After several months shacked up with MC Tech getting a suspension refresh, suspension potentiometers, and some general tidying up of equipment placement (returned to me the evening before a wet day at Thunderhill East), I finally got to get a few sessions in at Buttonwillow Raceway on April 3rd, 2022. Mike made some mild changes, including a notch firmer rear spring, adjustment to the fork oil level, and a couple of other minor changes. When he dropped it off, I sat on it and I’d forgotten just how nicely that bike fits me. It felt so right!
Having been almost exclusively on a small bike all season so far (the Ninja 400), I wasn’t quite as startled by the power of the Daytona as I expected. Maybe it’s because I knew it was going to be a lot faster, maybe it’s because I’m not afraid of it as I used to be. Then there was the fact that it just felt so good. The bike, static, feels really rigid, it’s really quite unlike you might expect or be used to when you sit on a bike in the garage or push down on the suspension while it’s sitting still or even after having a trackside vendor adjust the suspension. However, once you get on it and start riding and exploring it, things just feel so good.
I was already going to Buttonwillow to be a test rider for a motorcycle.com story about the 2022 KTM RC 390 vs the Ninja 400 but wanting to get a few laps on the freshened Daytona, I left early on Saturday and got prepped in time to ride 3 sessions at the end of Saturday. I went out in the B group because it was quite empty, I hadn’t ridden BW in over a year and it had been over 2 years since I was there on anything bigger than a 390 so that worked great. I was on moderately used Metzeler TD Slicks from last year and didn’t run warmers. In the first session, I was figuring out gearing and identifying my reference points but still managed to best my lap time there on a supersport. In the next session I was still working on references but picked up the pace and in the final session, I realized just how nice the bike felt and felt better as the pace picked up. Each session I kept dropping a few seconds (2:17 on the 1st session, 2:13 on the 2nd, 2:10 on the final 3rd) as I got more comfortable with the bike. The third session was started out nicely but the reserve light came on in a lap or two so I knew it would be a short session. It wasn’t until I looked at data a couple of days later that I saw that my best rolling lap (at the end of the session) was 2:06 but cut short because I pitted after doing 4+ laps with the reserve light on. Even as the pace picked up, it kept feeling like I had a lot more to go, probably another 2-4 seconds before I’d need to really start thinking about it in terms of technique and timing. I wasn’t even really looking for brake markers so I know I was going to the brakes early.
All the same, the progression felt great and that’s something I need to try to remind myself of when I ride instead of riding to familiar sensations (or ‘feel’) and timing, it’s okay to go beyond that (this might be the addage, ‘get comfortable with being uncomfortable’). I think a big part of it was because it’s at a track that I don’t have a lot of experience with, particularly with a supersport but I know the layout and have quite a few references. For my regular tracks, I think I kind of need to ‘forget’ some of what I’m familiar and comfortable with. Reference points (apexes, exits, turn-in, and to a degree, brake and turn-in) are important but I think I need to be less rigid in my expectations of exactly how fast, how much throttle, how much brake I need to be using. I think a big part of this is an increase in my confidence as a rider and confidence in the hardware. In those 3 sessions, I felt a certain fluidity that is something of a new sensation for me whereas I normally think very critically and analytically, alles in Ordnung. Now that my references are solid and I feel like I can mostly put the bike where I want it most of the time (I was still experimenting a little with Cotton Corners transitions), more of my conscious focus has shifted to using the right control at the right time (with entry corners, being on the brakes past the apex, pivot, go; on exit corners, be on the throttle past the apex while accelerating toward the exit; etc.). I’m also working on short-shifting where it makes sense so that I can be smoother and get to WOT sooner, which really works with the 765’s power delivery since it’s very usable from 8,000 RPM+).
My friend Troy, a very accomplished professional rider/racer/industry journalist who follows the same methodology, took the Daytona out for a very brief 3 lap session, and while he wasn’t able to get to his full pace in that abbreviated session, he did manage to provide me some excellent data on the bike by getting to a 2:00 flat very quickly. I’m actually glad he didn’t go any faster because this is a hugely helpful reference for me since we travel the same school of thought in riding and he’s able to apply the same processes (at a much higher level, of course) and I can use his data as an attainable goal. Unfortunately, there was a glitch in the front suspension potentiometer so I didn’t have full data but we did get everything else.
Then on Monday I had the honor of being a test rider on the Ninja 400 and the newly revised KTM RC 390. It was tremendous fun, both bikes were a hoot and the whole crew from motorcycle.com are such awesome people. I’ll leave the rest for the article that should be out soon.
My next outing with the Daytona will be 4/11 with Carters at Sonoma Raceway. So for the attendance looks low and I’ll probably bring both bikes. The forecast is a high of low to mid 50F which isn’t great for grip on a polished track but it’s good for my stamina. In the cooler times I will likely ride the 400 but I might try to grab a session with Jesse Carter riding his 400 looking for opportunities for improvement. I can’t wait to ride the Daytona again, I love that bike!