AFM round 6, 2011 – LIFT-OFF

Posted: 1st September 2011 by GoGo in RACE STORIES - 2011

If the story of our year up to round 5 could be summed up in one word, that word would be “Lost”.  If the story of our round 6 could be summed up in one word, that word would be “Lift-off”.  (Ok that’s two words.  Whatever)  Would you think less of me if I admitted a tear came to my eye on the cool-down lap of this weekend’s Open Twins race?  Well go ahead and think less of me then.  It’s been a very long road.  The problems with our RC8R this year had haunted my confidence into submission, my skills into question, my drive into pause.  But all of that has finally began to morph itself back into a me I once again can recognize.  A me that’s not so afraid anymore – of anything and everything out there on the track.  And, for that matter, off of it.

Turns out we DID learn a bunch about chassis setup while racing our trusty Superduke in 2009/2010.  Turns out the triple clamps we made for our RC8R this year DID improve it.  We just botched one simple step.  Apparently the dust seal, which gets wedged between the steering head bearing and the upper triple clamp, lined up with the different shape of our custom triple clamps all wrong.  This caused the clamps to come loose after just a few laps, no matter how careful you were tightening/torquing the steering head together.  So basically we’ve been screwed all year by not only the bottom of our forks moving all over the place, but also the tops of them.  And I have had the baffling challenge of trying to force our bike to run at speeds it has no business running at.

Looking at my phone on the tool box Saturday, I could almost feel Mike’s curiosity burning through it’s screen.  A lot was on the line in our Saturday practice.  He really stuck his neck out there chasing John Starks down to make changes to our triples.  I could tell immediately the bike was different.  It was still far from perfect in the first practice, but it’s typically uncanny shimmies and wollows were all but gone.  Surprisingly though, with our new-found stability also came consistency.  I wasn’t looking for that.  Or even hoping for it.  But there it was.  And with our RC8R’s new found consistency also came, slowly at first, my confidence – like out from a dusty closet filled with forgotten treasures.  This got me to pushing a little more, which got us to discovering a little more.  By mid-day Saturday my mind was absolutely filled with new information.  And excitement.

I am not a great setup guy, obviously.  But, at least I used to be told, I am very good at giving good data.  This was another area which improved greatly Saturday.  Finally again my feedback made sense.  Finally I wasn’t contradicting myself with confusing information.  What was our bike like out there now?  “Have you ever driven a snow plow?”  I kept asking..  “Going into fast turns hard, it’s just like that…”  This prompted some odd responses – everyone here is from California.  No one drives snow plows.  So then I’d go into stories about snow plows..

When I threw the bike on it’s side heading into a hard turn, I could feel the pavement pushing back at me.  It was like something was dragging – the brake, the motor, I don’t know.  But something external of my inputs was slowing us down.  As I zeroed in on it I could also identify with a force not only pushing back at us as the bike turned in, but also actually pushing our front sideways – towards the inside of the turn.  This is where the snow plow analogy came from.  When you plow snow with an angled blade, you not only feel the snow pushing back at you, but the angle on the blade also pushes the front of your truck sideways – away from the snow.

It took a little bit of thinking but what we took that information to mean is we actually, finally, had TOO MUCH trail.  This brings me to my good friend Ben, from way overseas, who so graciously has been chasing down setup information from any KTM RC8R team he could make contact with over there.  All of Ben’s responses pointed at the same thing – more trail.  This is actually exactly what we figured at the start of this season, which is why we made the triple clamps we did – to reduce the offset which would give us more trail.  Ben’s information pointed at our rear link though, instead.  Everyone over there runs their rear ride-height concentric at it’s low position – which also gives you more trail because you are dropping the rear of the bike and therefore extending the forks outward.  But none of Ben’s contacts used different off-set triple clamps.  Maybe we are ahead of the curve there, maybe we are behind.  But definitely on Saturday, finally, we were aiming in the right direction.

In our previous quests for stability, we pushed our forks down into the top triple clamp to gain more trail.  Coupling this change with our 25.5mm off-sets (28mm is stock), meant we had even more trail.  And now yet again with our newly adjusted rear concentric at full low, we had even MORE trail.   All that turned our bike into a snow plow.  It steered slowly, went wide on throttle input mid-turn, and plowed into turns.  But now with the instability finally gone, we slid the forks back up 4mm and ran again after lunch.  I came back besides myself.  We had actually made a change to our RC8R which made a measurable difference.  In fact it even made it better.  In this case, LESS trail helped us greatly.  Apparently we had gone a bit trail crazy.  Thank you Alex Florea (Michelin) for suggesting that change.

Our KTM RC8R is a 2009.  The first year of it’s breed.  It shares a rear adjustable ride height concentric with the newer RC8R models, but being the first year of this bike they didn’t quite nail it right out of the gate.  The newer 2010/2011 models have more range of adjustability – ours is limited to just two millimeters.  So Mike, being on the charge like he has been this last month, dove straight into finding a newer model concentric for our bike.  Guess what?  No one had any in the US.  Sooooooo……

This is a 2011 KTM RC8R

 

And this is a 2011 KTM RC8R on drugs…

 

Mike showed up with the new link on Saturday night, which would allow us to run our rear even lower.  He also brought new 26.5mm off-sets which, think about it now, would allow us to maintain our new-found happy trail numbers WHILE running the rear of our bike even lower.  And that, my friends, is why John Stark’s triple clamps for this RC8R are so great.  It’s also why we have fought so hard to get them to work.  They give you endless options for chassis adjustment.  The only other way to maintain our happy trail numbers, while running the rear lower with the new concentric, would have been to slide the forks farther up the triples.  Why not just do that you might ask?  Ground clearance..  We are already dragging our bodywork, and my toes as it is.  Next up are our footpegs.  YIKES…

Open Twins was the first race Sunday.  This meant we’d get one practice to try our new changes.  I came back smiling ear to ear.  The bike was better than it’s ever been.  It turned in better, it held a line better.  We were ready to race.

We are second in the Open Twins points.  This means we line up right next to my least favorite person in racing – #54.  Really, I am actually thankful he runs Open Twins.  It pushes us to be better.  He is super dedicated to racing and as a result, really flies out there.  But the love between us ends there.  We don’t like each other at all.  On top of that there is history between us, so in our particular case he doesn’t just want blood – he wants my blood.  So be it.  I am ready to fight.

(the last paragraph was heavily edited by me.  Better I (re)think, to rise above the ugliness than lower yourself to it)

As the one board turned sideways I pushed extra hard off my left swingarm spool.  Got my chest as far forward as I could.  My helmet was over our windscreen, my finger on the front brake, clutch dragging and RPM’s ready for a jailbreak.  Instant that flag moved we had half a bike length on him.  I came out of the hole hard as ever.  But he’s got more power than we do.  Word has it they’ve got the KTM superbike kit.  So by the time first gear was out he’d made it back to even, elbow to elbow.  But I hit second before him, our front wheel clawing for the air – our two bikes only drawing closer as speed came to us both.  He started from pole, so he had the inside line for the still distant left-turn one.  Some say our elbows touched.  I say we leaned on each other.  Either way, no one was backing off.  Maybe it was my weight so far forward but somehow, of our two wheelies, I was the only one of us who could stay at full throttle.  Half way through third gear I had clear skies going into turn one.  No more #54, and no sign of Tiger-boy who had started just to our right.

We took the holeshot in the third re-start in round 5, too, so maybe my confidence was up.  But our lead in that race only lasted to turn 4.  Our lead in this weekend’s race lasted an entire lap.  I’ve raced with #54 a while, if he could have passed us anywhere on that first lap he would have – just to make a point.  But he didn’t.  On our first run up the front straight, which at Thunderhill is ungodly long for anyone down on horsepower, he did eventually draft past us.  But it’s interesting where it finally happened.  Not until the very end.  This spoke volumes about our progress.  Last year at Thunderhill we got passed, by many racers, at the very beginning of T-hill’s front straight.  Now it took #54 all the way to the end to draft by us.  And all without us ever going into our motor to find an ounce more hp.

Thank you Gary Rather (Garyratherphoto.com) for these pics

T-hill’s front straight is lined by a concrete wall on the right side, and open grass on the other.  Being that turn one is a left hander, the obvious line down the front straight is all the way right – which is where I was, hugging the wall to prep for our entrance to turn one.  When #54 finally drafted by us, of course he not only missed my left elbow by a fraction of an inch, but he instantly swerved across my bow and over my line.  I don’t mind stuff like that.  Hit me and I’ll hit you right back.  But he (hopefully?) didn’t think that move all the way through because while I am sure he did what he did on purpose, I am also sure he neglected to think what would happen to me once he shot across my bow at 165mph.  The ever increasing rush of still air beating against the front of our bike, and the face of my helmet, suddenly disappeared.  It felt like I inadvertently walked in front of a jet engine.  Turn one was now drawing me in like a super-sonic vacuum cleaner.  It felt like our bike actually accelerated – with me OFF the gas.  This drew me closer to his rear tire, and completely blinded my view of brake markers and turn-in points.  I pushed left of his tail section so I could see again and did my best not to clip his rear tire.  If our bike was not setup like it is today, we never would have made it through that moment.  But it’s actually lite years better now.  I was back in the gas before the apex, trailing just behind him, ready to see just how far off his pace we now were.

He drew away from us going over the hill toward turn two, but surprisingly we drew right back up to him once we were actually in the turn.  We yo-yo’d like that all the way through that second lap, up until turn eleven.  I tried to get in and out of that chicaine quick as I could because I knew his bike would pull us down that back straight – which would kill any chance of us drafting him down the front straight.  Unfortunately I tried too hard and got kicked out of the seat through there.  The rear came out hard but snapped back straight soon enough for us to only lose a second or so.  This put us about three to four bike lengths behind coming onto the front straight.  Like I said, I know this guy, so I knew he’d turn around and do something infantile once he was straight up and down and on the gas.  So I lifted my left hand from the bar and flipped him the bird – all the way down the front straight.  He did turn, to wave “bye bye” as he expected to leave us for dead like he has every race so far this year – so I expect he did see it.  Everyone on pit-wall did anyway, which is a success in itself.  But the real success story here is I was actually able to let go of the left bar for that long on the front straight.  I mean really, THAT is amazing considering what our bike was like exactly there in the past.  I used to have to lock both elbows around our gas tank, tuck my head in under the wind screen and hold our bike together while chanting church music if I had any hope of survival.

The next amazing thing to happen was he never left us for dead.  We never lost touch with #54 all race.  I didn’t count but I think by the end of the race we went through the checkered flag only about two or three seconds behind him.  That, my friends, is another sign of major progress.  I struggled to stay on the bike during that cool-down lap.  I was so excited I lost my voice from all the screaming in my helmet.  The corner workers must think I am crazy for being so excited about second place.

Truth is, considering everything, that Open Twins race was the best we have run in years.  We never gave up.  You never gave up.  We ran lap times five seconds faster than we managed in October.   FIVE SECONDS.  And all, mind you, while our rear axle was mistakenly adjusted 5mm out of line.  Yes, that is a “five mm” reference to a chain adjustment.  IE, the right side of our axle was 5mm rearward of the left side of our axle.  If that’s not bad enough, one of the custom offsets we installed Saturday night had the steering head hole drilled in such a way that our front tire touched pavement more than a quarter of an inch to the right of where it should be.  So yes, to you this may sound like one crooked bike to race.  Like, how on earth could you run high 1:51s at T-hill on such a crooked bike…?

It’s like I said before, even though I reached far as I could coming up with the analogies I did to describe what our bike has been like to race this year – I am sure I did not do the experience justice.  Trust me, our RC8R “this” crooked on Sunday, was a dream to race in comparison…

It’s Thursday.  I am still just as psyched as I was Sunday.  What a journey it has been.

Thank you for the support.  And thank you for reading.

 

GoGo

  1. Conan says:

    Awesome. Glad to finally see things turn around :) Looking forward to the next race report!

  2. Wally says:

    Not bad for having fallen off the old snow plow! (assuming it wasn’t turnip season!)

  3. Ben says:

    I´m so happy for you, good job!

  4. Sonny says:

    You used an orange and black snow plow pic ! haha
    See you soon, and I’m buying the ice cream.
    Thank You, Mike

  5. I read this story, and what a load of shit. Who gives a —- about what you think of him off the track. The fact is you are happy with beating him for a lap. That is pathetic. You have to win to beat someone. You have these little victories in you head that makes you should like a loser that is willing to be happy with nothing, but yet you call the guy beating your ass everything under the sun. James is a bike rider. I have raced with James and have been a fierce competitor of his, and through it all we have always gotten along. Everyone out there on the track should hate one another, the person that can put that away after the flag waves is a true racer. Beat him on the track before you try to beat him in the press. Otherwise you are just a fraud, a poser and a wanna be. It sounds like you want to be a racer, but I still think you need practice. I do not know who you are, but before you start throwing rocks think a little about what you are saying and how fucked you sound.
    Alex WERA #2

    • GoGo says:

      Spoken like a true lawyer Allesandro – a lotta words, a little knowledge

    • Lilly says:

      Hey Alessandro,

      You sound like an angry person who needs to mind your business….and look within! After that, perhaps take a cold shower…….. and then do a little research on GoGo , because you will learn that you could never be a quarter of the rider he is!!!!!

  6. U guys are full of —-. Just talkers. —- you all.

  7. Losers have no education. Never won —-. THink a lap is good to brag about.
    Nice. Spoken like true idiots, with nothing, zero.

  8. BTW, if Go go never beat Randolf straight up, well then guess what, I have. Not that Im a better rider than him, but certainly did better than a lap. You will never beat him. Horse shit article. Just saying.

  9. Hope James punts you off on your — next round.

    • S says:

      Alessandro — you sound a bit unstable.

      Out of curiousity, are you the attorney at the link below? Reproved by the California Bar Association for illegally engaging in ambulancing chasing and dishonest conduct? Did you claim that mental health issues to blame for your conduct? If you are that attorney, then that certainly puts your conduct on this blog in perspective.

      http://members.calbar.ca.gov/fal/Member/Detail/181368

  10. Yes mate. That is me. So what. Aggressive, yes, a dishonest person, no. never stole anything. Always helped people. Ask anyone. But that also means I step on —- just like you. Reproval for being aggressive. again Yes. When you take a step though the world of litigation, you have no idea what shit lies out there. I am not that person. I built a great business and have helped many.

    In the end, personal attacks do not hurt me, because I was always straight up. So bring it. You on the other hand are —-ing losers that have never won anything and think you are great. Let me see, 5 Roadracing titles in just two years back after a 18 year layoff. You —holes are still bragging about 2nd place in the twins class. —- you all.
    AA

  11. no balls to even put your name out there. —-.

  12. And to think I did this to support a friend like James. Yes, I do this same thing for clients, whom I believe in. Not afraid. I will keep pounding at your —-ing soul until you give in. No regrets, James did not deserve that and you know it. If you can not beat him, then admit it, and work harder rather than trying to engage in personal attacks that you, yourself can not handle. Again, —- you.

    AA

    • GoGo says:

      Alessandro, please do me a favor and stop using bad language on this website. Not only adults read these stories, but children do too. I really do appreciate you both reading and contributing.

      For the record, I have a theory which keeps proving more and more true as time goes by -“there’s something to be learned from everyone – no matter who they are.”

      I didn’t like your first post. Why didn’t I delete it? Because of the many points you attempted to make, most of which were either completely inaccurate, somewhat delusional, or just simply wrong – you DID make one worth-while impression on me. It was wrong of me, no matter how justified I feel, to say bad things about, or even use #54’s name in a derogatory way on my website. No matter what he did or didn’t do to me. If someone google’s his name, they shouldn’t come up with a few nasty lines of text I wrote about him, referring to something they have no idea about. In fact, obviously, neither do you. So I went through this blog and changed any reference to him, to “#54”. Maybe later tonight I’ll even tone down some of the anger I put out there in his direction. “Two wrongs do not add up to one right.”

      I don’t agree with your approach, but I do appreciate it. It made me think.

      For the record, and I have actually said this online before, both here on our website AND publicly on the Bay Area Riders Forum – #54 is more dedicated to racing than I am, he is a faster rider than I am, and he has a faster bike than I have the opportunity to ride right now. In fact he always has. I never have beaten him, and most likely I never will.

      But that’s not gonna stop me from trying.

      As for setting you straight on every one of the other things you said here on our website about me or any of the fantastic people here – I think I won’t spend any time educating you on things you are ignorant of. If you truly wanted to know, you’d already know.

      Finally, in our last Open Twins race we finished a whole world closer to winning than we have all year. We even lead for a lap. It seems you are taking my being happy with this progress, as my being satisfied with it. I am going to rely on your insult that nobody here has an education, to mean possibly you do? Try to follow this then:

      I am happy, last race was a great step for us. Tomorrow we take another.

      Eric “GoGo” Gulbransen

      • Shifty says:

        Great write-up GoGo………as usual. Alessandro Assanti, the lawyer that received the private reproval is off the Christmas list. I’m guessing private reproval is not good if you’re a lawyer? I only have a four year degree from a private college……………and won an AFM race………but I do read your stuff so I guess I’m a “loser, no education, never won idiot”. Ha

        • Lilly says:

          This statement alone “Hope James punts you off on your — next round.” should have you put away. These are lives you are talking about Alessandro….not some video game where a guy gets punted off and walks away unscathed. You are a very sick soul. Stop wasting your time sticking up for mean people and banishing a clean, fun blog with your profanity and ill will and go seek some serious mental health help…..at this point it’s probably already too late!!!!!

  13. RB says:

    GoGo,

    What a superb performance. This really was a BREAKTHROUGH weekend, and I was thirlled to see it happen. After these last couple of tough years, it must be sweeter than ever to come away with this type of result. I got the start on my GoPro, and that was incredible. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY is a better starter than GoGo.

    Having James Randolph as a tough competitor will make ANYONE better. He’s clearly one of the very best racers in the Western U.S., and it’s always fun to watch him race. He’s provided some of the best / closest racing I can think of, and the challenge and drive that other racers must have to race against him only makes them better. BTW – for those that haven’t seen James lately…he looks like he’s been training for triathlons. His workout / fitness routine must be highly disciplined, and it’s showing in his competitiveness.

    ALEX: For the record…I know GoGo, probably better than anyone that will post on this blog. GoGo is a friend of mine, and has been through many years, and many ups and downs. Not too many people will ever be what GoGo is. I’ve watched him race for roughly 15 years, from Loudon New Hampshire to Sears Point in California. He’s won championships in virtually every year he’s raced, including winning the Open Twins championship on a Ducati 749R (giving up 250cc to the other racers). He’s done more than his share of winning…but it’s CHARACTER that counts. He’s overcome HUGE adversity, and done anything he could to HELP others along the way. Whether it was working with other riders to improve their riding, or kneeling over a fallen rider on the track…he exhibits the characteristics that are rare and valuable in any human being.

    As evidenced by his consideration of the original postings on this thread…he’s thoughtful, and really does take good advice and ideas to heart. His SKILL and WILL are among the best I’ve ever known personally. That said, I hope they will always be second to his TRAITS.

    GoGo: We can’t wait to see your next performance this weekend. We’ll be there watching…I know this Open Twins race will be the best of the year so far. ; )

    RB

  14. Ed Molijn says:

    Hey Eric,
    The usual accolades and words like ‘congratulations my friend’ don’t seem to do justice to the pleasure many of us will be feeling after the ‘Break Through’ you have experienced ….. I’m just stoked for you mate, plain and simple.

    The rant by the ranter is another matter …. sticking up for for your mates is one thing and good on him for doing that, but that was a seriously over the top reaction to your comments on JR.

    But, having said that, the reason I’ve even posted here is because when I read your your article on ‘the’ race I was pretty blown away by your bagging of that man. It just didn’t seem like the same GoGo articles I’ve been reading for years and years ….. I’ll admit I was dissappointed in you man.
    Enough said, I’m guessing most people that read you know what I mean and if they don’t then explainations won’t help.

    Your answer to the ranter was awesome and my faith in your intelligence, wit and perception has been restored.

    Onwards and upwards my friend !!!!!

    Ed

  15. mattacme says:

    Fun stuff, Eric. Leaps and bounds ahead of where you were, and in such a short time. I’ll be interested to see if correcting the mis-alignments improves things, too. I’m really glad for you.

    As for certain references to lack of education and the incredible disadvantage that must be I only remind you that I had to drop out of high school twice, because I didn’t get it right the first time, but have somehow managed to cope with this severe hadicap. Not quite sure how I’ve done it, but I can chalk that up to what must be my overall ignorance. By the way, it IS bliss.

    Well done. Carry on.

  16. Ben says:

    So what happened? Didn´t you go last weekend?

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