Here's another thing you can blame on the internet--besides incoherent, rambling blogs and spam you can't eat. Thanks to a host of online resources--with the virtual auction house eBay Motors arguably the 900-pound gorilla of the bunch--the way you can buy and sell motorcycles and motorcycle parts has shifted inexorably away from the neighborhood retailer and the Sunday paper. Local is out. Global is in.
To prove these points, eBay orchestrated a wicked competition among Primedia magazines to build a butt-kicking conveyance with components purchased almost exclusively on eBay. The eBay folks wanted the editors to see just how easy and pain-free the eBay auction process could be. (The skeptics around here were surprised to learn that, largely, it was without significant pain in the backside.) We were given a stupendously large budget and a deadline--well, one out of two isn't bad--to get the completed bike to Fontana raceway for the showdown.
For us, the process was simple. Buy the bike, modify it to taste and then compete in an all-hands showdown featuring acceleration, braking, skidpad and slalom runs. We were joined by the car and truck titles as well as our buddies in the office dedicated to the, er, other side of motorcycling. Yes, that means Harleys. And as if to demonstrate the inherent insanity in dirtbiking, our friends at Dirt Rider decided to build a CR80R Expert with an XR200 engine. Sounds like screen doors on a submarine to us, but those're dirt donks for you. (Check out www.editorscharitychallenge.com for more on the teams.)
Early on, we had a bit of trouble deciding which bike to buy. As we passed around suggestions and contemplated the overall theme, several models fell by the wayside. We were willing to look at middleweight sportbikes, for example, until set straight by editor Kunitsugu. "Hey, we're here to build a bike, sure, but we're also here to win the competition. What do we need," he asked, giving us the evil editor eye, "to win?" That's Kento, cutting straight to the heart of the matter.
Knowing our best shot at an overall win would be to dominate the acceleration runs, we started thinking about literbikes. But with slalom and skidpad runs--surely tests put in place by the powerful four-wheeled contingent to make up for their lackluster quarter-mile times--we needed something sporty and fast. Those requirements ruled out bikes such as the Kawasaki ZX-12R and the Suzuki Hayabusa. In addition, the new ZX-10R was out of our budget and, for that matter, barely on sale when we started this project.
Boom. There it was: the Suzuki GSX-R1000. To start with, the GSX-R1000 in the vintage we selected (an '02 bike) has a huge aftermarket following, so finding what we needed on eBay was much easier. Beyond that, we knew that with minimal modifications the Gixxer could easily turn quarter-mile times in the high 9-second bracket. That should take care of the car and truck guys, and certainly turn the hose on the Lane Splitters team, who, we're told, had just gotten their Harley FXR running with less than a week to go to the competition. (We're getting ahead of ourselves here, but our only worries a week out involved how much soda to bring to the track.) We could have shown up with a dead-stock GSX-R and done 90 percent of what this modified bike could do...and still win.
Still, we had a budget to burn through, and we did our best to spend it all.
Even before we decided on the GSX-R, we hooked up with eBay Motors and spent countless hours of what should have been productive work scouring the auctions for just the right bike. When we decided to go for the Gixxer, it helped trim the choices.
GSX-R pod mounted perfect...
GSX-R pod mounted perfectly
Yoshimura exhaust system
The pickings seemed, at first, generous. There was one supposedly pristine example of an '02 GSX-R somewhere in Florida, but when we checked the VIN (vehicle identification number) against Carfax, it came up as a salvage title. Hmmm. So much for truth in advertising. There was another GSX-R in the Northeast advertised as perfect and adult-owned, but it too came up as having been in a couple of accidents. Still other potentials failed the sniff test.
And we came up against two or three bald-faced scams, including one R1 up for grabs with a reserve set at about half the vehicle's value. What's more, the photos listed on eBay were clearly of two different motorcycles, neither one the actual bike claimed to be listed. We informed eBay of this and the auction was promptly closed. Fact is there are liars and cheats everywhere in the world, but they seem to thrive on the pseudo-anonymity of the electronic landscape. When buying something as valuable as a motorcycle by what is essentially remote control, you need a mix of resourcefulness and hopeful skepticism. And do your research.
But we lucked out--pure and simple. An '02 GSX-R listed for sale was a local bike, which gave us a chance to drive over and inspect the thing, just like a conventional sale. The seller, a recently transplanted University of Michigan grad, had brought the bike here but didn't have the time to ride it. The bike was clean, as advertised, and clearly uncrashed--its overall condition (and chain and tires, specifically) agreed with the indicated mileage. The VIN checked. We had a deal. The first $7500 spent in anger...and it felt good.
Because we knew we had so much of the performance in hand, we went ahead and created a special project out of the eBay GSX-R. Not only would our bike pound the others into submission, it would do so with a dual mandate: to be a great everyday streetbike but also have the bits and pieces (and, again, performance) to wreak havoc at the track--hence our team's name: Bipolar. Whoever wins this bike--it will be auctioned off by eBay at the end, with the proceeds going to charity--will get the best of both worlds.
To improve the everydayness of the GSX-R, we fiddled with its ergonomic profile. Stock, the seat's fine, so we concentrated on the handlebars, using a set of Scary Fast Racing's R Bars. They consist of beautifully anodized alloy clamps that fit around the top of the fork tubes under the stock triple clamps, a pair of round, T-shaped risers and rubber-isolated bars. Because you can turn the clamps pretty much any way you want around the fork tubes, and the risers can be mounted a variety of ways, the permutations of height, width and pullback are many and varied.
We'd already purchased Galfer steel-braided brake lines for the GSX-R but found they weren't long enough with the R Bars, so a set destined for an SV650 was substituted.Overall, we like the idea behind the R Bars. Variety is always a good thing, and within the space available between the fairing and tank, you can have just about any angle you want. However, the rubber mounts were too soft for our taste, allowing the bars to waggle noticeably and rotate in the rubber mounts. Newer versions have stiffer rubber, and should be just the ticket.
A set of Vortex Racing nonadjustable rearsets replaced the stock components in more ways than one: They put the solid-mounted pegs in exactly the same spot Suzuki did. The Geek opined, "Should they still be called rearsets, eh?" Maybe not, but we're glad we had them because they looked great and had more comfortable pegs; they're flat and solid, unlike the upwardly tilted, folding stock items. Overall, we considered taming the GSX-R for street work mission accomplished. With the excellent stock seat, utterly smooth engine and--now--reasonable ergonomics, it's a surprisingly comfortable bike.
While we're talking about the rearsets: A word about the choices on eBay Motors. The simple stuff--windscreens, bodywork bolt-ons, slip-on mufflers, rank-and-file hop-up parts--is there in great quantity and at generally good prices. But we found the variety of parts fell short of what you might find at a good online retailer. In this sense, eBay Motors is great for the casual shopper but less so when you know exactly what you want.
The bike came with some preinstalled goodies, including a full Yoshimura TRS exhaust system, frame sliders and an artlessly bobbed rear fender. Here is our complete list of power-enhancing modifications to the big Zook: a Yosh pipe and a Power Commander. That's it. After tweaking the Power Commander's fuel map, the GSX-R put down just a bit more than 150 horsepower with generally good drivability. (We started with the recommended baseline map for a 4-into-1 system and fiddled from there.) The Yosh system eliminates the SET valve in the exhaust, which can help bolster midrange; despite tweaking, we never really got the response at 4500 rpm to be as smooth or crisp as stock. Truth be told, if we weren't doing the track portion of this project, we'd consider staying with the stock exhaust. Suzuki supplies a great standard system that's light, quiet and costs relatively few peak ponies in the bargain.
We gave some thought to literally going big with the GSX-R engine. Wiseco makes a 1071cc kit using 76mm pistons running the stock 59mm stroke offering a 13.5:1 compression ratio. No doubt it would be a monster, but the big Zook's acceleration is already limited by traction and a tendency to wheelie. Kent would have his hands full with just a few extra ponies over stock.
OK, we did open the engine for one simple modification. Factory Pro's Shift Star and Detent kit took a couple of hours to install--partly because you have to remove the entire clutch assembly--but resulted in firmer, much more positive shifts. Neutral is a tad harder to find, but it's no big deal.
On the far end of the drivetrain, a #520 chain and sprocket set replaced the standard, heavy #530 setup. Sprockets were from Vortex; a steel countershaft and alloy rear sprocket in standard sizes. The chain between them is a Regina ORS.
Our attention turned next to suspension work. There's nothing inherently bad about the GSX-R's suspension, but the shock is notoriously short-lived and, besides, we had the budget to do it right.
By great good fortune, we discovered Traxxion Dynamics had a fully adjustable Penske 8981 remote-reservoir shock returned to the shop, and it was plunked down on eBay just in time. Done and delivered in a couple of days with the right spring. Now we needed fork work. At first we were thrilled to find a full hlins Road and Track fork on eBay. But the applications listed in the auction were at variance with hlins' own information, and the seller couldn't be bothered to respond to our requests for clarification. So we used some of our discretionary budget to have Traxxion rework the stock Kayaba fork with upgraded internals. Now the bike is more balanced, better planted and amazingly supple, with a huge adjustment range to accommodate a wide variety of riders. Turn up the adjusters for the track, turn them down for the street...just about perfect.
Mention of a braking test came as a bit of a surprise, but Kent said, "No problem." To give him a fighting chance--remember that cars have substantially more footprint, which largely overcomes the weight disparity--we updated the system. Originally, we kept an eye out for a complete 2003 GSX-R1000 front end that would donate its excellent radial-mount brakes, but unfortunately one never showed up on eBay. So it's the basics: Galfer braided-steel lines and DP Brakes racing-compound pads on the stock calipers. This setup isn't quite as hardcore as the new systems but still packs enough power to overcome the tire. Besides, the subtleties of braking action wouldn't enter into it. It's just up to Kent to bolster his courage and pull the lever for all he's worth.
The Editors' Charity Challenge rules say the vehicle has to be "street legal." (We're not sure how the Hot Rod guys and their rail dragster get around this. More conspiracies, perhaps?) We knew traction would make the difference between winning and utterly obliterating the others, so we did what we could within the rules. That's why we spooned a set of Dunlop's latest D208GP-A tires onto the Bipolar machine. They're DOT legal and sticky enough to all but assure better-than-stock quarter-mile times. Long-lasting? Doubtful, but who cares?