Now that the Kramer was in my life, it was finally time to use it! My first outing with it was a 2-day track event at Chuckwalla, a track that I’ve always found to be little-bike friendly. I had another trackday scheduled at Circuit of the Americas a month later so I had to make sure I broke in the bike and got some seat time with it before going to Texas!
Did you miss Part 3? Let’s discuss the upgrades.
The event was with SoCal Track Days, an organization put on by the same folks who own Chuckwalla. Their unique selling point is that they do not have sessions – the track goes hot in the morning, it goes cold at the end of the day, and beyond a 1-hour lunch break you can just go ride to your heart’s content. There’s one person at track entry regulating flow so that you don’t start join the track right in front of a pack of riders, but other than that it’s very low key. This is good as a rider because they say they keep attendance to about 40 so you have plenty of time to ride and you don’t get crowded. It’s also good for the organizer as it minimizes the complexity and cost of admin. I wasn’t familiar with this organization before, but I was interested in checking it out as a few of us from Iconic were invited by our friend Kaming Ko.
On the way there, we stopped by Thermal Raceway to see a friend who said we should come by to check out some IndyCar testing. It was fascinating to get up close to the race cars and see them practice pitting, but the most interesting thing there may have actually been…a truck. Well, sort of a truck. Last year, Honda gave a Ridgeline and one of their IndyCar motors (2.2L twin-turbocharged V-6 making between 700-900 horsepower) to Hoonigan and told them to go wild. Here is the result – check out this Motor Trend link if you want more details.
We all got excited when we saw it go on the track but it was just for some photos/videos and we didn’t get to hear this incredible motor sing. I mean, we got to hear it in all of the race cars, but we were hoping to see this truck go crazy and that didn’t happen.
You can hear a little bit of it here, if you’re interested:
OK, back to motorcycles! We got into Chuckwalla the night before the first track day as they have a great cabin set up. I was amused by this sign regarding help with your paddock needs, not your life needs.
Because the owner of the track also owns the track day organization, he syncs up the direction of the track day with whatever the next CVMA race will be. The next race was counter-clockwise, so you can guess which way we were riding during the track days. We went to the safety meeting and were surprised to see quite a bit more than 40 people – it frankly looked like twice as much. That wasn’t particularly exciting, but I just wanted to get on my bike.
On other track bikes, I usually need the entirely of the first session before I feel comfortable with the bike. I was comfy with the Kramer in just a few corners, it just felt so natural to me. One of the reasons for that is the despite the smaller engine size of 690cc, the HKR is surprisingly roomy for a bigger rider . There also lots of adjustability with the levers, bars, pegs, clip-ons, and even the seat height but I haven’t played around with that yet.
My main goals for the day were:
1. don’t crash, pretty self-explanatory
2. break in the bike, Kramer specifies the following:
After the first session (15-20 minutes) – screws should be torque-checked, and bleed the front brakes.
For the first 100 km (62 miles) – do not exceed 70% of full brake pressure
For the first 200 km (124 miles) – do not exceed 7,500 rpm
After 2 hours of run time – change engine oil and filters
So I had to take it a easy on the engine and the brakes, but I could enjoy everything the bike had to offer from a handling standpoint right off the bat. And good lord, this bike can handle! Most track bikes that people get to enjoy are street bikes that are converted. But because the Kramer has been built from the ground up just to spend time on the track, it has a ready-to-race weight of 285 pounds – you just can’t get close to that with a converted street bike:
Yamaha R3: 375 pounds
Kawasaki Ninja 400: 365 pounds
Aprilia RS660: 403 pounds
Yamaha R7: 414 pounds
Yamaha R6 (RIP): 408 pounds
Kawasaki ZX-6R: 430 pounds
You get the idea. It is light. Because of that, the initial turn-in is incredible. The ability to keep speed through a corner is incredible. Frankly, nearly everything about it is incredible except the engine (which is fine, just not life-changing). It felt like my Ninja 400 on steroids – compare 80 hp/285 pounds to 45 hp/365 pounds. That’s an obvious statement, but I’ve ridden much faster/more track-focused bikes that do not handle nearly as well as the Kramer does. I have plenty of room to grow into this bike’s capabilities, that’s for sure.
After a couple of sessions, I noticed that I was getting some odd wear on the left side of the tire. One of the best parts of Kramer ownership is access to people like Joe Karvonen (the CEO of Kramer Motorcycles USA) and Jensen Beeler (formerly of Asphalt & Rubber, now Kramer’s Global Head of Sales), who are both talented, knowledgeable, and willing to share their expertise. I sent Jensen the below photo and asked for his advice, he said the rear tire was getting over-stressed and that I should add more preload and/or less rebound. He said to make the changes and then have the tire flipped on the wheel, noting that the Pirelli slicks are zero-degree belts so you can run the tire in either direction.
I took two clicks of rebound out and then rode the Kramer over to the tire guy, who was busy working on someone else’s bike. He told me to come back in 20 minutes so I walked around the pits and checked out some of the other bikes that were out:
Per usual, our clients brought some cool stuff. Jay B. brought his Aprilia Tuono Racing (with less than 1,500 miles!) and his Ducati 888 – the latter is now for sale as he got something even cooler to replace it.
A very nice gentleman (I’ve forgotten his name, sorry) shared some details about his Harley-Davidson race bike. He was hustling out there and leaning WELL off the bike to ensure he wasn’t dragging hard parts.
Speaking of Harleys, Cory West was out there practicing on his MotoAmerica King of the Baggers bike. He had a couple of mechanical issues, but that’s why it’s practice! Also – did you hear that King of the Baggers may be going to Europe?
Special mention has to go to a former MotoGP (sort of bike) that I got to take for a spin! This is a Claiming Rule Teams Avintia Racing Kawasaki BQR-FTR race bike that we actually sold on Iconic Motorbikes. This was campaigned in the 2013 MotoGP championship by Hector Barberá – he competed in every race, placing as high as 10th (once at Mugello and once at Laguna Seca). He ended the season in 16th place. Even at my much-slower-than-Hector pace, I was blown away by the carbon brakes (once they got up to temp), and the handling, it required minimal effort to change direction. Getting the opportunity to ride it was a dream come true. I took it easy as it wasn’t my bike and it was on slicks that didn’t have warmers on them, but it’s a memory I’ll cherish for years.
With the rear tire flipped, I got back on the track. I’d like to pretend that I’m good enough of a rider to have noticed the difference my suspension adjustments made, but it was too subtle for me. With that said, the abnormal tire wear stopped so I’m glad I took Jensen’s advice! In the long term, he said that we may want to go with a stiffer spring so that’s something I’ll keep in mind.
The Kramer was absolute magic in the corners, but (especially when limited to 7,500 rpm) I was getting walked in the straightaways. I don’t mind that too much (at least for now), and at Chuckwalla the straights aren’t very long anyway.
After its first track day, the Kramer was due for a break-in service. Thankfully, Paradigm Racing was on site and the technician said I could leave the oil/filters I brought with him and he’d have it ready for me the next morning. How’s that for service? Paradigm is based out of Phoenix, which shows you how far east Chuckwalla is from Los Angeles!
I actually brought my Ninja 400 as a backup bike in case I wasn’t able to get the break-in service done. I thought about using it for a session just to mix things up but I was having so much fun on the Kramer that the Ninja stayed parked for the entirety of the two day event. I just want to give a special thanks to Irina over at Lieto Factory, she designed this new canopy and had it created for us at Iconic. I highly recommend her if you need something similar made (or mats, shirts, etc), and feel free to tell her I sent you.
After enjoying the night with my buddies in the Chuckwalla cabins, I showed up the next morning to the track and the Kramer was ready to go post break-in service. Now I could wind it out to the 9,500 rpm redline! On an unrelated note, one of our amazing technicians at Iconic (Olly, who owns an avocado farm) gave me an avocado-themed sticker so I put it on the bike for the day in his honor.
I let Olly and Adam borrow the Kramer for a session so they could try it out, plus I was curious about their thoughts. Adam appreciated the light weight but he definitely wants more power. Olly seemed to like it but for as much I bragged about the Kramer’s weight earlier in this story, the HKR is a fat pig compared to what Olly normally rides on the track – a Honda NSF250 (185 pounds), Honda RS125 (160 pounds), and a Yamaha TZ250 (a bit north of 200 pounds but it makes more power than the Kramer)!
My buddy Ted let me borrow his recently-acquired R6 that he picked up to complement his track R1 and his street MT-10 (he’s a Yamaha guy). It was fun to wind out ~120 horsepower but the Kramer had spoiled me a bit and I was initially surprised by the 410 pounds of his bike. I don’t mean to make everything about weight, but I was just so shocked by how lightweight the Kramer was that it was my main takeaway from the day.
Well, I achieved my two goals – the Kramer is broken in and I didn’t crash. Though over my first two days with the HKR, I did discover one thing that I hate: the gas cap. Well, not the cap itself, that’s fine. But the angle/layout of the filling location is horrible. The fuel tank on this bike doubles as the subframe, and Kramer offers it in black and translucent options. With the latter you can see what the fuel level is, but I can’t tell with my black tank. Plus, because the cap is tilted forward at an angle, fuel will start overflowing from the bottom of the filler opening onto the seat before I can tell that the tank is about to fill up. I didn’t get a close-up photo showing the angle well, but hopefully you can see what I’m talking about below. It’s the one thing that I don’t think is very well thought on this bike, but maybe I’m missing something.
We originally went to this track day thinking that there would be roughly 40 riders. A photographer told my partner Adam that there were 90 signups and at one point there were 40 people on the track. I’m not sure if I’d go back again – but I’m definitely excited to get back on the Kramer!
In the meantime, I’m very fortunate to have ex-race mechanics a.) be my friends and b.) care for my bikes – Steve (left) worked for Erion Racing while Olly (right) worked for Yoshimura and Graves. I know my bike is in good hands when they’re tending to it, so now it’s just a case of waiting for the truck/trailer to whisk my bike off to Texas. Next stop: Circuit of the Americas…