Ben Younger Track Experiment Part 3

November 8, 2010
Ben Younger
Ben Younger
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Ben Younger is a writer/director (Boiler Room, Prime) in film and has written for the New Yorker magazine. He has had a lifelong love of motorcycles and is currently working on a feature film about the TT races on the Isle of Man. Ben splits his time between Brooklyn and upstate New York.

Im done trying to change the face. Im resigned to the fact that I am in a constant state of agitation on a motorcycle. Please stop writing in about my upbringing. Thank you.
Screenwriter/director Ben Younger completes the final leg of his track odyssey, turning his Suzuki GSX-R750 into a full-fledged track project project bike.

It’s fall on the East Coast and The Experiment is finally over. I’ve completed the task I set out for last May. I’ve taken a bone stock GSXR-750 and slowly turned it into a fire-breathing scalpel; honing my own skills in the process. This is the last of three articles detailing the increasingly confusing and most recently dangerous journey this has turned out to be.

We left off in Calabogie, Canada where I had made a breakthrough of sorts. You can link to that future Pulitzer here at the Ben Younger Track Experiment Part 2. I was eager to get back to NJMP and see how my new-found confidence in the bike and my ability would translate. First, I had to make the last of the modifications. This last set were focused on power and weight.

The final mods made were as follows:

Those welds are really nice. Carbon fiber weave looks tight. Now go get me a chew toy.
“Those welds are really nice. Carbon fiber weave looks tight. Now go get me a chew toy.”Which one would you rather take to prom
Which would you rather take to prom?Shiny  happy headers
Shiny, happy headers

Bazzaz fuel injection/Z-AFM/traction control/quick shifter – $1,500 (3 different units) 
Yoshimura TRC Stainless Steel Full Exhaust System – $1,149
Full Spectrum Power battery – $260 
K&N racing air filter – $79

I returned from Canada to upstate New York to find a few important boxes lying on my front stoop. The kind of boxes that make a motorcycle racer’s pulse accelerate. Those above-mentioned names that we automatically associate with speed…

The Build

The exhaust went first. I knew I could manage this menial task and that it would give me the psychological momentum I would need for some of the more complicated installs. An exhaust is mechanically obvious and the Yosh did its part by fitting perfectly. At this point in the game Yoshimura is to Suzuki what AMG is to Mercedes. The build quality is so high everything feels OEM. I passed on the titanium system because the added cost didn’t seem worthwhile at the level we’re riding at. We gave up a little bit on weight but the cost savings is substantial. That being said, I do miss that intoxicating mix of blue and silver the titanium headers turn when heated. As Grandma used to say, “You’ll live.”

Next up was the air filter. That was easy. Five minutes. Done. For anyone who has never taken off an airbox before I’m happy to admit it was my first time as well. It’s nothing. Pulling the intake manifold off should theoretically take just a tiny bit more skill, yet I managed, somehow, to completely blow that (Explanation forthcoming).

The lithium-ion battery from Full Spectrum went next. I chose the Pulse P2 model which has the same terminals we’re all used to from a standard battery. What no one is used to is a battery that weighs 1.6 pounds. That’s 7 pounds less than the stock acid brick. At $260 I simply can’t think of a single mod that one can make for the money that saves as much weight. I’m filing this under “must have.” The install was as simple as turning two screws. The one issue is that it’s so small there’s a lot of extra room in the battery box. Digging back into Grandma’s archives again: “Good problem to have.” I made small cardboard buffers out of red gaffer’s tape and the box the Pulse came in to keep things locked up. It looks snazzy, if you ask me.

Ahhh  I can breathe!!Im little but Im strong. Im also severely anorexic. All good. Its working for me.
New air filter: “Ahhh, I can breathe!!” New battery: “I’m little but I’m strong. I’m also
severely anorexic.” All good. It’s working for me.

Last to go was the Bazzaz. Wiring makes me nervous, but when I opened the Bazzaz box I was immediately comforted by the Apple-like packaging of the ZFi-TC system. It was like removing an iPhone from its angelic, white box. I can do this. Then I lifted the unit up to gain access to the wiring harness below. “What the f*!# is this?” My dog looked up at me. It was a rat’s nest underneath that beautiful facade. What started as an Apple store ended up as a dumpster behind Radio Shack.

So there I was, standing in the driveway looking at this mess of wires. I could feel myself turning. My confidence leaking like the old air mattress in my trailer. Another 10 seconds and it was over. I turned heel and went inside. You can just bang on an exhaust pipe until it fits. Not so much on a state-of-the-art traction control system. I called my buddy Carl who has actually installed two of these systems. “How did you figure out that mess?” He told me to go back outside,

I was excited. what can I say  Did i overdo it a litte  probably. was a baby seal harmed in the process  No. So back off.
I was excited. what can I say? Did i overdo it a litte? Probably. Was a baby seal harmed in the process? No. So back off.

unfurl the wiring harness and place it over the sub-frame. “It’ll match right up. You’ll see.” I don’t like being told what to do so I told Carl to go to hell, hung up then went back outside and gave it a shot. He was right. Everything lined up. I placed the unit in the tail section and the wires just magically ended up at exactly the points they were meant to terminate. It’s all plug n’ play, too, so that means you’re not really “wiring” anything. You’re just hearing one satisfying click after another as you plug each lead in. I have to tip my hat to Suzuki for making all the plugs different sizes and shapes. This makes it virtually impossible to plug into the wrong place. To be honest, the hardest part of the entire job is getting the stock plugs off of their connectors. Unless you’ve got hydraulic fingers, prepare to use a screwdriver and some wildly inappropriate language.

One of the things that set the Bazzaz unit apart from its competitors is that it has leads for both the upper and lower injectors, allowing much more control over the fueling process. To access the lower injectors, however, requires removal of the intake manifold. There are two screws which act on pipe clamps that seal the manifold to the velocity stacks. I unscrewed them…all the way. I know.

Looks like Steve Jobs decided to make an ECU.
Looks like Steve Jobs decided to make an ECU.
Looks like Steve Jobs has a newfound drug problem.
Looks like Steve Jobs has a newfound drug problem.

So, let’s review how a pipe clamp works: unscrew just enough so that it’s no longer clamping. Sometimes I get hyper-focused. I see a screw and just keep turning. The nut, which is small enough to be measured in millimeters (that joke will land later), falls into the darkest recesses of the engine case. Miraculously, with the help of a flashlight, I find it hiding in a corner like a scared child. I, of course, don’t have one of those magnetic retriever wands. I passed one at Sears a few weeks ago. It was pretty – bendy neck, flashlight built into the head, nice grip. I held it in my hand, lusted after it then proudly set it down, even adding a comment which the gods were certainly acting upon now – “Seriously, dude, when the hell are you ever gonna use that?”
I ended up rigging a piece of safety wire with some tape around the end to snag the little guy. And it only took an hour and a half! Once all was said and done I turned the ignition key on. Seeing the blue light illuminate on the Bazzaz unit at the end of install was like conducting nuclear fusion in Los Alamos. My back was killing me, but I had won. I made friends with electricity.

The satisfaction of installing that system was off the charts for me. I’m just not good at this kind of thing and it felt great to have some success in it. Interestingly, I don’t think I would have pushed through had I not committed to write this article. Joseph at Bazzaz swore up and down I’d be able to figure it out, but that didn’t matter when I opened the box. Only a publishing deadline and the urging of a friend I secretly think I’m smarter than could get me to budge. And that’s a problem. Overcoming this brought me to a very important realization.

Irrational fear of…

This is the original. Wouldnt have guessed baby blue and orange would work  but...
This is the original. Wouldn’t have guessed baby blue and orange would work, but…

I have talked to enough riders to say that a good number of us have a fear of some part of their bike. Fear is maybe a strong word. Aversion is probably better. Last month at the track I met a group of riders who simply did not want to measure hot pressures of their tires. They prescribed to the “set ‘em and forget ‘em” mantra. It’s 30/30 before the first session and then don’t think about it again until the next time the bike comes off the trailer. It’s irrational. It has no basis. Hot pressures are inarguably a better measurement and provide both more performance and a wider safety margin. Yet, neither of those were compelling enough reasons for these guys. It doesn’t make sense. But I get it.

I just lay in the grass with them for a while after this shot was taken.
I just lay in the grass with them for a while after this shot was taken.

It took you a while to understand that street pressures were dangerously high for track day work. So you’ve finally got your cold pressures down and the idea of changing to hot pressures just seems like adding another variable. They say familiarity breeds contempt, but I would say it breeds complacency.
My aversion is for measuring ride height. I’ve read stories in magazines about how race tires have different profiles from street tires. This effectively changes the ride height and, therefore, the handling of your bike. We’re meant to compensate for it. It all seems so complicated. The weird measuring tape in millimeters (I visit Europe. I don’t live there). Where do I measure from? What inflation should the tires be at? But there are answers to these questions and they’re not that complicated. The point is that we get comfortable wherever we’re at and that isn’t helping anybody. Keep challenging your technical prowess.
Wiring was another one of those aversions for me. It’s not mechanical. I can’t see how it works so I’m gonna go ahead and be afraid of it. But I pushed past it and got the Bazzaz harness hooked up and running. Once you do the thing you have the irrational fear of your brain goes, ‘Oh, that was it…? Yeah, I’ll let you do that from now on.’

One of only two shots I got of her before we tussled.
One of only two shots I got of her before we tussled.
You can almost just see the caliper bolts ready to make a break for it.
You can almost just see the caliper bolts ready to make a break for it.

Is there a Doctor in the house?

The bike was now good-to-go, down to the paint. If you live in the Tri-State area and you want your bike painted by someone who actually cares about the sport then go see Christian at C&M Autobody in Middletown. He is an avid motorcyclist himself and paints the Celtic Racing team’s bikes. They’re Irish which, I guess, explains (not really) the disgusting kale green they chose to swath the bikes in. Hey, there’s no accounting for taste (I disagree). But if you want to see what the man is capable of when given the reins look at the beauty on these pages. I always loved McQueen’s Le Mans and the GT-40’s painted in the Gulf livery. Japanese bike graphics seem stuck in 1987. We went retro and the result is stunning. Christian actually sourced the paint from Ford to get the exact colors. That’s the kind of guy you want working on your bike.

So, Labor Day weekend is just around the corner and I’m ready. The plan is to do a shakedown of the Bazzaz system before the next NJMP event to make sure everything works right. There’s an STT day at Monticello Motor Club which I sign up for. But just before the weekend Hurricane Earl comes to town and the forecast is for 15-foot surf on Friday. No reason I can’t get some tasty waves in before we go riding. Right? Wrong. I paddled out and immediately a monster set came through and rang my bell. The fin of my board hit me just above the ankle and cut me. Deep. My buddy Ilya, a fellow racer and surfer who I slapped in Part 2 of this experiment, also happens to be an E.R. doctor. Good friend to have with you. No more slapping. I asked him if I needed stitches. He looked at the gash. “I can see your tibia.” I guess that’s a yes. So now we’re in the E.R. at his hospital in Brooklyn where he’d just completed a 12-hour graveyard shift, and he’s stitching me up wearing swim trunks and a straw hat telling me to shut up and take it. Good start to the weekend. It gets better.

I rest up for a day then meet my friends at the track on Sunday morning. Monticello is a new track that, while not the safest, is quite beautiful and, more importantly, 23 miles from my house. Hard to resist. They built it for cars which explains why it’s wrapped in Armco. That being said, if you ride at 80% you’ll be alright. They are planning on making it more bike-friendly and I know many people that look forward to that. It has the potential for greatness.