Part One – Garage and Tools

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.

Part Two – More Tools

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.

Part Three – Big Picture

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.

Part Four – Preventative Maintenance and Suspension Sub-contracting

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.

Part Five – Clip-ons, Footpegs, Frame Sliders and Safety Wire

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.

Part Six – Brakes

Modern sport bikes show up now with pretty decent stock brake components such as radial master cylinders and radial mount brake calipers. On the now-ubiquitous upside-down forks with gigantic front axles (to compensate for the lack of an old-school fork brace), radial mount calipers are aligned along the rear radius of the brake rotor and bolt onto the rear of the lower fork, as opposed to the previous iteration of front brake calipers which bolt to the side of the fork.

Powerful but linear brakes, a taunt chassis and Michelin tires allow Chris
Peris to trail brake to the apex on his knee. Lawson's superbike FZ750
used to spread the frame rails under hard braking so much that he could
feel it in his knees. They had to install a bolt in support between the
frame rails to prevent the flex.

Part Seven – Chains, Sprockets and Electrical Modification

What drives you? Chain and sprocket considerations:

The first few laps of practice at a track are for familiarization and information gathering. You take mental notes, perhaps log some data and maybe even shoot some video to help determine brake markers, shift and turn-in points, safe passing zones, potential hazards, and which way the track goes past any blind rises.  

Once you’ve figured out the basic line and track flow and started dropping your lap times, the next step is to refine the picture by adjusting gearing choices. The two things you'll need to consider for determining the proper gearing are mid-corner rpm and straightaway rpm. Your drive out of corners depends on your ability to keep the motor on the boil at the top part of the rev range. However, you also want to avoid running out of acceleration by hitting the rev-limiter on key straightaways as well as any short chutes between turns.

This would not be a good moment for an errant chain. Blair Hartsfield Photography

Part Eight – Work That Body: A Practical Guide To Installing Bodywork (NOT a buyer's guide)

DISCLAIMER Part II: This is not a bodywork review. Roadracing World has already published at least two comprehensive bodywork reviews which are probably out of date by now but the January 1998 issue featured an article by Sam Fleming which detailed the different kinds of materials that can be used in bodywork construction and their relative merits, and included a breakdown of different resins and weights by manufacturer. The February 2003 issue featured a buyer's guide by Scott Morse which included a comprehensive analysis by manufacturer of different bodies based on criteria one normally considers in deciding which body to buy. Roadracing World would be tickled pink to sell you those back issues if you want a bodywork review. On a personal note we (AOD) are happy enough with the Armour Bodies quality/durability vs. price that we have used Armour bodywork for the past several years but you should read the reviews and talk to your friends or consult your astrologer and decide what kind of body you want.

Overall win at Roebling Road brought to you by the bodywork not
falling off during the race. Photo by Kazumi Yoshida

Part Nine – Painting Bodywork and The Transient Nature of Beauty

“Uh-oh” Photo:

Part Ten – Clutches

In the bad old days of motorcycle racing clutches were a pretty simple affair. A racer typically only used it, in anger, once per race when the green flag dropped and only touched the lever for downshifts. The often meant clutches would last an entire season or more with nary a second thought. Long ago, when "racing on a budget" wasn't a punch line, thrifty rider/tuners would simply fit an extra set of washers under the clutch springs to get extra life out of worn plates.

Ben Walters uses a well adjusted and properly maintained slipper clutch
to optimize a corner entrance at Hallet Motorsports park on his way to
an AOD victory. Photo by Tim Turner.