Ninja 300 Track Bike Project – February Update

It’s our first update of our little Kawasaki Ninja 300 track bike project for the year and we’re essentially in the home stretch now. After doing the majority of the mechanical and repair work, it’s pretty much aesthetics left to complete and that means installing and prettying up our fairings – as well as a run on the dyno to accommodate our new exhaust system and air filter.

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But that’s still a few months off as we find time to go through those last steps. What we have done since our last update is just tidy up a few things here and there. Firstly we’ve added some protection by way of left and right engine crash covers from R&G – not that we intend on laying our precious over.

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We’ve also installed an R&G exhaust hanger where the passenger foot pegs previously hung. We still need to find an appropriate bolt to connect the exhaust to it, though.

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Brand new brake pads from Versah have been installed front and rear and were chosen because they provide excellent initial bite – something you want from the fairly average braking system that comes standard on the Ninja 300. Also in the stopping department we replaced the stock brake line with a braided one from Hel Performance but only at the front.

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The horrible stock IRC tyres have also been taken to the tip and replaced with a set of Pirelli Diablo Rosso II rubber.

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But obviously the biggest change is our fairings. As you can see from the various photos they’re not yet properly fitted but that is something we’ll be doing over the next week or so. Then we’ll prep them for painting and use both paint and decals for the final look.

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As you can also see, our fuel tank has been disconnected and is ready for treatment too. We’ll be stripping the paint back, filling up the small dent and giving it a fresh coat of paint to match the rest of the bike’s new look.

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Yamaha Australia Look to Introduce R3 Race Series

The Yamaha R3 came late to the entry level sportsbike party, but upon its arrival placed itself at the head of the pack. And now in Australia at least, Yamaha are trying to reinforce its credentials with a new one make race series featuring the R3. It looks set to follow a similar formula that KTM uses in the UK and USA where it sells race ready bikes at discounted prices.

The race ready bike is set to be sold for around $7,500 AUD. That will include race glass, rearsets, full race exhaust system, lowered clip-ons and upgraded forks and rear shock. Given that the Yamaha R3 retails for $6,999 in standard form, that’s incredible value – around $3,600 of freebies according to Yamaha.

The series is aimed at younger riders and those looking to get into racing that are hoping to do so in a cost effective manner. And while the $7,500 price tag is extremely tempting, riders will need to commit to race at most of the rounds for the season.

One make race series aren’t anything new, but they’ve had a bit of a resurgence lately with the competition in the learner market. While the KTM RC390 is the go to bike in the US and UK, the Ninja 300 has had a one model series in Australia and Canada – however in those series, riders provide their own bike and modify it to be race ready.

Given that Yamaha seems quite serious about becoming the premier Japanese motorcycle brand, we may see a similar series take off in other western markets, too. For those interested in competing in the proposed Australian series, contact Yamaha directly at [email protected].

Race kitted R3

ICON’s Kawasaki ZX3-RR Concept

We’re big fans of light and powerful bikes, something that we just don’t see anywhere near enough of lately. Apparel manufacturer ICON seems to agree and they’ve teamed up with Kawasaki USA to concept bike built around the Ninja 300 and called the ICON ZX3-RR and while it might not offer enough in the way of raw power it certainly looks the part.

The idea behind the project was to develop a racing bike that wasn’t too expensive. Given that Kawasaki is behind dedicated Ninja 300 race series in Australia and Canada, the idea is somewhat redundant but we can’t complain about how the bike looks and the theme that it’s going for.

The Ninja 300 gets custom race fairings, Ohlins R&T suspension and ContiRaceAttack tires, a braced swingarm and high-mount subframe for increased rigidity and slightly larger ergonomics. In a case of form over function (though we’re not complaining) there’s a quad exhaust system that pays homage to the two-stroke race machines of a bygone era.

The ICON ZX3-RR utilizes a tablet dashboard based on Android OS which as well as providing the usual array of speed, tachometer, and engine monitoring, the rider can adjust fuel maps, monitor lap times, and quickly broadcast race updates to their social networks.

 

 

Ninja 300 Track Bike Project – September Update

It’s been two months since our last update and as usual, things can sometimes get in the way of best intentions. But thankfully progress on our little Ninja 300 project bike continues and includes replacement parts that were damaged when we bought the bike from auction, a new battery and some nice upgrades to the front suspension.

Our big modification this month is for something you’ll never even see – the fork internals. The forks on a Ninja 300 are pretty basic which is not surprising given they’re attached to an entry level machine. They’re also setup in such a way to accommodate a specific rider weight which from our understanding is a 75 kilogram person.

Ninja 300 Track Bike Project - September Update

This is what 5,000 kilometre old fork oil looks like.

So to fix this, we took the forks apart and replaced the springs with a set from Racetech which were configured for my weight (85 kilograms). But in addition to that, we also purchased some gold valve emulators – also from Racetch. Not only is doing this a much cheaper option than replacing the whole fork internals with a cartridge system, it’s also a modification allowed for the race seriers we’re entering (whereas cartridge replacements are not).

Dampening rod forks are a cheap way of dampening the front of a motorcycles suspension. That also means they’re not particularly good at what they do – generally they’re either too harsh and too easy to bottom. One can play around with things like the amount of oil in the forks, fork oil weight and even changing the size of the holes in the dampening rod, but that’s not a great solution nor is it an easy one to change all the time.

Ninja 300 Track Bike Project - September Update

The original dampening rod is on the left and the right is the one we drilled.

Valve emulators essentially take over the role of the dampening rod. They’re extremely easy to install and fairly easy to adjust too. Modifying things to use valve emulators is a fairly straightforward affair – you just need to drill holes in your dampening rods so enough fork oil flows through them that they no longer have any effect on dampening. Anyone with a drill and a vice can do it (although a drill press is preferable).

There’s an incredible amount of technical jargon behind how dampening rod forks work and how things change with valve emulators and we’ll take a greater look at them at a later date, but for those curious you’re best to go to the source and read up on it at Racetech.

Obviously when changing the fork internals we replaced the oil seals and bushings, plus put in new fork oil.  As you can see from the image at the top of the page, the fork oil was pretty dirty and incredibly that’s only from the bike having done 5,000 kilometers.

Ninja 300 Track Bike Project - September Update

Smashing down on new oil seals with a PVC pipe is oddly therapeutic.

Once the forks were placed back in we attached our new bars – a set of fantastic looking bars from Tyga Performance. Other options were clipons from Woodcraft or Driven, but those two particular products clip onto the top of the forks just beneath the upper section of the triple tree. That can cause issues with hitting and rubbing on fairings so we felt it was best avoided. Plus we think the ones from Tyga with their CNC machined aluminium look great.

We also placed some preload adjusters on top – these were cheap ones off eBay and while they look good and do a basic job, we don’t expect them to last long as they’ve already been chipped away when using a socket on them.

Ninja 300 Track Bike Project - September Update

The Tyga Peformance bars are top quality. The preload adjusters from eBay are not.

The last few months also saw the arrival of our replacement parts for the damage on the bike. That included the front fairing stay, the right outer fork tube and the front fender stay. We replaced our dead battery with a new one courtesy of Dynavolt and we’ll be attaching a battery tender to it to make sure we don’t have another flat battery in the future.

So what next? Well, probably more than we can do in a month. As you can see from the picture below, we have a brand new fully adjustable rear shock absorber from Wilbers, Vortex Rearsets, new RK chain, sprockets, BMC air filter and more, as well as a set of Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tyres. But once they’re done we’re almost on the home stretch from a mechanical point of view.

Ninja 300 Track Bike Project - September Update

New parts ready to be installed include a lightweight Vortex rear sprocket, a race spec air filter from BMC, a top of the range RK chain, Vortex rearsets and a bespoke rear shock absorber from Wilbers.

 

 

2015 Yamaha R3 Review

The brand new Yamaha R3 is the latest learner friendly sportsbike to hit the market. Given that Yamaha has had longer to work on their entry into the now ultra competitive beginner bike segment of the market, does that mean that the R3 is the best choice for new riders? Can the Yamaha R3 better the Honda CBR300R’s comfort and practicality or the Kawasaki Ninja 300’s outright performance?

If it seems like we’ve been reviewing a lot of smaller entry level machines of late it’s because that so many have been released in the past six months. Consider that only four years ago, the Ninja 250 was all on its own but now is joined by faired and naked bikes from Honda, Suzuki, KTM and Benelli, with BMW joining the party later this year. Alongside the popular adventure bike segment, learner bikes are the biggest gig in town for motorcycle manufacturers.

Not only are they cheap, but they offer the consumer a gateway to the brand. Yamaha no doubt hopes that first time riders who buy an R3 will over time upgrade to an R6 or even an R1. And they may well be very tempted to do so, because Yamaha has made a nearly perfect little motorcycle.

The Yamaha R3 is powered by an all-new 321cc inline twin cylinder engine. According to Yamaha, the development concept behind this new engine was to create a ‘supersport machine you can ride every day’, and the architecture of the new powerplant is designed to ensure good rideability in the low to mid-speed range, together with a strong and responsive character at higher rpm. Thankfully, they’ve nailed it.

While the Yamaha has a small horsepower advantage over Kawaski’s Ninja 300, it’s not really noticeable in a straight line drag. What is noticeable is that you don’t have to continually keep the engine at high revs to access that power – power delivery is available across the rev range and makes for a very rideable machine. That means there’s a good amount of roll on acceleration and you don’t necessarily have to bang down one or two gears to overtake – an impressive thing for a low capacity bike.

The two-into-one exhaust also elicits a nice note and the aftermarket pipes from Akropovic that are already available sound absolutely brilliant. The engine has been mated to an excellent gearbox – shifts were smooth and the gearbox didn’t hesitate once. The fueling of the bike is excellent too – none of the jerky throttle response that earlier CBR250R’s suffered from. In fact if anything, the throttle response is slightly too soft – when throttle blipping on downshifts I really had to twist the right grip to get the engine to rev. This is a very minor criticism of what is an otherwise near perfect setup.

The brakes on the Yamaha R3 are another highlight. Both initial bite and progression were excellent and there’s a good amount of feedback provided for such an entry level machine. Depending on where you live will dictate whether you can get ABS or not. In Australia it sensibly comes standard and in the UK it’s available as an option. For some extremely strange reason, Yamaha USA decided that they wouldn’t even offer ABS – a frankly baffling decision for a motorcycle aimed at new riders.

Up front there’s a 298 mm disc attached to a 2 piston caliper, with 220 mm disc at the back. Our bike launch was hosted on a track with over 20 corners and the brakes felt great throughout – no fade was noticeable. And it was also noticeable how well the front end performed under heavy deceleration with minimal front end dive.

In fact, the bike felt composed all day. While the suspension is hardly groundbreaking it did a good job in providing feedback as to what was happening where the rubber met the road. Perhaps this is Yamaha’s greatest achievement with the R3 – it feels like a small racebike when on the track but on the road manages to be a comfortable commuter. They’ve somehow managed to combine the best of the CBR300R and the Ninja 300 into one package and have done it successfully.

That perhaps is partly due to the fact that our test bike was fitted with Dunlop Sport Maxx tires and not the Pilot Road rubber that comes standard. Unfortunately, those Pilot Road tires aren’t what you’d expect – they’re apparently specifically designed for the Yamaha R3 and use ancient bias ply technology. While we didn’t ride with them, the general consensus is they’re pretty poor. Yamaha’s not alone in taking the cheap option on tires – both Honda and Kawasaki fit bias ply tires to their beginner bikes too and it’s a practice we’d love to see cease.

That is probably our only real criticism of the Yamaha R3. Looks wise, it’s a beauty. The fit and finish is top notch and Yamaha have produced a bike that looks more expensive than what it actual. They also haven’t tried to mimic the appearance of either the R6 or R1 – it has a style and character of its own. Even the stock exhaust doesn’t look too bad, a rarity of late.

Overall, the Yamaha R3 ticks all the boxes. It’s lighter than the Ninja 300 and more powerful than both it and the CBR300R. Its suspension is better sorted than the KTM RC390 and it seems to offer a better riding experience both on the track and on the road than the competition. Yamaha may have been late to the party, but they made their appearance count.

 

2015 Benelli BN 302 Review

The Benelli BN 302 is the latest motorcycle to enter the now ultra-competitive entry level motorcycle segment. And while Benelli has decided to enter the ring with a naked instead of faired sportsbike, the BN 302 is poised to shake up the pecking order with a bike that’s not only priced competitively but is equipped with features that haven’t been seen in this price range before.

Before we go anything further, let’s address the elephant in the room – the fact that the Benelli BN 302 is manufactured in China. The common point of view is that anything built in China is rubbish (though that doesn’t stop millions of people buying iPhones every year). While I only had two days with the BN 302, there was nothing I could obviously see that would cause me any concern if I was spending my hard earned cash on this machine.

Keep in mind also that while the Benelli is manufactured in China, the bike was designed and developed entirely in Pesaro, Italy where the company was founded over 100 years ago.  While Benelli was bought out by the Qianjiang Group in 2005, operations remain in Italy and the factory in Wenling, China uses manufacturing machinery imported from Germany, Italy and the USA.  This is no different to the fact that Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha and so forth are headquartered in Japan yet a number of their motorcycles are manufactured in Thailand, Indonesia and India.

The specifications of the bike read like something from a class level above. The BN 302 gets dual front floating 260 mm discs with 4 pistons calipers instead of a single disc as is so common for learner bikes. Rear suspension allows for not only for preload adjustment but adjustable rebound too and front preload can also be adjusted up front – many entry level middleweight bikes don’t even offer that.

But for us, the biggest plus is the fact that Benelli have chosen to fit the BN 302 with quality tires. Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha all choose to put on lower quality bias ply tires on their learner bikes and we’ve been highly critical of their choosing to do so in previous articles. Thankfully, Benelli have shod the bike with Pirelli Angel GT tires. We’d always recommend new riders immediately replace the tires that come standard on the likes of the CBR300R and Ninja 300 with quality rubber which would cost at least a few hundred dollars – with the BN 302, it’s already done for you.

The fit and finish of the bike for the most part appears excellent. Paint quality looks great and all the nuts, bolts, harnesses and so forth appear top quality. There’s some ‘premium’ looking touches to the bike as well, such as the chrome engine cover plate with the Benelli logo on it and the embossed Benelli logo on the seat with which also features exposed red coloured stitching. My only complaint in regards to the appearance is up front – the dash and the switchgear.

Both components are taken from the spare parts bin of earlier Benelli models and it shows. The dash already looks outdated and features some rather uninspiring back-lit icons. Thankfully its functionality is better than its looks with the analogue tachometer and digital speedometer both easy to read and garner information from. It’s very basic however as you only get a trip computer, fuel level indicator and engine temperature display – no gear indicator or even distance to refuel readout. The controls on the handlebars for lights, indicators and the kill switch also feel a little cheap – certainly not up to Honda or Kawasaki standards.

That’s mostly forgotten once you’re out and riding on the Benelli BN 302 though. Thankfully, this isn’t a bike with great parts that are bolted together in a haphazard way. The BN 302 rides as well as it should do as indicated on paper.

The engine powering the BN 302 is a brand new liquid cooled inline twin and it’s a real surprise packet. I wasn’t expecting a small engine from an Italian motorcycle company (Chinese owned or not) to be this good. It produces 28 kW @ 10,000 rpm and torque of 27.4 Nm @ 9,000 rpm. That compares very favourably to the Kawasaki Z300 (29.0 kW @ 11,000 rpm and 27.0 Nm @ 10,000 rpm) and the Honda CB300F (22.7 kW @ 8,500 rpm and 27 Nm @ 7,250 rpm).

Like the Ninja and Z300, the BN 302 delivers most of its power higher up in the rev range. Once you hit around 7,000 rpm it really comes alive, rapidly accelerating and emitting a great sound. Benelli have really put some time into tuning the exhaust – in our opinion making it the best sounding learner bike.

Straight line performance is blunted slightly due to the weight of the BN 302. The wet weight (all fluids but no fuel) is a 182 kg – pretty portly for a bike of this size and displacement. Part of that is due to Benelli using thicker and stronger steel for it. In a recent interview, Qiangiang CEO Yan Haimei stated that Benelli over-engineered the bike to make it solid and durable and able to withstand the poorer road surfaces encountered in many South East Asian nations where Benelli already has a big presence.

The engine is mated to a good little gearbox as well. The clutch action is bang on and easy to use – a definite plus for new riders. The action is smooth and crisp although I did get a few false neutrals in my ride when going from 2nd to 1st gear upon slowing to a stop.

Braking is another highlight and dare I say the BN 302 is best in class when it comes to both brake feel and stopping power.  That’s no surprise given the aforementioned front twin discs. The front brake lever is adjustable (unlike the clutch lever) and provides great initial bite with nice feel and progression.  Unfortunately, ABS isn’t currently even available as an option but may be introduced for the next model year – in fact given Benelli’s presence in the UK and Europe it will have to be in order to meet upcoming mandatory ABS laws in the EU.

Handling is also top notch. While the feel of the suspension isn’t amazing (what is at this price point?), the fact that you can adjust both front and rear preload plus rear rebound is a huge plus – enabling the bike to accommodate a wide range of rider preferences and sizes.

Overall the Benelli BN 302 is a fantastic bike and should be given serious consideration for anyone wanting to purchase a small displacement naked motorcycle. Perhaps the greatest praise I can gifrom a Japanese marque would probably cost $1,000 more given its features. Benelli is planning a massive increase in models over the next few years and if the BN 302 is any indication of what the Italian brand is capable of, then bring it on.

The Benelli BN 302 is priced at $5,590 in Australia and £3,699 in the UK. Benelli returns to the USA later this year and it is expected the BN 302 will be available at launch.

 

 

Introducing Our Ninja 300 Project Track Bike

TheRideAdvice.com is going racing… eventually. Today we kick off our first project bike using the ever popular Kawasaki Ninja 300. Our ultimate goal is to convert our baby Ninja from its damaged (written-off by insurance) state that it is currently in and enter it into a national competition which is open only to the Ninja 300.

Our aim with this project is to tie things in together with our YouTube channel. Hence, not only will we take you through the project on this website, we’ll be filming detailed guides on various things that have application to modifying or maintaining any bike.

Some track bike specific articles will include:

  • Prepping, painting and installing race glass/race fairings
  • Safety wiring/lock wiring your bike for the track
  • Weight reduction
  • Gearing

Some of the articles that will be equally as applicable on the track as they would be for any bike include:

  • Replacing rear suspension
  • Replacing fork internals
  • Replacing break pads/bleeding the lines/installing braided lines
  • Installing a full exhaust system

Plus many, many other things. We’ll be keeping a record of all costs involved so you can get a good idea of budgets and provide tips and tricks along the way.

The great thing about racing the Ninja 300 is that not only is it one of the cheapest forms of competitive motorcycle racing around, it’s also a great way to learn the art of racing in a somewhat forgiving environment. So without further ado, let’s introduce our new baby.

Part 1 – The Purchase

We bought the bike at a local auction house that deals in written-off (total loss) motorcycles due to an insurance company deciding the cost to repair the motorcycle is too great.  The bike we bought was a 2013 model and had around 5,500 kilometres on the engine. Damage was mostly superficial (more on that shortly) and the purchase price was $1,500 plus another $100 for tansportation back to our garage.

Introducing Our Ninja 300 Project Track Bike

The key to bidding at an auction is to set yourself a price ceiling and stick with it. Know your budget and if you can, try and find out what sort of price range the bike you’re interested in tends to go for. Also, ensure you’re aware of what bikes sell for used that aren’t at auction. It’s stupid to buy a damaged bike from auction that doesn’t come with a warranty or any proof of its mechanical qualities for only a few hundred dollars less than what you can find at a dealership, but trust us, it does happen. People tend to go to auctions thinking they’re guaranteed to get a bargain only to find themselves in a bidding war with other clueless individuals.

Also, be patient. At the auction we were present at, there were 9 Ninja 300s for sale out of about 150 bikes in total. And guess what? The first Ninja that was auctioned went for the most money that day despite having the pretty serious issue of being water damaged from flooding. We bought later in the afternoon and walked away with $700 more that that first buyer.

Damage wise as you can see from the photos that things are mainly superficial. Most (but not all) of the fairings have received some sort of damage. There’s nothing obviously bent on the bike but there are a few parts that we will have to replace. Most importantly though is that the engine runs smoothly and the frame is straight.

In Part Two, our first work on the bike will be as follows:

  • Strip the bike of all fairings, lights and indicators
  • Sell any undamaged items to recoup some of our costs
  • Remove the wiring for the lights, indicators and horn which we won’t need
  • Assess any other parts on the bike that have to be either repaired or replaced

After that, the real work will begin on turning our Ninja 300 into a capable race machine. Check back in a couple of weeks with our first update.

WSBK Look At Entry Level Small Capacity Race Class

In more exciting news for entry level machines, Dorna Sports, the company and governing body behind both MotoGP and the World Superbike Championship has announced the formation of working group to examine a new entry level class for the sport. In a statement from Dorna, it was said that:

The Superbike Commission approved assembly of a working group comprising of any interested machine manufacturers to develop a class structure for an entry level category. The category would be based on the burgeoning Supersport 300 class machinery and would aim to include varied capacities and engine configurations, with the aim to provide a low cost platform to develop new talent.

That burgeoning Supersport category no doubt relates to the Nina 300 and the soon to be released Yamaha R3. Given that statement is rather vague and uses the phrase “varied capacities and engine configurations’, it’s likely that the new KTM RC390 would also be a possibility.

Based on the specifications of the three machines, that would create some parity issues which will no doubt be part of the working group’s focus.  Regardless of what machines may or may not be included in a possible future series, it is fantastic news for young riders around the world where their country’s respective racing associations adopt the WSBK rules and regulations.

It would also be a huge boost for racing in Asia and the subcontinent where smaller capacity bikes are sold in far greater numbers than in the western world. Thailand, Malaysia, India and Indonesia all have a burgeoning sportsbike culture, but due to rules, regulations and pricing, large capacity bikes are either sold in minuscule numbers or not at all.

Should such a series eventuate, young riders would have an achievable international goal to aim for. Here’s hoping it happens and soon. The full regulations for the 2015 year will be available at the FIM website soon.

WSBK Look At Entry Level Small Capacity Race Class