happens to look like a computer, but is now about as valuable as a small rock.

Warning – while uploading new maps to your ECU, please DO NOT turn the key on your dash to “off”…

Friday afternoon we “bricked” our ECU by turning the ignition key off while TuneBoy was uploading a new map into our ECU.  There’s no point mentioning names or pointing fingers of blame.  Sometimes shit just happens (Mike and Keith did it).  So our focus quickly turned to saving the race weekend any way we could.  With no way to get a new ECU (it was now the weekend), and with our backup bike “The Superduke that Almost Could” still in the back of the shop – dead, our weekend was pretty much over before it ever started.  Suddenly our great plan to have the RC8R race-ready a week early had turned before our eyes into “It’s midnight Friday, we are already a day late getting to the track, our bike no longer runs, we have no idea what is wrong with it, we’re gonna miss round 5…”  We all left the shop, defeated, at 1am Saturday morning.

When we have problems at the shop in Tri Valley Moto, which we cannot see our own way past, we always turn to one man – Tri Valley Moto’s master technician, Alex Hernandez, who somehow, remarkably, comes up with solutions every time.  Mike Meissner (owner of Tri Valley Moto), and Keith Rodrigues (Tri Valley Moto tech & race mechanic) both met Alex Saturday morning with a dozen roses, a box of chocolate, and two sets of pleading eyes.  By mid-morning Satruday Alex had magically lifted the curse of “a brick” off our RC8R’s ECU and we were back in business – but our shot at Saturday practice was lost.

This put us neck-deep into the only practice we would get all weekend – Sunday am.  Every change to suspension (and there were a LOT), every change to power delivery (and there were a LOT), would all have to be sorted in six laps.   Luckily Formula Pacific, a race we don’t stand a chance of being competitive in until we sort our bike out VERY much better, was scheduled before our main event – Open Twins.  This gave us more seat-time, but to be honest it didn’t help.  We’ve got some deep-rooted fundamental issues still haunting us.  What are they you might ask…?   Read this:

Out of turn 2, hard on the gas, our RC8R gets wilder the deeper I twist it’s throttle.  Honestly, I can give you a visual description of what it’s like – picture “Animal” from the Muppett Show.  Wild hair, face full of teeth, drum sticks flailing and a head swinging like two wild cats are fighting inside his skull.  That’s what it’s like.  Over the hill out of 3a, where I’d like to stay in the power down the hill, I just can’t.  I don’t understand it.  I can’t rip through the fast right hand kink of turn 5 either, and my entrance over the crest of the hill and into the right hand carousel turn is utter hell.  The front tucks initially, then the rear trails sideways, the front comes back, so does the rear, then it all starts again.  Once this settles and I’m at full lean, the front pumps up and down so much I can see the opening of my helmet nodding “yes” over the view of the countryside through the turn.   Somewhere amidst all that I’m trying to pick a spot to initiate my exit at the bottom of the hill – but the bike won’t respond to my input.  Or I’m too afraid to give it my input.   I’m really not sure which comes first.  On the exit of the Carousel, where I used to be at full throttle in years past, just banging through gears on the way up to turn 7, I am scared to shift my weight.  I hold the tank with my elbows and knees.  I try my best to twist the throttle all the way to it’s stop, but I usually cannot.  It’s like walking a tightrope on the edge of a razor blade with bare feet.  But the worst is yet to come…

Wielding our RC8R flat-out through the esses of turn 8 today is like a scene straight from a horror movie.  I described the experience best to Chris Siglin Saturday evening.  Years ago I went through there with my front teeth biting my lower lip, just like you might do if the foxiest girl of your favorite fantasy walked by wearing five inch heels and a skirt no longer than your wallet.  It felt amazing spun that far into a big twin’s grip, while it’s bodywork grazed the pavement and your body hung over that curbing.  It was all so good you almost couldn’t get enough.  But that was then – a different bike, a different era.  Today going through there feels like trying to grab hold of a violently spinning steering wheel the shape of a pretzel, with no car attached to it.  Instead your feet are flying behind you in mid-air and you’re screaming profanities at the top of your lungs like a nine year old begging the toothless man at the controls to stop the Twister ride his brother strapped him into at the carnival.  Trust me I speak from experience…

So take a deep breath for me, close your eyes, do whatever you need to in order to imagine lining up on the front row of Open Twins on our RC8R.  What’s worse is there was another RC8R just like ours right next to us, on pole.  And that thing isn’t possessed at all..  WTF!  To our right was one of my favorites, Bud Anderson on his 1098.  Next to him was Tiger Boy, dressed in war paint, ready to pounce.  All things considered I felt calm, confident, and completely ready to race.

afm open twins grid, 7/11

Yeah, right.

#54 easily hole-shotted on his own RC8R.  We were second into turn two.  Mid-way through that turn he lifted his left hand and waved to the crowd.  Somehow that didn’t annoy me.  Being this ill prepared I deserve the abuse.  How do I still not have this bike working…  As his RC8R pulled away I took as many notes as I could:  I couldn’t hold his lines, I couldn’t accelerate as early or as hard, our bike is a lot slower, and his KTM did NOT shake like ours through the esses.  That’s as much as I could get, he was soon gone.  Three laps later the race was red-flagged.  They stopped us up by turn 7.  #54 was quietly parked next to Tiger Boy, waiting for the call to be released to the pits.  I pulled right next to him, shut my bike off and tapped his arm to compliment his riding.  And here’s where it all went bad.  ….or good, depending on your perspective.

Ok that’s not exactly why I pulled right next to him, and that’s not exactly why I tapped his arm.  Colin Edwards would talk about this, so I will too.  The man hates me with a passion.  I know this.  I tried to nod hello to him during a rider’s meeting at round 2 – all I got back was the most evil stare you can imagine.  He looked like a superhero in training.  Like someone told him his eyes have superpower laser beams, all he has to do is learn to use them.  His neck and chin stretched forward, he squinted his eyes and gritted his teeth, I even think he made growling sounds – but no lasers ever came out.   I smiled back.

I know why #54 hates me.  He thinks I stole his girl.

What did I tell you when I started this blog – “If it happens, it will be said.  And if it is said, it definitely happened.”

I didn’t steal his girl.  In fact I didn’t even borrow her, for many reasons – the top two of which list as follows:  1 – I still love my own girl, Tracy.  2 – I already had someone do that to me.

#54 flailed his arm at mine and instantly exploded into a shouting, spitting, frothing frenzy of threats, insults, and blood vessel popping passion – about everything and nothing – all at once.  As he told me never to look at him again I noticed, he actually has nice eyes for a guy.  When the corner worker came over to our smoking war-zone as if to ask if we needed help – with #54 still shouting in my left ear I mentioned to the worker it seemed he was upset about something.  So I turned back to #54 and asked him what exactly it was – but he couldn’t hear me over himself.  Then he disappeared down the drag strip

The incident didn’t upset me actually, I’ve heard years of stories about #54 trigger.  Truth is I kind of deserved it for pulling so close when I knew he’d been working on his superpower laser beam all this time.  I guess I just felt good about still doing the right thing, even though just about everything around me in 2010 seemed wrong.  Let’s all hope the old adage comes true then – what goes around comes around.  So far it seems to be, 2011 is shaping up rather nicely.

The re-start of Open Twins was curious.  #54 pulled us from the launch, but not by as much this time.  That and the unjustified spitting session kind of woke the animal up in me.  When they red-flagged the race again, I lined up for the third start of Open Twins with a little attitude of my own.  Truth be told I can launch a bike with a good clutch pretty well.  Thanks to Yoyodyne we now have a good slipper clutch in our RC8R, so at least for the beginning of this race, we were ready to fight.  Two heartbeats past the drop of that green flag our KTM had half a length on his, so I moved across his line and we took the holeshot into turn two.  I thought of waving to the crowd but to be honest, I didn’t want to let go of the bar.  I dropped the ball there, that would have been classic.

We led until I blew the entrance to turn four.  That’s all I had – four dam turns.  Then it was back to business as usual – bike all over the road, ass kicking, bucking, tank slappers into the esses…   The rest of the race was only four laps long after the third re-start, which for us turned out to be 3 laps and 7 turns too late – but we’ll take the second place and smile pretty big about it.  After all, we were ready for a zero Friday night…

eric gogo gulbransen

So we’re in second place in the Open Twins Championship point race.  Two KTMs against a field of Ducatis.  I guess that’s something to be happy about.  But really, I am not so happy.  Let’s face it there’s a lot to life that doesn’t add up.  So be it.  But motorcycles aren’t supposed to be this complicated.  Even with just two sessions, and especially with a ton of changes, we should be experiencing some differences out there.  Maybe better, maybe worse.  I’d even take sideways – just give me something different for shit sake.  But that hasn’t happened so far.  And that, my friends, is utterly unbelievable.  There is something fundamentally wrong with our KTM RC8R.  We are warming up to some new thinking considering the bike’s rear link. Apparently KTM changed this part of the RC8R pretty substantially in 2011.  Remember, we run a 2009.  So maybe I think, over this week, many phone calls will take place – zeroed in on just this, our RC8R’s rear suspension link.  Look for updates, I will share what we come up with this week.


So here’s our lessons we take from round 5:

When you can’t think of anything else to do but give up, ask someone smarter

If your RC8R doesn’t handle for shit, look somewhere other than your suspension

Don’t borrow people


Thanks for reading,




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