The following is part of a series of articles authored by Melissa Berkoff (certified motorcycle mechanic and endurance mechanic and rider), Tim Gooding (crew chief) and Sam Fleming (rider and team captain) of the Army Of Darkness endurance team. Army Of Darkness has won seven national WERA Middleweight Endurance titles and has been racing motorbikes since 1989. These articles explain the what, where, how and why of building a competitive race bike from a stock street bike. There are many ways of performing most of these tasks and the authors are conveying their personal methods and practices without purporting these to be the only proper methods and practices. Similar articles were published in 2003. All photos are supplied by the Army Of Darkness-Ministry of Information unless otherwise noted.

This kitchen counter turned engine bench was practically
made for an engine builder of Tim’s stature.

In the first article, we covered the mysteries of the Hindenbox's upper level, join us now as we delve into the:

Lower Box

The sockets, ratchets, and extensions live in a couple of drawers. It’s hard to keep the sockets from jumping around in the drawer while traveling but they are loosely organized on strips or organizers. There are duplicates, 6-point, deep well, and Allen key versions of most of the 3/8” stuff, because you really can’t have enough quantity and variety of 3/8” socket-y things. Allen key sockets are really great and take away the drama of getting a stuck bolt out with a t-handle or regular Allen key. The 6-point sockets are very strong and less likely to strip a stuck or high torque bolt than the 12-point variety. Also there is an odd assortment of ¼” and ½” sockets purchased as needed to match particular fasteners.


You can (and should) take it with you – you never know when it might
come in handy. Sam, Tim, and Melissa work with an assortment of
screwdrivers, allens, pliers, diagonal cutters, t-handles, and insulated
gloves to pull a hot clutch.

The conversion of a beautiful stock street bike to a track-only race bike is an ambitious undertaking requiring a fair amount of financial and emotional fortitude. Buying a new bike is an experience filled with wonder and excitement. Immediately stripping the bike down to its component parts is more demystifying than first date sex; it’s more like first date dissection.


The 2013 race season was sort of a last minute affair and AOD was only
to receive the motorcycles weeks before the first event. To hurry things along,
Sam was deputized by the local Maryland BMW dealer Battley Cycles to be
a transport company. Sam drove to the BMWNA headquarters. The formality
of the BMWNA architecture contrasted nicely with the AOD garage.

No matter how much power your engine makes, it will do you absolutely no good if the bike’s chassis is the limiting factor. Although most modern sport bikes have suspension that is far superior to the stock suspension shipped with bikes ten years ago, they still tend to be primarily engineered for a sedate street pace with soft springs and incomprehensible valving choices by the OEMs. At a number of late-model press launches, the factory technicians who prepared the bikes for the journalists had set the rear rebound damping adjuster at full hard or one click off of full hard. You would think that at some point they would recognize that if they are shipping the bikes with a suggested setting of “full hard,” they might want to rethink the valving selections they are making at the factory.


Sam Fleming testing suspension grease at Summit Point Raceway.

Damage Control: Preparing the Chassis for Unplanned Events

We like to take pictures of the race bikes at the beginning of each season, just after we've finished prepping them and before they've even been loaded into the trailer. Why? Because Hilde loves to Snapchat. Just kidding. It's because chances are, they will never look that good again. You have to borrow a page from Buddhism when you spend countless hours (and many dollars) meticulously attending to every minute detail that goes into transforming a streetbike into a competitive racebike, because it can all go so wrong so fast. You can't get too attached, because attachment leads to suffering, and suffering leads to the dark side, otherwise known as Jar Jar Binks. However, there are some chassis modifications you can make to help prevent problems from occurring and minimize the damage when things do go wrong, that generally fall under one of these four categories: clip-ons (handlebars), footpegs, frame savers, and safety wire.


Just because the bike is crash-prepped doesn't mean you need to test
those preparations. Here Ben flirts with the limits without exceeding them.
Photo by Brian J Nelson.

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