Dragbike.com Project Bike: Brandi’s GSX-R750 – Part 2
Dragbike.com Project Bike: GSX-R750 – Part 2
When last we left the Dragbike.com Project GSXR750 we had done all the preliminary modifications you would do to prepare a street bike for the dragstrip. We lowered it, re-geared it, added an air-shifter and shift light and cut the seat. It already had an aftermarket exhaust.
The article was very well received and I want to thank everyone for the great comments and support. Man, did I get some heat from part one. The boys were all in an uproar over the “boys are only good for killing bugs and opening jars” comment. I guess I should have added “changing my oil” to the list!
The off-season was tough, the winter seems even longer when you have a new bike in the garage and you can’t ride it. I would go out to the garage look at her, sit on her, talk to her and even pretend to be racing her at times. Then I would slowly make my way back into the house and get online and wonder what you can order to make her nicer or faster. I now understand a guy’s perspective when their girlfriends complain about this activity. I was living it! It grabs you. And I Love it!
I knew what I really needed (OK, wanted) was a swingarm. To me this would be the most important modification to my bike. I am sure some might disagree, but for me personally, the swing arm is the most important. Why? It allows you to launch the bike harder and more consistently. And isn’t that what ET racing is all about? Going fast and being consistent? Look at any serious street tire bike and they all have extended swingarms. That alone should tell you.
When I first rode this bike, the front end wanted to come up every time I tried to launch. Not that it ever actually did, but just the thought that it was scary enough so I was hesitant when twisting the throttle. Not having to worry about the bike wheeling off the line will allow me to concentrate on the tree and be more consistent with my launches. Or at least that is the theory.
I started checking around and made a few phone calls to people I trust and made the decision to go with Mark Brown at JDM Performance Products (now MT Performance). Mark is only four hours from St. Louis and has a great reputation in the racing industry, plus he is an easy guy to get along with!
So when I called Mark and told him I was ready to have the swingarm done, his first question was, “how long do you want it?” I kinda scratched my head and said, “I dunno – what do you normally do?” He laughed as I explained the intentions of this bike and future modifications that would be made. He needed more information so we decided to call Brock Davidson, owner of Brock Davidson Enterprises.
(now MT Performance)
Brock needs no introduction in the dragbike racing scene. He went from racer to parts manufacturer and is now racing again. His company, Brock’s Performance, makes and sells all kinds of hop-up parts for fast sportbikes and he even has his own line of exhaust systems. He was the first racer to run 7 seconds on a street bike and his name kept coming up whenever I talked to street bike racers about suspension and swingarms.
I wanted to get Brock’s opinion at this point in development because he was going to get involved in later modifications to the bike and I wanted the right size swingarm the first time. I told Mark and Brock just to let me know what they decided. I really didn’t feel the need to be involved, they both knew I was a scaredy-cat of the front end coming up and that was my only concern. And, oh yeah, I wanted to go really fast.
The day I dropped the bike off Mark told me that they decided to go 6” over stock. Another six inches, boy was I excited!!! Any girl would be thrilled to get another six inches. 😉 I couldn’t wait to see what the bike looked like with the new swingarm.
Since it was the offseason, I brought the bike up a few weeks early to let it sit at Mark’s shop so that he could work on it at his leisure. Little did I know he would call me weekly with status reports and email me pictures of my beautiful new bike in pieces and hanging from a bike stand. He was tormenting me and I think he liked it! I was very appreciative that he always took the time to let me know what was going on with my bike, because I have a lot of friends that have sent stuff to other shops and they have a hard time getting anyone on the phone after the bike or parts have been sitting there for weeks or even months.
I would highly recommend JDM Performance Products to anyone. They are trustworthy and have state of the art equipment. JDM offers has a complete engine building facility and offers all services from frame and suspension, dyno tuning, to turbo systems. From some of the bikes I saw sitting in the shop, I would say no project is too big for them. I have included some pictures of the shop equipment so that you could see these guys aren’t messing around! It was a great experience working with them.
Alright, enough about Mark, let’s get back to my bike!
I asked Mark to do two main things for me; take care of the swingarm and also lower the entire bike as far as he could. I gave him all the information as far as the AMA/Prostar rulebook was concerned because I did not want to be a rule breaker! I have seen Brian Chambers catch rule-breakers and it’s not a pretty sight! I even made sure I sat on the bike when I got to Mark’s shop to show him how height-challenged I really am. I wanted him to understand how important it was to lower this bike as much as possible.
And I just want to quickly say that the off-season got even longer on the four-hour drive back to St. Louis with an empty trailer in the snow! Could a girl be any sadder?
I petty much let Mark make all the decisions, regarding the swingarm and lowering, I just asked him to have it ready by the first race of the season.
The first thing to do was to pull the swing arm off and modify it by adding on the six inches. He let me know that along with adding length to the arm he would also be doing a No-Box modification. The “no box mod” is when you remove all of the upper bracings on the arm and weld a plate over the hole in the arm were the bracing was. The upper bracing hits the battery box when the bike is lowered to extent that mine was, so by eliminating the brace, you can lower the bike as low as you want without hitting the battery box.
He also added in additional bracing under the arm because the stock swingarm on the GSXR 750 is not as sturdy as he would have liked it. And he wanted to be sure I would not have problems with it later.
After all the welding and grinding is done, its time to have a finish put on it. Since my frame was not polished, he decided to have the swingarm powder-coated to match the frame. Because you know how important matching accessories are to a girl. As you can see in the pictures it looks awesome! The arm would have looked out of place if it was polished since the frame of the bike was not. So I have no ‘bling’ on my bike. But that’s okay, my leathers have enough ‘bling’ to last me a lifetime.
With the swingarm off at the powder coater, Mark moved on to lowering the front forks so that the front end would be as low as possible. He re-machined the forks internally to lower them by 2.5”. There are a lot of ways to lower your front end but this modification is the safest way to permanently do it.
Mark and his buddy Chris Andrews also took care of a few other things that I didn’t think of and really wasn’t their responsibility to do, they are just nice guys. They made a custom brake stop arm and rear brake line – This had to be done because the stock arm and line would no longer reach the rear tire. They also made a custom chain guard and mounted it for me.
When I had purchased the bike it had a bike alarm on it. Since we were so rushed to get to the last race, we left it on the bike but disconnected it. I had every intention of taking it off the bike, because the last thing I want is a bike alarm going off in the staging lanes when Larry McBride makes one of his ground-shaking passes! Chris took some extra time and took it off the bike and rewired a lot of stuff on the bike to simplify the electronics and get rid of the ‘birds nest’ look I had going! Thanks Chris, you rock!
Once the front end was lowered and the swingarm back in place, we had to modify the back shock. To modify it properly Mark waited until I showed up to make this modification. He wanted me to sit on the bike to determine how big the limiter needed to be. So I sat on it and they made me bounce up and down on it, this once again turned into a laugh-fest with Mark and Tim!
So after I sat on the bike, I would assume Mark used some sort of math to determine the size of my limiter? I don’t know how that works, but I bet you the boys will keep it a secret from me. So Mark and Tim pulled the shock of the bike, and boy was it easy – HA!
Then Mark machined a nice shiny limiter for the shock. This piece will limit the amount of travel the shock has so the tire doesn’t hit the bodywork and the lower bodywork doesn’t drag on the ground on one my killer launches. And after they installed that, she was all mine to take home!!!!! This drive back in the snow was not bad at all.
The bike looks completely different with the swingarm – it actually looks like a real racing bike now and my feet are more on the ground then they were before. I am still not flat-footed, but I can at least handle the bike better when I have to do a burn-out. More on that later.
The day after we got back we pulled her out of the trailer and started taking pictures of it. That was when Tim pointed out that I needed a new chain. So I called my good friends at Schnitz Racing, who always have what I need in stock – open ‘til 9:30 – all major credit cards accepted – and begged Dave for a chain. And in two days, I had a nice shiny new chain, which Tim promptly installed. Add “installing chains” to the list of what boys are good for!
Finally, we went to Gainesville for the AMA/Prostar MRE Nationals for the start of the 2004 season. The first part of this project had just come out and I was getting a lot of attention at the track. I have to thank all my fellow racers for all their encouragement and advice. I was the last no-bar bike standing in Pro ET (That’s right, Pro ET, the real man’s ET class). I got down to 7 bikes and ended up 5th in the Pro ET points listed on the Prostar web site. You bet I printed that page out, I know how hard the Pro ET class is and I knew my name wasn’t going to stay in the 5th spot for long! I even went to the 4th round in Street ET. There were win lights all over the place.
One thing I wasn’t doing at Gainesville was burnouts – something I was deathly afraid of. I tried doing burnouts on my first bike, the Kawasaki EX500, but burnouts never really worked on the 500. I think it was a combination of a weak front brake and not enough power in the engine.
I was concentrating hard on holding the front brake with the same hand I was supposed to be briskly opening the throttle. The bike would start moving around and getting sideways and I would freak out and blow the whole thing off. I see these guys having accidents in the water box all the time. I didn’t want to be one of those guys.
In part 1 of this series, my best pass was a 10.57 at 133mph with a 1.799 60 foot time. With the new swingarm, my best pass has been a 10.41 at 134 mph with a 1.759 60 foot time. The swingarm has helped my ET a lot. My 60-foot time is a whole other story. With the new swingarm, I should be much more comfortable launching the bike. But having the swingarm requires me to launch much harder than I did without it, and I have run into a new problem, traction! The bike now requires more traction for the swingarm and suspension to work properly. When I would launch it hard (hard for me) the bike would lose traction and get all sideways. So I had a new thing to be afraid of!
The answer was that I had to learn how to do a burnout. No matter how much I whined there was no way around it.
At Atlanta, Scott Valetti took me to the return road (Scooter, don’t read this next part) and said we weren’t leaving until I could do a burnout. After a little struggling with it I could not believe how easy it was. I got the technique down: bring the RPM’s up and slip the clutch as you roll the throttle on just like you were launching. Once the tire breaks loose it is the easiest thing in the world. And it is now the easiest part of my whole pass!
Before I actually did a burnout in competition Scott took me up to the line during Street ET and we watched every pair go down the track, and he showed me all the mistakes people were making and the correct ways to do my burnout and things to look out for. The biggest mistake racers make is rolling through the water box and not going around and backing into the water. When you roll through the water, your front tire drags water up underneath your bike, so when you finish your burnout, the now hot and sticky tire rolls through the water under your bike and basically negates the whole burnout process. Not to mention that many bike have low-sided when the rider attempts to do their burn-out because the front tire washes out when they are not expecting it….how embarrassing! I am very fortunate to be surrounded by people that want to see me succeed and take the time to show me how things should be done right!
So you guys out there that roll through the water and make a mess of the water box, quit it!
Atlanta didn’t go so well. I red-lit (my old nemesis) in round one of Pro ET and didn’t run the number in round two of Street ET. That’s OK, I shook it off. I did have some fun trash-talking about my accomplishments in Gainesville though.
Virginia didn’t fare much better but I am not out of it yet. I broke out in round one of Pro ET (Damn there are a lot of ways to lose!) But I am still in it in Street ET
I still have to get used to the changes on the bike and the burnouts. And I have to admit I have not been able to crack the throttle with authority like I should. You can bet I will be practicing every moment I can. Racing will resume in St Louis – a track that I am intimately familiar with. Bring it on boys!
Pro Race Gear Helmet:
I had been borrowing a helmet since I started wearing my new Vanson Leathers because my pink helmet just did not go with the blue leathers. (Gotta match, ya know?) I had to get a new helmet, so I decided to ask around and I spoke with my girls Debbie Knebel and Rene Schmuader and they both just got new Arai Helmets from Pro Race Gear. Their helmets are displayed at both the Vanson Leathers Booth and the Schnitz Racing Trailer. I went and tried one on, and it fit nice and snug, and it was super light. I couldn’t get over how light it was compared to the helmet I had been wearing.
But the true test of this helmet came on my first round of eliminations. They told me that this helmet was specifically made for drag racing. It was cut in the back to allow you to look up in a tuck and had maximum periphery vision for bracket racing. They weren’t kidding about the periphery vision. Since I am usually the slower bike in Pro ET, I have to make a good effort to look behind me to see those 8-second bikes coming after me, but this time I noticed right away I didn’t have to make as much effort because I was able to see better with this helmet. I made a point after I won that round to talk to Alan at Pro Race Gear and thank him for all his help. His helmets are the best for any serious bracket racer. Check them out at www.proracegear.com.
I haven’t broken the 9-sec barrier yet, but I feel it getting closer. With the work that is already done on the bike and the modifications that will be done in Part 3 with some help from Brock Davidson, I will be very close! Stay tuned!
Photos by Matt Polito, www.dragbikephotos.com
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