What Size Victory? 600? Openbike? Twin?
600? Literbike? Twin? How many horsies can you ride at once anyway?
Willow Springs racer and owner of California Speed Shop,
Costa Mesa, CA (949) 642-3080
Hello? What's that? Willow Springs? Bring the Mille? Well you know, I've got work to do here, but then the wife is out of town. And the guys at my shop are damn good men... sure, I can go to the track.I had such a great day riding and sweating and riding more, now I've got to make some comparisons of these bikes.
First off, the "Streets of Willow" track gives great advantages to bikes that are easy to flick around. If you can get on the gas early you can rule on this course. If you can keep riding and not fall over from the heat you can rule here also! That said, I did my best on the R6. Light, powerful, and with good brakes, the Yamaha made me feel extremely confident and comfortable with the quick inputs required to get around here. It's just not intimidating compared to the other two bikes we had to sample, and considering the heat it was less work. I went a half-second quicker on the R6 than the other bikes. Near the end of our day I bested my own personal lap time by almost a second.
I have a personal interest in the Aprilia (Will takes care of Aprilia's west coast test fleet --ED), so I gave it my all in trying to get a good lap time. Within three laps I was running very consistent and quick times and was eventually able to get within a half-second of my time on the R6. It was very easy to be comfortable on this bike. I guess I was a little intimidated by the cost of the bike though. I expect if given the OK (financially), I could have done a bit better. The older I get, the more I worry about that shit.
"The bike was just great. Seamless power with enough top end to make it exciting. It has the best brakes of the bunch. Ohlins suspension, say no more."
I was disappointed by just one thing, Will Tate. R1 last? Well, it was soft, uncommunicative, very powerful. For me this is not a good combination. I had to get myself up off the seat in order to get it over bumps that the other bikes ignored, it moved around excessively compared to the Aprilia and R6. I did not have confidence in the front end. Throw in a hundred and fifty'ish horses, things get sketchy. I suspect I could have done better, but we'll never know as the R1's electrical system gave up early in the day. That doesn't seem right? Japanese bikes don't have those type of problems, er.. I mean issues.
I have to say a word here about the tires we used in these bikes, Metzeler Sportecs. Most all the track days I've done, have been on DOT race tires or slicks. These are STREET tires and I went faster with no drama involved, I might have to rethink this tire stuff. Now I'll have to push myself to kick ass on the race tires.
All in all I had a great time. I bet things would be different if we had gone to the big track. There I would predict, Aprilia, R1, R6 in that order. Please can we go try again next week, but let's fix the radio in the van?
Don't know which Hackfu Mr. Tate was getting his information from at the track, but when times were downloaded from the mainframe here at MO HQ, they were these:
Aprilia Mille R: 1:31.50
Yamaha YZF-R6 : 1:31.67
Yamaha YZF-R1 : 1:32.39
I'm an anomaly I guess. I'm ugly too, but I don't think that counts here. What matters, however, is that I surprised myself during our little jaunt out to the track on this particular occasion. And then on one certain lap, in a certain corner, I really surprised myself.
My first laps out of the MO van were spent in the pits, circling around, trying to find a clean porta-potty. Once that was settled, I went out to scrub in the fresh set of tires Tom of California Race Services had just helped me install on our R6. Now, it has to be said, I'm a complete puss on cold tires, and cold new tires only make me suck more. So I wobbled around for about six laps before coming in with arm pump and an inch of shiny rubber remaining on either side of either tire. The outlook was grim for me and my R6.
Back to the pits and the porta-potty (what did I drink the night before, anyway?) where the Lap Time King, Calvin, tells me I'm something like eight seconds a lap slower than Will and John's times. So I blame cold tires, the R6's small displacement and a pre-mature need for Depends undergarments. Then, in the middle of my blame game I saw the R1 sitting there with a set of tires that were already scrubbed in (thanks, Will!) and nobody sitting astride it. Too god to be true, so I sucked down my first chocolate-chocolate chip muffin and Red Bull of the day and headed back out on the Big Boy.
With tires that have already been scrubbed, I'm amazed at the reduction of my Puss Factor. All it takes is a lap to get some heat into the Sportecs and I've got things dragging 'round bends, feeling my way around the track on my knees, dropping lap times as I go. And with the R1 refusing to run later in the day, I turn my best times on the beast in the morning session. As is normally the case with the R1, I felt like I was moving along at a pretty good clip--one that I didn't think either of the other two bikes could match or better. The bike is just so powerful that corners come up, it seems, a lot faster than on the other two machines here. How could I not be going faster?
"The thing about the R1 though, for me at least, is that the chassis never feels quite as well-sorted and secure as the other bikes here."
Sure, chalk the Mille's excellent feedback up to its pricey Ohlins suspension, but then how to explain the R6's comparatively cheap-yet-wonderful suspension? Anyway, the R1's got the motor, the brakes, but it doesn't have that connected feel that I treasure in the other bikes here. Still, I recorded my second-fastest time of the day on the thing with a 1:31.6 run. The Mille-R, I thought, with it I'd know exactly what to expect. It took but a few laps to get comfortable on the Mille since it was only a few weeks since we'd been here last, and I quickly had my head down chasing what I thought would be my fastest lap time of the day. In the first session on the bike, however, the best I could muster was a 1:33 and change.
That was about a second off of what I did on the same bike on the same tires at the same track last time, so I knew there was more in me, and a lot more in the bike. After another bathroom session and one more on the R6 with scrubbed-in tires, it was back to the Mille. The thing had just come off of a few laps with another rider only about a minute before I went out, so I figured the tires were pretty warm and gave it the whip right from the out lap. Right away I felt good on the bike, but it wasn't as planted as the R6 I had just come off of. The rear end felt like it wanted to pass up the front in turn one, and coming out of some of the slower bends I felt like I had to take it a bit easier than I wanted to. Front-end feel was excellent, as was the motor, but something about the back end was bugging me.
A look at the time sheets said the other fellows on hand were going fastest on the Mille, so I figured it was just me being my usual pussness self. Time to Get It On, then. And so I did, and coming 'round a second-gear left, things already dragging mid-way through, the back end started to get a bit light so I backed out of the throttle just a touch. Ok, now back on the throttle for the drive out and whooosssshhhh. I've always heard racers talk about "saving it on their knee." And, honestly, I thought I'd never know what they're talking about. How can you do that? Well, now I know. It's not so much that I saved it on my knee, it's just that there was nothing left for the bike to fall over onto on that side.
My knee got in the way of the bodywork/track interface. I was just a moron who refused to let go of the thing and, miraculously, eased out of the throttle just enough to bring the rear back in line. There was just the tiniest of tiny flying-out-of-the-seat things you've ever seen before I was able to get it turned back to the right to stay on track before looking back over my left shoulder to see a corner-worker still waving a yellow flag, having anticipated the ugly crash that, thankfully, never came.
I circulated the rest of the lap at a pace best described as that of a really fast desert tortoise before I pulled off to hug the people I knew and tell them I love them. So, I ended up with a best time of 1:32.16 which was right in line with what I expected. That time is within a tenth of a second of my previous best on this bike, these tires, etc. So, I was happy, the aprilia was spared to be thrashed by more riders, and I was in the back of the MO van for another half hour, consuming more chocolate-chocolate chip muffins, pizza and Red Bull, until my next stint on another bike.
"Yamaha's R6, I recall hearing, is the fastest thing around the Streets of Willow."
Yamaha's R6, I recall hearing, is the fastest thing around the Streets of Willow. This stuck in my mind because, really, how could a little bitty thing, giving up a ton of horsepower and even more torque, go faster than the fast bikes? The answer, it seems, is beyond me. I didn't feel like I was flicking the thing in any harder than the other bikes here, nor did I feel like I was braking later, accelerating earlier or carrying more cornering speed. I just felt like I was shifting more but getting less tired, lap after lap. Everything just worked as it should and I continued to grind things away until the checkers flew on the session and I came in to confer with Calculator Kim after yet another trip to the porta-potty.
He says, "dude, that's the fastest you've gone." I think, since what time this morning has Calvin been timing my bathroom visits? And why? So I ask him, and he says, no, he means I turned in my fastest time of the day on the little Yamaha in that last session. It seems I did a string of 1:30s with the best at 1:30.08. I was convinced that, because I felt so relaxed, I could go back out and ride my way to a minute twenty-nine lap, but then I remembered I had just drank more water and Red Bull and remembered what happened when I tried to step it up on the Mille and instead nearly wadded it up. I was done playing Racer Boy for the day and was off to get some video, photos and some more muffins and Red Bull.
So why did I not go fastest on the Mille-R like the rest of the people here? Like I said, I'm an anomaly. Or maybe they are and I'm normal, but alone, left to fend for myself in a room full of weird people. Maybe the Mille just scared me with that near-death experience and I never recovered? Maybe my love for petite, athletic women carries over to petite, athletic bikes? Maybe I should figure out why I had to pee so much that day?
Aprilia Mille R: 1:32.16
Yamaha YZF-R6 : 1:30.03
Yamaha YZF-R1 : 1:31.62
There it is then. If you want to impress your track-riding buddies, a fine way to do so is on an "underpowered" little 600 like the R6. That, or spend twice as much for the Mille R, if you think you need the extra tenth-of-a-second. The R1 is certainly capable of faster lap times with suspension modifications and in the hands of an expert rider--but for most of us, most of the time--less is more.