NSR50R MCUSA Off to the Races

November 5, 2004
Kevin Duke
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A legend in the motorcycle industry, Duke Danger is known for his wheelie riding antics, excellent writing skills, appetite for press intro dinners and a propensity to wake up late. Once a fearless member of the MotoUSA team, the Canadian kid is often missed but never forgotten.

WIth eyes as big as saucers Duke keeps his focus.
Either this guy is huge or this bike is tiny. Since Duke Danger’s weight practically doubles when he slips on his leathers, it’s the bike. But there’s nothing small about the fun of road racing the NSR50R.

Whether the recent presidential election was won by Republican or Democrat wouldn’t really change the status of your toy budget. There simply is never enough of it, no matter which party is in power.

One of the latest additions to the MCUSA garage is Ducati’s awesome new 999R, but we’re probably like most of you in that we can’t imagine having pockets deep enough to afford its $30K price, never mind stripping it down and putting it in club-racing jeopardy at our local racetracks. Another check we all might be hesitant to cash is one resulting from a triple-digit-speed error in judgment.

But all of the above doesn’t mean we aren’t hungry for the thrill of two-wheel competition. If only there was a way to go racing that won’t break the bank or, hopefully, the bones.

Actually, we think we’ve found it. The key to racing on the cheap is to go small. Dirt dudes can hop-up their Honda XR50s for some relatively safe bar-to-bar bashing, seen here in our Mini Moto shootout. And now we’re getting out of the dirt for some mini roadracing.

Regular MCUSA readers will remember the story we filed from Honda’s introduction of its 2005 NSR50R and Dream 50R at a SoCal go-kart track. We had so much fun railing around on the diminutive GP replica 2-stroke NSR that we put in a request with American Honda for a petite factory racer of our own.

This weekend we’ll be bump-starting MCUSA’s Project GP Racer. We’ll file our first report on location from La Grange Motor Circuit near Apple Valley, California. Located about 80 miles northeast of L.A., the 14-turn, 0.8-mile circuit is hosting an open track day on Saturday, November 6 in preparation for a California Motorcycle Road Racing Association (CMRRA) race on Sunday. Although we have yet to ride at Grange, we’ve heard positive reports about the circuit that has some elevation changes and a 950-foot straightaway.

Honda NSR50 Dyno Sheet
Sure, your riding mower might embarass the NSR on a dyno, but we cringe to think about getting a knee down on a John Deere.

Prior to hitting the track, we brought our lovely little chainsaw over to our friends at White Brothers for a spin on the dyno. We knew from our first ride on the NSR that its power numbers were going to fall quite a bit short of, say, a CBR1000RR. Honda claims the NSR produces 7.2 horsepower at its peak, but manufacturers usually state power claims from either the crankshaft or the countershaft, both of which provide numbers 10-15% higher than spat out by a rear-wheel dynomometer. So we were pleasantly surprised when our little racebike managed to churn out 7.9 ponies at 9000 rpm.

Yeah, that may not sound like much (and it isn’t!), but when you’re rowing the 6-speed gearbox at max revs, waiting until the last moment to get on the powerful disc brakes, and tilting horizons never achieved on a streetbike, the number of ponies in the corral becomes almost insignificant.

The NSR doesn’t generate more than two horsepower until after 4900 rpm, so a rider has to be on top of his or her game to wring the best out of it. Honda’s littlest sportbike is built at Honda Racing Corporation (HRC), the same shop that assembles Nicky Hayden’s RC211V MotoGP bike, so this slight machine is more than a toy. Suspension is by Showa, and the rear is fully adjustable including compression and rebound damping; the fork, like the shock, is preload-adjustable.

The differences between winning and losing when racing a 2-stroke can often be attributed to the tuning of the finicky oil-burner carburetion. Of course, knowing that and having the foresight to bring an assortment of carb jets and needles can be two different things. We’re hoping our NSR runs as good at Grange’s 3000 feet as it did at White Brothers’ 375 feet.

Another possible spanner in the works is the weather. Saturday is supposed to be partly cloudy with a predicted high in the upper 60s. However, rain clouds are expected at night and there is a chance of thundershowers on Sunday, race day.

Duke represents the web-abusers aboard the NSR.
Knee down at a buck-thirty or just thirty is a blast on the right equipment.

If we were going into our first race on a 999R as unprepared as we are on the NSR, we’re sure we wouldn’t be getting a good night’s sleep tonight, which would make our time at the track even more tense.

However, on the playful NSR, the only thing we’re expecting is fun, pure and simple. Yeah, we’ll be gunning for a trophy, of course. But as long as all bones remain in the same location as at the beginning of the weekend, we’re strongly predicting a highly successful weekend.

Stay tuned to MCUSA this weekend for a report on our on-track progress. Better yet, come on out to Grange and cheer on the number-67 GP racer. The first person to bring over a beer at the end of the day gets a free MCUSA sticker!

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