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Max's Race On A Stock Thruxton

By Maxwell Materne
on February 18, 2015

Waking up at 6:00 AM on race day is second nature for me now but having to dress for the chilly ride to the racetrack felt a bit strange. I have a bit of a morning ritual to my race days: alarm goes off, I snooze 3 to 4 times, then roll out of bed right into my Moto D under suit. A few more layers of clothes as my coffee brews and out the door to walk to work where the company van is parked. This time however it was different as I walked downstairs and hopped right onto my “race bike.” Only thing is my race bike has a license plate, turn signals, headlight and taillight, even a horn. She’s really not a race bike at all but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to ride the pants off of her.



As I crossed over the Mississippi River my mind drifted to what this bone-stock Triumph Thruxton would be capable of. Stock suspension meant a bouncy ride, diminished traction and less control. Some people were calling me crazy to even try to go fast on it. The foot pegs were stock with the “feeler pegs” still on, meaning they were closer to the ground than any other Thruxton Cup bike. My lean angle would be significantly diminished and when hard parts hit the ground it would throw my bike into a cycle of uncontrollable bounces. I started to worry myself, I started to think this may be crazy, more importantly I was certain I would lose. As I passed Bayou Segnette the air became wet, cold and dense. The bike seemed to like it, it pulled strong, throttle response felt crisp even though she was only 62hp, almost 10 hp under the rest of the grid. My fingers felt like frozen blocks of wood, lifeless and rigid, as I pulled in the clutch and applied the brakes to check in at the NOLA Motorsports security gate. The last leg of the journey is simply riding across the paddock on the way to registration, honking and waving to all of the friendly faces I’ve spent the last 2 years racing with. I walked up to registration still shivering from the ride but was met by the warmest welcome from all of the WERA officials. My story, “Birth of a Thruxton Cup Bike”, had reached them and they were excited to see how this race turned out. At first I was flattered, then the butterflies kicked in.




Now back at the TTRNO Speed Shop garage to make the transformation from street bike to race bike! I took off the mirrors and license plate, taped up the lights and I was done…that’s it...I was determined to keep it simple, keep it stock. I rode it to the tech inspector and explained my story. He passed me with a bit of skepticism, but wished me the best of luck. By the time I got into my leathers I had already wasted too much time to make it to practice, so my first fast ride would be a race.






Race 6 was my first race of the day, it was Formula 2, mostly Suzuki SV650s, I was using it as practice to see what would fail me first. Before I knew it I was on my warmup lap, trying to to get a little heat in my tires. I pull up to my grid position...row 3...center. I look to the left where spectators have lined up against the cement wall waiting for the launch. They look perplexed and a bit surprised to see a stock bike on the grid. Tall bars, turn signals and a big ugly tail light make it look like I’m on my way to the grocery store so I verify their suspicion with a honk and a wave. The 2 board comes out at the start/finish tower indicating that the last rider is in position for the launch. 1board,1boardsideways,greenflag. That fast, the race has started, I’m at 6,000RPM as I feather the clutch out to launch as quickly as possible while keeping the front wheel just an inch or so off of the tarmac. 2nd gear, 3rd gear, 4th gear, I’m in the lead. The 300 ft board flies by and I’m on the binders at the 200. It’s just after turn 2 when a pair of the more powerful SV650s take the inside line, soon after a 3rd passes. From here on out I hold position as I try to figure out my bike. The suspension is bouncy but not as bad as I thought, in fact the smoother I am with my bodyweight transitions and throttle applications the less I even notice it. When the foot pegs catch the ground it’s jarring. The bike feels as if it lifts slightly, loses traction and begins a cycle of rhythmic bounces front and rear suspension. I hang off of the bike farther using the high tall bars to push myself away and the bike seems to like it. It wiggles but complies with my requests and finishes the turn right where I want it. This is what breaking a wild horse must feel like. I’m letting it try to buck me off but with just the right inputs it abides. The pegs hit a few more times until the “feeler pegs” finally break off. Every lap is faster as I get used to how the bike moves and likes to be handled. Fastest lap is 2:11.159 as I pass under the checkered flag finishing 2nd in a race I didn’t even plan on being competitive in. I ride back to my garage, put on tire warmers then try to contain my excitement for the real reason I’m here, the Thruxton Cup.

 

Before I know it I hear “3rd and final call for race 9.” Frantically I put in ear plugs (needed around all of those loud Thruxton Cup bikes), throw on my brand new Bell Star Carbon helmet (I’ll brag about that one soon enough) and squeeze my hands into gloves. Off with the tire warmers and onto pit out. I feel at home knowing the grid is filled with bikes just like mine, a bit more tricked out but with the same DNA. I have pole position for Thruxton Cup since I won the regional championship last year but we share the track with a few more classes in front of us.Photo Credit: Zayas Image That puts all of us British hooligans at row 9 and back. Same as before the boards go flying by and the green flag has been thrown. Walt Bolton, #552, has an amazing start along with Paul Canale ,#112. They are ahead of me instantly and lead the way into turn 1. I hit traffic from the classes that started ahead of me, so the gap is now getting larger. That’s it, I can’t let this happen, not even 1/8 of the way around the track and they’re almost out of sight. I change my approach into turn 2 by turning in later for a deeper apex and more drive past the blockade of bikes keeping me from the other Photo Credit: Zayas ImageThruxtons, and it works. I pass 3 riders all before the braking zone of turn 3 and with Walt’s rear tire in my sights I brake later than I ever have setting me up for an overtaking of #552 entering the turn and an overtaking of #112 exiting. Turn 4 approaches and I’ve already upshifted to 3rd gear and back down to 4th within a matter of seconds. The tire chirps and steps out as a tip into the right hander all while being certain Paul will overtaking me on the inside, but he wasn’t there. Turn after turn I never look back, I’m yelling in my helmet. The bump in turn 7 sends me wide over the rumble strips and I yell “YeeHaa!” (cheesy as all hell but true). My smile fills every bit of the visor making it almost difficult to see through my squinting eyes. Lap after lap I get more comfortable. The bike wallows and slides and grinds parts off but it feels like it was meant to do this. As I turn laps my mind drifts to what this bike’s life was before. 8,082 miles of weekend rides, maybe a few rides to work, maybe a 2-up date night ride, a few bike nights, maybe a poker run or two. I’m giving this bike a whole new life, a new chapter and both the bike and I are loving every second of it. As I come down the front straight the last time I lay on my horn in celebration, look to the right and see the rest of the riders way behind, 27 seconds behind to be exact. I had consistently run low 2:08s where the lap record for a fully race prepped Thruxton Cup bike is 2:04 flat.

Photo Credit: Zayas ImageThen it hits me, I’ve been planning on writing these articles to say how this bike is pretty good stock but desperately needs additions to really enjoy it on the track, but I was dead wrong. Sure I’m still going to upgrade suspension, exhaust, tuning, etc. but it’s not necessary at all to go out, have fun and kick some ass!

The sun rises on the second day revealing that the track is soaking from an overnight storm, it’s going to be a wet race. This time Paul Canale’s not racing but my brother, Zach, is. Zach and I line up next to each other on the grid and both of us have a great launch. Lap 1, lap 2, lap 3 and Zach is right on my tail, our times are slower due to the conditions but we’re sliding the rear tire through turns as we lose then regain traction. The race between Zach and me becomes simply one of endurance, who can hold on to our sliding pace longer. I finally pull away in the last lap and take gold one more time.
Photo Credit: Zayas Image
What makes someone fast is not what they ride, but how they ride it. How willing they are to push. How late they brake and how early they twist the throttle. How smooth they are and how they respond to all of the little bits of data the bike sending back to them. Photo Credit: Zayas Image

I’m not done with this bike yet, next thing up is suspension. If I plan on beating the Thruxton Cup lap record at NOLA I’ll need to have more control than I currently have. There are many options out there and I’ll be doing my research to make sure I’ve got the best available.

Follow my progress, as we have miles and miles, and laps and laps to go

Maxwell Materne

   

 

                                                                                          

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Zayas Image

 

 

 

 


Understanding suspension | Upgrading your Triumph modern classic

By Maxwell Materne
on December 04, 2014

The point of a motorcycle’s suspension is to both absorb the road’s imperfections and keep consistent traction with the asphalt.  But how does it work?

To understand the principles of suspension there are 2 different things to discuss: springs and damping.  The springs used in both front forks and in rear shocks are the same type of coil springs you would find in a pen or in a mattress, just much stronger.   What prevents the spring from continuously oscillating is the suspension’s damping characteristics.  

Let’s look at a VERY simplified diagram how suspension works:


 

 

 

There are 3 main components in this image to pay attention to; the oil, the valve and the damper rod.  The valve is on the end of the damper rod and is pushed through the oil as the damper rod is moved up and down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



As we push the damper rod up into the shock we can see that oil is passing through the valve.  The rate at which this oil passes through the valve is determined by the size of the holes in the valve and by the viscosity of the oil.

 

 

 

 

 










 

 

 

 

The effect is the same in reverse for most stock shocks like those found on the Triumph Bonneville.  With shocks like these the rate at which the valve plunges through the oil is not adjustable nor can the oil be changed in order to get a different amount of damping from the shock.  








 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now let’s add the spring into the mix.  For every action (hitting a bump and the shock compressing) there is an equal but opposite reaction (the spring returning to its original length - rebounding).  


Let’s discuss the Triumph modern classic line specifically.  The Bonneville, Scrambler and T100 have absolutely no adjustability while the Thruxton only has fork preload adjustability.  Preload is the amount of tension that is put onto the springs in order compensate for rider weight.  Our TTRNO Level 1 suspension package addresses the issue of preload adjustability and spring rate.  


TTRNO’s Level 1 suspension kit for Triumph Modern Classics consists of:

  • Preload adjustable front fork caps
  • Progressive fork springs
  • Hagon preload adjustable rear shocks


Preload adjustability is the first step in getting a motorcycle set up for you, but this Level 1 kit goes a step above by installing a spring with a progressive rate.  Let’s discuss spring rates…

 



The above spring is a standard flat-rate spring.  These springs are  used in stock applications because they are cheap to produce and easy to tune.  They work great for setting up a bike for the track, but are not ideal for a comfortable street ride.  That’s where the progressive springs come in…

 

 

Progressive springs are wound at a different rate throughout the length of the spring.  This allows for an increase in suspension “stiffness” as more force is applied.  On the road this allows for small bumps to be absorbed under a very light spring rate and more aggressive bumps to be controlled at a higher rate.  In other words, a soft ride without bottoming out.  

Suspension level 1 price with parts and installation $920.




TTRNO’s Level 2 suspension kit for Triumph Modern Classics consists of:

  • Preload adjustable front fork caps
  • Rider weight specific flat-rate springs
  • RaceTech Gold Valve front fork cartridge emulators
  • Ohlins S36DR1L shocks


What makes Level 2’s components more advanced is the ability to adjust not only the spring preload but also the rebound damping.  Remember how damping is controlled by the valve on the damper rod?  Well, the rate at which the shock compresses and rebounds can be tuned by the size of the orifices in the valve.  RaceTech’s Gold Valve kit is able to tune both compression and rebound damping by both changing the size and shape of the valve orifices and by changing a series of shims that sit on both sides of the valve.  These shims help tune damping by their rate of deflection as fork oil passes them.  For simplicity’s sake I’ll leave it to RaceTech to explain the rest:  http://www.racetech.com/page/title/Emulators-How%20They%20Work.


The rear shocks for Level 2 are made by the world-famous Ohlins suspension company.  They are preload, rebound and height adjustable with larger and more advanced valves than those used in Level 1’s Hagon shocks.  Adjustability is externally done meaning that changes in road conditions can be tuned quickly and easily.  

Suspension level 2 price with parts and installation $2,300.





TTRNO’s Level 3 suspension kit for Triumph Modern Classics consists of:

  • Traxxion Dynamics AK-20 Axxion cartridge kit for front forks
  • Rider weight specific flat-rate springs
  • Ohlins S36PR1C1LB shocks


The set of components in Level 3 is all you need to make your suspension FULLY adjustable with preload, rebound and compression.  One of the largest advantages of the AK-20 cartridge kits is that rebound and compression damping can be externally controlled unlike that of the RaceTech Gold Valve kit.  This allows suspension tuning to be as simple as turning a few screws rather than taking apart the front forks.  Ohlins’ S36PR1C1LB shocks have an external “piggy back” reservoir to keep oil temperature and viscosity consistent.  All of the adjusters on these shocks are a simple turn of a knob with no need for difficult spanner wrenches and the damping control is so intricate that any and all traction characteristics can be tuned perfectly.  The amount of adjustability provided in this kit is the same as that of full factory race bikes and these components are by far the best on the market.  Take it from me, if you want the best suspension components on your Triumph Modern Classic, this is the kit!

Suspension level 3 price with parts and installation $3,900.



Maxwell Materne

2014 WERA Thruxton Cup National Champion

 

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