NSR50R The GP Fantasy is Alive

November 8, 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.

Okay  barging your way past a scooter may not be enough to gain hero worship  but at least we re out there.
Okay, barging your way past a scooter may not be enough to gain hero worship, but at least we’re out there.

All right, unless you’re taller than 6-foot-2 or weigh more than 200 lbs, there’s no longer a good reason to deny your racing aspirations. Throw down $3600 at your Honda dealer for an NSR50R and you’re nearly ready to go. But first some practice time.

We went out to Grange Motor Circuit near the desert California towns of Victorville and Apple Valley along I-15 for an open trackday before the following day’s CMRRA race action. Aside from the price of a full tank of premix, it will cost just $25 for an entire day at the track (support staff are charged $10 each).

As soon as the MCUSA van came to rest, my wife Carolyn and I began making friends in the pits. Every single person we spoke to was remarkably friendly, and there was a distinct lack of tension when compared to a full-size race paddock.

Next pit over, a young racer’s dad checked over my bike and recommended lower tire pressures than the 25 lbs that Honda sent out our NSR with. “Hmmm, now, where did I put my tire gauge.” In a flash, the father of 13-year-old racer Bubba emerges with his pressure gauge. And when I got overzealous bleeding off air, Dave was ready with a mini (naturally) air compressor to re-inflate it.

It’s this kind of helpfulness and willingness to share that makes many racetracks a wonderful place to spend a weekend.

With a smile on my face, I paddled and bump-started my way out for my first session of the day. I was impressed by how quickly I could bring the NSR up to speed. Despite its toy-like size, Honda’s littlest racer is a product of HRC, so it is spectacularly well-sorted. It wasn’t more than five or six laps in that I felt comfortable enough to begin throwing down some good lap times.

The NSR proved to be significantly faster down the straight than the poor old air-cooled YSRs, and its fully adjustable rear shock was able to suck up bumps better than the Yamaha suspenders. I pulled into the pits with my lips parted in a smile.

Nearby, poppa Jack was prepping Jack Junior’s NSR, and they were happy to see another Honda in the crowd. The mini roadracing sport began with YSR50s, and the aging Yamahas-which were last built in 1992-can’t keep pace with the more modern, liquid-cooled Hondas. Therefore, the Stock/Production class is off-limits to the peppier NSRs, forcing Honda riders to race against some seriously modified machinery.

Stuffy racing instructors frown upon looking back  but they never taught Kevin Schwantz or Valentino Rossi.
The Grange Motor Circuit is the site of our latest racing adventure. Stuffy racing instructors frown upon looking back, but they never taught Kevin Schwantz or Valentino Rossi. Besides, there’s an 11-year-old with an extra 10cc coming up fast!

Word around the pits is that Honda dealers overbought NSRs and they’re blowing them out for less than the $3599 suggested retail, as low as $2900 on ebay. If more people buy them and more are raced, then many of the mini roadracing clubs across the country will be looking to add NSR-only classes, pleasing the growing number of NSR riders.

Meanwhile, Jack and Jack couldn’t have been happier to share some carburetor tuning settings appropriate for the 3000-foot elevation at Grange. I noticed my NSR didn’t have much snap and attributed it to the decrease in power that internal combustion engines experience at higher altitudes.

Jack recommended lowering the needle and leaning out the airscrew, but I was there at Grange to learn the track in preparation of the races the following day, so I flinched at the idea that seemed to entail more wrench time than track time. But Jack assured me that we could have my bike buttoned up by the time our session was next due on track.

HRC has applied many of its racing features to the NSR50R. The tailsection can be removed in about 10 seconds after a twist of two quarter-turn fasteners, reveals the single bolt securing the fuel tank. Unclip the fuel line, and a tuner has full access to the engine in about 30 seconds. We unscrewed the top of the carburetor and repositioned the needle clip and leaned out the airscrew. In less than two minutes we had the NSR fired back up in time for the next session.

Other clever racing details on the NSR include its beveled brake pedal, quarter-turn fasteners on the right-side fairing, pre-drilled oil cap and drain plug, and an overflow catch tank. Maneuvering the lightweight is made easier by an extra bit of tubing on the exhaust stinger bracket give hands a place to lift from.

I was able to barely dip into the 1:14 range around the eighth-mile track during my first session, but the changes to the NSR’s carburetion gave it a stronger, less soggy pull out of the corners, immediately lowering my times. By the end of the day, I was cutting laps in the 1:13 range, which apparently are respectable times for a stock 50, and I’m happy to report that no oil-stinkin’ YSRs came past me for the rest of the day.

The foyer in our room at Ho-Jo s makes a good spot for late-night bike prep on a mini road racer.
The foyer in our room at Ho-Jo’s makes a good spot for late-night bike prep on a mini road racer.

The CMRRA has three classifications of riders, Beginner, Amateur and Expert. I’ve decided to pass over CMRRA’s Beginner class and move straight into the Amateur ranks. If I entered as a Beginner, I would only qualify to race in two classes, Formula 50 and Vet Modified. But Amateurs can also enter the Formula GP class, giving me an extra class to maximize my time at the track.

Gamblers out there would be advised not to bet money on Team MCUSA getting a trophy in Formula GP, as the fully modified, up-to-70cc (or 185cc 4-stroke!) racebikes will outgun our completely stock 49cc mill like a C6 Corvette at a Miata rally. Still, more track time equals more fun, so we’ll make the best out of it.

Stay tuned to MCUSA for the conclusion of our first race weekend in mini road racing. We don’t much care if you’re cheering us on or hoping we get spanked, as long as you’re reading!

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