US EPA Looking to Ban Modified Bikes for the Racetrack

In news that will send shivers down the spine of any racer or even just amateur track day enthusiast, the US Environmental Protection Agency is mulling over the idea of implementing legislation that would ban the use of converting vehicles (including motorcycles) designed for on-road use into race bikes.

At the core of the proposal, the EPA is signalling that any modifications to bikes which change the emissions of said machine would be illegal – even if those machines are never ridden on public roads. Such modifications can be as simple as removing restrictors in air boxes, putting in new exhaust systems or remapping air and fuel ratios.

News of this comes courtesy of SEMA, one of the largest industry associations in the US who have been aware of this for some time but are now stepping up their campaign against it. In a press release, SEMA stated that:

“This proposed regulation represents overreaching by the agency, runs contrary to the law and defies decades of racing activity where EPA has acknowledged and allowed conversion of vehicles,” said SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting. “Congress did not intend the original Clean Air Act to extend to vehicles modified for racing and has re-enforced that intent on more than one occasion.”

SEMA submitted comments in opposition to the regulation and met with the EPA to confirm the agency’s intentions. The EPA indicated that the regulation would prohibit conversion of vehicles into racecars and make the sale of certain emissions-related parts for use on converted vehicles illegal.

Out of the massive 629 page working document published by the EPA is this paragraph which is causing most concern (found on page 514 of the PDF document):

Certified motor vehicles and motor vehicle engines and their emission control devices must remain in their certified configuration even if they are used solely for competition or if they become nonroad vehicles or engines; anyone modifying a certified motor vehicle or motor vehicle engine for any reason is subject to the tampering and defeat device prohibitions of 40 CFR 1068.101(b) and 42 U.S.C. 7522(a)(3).

Not only would such a ban adversely affect racers, it would have a devastating impact on the aftermarket parts industry. No more sale of exhausts, air filters that improved flow or engine mapping products like Power Commanders.

What is so frustrating over such potential legislation is it is purely a case of grasping at low-hanging fruit. The amount of extra pollution that is generated by track vehicles with modified emissions would be two tenths of nothing. Domestically, the EPA would appear more concerned about a small subset of the population enjoying themselves rather than larger issues such as water contamination and gas leaks.

Since the release of their proposal, EPA has come out and stated that it doesn’t intend to specifically target riders but the legislation is proposed to come into existence by July this year regardless. It would be highly likely that the EPA would go after companies selling aftermarket parts and SEMA has noted this specifically which would result in a similar outcome.

Five Things You (Maybe) Don’t Know About Your Motorcycle Insurance

Next to the thrill of racing around the track on two wheels at speeds that would make your mother fret, motorcycle insurance is a bland topic but it is an essential one. What is also essential is to know some of the quirks that people often aren’t aware about when it comes to motorcycle insurance – some good and some bad.

Before we get into the meat of the article, a disclaimer. Insurance is a complicated product and policies not only vary greatly from company to company, they can also be implemented completely different depending on what country you’re in and even which state or province you reside. As a general rule, insurance is tied to the vehicle in Australia, while in the UK it’s attached to the individual. In the US, insurance is a complicated mess that requires plenty of work to make sure you’re properly covered.

Our advice is therefore to always speak to your insurer directly or if in the market for a new policy, get in touch with an insurance broker. This article does look at motorcycle insurance in a generic way and should not be taken as legal or financial advice for your specific situation.

Some Insurance Policies Let you Ride at the Track

This may sound too good to be true and to a degree it is. Most insurance companies won’t cover your at the track, full stop. However, some will cover you if the purpose of being at the track is for rider training, while others will cover you carte blanche through their standard policy.

In Australia there are many insurance companies that will insure your ride if you undertake advanced courses. QBE will cover the level 1 California Superbike School course which involves a serious amount of track time and may also cover other ‘racier’ types of training that is with an approved and accredited training organisation. InsureMyRide covers a number of advanced courses from TopRider which take place on a track and a number of insurers also cover advanced courses from Stay Upright

motorcycle insurance motorcycle track day

If you’re at a track day where there’s no timing or a hint of racing your policy could cover you. Riding a Goldwing would no doubt help convince the insurance company of the non-racing clause.

In the USA, the coverage for taking your to the track bike varies immensely from policy to policy and state to state. State Farm however has an excellent reputation among motorcyclists and they do cover your bike at the track if it is involved at an educational riding event. That’s a phrase open to interpretation but many motorcyclists have reported crashing at track days (not racing) and State Farm has covered them. There are also policies from specialised insurance agencies such as Einhorn in California that do include coverage for track days as long as riders aren’t racing for dollars or points.

In the UK, MCE Insurance amazingly provides free track day cover with all comprehensive insurance policies and covers you provided the event is not timed, is managed to provide an appropriate safety distance between vehicles on the track, authorised stewards and marshalls are employed to supervise the event and there is no element of racing against other motorcycles or against the clock. That said, MCE’s reputation isn’t the greatest out there…

Your Bike Isn’t Covered if Someone Takes it for a Test Ride

Selling your bike and hoping to seal the deal by letting the interested party take it for a quick spin? Think twice – many policies won’t cover you and if you’re in the UK, you have to be certain the person getting on your bike is insured themselves.

Bennetts informed us that if the person who wishes to ride your bike has their own insurance on their own bike, they may be able to ride it on a 3rd party only basis. However, this is something that they would have to check with their own insurer and you’d certainly want proof of their coverage. Sadly, if a new rider who doesn’t currently own a bike comes knocking, there’s no way he or she will be covered and you therefore become personally liable for any damage or injury they cause.

Before letting anyone take your bike for a test ride, ensure that you're covered if the tester crashes or steals your bike.

Before letting anyone take your bike for a test ride, ensure that you’re covered if the tester crashes or steals your bike.

In the US it is again a case of individual policy detail. Geico informed us that they won’t cover your bike should it be taken for a test ride. Allstate Insurance is more accommodating and stated that test rides are generally covered under the permissive use terms of the motorcycle policy – that is, what occurs while the motorcycle’s being test-driven is typically covered to policy limits.

Most insurance companies in Australia will cover your bike when if it is being test ridden, as long as the person riding it is permitted by law to do so. That means a LAMS rider who is close to getting his open license can’t take your Hayabusa for a test ride because they’re not legally allowed to and that would mean they and your bike won’t be covered. The only major insurer who specifically mentions test rides in their product disclosure statement is Swann Insurance who state that it may refuse or reduce a claim if your bike is stolen whilst being tested by a prospective buyer.

Some Insurers Base Their Premium on when you got any type of Driving License

The majority of insurers will base your premium on a number of factors but a large determinant of how much you pay for your insurance is how long you’ve had your motorcycle license. Brand new riders obviously will be riskier while riders who have held an appropriate license for 10 years are classed as having a lower risk.

But some companies take a different approach and will calculate your premium on how long you’ve been on the road for – car or bike. That means for people who start riding in later years, your experience on the road driving a car is taken into account. So if you’ve had a car license for 15 years and only your bike license for a single year, the insurer will take into account your complete history. In Australia, NRMA does this which can make a big difference to premiums.

Do your research and see if your policy can be based on your total driving history if you've only had your bike license for a short period.

Do your research and see if your policy can be based on your total driving history if you’ve only had your bike license for a short period.

Dori Einhorn from Einhorn Insurance Agency said that, “There are a lot of variables that are considered when determining premium.” They do include the driving experience of the rider but it is only one factor out of many which include if the bike has ABS, the type of bike and the amount of mileage the rider covers on average each year.

Your Gear Can be Covered, Too

Good quality motorcycle gear isn’t cheap and no doubt there’s some riders out there who wear clothing that is worth more than their bike. Yet, many riders overlook getting their gear covered – either for theft or damage – despite the cost involved in replacing it.

Specialist motorcycle insurance companies usually have some level of gear cover in their policies although it may only be enough to cover a fraction of the replacement cost of your jacket, helmet and so on. There’s usually the option to raise it to more realistic levels but even then, some insurance companies don’t offer high coverage levels.

Allstate Insurance will go up to $1,000 for gear and an additional $500 to cover your helmet separately. That seems roughly inline with other providers although it does seem strangely to vary from state to state.

Your lid can save your life, but it perhaps isn't cheap to replace.

Your lid can save your life, but it perhaps isn’t cheap to replace.

The RAC in the UK will cover up to £750 for your leathers and helmets, but not boots or gloves and you do have to pay extra for it. Bennetts also provides £750 of cover for a small increase in your premium but also includes coverage for your gloves and boots. Carole Nash will do better at £1,000 coverage for an additional £40.99 on your premium each year.

For Australians, Shannons has a fairly generous standard policy of covering things such as helmets (including visor and/or radio communications), gloves, leather jackets and pants, boots and other specific riding gear – up to $3,000 for the rider, $1,500 for a pillion passenger, with a maximum of $1,000 per item if you have an accident or theft claim. InsureMyRide offers up to $5,000 of cover for riding gear, but it’s an optional extra on top of standard policies.

Advanced Rider Training Makes you a Better Rider and can Reduce your Premium

No matter how inexperienced or experienced a rider you are, taking advanced road craft courses will not only make you a better rider, it will help you out there in the concrete and asphalt jungle of suburbia. Insurance companies get that and realise that the better trained you are, the less likely you’ll have an accident and make a claim which saves them money.

Check with your insurance provider as to who they approve for you to undertake advanced courses with. Sometimes these courses will take place on a track, but often they’ll be situated at specialised training facilities and may even involve some riding on public roads.

Advanced training courses can keep you safer and save you money. Just check your insurance company recognises them beforehand.

Advanced training courses can keep you safer and save you money. Just check your insurance company recognises them beforehand.

Most of the time, insurance companies will provide discounts for training courses which are accredited by state bodies or sanctioning motorcycle organisations. According to Jim Klapthor of Allstate Insurance, riders taking part in state-approved safety courses to improve road riding would generally receive a discount on their policy.

For those in the motherland, Bennetts will offer up to 10% off premiums while Bikesure will reduce your policy cost by up to 15% but you need to check directly with them as to what courses they will acknowledge. For our antipodean readers, QBE has a list of approved training providers for each state, as does InsureMyRide. Swann even offers discounts for selected training courses should you take out a policy with them.

Get Your Street Bike Ready for a Track Day

Given that you own a piece of machinery that makes sportscars look slow and cumbersome, it makes sense to want to push your bike closer to its limits in what is a far safer environment than public roads. But before you head off on your first track day with your street legal motorcycle, ensure you follow the below advice to get the most from your day.

1. Transport Your Bike If You Can

Not all of us are lucky to have a vehicle or a trailer to take a motorbike on, but it’s certainly convenient if you do when going to the track. The main reason why it’s beneficial to drive to and from the track with your bike in tow is fatigue. By the end of the day, trust us, you will be tired and if you’ve got a long way home afterwards it can be dangerous. Transporting your bike to the track is also an insurance in some respects – if you do bin your bike you’ll have a method to get it (and yourself) home.

Get Your Street Bike Ready for a Track Day

2. Protect Your Bike

Many people fit crash protectors/frame sliders/oggy knobbs to their bikes which are often simple cylindrical pieces of steel that take the impact of a fall. Be wary though – there’s has been many a motorcycle that has slid from the tarmac onto the grass only to have the sliders dig into the dirt, flipping the bike over. It can potentially turn a cosmetic low side into a terminal crash that will see your bike destroyed. An alternative is to fit engine protectors which ensure the most expensive part of your bike doesn’t crack on impact but won’t cause your bike to flip if it hits the ground.

3. Bring Some Tools

Don’t go to a track on the assumption that your bike will work perfectly or that nothing will need adjustment. In addition to the tools that come with your bike, bring some extra spanners, sockets, screw drivers, pliers and whatever else you might need. It might be something as simple as adjusting clutch cables but if you don’t have the tools you’ll be hampered all day – or perhaps even unable to race.

4. Get Rid of Your Mirrors

Unlike on the street, your focus on a track day should only be in front of you. Your mirrors will therefore only distract you on focusing on braking points, turn in points and getting the correct line. If you’re worried about those behind you – don’t be. Just stick to your lines and faster riders will go around you and it’s there responsibility to do so safely. Most tracks will make it mandatory to fold your mirrors down or tape them up – but it’s much cleaner just to remove them for the day.

Get Your Street Bike Ready for a Track Day

5. Consider Some Spare Levers

If you do have to ride your bike to the track, consider bringing along a set of spare clutch and brake levers. Cheap ones go for around $30 on eBay and AliExpress which is very cheap insurance considering that they’re one of the most common parts to hit the deck when you go down. There’s nothing worse than missing out on sessions because you can’t replace a part that takes less than 20 minutes to swap out.

6. Give Your Bike a Check-Up

Your bike will be under much more stress than when riding on the street which means it needs to be within its specifications. Ensure your chain slack is correct, that your clutch cable is operating correctly and that your brakes are working properly. From the front to the back of your bike, ensure there are no loose nuts and if there are tighten them accordingly.

Get Your Street Bike Ready for a Track Day

7. Have Good Rubber

Your 20,000 kilometre old tyres don’t turn into slicks because you’ve gone down to the wear indicators. It’s critical that your tyres be in good condition because you’ll need plenty of grip when going around corners at speed. On the other hand, most riders don’t need top of the line rubber – good quality sportbike tyres that are made for the road are more than adequate for all but the best riders. You can lower your tyre pressures at the track too – a rough guide is about 34 psi at the front and 30-32 psi at the rear.

Create Your Own Custom Spidi Suit

If you’re serious about motorcycles you’ll probably end up at the race track at some point. And if your budget can afford it, you’ll probably go there a lot. Unfortunately, in addition to track fees you’ll need to open your wallet for a leather suit – not a cheap investment. Now at least you can make it a unique creation with Spidi’s innovative custom suit designer website.

Custom suits are obviously nothing new – many independent shops cater to riders wanting a perfect fitting piece of gear and even many of the major manufactures have allowed you to contact them requesting a custom fit, but we haven’t seen it done through a website which lets you modify not only the sizing, but the materials, appearance and color of the suit.

At the moment, Spidi is only offering customization on its Track Wind Pro Y 120 suit for men, although a version for women will be available soon. The base price starts at $1,499 which is $100 more than what it retails for on Revzilla. From there however you can choose to upgrade from cowhide  to kangaroo leather ($399), change the color of the suit to whatever combinations you want (at no extra cost), add logos for $15 each and finally, order the suit in either a standard size or customized exactly to your dimensions for $600 extra.

You can certainly get custom suits cheaper, but if you’re just after a standard sized piece of gear with your own choice of color and the addition of logos, it’s actually not too bad a deal.

Go ahead and make your own at SpidiCustom.

 

Michelin to Launch Six New Race and Track Day Tires in 2015

Let’s be honest – tires are one of the least sexy things about a motorcycle. We’d all much rather talk about capacity, horsepower, torque – even how many pistons the front brake caliper has than really give a huge amount of thought into what rubber wraps around the wheels. But alongside your brakes, they quality of the tires you use is the main factor in not only how quickly you stop but how you grip the road in corners.

Michelin has announced that it will be revamping its performance motorcycle tire range starting in May this year with six new tires aimed at the track. The range goes from full racing slick to performance orientated tires you can use on the street as well. Michelin creates what we think is the best general riding tire – the Pilot Road series – so we don’t doubt that their track tires are among the best as well.

As per the press release, the tires (which will initially be available in the USA and Canada) are as follows:

  • MICHELIN Power SuperMoto
    Developed in collaboration with the best riders, this range turned in a winning performance at the 2014 FIM SuperMoto World Championship.It features a new 16-inch version and innovative rubber compounds that significantly and simultaneously improve feedback from the front tire, handling, grip and longevity.
  •  MICHELIN Power Slick Ultimate
    Designed for experienced racers looking for quick lap times, this range is directly derived from the latest technological advances tested on the circuit.
  • MICHELIN Power Cup Ultimate
    This tire is a treaded version of the MICHELIN Power Slick Ultimate.
  • MICHELIN Power Slick Evo
    The MICHELIN Power Slick Evo is intended for the track and is ideal for weekend racer. Easy to handle, it features MICHELIN Adaptive Casing Technology (ACT) and a new highly versatile rubber compound that avoids having to make difficult tire choices related to weather and track conditions.
  • MICHELIN Power Cup Evo
    This tire is the treaded version of the MICHELIN Power Slick Evo.
  • MICHELIN Power SuperSport Evo
    The MICHELIN Power SuperSport Evo is designed for both road and track use. It delivers excellent longevity combined with wet and dry performance due to a combination of new rubber compounds and MICHELIN Adaptive Casing Technology (ACT).

Having officially announced its return to MotoGP in 2016, Michelin is gearing up for a new challenge in this premier motorcycle racing championship where bikes deliver up to 250 hp. A continuously evolving showcase of advanced technology, MotoGP is set to adopt the 17-inch wheel size which is the market standard for sports and road motorcycles which means more than ever we’ll begin to see MotoGP inspired and developed rubber available for sale.

Michelin to Launch Six New Hypersport and Track Tires in 2015

 

Motorcycle Track Day Tire Pressures – What Should You Set Your Tire Pressures At For The Track?

You’re hopefully well aware that you should set your motorcycle tire pressures according your bike manufacturers recommendation.  That generally means a tire pressure that strikes a balance between grip and tire wear and will probably range anywhere from 32psi to 42psi (generally with higher pressures in the rear tire). But when you’re at the track, your only concern is grip. So how do you go about setting the correct pressure motorcycle tire pressure for a track day?

In almost all instances, you’ll set far lower pressures for the track than for the road. That’s because the lower the pressure, the more the tire will deform at speed – deformation creates more friction between the tire and the track which in turns generates heat. And the more heat (up to a point) the more grip you’ll have.  Lowering tire pressures also creates a larger contact patch, which means more rubber in contact with the track and hence again more grip.

If you’re an occasional track day rider, there’s no need to get too scientific. Most people recommend 28psi to 30psi on the front tire and 30-32psi at the rear. Don’t be tempted to go any less than these figures, as you’ll eventually hit a point where the pressure is so low that it begins to slow steering and turning.

If you’re more regular at the track or even an amateur racer, you can start to experiment a bit more and try different combinations of pressures. But if you’re such a rider, it’s likely you’ll begin to use dedicated track tires (either slicks or extremely performance orientated grooved tires). Here, you can again take the manufacturers recommended advice, but this time of the tire manufacturer and not your bike manufacturer.

Michelin has a great website called Michelin Power, where it allows you to choose your bike, the track you’re racing at and even the general weather conditions to get a tire pressure recommendation. You’ll see recommendations of 23-32psi for race slicks as they’re properly designed for high temperature/high grip situations.

Motorcycle Track Day Tire Pressures

But if lowering your tire pressures at the track is such a good idea, why not do it for everyday riding too? Because if you do, your tires will firstly wear to quickly but worse, they’ll deform to a dangerous shape. On the track, you’ll be leaned over on the bike much more than on the road, where you’re probably upright around 90% of the time. By lowering your pressures, you’ll wear the middle of the tire out and ‘square off’ the tire. A squared off tire will completely change the handling characteristics of your bike for the worse. You’ll have more than enough grip for street use following the manufacturers recommendations.

And remember, regardless of when you’re setting pressures at the track or on the street, ensure you do it while the tire is cold or you’ll have the wrong pressures once your tires heat up – cold inflation pressure is key.

Your First Motorcycle Track Day and What to Expect

Taking your motorcycle to a track day is a great way to not only test out the true capabilities of your machine in a safe environment, but to also improve your skills on a bike – skills that will translate to the road as well. There’s a lot to take in though. Riding at speeds that would get you locked up if you tried them on the road are the norm and that’s just in the straights. It’s going fast through the corners that provides the real exhilaration, leaning over while the bitumen below races by. And whether you’ve been riding a motorcycle for 1 year or 10, whether you’ve got a cruiser or a sportsbike or whether you intend one day to actually race, we’ve written down what to expect at your first motorcycle track day.

Nerves

If you’re a normal person, you’ll get nervous.  The prospect of hitting speeds double what you experience on the streets is enough to get you thinking about your own mortality.  But think about it this way, you’re much safer going 120mph in an environment like a track with large amounts of runoff and open spaces as opposed to going 60mph on the road with trees, street poles and cars all around.

But nerves are good. It’s an instinctual part of being human that keeps you safe. It stops you from doing stupid things, so listen to your body. Your bike may be capable of going 100mph around turn 4, but if only feel comfortable at 60mph, then do that. Don’t push yourself early on.

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Dehydration

Even if you’re riding in the colder months, you will sweat inside full leathers. And in the hotter months the amount you perspire will increase dramatically. Compared to any other sport, motorcyclists are at greatest risk for dehydration due to the fact you’ve effectively got a microclimate inside your leathers where it’s difficult for heat to escape.

Dehydration can cause general weakness, muscle cramps, and loss of concentration – all not good things if you’re preparing to brake at the end of a straight in sixth gear. Every time you finish a session, drink a good amount of water, no exceptions. It’s a common occurrence that at your first motorcycle track day you may get dehydrated if you don’t take proper care.

Fatigue

Even if you do keep up your water intake, fatigue is going to be a factor after a day of riding at your limits. If you’re hanging off your bike and moving side to side by putting weight through the pegs, your leg muscles will get a work out. Even your right hand will begin to cramp from twisting the throttle and pulling in the brake lever.

Seeing as you probably won’t be visiting the track regularly, the best way to overcome this is general fitness. Try exercises using your legs, hand and wrists. Riding a bicycle is actually a great way to improve your fitness for motorcycle riding. For your hands, a simple ball you can squeeze will do wonders to prevent hand cramps.

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