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.

Many people prefer to build a race bike slowly over time, first the bodywork, then the pipe, then the shock. This approach is fine when financial restraint is dictating the engineering of the motorcycle. We try to tread a fine line between financial efficiency and performance requirements. The bikes (a pair of heavyweight endurance bikes based on the 2012 BMW S1000RR) shown in this series are built to be competitive in the WERA National Endurance series. Contesting a series championship means showing up heavy for the first round. Therefore, the bikes are built from the ground up with all required modifications over the winter months to free up summer weekends for racing or maintenance.

Although ten years ago it was possible to build a competitive 600cc Supersport for about $15,000, these BMWs are probably closer to $25,000 each. This includes the bike, bodywork, exhaust, shock and forks, brake upgrades, engine covers, chassis guards, steering damper, clip-ons, rear-sets, chain, sprockets, wiring supplies, fuel injection programmer with traction control, lap timer, air filter and assorted other pieces. We try to avoid low performance returns like aluminum bolts. We usually budget about 40 to 60 hours to complete the process with a fair amount of outsourcing. Performing all your own suspension work, engine work or paint work can easily double the time but cut the expense. We don't have a hard number on what it would cost to build these bikes as we got a lot of help from a lot of people and, of course, we bought a lot of parts at dealer cost through a sponsorship hook up.  

If you break down the whole process into steps most of the modifications are to:

      1) Decrease weight
      2) Improve handling

      3) Improve reliability and safety

      4) Improve brakes

      5) Improve power

      6) Improve crash resistance

      7) Improve ergonomics

Sam takes the keys. The dumpsters in the background are a harbinger of
destiny of all bikes, unless they are fortunate enough to end up
in the Barber museum.

You should be able to clearly define the objective of any modification before undertaking the time and effort to effect the change. The obvious and most cited example of poor return is a novice racer spending money on power upgrades instead of tires and suspension. Before dropping money on some $400 part make sure you ask yourself if this part is going to quantifiably A. decrease lap times or B. make you safer (reliability). If it won’t, then don’t bother.

Most race bikes will be returned to street service before being sold (unless they end up as office decor or, worse, balled up and scrapped). With that in mind you may want to carefully pack all stock bodywork, lights and such and be careful about cutting electrical connectors or making irreversible frame modifications. Cutting the bungee hooks off of your subframe will probably not show up in your lap times and you will regret it when you try to sell the bike in two years.

The first thing you want to do when you get her home is take off her clothes.
Manufacturers usually use a variety of hardware to fasten the bodywork in
sometimes not-so-obvious ways so you want to locate all the attachment
points and identify what tool you'll need to remove a particular fastener
before you start frantically pulling on stuff. For instance, BMW, in their
"look at us we are so superior" engineering, choose Torx heads for virtually
all of their fasteners. That required a one day delay while we invested in
a $100 of high quality Torx T handles, sockets and drivers (
Remember to unplug the electrical connectors for the turn signals before
pulling the fairings all the way off, and unplug the tail light connector
before removing the tail section. If you are using any amount of force
to try to pull off a section of bodywork, you probably have overlooked
part of the several pounds of stock fasteners. 

The order in which you strip body parts off the bike is dependent upon
how it was assembled, for instance if you can't get to the tail section
fasteners without removing the seats, you have to remove the seats first. 

You will also want to be careful in your choice of aftermarket suppliers. The participant turnover in road racing is very high. The average duration of participation in road racing is about three years. Due to this turnover some disreputable companies have been able to remain in business selling shoddy goods to racers for years. The racers that get burned once and would swear to never buy another set of crappy bodywork then leave the sport and the new kids that show do not know that certain manufacturers have a reputation for poor quality control. The lowest price is often not the best value.

Virtually any motorcycle you are going to race is going to have a fuel pump.
If you are going to swap tanks (as we are) or paint the stock tank you'll
want to drain it with a siphon hose before removing it to facilitate disassembly.
Make sure you disconnect all the electrical plugs and fuel and vent hoses
before lifting the tank off the frame, and watch out for pressurized fuel
spraying out of the fuel line as it always seems to have the uncanny ability
to find unprotected eyeballs no matter where they are looking. Or, you
could be smart about it and wear some eye protection.

Customer service, and product quality control has suffered over the years as vendors realize they don’t have to work too hard, as there is always one more customer(mark) calling. Getting the right part that fits, delivered to your door on-time from knowledgeable and helpful vendors is becoming an infrequent experience. If you find a good parts guy (male or female), or used parts vendor, or a company that makes a part that works and doesn’t break, or a supplier that can help you out with a non-standard application, do your patriotic duty and support them with all the fervor you can muster.

The straight story is often made more complicated by the fact that many of the most prestigious racers have commercial ties to certain manufactures (sponsorship) and will endorse a product even if their own bike might have a completely different oil, brake pad, bodywork or suspension internals actually installed. Motorcycle journalists (such as Sam) are often wooed by OEM manufactures and after market suppliers with international travel and four star hotels, free helmets and tires. All of these things can erode journalistic objectivity like water on stone. Ask lots of questions and trust no one. Observe with your own eyes performance, fit, function, reliability and draw your own conclusions. Being able to punch out the fairing and resume practice after sending a bike into the air fence is preferable to reducing the fairing to several dinner plate sized chunks in a similar crash. Making the right choice of aftermarket vendors will greatly impact your race results.

Since coolant isn't legal in most (if not all) race organizations and you
have to take the radiator off to get to the headers anyway, drain the coolant.
Even if your bike is equipped with a coolant drain plug it's often faster and
easier to just pull a coolant hose off the water pump and drain it there.
There have been heated debates about what is the proper way to dispose
of your used coolant. Some recycling centers offer coolant recycling, and
some city's water treatment plants can handle small amounts of coolant
flushed down the toilet. We often save it because we are idiots and live
in a place where it gets really cold in the winter and, therefore, we put it
back in the race bikes so they don't freeze and break. Once you have the
radiator off you can remove the cooling fan from it to save weight and,
at speed, improve cooling. Be very careful with the fins on the radiator
as they are easily bent.

In the interests of disclosure, some of the aftermarket products used in these articles were supplied at a discount or free due to the publicity generated by the team but most of the equipment was purchased through usual racer channels. Virtually all of the suppliers used in these articles were utilized by the teams well before the team won championships. In other words, although we might have received some of the stuff free now (and not much at that as there is scant sponsorship left in motorsports), we were using the same products when we were paying for them. Also, you should be aware that Roadracing World will intentionally eliminate advertisers from the pages of Roadracing World if RRW becomes aware (usually a letter from a reader) of unscrupulous business dealings. That is not to say that you are safe shopping from the pages of RRW or that you are at risk if you buy from suppliers who do not buy ads in RRW but you should be aware of that filter.

Remove the header bolts from the exhaust studs, then unbolt the muffler
from the passenger peg, and then remove the center exhaust bolt from
the frame and the whole system should just drop off. You might want to
support it with something under the headers when you're removing that
last bolt so the exhaust system won't get crushed under its own weight
like a beached whale when it hits the floor. 

We elected to not do any motor work on these BMWs. One, we didn't have any time. Two, motor work is a hassle. Three, motor work typically only helps you if you need more power and these BMWs most definitely do not need more power. They are sick fast. Like, fifth gear wheelie fast.

However, if we had decided to remove the motor we would have followed these basic tricks:

      • It's good practice to tape up the intake boots, and especially the crankcase breather,
        to prevent the introduction of foreign objects into the motor during removal or

      • Remove or unplug anything still connecting the motor to any other system on the
        bike, such as the countershaft sprocket, shifter, neutral indicator, oil pressure or
        level indicator, alternator, ignition pickup, clutch cable, battery leads (Always
        remove the negative cable from the battery first, and then the positive cable.
        Assembly is the reverse of disassembly. The reason for this is to avoid the
        consequences of inadvertently touching a wrench to the positive terminal and the
        frame (dead short if the negative cable is still attached) while you are disconnecting
        it, if say, you are wearing a ring that is touching the wrench), etc. 

      • Take a few minutes to check and double check to make sure there is nothing still
        attached to the motor aside from the motor mounts. When you are sure you are
        ready to drop the motor, loosen the motor mounts, including the motor spacers
        if your bike has them, but don't remove the mounts yet. 

      • No amount of prying or tapping or swearing will force that motor out of the frame
        if the motor spacers are still tight. Your typical motor spacer threads into a boss on
        the frame and presses against the motor, and it has notches in it that require either
        a manufacturer's special tool or a well-placed screwdriver to loosen.

      • If you take off the wheels and forks you can basically lift the frame off the motor,
        we usually hang the bike (we have a great 80 year old hardwood beam in the garage)
        and drop the motor out of the bottom. 

The order in which you strip body parts off the bike is dependent upon how it was assembled, for instance if you can't get to the tail section fasteners without removing the seats, you have to remove the seats first. 


Of course, removing your suspension and putting it back on won’t make the bike much better so in a later chapter we will discuss what rake, trail, spring rates and damping mean.

You can then remove the passenger foot pegs, and while you're at it,
anything else from the sub frame that you won't need such as the
passenger seat mount, stock toolkit, side stand and, in this case, the
BMW Anti-lock braking pump and control module. It's also easy at this
point to drain the oil.

Melissa grinds one end off a chain rivet to remove the stock chain from
the bike. She sometimes just cuts through the whole link for chain removal
but for some reasons decided to do this one in a surgical fashion.

Parts which are going to be reused, for the most part, the radiator (after
being fortified and the fan is removed, the excellent Brembo calipers and
the stock ECU.

Since you're in the shipping mood, you'll next want to remove the forks,
which is easy with the front end already suspended. Unbolt and remove
the brake calipers, loosen the necessary pinch bolts, remove the axle, and
then remove the front wheel. Remove the throttle sleeve, left grip, clutch
perch, switch housings, and brake master cylinder from the stock clip-ons,
and then remove the clip-ons and the brake system. Then you can loosen
the lower triple clamp pinch bolts, and then the upper triple clamp pinch
bolts, and slide the forks out of the triple clamps. 

It is perfectly natural to stare at your disassembled motorcycle and be
filled with regret. Visualize the phoenix rebirth into its new state.